Later tonight, the baseball team I’ve been watching since 1984 takes their first step in defending their World Series championship. It was only just five short months ago when Brian Wilson struck out Nelson Cruz to clinch the Giants’ first ever world championship in San Francisco.
While I cherish the moment of being able to call my team the champs, I sit here conflicted as I await to see what 2011 holds for them. So much of my rooting last year was based on 27 years of watching them fall short year after year. Now that I don’t have that angst anymore, what do I use to will my team to victory as a fan? Can I even be as invested as I was last season? Do I have a right to be upset if the team doesn’t play well considering I can’t complain about them falling short every year any more?
I’m not quite sure what the answer to those questions are, but I know what I fear. It’s the disease of more. In Pat Riley’s book Showtime, he wrote that “success is often the first step toward disaster”. When you win, it’s as a team. But what happens after you win? Shouldn’t you want to win again and do so the same way you did before? Often, the group of individuals that make up that team become a bit selfish. They want to go for theirs. They want more playing time, more money, and more “props”. And I’m not only talking about the players. I’m talking about the entire franchise make-up from the owner to the general manager to the coaches. The disease of more can infect and go viral.
The Giants franchise is trying to do everything they can to reap the benefits from winning it all. There was the trophy tour that seemed to last the entire off-season. There was the Fan Fest which turned some fans away because it was overly promoted, as if Giants fans were’t going to know about it anyway. There’s more TV appearances for players, more strange facial hair, pressure to make impatient roster changes, and of course, that Showtime cable series.
(They fundamentally changed their starting lineup by adding rookie Brandon Belt to the mix and moving Aubrey Huff to the outfield.)
The players seem built on the idea that as a unit, they are more powerful that they are as separate parts. If you read Andrew Baggarly’s new book A Band Of Misfits, the entire idea is that they were made up partially of a bunch of castoffs who weren’t in high regard, but together, along with that pitching staff, they were the true definition of team. But the new vision for the team, which seems to be designed to solely capitalize on the success of 2010 scares me.
The Giants will have more fans than ever this year. There will be new fans who offend the hardcores because they can’t name the second uncle of the Giants’ team trainer. There wil be obnoxious fans who will make the entire fanbase look a lot like Red Sox, Yankees, Lakers, and Cowboys fans (who Giants fans always say they don’t want to become). And don’t forget the fans who will turn on the team when they don’t go 10-0 to start the season.
When Pat Riley was writing about the disease of more, he was mostly talking about his Los Angeles Lakers team from the early 80s. But it can be more than just that. I fear that the Giants’ organization is more worried about being an America’s team copycat than the quirky, but charming team from the liberal town they play ball in. While Tim Lincecum may be the same guy with the spindly wind-up and split-ended long hair, the organization might be setting the team up for failure. It seems, the only way to succeed will be to win another championship. What happens if they don’t do it? Will the Showtime series and the push to become the western version of the Boston Red Sox be a waste?
The thing that separated the Giants from every other team intangibly was their character. John Wooden said, “Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” I hope they don’t lose what they have going. Beware, the disease of more.