This isn’t a sports post, honest.
Although I grew up with them as my team, over the years I’ve grown detached from the San Francisco Giants. Will Clark and especially Barry Bonds were industrial strength turn-offs, and the franchise-wide pandemic of terminal smugness when they’ve never won anything is enough to leave anyone cold. Give me my blue collar, bedraggled A’s.
That said, traces of my childhood fandom remain. The Giants have been extremely fortunate in having had, with the unfortunate interlude of the Ron Fairly years, some of the best announcers the game has ever known. I grew up with Russ Hodges and especially Lon Simmons with his mastery of storytelling and dry wit. He was followed by Hank Greenwald, who was equally adept at storytelling and tossing out hysterical zingers. Today, while three of the teams four announcers are dreary homers there is saving grace in the presence of the incomparable Jon Miller, a disciple of Simmons and Greenwald (he grew up out here) whose brilliance makes his co-workers ineptitude even more glaringly apparent. So yes, I am aware of what’s going on with the Giants. Besides, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have no choice in the matter. Tom Leher’s joke forty plus years ago about some major news event having taken place (China getting nuclear weapons, as I recall) but since it happened during baseball season the San Francisco Chronicle having probably missed it still rings true. But I digress.
Brian Wilson (no, not the leader of the Beach Boys nor as far as I know a relative) is the Giants’ closer, the pitcher entrusted to preserve the team’s lead in the ninth and sometimes eighth plus ninth inning. Given how the Giants’ offense can usually be seen solely via electron microscope, he seldom has much of a margin with which to work. Despite this he’s done quite well this year, having saved eight of the ten save opportunities presented his thus far in 2009. It’s one of the two he didn’t save that forms the basis of this discussion.
This past Sunday, the Giants were in Los Angeles to play their dreaded archrivals a/k/a the Dodgers. The game went into extra innings. In the top of the twelfth inning the Giants scored a run. In came Wilson to pitch the bottom half of the inning in an attempt to secure victory. The first batter made an out. The next batter made the ball go out of the park. Home run, game tied once more. Oops.
At the end of each game he saves, Wilson makes a somewhat odd gesture, folding his arms across his chest to form a W with his fists clenched except for an extended index finger. As he explained last year when someone asked (given how few games the Giants won last year it took a while for a save opportunity to come along so he could make the gesture… but again I digress), the motion isn’t meant to disrespect the other team. In fact, it doesn’t have anything to do with the opponent. Rather, it’s his way of engaging the spirit of fighters, paying tribute to his late father and express his faith in Christ. That’s all.
Anyway, upon returning to the bench the Dodger who had hit the game-tying homer (Casey Blake) made Wilson’s gesture in his direction. Wilson didn’t see it, and didn’t know about it until he was informed after the game (which the Giants won by scoring in the 13th inning, Wilson this time not relinquishing said lead). When he found out about it, Wilson was more than a little upset. He’s since calmed down, albeit having noted he’s not exactly forgotten the incident. Given that Wilson’s fastball can hit 100 MPH, the next time he faces the Dodgers and Blake is at bat could be, shall we say, most interesting.
So what does local sports columnist Gary Peterson have to say about all this? He comes down firmly on the side…
… of Blake:
Meanwhile, there is an aspect to this that Wilson should consider:
There are two sides to every message. One is the way it is intended. Then there is how it’s received. You don’t always get a free pass just because you meant no disrespect.
Wilson sends his message only after saving a Giants victory. In the heat of competition, that could easily be interpreted as the kind of “me at the expense of you” taunt that litters the sports landscape. Wars have been started over less.
Sound familiar? “Rush said he hopes Obama fails!” “No, he didn’t; he said he hopes his policies fail.” “Yeah, but someone could interpret what he said…”
Like that’s the fault of the originator.
There’s another less than benign undercurrent at play here. To say Wilson is hardly your average straitlaced fundie is almost as redundant as saying Carrie Prejean won’t be getting a Christmas card from Perez Hilton. The man spent the winter rooming at Barry Zito’s house (for the unknowing, Zito’s picture is in the dictionary as the definition of “what planet are you on”). It is a very small step from “well, they just don’t understand” to “well, if you weren’t offending people by making a public display of your faith…”
We live in a society where everyone is free to believe as they wish provided they never publicly let on what they believe. That is, if you’re a believer. Don’t flash a sign of faith. Don’t say what you believe based on your faith. People say and do the exact opposite? Oh, they’re just expressing their individuality. You, on the other hand… keep it under your hat, will ya? Don’t want to offend anyone, after all. Never do that.
Never ever do that…
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33).”