While watching The Today Show this morning in the kitchen, I found yet another reason to yell at the TV through a mouthful of cereal.
Matt Lauer was interviewing Andrew Morbitzer, the man who caught Barry Bonds’ 715th career home run Sunday (which put Bonds one past Babe Ruth’s career home run record, and second only to Hank Aaron at 755). Morbitzer’s story was memorable because he was waiting in the beer line at the time, and just happened to look up as the ball came down. He didn’t have a lot of competition for the ball, he admitted, because – paraphrasing here – "most of the smart people were in the stands watching Bonds."
Matt Lauer asked the question that any normal non-brain-damaged person would ask: "What the Hell kind of fan goes to buy a beer when Barry Bonds is on deck?" Okay, I embellished that a little, but just a tad. Morbitzer marvelled at his own strange decision, but assured Lauer that he was in fact a "big fan" of the Giants.
Okay. I hear this all the time. "I’m a huge Raider fan, dude!" and variations of same. Chas tells me that while he is at work watching a snowy black-and-white TV and barely able to distinguish his beloved Rams (or Lakers, or Angels, or . . . ) from whomever they’re playing, people come into the store, see the game on, and ask the score. They usually claim to be HUGE FANS of whatever game they’re currently missing because they’re out spending money.
Am I alone here? HELLO-O-O-O . . .
Let me tell you what a HUGE FAN is. Ever see the movie Diner? One of the key scenes in the movie shows a young woman being quizzed by her fiancee’s buddies, only it’s not so much a quiz as a pass-fail, do-or-die, gatekeeper moment of her life. The quiz topic is sports trivia, and what’s at stake is her engagement to her betrothed. If she fails the test, the wedding’s off. Now that fiancee was kind of a jerk, but he was undeniably a HUGE FAN.
Then there’s my dad. Dad grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been a life-long Giants fan. Except that when he was first a fan, the Giants were in New York. Dad skipped class to listen to the game in which Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard ‘Round the World. He also had the announcer’s recording of that event on LP (that’d be "long-playing record" for those under 30). Dad is a HUGE FAN of the Giants.
Dad is also a 49er fan. He and Mom went to 49er games at Kezar Stadium in the 60s. He suffered through the disastrous teams of the 70s, grimly watching every second of every game. When things turned around for the Niners in the 80s, Dad was ready – he’d earned it. He started the first season with Joe Montana in the fold by taking the family down to Rocklin to watch training camp. It was some kind of fan photo-op day, so there were thousands of people scrambling to get Joe’s autograph. Not Dad. He was there to watch the guys work out, to study the roster (which he'd already gotten from the newspaper), and to evaluate the newbies and the walk-ons. He encouraged us to have our pictures taken with Leo Biedermann, Scott Hilton, Scott Stauch, and others whose names are known only to their mothers and to my weird family.
Did I mention that training camp was in Rocklin? Rocklin is not a temperate place in the summer. In August it’s hotter than Hell, and there’s no shade along the chain-link fence we leaned on to watch the endless drills. Dad continued to go to training camp at least once a season, until they moved to a cooler facility closer to San Francisco.
Finally, there were the quizzes. As we ate breakfast most mornings of football season, Dad tested our knowledge of and loyalty to the 49ers. It got to the point that Dad threatened to withhold breakfast if we didn’t pass the tests, though I think he was teasing. I think. At least no one’s nuptuals were riding on my testing ability.
I have to admit to being a rabid 49er fan into my college years, when other things began to turn my head and I began to wriggle free of the Niners’ iron grip. Or Dad’s, maybe. While I knew all of the players’ names, positions, numbers, and even quite a few of their alma maters (definite quiz material), I really couldn’t spot an ineligible man down field or holding to save my life. Apparently I missed that gene, so the game was easy to let go.
I tell people about the quizzes, about Dad pulling his chair right up to the TV screen, about Mom and Dad arranging their travel plans around football and baseball seasons, about Dad watching the entire two-day NFL draft extravaganza on TV each year, and they think I’m kidding, or exaggerating. Nope. Dad is a HUGE FAN of his San Francisco teams.
So when Andrew Morbitzer (remember him? There’s a story about him) said that he didn’t know that Bonds was coming up to bat because he couldn't see the JumboTron screen behind him, I yelled at the TV. Cereal even dribbled down my chin a little bit. "Tell it to my dad, Newbie!" What, is he new here? When did he THINK Bonds batted -- last?! A huge fan, indeed. Dad could probably recite the batting order for every Giants team clear back to Leo Durocher and beyond. And you know, if you asked him, he probably would, so don’t ask him.