Screams, cheers and tears of joy echoed across San Francisco on Monday as the Giants clinched the World Series for the first time since 1954.
The team, comprised of a motley crew, including a long-haired pitcher nicknamed “The Freak” (Tim Lincecum), a reliever called “The Beard” (Brian Wilson), a third baseman referred to as “Kung-Fu Panda” (Pablo Sandoval) and a catcher really named Buster Posey, most rosters can’t compete with such a cast of characters.
They’ve been called a team of misfits and castoffs, but Bay Area residents just wanted a piece of the action as Giants fever swept the Bay Area.
According to UCSF’s Stuart Lustig, MD, MPH, director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Training Program, there’s a reason why Bay Area fans take pride in winning baseball’s top prize.
“We tend to identify with these teams so much and the level of their efforts,” he said. “We identify with their victories and defeats like we’re out there and feel like we’ve won as well. I think fans do feel like they are contributing by supporting their team, going to the games, and following what’s happening. In some ways it feels deserved.”
San Francisco Giants fans have been riding the emotional rollercoaster coined as “torture” since broadcaster Duane Kuiper declared it the team’s style of play earlier this season.
So why is the Bay Area so emotionally vested in the Giants? Is it an opportunity to escape the stresses of our daily lives?
“I’m not sure about escapism as much as it’s something to really get excited about,” said Lustig. “Also, the thrill of a momentous achievement and the level of athleticism that these players have is what drives so many kids to want to become athletes.”
Watching the Giants finally clinch the World Series over the Texas Rangers in five games also makes a strong point to their young fans. “Athletes are common role models for kids, and to see them achieve the results of the years and years worth of effort sends an encouraging message,” said Lustig. “It’s a message that if you commit yourself to fight for something and work hard you can really achieve success.”
No fans are fighting harder than the cancer patients at UCSF Benioff Children’s hospital who had the rare opportunity to experience a piece of Giants fever last week when San Francisco Giants Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, Giants legend Vida Blue and team mascot Lou Seal visited the hospital. Robert Goldsby, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, accompanied the veteran baseball players to visit 12 pediatric patients while they signed baseball hats, T-shirts and World Series books.
And with an improbable run to the World Championship title this year, fans should be left with a healthy dose of optimism for next year.
“It gives them the sense that they’ve had the capacity to win and could do it again,” Lustig said. “That creates a great deal of hope for 2011.”
Photos by John Storey/Major League Baseball