Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving football when it was real and simple

Whoever came up with the idea to put turkey and pigskin together?

And whatever happened to Thanksgiving and football has we know it?

I flew back to Maine this Thanksgiving to spend Turkey Day with my childhood family for the first time in more than 25 years and remembered how it used to be. When I was growing up, there was only one game on TV on Thanksgiving and that was so long ago that the Detroit Lions were actually good. Thanksgiving Day began with Captain Kangeroo’s Thanksgiving Day parades when they would broadcast parades in Toronto, Detroit and Honolulu in addition to the Macy’s parade in New York. And to this day I could never figure out how Santa Claus was in four parades at once.

Then, once the Captain, Mr. Green Jeans, Moose and Bunny Rabbit bid us adieu, the Lions would kickoff at noon in old Tiger Stadium, which supersedes the John Madden/Turducken Era. If we timed it right, we were sitting down at halftime to eat our Thanksgiving Day dinner, which in Maine is long before supper. Supper in Maine on Thanksgiving was leftovers from dinner.
That’s when the mince meat pie was gobbled up.

Thanksgiving also traditionally launched the Christmas decoration season. No one, absolutely no one, hung a Christmas decoration until Thanksgiving was over. Now, when you walk into some stores, there are Christmas decorations on display before Halloween and some people no longer bother to hang their Xmas decorations because they stay up all year.

Black Friday didn’t exist back then either. It was good Friday because it was good that we didn’t have to go to school on Friday. My great anticipation was waiting for the Texas-Texas A&M game. The great anticipation on Friday now is waiting in line at 4 a.m. for store doors to open. In Maine, they were standing in the freezing rain and there is only one thing more torturous than that – watching the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

This Thanksgiving, there were three NFL games – one that you can’t find on TV unless you pay for it. My nephew was really into the Lions-Patriots game because he has Tom Brady on his fantasy football league team. When I was growing up, the only fantasy football player I remember on Thanksgiving was the New York Giants’ Frank Gifford because my dad always talked glowingly about him as if he was the greatest player of all time in his mind.

That’s when Thanksgiving was real and simple.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

San Francisco Giants, fans never saw this coming

This is the year that wasn’t supposed to be the year.

It was supposed to end with “Wait till next year.” Like all the years before this year.

The beauty of the 2010 San Francisco Giants’ season is it was totally and wonderfully unexpected. Like the train set you got from Santa Claus as a kid.

World Series champions on November 1st? Are you kidding me? I thought Amelia Earhart would come around the world before the Giants would win a world title.

In August, most Giants fans wanted to fire general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy. Edgar Renteria’s career was finished. Freddy Sanchez was forgotten. And who the hell is Cody Ross, and where did he come from and how?

In September, we must not forget that the Giants got back in the playoff hunt because the San Diego Padres went Titanic. They lost 10 games in a row. Still, the Giants had to win the final game of the season at home just to avoid a playoff game or games on the road to make the playoffs.

Then, in October, the magic kicked in. The late, great Vernon “Lefty” Gomez first said that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. The Giants have had better teams than this one and failed to even make the playoffs. But this team? The stars were aligned for a team with no superstars, at least no household names they’d recognize in Peoria.

Now look at how this whole thing ended.

Sabean? He is no idiot or Nedermeyer after all. He built this franchise around pitching and it paid off and may pay off for years and World Series to come. That stupid $18 million contact he gave Renteria paid off in one night with a game-winning home run and MVP trophy in the clinching game. Priceless.

Bochy? He pushed the right buttons and had the balls to keep Barry Zito, the Richest Fifth Starter in the History of Baseball, off the playoff roster. Once, twice, three times an inactive.

And the Little Engine Of An Offense That Could got over the big hump. Jose Uribe didn’t get many hits yet everyone of them was big. The Giants won with a rookie catcher whose last minor league game was as a first baseman. They won with a makeshift lineup and their fair share of bounces and breaks. They won with misfits who got off the island and were invited to the North Pole.

They ended up on top of the world. Wind-up toys like Joe Buck and Tim McCarver didn’t know what to say.

Then the Giants and their fans celebrated because this World Series victory, the players told us, was for the fans. Not for the kids in their late teens and early 20s who mugged for the cameras and far less smarter than their phones.

This World Series victory was for long suffering Giants fans who have waited a generation – not a few months – for something like this to happen. They’ve always been on the bandwagon and had their seat belts fastened and trays in an upright position for years. People like the Quinlan brothers, Patrick and Mike, who watched the final game of the 2010 World Series at home with their mother, Edith. She used to drive them to Giants’ games at Candlestick Park and drive Patrick to the ballpark when he became a Giants’ batboy.

Those are the kind of Giants’ fans who deserve this World Series. The ones who have stuck with them through thick and thin and Erick Threets.

It was their year. They just never saw it coming. It was perfect timing.