By WALLACE BAINE
I bet you’ve noticed that in past week or two, people are wearing a lot of black and orange, and I bet you’re thinking, “Whassup with that?”
Well, that’s an easy one. It’s Halloween, of course. What other possible reason would there be for all the black and orange?
On an entirely unrelated topic, how ’bout those Giants?
As the scrappy, lovable San Francisco Giants continue their improbable march to championship glory, a tingly wave of baseball-manic electricity is zinging through the streets, coffeehouses and grocery store check-out lines of Santa Cruz County. (Note to the dude in front of me at the Safeway last Wednesday: Eye black is not really necessary when picking up a twelver of PBR.)
Still, there are plenty hard-core Giants fans out there who are worried, not so much by the team’s chances to capture their first World Series title since moving to California more than 50 years ago, but by lightweights ruining their buzz.
It’s called “jumping on the bandwagon” and, in the sports-fan universe, it is a grievous sin. If you don’t give the team your attention in the years they finish in third place 18 games out, the thinking goes, then don’t you dare drag out that Giants sweatshirt now that they’re on the verge of the World Series, especially if you’ve ever worn a Yankees cap in public. I mean, sheesh, there ought to be a law.
The sports fan’s world is often a world of stark dualities. You choose a loyalty and you die wearing those colors. You’re as faithful to your team as you are to your wife – no scratch that, bad analogy.
From this perspective, there are really only two tribes of Giants fans – those who can recite both of Will Clark’s nicknames without even thinking about it (“Will the Thrill” and “The Nooshler,” duh!); and those who regularly leave in the seventh inning and talk afterwards only about how good the garlic fries were (to be fair, the fries are really good).
But those are grotesque stereotypes. The fact is there are plenty of gray areas in between true-blue fan and pretender. And most of us aren’t quite sure where we fall.
For example, I grew up in Atlanta, a die-hard for the Braves. But I’ve been a Giants fan long enough to remember accidentally breaking a lamp that time the Nooshler had a game-winning hit off Greg Maddux in the ’89 playoffs. During the recent Braves-Giants playoff series, I was so conflicted I didn’t even watch the games, choosing instead to watch “Sophie’s Choice” over and over again. Am I a bandwagon jumper? I wonder.
So, here’s a quick guide to figure out your standing on the Giants fan continuum. Are you fan enough to cop a superiority attitude toward people not so emotionally invested in a group of half-bright mercenary ballplayers who don’t care if you live or die? Or, are you a shameless poser who should be arrested for bogus bandwagoning?
Let’s find out – using an entirely original comedy format not previously used by a 1990s Southern stand-up comic – if you’re a bandwagoner:
If you never even considered naming your first born son after Chili Davis and your first daughter after Candy Maldonado, then you might be a bandwagon jumper.
If you think “Dusty Baker” is a cute Noe Valley scone shop, you might be a bandwagoner.
If you’re drowning and Tommy LaSorda offers you a life line, and you actually accept it, you might be a bandwagoner.
If you would think twice before knocking down your grandmother to get a Buster Posey home-run ball, you might be a bandwagoner.
If you’re at all uncomfortable asking your girlfriend to grow her hair out like Tim Lincecum’s, then you might be a bandwagoner.
If you’ve never had a dog named “Marvin Benard,” you might be a bandwagoner.
If you have stronger opinions about the fate of the country than about Barry Zito, you might be a bandwagoner.
If you’ve never secretly prayed for a plague of boils to be visited upon Scott Spiezio, then you might be a bandwagoner.
If you have no clue how many career homers that former Giant and current broadcaster Duane Kuiper had, you might be a bandwagoner.
If you think “F.P. Santangelo” is a citrusy cocktail, you might be a bandwagoner.
If you believe that the invention of the microchip was actually a greater human achievement than Kevin Mitchell catching a fly ball with his bare hand, you might be a bandwagoner.
If you rank your wedding day above the day that the Giants’ new ballpark opened on the list of greatest days of your life (and you’re honest about it), you might be a bandwagoner.
If, during the final moments of your life, you’d actually rather hear the voices of your loved ones than Jon Miller doing a game on the radio, you might be a bandwagoner.
And, finally, while we’re on the subject of death, if you were offered a deal in which you could be buried in centerfield at AT&T Park in exchange for 10 years shaved off the end of your life, and you did not say, “Make it second base and I’ll give you 15,” then you probably are a bandwagoner.
So, there you are. But if you didn’t score well, don’t sweat it. You can still wear your black-and-orange Giants gear. Just call it a Halloween costume. Then it’s OK to be a pretender.