June 13, 2012.
A normal day. A Thursday, maybe? Tuesday?
(I just checked. It was a Wednesday.)
As usual, I got home from work, maybe went for a run or something, started making dinner.
Got a couple texts from my dad. He, my mom, and youngest brother were going to the game that night. They went a little early so they could find my dad’s brick — the one we purchased for him as a Christmas gift after the Giants won in 2010 — in the Lefty O’Doul Plaza. He sent me a picture of it, and then one from their seats — good ones, near the Giants bullpen in left field. They narrowly missed winning fancy golf drivers or something. I think brother walked down a couple rows and tried to get one from one of the winners who most likely would never use it.
As usual, I was watching the game through the MLB app on TV. I was sort of half paying attention while making dinner and talking to my husband (fiancé at the time).
Here’s the thing about Matt Cain, that game’s starting pitcher. He’s been with the Giants since 2005, through a stretch when they were really terrible. He won the hearts of the fanbase because it seemed like he consistently pitched great games, but would get the loss because the Giants just refused to ever score runs when he was on the mound. So many 1-0 and 2-0 and 2-1 losses. We called it “getting Cained.” (Still do.)
So right away, this game was unusual, because after three innings, the Giants were up 7-0. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure that’s the best offensive support Cain’s ever gotten.
In the fourth, though, I took note of the line and box score and quickly texted my brother:
Cain’s pitching really, really well…
I think he might’ve texted back “yeah” or something equally quick and dismissive. It didn’t mean that much, yet, but…
I started paying more attention.
We ate dinner.
By the sixth inning it was blatantly obvious what was going on. Broadcasters and sportswriters, nowadays, sadly don’t adhere to the tradition — you don’t say “perfect game” or “no-hitter” when a pitcher is in the middle one because you don’t want to jinx him. In the dugout, teammates will start avoiding the pitcher between innings.
Then to lead off the 7th, this happened. I yelled “NO!” as the ball left the bat and then screamed with joy when I saw Blanco holding his glove up.
By now, I was pacing restlessly around my small living room in the bottom of each inning, when the Giants were up — it was 10-0 by this time, so I didn’t care what the hitters did, but I had so much nervous energy to work out. In the top of each inning I would sit back down on the couch, tapping my foot or twitching, jumping in my seat with each pitch.
I was so jealous that my parents and brother were there (I had been in the Bay not two weeks before, and had gone to a game, but I only got to see Lincecum pitch a mediocre stinker) and at the same time so happy for my dad, especially, that he was getting to see this. In the 8th or 9th he sent me a couple photos and videos. I think he said something like “it’s getting really loud.”
I don’t remember what exactly I did after the final play — the grounder to Arias (Sandoval’s defensive sub), the throw to Belt at first, Cain’s triumphant fist pump and the Buster Hug. Probably cheered and jumped around like a crazy person before collapsing on the couch in sweet exhaustion and relief.
Sometimes, I question why I devote so many hours of my life to watching sports. What am I getting out of spending three hours on the couch or at a bar, watching grown-ups run around and throw a ball or hit a ball or kick a ball? Is doing that for 162 games (plus postseason, if I’m lucky) every year really worth it? Would I be happier if instead, I spent that time working on a personal project or getting ahead with my work or going out with friends or anything else?
I don’t know. Sometimes, I don’t want to look into that too deeply, because most days, spending three hours on the couch watching grown men play a game probably isn’t the “best” use of my time. Most games are perfectly average and utterly forgettable. Balls get hit, or not. They find gloves or they leave the park. Sometimes runners are safe and sometimes they get called out. You might get a highlight reel-worthy play or two, if you’re lucky.
But sometimes, something great happens. Whether it’s a milestone that’s a culmination from hundreds or thousands of games, like hitting a 500th home run or throwing a 1000th strikeout, or just everything coming together perfectly for one night, you feel lucky to see it. You feel, somehow, like you were a part of it, even if you were hundreds or thousands of miles away. You feel linked not only to the players but to all your fellow fans. I can meet a Giants fan today and the easiest way to strike up a conversation will be to ask “Where were you when they won in 2010? Remember when Blanco saved Cain’s perfect game? Did you see Timmy’s first no-hitter?” We have this shared collective experience of something amazing, and I feel like sports are unique in offering that.