The Not-So-Friendly Confines

I spent a lot of time at AT&T Park over the last few days. As a Chicagoland native now living in San Francisco, getting an opportunity to watch the 103-win Cubs play in my adopted hometown seemed like a dream come true. Bryant, Rizzo, Arrieta and co. 3 blocks from my office? Next question.

And while today’s highlight reel shows an incredible 9th inning rally by the boys in blue to advance to the NLCS, the majority of the in-stadium experience over Games 3 and 4 was dramatically less jubilant. If I learned anything over those two games, it is that being a road fan during the playoffs is rough.

I wanted to put some numbers around this roller coaster of emotions, mostly to remind future Kevin that aggressively rooting for the visitor is a high-risk, high-reward scenario.

First, some high level stats from the last two games of the series:

  • Total Minutes Spent in AT&T Park: 630
  • Total Innings Played: 22
  • Total Hits: Cubs — 16, Giants — 24
  • Total Runs: Cubs — 11, Giants — 11
  • Total Lead Changes: 6

No question it was a well-matched series, top to bottom. Two objectively great baseball games in San Francisco. But laying on the couch last night, I couldn’t help but feel like the majority of my time in the stadium was borderline miserable. So I took a look at my approximate “emotional ranking” by inning on a scale of 0–10 (0 being Bartman, 10 being Kerry Wood homer in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS) over both games:

Game 3:

Game 4:

Overall, based on what was actually happening on the field, my emotional ranking was >5 (happy) for 58% of my time at AT&T. But there’s another factor at play here that left me unlikely to ever return to a Giants home game.

The Intangibles:

So much of the ballpark experience is unrelated to the actual gameplay. The food, the lines for the bathroom, the quality of your seats, etc. In the playoffs, the scoreboard takes priority but home field advantage is definitely a relevant factor. Giants fans took this “advantage” very seriously over the past two days.

The majority of dialogue between my group and Giants fans was extremely hostile and negative. I wasn’t expecting hugs while dressed in blue, but the number of times that we heard “108 years”, “Bartman”, “Goat”, “Even Year” landed well above 100. Some highlights:

  • A believer in the creativity of the “108-year drought” insult unable to name the Giants starting third baseman. It’s Gillaspie and the man was ridiculous this series.
  • A fan who blamed “Liberal Ass Chicago” for likely electing Hillary Clinton, ultimately causing national security to be at risk to the point where the MLB will cease to exist during her Presidency. The irony of the insult taking place in “Liberal Ass” San Francisco was lost on him.
  • The 12 year old kid who turned around to yell at me that the umps were rigging the game after Ross threw out Span at 2nd. He had the full support of the crowd as I sat in silence.

Interestingly, the bleaker it looked for the Giants, the more hostility was directed at Cubs fans. Their willingness to engage in confrontation went up exponentially when the Giants were performing worse on the field. The default reaction to adversity was not support for their team, but to initiate arguments. As a guy who’s never met an argument that I didn’t think I could get the last word on, it made the entire experience exhausting from an emotional perspective.

Ultimately, none of this matters. The Cubs won in 4, the Even Year streak has ended, and it’s on to the NLCS. There were fans who graciously wished us luck after the game last night, hoping we go on to play and defeat the Dodgers on their behalf. Not all Giants fans are bad. But the overall level of baseball knowledge and general sportsmanship was disappointingly low from my perspective. I’ll take my talents to Monaghans for this matchup in the next even year.

Hey San Francisco, whaddaya say?