Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. From Psalm 98
Last week I was in the San Francisco area for a conference, and had the privilege of attending two churches. Well, not churches actually. More like sports bars. Okay, they really were sports bars.
It just so happened that I was there during the opening two games of the World Series, which SF hosted. The first night, our conference across the bay in Marin County had a free evening, so I caught the ferry to SF, walked around for a while, and thought it would be fun to watch part of the game with locals. I found a place near the ferry landing about an hour after the game had started. It was packed. But I hovered over a table where some folks were paying their bill, and the waitress seated me there. I saw a group of three looking for seats and invited them to join me. It was a loud place, but we had great conversation about the Giants, politics and life in general, we yelled at appropriate times during the game, and when I left in the 8th inning to catch the last ferry back across the bay, I found they had paid my tab!
What I learned that night about the Giants was that everyone had written them off early because they have no superheroes. They are mostly misfits and castoffs from other teams. Their best pitcher looks like a skinny 16-year-old. In actuality, he’s a skinny 25-year-old who has won two Cy Youngs.
I was happy to have experienced the fun of being part of something special, even if SF didn’t win another game.
Our conference ended Thursday around lunchtime, but my plane wasn’t until Friday morning. Again I took the ferry, then the bus, this time to my hotel in the city. I was terribly glad I’d reserved a hotel room a month before anyone knew the series would be in town!
This time I scoped out a place near the hotel and got the last seat at the bar about 30 minutes before the first pitch.
I don’t know if it was because I was in a different part of the city, or because it was the second game, or because I stayed until the end, but the atmosphere was a little more exciting this night. In a room that sat around 75, there must have been about 400 people by the 2nd inning, and I never saw anyone leave. Again, the conversation was good with the people around me, mostly focused on the Giants and their unlikely contention for the championship. People love them because they are nobodies who have become a team.
You may remember that this game was a 9-0 rout by the Giants, There was no score until the 5th, when Edgar Renteria hit a solo home run. SF scored another run in the 7th, but it was the bottom of the 8th when my new “friends” went wild as the Giants scored 7 more runs, two of them walked in. The bar was electric with excitement and hope. I saw no one drunk or unruly, just people happy with seeing their team accomplish something nobody had thought was possible.
At the top of the 9th, after the first out, the fans broke into song. A particular song. Remember “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey? A singer in SF had made a youtube video with words about the Giants’ entry into the series, and everyone in the place (except me) had memorized every word. They sang spontaneously, danced (or would have danced if there had been room—mostly they jumped up and down) until the inning was over. Then with cheers and more singing, we all spilled out into the street. I walked up two doors to my hotel and for the next couple of hours heard horns honking and people yelling to each other about their team.
You’re going to think this is weird, but there was something in our experiences those nights that reminded me of worship services.
If praise is the antidote to despair, then gathering during a rough election season and a continuing economic slump can be a healthy remedy. Just being together with like minded people focused on praise and hope is quite an experience. We were all about sharing the hope in a common dream, no matter what our politics, religion, race or place of origin.
The feeling of being a part of something bigger was overwhelming. It is hard to hate—even Rangers fans—when you are of one mind in praise of your own team.
Walking out into the night of a strange city, I gave thanks for being witness to a moment of pure happiness. As if leaving a worship service, we took our hope home with us, still humming the benedictory song. We won’t stop believing that great things can be accomplished with misfits and outcasts. Like us.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2010