Every once in a while you hear a story that makes you sit back and take another look at how professional sports can become intertwined in the everyday fabric of their fans lives. In the August issue of ESPN the Magazine Tim Keown tells the story of a section of fans at AT&T Park and how their love for Giants baseball has created a lifelong bond between the fans of section 135 that go way beyond the boundaries of the game.
As not to ruin the piece itself I will spare you most of the details, but the story surrounds a few lifelong, die hard Giants fans, most namely Lori Gruschka, the infamously relentless heckler that is somewhat of a secret weapon for the Black and Orange; getting inside the opponents heads, making them lose focus on their task at hand. Lori, along with the other constituents of section 135, have been season ticket holders there since the park opened back in 2000, many long before that at Candlestick as well.
Section 135, as the story tells, is a place where baseball becomes more than a game:
This is where baseball feels right: away from the toque-topped chefs at club level and the waiters and waitresses at field level, close enough for true fans to feel like they're part of the action. Most of Section 135 has had season tickets in this corner of the ballpark since it opened in 2000, when the words "Giants" and "World Series" were merely taunts. These folks were complete strangers before baseball intervened; now they celebrate births, mourn deaths and mark the passage of time by baseball milestones. They're all veterans of Candlestick Park too, which tells you they're here for the game and not the garlic fries or trendy vibe.
Keown also points out how the stresses of everyday life can take you away from the things that bring communities together, like rooting for the Giants:
Where else can you find camaraderie like this? Where else can people gather and share this much life? In your neighborhood? Chances are, the folks next door and across the street are too consumed with their jobs and their kids and their bills to sit around together for three hours 81 times a year. At the office? It's unlikely that corporate hierarchies and petty infighting could ever be dropped long enough to foster the kind of egalitarian bonhomie found in and around 135.
Here's my favorite line from the piece:
Together they're a collection of Everybodies -- professors and lawyers, retirees and Little Leaguers -- who come together during every homestand to become a collective Somebody. It started with baseball and spilled over into life beyond the ballpark.
This is a great piece and definitely worth checking out even if you aren't a Giants fans. Take a few minutes and check it out.