A San Francisco Stay-cation: Basically a week long advert for my city.

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The last time I blogged about a week spent with the fabulous Ms. R was two years ago on my return from a whirlwind tour of NYC for spring break. A month or so later she joined me for a compare and contrast week on the west coast, but that one didn’t make the blog, because at the time, I felt like it was silly to do like a vacay blog for my own city.

But, if one’s city is San Francisco – how silly is that?

Two years to the week later Ms. R was back in SF, and this time we took the time to both take in, and take on, the City by the Bay.

Spring break comes at such a desperately necessary time for people in my profession. The ides of March seem to know no end for a teacher, and there is not a more liberating feeling mid-year than the final bell on the Friday afternoon leading into the Easter holiday week (although, working in Berkeley, you are not allowed to call it Easter break, lest you offend… but a spring holiday by ANY name would be as sweet.) And on 27 March, at precisely 3:32 I was out the door and on my way home to… well, to home.

The last two years I left town for the break to New York City as I mentioned, and more recently Seattle. But this year, I would be here: a stay-cation. But not just a week of me doing all the things I do – yoga, cooking, reading, taking photos of the cats – I would be hosting Ms. R for a week of Bay Area shenanigans (and, doing all that other stuff too.)

Ms. R was my first friend in Hong Kong when I arrived in 2005 and we seem to have a mutual appreciation for each other that has stood the test of time. One of the more British Brits I know, Ms. R brings a certain standard to all things (and a clear opinion on how all things should be done) that I find educational, entertaining, and enlightening.

And I was prepared:

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From the moment the wheels touched down, we were taking full advantage of all things La Mission and SF. And it went something like this:

Friday: 
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The first night of a vacation may be the sweetest, in the same way that the last night brings a certain melancholy that is unavoidable in its predictability, the anticipation that greets the first Friday is delicious. Home early to kick up my feet, have a beer, watch some basketball and revel in what was to come. It was a segue of perfection.

R arrived around 8:30 out time, and I knew she would be knackered, but we were not missing El Farolito. I mean, come on, it is the Mission. And then we were ensconced in my none too spacious apartment, both so exhausted that it was all we could do to catch up with the basics before heading to bed.

Saturday:
First day out and about – up so early as jet lag can do, but a lovely morning, yoga and then  at least two neighborhoods by foot…

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Through the Mission to Zeitgeist we went for cold beers in the hot sun. (“Your people are just so friendly!”) Then on to Hayes Valley where I sadly learned of a designer I will never afford but will forever covet: Dries Van Noten. This is why Ms. R is:

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Along the way we had macarons and cupcakes from Miette, cocktails and salty snacks at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, as you do, and discovered far too many:

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But Ms. R has a system… it’s all look-y look-y loo… (until it’s not) and seems haphazard – until it’s not. It is like stages in the Tour de France or something – and when we got to Alpe d’Huez…. wowsa.

After a gorgeous day strolling the Mission and Hayes Valley, we had dinner at home and watched basketball. And really, burgers, beers, and basketball can make for a pretty great evening in.

Sunday:
Again, we were up early, figured there was no reason to sleep in – if on London time for Ms. R, so be it… more time to do things. Sometimes the things were like me doing yoga and R taking a walk, and sometimes it was sitting around and chatting over coffee – the coffee still a constant struggle… and although no SF barista has yet had the gall to try to purvey a misto (that is not a word! I hear her declare!) it is still an adventure to find the suitable cup for Ms. R. I had a hair appointment on Sunday and Ms. R was up for the cup and got a blowout as well – so we were all dolled up thanks to Revamp as we headed to Hi Tops to catch some more of the Elite Eight. Because there’s no kind of sports bar like a gay sports bar. [“Yay sports!!”] Plus, as Ms. R pointed out, no other sports bar was going to have a kale salad on the menu, which, it turns out, goes nicely with beer. #healthydrinker

I wanted to get a selfie. It did not happen. Ms. R is not a fan in general.

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After the game we headed downtown for another round of shopping, because: Good Hair.

And eventually we found ourselves back at home. One of the best parts about vacation is that moment you get home on a Sunday night… and you are like, ‘Hey – I don’t have to get up for work tomorrow!’ So, then that was happening.

Monday:
Up early for yoga. Super early, but as was voluntary, freakishly easy to manage. And it was good to get it out of the way because we were entering the Alps [if we are to keep the Tour de France metaphor rolling (yeah, I just did that), which seems apropos as Ms. R will be cycling the whole of the UK later in the year, from bottom to top, as it were] and headed downtown. To shop.

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It is amazing how much shit you never knew you needed when you get out there in the land of the consumer. And while Ms. R had a legit list of things she wanted needed to get while she was here, it turns out that just being in the proximity of a shopper can have an infectious effect on me. And a shopper I became.

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Shoes, dresses, pants, shirts, sweaters, make up… more and more and more. Frankly, it was rather impressive. But we eventually had to cut it short to get to our foot massage at my local, followed by cocktails at one of my Top Five Dives: The Latin American Club and then dinner at my favorite place. Gayle Pirie does such an amazing job with this restaurant – everything is always just right – and her love for the Mission and her local clientele is remarkable. We had a great meal, perfect wine, bubbles and dessert.

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Tuesday:
Started out with a lovely morning at home (I think I even prepared an acceptable cup of coffee…. then some yoga. Then brunch at Plow with my hair guru. Ms. R got to see a few more neighborhoods today – Potrero, the Fillmore, Pac Heights, Union Street… Which of course Ms. R loved. I should have taken her out to Cow Hollow. Next time.

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And eventually, the East Bay.

After a brief respite after our breezy day on the streets of SF, we headed out to one of my favorite venues, The Fox Theater in Oakland. It is a great venue and the surrounding area is just coming up and up and up. So up in fact, it is hard to even choose where to go pre-show. We chose Dogwood and it was a solid choice. A couple of cocktails and some snacks and on to get down with TV on the Radio. This might have been the fourth or fifth time I have seen TVOTR, but every time, they bring it, and this Tuesday evening was no exception. I told Ms. R to observe what happened as soon as the lights went down… and she was suitably impressed (for lack of a better word): “Your people smoke so much weed.” Was her general consensus (although I am sure she was getting used to it with the prolific exhalations from my downstairs neighbor.) And it is sort of funny that smokers have to leave the Fox to smoke cigarettes – but weed? No worries: spark up.

I wanted a selfie of us again. But, no dice.

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Wednesday:
April Fool’s Day. Really, this is such a ridiculous day. Eventually I am going to have to learn to just stay away from social media, because really: lame. But, for now, Noe Valley for breakfast and a strategic strike to Omnivore Books. Then off to Dolores Park, via Rhea’s Deli.

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An afternoon in Dolores Park is hard not to love, even when the wind is beginning to kick up… I suggested a selfie, but…

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We topped off this evening with dinner at a newish neighborhood restaurant called Plin. This restaurant is in a locale with bad juju. The Thai restaurant that used to be in the same space was not very good (likely why I was able to get a table for 18 for my 40th birthday) although they didn’t seem to mind when I stood on my chair – for more than 10 minutes – which could have something to do with why they went out of business. Anyhow, Plin, still has weird juju. Or feng shui. Or whatever you want to call it. And this is too bad because the food is actually really very good. But our consensus was that it will struggle in a neighborhood replete with dining opportunities that are also very good.

After dinner we walked home – and it is just so nice to be able to walk through the neighborhood and enjoy it all. We stopped into The Velvet Scoop for a super yummy treat I was introduced to last fall: frozen custard.

We walked home simply pleased with another full day in the neighborhood.

Thursday:
This would be the one day that Ms. R and I did more or less our own thing… AS I mentioned, she is a young woman with a plan and she had really panned out her trip to perfection. It was an important day – and I will just say, it could not have been more lovely for what was on the agenda.

For me, I reverted back to my more typical routine – did a couple of yoga classes, took care of some errands, and through it all sort of saw the City really differently as I seemed a lot more tuned into things around me, thanks to fresh eyes, I suppose.

San Francisco really is such an amazing city… with all the boroughs, as Ms. R likes to call them, and the vistas, and the sights (“It’s so small. I don’t need a picture of that.” – Ms. R to the Mrs. Doubtfire House.) But also amazing in less fantastic ways, with a painfully abundant homeless population – which simply defies explanation to a person who comes from a nation that provides care for its most vulnerable. There is no acceptable way to explain how it is that so many of our people live without the care they need, on the streets, and this is really apparent when you speak to a European. The same confusion comes up in conversation when in flipping through the news channels it is one violent crime after the next and the question comes up: “What is the deal with your gun laws?” Yeah, I got nothing for you on that. The juxtaposition of our national experiences is fascinating.

When Ms. R returned after her day on the road (“Are you good with driving a car here?” I asked. “I drove a Porsche in Beirut, I think I will be fine.” *crickets*) her comment on American drivers was how much the adhered to the rules of the road. So, yeah, I guess we are better than Madrid and Beirut in one way. Not sure that is winning, but we will take it.

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We had another great neighborhood night in the Mission… We met up with Little E and had drinks at The Chapel, dinner at Tacolicious (a nice challenge for me who has given up chips for lent – the second coming cannot come soon enough when you are staring down a bowl of guacamole and not having tortilla chips), apres dinner drinks at ABV, mildly disrupted by an incredibly short and freakishly intoxicated Mexican man literally being held up and force fed by his amigo… a scene wholly incongruous with the vibe of the bar, but got me ready to go because: vomit potential. Plus, there was ice cream in my future, so why linger?

Friday:
This was my mom’s birthday, and in good form Ms. R agreed to give up some time with my padres. And R was coming up too. So my momma got to have some birthday shenanigans with all her kids.

But before that was going to happen, we headed out to do a bit more shopping. For real (though in returning to the nearly forgotten Tour de France metaphor, we were very much in the final time trial at this point.) A high point of the afternoon was definitely a light lunch at The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus. Very posh. I also have to say… the shoe department at Neiman’s will make a grown woman (without a trust fund) cry. Wowsa.

Then it was back to the hood to meet the ‘rents and R. Once all rendezvous’d we started at El Techo for drinks and tapas. Then it was on to pie, because, as T said, “Who doesn’t like pie?” Well – no one, except for R who was off sweets until #HeHasRisen. Plus, there is nothing more hipster than a pie shop in the Mission, except maybe if it were in Bushwick, so you know, when in Rome… And it is really freaking good pie.

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We tried to watch a movie when we got home, but Into The Woods is a really long fairytale mash-up musical for a post cocktail Friday night. I am still trying to work out when that would not seem long…. We failed. But without much disappointment, because one of our most all-American experiences was on the horizon.

Saturday:
Let’s Go OAKLAND! Up early to make our way back to the East Bay with R to see the final exhibition game of spring training – and drink beer, eat hotdogs… and a super-jumbo corn dog too!

I love baseball, and one of the coolest things about Ms. R is that she gets sports, and was not only enthusiastic about the March Madness, but totally for the cup to go to O.Co (especially a cup full of beer. But not Bud Light because, “How many calories are we saving on this beer R?” “Maybe 50?” “Oh, love, no. We are not drinking that again.”)

It was a gorgeous day at the ball park – perhaps a little too gorgeous for my Brit Abroad though. Fortunately a very friendly one of my people had a sachet (packet) of sunscreen – though, in truth too little too late, but the thought was on point. I hope at this point she has gone totally brown.

Although the A’s did not win (insert sad emoji here) I did get to see my adored Barry Zito take the mound in the green and gold once again (last pitches before heading to Triple A Nashville, but hey, I have been wanting to go to Tennessee.) And that was awesome.

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I suggested a selfie of the three of us all kitted out in our A’s gear. But no.

After the game and a lot of laughs (and eye rolls) we headed back to the City where we watched Wisconsin upset Kentucky (WHAT?!?!) and then a a final stop at the local taqueria, followed up with a stroll down to Humphry Slocombe, because one must. Then home for silly movies. I am not sure what it says about us that we made it through We’re The Millers.

Sunday:
He has risen (though, for the first time, the sun did not come out…) And although, I would like to claim some higher spirituality about this – the reality is I was pretty psyched that chips were going to be back on my menu. Initially, when I had been trying to arrange things for the week, I had been unable to find anywhere for Easter brunch. However, apparently we were so charming when we had dinner at Foreign Cinema, that they were able to magically manifest a table for us on Easter Sunday. The perks of being a local I guess. Or good tippers? (No, that couldn’t be, I was with a Brit. Ha. Like the coffee conundrum, Ms. R has substantial issues with tipping. And don’t even get going on the tip jars for counter service…. “You Americans are ruining it for everyone!” So we are friendly and generous. Not too shabby!)

One other thing that Ms. R had wanted to do while here was to try SoulCycle. I have to say, I was more up for this than I thought I might be. It was early and unfamiliar and hard. But it was kind of cool too. So, spinning, packing, and foot massages took us straight into a gorgeous Easter brunch that Ms. R’s mum treated us too, which was pretty sweet. And this was the second Easter brunch Ms. R and I have shared in the past three years, so it is kind of a tradition. Okay, maybe not totally, but it could be. I tagged the two of us in the following photo, because: not a selfie from the week.

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After brunch, it was the load out.

And then she was gone.

The Sunday doldrums can really sneak up on you, something I find particularly perplexing as there is no surprise in their arrival. This Sunday totally faked me out, and not only for it being Easter Sunday, but because it began with all the activity that the past week has brought into my more typically solitary home life, and then, just like that… it was over. Evening arrived, and in spite of it being the brightest moments of an otherwise grey day, all was quiet and still; as if the week itself had not actually happened.

I thought back on Ms. R’s synopsis of ‘my people’ – which always cracks me up:

  • Friendly
  • Weed obsessed
  • Good teeth
  • Big
  • Poor fashion choices
  • Unable to make coffee hot enough
  • And I just have to come back to friendly – because we gotta focus on the bright side…

And as I climbed into bed looking ahead to super fun and amazing Monday morning meetings back at school, it dawned on me:

Yep, this all just happened. In a single week, we did it all. Even without a selfie to prove it.

Wow, didn’t I just get told. [Yeah, not really.]

Question: If someone from the 1950’s suddenly appeared, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today?

Answer: I posses a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man and I use it to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers.

My Twitter is public right now, but that is gonna end in a hot minute. (It is only public while Le Tour de France is going because it is fun to engage with les fanaticals de tour.) Since it has been public, I have had the “opportunity” to be interacted with (awkward semantics are intentional) by a variety of people, which in turn has cause me to really consider the purpose of such discourse. Because really, people rarely hear what they do not want to hear, and the chance for people to hear you when the exchange takes place in a series of 140-character quips on line I think is even more unlikely. And honestly, I would much rather look at pictures of cats than argue with complete strangers (it is hard enough to avoid arguments with people we know and care about!)

Anyhow, I felt compelled to reply to a specific “interactor” last night, but realized that articulate, logical argument was going to be lost on her (not to mention would take more “tweets” than should ever be allowed on a single subject) because she already knows everything. So, I watched some Tour de France recaps and went to bed. Unfortunately, I woke up thinking about it, and so I told myself that if, after yoga and a shower, I was still thinking about this, I would write it out. I was. So I am.

Here is what happened.

As has been well-documented, the verdict in the Zimmerman trial exonerated the accused of all wrongdoing in the shooting death of the unarmed minor, Trayvon Martin. As has also been documented I was both unsurprised and terribly saddened by this verdict. In fact, the only remotely hopeful things I have seen come out of the whole situation came from the victim’s parents who clearly, and repeatedly, said that they would now turn to their faith because they felt that things were out of their hands. Their faith. Not black masks, bricks, spray paint and hammers…. but I am getting ahead of myself. Trayvon’s mother Sybrina Fulton, in response to people saying that the verdict was the worst thing to ever happen to her said, “No, the worst thing happened on February 26, 2012.” Her attorney added, “Last night was a decision made by six people on a jury, but that does not define her son, Trayvon Martin, and they’re going to define the legacy of their child.” Following the verdict, as many predicted, a variety of protests have broken out, and as I live in the Bay Area, the focus has been on Oakland, even though there have been daily rallies in San Francisco and other cities in the area, and in Los Angeles protestors managed to shut down the Santa Monica Freeway for a brief period of time.

The next thing that happened in Oakland was that the protests became destructive and violent. I feel that it is important to say here that I was raised by people who took part in more protests and rallies than most young people today could even imagine; and that I too participate(d) in protests (hey, we closed the 5 down in San Diego following the Rodney King trial); and I support the right to protest, to free speech, and protect one’s self from harm. Having said that, I also have to admit that I have not come all the way over to Malcolm X’s position of only being non-violent with those who are non-violent towards me, and I acknowledge that holding this position comes from a certain place of privilege. Still, I am not comfortable with proximity to violence of any sort and I know this about myself.

So, where am I going with this? Here is where I am going. “Protestors” in Oakland took it upon themselves to randomly destroy businesses in downtown, and in one restaurant, they took a hammer to a waiter’s head. Now, it just so happens that I know the family that owns the restaurant, I teach both of their daughters, and this is a family deeply involved in the Oakland and Berkeley communities and definitely in support of the position that another terrible injustice has been done by the Zimmerman verdict. This family owns several restaurants in addition to Flora (Doña Tomas, Tacayuba, Xolo) and they contribute a tremendous amount to the local area in myriad ways. And of course, knowing them makes this much more personal to me. They are a working family with several kids, why should they be targeted even if it was just collateral damage, or symbolic destruction of the “system” as these wannabe anarchists would have you believe? And hitting a waiter in the head with a hammer? Right here I am just going to have to say GTFO of here.

Alright, so that is the context. Now here is the part where I allowed myself to be fished in to a discussion with an individual whose life experience I should have accounted for: it is minimal. It went like this:

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It is time to write about baseball again.

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So here it is… more bullshit, new distributors. However, before I delve into the current shitstorm, let’s review:

1) I grew up watching both the Oakland As and the San Francisco Giants.
2) I love baseball, and can appreciate amazing talent, crushing losses, and charisma regardless of the team a player represents.
3) I never make ad hom attacks on the Giants (or any other team) or their fans based on the lifestyle of the fans (or where they live).
4) I saw more games at Candlestick than a lot of the current Giant fans have seen – ever.
5) No one has ever been killed, maimed or handicapped at an As game.
6) When the As were winning there was never a need to shit talk the Giants – they were not even in the same league – as now – so it seemed/s silly.
7) The As – largely known as the best farm system in the majors – are what they are and that is the charm, small market, big fun, no pretense.
8) I have never heard of a mother and her young child be knocked to the ground by drunk As fans as happened to diehard Giants fans at AT&T Park who are dear friends of mine.
9) The Alameda County sheriffs said they consistently have more trouble at San Francisco events than they do at Oakland events, despite the “ghetto” image that is constantly bantered about in social media, and even some “mainstream” media.
10) I have never made fun of people for the sports teams they love except for (full disclosure) Duke Basketball, and people who say they cheer for a team because it is their alma mater when they never attended that school – but as those are both collegiate examples I hardly think they are relevant here…

Now… How are things going in the MLB this year? Well, let’s see:

– The As are young.
– The As are winning some games.
– The As are having more fun than most teams.
– The As announcers are still goofy and silly – and having fun. But make no mistake, Fosse does know baseball, and Kuiper is the brother of the revered Giants broadcaster, so the local vitriol seems so lame. (The Giants team Kruk and Kuip actually said the people in a particular stadium [not Oakland] made them want to puke. On the air. Classy.)
– Oh, and the A’s just took three out of four against the Giants, so I guess that is where all the whinging is coming from.

Par for the course in my book.

Here is what has me all irritated this time (yeah, I know annoyed again…) All year long I am listening to people, (we could call them fans, but I am not sure) talk about the Giants as if they were somehow on the field with the team when they smoked the Tigers last year. Polishing their virtual trophies and all such pomp and circumstance. And so good on them… what on earth does that have to do with putting down another team? Why can’t the focus be on your championship team without the shit talk about a team that your team (not you, fyi) didn’t even play?

Then there are the insults constantly levied against the East Bay. Remembering that I hang my hat in San Francisco, and I love this City, I also see the coolness of the East Bay, and those who cannot are not trying. Or lacking in some other capacities. The thing about all the things that this particular ilk of Giants fans post on social media (like what a shithole the Coliseum is, even by people who have more gravitas than some Twitiot) and about how the fans are so lowbrow, is that at the end of the day, it really does smack of racist snobbery and a lot of people outside of the Bay Area and baseball are starting to take notice of it. I loved pitcher Sean Doolittle’s response to it all.

Interestingly, Giants fans don’t seem to realize that the As take a lot of pride and enjoyment in their “green collar” image. The nuveau-bougie SF attitude is not really what either of these teams have ever really been about.

Then I got all irritated because someone sent me some tweets from the internet troll referenced above – who I have met in person, and is really, quite trollish, though I will stay away from mentioning his limitations – who has been barking on about how the Athletics have no talent. Seriously dude? Do you think you have a chance of even stepping on the field at the Coliseum you so disdain? Not.Even.Close.Bud. The pros are pros – and the shittiest one of them would make the world’s hugest fool of you.

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And then case in point, one of my former students who is an As fan posts on her Facebook page about how the As took the first three of the series against the Giants. And so it starts. The game after which she made the comment had one of the most ridiculously bad calls anyone I know has ever seen in baseball. The local media described it gently by saying: Marco Scutaro hit an RBI double in the eighth as Gregor Blanco was allowed to score from first base, oddly enough, despite fan interference. Had the same thing occurred in Oakland giving the As a truly unearned run, it would have gotten ugly. And we would still be hearing about how it reflected the “shitty” Coliseum, the “ghetto” fans, and the generally  unacceptable nature of the Green & Gold.

In response to the original celebratory comment, many comments go back and forth. The typical reference to why the Giants are superior based on the recent World Series win. Fair play, they are the champs – but as Keith Olbermann said after the first one: Act like you belong there. So, I mention that trophies are as trophies do (check the books, who has more?) and this person says, “I can’t believe you “liked” the counting trophies and pennants comment… Shame on you. Here’s a fun fact, the A’s have 9 championships and 15 pennants. Not too shabby for playing in the worst city on the face of the planet. In a recent poll, downtown Baghdad had a higher rating than Oakland in quality of life. Oakland DID have a higher murder rate though. So they totally have that going for them. The Giants? 7 championships and 22(?!) pennants? Ruh roh. Somebody needs to fact check.” Bear in mind this came after he said: “The world of sports is all about “what have you done for me lately”. Unfortunately for the A’s, 1972 doesn’t count.” [Carefully neglecting the 1989 unfortunate demise of “his” Giants at the hands of… wait, who was that again? Oh, yeah. The As.]

Anyhow, I bring up this poor child’s bad logic because he a) proclaimed that history is irrelevant (which *any* truly storied program would agree is total horse shit, history is what makes us who we are and builds traditions – be it The Curse, or a legacy); and b) because on the heels of saying how ancient history is irrelevant, he counted wins for his SF Giants when they were in New York. That, young man is truly historical – and not even close to being the same club. In present situ, the As have 4 championships, 6 pennants, 16 playoff appearances; the Giants have 2 championships, 5 pennants, 10 playoff appearances. Should we mention that the As did it in ten fewer years? Or are we Not counting anymore?  Ruh roh.

Since when has it become necessary to cheer against a team rather than cheer for your own? That is Sportsmanship 101 (taught from kindergarten, I believe.)

In the end, the As and their fans have fun, maybe more fun, but I can’t really say. And maybe it is because those with the least to lose always do have more fun (key lesson from every ancient spiritual text you will ever get you hands on) – lose the ego… get the pie!

I like pie.

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