By Keenan Donath
Where the tradition started is neither known nor cared about. For fans, tears will most likely be shed. For teenagers who live in the surrounding area, it is a chance to join in on the celebratory spirit with, well spirits. Nonetheless, the experience (warning cliché coming up) cannot be summed up in words.
Most professional athletes never win a major championship. Whether it be a Stanley cup, World Series, Super Bowl etc. the opportunity to win a championship is what entices many an athlete to pursue his dreams in the first place. Of course, money is another source of motivation. Athletes are often criticized for chasing the money. if you were faced with the same situation would you not take the job with more pay? In the same we chose to attend a college to make more money after we graduate, an athlete may choose a college that will further their career. But I digress. The point is many a paid athlete treats their job as a job. But as a fan we like to see our athletes as underdogs, as the kid next door, the imperfect hero who is chasing the dream. This is a source of conflict. This is why the media ostracizes certain athletes and praises others. Again I digress.
The parade is the chance to see “our” athlete close up, in the flesh. I bet the person who organized the first one had this in mind. The word athlete loosely applies during the parade. The magic of the parade is we see right through the usually reserved facades of the people we see on the field. We see them out of their element. And in many cases we see tremendous emotion coming out of them and not us.
This was the case during my experience at the San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series parade. Reports were that there was over a million people in attendance. There aren’t even a million people who live in San Francisco. There was also a ridiculous amount of confetti, which is a must for any successful parade. Imagine people waiting for over 3 hours and still having to end up on their tippy-toes. I am fairly sure I can speak for everyone in attendance when I say that the wait was much worth it.
Perhaps the best moment was when Hunter Pence, the much-publicized midseason pick up, coasted by in his sports car. Well he wasn’t exactly in the car. He was standing on the back seat shouting and gesturing to the crowd. He wasn’t flipping the bird or yelling obscenities like athletes are sometimes prone to do, he was making a heart with his two hands and saying things like thank you and I love you guys. Perhaps Pence was intoxicated with emotion, but when you review his past and mix that with his personality, his overzealous reaction was to be expected. Pence enjoyed extreme success at an early age with the Houston Astros. It was success but it was individual success on some pretty mediocre teams. He was then traded to the Phillies where the team’s quest for a championship proved unsuccessful. So his pre-Giants career could be characterized with years of mediocrity with a little taste of the elusive ‘ship.
When he arrived he was hailed as a savior. He would be the bat that we needed. He would carry the offense. Looking back at his numbers you say that he came up short of expectations. His offensive numbers weren’t career-highs and were surprisingly low. Nevertheless he proved to be a valuable everyday player on a team with an anemic offense. It was down the stretch and throughout the playoffs where Pence proved his true worth. He became an emotional leader on a team filled with characters. He would lead the team in these strange pregame rituals. When someone on the team proved his worth at the plate, it would be Pence on the steps of the dugout waiting to high five and yell congratulations. When the giants finally clinched in Detroit, one could not help but feel good for Hunter. When his on field performance may have proved subpar, he rallied the team for many emotional wins.
So it was when Hunter made his appearance during the parade that the worlds of athletes and the fans crossed paths. We were able to see an athlete, arguably the leader of our team, break down with raw emotion. It was this that allowed me to be affirmed in my belief that most athletes play their sport for on field success and immortality and although they may treat it as a job, they are still living out a dream.
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