Wednesday, January 08, 2003


I think Christmas came a little late for SF this year. It seems like only last week that I was trying to plan a new years resolution clearing out my closet to make room for the new stuff - the sweaters that my parent's gave me and the 19-inch monitor I gave myself. However I had to hesitate when my brother ask me Do you want throw this hat out?

It was the red one still stained with dirt and a white V in the middle - a proud memento from my graduate school softball days from a time when a beer belly was considered to be proper sporting attire. The purpose of most PhD programs is to get the hood, but my headgear earned from those two years is that cap. In baseball you get more of a chance to run out a weak chopper down the third base line; academia only likes power hitters. Our softball team, the Viking death rats, might not have had the best record, but with the team of mostly robotics grads we probably could have quoted Monty Python better than Symington could. That hat isn't going anywhere and after dusting it off I decided to wear it yesterday.

Still that wasn't the important question from Sunday. Nope, the question I will remember for years was when I asked my brother Do you want to go? We agreed that a four-touchdown deficit was the minimum to leave a playoff football game, but I was unsure whether a three touchdown and a field goal margin was enough. The New York Giants had dominated the ball at Candlestick Park. Between the laser passes of Collins, the craftiness of Toomer, the power of Shockey, the speed of Barber and a stingy defensive, it felt like the game was rerun of some ESPN classic Giants team with Simms tossing it to Bavaro while the Big Tuna played mind games along the sidelines. Actually it looked more like the whopping that my brother gave me on a Nintendo. 38 to 14 through forty minutes is a crushing.

If you take enough math classes (and I have had way too many) you get a deeper appreciation of statistics that ruins playing blackjack because you realize you are making a losing bet. There is a point when you that you need to cut loss and move on. I have spent that last three years working with folks who are the master of hedging (although if they were better wall street guys they should have just sold). Twenty-four points is more than Steve Young ever overcame in the playoffs throwing to Jerry Rice. It is more than Joe Montana ever did going to Dwight Clark. I think it might have been bigger than David versus Goliath considering that they did not have the two-point conversion then.

San Francisco is an odd town in that it almost reveres its musicians more than its athletes. The more famous Garcia in these parts played for the Grateful Dead. And somewhere up in the sky he must have been humming Since it cost a lot to win and even more to lose. You and me bound to spend some time wondering what to choose.

A couple of other brothers wrote Should we stay or should we go?, but they probably weren't thinking about traffic on highway 101 the way that I was with mine.

We stayed.

I never was a full deadhead (certainly not at Cate), but I really did enjoy two concerts. The truly whacked out fans would be the ones dancing outside, but I always thought that the hardcore were the ones flicking lighters so that they could write down the set list. A sea of stars (not really the thousand points of light that Bush talked about) would go as soon the lyrics blared out. Trouble ahead, Trouble behind and you know that notion just crossed my mind. Or perhaps Sometimes the light's all shining on me. Other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it's been. There was such an incredible buzz at a dead show that I have only seen since at a republican convention and Babylon 5 show (although now I tend get both of those memories confused)

That kind of feeling wasn't there in the third quarter. There were sixty five thousand quiet niner fans that were being heckled by the ten giants fans in my section all of whom could have been named Dino. Even the women. But the crowd had did not have enough energy to whimper, much less cheer. It was a very tough day.

Garcia started to play as if he were in his backyard. The no huddle offense has pretty much gone the way of the leather helmet (and the words going both ways has gone to a different meaning in this town). But it worked. The Giants could not rest their defense, and the niners could creep down the field. It felt like Garcia was almost scratching the plays in the sand to Owens. Hook a left at the fire hydrant and I will hit you over the middle. One by one the offensive players started to step it up. Little by little the crowd began to rise and cheer. By the middle of the fourth quarter the place was on their feet and cheered as if they were going to be at a cough syrup audition on Monday.

A new question started to float around the chants of Go. Niners and D. Fence. Could this really happen?

Can you comeback from this kind of a mess? Will you one day find out that you weren't really working for the man? Is George Bush going to say Hey the UN did not find any weapons so there is no reason for a Coup in Iraq? What is wrong with the Lakers? Did Mr. Boning really know everything that happened at the mesa? Can I wear a shirt and sweater that actually match?

The truth is I don't know. But I did learn that maybe just maybe the answer to things might be better than you expect. Some days you have to stick with things even if you are down by 24 points. (Unless you are an angel's fan in which case I still don't really like you). There might just be a thing called luck and for that reason alone I am taking the hat to Vegas this weekend.

Maybe with that same little luck I will catch you soon. Here is hoping.