Monthly Archives: October 2012

The San Francisco Giants & The Logic of the Stunning Upset

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Good Evening:

I first noticed the phenomenon in 1975, whilst following Wimbledon. Arthur Ashe struggled in every match leading to the final, losing at least one set in most of them. Jimmy Connors? He only won every match in straight sets, and the final would prove a mere formality before tennis fans could proclaim him the best in the world. And the championship match was a rout. Ashe won 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.

Then came the 1975 UCLA Bruins college football team. Crushed by Ohio State on their way to an 8-2-1 record, the Bruins survived one rough struggle after another to win the then-Pac 8 title and face the Buckeyes in a rematch at the Rose Bowl. The UCLA coach, some smart-mouthed young sprat named Dick Vermeil, bravely insisted that his men would actually try to win, and was ridiculed for his claims by the Eastern sportswriters, who awaited only a rout before proclaiming OSU one of the greatest college teams in history. And the 62nd Rose Bowl was a rout. UCLA won 23-10 in a game that was not as close as the score.

Which brings me to the 2012 San Francisco Giants.

Juan Marichal Entrance to the Ballpark

How did they sweep the Detroit Tigers?!

The Cincinnati Reds were weaker than Detroit, yet the Giants fell into a 2-0 hole in games, and had to become the first team to win the next three playoff games on the road to reach the National League Championship Series vs. the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Stringer/Photographer at the Giants Ballpark

The Giants fell into another must-win-three hole, this time 3-1. Barry Zito, a pitcher the Giants had dropped from the 2010 playoff roster, because their last hope in game 5. He only pitched 7+ innings of shutout ball in what was at the time the biggest game of his life. Pablo Sandoval, who hardly played in the 2010 postseason because of a slump, hit a home run in the game, and San Francisco proceeded to outscore the Cardinals 20-1 to win the pennant.

Prepping the Infield Before the 15 July 2012 Arizona Game

Only to face the Detroit Tigers. Only the team with the best pitcher in the game, Justin Verlander, and the best hitter, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

Make an Impact (7/6/2008). Even during the Series, fans could still watch the games for free!

Oh, and the Tigers had almost a week to relax, prepare, and get ready after slaughtering the Yankees in four games.

Cotton Candy Vendor

The Giants pitching rotation had become such a mess that Zito (overall, he had been a huge disappointment since coming to the Black & Orange in free agency) had to face Verlander in Game 1, and staff ace Matt Cain could not pitch until Game 4. Therefore the overwhelming majority of prognosticators who picked Detroit to win the World Series had excellent reasons for their picks.

Therefore, Barry Zito pitched even better in the new biggest game of his life, Pablo “The Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three home runs in one World Series game, and the G-Men crushed Verlander and the Tigers in Game 1 on their way to a four-game sweep.

The Couple’s Quiet Time Before the Game, McCovey Cove Promenade

A lot of people have put forth plausible reasons for the one result that no one, I mean, no one expected. The Tigers’ extended layoff could have harmed them; the Giants’ relievers gave them a huge edge, even without Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson; inferior defense hurt Detroit; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Maybe the Giants were in fact better than Detroit; Dick Vermeil once claimed that his college team Bruins could have beaten the NFL Philadelphia Eagles he took over after the Rose Bowl.

I’d like to offer my own hypothesis: The San Francisco Giants won the World Series because they suffered more. Like Arthur Ashe and the UCLA Bruins, they had to overcome enormous difficulties just to get to the finals. The Giants lost Wilson for the season, lost Melky Cabrera for fifty games and chose not to bring him back, just to get to the finals. They needed to put together two three-game winning streaks with their backs against the wall just to get to the finals.

My hypothesis is that once you’ve gone through heck and back, and then made a second round trip, just to reach the finals, the championship game(s) start to look really, really easy by comparison. Since no one expects you to win anyway, you become free to relax and play your best, and what the heck, why not try to win, just for fun?

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Even I did not pick the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series. In my play Le Bistro de la Verite (see here and here), the characters discuss the 2012 Giants and agree that they will win the NL West Division and advance not one step further.

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Many Glorious Saturdays During One Saturday in Golden Gate Park

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Good Evening:

San Francisco likes to indulge in one pleasant eccentricity; every once in a while, it will single out one particular denizen, shake him/her by the collar and say, “Today, I will remind you why you fell in love with me, and you will love it!”

Needless to say, the particular denizens of San Francisco don’t particularly mind.

The De Young Museum has done a great job lately in terms of bringing in fascinating traveling exhibitions: current shows include the William & Grace Paley Collection, ballet costumes from the career of Nureyev, and the photographs of Danny Lyon. One popular subject for photographers is the main stairway behind the ticket booths, especially for fans of B&W (all pictures taken with a Nikon CoolPix S9100):

Stairway in De Young Museum, 27 October 2012

However, I was not the only person enjoying a glorious San Francisco Saturday. Many, many people shared and enjoyed the same glorious San Francisco Saturday.

Before the visit to the De Young, I saw a young woman with both a harp and a sunburn, and thought she might look good in watercolor. I imported the file into Sketcher, and used the settings 95-100-80-20 Contour (Sketcher users will know what I mean):

After the visit and lunch in the museum’s cafe (the food is very good, and the wine list will surprise you), I walked near the Shakespeare Garden and saw this gentleman enjoying the warm weather in his bare feet. Funny, but true; I evaluated both subjects in terms of how they might look in watercolors:

Barefoot Man Near the Shakespeare Garden, 27 October 2012
Modified Using Sketcher, 100-100-100-(-11) Watercolor Paper Settings

I hope you had a good weekend.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Instant Art of Instant Abstract Art, 27 October 2012: Glassware & Pottery @ the De Young Museum, San Francisco

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Good Afternoon:

I have a fondness for taking extreme closeups of objects, so extreme that you can no longer recognize the object, converting concrete art to an abstract photograph. Here is an earlier example of my work; and here is an even earlier example. And I almost forgot this one.

I visited San Francisco’s sensational De Young Museum today and found a few opportunities to indulge my eccentric tastes. All pictures taken with a Nikon CoolPix S9100 using the built-in “Museum Mode.”

I photographed closeups of Turkish plates in one of the gift shops (you will find a lot of gift shops in the De Young), and then cropped them to produce the above results. The next set of four come from glassware objets d’art in the permanent exhibits. You’ll note that two came out slightly blurry; I decided that the results kinda sorta maybe somewhat perhaps might have succeeded. Maybe. A typical amateur excuse–“I meant to do that!”

I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful weekend. Go Giants!

Vonn Scott Bair

What Is It About Baseball, Anyway?

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Good Afternoon:

Make no mistake–I am de-light-ed to see the San Francisco Giants win the first two games of the 2012 World Series.  And I still think the ballpark ranks among best in all of American professional sports (See The Giants Ballpark and the Architecture of Fun). But this time I’m a bit more interested in the relationship between baseball and newcomers to America.

Giants Ballpark, Before It Fills with Fun Frolicking Fans

The first game coincided with a day full of errands I had to complete because I’m hosting a dinner, a pair of rehearsals for my play The Land of Hope & Dreams, and my mother for the next several days. I could not take the night off to watch the game; I had to do the laundry (the life of an artiste is ever so very fascinating). I figured I would be the only person in the laundromat. Boy, did I figure wrong. I forgot about the TV.

Right City, Wrong Sport

Multitaskers filled the place, cleaning their clothes and watching the game at the same time. All of them supported the Giants, of course, many wore orange and/or black, and every single one felt annoyed when our washers and driers stopped and we actually had to do something about our laundry. But about half of the customers came from other countries, and they interested me.

Signalling Touchdown at a Baseball Game

One woman, Hispanic, 45-50, bounced up and down in her seat whenever Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval (and wasn’t the Kung Fu Panda astonishing?) took their turns at the plate. Quick check of Wikipedia on my iPhone: both players were born in Venezuela. I wonder if she came from there, too. The elderly Asian couple who seemed literally inseparable from each other (they stayed side-by-side even when they tended to their clothes) kept up a furious conversation with each other and didn’t seem to like any of the umpires’ calls against the G-Men. A South Asian couple kept to themselves in back and kept asking questions of each other in their own language accompanied by much shrugging of the shoulders, but whenever the other fans cheered, they took their cues and did the same.

Football is America’s most popular professional team sport nowadays, and yet baseball seems to draw the attention, fascination and adoration of newly-arrived Americans. This has been true ever since the 1930s at least, when thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe became Detroit Tiger fans because of Hank Greenberg. But even today, the less popular sport overall remains popular with new arrivals. Perhaps it’s because baseball players in uniform look more human than football players with their helmets and armor. Perhaps like the possibly Venezuelan woman, the number of foreign-born baseball players makes it easier to connect with individual players. Who knows? I don’t, but baseball retains its power to intrigue, entertain and to make all of us American, and for that I can feel grateful.

Vonn Scott Bair

13.

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Good Evening:

Since I began this blog less than a year ago, I have saved two lives for a new total of thirteen. You can read about 12 here; Tonight I present 13.

The intersection of Masonic & Geary in San Francisco is a difficult one to figure out and not that safe for pedestrian or bicyclist. Traffic arrives at many different directions at excessive speeds, the lights change in a pattern that might exist (or might not), and sometimes I feel safer crossing against the light than with it. However, the nearest Trader Joe’s grocery store to my apartment has taken up residence near there, so I keep my head on a swivel whenever I visit.

On this particular Sunday I awaited the light to change in my favor when three bicyclists (male, early 20s, Caucasian, preppy) pulled up beside me on their expensive-looking 12-speeds. Two of them had brain cells and stopped in a safe location, heads on swivels like yours truly.

The third did not have brain cells; he had a cell phone.

He chatted away on his Very Important Phone Call (V.I.P.C.), oblivious to the fact that he had wandered 15 feet into one of the most dangerous intersections in San Francisco.

“BACK UP!!”

Mr. Cell Phone backed up six feet. A car traveling in excess of the speed limit zoomed over the spot he used to inhabit. Mr. Cell Phone had no idea what just happened; he still focused all of his attention upon his V.I.P.C.

“DON’T BIKE AND TALK!!”

Mr. Cell Phone backed up another six feet. A second car traveling in excess of the speed limit zoomed over the new spot he used to inhabit. Mr. Cell Phone had no idea that I had saved his life twice in 10 seconds; he still focused all of his attention upon his V.I.P.C.

His friends laughed; let’s fact it, “Don’t bike and talk!” is a rather funny line. I looked at the unprotected heads of the three preppies riding expensive 12-speeds.

“You know, guys, helmets might be a good idea.”

Mr. Cell Phone didn’t hear a word of this; still focused on his V.I.P.C. One of the others replied, “Yeah, well, we made a choice.”

I said, “I know.”

The light turned in our favor and the three bicyclists and went our separate ways. Mr. Cell Phone turned to one of his friends and I think I heard him ask, “What just happened?”

I probably did the right thing in saving Mr. Cell Phone. Didn’t I?

Vonn Scott Bair

I Do Not Understand Reality, 21 October 2012

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Good Evening:

Freecycling is a popular activity in San Francisco, but I doubt that anyone will pick up this television now that it sports this graffito (photo taken at the west-bound Haight & Divisadero bus stop around 9:30 p.m. with an iPhone 4 using flash):

“TV Tube X Equality Kevlar” Haight & Divisadero, 21 October 2012

Does anyone have any idea what the message might mean?

Vonn Scott Bair

Things on Walls, 21 October 2012

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Good Evening & Here Are Your Orders:

Listen to This Wall, Haight Street Across from Amoeba Records

Yes, the time has come for another edition of “Things on Walls,” in which I present examples of odd objects of usually mysterious purpose on walls. The above counts as an exception–it’s painted on a wall–but most of the rest fit the bill.

The above comes from a building on the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park. Look closely and you can see writing on whatever this is.

Theaters in San Francisco are a great source of mysterious objects. I saw the following on the wall of a theater on Natoma, in a rough part of town:

And this comes from the door to one of the dressing rooms of the Boxcar Theater, located in a different rough part of town. The inscription will seem puzzling until I tell you that the Boxcar building had once served as a butcher’s shop. In other words, the actors dress in what used to be meat lockers. Appropriate, quite appropriate: on film sets, when the grips, gaffers, electricians and painters have finished their work, they sometimes tell the director, “Bring on the ‘meat puppets!'”

Next, some sort of mounting for some sort of something in a Dubose laundromat. My guess: a pay telephone.

Miscellaneous oddities:

I hope all of you enjoy your weekend activities.

Vonn Scott Bair