Two nights ago the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series in five years. Can you believe it? We had witnessed first-hand the 17-0 drubbing a visiting Los Angeles Dodgers had delivered to our boys in mid-September; and as the season drew to a close, those same Dodgers claimed the Division title, and the wild card berth was the last glimmer of hope for our Giants. Our boys in orange and black were not blessed with the dominating pitching rotation that had secured their crowns in 2010 and 2012, so we silently feared their post season appearance would be brief. We had an ace this year, Madison Bumgarner, but it seemed unlikely a team’s destiny could rest with the arm of one young southpaw. But Madison’s teammates got something started. First came Brandon Crawford’s grand slam in the National League Wild Card elimination game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. And then came the 18-inning game with the Washington Nationals where a fastball crushed in the late night by Brandon Belt became a walk off home run. Of course there was Senor Octobre, aka The Panda, himself. And our spark plug The Preacher, Sasquatch (as I nicknamed Michael Morse) and the rest of the “killer Ps,” and last but not least, one of the greatest situational managers on record, Bruce Bochy. Steadily, game by game, we began to believe. Maybe there was something to that little voice in my head…”they always win it all in even years.” I started humming Don’t Stop Believin’ and We Are The Champions.
After defeating the “Nats,” the Giants dueled with the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League Pennant. During the Pennant race, we visited New York City once home to Harlem’s Polo Grounds and Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field; these mighty stadiums, the historic homes of the Giants and Dodgers until expansion brought their rivalry to California in 1957. In 2014, Cardinals had won their Pennant race berth by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers most feared pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. We enjoyed the cultural delights of New York City by day and found neighborhood pubs by night to soak up the play by play of the Giants and Cards matchup. Maybe it was the experience of those previous Series, but the Giants had something extra. Calm and focused, battling against the odds, they came to play every day. Even when the night before was a crushing defeat – a fabric appearing torn beyond repair, they never gave into despair. And then Travis Ishikawa, who almost hung up his cleats this summer, eclipsed Bobby Thompson‘s 1951 “Shot Heard Round the World” with his pennant winning homer. The Giants kept working together as a team, and each game was a fresh start, a new dialogue, a renewed bargain.
Tom Stoppard’s play about love and relationships The Real Thing is on Broadway this October. In the play, Charlotte, a divorcee, tells her former husband Henry “there are no commitments, only bargains. And they have to be made again every day. You think making a commitment is it. Finish. You think it set like a concrete platform and it’ll take any strain you want to put on it. You’re committed. You don’t have to prove anything. In fact you can afford a little neglect, indulge in a little bit of sarcasm here and there and isolate yourself when you want to. Underneath it’s concrete for life.” Charlotte implies relationships are not static, they are dynamic; they are a negotiation and you must keep working at them and through the wear and tear of daily life, bringing your “A” game every day.
Relationships are never static. This theme surfaced in an exhibit of Cy Twombly’s work currently on display at the Morgan Library and Museum entitled Treatise on the Veil. The series of paintings and drawings were inspired by French composer Pierre Henry ‘s work The Veil of Orpheus. Working in the style of music known as “music concrete” (music based on collecting random sounds and abstracting their musical values often by manipulating recordings on magnetic tape), Henry evoked the journey of Orpheus to the underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice as the sound of tearing fabric. The composer references the moment at which Orpheus loses his bride forever by transgressing the gods’ command and gazing upon her before leaving Hades. Twombly visualized “the sound of a relationship ending” as a study of subtle variations of gray – like concrete – mapped over time on a canvas nearly thirty-three feet long. Sitting before Twombly’s painting, I was struck by three artists grappling with the juxtapositions of concreteness and fragility; static and dynamic; commitments and bargains. And I meditated on relationships, battered by the strains of daily life. We cannot assume relationships are concrete, able to withstand any storm. They are fragile fabrics susceptible to wear and tear, neglect and strain. Relationships, just like baseball teams playing in the World Series, thrive by renewing the daily bargain…by never giving over to defeat and despair. Yes, they suffer frays and tears, but no matter how bad, the negotiation – the bargaining – begins anew with the windup and delivery at the top of the first. When asked if the season was over, Yogi Berra replied “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” And if anybody made us believe that, it’s the 2014 San Francisco Giants!