Today I want to write about fandom, but I’m starting from a type you might not be expecting.
Last week the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series in five years. People are throwing around the word dynasty. As a Giants fan, I’m over the moon.
And after that final out in game seven, a friend of mine asked if all the recent success might set my expectation level unreasonably high.
For some fans, it might. But I’m not worried about that happening to me.
I grew a Giants fan. Watching baseball with my father is one of my cherished childhood memories. Now I’m not saying this to brag, but to make clear a sense of the timeline for you. This means I started watching the Giants in the mid to late 1970s.
Go take a look at the Giants records between, say, 1975 and 1986. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Are you done laughing?
That’s right. The first time I saw the Giants get into a pennant race, it was 1982. It was the most excitement I’d ever seen. Fighting the Dodgers and Braves right down to the last series of the season. The Giants got knocked out by the Dodgers (which always hurts), but then turned around the next day and eliminated the Dodgers.
That’s right. Part of the reason the Braves won the division that year was that the Giants and Dodgers knocked each other off.
I could go on and on about that season, but I think it says enough that I still remember watching second baseman Joe Morgan hit the home run that knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs.
But think about that for a second. The most exciting season of my young life, and the Giants finished third. The most important moment was eliminating another team.
In fact, I was seventeen before I saw the Giants finish higher than third place. That was the year they won the division for the first time in my awareness. And they got no further, going down to the Cardinals.
It was only two years later before I got to see the Giants make the World Series. And what happened? The A’s blasted them in four games. (In fact, I used to be a Giants and A’s fan, but I’ve never quite forgiven the A’s for that.)
It was almost another decade before I saw the Giants even make it back to the playoffs. Sure, they had another dogfight with the Braves in ’93. But the Braves coming out on top again, by one game as I recall.
The Giants finally got back to the World Series in 2002. Thirteen years after their last trip. And they played well. In fact, they had the series in the palm of their hands.
And dropped it.
That was it until 2010. About thirty-five years of watching the Giants before they won a World Series.
Why does that matter?
Because I was trained early in life to have fun watching baseball without seeing my team win the big prize, or even coming close. I was able to enjoy the game without stressing the outcome.
And I hope today’s fantasy and superhero fans feel the same way.
Growing up a fantasy and superhero fan was a challenge unto itself. If you wanted fantasy movies, you got b-movie fare like Hawk the Slayer, Deathstalker, and The Sword and the Sorcerer. (With the occasional effort like Dragonslayer.) If you wanted fantasy on evening television, you got The Charmings or Wizards and Warriors, shows that made fun of fantasy as much as anything. For superheroes, the cartoons were pretty good, but the live action stuff was painful* (I’m looking at you, Spiderman and Captain America).
Consider that right now, some of the biggest shows on television are fantasy (led by Game of Thrones). Some of the biggest films too. And superheroes practically rule the earth these days. Too many to even bother listing.
Is there a chance this trend will last forever? Sure. There’s also a chance that the Giants will continue to win the World Series every other year for the rest of my life.
But I wouldn’t count on it.
So remember: enjoy the material, and not just the commercial peak.
*All right, The Incredible Hulk was a good show, but the batting average was still pretty bad.