Here it is, the last Jock Blog of 2020.
To know where we’re going — to a 2021 that promises sweet, paradisiacal promise — you have to know where you’ve been — coming out of a 2020 that was a slow-motion rerun of cooped-up insanity.
By that, I mean that I reviewed the Jock Blogs I submitted since we all went home from the KNBR studios in mid-March.
Let me tell you, sports fan, it wasn’t exactly a rose garden.
There was the Jock Blog about missing Opening Day of baseball. There was the Jock Blog in April about missing The Masters. There was the Jock Blog promising/hoping that we would survive, day by day. There was the Jock Blog heralding Korean baseball as if it were an airlift of emergency supplies to a stranded mountain traveler.
And that was before the bad news.
There was the Jock Blog about Nick Bosa going down.
There was the Jock Blog about the 49ers forced out of the state by COVID.
Then there was the Jock Blog about Klay Thompson going down.
So, yeah, while the Giants hit more home runs than we thought . . . and while Harding Park hosted a pretty cool PGA Championship . . . and while the NFL Draft was a sort of miracle in the middle of the early pandemic darkness . . . 2020 can pretty much go blank itself.
But you already knew that.
Still, feels good to say.
I suppose if there’s a message that sticks, it’s the one from the September 24 Jock Blog. That’s the day I went to Oracle Park to see the Giants in person for the first time. Media was allowed. We had to let them know we were coming, as seating was limited. We distanced. We masked. But we got to watch baseball in person.
And when I got there I felt . . . the emptiness.
The quiet. The stillness. The complete lack of human energy.
That would be the biggest sports takeaway for me from 2020: You, the fan, matter.
Yes, the games are on TV. Yes, your fantasy football playoffs are keeping you entertained. Yes, there was a World Series; yes, the Warriors will start their season next week; and yes, eventually there was even a Masters golf tournament.
But it is an incomplete experience without you. It is an artificial experience without you. Quite frankly, it stinks without you.
I think back to all the times of communal bonding at sporting events with friends, with family and — best of all — with strangers. You learn about the beauty of the human experience when you grow up at Candlestick Park with bad Giants teams, but still enthusiastically high-five elderly ladies in seats nearby when Will Clark singles in Jeffery Leonard. (Of course, the elderly lady has to put down her scorebook and pencil first.)
I remember being at Fenway Park in 2007 with the KNBR crew, and it came time for Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” to be played in the 8th inning. I know, I know, 13 years later it’s seen as a cheeseball bit of trite that should be done away with. But back then, it was more fresh, and as Diamond wondered “Where it began/I can’t begin to knowing . . .” everyone stood, and sang, and smiled and, of course, when Diamond built to sing “reaching out . . . touching you . . . “ I felt my hand being clasped by the elderly lady Red Sox fan next to me, a huge smile across her face.
We waved our hands in the air, like we just didn’t care.
She must have been a distant cousin of the elderly lady I high-fived at Candlestick in the 1980s.
THAT is what we missed in 2020.
We missed each other.
Forget the wins, the losses, the walk-offs, the pick-sixes. It’s about each other. And we’ve gone far too long without each other at the ballgame.
So when you see those vaccines being distributed across the nation, you see hope. You see a new year coming. And you see a day when we — you and I — can be at a game again.
I promise it will happen in 2021. Because 2021 won’t be 2020. And that’s a pretty good place to start.