With a nation grieving over the loss of loved ones and the destruction from Hurricane Sandy on the East coast, a relief concert "Coming Together" with artists including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and Sting raised funds for Hurricane Sandy victims at NYC's Rockefeller Center which aired on NBC, HBO, and other outlets. With more recovery and fundraising efforts underway, our spirits are uplifted by the countless stories of courage and heroism by people helping people in the face of Hurricane Sandy. On the West coast, Ben Fong-Torres describes the dancing in the streets of San Francisco, and a thumbs up by Mayor Ed Lee over a World Series win with people from all walks of life and ethnicities coming together. The capacity of the human spirit is boundless. There is hope after all. - Suzanne Joe Kai, editor, AsianConnections.com
By Ben Fong-Torres
Yes, there was the joyful craziness, the dancing in the streets of San Francisco when Giants closer Sergio Romo struck out triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera in Detroit to win the World Series. (click here to full story with images)
And yes, there was the victory parade and Civic Center celebration, drawing more than a million fans into San Francisco, from all over Northern California.
But I also think of the line of 15 or 20 people in front of a tiny Taco Bell/KFC place on a recent late Tuesday afternoon. Taco Bell had promised free tacos if any player in the Series stole a base.
The Giants center fielder, Angel Pagan, came through. He not only scored tacos – Doritos tacos, mind you – for hundreds of thousands of people, he showed up at one restaurant and helped assemble tacos behind a drive-through counter. “I feel happy that I brought everybody together in the United States,” he said.
The next day was the big parade, and Romo struck a similar theme of togetherness. Sporting a T-shirt reading “I Just Look Illegal,” Romo, who is Mexican-American, looked into the mass of orange-and-black-clad fans before him. “Look at the diversity…the different faces from different places, the different strokes.” All united, he said, by a dream, of victory.
Two fellow Giants, Pagan and Marco Scutaro, spoke in Spanish. And the program began with a welcome from Ed Lee, the first elected Chinese American mayor in San Francisco’s grand history. He presented the Giants with a key to the city, along with a golden broom, to celebrate the Giants’ four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers. Lee declared 2012 to be the “Year of the Orange Dragon.” And in the parade, sure enough, the Golden Dragon made an appearance.
It was a sensational party, from Beach Blanket Babylon’s rendition of “San Francsco” to Giants broadcasters Jon Miller and Dave Flemming dancing to “Gangnam Style” (Seoul music!) to the closing surprise: Tony Bennett stepping out in front of City Hall to sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
The Giants who spoke—president Larry Baer, GM Brian Sabean (the architect of this extraordinary team), manager Bruce Bochy, and a half-dozen players—reflected the team and the season perfectly.
This was a squad that won the National League West handily, but had to come back from behind in both playoff series to reach the World Series, combining skill and smarts, a bit of luck, a ton of team chemistry, and a one-for-all mentality that was not easy to find elsewhere.
Watching Cincinnati and St. Louis fall to the Giants, and watching the Yankees get swept by the Tigers, I saw deflation in the dugouts.
Watching the Giants, I saw pep rallies, showers of sunflower seeds, joking and cheering. Romo, always smiling, always looking illegal, mugged for the cameras, then popped out to the mound and shut down the opposition with a steady diet of unhittable sliders.
Team spirit extended to the broadcasters. The Giants’ flagship, KNBR, features superstar Jon Miller and young Dave Flemming, and it was a shock for many listeners to hear not Miller, but Flemming making the game-winning call in the bottom of the tenth inning.
How did that happen? Flemming told me that he was scheduled for the extra inning, but when the Giants scored at the top of the inning, they knew the Series could be near its end, and he offered Miller the microphone for the potential final out. “Jon never flinched; just said, ‘No.’ I got a chance to do what very few broadcasters have done. And I’d like to think I made him look good, and made a good call.”
Good? He crushed it out of the park.
Besides Miller and Flemming, there are two former Giants players, pitcher Mike Krukow and infielder Duane Kuiper (“Kruk & Kuip,” pronounced “Kipe”), and the four move smoothly between radio and TV booths.
On the KNBR site right now, there’s a nice podcast of a chat between the morning show and Krukow about Barry Zito. The pitcher is one of a half dozen Giant stories of redemption. Years ago, he signed one of those contracts that was so ridiculous (about $126 million) that he could never live or pitch up to it. He didn’t, and, between injuries and ineffectiveness, became a huge target for boobirds, in the stands and in the media. The Giants were locked into him, and in 2010, simply left him off the playoff rosters. From ace to the bench; total humiliation.
Zito took it like an ace. He stayed in shape, just in case he might be needed. He made adjustments in his delivery; overcame injuries, and, this past season, won 15 games, and then, when the Giants were down, three games to one to the Cardinals and facing elimination, he pitched a superb game and saved the team. In the World Series, it was his turn in the rotation for Game 1, and he faced only the best pitcher on earth, Detroit’s Justin Verlander. Everyone, especially on Fox and MLB TV, picked the well-rested Verlander and the Tigers to kill the Giants.
Zito pitched into the sixth inning, allowing one run, while one Giant, Pablo (“Kung Fu Panda”) Sandoval , accounted for four runs himself, with a record-tying three home runs. The Giants were on their way.
Two years ago, noting Zito’s response to being exiled, I tipped my cap to him in my column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Now, I’m doing it again. But it’s Mike Krukow who articulates my feelings best, in his chat with Murph & Mac, the KNBR morning duo. Go to KNBR.com and check it out.
I confess that I watched the games on TV. If I could’ve synchronized radio (which was 30 seconds ahead), I would have, to have our home broadcasters over the inferior boys of Fox. The network also saddled viewers with a procession of singers of the National Anthem who were there mainly because they were on Fox shows like American Idol and the X Factor.
Between mediocre (Phillip Phillips) and wretched (Demi Lovato) performances and some local duds doing “God Bless America,” and their experts’ headline-styled predictions (“Verlander leads Tigers to …win”, “Tigers Bite Giants,” “Verlander Too Much”), Fox whiffed, time and again.
Meantime, Giants fans laughed—all the way to Taco Bell.
(Photo credit above: KGO-TV Top image: San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Bottom image: Giants' Sergio Romo)
AsianConnections columnist Ben Fong-Torres is a true Renaissance man. The former Rolling Stone writer and editor is also a multiple Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, writes the column Radio Waves in the San Francisco Chronicle, and is the author of many books, including two new ones released in the past year: the expanded and updated edition of his best-seller The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese American from Number Two Son to Rock 'n' Roll published by University of California Berkeley Press, and Eagles: Taking It to the Limit, an insider's look at one of the greatest American rock 'n' roll bands on the occasion of their 40th anniversary published by Running Press.