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Through My Eyes: The Giants-Dodgers Rivalry

I've always been fascinated with rivalries in sports. When I played football in high school, my Valley Christian Warriors were consumed with beating our archrival Bellarmine. It gave us a reason to work harder day after day, dreaming of the day that we would finally defeat the hated Bells. While winning championships was always the ultimate goal, it always felt like beating the Bells could have felt just as special. Of course, I was left to ponder the potential feelings as we never won either. Still, a seed had been planted and would soon grow into a bountiful tree. As I grew older, I learned of other great sports rivalries and gravitated to college football's annual Rivalry Weekend every Thanksgiving.

As a Giants fan in 2021, I was drawn to the history surrounding their great rivalry with the Dodgers. Like a bettor at the track, I would go online to see their standings, neck and neck as usual, in one of the most heated pennant races of all time. As of this writing, it looks like the two teams are going in opposite directions and that 2021 may have been more like a shooting star shooting across the night sky.

As a Giants fan, I sure hope that I'm wrong about that sentiment. Still, I was curious. In high school, I was always amped whenever rivalry week came up. Surely, rivalries can only be better in the pros, right? There was just one solution: I had to see a Giants-Dodgers game myself.

The Crowd

I didn't know what to expect when my good friend Peter and I stepped off the Caltrain on April 11, 2023, but the moment he saw Dodger fans, he shouted "The Smurfs are here!". From then on, I knew that this would be unlike anything that I had experienced at a Giants game. We had good seats, just ten rows back behind the visitor's dugout. Well within jeering reach.

There was just one "problem". We were smack dab in the middle of a host of Dodger fans. This was too perfect. A couple of Giants fans surrounded by hate and antipathy. What could possibly go wrong?! All night long, Peter and I took it as a personal challenge to cheer louder than anyone surrounding us. Our team needed our support. We were obliged to do so.

Every time they chanted "Let's go Dodgers", Peter and I would sit there fuming. Sometimes, but not nearly often enough, we would get up the courage to show up for the Giants, chanting "Lets go Giants!". It's the little things that matter.

For the most part, things were civil between the Giants fans and the Dodger fans. I did find it interesting that an entire section on the other side of the field was fully dedicated to the Giants, chanting a chant famous to all in the crowd, "Beat LA. Beat LA." It was intoxicating as I heard some of the most awe-inspiring words in San Francisco. Immediately, I felt a kinship with all involved.

The Players

The players themselves were civil and played hard throughout. There was no indication that they were playing to honor the past. The players were living in the moment, wanting to take another step closer to an elusive division title.

The Energy

I could feel a different vibe within Oracle Park compared to the other times that I had been there. But like any game, the ebb and flow are often more vibrant when runs are scored. While the Giants scored two runs in the first inning, it was a pitcher's dual until the eighth inning. Here is where the pitch clock played a major factor.

The previous week, I had read an article about the seagulls normally flying into the stadium around the eighth inning, like clockwork. As I began a small conversation with Peter about the subject, the Giants hit a two-run homer. Immediately, cheers enveloped the City by the Bay, making Oracle Park itself the hub of all that was good and pure in San Francisco.

As I took in the moment on my phone, I saw smoke shooting out of the pipes near the bay and heard fog horns blaring. It turns out that San Francisco's iconic shortstop Brandon Crawford had taken the moment in a different manner and had blasted another home run, literally a minute after the previous home run had been blasted into orbit. For the second time in two minutes, bedlam had overtaken Oracle Park. Sporting a five-run lead in the eighth inning, Oracle Park's true residents were confident that victory was assured. And indeed it was as the Giants won the game 5-0.

Overall Impressions

As Peter and I left Oracle Park, I had ample time to ponder all that I had experienced on that glorious night. While there were still scattered chants of "Beat LA" throughout its catacombs, the animosity felt a bit held back. This night was sandwiched between starts by the two team's aces. While the Giants had lost with Logan Webb on the mound the night before, they would face one of the game's greats in Clayton Kershaw the following night. Perhaps tonight would serve as a preview for Wednesday night's festivities. But not as much was expected tonight as it was for Monday night or for Wednesday night.

Still, tonight was an excellent opportunity for me to study one of the oldest rivalries in sports. While it was surprising to see so many empty seats in the far upper corner of the ballpark, the atmosphere was as vibrant as ever in the lower levels. At times it felt like a war as Peter and I tried to chip away at Los Angeles's loud chants. While the rivalry will live on, at this point of the season it does and doesn't hold up to my expectations. And that's good. Because perception can only take your mind so far. You have to get out of your house and live through experiences to form your own opinion.

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