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The 2002 Giants and the Monkey on their Backs

EDIT: I wrote this about three months ago. The content that follows is just as irrelevant now as it was then.


Day 12 of quarantine here in Los Angeles and I’m not in such a good place right now. The long days spent indoors, eating the microwave dinners everyone else rejected, watching as people proudly complete 10 push-ups on Instagram…these are all things I have heroically mustered up the strength to endure. But behind the drastic changes to our daily routines lies an even more sinister monster lurking in the shadows. A Trump re-election, you ask? A global economic collapse the likes of which the world has never before seen? I wish it were a thing so trivial.

Nay. This monster is a memory, reanimated by a virus that has halted life as we know it.

You see, a certain percentage of my testosterone is designated solely to the consumption of sport, and with sporting events worldwide being suspended indefinitely, my hormones are all out of whack. I’m forced to go into my spank bank of sports, a curated list of some of my favorite sports highlights on YouTube. On it you will find various countdowns, highlights, a video entitled “Chris Kaman - The God,” and memorable moments from teams I like. I happened to be watching a recap of my beloved San Francisco Giants beat the Royals in the 2014 World Series when a monster appeared in the suggested videos. Just reading the title of it was enough to send me spiraling into a deep depression. It read, “2002 World Series Game 6 Comeback Anaheim Angels.”

Sure, my aim is to entertain and I’ve embellished for effect, but this shit still really hurts my soul. “Nev,” you might say to me, “That was like 18 years ago, asshole.”

To which I would reply, as perfectly worded by Seth in Superbad, “People don’t forget.”

But forget I had, up until the monster reared its stupid haloed head in the suggested videos. I can already hear you baseball fans out there thinking, “The Giants have won three World Series in the last ten years. Fuck this guy and his reawakened anguish.” And I think that’s pretty fair. But from my experience in therapy, I have learned that childhood traumas must be dealt with at some point or else they will plague you for a lifetime. Please excuse me as I exorcise my demons…the 2002 Angels.

. . .

The 2002 Giants were so sick. There was something about this group of 25 guys that was just cool. There were role players, clubhouse guys, fan favorites, superstars, has-beens, and could’ve-beens. Take a look at some of the legends on this team:

Rich Aurilia- Long time Giant and a staple for many years at SS. Is now a commentator for the Giants’ postgame show.

Tsuyoshi Shinjo- The first Japanese-born player to play in a World Series. I remember him wearing a turtleneck every game regardless of temperature.

Jason Schmidt - He threw cheddar and had a goatee. 3x All-Star and our ace that year.

Kenny Lofton - We acquired Kenny later in the year from the White Sox. On the first pitch he saw in a Giant uniform, he went yard. One of the Founding Fathers of swag in baseball.

Jeff Kent - Kent was an asshole (as seen on Survivor) but he could back it up. He was MVP in 2000 and had a mustache.

And then there was Barry Bonds. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that steroids are acceptable, but come on. The man was a GOD. The amount of times he was intentionally walked alone is….You know what, that’s a topic for another day.

At any rate, the world got to see No. 25 take baseball’s biggest stage in October of 2002. He did not disappoint. His statistics from the seven-game series are truly absurd: .471 BA (8-17), 4 HR, 13 BB (7 IBB), and .700 OBP.

In Game 6, with the Giants mere innings away from popping bottles, he hit a towering shot off of rookie phenom Francisco Rodriguez to go up 4-0. The Giants would later go up 5-0, but during the 7th inning stretch, an image of the monster appeared on the Jumbotron that would haunt my dreams for years to come: The Rally Monkey. This asinine clip (featuring the monkey used in Friends) was used to get Angel fans, normally bereft of any enthusiasm, community, or identity whatsoever, all pumped up. Assisted by noisemakers (so lame), the fans managed to give the players a boost in spirit, and from there, everything unraveled. The Angels hit three homeruns in the 7th and 8th to take the lead 6-5. The stunned Giants were unable to get anything going offensively and the game was over like that. All we needed was to get nine outs, aided by a five run cushion. The Angels were demoralized. And then that fucking monkey comes along and helps everyone believe again. It’s so corny it makes me sick.

Anyhow, the Angels went on to win Game 7 easily. After a loss like that, it would have been a miracle if the Giants had pulled it off in LA (ahem, Anaheim). Needless to say my 8-year-old self was crushed by this turn of events. How had this happened? It was supposed to be Barry and the Boys, not David Pipsqueak Eckstein. This felt like a personal middle finger from the universe that I surely had not deserved.

Up until the 7th in Game 6, I was struck by how my personal timeline had aligned with the Giants’ success. My family and I had just moved back to the Bay Area from south Florida a few months prior to the World Series. Finally, I could watch Giants games that didn’t go until the ungodly hour they did on the East Coast. My dad and I became those superstitious, vicarious type of fans. The ones who think that watching the game provides a boost in the players’ performance. For example, Jeff Kent seemed to always hit doubles when we watched. Conversely, Pedro Feliz frequently struck out when we watched him bat. Thus we used this time for snacks/urination. This psychotic line of thinking was the perfect setup for my World Series heartbreak. The Giants had failed, and so had I. But how had our combined powers gone awry? That’s what led me to believe in this cosmic conspiracy. The morning after it was all over I was hit with a blast of agnosticism that has kept me company since.

To top things off, I had to play for none other than the Angels in my ’03 Little League campaign. From Opening Day, we had a plush rally monkey hanging from the chain link fence of our dugout, courtesy of our disgustingly upbeat team mom. Sure, my K/9 was over 2 that year, but let’s all give all the credit to the fucking team Beanie Baby.

To conclude, I get that I’m extremely salty over what is essentially ancient history. But the emotions attached to the ’02 World Series are so strong for me that it’s kind of fun to relive its horrors. At this point in the quarantine stage, self-imposing emotional distress is a viable pastime. So who’s your ’02 Angels? The ’04 Red Sox in the ALCS? The Heat in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals? Malcolm Butler’s pick to end the Super Bowl? Fans of the world, I call upon you to relive these crushing defeats, if only to know what it’s like to feel again.

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