I had been in my seat for all of five seconds and already I was booing. The plan was to sit down before the national anthem to fully focus on the soothing vocal stylings of Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery (whose 12 recorded CDs skew toward “mostly Irish bluegrass with a distinct country flavor”).
But it was an almost smugly beautiful night out at AT&T Park, perfect hoodie conditions rendered in crisp Retina display, as if someone had set the atmospheric dial to “successful tech entrepreneur.” How many people have come to San Francisco seeking exactly this? I was moved to circumstroll the ballpark, taking in the palm trees and the playground and the festive kayakers in McCovey Cove, sampling from the numerous wine kiosks that contribute to the silly swilling stereotype of a classic Giants fan. (One absolutely correct stereotype about Giants fans is that they’re incredibly well-dressed. I saw everything from an orange-and-black argyle suit to a cable-knit light-orange sweater tied over an older gent’s shoulders. It felt like I was attending the P-rade.) By the time I got to my seat, the anthem had been sung, the game had started, and the Giants were about to end the top of the first inning with a double play.
But then St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday came absolutely barreling into second base — through second base, really, like how you’re supposed to tell yourself to punch through someone if you really want to hit them hard — and collided with the bottom left quadrant of 36-year-old Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro to interrupt the double play. (Amazingly, Scutaro very nearly made the throw to first.) I was still settling into my seat, juggling wine and pork tacos, and to be honest I don’t even particularly like the Giants. (No hard feelings, it’s just that I’m a Mets fan.) Still, I was inspired by the ambient outrage, as well as the multiple replays on the arena screen of not only the collision that had just transpired but also, just as a subtle reminder, Buster Posey’s season-ending leg injury in a collision last year at home plate. I booed.
A minor digression: Last year, I went in on a winter share house in Lake Tahoe populated mostly by Bay Area MBA grads who now worked in consulting. Little did I know what this would do to my inbox. The e-mails exchanged between the members of the house were epic, and I mean that not in a bro-speaky way but because it really did reach Homeric lengths. Some of the missives contained calculations, some bullet points, some actual lines like “I want to make sure people are comfortable with this ask” or “You can do the math on that multiplier effect.” (Both were part of an argument over a guy wanting to bring up his girlfriend.) Exasperated, I e-mailed a friend from back in New York and complained that I thought people were supposed to be laid back in California. “Katie,” he wrote, “this is where you learn the difference between San Francisco chill and the rest of California (including Oakland) chill.”
Not to offend you multitudes of genuinely laid-back San Franciscans (although if you’re offended, maybe you’re not so laid back after all, ha!) but he had a great point. The city can sometimes feel like a gateway drug, in that there are the people who use it to experiment for a little while before going back to judging everyone else who does, and there are the ones who get hooked and start dressing in rags. It’s a place where there are potheads and cyclists and East Coast transplants and homeless-by-choicers and lots of Stanford kids peddling apps, and they’re all equally militant about how low-key they are. I got yelled at at a music festival for throwing my plate into recycling rather than compost, and yet people here rarely pick up their dog’s shit. This morning Noam Scheiber tweeted, “Question: does anyone who uses the term ‘active lifestyle’ actually have an active lifestyle?” The answer is yes, and they all live in Pac Heights.
Which brings us to karma. Part of “San Francisco chill” is that it involves deeply held and fairly misguided beliefs about the form and function of karma. Grifters promise the good version of it, vaguely, to everyone they meet. Social media nerds work it into their VC PowerPoint presentations. Often, it is wielded like a weapon: The hand-lettered signs on the tip jars invoking it read more like threats. We’re a city of gypsies, throwing out cosmic curses like so much confetti.
Given all this, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that, while there was to be no reprise of the 1988 brawl between the Giants and the Cardinals last night, there would be something even more satisfying: good old spiteful San Franciscan karma would strike down Matt Holliday with about the same force as he had crashed into Scutaro.
“I don’t know about the baseball gods,” Giants right fielder Hunter Pence said after the game, “but I believe in God, and I believe in karma. Scutaro inspired all of us.”
It would appear that he did. First Angel Pagan led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run, giving the Giants a 1-0 lead. (Scutaro — who came to the Giants in a July trade with Colorado, and whose name fans like to call-and-respond like it’s Marco Polo — added a single.) But it was in the bottom of the fourth, with San Francisco up 2-1, when the real karmic damage to St. Louis took place.
With the bases loaded and two outs on the board, it was Scutaro who singled to left field … and then it was Holliday who bungled the baseball. Holliday earned an error, three runs scored for the Giants, St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter would not return for the fifth inning, and San Francisco would seal the deal with a two-run single by Ryan Theriot in the bottom of the eighth to go up 7-1. (By this time, Scutaro had finally left the game with pain in his hip, although X-rays were negative.) Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who helped San Francisco climb out of an 0-2 hole against Cincinnati in the last round, made it through seven innings for the first time in 12 starts — and in doing so, became the first Giants pitcher to make it through at least six innings this postseason.
The series is now tied at one game apiece, and the two teams will head to St. Louis for a three-game stretch, where San Francisco Chill will throw down with its mortal enemy: Midwest Nice.