When I was in seventh grade, I participated for the first time in an event called the 24 Hour Relay. Held at the track of a high school I later attended, the event had teams of ten students take turns running a mile. I was a fairly decent miler, as were a few of my friends on the team, and we wound up winning. Our victory was not without controversy, though, as a few of our teammates were accused of skipping laps in the dead of night. We protested vociferously, and our victory was upheld, but the teammates admitted privately a year or two later that they cheated. No one ever found out, so far as I know, but it tainted the achievement, at least for me.
I was reminded of this on Sunday as I listened on the radio as the San Francisco Giants clinched the National League West with a 3-0 win over the San Diego Padres. I grew up in Northern California and have been a Giants fan since I was old enough to cheer for them. I started going to Giants games just after the Battle of the Bay, had my young hopes crushed when they lost the NL West on the last day of the 1993 season, and then watched them soar to greater heights by the end of the decade. Their rise culminated with a trip to the 2002 World Series, but this wasn’t without controversy either, as several members of the team were implicated for using performance enhancing drugs, most notably megastar Barry Bonds. It tainted the achievement, at least for me.
Several years have passed now, the Giants have a completely different team. There is no Bonds on this team, no ragtag squad united a steroid-addled hulk. The feeling’s different with these guys, and their playoff berth doesn’t feel like a bogus, non-achievement. It feels honorable, decent. I don’t know what the Giants will do in the playoffs (Atlanta? Philadelphia after? yikes) but if they don’t go any further, I’m proud of what they have done.
Now if only I can reunite my friends for another rendition of the 24 Hour Relay.