I never understood the significance of Opening Day until April 2010. I always heard how fun opening day was, but I didn’t think of it as having more meaning than any other afternoon game. Well, I was wrong. I met my sister near Giants Stadium in San Francisco for our first Opening Day experience. I’ve been a loyal Giants fan for years; my sister is your social sports fan. Someone who can learn everyone’s name at a bar, enjoy the gameday atmosphere, but not remember the names of the Giants starting lineup.
The Embarcadero was like I have never seen and I experienced my city through a different lens: tailgates in parking lots, strangers saying hello and making eye contact and fans giving high five’s while chanting, “Let’s go Giants”. Maybe this is the norm for people who don’t live in a big city, but I was your typical city girl with headphones in and eyes on the ground. The dynamic of the city had shifted and it was time for me to dive in.
We headed to Pete’s tavern, a bar across the street from the stadium, for a pre-game beer. I quickly learned that shots are part of the ritual. In the bar I was starting to get a better understanding of why Opening Day is considered a National Holiday. Bars are packed, people taking shots, strangers making out and dancing. It was like Rehab in Vegas. What was interesting is that half of the people in the bar didn’t have tickets to the game or weren’t die hard Giants fans. They wanted to be there for the mardi gras like experience, be close to the stadium, and root for the Giants.
The atmosphere in the stadium wasn’t much different from that of the bar with the exception of less making-out. Strangers were still friendly and post-season level enthusiasm filled the stadium as you saw your team take the field for the first time. It was like a playoff game without the nervousness. The Giants beat the Braves in 13 innings and the Legend of Fear the Beard began. After 8 hours of pure madness, we took a break from the festivities where the night turned full circle. Finding ourselves in a bar across the street from the stadium, we ran into Giants Manager Bruce Bochey who raised his glass and said “you girls enjoy the game? ” I laughed and said, “of course it’s Opening Day”.
This afternoon the Giants will take the field at AT&T for the first time. Social spectators and devoted fans will unite, toast the official start of spring and celebrate the 2014 edition of the SF Giants. To all of the women in the Bay area: keep your eyes off the ground, share shots with a new friend or hell, you might even try kissing a stranger. Just remember, it’s Opening Day…anything goes and Vegas rules apply.