Remember the 1996 Giants? Of course not—you’re not an idiot. You took all necessary and judicious steps to wipe them from your mind. I, on the other hand, remember them—or, at least, whenever I feel a queasy kind of heartburn, I think of them. But you know what? With the 1996 Giants, at least there was some hope that somehow they could pull out of their yearlong swan-dive.
There was! The team had Barry Bonds, for one thing. (You remember Bonds, right? He was a 40-40 man that year.) That right there spelled “hope.” And that’s the difference between the 1996 Giants and the 2008 Giants: not so much the lack of Bonds (which had to happen at some point anyway), but simply the lack of hope. It is frightening to think that they’re at the beginning of this steep descent. That is, the descent has been in progress since, at the latest, October 2003, but the downward slope was more gradual—something you could at least drive on, if you had to, without significant danger to yourselves or others. But the end of the 2007 season was basically a precipice. It’s not exactly a cliff—in a graph where the X-line represents time, a cliff would be pretty impossible—but you certainly want to stop the car and possibly erect a barrier festooned with signs saying things like “Go back!” and “If you continue, you most surely will die!”
Tragically, we Giants fans—or at least this one—keep putting that car into a forward gear, crashing through the barrier, hurtling down the 89-degree slope, futilely hammering the brake pedal. Now, if this were an actual scenario, involving an actual car and an actual, paved, nearly vertical grade, there would at least be an end in sight—a horrifying, prayer-inducing, “EEEEEE!”-screaming, ultimately messy end, but an end nonetheless. As it is, though, how long will you keep plunging downward, out of control? Will the angle ever lessen? If so, will it be enough to matter? Or will the Giants suddenly throw you a curve, like they did in 1997—the kind of curve that’s hard to hit, Zeets—and become good enough to turn the slope sharply upwards, thus enabling you to collide head-on with suddenly, sharply rising pavement, but enabling you at least to expire with a mingled sense of mild relief, extreme frustration, and resigned acceptance, knowing that it’s actually getting better but you won’t be around to see it? Or is any illustration of upward movement an indication of too much hope?