Sports are horrible.
Those three words ran through my mind as I, a Giants fan, sat alone in a sea of red-and-white-clad Nationals fans. It was the top of the ninth inning and I was almost certain that my hometown team would lose to Washington 1-0.
I was squeamish, anxious and bitter. Every time a ball rose in the air, my hopes and dreams soared with it, only to be dragged to the ground and trampled on when it amounted to nothing.
Nearly four hours and nine additional innings after that stressful top of the ninth, I was on the Metro headed home, after the tide had turned.
“Sports are horrible,” grumbled a Nationals fan sitting next to me, echoing my thought just 15 minutes earlier. He had purchased a standing-room-only ticket and had refused to sit down during the 18-inning game. After all of that, he went back home disheartened after the Giants launched a comeback and won 2-1 on the strength of San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt’s home run.
For sports fans, this sense of anguish is familiar. Intense fandom links your level of happiness to the success of your beloved sports team.
This uniquely long game exemplified the dedication involved with being a sports fan. Thousands of people braved the cold and long night hours in the hope that their team would come out on top and inch one step closer to the World Series.
However, as each inning went by, I could not help but wonder at these fans. Here we were, standing with worried and tired faces, clutching blankets and hot chocolate, trying to stay warm as the clock ticked past midnight.
Walking through Nationals Park was both a terrifying and exciting experience. I stuck out in my Giants gear. It seemed like every home fan glared at me as I walked by, wondering why I had dared to show up to their stadium in enemy attire. A few fans booed at the sight of my bright orange hat, while others stopped and engaged in friendly banter with me.
The experience was a unique opportunity to connect with every Giants fan I saw. Young and old, women and men — whenever two people in orange and black made eye contact, we smiled at each other and enthusiastically exchanged high-fives.
The game was a long, drawn-out pitching duel. The loudest cheers of the game came from Nationals fans in the third inning, when Giants pitcher Tim Hudson gave up the one and only Nationals run.
The ninth inning seemed like a culmination of my frustration with the game. I stood alongside every Nationals fan as we watched Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann retire the first two Giants hitters. I buried my face in my hands, prepared to go home unhappy and with a heavy heart. Meanwhile, Washington fans raised their white rally rags and whooped cheerfully.
But then the magic started. Second baseman Joe Panik walked, Zimmermann was pulled from the game and consecutive hits from catcher Buster Posey and third baseman Pablo Sandoval tied the game. I jumped, clapped and screamed, much to the dismay and anger of the fans surrounding me. I cheered for extra innings, for the chance to win a game that seemed to slip past our fingers.
My desire for extra innings was answered in earnest — nine extra innings followed. Although I was tired and my hands were numb, I knew that each inning after the ninth was a blessing to the Giants and their fans. Every Nationals hitter that went up to the plate made me shiver in my shoes, and every ball that went high up into the air, even if it went into foul territory, made my heart and stomach drop.
The 18th inning put an end to my distress. When Brandon Belt launched a one-run homer that eventually decided the game, I yelled at the top of my lungs. I shared hugs and high-fives with fellow Hoyas, who I had met that day and who were also Giants fans. This is what we stayed for — to bask in the glory of one home run 18 innings after the game started.
Yes, sports are horrible. Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper branded Giants baseball as “torture” back in 2010, and it still feels like that today.
The Nationals fans at Saturday’s game know the feeling. But I also know that many of them believe that if Washington miraculously wins the next three games against the Giants, suffering through a six-hour and 23-minute game will be remembered as an obstacle that was just part of the process.
For all the horrible things that sports can do, they are also just as inspiring, intoxicating and exhilarating — and fans know that those painful moments we endure are what make winning it all in the end so wonderful.
The Giants currently lead the series 2-1 and will host Game 4 on Tuesday at 9:07 p.m.
Kara Avanceña is a sophomore in the College.