I'm not much of a joiner.
Never have been. Part of the reason stems from my adherence to the (Groucho) Marxist axiom that you should never belong to any group that would actually have someone like you as a member. Another part is that every group with which I have ever been acquainted seems to get along fine without me.
It's always been this way. When I was 10, I was thrown out of the Cub Scouts after an incident involving a firecracker and the cap belonging to the son of the den mother. In high school, I was voted "most likely to die alone in a house full of old newspapers and unread magazines." As an adult, the Rotary Club asked me to join the Lions Club.
But there is one group that I have continuously, faithfully and voluntarily belonged to since I was a mere lad. It is a group whose membership is as catholic (small c) and democratic (small d) as any group on the planet. Its disciples, by and large, are as constant as the seasons.
We are quiescent in the winter; optimistic in the spring; brave, even defiant, in the summer; and (at least most years) philosophical in the fall.
I am a Giants fan. I pine for them during the late fall and winter months, when the sports pages are dominated by football and the laughably misidentified "sports" of pro basketball and hockey.
In March, I search the agate type of which the spring training box scores are composed. I worry that players might get injured before Opening Day. And once the season starts, I avidly follow their fortunes game by game, inning by inning, pitch by pitch, torturous rendition of the national anthem by you get the idea.
I became a Giants fan because of my grandfather. His name was Al Rogers. He had been a farmer in Oklahoma. When the Dust Bowl storms of the 1930s blew the best part of the farm away, he packed up my grandmother, mother and seven other kids and moved to Monterey, where he ran a service station at the Fort Ord Army base. By the time I knew him, he was a little old retired guy who steadfastly wore starched white dress shirts, always needed a shave and usually smelled vaguely of bacon and eggs. He was also well on his way to becoming blind.
But there two things we did together that were among the greatest joys of my childhood. One was walking slowly up Palm Avenue to the Seaside Market, stopping at various shops so Granddad could chew the fat with his longtime pals. My invariable reward for not acting too much like a little kid was a comic book and some penny candy. The other thing was listening to Giants games on my granddad's transistor radio.
My grandfather would sit in the padded rocking chair reserved exclusively for him. I would sit at his feet, listening to the authoritative intonations of announcers Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons. Every other inning (it seemed), Willie Mays would hit a homer, steal a base or make an impossible catch. We reveled in every win, and excused away every loss. It was as close to heaven as I figured I was likely to get.
Things change. My grandfather died when I was 11. The Seaside Market and penny candy is long gone. Willie Mays is 81, and can no longer go from first to third on a grounder to deep second. At least not on a consistent basis. But I remain a steadfast Giants fan. Moreover, I enjoy them most via a transistor radio, which I can carry from backyard to garage to kitchen without missing a single intentional walk or conference on the mound.
And I belong to something larger than myself. I don the brand new Giants cap I got for Christmas from my daughter. I visit the neighborhood Home Depot. And I am confident I will encounter at least one other citizen who will effusively greet me with a friendly comment ("love the hat, pal"), or a cheery-if-rhetorical query ("how about that Buster Posey?").
Of course there are more such encounters these days, what with the Giants winning two of the last three World Series. But we longtime fans don't mind those who have come only lately to our herd.
Everybody should belong to something.
Steve Wiegand is a Sacramento writer with two strikes on him.