Friday, August 31, 2012

Getting along swimmingly

See no evil, hear no evil, smell no evil:
Being a Giants fan in the home stretch
requires iron fortitude and
• Keep Calm and Swim On

'Tis the season for the world's most stalwart swimmers to complete or try lunatic expeditions.

I say that with the utmost jealousy.

One guy this weekend, Jamie Patrick, (beware this link: It will absolutely blast a song by the pop group Fun, and the off switch is way down at the bottom of the page) will attempt to swim the circumference of Lake Tahoe, about 68 miles. He has swum twice Tahoe's length, 44 miles at one go, and last year swam more than 100 miles down the Sacramento River.

I follow his progress through Facebook. I also follow a doctor, who amazed me for his daily reports of swimming at least six miles in the ocean, apparently by himself. I wondered how he found the time, for one, and the courage, for another.

He did all that to train for a crossing of the English Channel, the Mt. Everest for swimmers, as I've heard it described, a 21-mile tidal battle that requires swimmers three times farther from England to France than a gull might fly.

Another swimmer from down the doctor's way, San Diego, also completed the English Channel. On a page called "Did You Swim Today?" on which swimmers from all over the world post their jaunts big and small, she wrote
Not today but yesterday I swam from Engand to France (-:
Still others whom I follow on Facebook have completed solo or relay crossings from one of the Channel Islands onto shore in Los Angeles or Ventura counties.

Dyana Nyad last month tried a fourth, and maybe last, time to cross through sharks and jelly fish and storms from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida, 103 miles.

People may congratulate me for my daily one or two miles in the nearby lake by telling me how few people would really even get into the cold water, let alone swim that distance, which is always a struggle for me. But I'm in awe of so many swimmers who can swim day and night, thousands and thousands of strokes, and still emerge from the brine at the end of their goal.

• Keep Calm and Watch the Giants

I've let those Giants get to me, after all. I greet wins with calm, because that's what I expect, wins. I curse losses and errors and a paucity of hits and runs, because the Giants are supposed to win and hit and score and play perfect defense.

Why? I don't know. Win or lose, I still get nothing for it, as I've said before.

The Giants swept the Houston Astros this week, something they should have done, though each game proved a battle. They face the Chicago Cubs over the weekend, and then the Arizona Diamondbacks early next week. With a Los Angeles Dodgers loss, the Giants could pull away to 4 1/2 games up in the National League West.

It's the home stretch and they're fighting, and it's almost hard to believe. I didn't write about the Giants losing its star left fielder, Melky Cabrera, for 50 games (and probably his Giants career) for taking synthetic testosterone. Everyone else was writing about it, and I wasn't going to add anything new. But more than hits, Cabrera brought a joy to his play, smilingly mocking opponents, holding the baseball for an extra moment and daring baserunners to try an extra base before he mowed them down with his arm.

His joy was juiced, and now it looks like he'll never play for the Giants again. On the other hand, the Giants welcomed relief pitcher Guillermo Mota after a 100-game suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs, and the Giants say they're convinced the guy took one of his children's steroid-tinged cough medicines by mistake. OK. Who knows?

The Giants acquired right fielder Hunter Pence from the Phillies a month ago. The guy always seemed to hit at will against the Giants when he was an opponent, but he hadn't really started to hit for the Giants until this week, against his old home team, the Astros. Until then, he has become almost unwatchable, the antsiest, most jittery player I've ever seen. The man can't stand still, and gets in the batter's box rollicking like a washing machine with an uneven load. He swings as hard as he can at everything, chases breaking balls in the dirt, strikes out and then returns to pace the dugout like a caged animal.

The Giants act like a team betrayed by Melky Cabrera and now on an angry mission to prove he wasn't the team, and they're finding ways to win despite flubs and foul-ups and bad breaks, which is what the top teams do in the home stretch. Now it's a race to the playoffs with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have paid huge sums to get the players that will overtake the Giants. So far for the Dodgers, not so good.

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