Another Brandon

(May 15, 2014) Hear the audio version

Perhaps you’ve heard that the San Francisco Giants have three players on the team this year named Brandon. Their lockers are next to each other’s. They’ve turned some nifty Brandon-to-Brandon-to-Brandon double plays. Dodger Stadium celebrity P.A. announcer Justin Bateman even referred to the Giants’ shortstop as “Another Brandon.”

know what it’s like to have a common name: Deborah was one of the top-ten baby girl names every year of the 1950’s. There were five Debbies in my second-grade class. Twenty-five percent of that class was a Debbie/Debby … including the boys! There was another Debbie Duncan in my high school. She didn’t show up for detention, and my geometry teacher blamed me. I’ve memorized my medical record number, as there are four Deborah Duncans registered at my HMO. My brother David Duncan’s name is even more common.

According to the Social Security Administration, Deborah dropped out of the top 100 names right after I graduated from college. It’s now #797. William, my husband’s classic, non-decade-, or even century-specific name, is still going strong at #5.

Also common now among baby boys: names ending with the letter “n”—not just Brandon, but Aiden, Ethan, Jalen, Jayden, Mason, Morgan, etcetera. Thirty-six percent of 2012 newborn boys’ names ended in “n.” I see a New Yorker cartoon caption about that in the future, a variation of the one a while ago with a class picture of Michael, Jennifer, Michael, Michael, Jennifer, Jennifer … and so forth. (Michael was the #1 boy’s name 1961-1998, Jennifer for girls, 1970-1984.)

Coming up with a name for your baby is fun, but also challenging. Daunting. I fretted over it three times. Unless you’re Gwyneth Paltrow and can get away with calling your child Apple, you’re probably going to want a name that won’t encourage teasing. It should also be a name substitute teachers can pronounce, but that isn’t so trendy there will be five of them at their trigonometry table. My daughter Molly could tell you that.

With a Perspective, I am Debbie Duncan.

Torture, San Francisco Giants Style

(October 1, 2010) Hear the audio version

You may have noticed an outbreak of orange clothing lately. And orange-clad strangers high-fiving one day, then gloomingly shaking their heads the next. Or perhaps screams of delight or horror emanating from your neighbor’s TV room. The cause? Pennant fever.

The San Francisco Giants – often good, seldom great and never a World Series champion – are in the final weekend of a classic pennant race. The daily drama of clutch home runs (from a team built around pitching), painful missed opportunities (usually late in games), and inexplicable theatrics that mean hopeful victories or sleep-depriving defeats – well, it’s the drug baseball fans crave. But what gives a season-ending pennant sprint real meaning for teams like the Giants is the tantalizing, just-out-of-reach promise of a World Series ring. The great New Yorker writer Roger Angell once said that “Baseball . . . means to break your heart. . . It’s the losing, in all its variety, that makes winning so sweet.” Remember the unbridled joy of Red Sox fans when Boston won the World Series in 2004 after 86 years of frustration? Yankee fans never have that – they expect their men to steamroll to another championship.

This year’s Giants have taken the agony of pennant fever to ridiculous heights. Their broadcasters have captured the club’s m.o. in one word: torture. The team that used to win with Barry Bonds bombs and dominant pitching is now all about pitching and bleeding out just enough, and sometimes not enough runs. Even victories can be excrutiating.

When I write fiction I keep in mind there’s no story without conflict, and the pace needs to pick up near the end of the book. The Giants could not have scripted this season’s ending any better: a weekend series at home vs. the San Diego Padres, who’d occupied first place for months until the Giants caught ‘em three weeks ago in their home park. The two teams flip-flopped daily at the top until this week, when the Giants inched ahead.

So after six months and 159 games, it’s comes down to the final three. Today is Orange Friday. Pennant fever’s in the air. There’s still time to catch it.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.

And as we know now, the Giants won it all and became the 2010 World Series Champions. I watched the final game with other fans in San Francisco Civic Center Plaza, and cheered from the front row on Market Street at the parade. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.