Dear Brian Wilson,
On the eve of one of the saddest days of the year, the last day of the Major League Baseball Season, I wanted to take the time to thank you.
As a twenty-three year old baseball fan I spent the majority of my formative baseball years adoring players who, during the majority of my (albeit few) adult years were not inducted into the Hall of Fame, but rather spent their time sitting in front of congress and being persecuted in the court of public opinion. Yes, as a twenty-three year old baseball fan the majority of my baseball years have been marred with asterisks and fallen heroes.
There were guys who were all but certainly using steroids, there were guys who were never suspected, and there were guys who I just couldn’t bring myself to believe could have tarnished the game (perhaps more appropriately, tarnished my pure image of the game). Those in the last category fell the hardest. Those in the last category broke my heart.
As a fan of pitchers, pitching duels, pitching idiosyncrasies, pitching records, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that Roger Clemens had used steroids. These accusations, the idea that everything I had cherished for years might somehow be false, or tainted caused me to question the validity of the only thing I had ever truly loved; the game of baseball. When it was revealed that A-Rod, a player I had never suspected, and always defended, had used steroids my heart could no longer take it. When I realized that the perfect embodiment of the so-called “American Dream,” the idea of a level playing field, of hard work, and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps had failed, I became disenchanted with game.
More importantly, when I turned on a game and was bombarded with news of who was found to be in this report. Who was now being deposed. Who may or may not have taken steroids. When I could no longer listen to a game or news broadcast to learn the updated stats of my favorite players, I became disenchanted.
This isn’t to say I didn’t love baseball, but rather that baseball had broken my heart in a way no boy ever could. But still, as someone still so in love (an unrequited love) I remained friends with baseball. Always there to support it, but hurting inside knowing that everything I had ever thought to be true was false. Realizing that the numbers and statistics I had adoringly memorized as fact were somehow fiction.
Last season as you, Brian, decided to grow out your beard, as your Giants made an improbable run to the World Series championed by Weez and your fastball, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the game again. The 2010 Giants embodied baseball, 25 guys working together on a level playing field to accomplish a goal, and not letting anything in the way of that goal.
But, perhaps more than the team, more than the championship, more than anything, it is your carefree, passionate, and often hilarious persona that has reconnected myself (and many others) with the game I grew up loving. Despite a few stints on the disabled list, through a series of interviews, commercials, outstanding pitching performances, and the maintenance of Weez, you have refocused baseball on baseball and fun (and away from steroids and negativity).
The Sports Pickle ran an article earlier this year entitled “Brian Wilson’s Beard Apparently MLB’s Entire 2011 Marketing Campaign”, and with good reason- The Beard was in a plethora of commercials. The Beard, The Machine, whatever else you want to throw at us remind us that baseball is a game to be enjoyed on and off the field.
This season I went to 17 regular season games and 3 spring training games. I saw you in your spring training debut, and on Brian Wilson Jersey day against the Phillies in August as you closed out a game for Lincecum. As you warmed up in the Giants’ bullpen, your face, beard and pitching highlights were displayed on the big screen while the crowd went wild. An otherwise stressful outing with playoff implications was turned into a joyous event as the AT&T faithful were assured you would bring home the win.
A Giants’ fan or not, it is impossible not to love what you have done for the game of baseball over the past year. Fans of every team must agree that the positive exposure you have given the game in a post steroid era (especially after the year of the pitcher) is incredible for the game as a whole. You have earned yourself a rare place in the baseball history books, one based not only on stats or rings, but overall impact on baseball.
Thank you, Brian Wilson, for The Machine, The Beard, The Speedo Tuxedo, the impressive pitching, the commercials, the flair, and the passionate, positive attitude. Thank you for reminding me what baseball is about.
I’m already counting down the days to next season, I’ll be wearing my “Fear the Beard” shirt, as long as you continue to inspire.
P.S. I would love to see Weez break another bat in the dugout while you wear your Marty McFly Nikes.