The toughest way to lose is when you think you've already won, and you have it all planned out how you're going to coast to victory and then celebrate. It's easier to lose 16-4, as the Angels did Thursday in game 5, than it is to lose 6-5, the way the Giants did tonight. That's especially true when you have a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning.
Winning is a lot better than losing. That seems obvious, but you can't really know how much better winning is unless you know what losing is like. In 1985, the Giants lost a hundred games for the first time in their history. Two years later, they were one win away from going to the World Series, and two years after that they won the pennant and played in the World Series. Giant fans appreciated the winning more than followers of teams that had won more recently.
But you don't even have to win championships to know how much sweeter winning is than losing. All you have to do is lose a game or two (or ten), then win one. It's like having a weight lifted from your back, like having your eyes and ears opened to new colors and more graceful harmonies. It's like crossing a desert with an empty canteen, then finding a pure spring and letting the water spill down your throat and wash over your body.
When you lose, everyone wants a piece of you. Everybody thinks they know what you did wrong, and no one is shy about telling you what you should have done. The vultures want to pick apart the carcass of a loser, and then dance on the grave.
When you win, everybody wins — your friends, family, supporters, hangers-on, interested bystanders and a lot of people you don't even know. When you win, they all bask in reflected glory. When you lose, you're alone.
Giants fans are not likely to desert their team. After all, they're still just one win away from the World Series championship. The trouble is that now they're also one loss away from being eliminated. Tomorrow night's game is the end, win or lose. One team comes out a winner, while the other is left to wonder what went wrong. And they'll have no shortage of people willing to tell them.
Losing isn't an orphan as much as a disease, and everyone is a doctor who wants to make a diagnosis. Let's just hope we don't need to call in the coroner tomorrow.