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My fantasy travel assignment was not to lie down on a white-sand beach, dine at a three Michelin Star restaurant, or interact with a wild, exotic animal. It was to sit on a plane alone with an inanimate object, buy it a glass of champagne, and resist the urge to hug it.
The writer has a drink with some celebrity hardware on a flight from San Francisco to New York.
I can now check that off my bucket list, after flying Wednesday with the San Francisco Giants’ 2014 World Series trophy on a trip from SFO to New York JFK (I didn’t sit next to it the whole time, just for a few minutes). The celebrity hardware is on a victory lap after the team’s third championship in five years, and it will be getting back in touch with its roots – the Giants belonged to New York until moving in 1958.
Before the cross-country flight, Giants President and CEO Larry Baer poses in front of the decorated plane. (Courtesy: Virgin America)
I’ve been an unashamed Giants nutcase since my childhood, when I collected every Will Clark baseball card known to man and risked my safety talking trash with Dodger fans while growing up in Los Angeles. I languished in teenage agony in 1993, when a 103-win Giants team failed to make the playoffs, and no woman has broken my heart like in 2002, when the Giants were six outs away from a championship but lost to the rally-monkey Angels.
The Giants’ fortunes, and my own as a fan, have improved recently – they finally broke through with their first San Francisco championship in 2010, and again in 2012, both times with unheralded teams. The 2014 World Series trophy is making the same Big Apple tour that the other two made, and Virgin America is partnering with the Giants on it. So the airline invited me to come along.
This is what it looks like when a trophy sits in a first-class seat. (Photo: Greg Keraghosian
I had to wake up at 4 a.m. just to make the airport on time. But for this guy, it was worth the sleep deprivation.
The trophy had a better seat than me – it was two rows ahead in first class, with its own plane ticket. And I learned that yes, you can buckle up a trophy on a plane.
The gate’s monitor let passengers know that they were in for (Photo: Greg Keraghosian)
Anyone in the New York area who wants to say hello to the trophy can do so Saturday at Finnerty’s in the East Village from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., or Sunday at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Could any Yankees or Mets fans feel like their cleats are being stepped on with all this celebration on their turf? The Giants say they’re being selective in where they appear – Finnerty’s is well-known for being popular with Bay Area sports fans, for example.
Virgin flight attendants waving Giants rally towels before the flight. (Photo: Greg Keraghosian)
During the Giants’ last trophy victory lap in New York, they did get some razzing from the locals.
“In 2013 we took it to a few bars around the Meatpacking District and the Chelsea neighborhood,” said Albert Jaimes, the Giants’ senior public affairs and community relations manager, who was also on this flight. “You do get a lot of fans when you walk in there who are like, ‘What are the Giants doing here … boo Giants.’ But it’s fun and most people respect what it is. It’s a conversation starter at the very least.”
As for the flight to New York, the Giants did all they could to get passengers – fans and non-fans alike – into the celebration. Everyone received a Giants rally towel as they stepped onto the plane, an in-flight trivia contest allowed a few winners to get their picture in first class with the trophy, and Giants President Larry Baer personally carried the trophy to the back of the plane to let everyone get an up-close look at it.
Giants President and CEO Larry Baer lets everyone on the plane get a look. (Photo: Greg Keraghosian)
Baer was also gracious enough to sit down and talk to me for a few minutes, and he only laughed when I asked him whether the Giants have enough offense left now that Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse are gone. He’s still optimistic they’ll score enough, and of course, “there’s a guy named (Madison) Bumgarner that we still have,” he said jokingly of their ace pitcher and World Series MVP. “We think he may have a shot to do OK this year.”
The trophy’s very own boarding pass. (Photo: Greg Keraghosian)
I then made the highly awkward move of asking Baer to give back the glass of champagne I’d placed in front of him so I could give it to the trophy for some photos of me drinking and sitting next to it. Because I’m a bit weird like that. Since the Giants seem to be winning a title every other year, I’ll think of a smoother bucket-list celebration for 2016.