SAN FRANCISCO (Sportsman's Daily Wire Service) Going into the bottom of the eighth a run down, Giants' left fielder Fred Lewis was finishing his last practice swings before heading toward the plate when up on AT&T Stadium's Jumbotron appeared what at any other time would be an adorable picture of a sneezing eight year old girl in pigtails. But this is not any other time, as the nation cowers under the lengthening shadow of a stalking pandemic: the swine flu. The stadium's atmosphere palpably tensed as a progression of perfectly logical thoughts sent a jolt of fear felt around the park: it's here, it's loose, how the fuck am I going to fight my way to the car, get home and get disinfected?
Yesterday, Homeland security officials said they expected the outbreak to spread. "We are proceeding as if we are preparatory to a full pandemic level," said Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, in a brisk, less-than-soothing statement. While the administration has made every effort to arrest the growing sense of alarm, the 24×7 focus on the emerging pandemic - which has thus far claimed 152 lives, with no end in sight - is, not surprisingly, spreading raw, animal terror among massive numbers of people here and abroad.
The image of the sneezing, visibly shivering little girl was seconds away from inciting mass panic...when suddenly, Fred Lewis cracked a lead-off single. The tension eased a notch, the stunned silence turning into waves of dazed muttering. Edgar Renteria followed with another single, putting runners on the corners, which immediately got the crowd back into the game. By the time the inning was over, the Giants were up a run, and went on to beat the Dodgers 5-4.
"I've never seen such a turnaround in a game, it was gut-wrenching, and I mean that in the literal sense," said Giants' broadcaster Duane Kuiper. "You see that poor little girl up there, your first thought is: I need to go to the bathroom, I feel sick. You look around and the stadium suddenly becomes a Petri dish boiling with bacteria. It's a scary thought, to be in an enclosed space crowded with forty thousand human beings, all running for the exits...all I gotta say is, that was some piece of clutch hitting."
In between innings, Kuiper revealed that they received a surprise call from a distinguished viewer watching the game from home, former senator Bill Frist, also a physician. Many will remember Dr. Frist's thorough and confident diagnosis of a vegetative Terri Schiavo, performed by reviewing low-res video footage in his Senate office.
"Yes, a great stroke of fortune that Dr. Frist was watching just at that time," said Kuiper. "Imagine the relief when he assured us that the little girl showed no signs, as best as he could tell. He recommended bed rest, fluids, and the immediate return of her feeding tube. Sheesh. Helluva night at the ballpark. Just too bad it had to happen with Barry in the stands."
Barry Bonds was a surprise guest, making his first appearance at AT&T Park this season. There are unconfirmed rumors that the always quick-thinking Bonds had his "handlers" keep the patrons around him seated while he was whisked to safety. "I guess the only verified swine left the park early," said an unnamed Giants official. Calls to Bonds and his agent have not been returned.