At long last:
Brian Wilson reveals the meaning behind his crossed arms gesture after he saves a game
One of the features I hoped to make semi-regular on this blog is an offer to take your questions for Giants players. If it’s an intriguing one, I’ll go and ask it for you. (See the Ask a Giant! tab at the top of this page.)
At the end of May, reader Bruce Chiang wanted to know why Brian Wilson crosses his arms after he records the save. One hand makes a fist (inside his glove) and he points his index finger with the other hand.
Wilson was evasive. He wasn’t ready to let it be publicly known what it meant. He pledged to tell me, but only on his terms and only when he was a little more confident that his season was going the right way.
Well, now he’s an All-Star and is likely to pitch an inning today at Yankee Stadium. So he promised to sit down with me on this last road trip and divulge the whole story.
One problem: He works out like a madman. Every time I tried to track him down at Shea Stadium or Wrigley Field, he was running stairs, lifting weights, running the warning track or perspiring on the exercise bike.
I got to the park massively early to track him down Sunday…and walked in the press box to see one player running on the track. Wilson, of course.
He took the loss in Saturday afternoon’s game and was doing his penance.
“I’m punishing myself,” he said.
When he switched to a stationary bike in a dank little storage space off the clubhouse, he finally agreed to talk to me.
Short answer: You’re both right. It goes a little deeper than that, though.
I promised Wilson that I would allow him to describe the personal significance of the gesture in his own words. That’s what follows, straight out of my tape recorder:
“One More Round is a clothing line. It has to do with the drive and determination that certain fighters have when their backs are against the wall. It’s, `No matter how deep I am in this fight, no matter how badly burned I am, I’ve got one more round in me.’ That’s basically the motto, the creed, of One More Round. No matter what it takes, I’ve got one more in me.
“And to me, that relates to what I do on the mound. In the ninth inning, your back is against the wall and you’re probably facing the meat of the order. Whether it’s bases loaded, no outs, you’re only up by one, whatever, you’ve got one more round left in you. You can’t back down, you can’t give in, and that’s exactly how I portray my inning — as a war, as a battle. So when I go out there, I’m fighting for my team. I don’t care about any personal statistics, giving up runs or whatever. As long as I preserve the win, everything’s OK.
“Now, one of the main things I do after a game is the crossing of the arms. That’s on a T-shirt I wear underneath my jersey when I pitch. (He wore that T-shirt in an ESPN interview last month.) That’s just respecting the fighters and their commitment and determination and the hard work they put in.
“And also it’s taking into consideration my own walks in life. For instance, when I cross my arms, I have my left hand in the fist and my right hand goes underneath pointing with my (index) finger. What I’ve taken into my own belief is that this finger represents one man. I’m that one person. And I can only go so far in life leaning on my own understandings and my own strength. The fist represents the power of the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The fist is symbolic of a circle. It’s never-ending. This strength will only continue to grow. So here’s the strength of God and the strength of man. And without him, I am nothing. I can only go so far in this life. But when I cross, I now have this one person with the strength of Christ, and I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me. I can get over any battles in life.
“So I basically give respect to the ultimate fighting world and I also give respect to Christ, the audience of one that I play for. I don’t play for anything else. I play to impress Him and only Him and I must honor Him through defeat and also successes because I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the strength that He gives me. Talent only goes so far. But faith gets you a little farther. So that’s what it is. It just represents my faith and trust in him, and letting him know and the world know that any believer that walks with Christ, or any walk of life you have, no matter where you are, I’m showing respect to you for your hard work, too. Because it’s not easy living in this world.”
I asked him why he decided to make the gesture at the end of a game.
“I just thought it would be a good time. It shows no disrespect toward anybody. It’s all positive praise. It’s not for showboating. It’s not to start an epidemic. It’s just me getting a quick message out to the world and to Christ and that’s it. I just thought, `What more perfect time to display my faith than at the end of a game?’”
I knew that Wilson came to Christianity later in life. His father died of kidney cancer when he was 17, and for a long time, he was disillusioned.
“I had to go through my struggles in life. My alienation towards Christianity was very prominent through my adolescence. One day it hit me. I felt I needed to start correcting my life. This happened when I was 23 years old. I was in Augusta, Ga. (playing for the Giants’ low-A club), and I was just playing cards, going about my business, and every Sunday a group of guys would go with the team chaplain. I didn’t even know what `chaplain’ meant.
“Well, my father passed away when I was 17 and you know, I was praying he wouldn’t die. And he was taken away from me. I didn’t understand. It had nothing to do with your prayers not being answered. It was just his time to go. But me being 17 years old, not a very mature kid, I just took that as Him turning his back on me, so I turned my back on Him. When I put my cards down and went in the dugout to speak to the team chaplain, I soon learned that wasn’t the way it worked. No matter how many times I turn my back on God, He’ll always be in front of me. I could stray away from Him for 90 years but as long as I know Him for one day, He’ll honor me in heaven. So I thought that would be one heck of a life-altering change that I should make.”
I asked him about teammates dropping the X, including Omar Vizquel who does it every time. (Omar doesn’t know what it means. “I just like him because he’s crazy,” Vizquel said.)
“Yeah, we’ve got the first baseman doing it, too. Usually you cross your arms when you’re playing behind the runner, every once in awhile they’ll throw it up for me just to ease my mind. (Rich) Aurilia does it jokingly, but I take it as a reminder of why I’m out here. It’s, `Remember what kind of gift you have, and most of all, don’t let your team down.’”