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SAN FRANCISCO

The Giants threw an orange-and-black party. At Civic Center Plaza, thousands of fans in Giants' colors packed together to celebrate this season, this World Series, this championship. All those fans in one place in orange and black looked like Halloween gone global.

On big screens in front of City Hall, they watched the Giants' motorcade starting at the Ferry Building and moving along Market Street, listened to Greg Papa and Bill Laskey and Vida Blue narrate and analyze and reminisce in serious TV voices. The three of them sounded like Walter Cronkite at a satellite launch or a royal wedding.

In its way, this Giants' bash was like a space launch or a royal wedding. The Giants are our royalty, have brought Northern California together in victory, brought us together for a good thing. We often get together, it seems, because of tragedy. Not this time.

If you'll permit me a moment to reflect, I have one more serious thought to add and then I'll describe the big party. I have come to think sports, for us, is a secular religion. I don't mean it replaces religion. Nothing like that. But people — those orange-and-black Giants fans — find deep meaning in the Giants and even experience, I believe, something spiritual. So, that's what the 2012 Giants mean and that's what they have caused.

While fans at City Hall waited for the Giants, people stood on top of the marquee in front of Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and people leaned out windows from City Hall and everyone was looking, gazing really, and experiencing the moment. And everyone realized this moment is rare and fleeting because baseball and life change fast. And everyone cherished the moment.

Jim Harbaugh was driving Brandon Belt's car — the Beltmobile — and Alex Smith was driving Matt Cain, and the Say Hey Kid was in a car and Stretch was in another and Bruce Bochy rode in the back of a Rolls clutching the World Series Trophy like it was the source of life — and maybe it is.

Bochy is the best Giants' manager I have covered — my apologies to first-rate managers like Frank Robinson and Roger Craig and the great Dusty Baker. Bochy, now a two-time World Series champ, is the best manager in baseball. If Buster Posey — certain to be National League MVP — had not been injured last season, Wednesday's celebration could have been about a three-peat.

As the motorcade moved on, CSN Bay Area did mini-, on-the-spot interviews. Like with Sergio Romo, the most emotional human on Planet Earth. Unable to sit still in his designated car, he ran onto the street and dashed and jumped and danced his way to City Hall. He wore a T-shirt and on the shirt it said: "I just look illegal." He told one interviewer when he K'd Miguel Cabrera to close out the Series, he said to himself, "That's Strike 3? That's it?"

It sure was.

Later, when he was introduced on the stage, he shouted, "We are World Series champions in San Francisco and that's what's up."

It sure is.

Someone caught up with Ryan Vogelsong, who wasn't on the Giants when they won it all in 2010, and asked the usual what-does-this-mean-to-you question. Vogelsong (whom San Francisco mayor Ed Lee, claiming to be a big Giants fan, called "Vogelstrong") said a close friend said to him, "This is the first time a season ends and you don't have to say, &‘We'll get 'em next year.'"

FYI, Mayor Lee called Madison Bumgarner "Bumgarden."

On the stage, Brian Sabean spoke with his voice breaking. He is the best general manager in baseball in the best organization in baseball in the best ballpark in baseball — with the best team in baseball.

"This is the Mecca of Major League Baseball," Sabean said. "Unfortunately for Detroit, with all due respect, they didn't know what they were in for."

Duane Kuiper got up and led a chant. You know how he narrates a Giants' home run. "Outta here," he shouts. So he would name a team and the crowd would respond.

"Los Angeles Dodgers."

"Outta here."

"Cincinnati Reds."

"Outta here."

"St. Louis Cardinals."

"Outta here."

Kuiper was building to a crescendo.

"The mighty Detroit Tigers."

Loud and wild screaming — "Outta here."

The outta here chant was a high point of the day.

The crowd went crazy for Barry Zito, a man who used to drive them crazy. Pointing to Vogelsong, Zito said, "Me and him have been through a couple of different states of hell in this game."

The Giants would not be World Series champions without those former residents of the underworld. Zito turned the postseason around when he won Game 5 in St. Louis, saved the Giants. And then he beat Justin Verlander in the first game of the Series. Zito earned his Get Out Of Hell Free Card.

Hunter Pence gathered the team together on the stage and commanded, "Do The Slow Clap." This is the routine they did in the dugout before playoff games. They all huddled together and slow-clapped on stage. And then they clapped faster and faster and they jumped and chanted. It was like inviting the crowd into the dugout, the Giants players performing The Slow Clap for them.

And then Freddie Mercury and Queen came on big over the loudspeaker: "We are the champions/No time for losers/Cause we are the champions — of the world."

And you thought that was the end, Freddie singing his heart out and this miracle season going into a slow fade. But out walked Tony Bennett — the incomparable Tony Bennett. After every Giants victory at AT&T they play over the sound system Bennett singing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

Here was Tony himself, voice appassionato, eyes glowing, singing about the greatness of the country's greatest city.

Angel Pagan and Cain and Vogelsong shot photos of him with their cell phones. They understood. They shared in the enormity of the moment. Everyone did.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.