Friday, July 10, 2009

My Mistress

Obviously, I haven't posted at an incredible rate this season. When I started this blog, it was for a network of blogs (which I will not name here), and I was the "Dodger blogger." I added the Red Sox to the mix, and for a while I was writing recaps for every team for both games. But that got tedious for me, and probably for you, and so I quit doing it. Posting has been sporadic basically ever since I went to Chicago last year, and there's really no reason for it, other than that I am lazy. But a quick glance at the posts that I've written in the last year will show you that I've written vastly more posts about the Dodgers than about the Red Sox. This has been weighing on my mind quite a bit recently, and I'll tell you why.

I've been a Red Sox fan for most of my life, though I admit to not paying as much attention as I should have during high school and a little bit of college (hey, I was busy living life). But I've always been diehard about the BoSox, despite the fact that I've never actually been to Fenway, or even Boston. Don't judge me. It is entirely possible to be a huge fan without actually seeing your team's home stadium. This season is the first one since 2004 (when I met Christine, and therefore could actually afford to go to baseball games) that I haven't seen the Red Sox play at least one game (they play in Anaheim at least once every year), so it's not like I've had no connection.

Seven years ago, I moved to Los Angeles. And for the first three years or so, I didn't really pay attention to the Dodgers. I didn't go to a game at Dodger Stadium, even though I probably could have afforded it, in the pre-McCourt days anyway. I was working a lot, and when I wasn't working I was surviving on unemployment. I watched a lot of baseball on television, and was grateful at the time for the "east coast bias" on ESPN, since it meant I got to see several Red Sox games a year. They actually came to play the Dodgers the first year I lived in Los Angeles, but it was in the first few months I was in town, and there was no one to go with me, and no time to go anyway.

I never had anything against the Dodgers, but I was a Red Sox fan. And that, pre-2004 anyway, took a lot of effort. Even during 2004, I was busy rooting for my team, and getting someone else to do the same. Christine didn't even like baseball (maybe even hated it) before she met me, and suddenly she was as big a fan, if not bigger, than I was. When they won it all in 2004, about six months after we met, she took credit for it, and it was not something I was going to dispute.

And then, in 2006, I became a Dodger fan, too. Here's how it happened:


Christine: I think we should become Dodger fans.

Me: Uh, okay.


I was worried in the beginning, and it took a lot of reassuring from Christine to convince me that it would be okay. After all, with the exception of interleague play, and possibly the World Series, the teams would never meet in a game. They were in different leagues on opposite sides of the country, and one of them played in a stadium only ten miles from my house, so it certainly made sense from a geographical standpoint.

And so I went to a game or two that year. And I went to a playoff game that year, which was a lot of fun, even though the Dodgers lost. In 2007, we bought a mini plan of season tickets, which was for twelve games, though I think I went to more than fifteen that season. Last year, no mini ticket plan, but I went to 25 major league games (including three exhibition), seventeen of which were at Dodger Stadium. And this year, thanks to the hard sell from the Dodgers, we bought a 27-game plan.

This year is when I think the trouble really started. The problem with rooting for a team that plays 2,594 miles from your front door is just that--they are too far away. I have the MLB Extra Innings package, and I can watch almost every game the Red Sox play. But with the exception of two or three games a year, I can never see them play in person. Meanwhile, I'm heading over to Dodger Stadium and screaming my head off for that team fifteen or more times a year. And while Los Angeles isn't exactly a baseball town (at least not in the circles I run in), there's still something to be said about the way one feels when rooting for one's "hometown" team.

The question came up the other day (and last year, too, but it turned out to be for nothing) about what I would do if these two teams met in the World Series. In the beginning, part of the agreement with Christine was that if that World Series moment ever happened, all the Dodger gear would go in a trash bag in the garage. We were Red Sox fans, pure and simple. But the line has been blurred in recent years, and if October rolls around with both my teams with a chance to win it all, I can no longer say with confidence that the Red Sox will have my undying support. In fact, I'm really starting to lean the other way on that one.

For a long time, the Red Sox and I were a perfectly happy married couple. And then this little flirt with the sexy stadium and the overpriced parking started winking at me, and I faltered. I gave in to the temptation, and though I've never made any promises to the Dodgers that the marriage is almost over and I'll be leaving any time, I feel like Chavez Ravine has been pushing harder and harder for that outcome in the last year. Sick of being the concubine, she's begging for more and more attention, and she's getting it.

You know how Demi Moore and Bruce Willis got divorced, but now they have that weird relationship that involves vacationing with each other and their respective new spouses? Perhaps that will be how it is. Perhaps I will divorce the Red Sox amicably, but I'll maintain custody of my autographed balls, pictures, ticket stubs, and memories. We'll still see each other in person once every summer, and on television every day, but things will be different.

I really don't know yet if that's okay.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Manny Doin' Stuff

Sam from a website called Portal-A sent me a nice email in which he kissed my butt a bit about liking my writing (thanks, Sam!) and told me to check out a video he had made. Well, I checked it out, and it really made me laugh, so here it is. Watch it all. It's worth it. Enjoy!


The guy doing the Manny impersonation is pretty awesome. But my favorite part? Referring to the Kobe movie as a "reach-around." Hilarious.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Vote!

Click the graphic below to make your "final vote" for the All-Star ballot. I'm not saying you have to vote for Matt Kemp, but I sure do think that would make a lot of sense. Oh, and it appears there is no limit to the number of times you can vote, so a real fan would spend the day developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Friday, July 03, 2009

What Am I Supposed to Say?

There are people who feel like anyone who cheers Manny Ramirez should go straight to hell. And most of those people, strangely enough, are those who get paid to write about the game of baseball. As the title of Jayson Stark's column on ESPN.com says, celebrating Ramirez is "terrible." Plaschke has been his usual pompous self (I hate to link to anything he writes, but it's something you should see) with regard to the whole thing, and if you didn't hate the dude (and his really atrocious writing style) before, you really should now. Stark and Plaschke, among others, feel as though they should be the moral authority on this situation. Fans who think differently from them are looked down upon, as though they are too stupid to consider the whole situation, or too blind to understand just what an awful thing Ramirez did.

Plaschke and Stark want us to boo Ramirez, I guess. They want us to not forgive him, to stop giving Frank McCourt money just for the privilege of watching Ramirez play, and probably to stop watching baseball altogether if this sport can't promise to be the bastion of upstanding moral citizens that they want it to be. Nevermind that Stark and Plaschke would be out of jobs should any of those things happen. It's the principle of the matter, damn it!

You're getting the gist of how I feel about this particular reaction to the Ramirez situation. And you know I'm a Dodger fan, so I suppose you can take my opinion with a grain of salt. Who knows if it would be different were I a fan of any other team. But I would like to believe that I would react negatively to those who seem to think it's just so easy to know exactly what the the right thing to do is, and who believe it to be nothing but a black and white issue.

Yes, Ramirez cheated. Apparently. We still don't really know what he was taking, or for how long (which may be the more important part). Ramirez himself is not likely to ever tell us, at least not as long as he dons a Major League Baseball uniform. And different rumors will tell us different "facts." But the bottom line is that he tested positive for a substance that was not supposed to be in his body. So, he got suspended. Under the terms negotiated between the players and MLB, Ramirez was suspended, without pay, for 50 games. I don't necessarily think it makes any sense that he was allowed to rehab before those 50 games were up, but that's also part of the rules, and it's not like Ramirez is the first to take advantage of that allowance. So, Plaschke can whine all about how stupid it is, but he really needs to stop acting like Ramirez has been granted some special favor by being allowed to play in Albuquerque and Lake Elsinore.

The thing is, Ramirez is not the first to do this. He's just the most famous of those who have been suspended under the rules. And I don't think I have to remind you that steroids have been around for quite a while in the game, and ignored by managers, other players, executives, and, yes, sportswriters, all because writing about the drug use in baseball was not convenient at the time. Why ruin the Sosa/McGwire home run chase in the late '90s by acknowledging that their bodies looked kinda funny? The people wanted to see the long ball, and the reporters gave the people what they wanted. But then the steroid rumors started to break, and everyday citizens got themselves into a tizzy, and sportswriters went where the wind was blowing them.

To guys like Plaschke and Stark, serving one's time is not enough to make one worthy of forgiveness. To them, there must be some sort of ritual bloodletting, or at least a hell of a lot of booing, before they will be satisfied that the punishment has fit the crime. The fact that these rules were negotiated and written into a contract is of no importance; Plaschke and Stark will be the judge and jury here.

Here's what Stark says at the end of his column:

Does Manny Ramirez deserve a second chance? Absolutely. But does he deserve to be celebrated by anyone who isn't a tunnel-visioned Dodgers fan? Absolutely not.

Considering Ramirez hasn't even made his return at the time of this writing, it's hard for me to understand exactly what information Stark has that indicates that those other than "tunnel-visioned Dodgers fan[s]" (gosh, aren't fans stupid, guys?) will welcome Ramirez with open arms. He won't be in Dodger Stadium until July 16, and I for one am expecting him to be openly booed and jeered everywhere he goes until then. He'll be playing against the Mets in New York, for god's sake, Stark. What do you think those fans are going to do?

Frankly, after 50 games and nearly two months of waiting, I still don't know what I think about Ramirez. But I think not knowing (or at least admitting that fact) is what automatically makes me a better human being than any sportswriter who feels like "taking a stand" is the most appropriate response. The condescension in the articles by guys like Plaschke and Stark is just plain sickening. Who are you to tell me how I am supposed to react? Perhaps I realize that I (literally) buy into the system that gives men millions and millions of dollars to play a game. Perhaps I never have, and never will, consider these men to be role models of any kind. Perhaps I always tempered my love for these players with a healthy dose of realism, knowing that they are, in fact, just men. And mortal men at that. And perhaps that realism allowed me to understand that there was a good chance that, at some point, these men would disappoint me. Maybe that disappointment would come with a strikeout in the bottom of the ninth of a playoff game, maybe it would come with the admission of an extramarital affair, or maybe it would come with a positive drug test, but whatever it was, the disappointment was always possible. And as long as that disappointment didn't involve a serious crime like rape, child abuse, or even murder, there was also always the chance that I would be able to forgive and move on, perhaps slightly more jaded, but still a fan nonetheless.

But I suppose that "gray area" is what Plaschke and Stark have a problem with, right? No waffling allowed. If you hate the guy, you're morally superior, and if you love him, you're a moron. Case closed.

Ramirez is an unusual case for me, since I was a Red Sox fan when he unceremoniously dumped that team, only to come right to my other favorite team. I had to deal with the betrayal (perceived or otherwise, since there seems to have been a large dose of "heaping on" happening in the media when it came to that situation), and also with the insane amount of Ramirez love that began immediately upon his arrival in Los Angeles. I remember going to my first Manny game at Chavez Ravine, and just being amazed at the ferocity with which these fans loved that man. And I remember being a little bit annoyed that they couldn't have mustered that enthusiasm for our homegrown boys who had been working so hard. But I cheered right along with them eventually, because Manny is fun to watch, and because he hit home runs for my team, and my team won some games.

So, it's about three hours until Ramirez will be announced in the starting lineup at Petco in San Diego. And I keep asking myself what I would do if I had decided to go down there and see this game in person. All I can think of is that I would be silent. Not on purpose, or be ornery and make some point, but really just for the lack of something better to do. I'm not ready to cheer, but I'm also not willing to boo because I do know that he has served the required time for his transgression. So, silence would seem to be the best course of action. Not everyone will follow my lead. Certainly, San Diego fans will boo (and since they're 15.5 games behind the Dodgers, I guess those fans have just been waiting for a reason to make noise anyway), and Dodger fans in attendance will cheer. From my couch in Los Angeles, I think I'll just take it all in, and keep quiet.

But if the dude socks a homer to deep center in that pitcher's park, especially if the game is tied or, heaven forbid, the Dodgers are behind, all bets are off.

My apologies to Stark and Plaschke. I guess we can't all be so perfect.

Steve Sax at Sons of Steve Garvey wrote a post about this today. I suggest you read it.