The connected Los Angeles Dodgers fanbase has a lot to be excited about despite World Series defeat
The Houston Astros won the 2017 World Series. By emerging victorious in this out-of-control seven-game series, the Astros took home their first championship in their 56-year franchise history. That’s a big deal; congratulations to them. In the immediate wake of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation and after years of extreme losing, the Astros have a fascinating and inspirational story that deserves to be told. Look elsewhere for that column. This is about the losers.
I’m from Los Angeles and am a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan. This was not only the first time one of my teams made it to the championship in my lifetime, but also the first time it felt like one of my teams was the best team on the planet. The Dodgers couldn’t get it done and that’s an uncomfortable and disappointing reality in which to exist. But you know what? This was undeniably a special season, and a Game 7 loss doesn’t erase it, even if it does obscure it. Plus, the whole year was quite simply a lot of fun.
Calling my dad in Los Angeles after every World Series game and getting his text updates of runs scored and opportunities blown, as if I wasn’t also watching, was the best part. So were the frantic calls between innings during the insanity of Game 6, screaming about the irresponsible overuse of relief pitcher Brandon Morrow and right fielder Yasiel Puig’s unbelievable strength as I sat in a deserted Upper Usdan. One of the few remaining people in the world who gets his news from the newspaper, my dad eagerly informed me of Los Angeles Times’ columnist Bill Plaschke’s commentary on manager Dave Roberts and the disappointed letters-to-the editor as the Dodgers blew leads and lost games. Whether the words he was relaying were exultant or dejected, I loved that I got to once again experience his Los Angeles with him.
Living in Waltham, I don’t get an Xfinity channel with Dodgers games. The reality is that I didn’t experience this team like I did the mid 2000s’ James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Russell Martin years, when the game was on every single night and I was fully ensconced in the dulcet tones of Vin Scully’s legendary voice. I only spent a few weeks home during the summer and I used those weeks to watch as many games as the team’s schedule allowed. But for most of the season, and for the first time in my life, my experience of the Dodgers was solely through box scores and Twitter highlights. As it seemed more and more likely that the Dodgers were doing something special, part of me felt like I wouldn’t have a genuine claim to a championship if this was finally going to be the year. That I was detached from the experience of the team and didn’t put in the time to truly have earned it as a fan. That my distance from Los Angeles meant there was something fraudulent about my purported connection to the team. I had these thoughts for a while. It ended up being the time I spent out of Los Angeles this summer, not the time in Los Angeles, that showed me I was wrong.
As I made my way through the country this summer, I ran into Dodgers fans everywhere I went. It’s always cool to see other people wearing those iconic Dodger blue hats in places other than L.A. It means that we, strangers in a strange land, have an emotional connection to the same city and the same group of guys. More than that, though, it means we see ourselves and have constructed a meaningful part of our identity in the same entity. We share something fundamental. My interactions with Dodgers-loving strangers were different this summer, though. There was an electricity to those conversations. It was more than an acknowledgement of shared fandom. Something special was happening, and we knew it, and we were part of it. Whether in North Carolina or Atlanta, the excitement was tangible, and it was finally ours. But more importantly, this Dodgers connection served as a starting point. Those conversations in North Carolina are some of the most memorable of my life. It began with the Dodgers, but became about far more than that, as I listened to a man’s experience immigrating from Mexico to Los Angeles as a boy, and about his struggles caring for his ill wife while raising a family. But our bond over the Dodgers remained the backbone, as these stories were interspersed with his memories of attending games during Fernando Valenzuela’s incredible rookie year, and even the time he ran on the field to congratulate Valenzuela after a particularly impressive outing. The Dodgers were our shared experience, and provided us a jumping off point that became invaluable.
The connection with strangers whose names I’ll never know, drawn from our love of the Dodgers, is why this championship would have been mine, too. But it also means more than that. It means that even as I build a new life 3,000 miles away from the only one I have ever known, and one that I don’t plan to return to, the connections don’t undo or break from what they were. It’s showing me that while distance can change form, content has the power to persist. And so my connection to the Dodgers, and Los Angeles, and my parents, and my childhood persists, authentically. And that’s a cool thing to learn from a boring game.
At the end of the day, all that really matters is this: The Dodgers will be back next season, and I will be right there with them.