12 August 2013
As a Los Angeles Dodgers fan transplanted in the Bay Area, I am a true believer embedded deep within enemy lines. From the flocks of San Francisco Giants jerseys crowding the train to the slurred rallying cries echoing from every bar, I am surrounded by hostility, by a sea of swarming, insolent fools clamouring for recognition, for the acceptance of the 2012 World Series Champions as the one true baseball team, for me to relinquish all hereditary claims and forsake the team I was raised to love in order to praise of the bastards I was bred to hate. While the everyday reality may be less dramatic than all that, the attempted conversions and insisted hierarchy will never sway my long term commitment to the Boys in Blue.
For the first few months of the season, the Dodgers tested my faith with a string of avoidable injuries, sub-subpar offensive performance, and face-palming slip-ups while the Giants surged ahead to battle with the Diamondbacks and Rockies for lead of the NL West. After the emergence of Yasiel Puig, the return of Zack Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, and Matt Kemp, and the Dodgers’ defense finally catching up to the red hot pitching, tides turned and they rode a hot streak all the way to first place, where the Dodgers currently hold a five game lead over the once distant Diamondbacks. To sweeten the pot even further, those dastardly Midgets, in the same stretch of season, crawled all the way down to last place.
Yessir, things are finally turning around and living in Giants country has never felt better. Every championship zip-up I see, I smile; every waving pennant I spy, I grin; every barbed attack I hear, I laugh aside. The gap may be small and the season still long, but I am confident, swaggering even, for the first time in years. The Dodgers, as hard as it may be to believe, may actually overcome the barbarians to the north.
If only I’d had that confidence a month ago, when my Pops and I went to see our beloved Dodgers play the Giants at their home stadium, AT&T Park. At the time, the Dodgers were on the upswing, but their future still clouded in uncertainty, their deficiencies far from resolved. The defending champions weren’t sitting much prettier, but they had something to brag about beyond inflated team salary. The entire train ride over, talking trash and shop with my Pops as dead-eyed Giants fans sneered our way, I felt the indelible tension between my proper homeland and adopted residence, the divide of past and present.
En route to the stadium, we ducked into a divey sports bar for a few Pilsners. I spent five, maybe eight minutes shifting eyes and raising expressions, vying for the bartenders’ attention, and they occupied themselves with outgoing orders and irrelevant chitchat. I couldn’t decide if it was general poor service or targeted nonchalance due to my Dodgers’ paraphernalia; I hoped for the latter. While my Pops and I ran down the latest signings, trades, and results from the sports world, I scanned each incoming fan. Mostly orange and black, locals sporting the garish signifiers of poor athletic taste, there were a number of proper, blue and white patriots, but we were easily overwhelmed. Unwelcome, alienated, we finished fast and headed on our way.
Inside AT&T Park, the reception wasn’t much better, pockets of blue nodding to each other against torrents of barbarians. Walking by a courtesy stand, a Giants staff member offered my Pops a World Series towel and my father deflected with a jersey pop and reminder that “we have more than enough championship gear.” Their total count may be higher, but we have more wins in our adopted hometown, five of the Giants’ seven occurring in New York while only one of the six Dodgers’ titles coming from Brooklyn. A petty distinction maybe, but seeing how we haven’t stolen a World Series since 1988, we’ll take all the moral victories we can get.
Settled into our seats behind home plate, the first inning saw a first in my baseball spectating career. The third batter for the Giants, Buster Posey, hit a run in with a double, only to cause a flurry of umpires on the infield; on the official lineup submitted by manager Bruce Bochy, Posey was up fourth, revoking the run and posting an out. According to our disenchanted neighbors, this was the second such occurrence this season. When the ruling was announced to the general public, the plebians jeered and booed like they’d been wronged, as if the officiating was somehow biased or incorrect. My Pops, per custom, took the opportunity to point out their lack of sophistication.
Directly next to us, a middle-aged couple in matching fleece zip-ups chatted up their recent ballpark tour. They’d been all around the big leagues, visiting every notable stadium, and agreed that they now sat in one of the finer offerings. There are parks with more deluxe accommodations, more aesthetic appeal, and certainly more history- cough, Dodger Stadium, cough- but as far as modern ballparks go, AT&T delivers a solid combination of corporate comforts and bayside ambience. While we found common ground on the general experience, my Pops had some under the breath scorn for their Giants cheerleading. They were Coloradans, he reasoned, and had no business acting like fans, not for the malevolent Midgets.
During a break in the action, we stopped by the concession stands to test the local fare. Not ambitious enough for the gourmet eateries that surely lurked deeper within the complex, we went with an old standby and picked up a pair of franks. With an undersized and soggy bun, no diced onions left in the dispenser, and an underwhelming overall taste, we shook our heads and declared them no Dodger Dogs, taking satisfaction in our concessionary superiority.
As the game wore on, our reliance on petty victories grew. Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ starting pitcher, threw too much heat for our bats to handle, lasting seven innings and giving up only two runs. In the same stretch, the Giants drove in four runs of their own, sealing defeat for our heroes. Despite the loss, an afternoon recalling Dodger highlights with the man responsible for my fanhood was entertainment enough.
Let’s end on a high note, my favorite memory from a lifetime of rivalry. At the height of Barry Bonds’ power, when his doping ways were first exposed, we lucked into seats 15 rows behind the Giants dugout. Biding my time, I let Bonds take his first at bat heckle free, let him believe he could emerge from Chavez Ravine unscathed. His next appearance, I wasn’t so kind. After initial crowd reaction passed, I found a pocket of silence and shouted, “Hey Barry, you look thirsty. Want a juice box?” I don’t know if he heard me, but I swear he looked my direction, that he turned to me with guilty, acknowledging eyes, aware of his wrongdoing and allegiance to an unjust cause.
That’s what I choose to believe, anyway.