Monday, June 30, 2008

Choices, Part 2

By Joe Quadres

To make a long story short, I am in a moral quandary. I would like to be a baseball fan, seeing that it is my favorite sport. Naturally, I would like to root for a team. Unfortunately, it matters greatly to me what other people think. I could not stand to be called a traitor or a frontrunner. Well, ok, I could stand it, but I need ammo to defend myself. In some ways, the choice I make defines me as a sports fan. In others, it defines me as a human being.

Here, as I see it, are all of my options:

1. REMAIN A DODGER FAN.
2. BE A FAN OF WHATEVER TEAM IS CLOSEST TO THE CITY I LIVE IN.
3. PICK A TEAM AT RANDOM
4. PICK A TEAM BASED ON WHATEVER CRITERIA I WANT TO.
5. STAY NEUTRAL.

Each of these choices has positives and negatives. I hope by examining each of these options, I will be able to not only make a choice, but shed some light on what it means to be a fan.

1. REMAIN A DODGER FAN.

This is maybe the easiest choice. It means I don’t have to question my identity; I am a Dodger fan and that is that. It allows me to have civic pride. I would be able to say that I rooted for the same team my whole life. All of my baseball memories live in Chavez Ravine. (I was at the game that Chris Gwynn won with an extra inning homer—that’s the kind of thing I mean). I can maintain the bond I have with my father, who rooted for the Dodgers most of his life too. I don’t have to throw anything away or buy new hats.

But hats are the problem. I don’t live in Los Angeles. Other than the fact that most of my friends live there, I don’t miss it all that much. Why should the geography of my birth—hardly a matter of choice—dictate who I root for? Other than geography, the Dodgers have no meaning for me. First of all, the owner has no LA ties. None of the coaches or players do either. Unlike the Padres, who will always have their Tony Gwynn, not one of my Dodger heroes growing up finished with the team. Literally, not one. Every single famous Dodger in my lifetime finished up somewhere else. Valenzuela, Hershiser, Sciocsia (who finished with LA as a player, but is currently managing the Angels which counts to me), Sax, Piazza, Karros. All of these longtime Dodgers finished elsewhere.

So, basically, I am rooting for a hat. It doesn’t matter who’s under that hat, where they came from, how long they’ve been here, etc. If the hat says LA, I’m supposed to root for them. But in light of all of the despicable things this team has done to show me they don’t care about me, is a blue hat really supposed to keep me true? To a city I haven’t lived in for five years and probably will never live in again? This is the hardest part. There is certainly a part of me that feels like not being a Dodger fan is WRONG. As long as they don’t kill puppies during the 7th inning stretch, I’m supposed to stick with them. But the rest of me feels like I don’t owe these current Dodgers a damn thing. Does this make me a traitor, or does it make me a man of principle? A complainer or a real fan of the game? Or neither? Or both?

2. BE A FAN OF WHATEVER TEAM IS CLOSEST.

I have to admit there is some appeal here. I lived in Northwest Indiana and Chicago for four years. While I was not a Cubs or Sox “fan,” I did watch the local news and read the local papers and listen to the local radio so these were the teams I knew best. I bought a Cubs hat. I went to Wrigley Field three or four times and while there, I did cheer for the Cubs.

But this can’t be right, can it? I have no idea where I’ll end up, but right now I’m in Dallas. Am I supposed to be a Rangers’ fan? I don’t think I can do that for a myriad of reasons, most of which are obvious. And even if I do live here the rest of my life, there is something so empty about just rooting for the hometown team and throwing away everything I stood for my whole life.

3. PICK A TEAM AT RANDOM

Again, this would seem ridiculous, but isn’t it the most fair? If I’m not a Dodger fan, it may make sense to just pick a team out of a hat. That way, no one could accuse me of frontrunning or bandwagoning. But what if I picked the Rangers? Or the Marlins? Or the Orioles? There’s no way I can do this. And if I pick a team at random, then throw the team back, the whole exercise is lost.

4. PICK A TEAM BASED ON WHATEVER I WANT.

Definitely some appeal here. There are lots of teams that I kind of like. There are teams with great GMs like the A’s or Red Sox. They appeal to my intellectual side. I like the Indians and the Brewers because they built themselves up from nothing to contention with their farm system. They will succeed or fail in the right way, the way teams used to do it. Part of me wants to be an Angel fan because they are who the Dodgers used to be. Their entire coaching staff is made up of ex-Dodgers they are owned by a guy who is in it to win, not to turn a profit. Most of their team is homegrown and the free agents they do get are (mostly) guys that they want to keep for the long term.

Of course, the problem here is that, in general, these things are cyclical. I don’t mean that teams go from up-years to down-years and I’m not willing to follow; if I can see future potential, then 100 loss seasons are fine. I mean that teams eventually start trading off all of the guys you like. Take the A’s for example. Every year until they have new ownership, the A’s will trade or release every single player they have who will command a big salary. You can never become attached to an Athletic—as soon as they are free agents, they’re gone. So in order to be an A’s fan, you either have to live or have grown up in Oakland and be willing to root for whoever is wearing the green and gold, or you have to be rooting for Mad Genius Billy Beane. While there is something appealing about that, rooting for a GM is hardly romantic or fulfilling. I mean, am I supposed to chant Billy’s name every time he makes a trade? Should I hold up signs saying, “I love you, Billy” every time a no-namer with and high OBP comes up? So the problem with this approach is that, chances are, I’ll never be able to pick a team to stick with. Every five years or so I’ll constantly be shifting teams. Also, if that team does win the Series, they’ll inevitably break-up and in order to try and stay on top, the desperate GMs will hire crap free agents instead of accepting that their run is over. At that point, they will become the teams I dislike and I’m out shopping again.

5. STAY NEUTRAL

This is where I am now. There are some positives. I don’t get depressed when my team loses. I can root for the guys on my Fantasy team no matter who they’re playing. I see the game objectively. It’s almost like watching Lost; I don’t necessarily root for any of the characters to live or die, I just want the show to be entertaining.

But it’s empty here. I want to be depressed when a team loses because it means I can be high when they win. I want to have a passion. I want to be a fan, not an analyst.

Sports is highly ethical. It is the only part of our lives that we expect to be fair. I need your help, Dear Readers. Which of these decisions is the right one? Which can I be proud of? Which one allows me to look in the mirror and say, “I am a ___________ fan for all the right reasons.” The Dodgers will always be the team of my youth and they will always surround the softest parts of me. But as an adult, I have rights, damnit!!! I just need you to tell me what they are.

Complete me. Please.

7 comments:

Liz said...

You've got a pick a team and stick with it. My team is very successful lately, but used to notoriously struggle (3 guesses who it is) and sticking with them through crushing losses only to experience great highs has been totally worth it. Doesn't matter who you pick, but pick someone. Don't stay neutral.

Red said...

I firmly believe #1 or #2 are the only options in my eyes. Too bad you moved out of Chicago...

Joe C said...

The problem is that you're still a Dodgers fan and you haven't admitted it to yourself. Your frustrated with the current situation, but if they go on a run you'll be right there. And that's ok.

Joe Quadres said...

I'm not sure, Joey. I think I might not. Of course, the point is moot. If they do go on a run, it will be because the circumstances under which I cannot be a fan will have changed. If, for example, Mark Cuban buys the Dodgers, I will be right back on board regardless of the results, because at least I'll know we have an owner who will try to win.

tkf said...

Is Cuban trying? If Cuban bought the Dodgers, the Padres would never win a title during my lifetime. He would make sure they at least made the playoffs every year.

Shannon said...

I agree with Joe C. ---you simply haven't accepted who you really are: a Dodgers fan....Even if it may be lame. I think you should take your own advice, and think about Lost. Who cares who lives or dies, as long as they are there. -and in this case, still playing the game. That's what it's all about. I say...Embrace the true you, because that in itself IS more entertaining. At least more entertaining than not having a villain Dodgers fan keeping the faith on this blog. Just some thoughts from someone who knows nothing about baseball.

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