Why I can't quit on the Dodgers
The ballpark at Chavez Ravine feels empty but memories still remain
LOS ANGELES -- It's a Monday night and I'm sitting in the right-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium with Don Drysdale's retired 53 above me and two uniformed LAPD officers below me and I'm lonely. The officers aren't much for conversation and the eight rows of empty seats behind me and the nine rows of empty seats in front of me don't make for great company, either.
Growing up, these wooden pavilion bleachers were where I would go hoping to catch a home run ball in among rowdy fans who would yell things my father told me not to repeat. It has since turned into a serene place to cozy up with a book on a Monday night.
I'm sitting here by myself because I couldn't persuade my younger brother, Arman, to come with me.
When I told him I was going to the Dodgers game, his response was a quick, pointed, "Why?"
We had celebrated his three previous birthdays at Dodger Stadium. Now I couldn't pry him away from a rerun of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" to come to a game with me. Two days later he turned me down again. He went to watch the Los Angeles Sparks play the Seattle Storm instead.
Having tickets to a Dodgers game now is like having tickets to a Clippers game back in the 1990s, when they were still playing at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. You couldn't give those tickets away. I tried. Nobody wanted to see a bad team. Nobody wanted to go to a venue that was perceived to be unsafe at night. And nobody wanted to support a cheap owner they didn't like.
The Dodgers are now suffering from a similar stigma and all you need to do is look at the thousands of empty seats at Dodger Stadium to see the effect it has had.
I can't help but feel like a sucker sitting in these seats, watching the Dodgers stumble through another uninspired loss. I begin to ask myself the same questions my brother asked: Why are you going? Why do you care? Why would you support Frank McCourt?
There is, of course, no simple answer to these questions. To steal a line from my relationship status on Facebook, "it's complicated."
I know I shouldn't be here. I know I shouldn't spend my money helping McCourt make payroll. I know I should turn my back on the Dodgers until they get a new owner and field a team worth the price of admission, but I can't.
I can't for the same reason I can't ignore my first girlfriend who has broken my heart more times than I care to count, and would again if she showed up at my doorstep tomorrow. Maybe I am a sucker; a hopeless romantic who deserves what's coming to him.
I'm not alone, right? We all do this, don't we? We connect with people. We connect with teams. They become a part of us. We accept them with all their faults and imperfections because they make us feel better about ourselves in some way, even though we know they can hurt us, too. We have a way of compartmentalizing the pain and putting it aside while we revel in some moment of joy or glory. And we continue to do this because we believe nothing will ever make us feel as good as that person or that team at its high-water mark.
I've never experienced anything quite like hearing "Welcome To The Jungle" blasting through Dodger Stadium while "Game Over" flashed across the scoreboard when Eric Gagne came in to close another game. I'll never forget my brother hugging me when Manny hit his grand slam on bobble head night; I don't think he's ever hugged me as hard for as long and I don't think he ever will again.
These feelings stay with me. Even now, few places make me as happy as Dodger Stadium.
And so it takes ambivalence to be a Dodger fan these days.
I know the terrible thing that happened to Brian Stow on opening day, I know what's happening on the field, I know what's not happening in the stands. And I know what's happening in the courtroom. I know all this but I still go to the games because reality has always found a way of suspending itself when I'm at the stadium. I still have the same feeling entering the parking lot off Sunset Boulevard I did when I was a child with my father.
It's a certain carefree feeling that's hard to describe, like waking up Saturday morning and watching cartoons with a bowl of cereal. I don't know if I'll ever be that content again in my life, and being at Dodger Stadium as those memories come flooding back is as close as I can get to that as a grown man.
Feelings such as that are deep-rooted. I've loved the Dodgers for as long as I can remember. It's a fandom that was passed on to me by my father, and I'm not about to throw it away now over a time period I hope to tell my kids about when I take them to Dodger Stadium some day. That's why I can't allow McCourt to change my feelings about the Dodgers and why I refuse to let him chase me away from a place that has given me so much joy over the years.
There is nothing complicated or conflicted about my feelings for McCourt. I don't like him, what he's done. It doesn't take me very long to come to this conclusion and move on with my life. The truth is I don't even think about him when I'm at Dodger Stadium. Even when I'm sitting in an almost-empty section of the stadium. He is the furthest thing from my mind as I watch the game with a Dodger Dog in my hands and Vin Scully in my ears. Maybe I'm clinging to memories that will never be recaptured and setting myself up for more heartbreak but I can't help it.
The Dodgers and Dodger Stadium still represent something special to me, something more important than court cases, divorce settlements and losing streaks. Judging from the empty seats around me, this puts me in the minority. But I can live with that. I've lived with this team all my life.
Arash Markazi is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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