Friday, September 20, 2013

CELEBRATING AWAY A GREAT DAY

I can't imagine there's anything like the deep exhale that comes from closing out a division title in baseball.  The long journey of hard work, dedication, travel and the pain of playing day in and day out for five months and nearly a 162 games is suddenly and all at once rewarded.  A collective deep breath is finally allowed as the team celebrates the moment and then prepares for the playoffs in October.

The Dodgers got to experience just that yesterday.  After a near disastrous first half of a season left them seemingly out of it and a fan base embarrassed to the point where the stadium was virtually empty in early June, the rise of Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig combined with the timely return of key players from injury like Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez provided a huge boost and a run that hasn't been seen in the history of the team.  So the celebration of last night's clincher was without a doubt warranted.

Until it turned into something that borders on sacrilege to baseball die-hards.  The post-game celebration carried onto the field as usual, but then into the pool located in the right center field.  After being asked by Diamondbacks Management to respect their stadium and not continue the celebration on the field, the boys in blue decided to turn their celebration black. 

This in turn caused journalist Dan Bickley to pen an editorial in Arizona with a headline that probably is euphemistic to what most Arizona fans, coaches and players are wanton to say:

The Dodgers Are Idiots

Forget whether he's right or wrong.  Forget whether you believe that the Dodgers can celebrate however they want to, even if it is against the wishes of one of their division rivals.  Forget about the fact the Diamondbacks made a ridiculous management decision to force Dodger fans to wear their Diamondbacks gear because they were sitting behind home plate last April. 

What did this celebration accomplish that the win didn't besides creating more bitter feelings between fellow ballplayers?  Do you think the rest of the league now looks at the Los Angeles Dodgers and thinks wow, what an accomplishment.  No, they're talking instead about this celebration and what it all meant.  They're talking about who'll throw the first intentional bean ball next year that might actually end someone's season.  They're talking about the unwritten rules of baseball and how the Dodgers crossed the line.

The question isn't whether the Dodgers have the right to do what they did.  The question is why did they need to?  What inside these young men gave them the idea that this behavior was a good way to punctuate a celebration?  What good could come of it?  Did they feel better about themselves knowing that Arizona fans, particularly the children who entered June with their favorite team in first place only to watch them fall to pieces by early September, felt humiliated?  Was it more important to return the favor from April and make it clear that the Dodgers fans won't be bossed around?  Did they think this reflected well on their manager Don Mattingly, who was one of the classiest players of his day?  On the Dodgers management?  On Los Angeles itself?  Or were they thinking at all?

Forget even these reasons.  Let's just imagine the situation was reversed.  Imagine the reaction of Angelenos if the Diamondbacks had done this in Dodger Stadium?  Yes, we Angelenos, home of the guys who beat a San Francisco Giants fan to an inch of his life for simply wearing the opposing team's jersey and being their fan.  Yes, we of Los Angeles who watch this kid's game with our hearts on our sleeves, painfully enduring the wins and losses as if they were personal to us.... as if we were personally involved.  As fickle as L.A. fans can be, our desire to win isn't any less passionate, or any less desperate.  We are so unable to separate ourselves from our Dodgers that the amount of curse words, boos, hisses, screams and cheers that leave our mouths in any given nine-inning stretch is something you would only expect to find in Congress.

Baseball players are among the most superstitious lot in the world.  Rumors of players not showering for weeks, growing playoff beards and staying in the same underwear during a win streak are often verified because of the ballplayer's need to feel some sort of control in a sport where success and failures interchange so often. And on a day where you enter the playoffs after a miracle run, it would seem to me that to step on another man's grave after he's dead and buried is to have lifted up your own voodoo doll and handed your playoff opponent the first pin.

We can make a million cases for shoving back at the way the Diamondbacks and their management have behaved.  Heck, the whole state of Arizona is completely backward if you ask me -- I mean I'm surprised Puig was allowed into the ballpark without having his immigration papers looked at by local law enforcement.

Dodgers fans are already ripe with rationalizations, citing the above-story as reason enough to stomp on an Arizona fans pride.  It's as if the win isn't verification enough of the miracle the Dodgers pulled off this season, it has to be verified further at the expense of others. 

And for those that say I'm missing the point, it was just young men celebrating, ask yourself why the celebration couldn't have stayed where it is supposed to, where the D-backs' management asked for it to stay, in the clubhouse.  Nothing would have changed.

Well actually, something would have.  More people would be discussing this legendary run by a group of young men Los Angeles is taking great pride in.  Instead, this father looks at these guys as silly children, and hopes my child never feels the need to stomp on his opponent when he's already beaten. 

That's the difference between class and insecurity, of grace instead of vanity.  And sadly, the Dodgers showed way too much of the latter last night.