THE MYTH OF THE DODGER DOG
Last night, by paying a scalper $35 for a $23 Field Level seat, I earned the right to claim to be counted among the largest regular season crowd to ever witness a Los Angeles Dodger game. The hometown heroes took advantage of an off night by Javier Vazquez and the New York Yankees, sending my buddy from Westchester County and I away disappointed. Then, to add insult to injury, after the game we were trapped in the worst parking lot logjam I've ever encountered. We sat idly for forty-five minutes, moving only a few feet forward as the line of cars ahead of us formed a steady stream of brake lights. Stuck in the back corner of this Dodger deathtrap, we listened to the post-game show on 980 AM. One call after another conveyed a gross group overreaction to one single early to mid-season victory. Somehow this game turned Dodger fans into cockeyed optimists, and gave them the freedom to speculate that a 6-3 win over the Yankees could be parlayed into a division title and a possible World Series showdown with the best team that money can buy. Perhaps these fans calling in to sports talk radio felt inspired by what they perceived to be a playoff atmosphere last night, and I'm unable to deny crowd was energetic and a possible factor in the game. However, it seemed to me to be a case of Dodger fans sniffing Blue. The Yankees beat themselves last night. Jason Giambi made a throwing error on a possible double-play ball and Javier Vazquez compounded that mistake with three wild pitches and a throwing error of his own. The Dodgers compiled a fair number of singles, but only had one extra-base hit the entire game. This was not a late-inning comeback filled with drama and grit. This was the Yankees coming off a Friday night loss in Arizona and a flight to Los Angeles for a Saturday night game, and the Dodgers coming off a three-game sweep of the mediocre Orioles and a peaceful night's sleep in their own beds. It was as if the call-in superfans started to believe the hype of the "Yankees suck" chant heard scattered throughout the stadium. I found myself tempted to answer the crowd back with "Yankees suck? Really? What is the basis for your argument? They currently have the best record in baseball. They've been to the World Series the last five out of six years. And they've more championships than any franchise in any major sport. Plus the fact that without them, Major League Baseball wouldn't be very interesting or profitable. The New York Yankees most certainly do not suck." However, I held my tongue and let these hyper Los Angelenos have their moment, their first taste of victory over the Yankees since 1981. Their hunger for even a small victory seemed palpable in the wake of an embarrassing display by their Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Their collective hopes for a championship dashed only days ago, those Laker fans saw their Dodgers vanquish the mighty Yankees, and a transference took place. Down came the Laker flags and up went the Doger banners. My Westchester buddy couldn't contain himself any longer and used his cell phone to call in to the 980 AM post-show to voice his Yankee opinion and give the Dodger fans who surrounded us a little dose of reality. I couldn't contain myself any longer either, and eschewed the stagnant line of cars for the open space of the littered parking spots in hopes of a better way out of the nightmarish parking lot gridlock. After dialing and dialing, my buddy got through to the station, cleared the screener, and was placed on hold to talk to the host. In true Houdini fashion, I found a seam and hit the hole hard to magically free us from the stranglehold Chavez Ravine so viciously held us in. We hit the 110 and headed home, but as luck would have it, the radio host ended his show just when my buddy would have been the next caller on the air. Turns out the only thing that brought Dodger fans back down to Earth last night was the news that Phil Jackson was not coming back to coach the Lakers, Kobe opted out of his contract, and Shaq demanded a trade. The Lakers had imploded. All that was left was the hope that the Dodgers can somehow manage to outlast the San Diego Padres for the NL West Division crown. For good measure, the Yankees sent a rookie pitcher making his Major League debut to the mound today and beat the Dodgers 6-2, reminding the L.A. crowd that by no means do the Yankees suck. Hate to say it, but Dodger Dogs kind of do.