Friday, August 19, 2011
I’m not a cheater. But I’ve had second thoughts.
I was born a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, wearing Dodger Blue not baby boy blue. My first baseball game was with my dad at Dodger Stadium. It was helmet night. I still have that helmet. My first real hot dog was a Dodger Dog. First time I heard a game on the radio, Vin Scully was calling it as nobody else can. And no organ sounds as sweet as the one at Dodger Stadium, with Nancy Bea Hefley at the keys punching in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
L.A. is my town -- Dodgertown, as the marketing campaign suggests. So when my in-laws invited my wife, 7-year-old son and me to an Angels game in Orange County, I said, “No thanks, I’m a Dodgers fan. I watch baseball at 1000 Elysian Park Avenue.”
But my son, now quite the baseball fan, wanted to go. “Please,” he begged.
“If I go,” I said, “I’m wearing Dodger Blue.” (The Dodgers weren’t even playing the Angels.) My father-in-law said, “You’ll be the only one not wearing Los Angeles Angel red.”
“Good,” I said. “They’ll know I’m not with them.”
And off we went to see the Anaheim Angels(there’s only one baseball team really in Los Angeles).
Right away I felt like I was at Disneyland. The entrance was more like an amusement park plaza -- themed, corporate and pristine. The inside halls were the same. Even the seats were too nice for a ballpark. The place was like a sitting room I had in my childhood home -- we weren’t allowed to sit on anything. My mom feared that use would wear down the beauty.
Angel Stadium might be nice, but it has no character, not like Dodger Stadium. And the fans are just like their park -- we might as well have been at an opera with these people. They were so tame I was surprised when I heard a fan finally criticize the umpire for missing calls, telling him to “check his cell.”
“I hate to say this, Daddy,” my son said by the end of the first inning, “but this place is way cooler than Dodger Stadium.”
I think the kid only said that because of the Disneyland-esque waterfall in the outfield and the fireworks that launched out of the rocks out there. Little boys like that stuff.
“Hey,” I said, “this place would be way cooler if it had a haunted mansion ride in the team store, but that has nothing to do with baseball.”
On my way to get a hot dog, I actually checked to see if the stores did have any rides. And by the way, those “Angel Dogs” can’t compete with the non-grilled Dodger Dogs, let alone the grilled Dodger Dogs.
By the start of the fifth inning, my wife had caught Angel fever, and she’s a Dodgers fan. My father-in-law, who grew up a Dodgers fan but who goes to Angels games because he now lives in Orange County, caved and bought an Angels ball cap. Even my sister-in-law, who’s one of the biggest Dodgers fans I know, took off her sweatshirt to reveal a bright red t-shirt underneath.
“Everyone wears red here,” she said. “Don’t worry, it’s not an Angels shirt.”
I suppose she has a right to wear an Angels shirt if she wanted to. The Dodgers franchise has left so many fans disenchanted. Bad trades (I’m still not over the Mike Piazza deal), bad ownership, bad fan behavior, falling attendance, and now this bankruptcy nonsense adds up to more than just bad times. Why can’t it just be like it once was? Thinking about it, maybe it never “was.” Maybe it’s all nostalgia -- better with time.
As I watched everyone enjoying the game, I realized I wasn’t having a good time. How ridiculous, I thought. I’m at a baseball game not having fun. Why should it matter that the Angels have a better park, with better parking and a great front plaza, with clean facilities and happy—not rowdy—fans? I should be happy that I don’t have to chain my son to my body to make sure he stays safe?
So I enjoyed the rest of the game. And we left at the very end of the game instead of after the 7th inning and still pulled out of the parking lot with ease. We got right onto the freeway (big difference). The next day, I proudly admitted to everyone I came across that my trip to Angel Stadium was a great treat.
Summer is now here. It’s the Fourth of July on Monday -- the Dodgers play the New York Mets in L.A. and the Angels play the Detroit Tigers in Anaheim. My wife asked which game I wanted to attend.
“I’ve never been a cheater,” I said. “But I’m having second thoughts.” My wife’s jaw dropped. “Second thoughts only for a second, though. Dodger Stadium it is!”