Baseball fans, I’ve been tasked with writing about the Los Angeles Dodgers going back to the World Series after a nearly three-decade absence and What It All Means to lifelong fans such as myself, so I’m going to give it my best shot.
I’m not going to lie. It’s difficult to be objective here. My history with this team has been well-documented. After they clinched the NL pennant in Chicago last week, I received Facebook messages from people I haven’t spoken to since high school. I heard from more friends via text than I do on my birthday. Even my Nana, who refers to iPhones as alien misery machines (she’s right!), snail-mailed me the newspaper clipping that says the Dodgers are headed to the World Series for the first time in 29 years, just in case I missed it. People are excited for the team and, most important, they’re excited for me!
But, oh boy, are these Dodgers awkward as hell. This is not a situation like the 2004 Red Sox or the 2016 Cubs. America has not been waiting for This Moment, Brought To You By Camping World. I will not take Nana’s newspaper to my grandfather’s grave if they win it all, because the man had season tickets during the ’50s and ’60s when the Dodgers won three times in seven seasons. (He was also the dude who would scour my report card for the one A– and ask where it all went wrong.) I tell you this because his spirit would probably (correctly!) side-eye me from the grave for allowing my mental and emotional health to be held hostage by a stupid baseball team that has made the National League Championship Series five times in the last decade, only to advance to the World Series just this once!
The Dodgers make the playoffs almost every year, so nobody feels sorry for them. But they fall apart when it matters most and serve their long-suffering fanbase Dodger Dogs laced with tiny shards of glass every October. Blessed with baseball’s highest payroll and the best pitcher on the planet, they are world champions at underachieving. They are baseball’s Atlanta Falcons, except that playoff baseball is like watching your favorite Olympic gymnast spin and flip and shimmy along a balance beam for four hours straight while you wear the same dumb T-shirt you wore the last time she did not fall flat on her face, as if your ratty clothing choice had any impact whatsoever on the outcome.
Anyway, Houston, here I come! Yes!
Wait, no! The Astros are really good … and they’ve never won a championship … and their second baseman is my height but also the second coming of Joe Morgan … and literally everyone in the country will be rooting for them despite the fact that the Dodgers haven’t won the World Series since Def Leppard and Rick Astley dominated the Billboard charts. I don’t even get to claim that they’ve never won in my lifetime, because they totally did. But if a championship falls in a forest and you are too young to remember it, did it really happen? The season Kirk Gibson hit that dinger and fist-pumped around the bases, I was vaguely aware of what was happening. I also still had all my baby teeth, and used them to eat roly polys. (It was a texture thing!)
Ugh, why couldn’t the Yankees score at all off Charlie Morton or Lance McCullers on Saturday night to win the pennant and turn the Dodgers into America’s Team? Siri, why does God allow suffering?
Los Angeles is a Lakers town, full stop. But the Angelenos who do love Dodgers are among the most loyal fans you will find anywhere. These are fans who have turned out every night to help the Dodgers lead all of baseball in attendance for most of the last decade, despite that fact that a greedy, vengeful little man from Boston came to town, bankrupted the organization six years ago, and screwed up the brand so badly that Major League Baseball took the extraordinary step of yanking the team away from him. (To get a sense of how bleak the McCourt ownership days got, consider that the Wilpons are still allowed to run the Mets, no questions asked.)
But nobody outside of Los Angeles will root for the Dodgers. And it’s not just because the Astros are super cuddly newbies. It’s because LA stays winning, especially in sports. The Kings have won two Stanley Cups in the last five years despite the fact that it never, ever snows here. The Lakers have won sixteen (16) titles. We just stole two NFL teams. Avocados literally grow on trees here! It really makes you think.
Los Angeles is having a moment right now. It’s as if everyone in New York looked at each other in the Trader Joe’s Union Square line that snakes around the entire store, all the time, and said, F*ck this, I am no longer willing to wait 40 minutes to purchase picked-over snacks and $7 cartons of raspberries with no flavor. I’m moving to LA!
So now we’re all here. Funsies! And the demand for World Series tickets reflects it. Over the weekend, the cheapest ticket to Game 1 on Tuesday was a cool $900, even though the gameday forecast calls for a very uncool 102 degrees.
Clayton Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and Southern California’s Southpaw Jesus, will open the series against Dallas Keuchel, who won his Cy Young two years ago (and who I assume hides Super Mario mushrooms in his awful beard). It should be the most exciting evening at Dodger Stadium since Gibson’s home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, but I wasn’t there for that. I was at Nana’s house, and my only recollection is of the adults in the room screaming at the television.
When you think about it, isn’t that what sports is? Adults screaming at televisions? To put it another way: Why do we put ourselves through this? Fans of 29 teams go home heartbroken or mad (or both) at the conclusion of every season, while one team’s “lucky” supporters must endure a month-long bout of nausea, followed by tears, binge drinking, and an excruciating adrenaline headache, while muttering a constant refrain in both public and private settings: W h y d o w e d o t h i s t o o u r s e l v e s ?
I can only speak for myself. I would like to witness Clayton Kershaw pants his haters by winning his first World Series game on Tuesday in Los Angeles and his second on Sunday in Houston. I would like to watch young Corey Seager, with his mangled back, emerge from the tunnel to pinch hit in the ninth of a tie game and turn Gibson into a secondary memory. I would like to feel the stadium concrete shake underneath my feet and watch my friends and neighbors scream and hug strangers of all colors and creeds and forget (for a fleeting moment) about the Orange Nightmare in the oval office that this city and state did not vote for. I would like to see my sister cry again when Justin Turner hits another walk-off; she loves him for never giving up on himself after getting cut by half the league.
I want them to play perfect baseball; I want them to win ugly. I want Cody Bellinger to hit a baseball 500 feet; I want Chuck Culberson to triple on a bunt that hits the third base bag and gets stuck in the umpire’s pants.
I received my first set of baseball cards (a Ziploc bag of Topps ’88s) shortly after the Dodgers’ last championship. I’ve written about baseball all of my adult life. I’ve never been to a World Series game. For a long time, the opportunity didn’t present itself. And then I became stubborn about it. Why ruin the streak for a team that wasn’t even mine? I am a diehard fan of the stupidest sport. It is the worst; it is the best.
Molly Knight is a freelance journalist and author. Her 2015 book The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse was a New York Times bestseller and longlisted for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing.