For this Dodgers fan, a late-blooming glove affair
He was a San Diegan who grew up rooting against the Boys in Blue. But then the city, and the team, began to grow on him.
At his third Dodgers game, a reporter noticed something he hadn't before: the picturesque setting. (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times / August 30, 2013)
October 11, 20136:48 p.m.
My first Dodgers game was uncomfortable.
My college-newspaper colleagues and I were packed so tightly into our bleacher seats that a woman I had just met was basically sitting in my lap.
My second Dodgers game was infuriating.
A few of my buddies from the Bay Area had worn Giants gear. Inning after inning, they traded good-natured insults with Dodgers fans. But when the game was over — a Dodgers victory — one hometown fan plucked the cap off my friend's head and sent it sailing over the railing. I had to hold folks back to avoid a fistfight.
That night cemented my distaste for the Dodgers.
So six years later I'm left contemplating just how it came to be that when Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struck out the final Atlanta batter on Monday, a win that sent his team into theNational League Championship Series, I sprang off my couch, clenched my fist and let out a whoop in the middle of my living room.
Was I a bandwagoner? I don't think the explanation is that simple.
I was a kid from suburban San Diego, and my idea of baseball involved sushi, craft beer and a scenic view of downtown from the cushioned seats inside Petco Park. The Padres have been so bad for so long, watching the game on the field wasn't the main attraction.
Back then, about the only reason I had to jump up out of my seat was to boo the Dodgers, the only team Padres fans hated enough to heckle hard.
The wealthy Boys in Blue, you see, had signed Padres ace Kevin Brown right after he'd helped lead San Diego to the 1998 World Series, to a then-record $105-million contract. Dodgers fans, the narrative went, were also bullies. So Padres fans had no trouble summoning up an old chant — and shouting it with feeling:
"Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!"
Even after enrolling at UCLA and moving north, I didn't understand the Dodgers' draw. The stadium was decrepit, the famed Dodger Dogs were droopy and the traffic heading to Chavez Ravine was a disaster.
More troubling, I wasn't sure I could ever come to love Los Angeles.
Until I scored a campus parking space my junior year, my knowledge of the city was limited to places the Big Blue Bus could take me. But having a car in Los Angeles presented its own problems.
The parking tickets piled up and the road rage boiled over. I easily could go to Koreatown for barbecue, but was the restaurant really worth a two-hour wait? A concert at Staples Center sounded awesome, but driving there meant having to leave at 5 p.m. for a 7:30 show.
After graduating and landing a job reporting on this city, I pledged to do my best to get to know it — to give it a chance.
Moving out of Westwood was the first step. Then came checking items off the bucket list, one weekend at a time: Visit the Getty, get Sprinkles cupcakes on the way back from work, spend a Saturday on the Venice Boardwalk.
Slowly the attractions I now see as touristy gave way to the experiences I treasure most. Dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley, taking the train to the Watts Towers in South L.A. and spending an hour in Skylight Books after a hike in Griffith Park.
I have seen a giant rock — and then a space shuttle — crawl though Los Angeles and amp up its residents' civic pride. I have run the city streets during CicLAvia and taken in eight miles of Venice Boulevard, one step at a time. I voted in the mayoral election.
My apartment mates like to say we've dug down into the city's second layer. I like to think we're finally seeing and understanding the less-polished pieces of this town. They're the parts that give this place its character, and the parts I've come to appreciate most.
Consequently, I find myself defending Los Angeles to friends who pass through and leave only with nightmares about the 405.
On a recent trip to New York, someone asked me where I was from. To my surprise, I said: "L.A."
My third Dodgers game came on a cool, crisp summer night in 2012.
We sat high in the stands — with a picturesque view of the city that I somehow had neglected to notice before. The sunset was stunning. The palm trees swayed in the breeze.
When the Dodgers televised the Kings hoisting the cup on the stadium's giant screen, the old ballpark erupted.
I sat there and soaked it all in.
In that moment, it was impossible not to feel like a Kings fan, a Dodgers fan and a proud resident of a championship city.
So I'm either a bandwagoner or a resident who's finally comfortable as an Angeleno.
If I decide to be an idiot, then I'll be an idiot on my own accord..
-- Johan Sebastian Bach