I am, these days, an agnostic when it comes to supporting a particular baseball franchise. It is impossible commit to just one club, because fandom, overall, gets in the way. It gets in the way of expectation and truth and true fulfillment.
Admitting my polyamory when it comes to baseball might sound like a gross rationalization… or be a sign that I’ve given up, at least temporarily, on the team I grew up rooting for, which also happens to be my father’s team and his father’s team before that. I wouldn’t necessarily counter that argument with the one I’m about to give—that we live in a post-fandom, post-religious, post-racial, post-partisan world, because clearly, we do not.
I do believe baseball’s unparalleled reach has tamped down my fervor for one team. I choose, instead, a level of excellent play I’ve never experienced in my lifetime from coast to coast. I, at one point or another this season, watched a game featuring each one of the MLB’s 30 teams and made a point to do so listening to the home team’s broadcast—so I could listen to the team being interpreted in their native tongue.
This option we have, to be everywhere (and nowhere) at once, along with key discoveries in science, medicine and the flawed and emerging way we now communicate, has informed not only how we live and operate, but has turned us into a shrunk-up tiny ecosystem. It’s a scary thing to believe that all this information has ultimately served to let us know one thing: How much smaller and insignificant we really are as compared to the width and breadth of the imaginations that led us here, but that’s really what it’s all about.
My grandfather and father didn’t have much of a choice when it came to their own fandom. They lived 45 minutes from the stadium. They got the games on the radio. They lived and died with the franchise that represented them, their neighbors; it was my grandfather’s, the dentist, way of making small talk when he dug into—often without the use of painkillers—a patient’s back molars; it was my father’s, the attorney, way of making chit-chat with a judge before piling on with the request for an extension.
Allegiance and loyalty are hallmarks of a bygone era. Look at our political landscape where it is more and more clear every day that our president colluded with a foreign adversary to win an election, and instead of halting all government business and moving toward his removal, lawmakers—both sides—condemn and hand-wring and shrug on TV and go about their business. No wonder everyone’s pissed off.
What people expect me to say as a result of three generations of inculcation is I hate my known nemesis, the Dodgers. But how can I? Their in-stadium experience is no simple mimeographed turn-of-the-21st-century wi-fi friendly cookie-cutter band box. It’s midcentury angles, calming breezeways and swaying palms, actual organ music between innings and an eponymous hot dog that is the best in a ballpark or barbecue I’ve ever tasted.
The most expensive team in the land took part in the greatest Game 5 of any World Series ever. In 5 hours and 17 minutes, they blew a four-run lead with the best pitcher in baseball on the mound. They blew a three-run lead with the best late-innings bullpen in the offing. They blew a one-run lead with the best closer about to take the hill. They came back from three down—as surrendered by that closer—and finally, finally… finally—exhausted all options including escaping Houston with a win—a 13-12, 10-inning triumph of narrative over imagination at Houston’s Minute Maid Park became the greatest playoff performance I’ve ever witnessed.
It was also all the baseball I would ever need. Sadness washed over me. I felt suddenly as if I’d been fast-forwarded to age 97 in the home. Nobody comes to visit anymore and my eyesight’s gone. It was all anyone should ever want. I can’t handle any more. Nothing more to see or do.
I wished the champagne was uncorked and the season’s champion was declared right there. Roll down the bunting and cue up the goggles. Everything to come will seem like denouement, like the last few Rocky sequels.
But life goes on with or without me as willing spectator. There is no pause button. It’s back to LA for a Halloween game six, Rich Hill vs. Justin Verlander and his shot at immortality. But is it? Perhaps the Dodgers can erase the immediate past by taking the next two games, and oh how history would remember them if they do, until next year anyway.
But for me, I know what I saw Sunday. It was vast and singular, and hostile and undeniable. Nothing will improve upon it, ever. And it wasn’t because I was particularly rooting for one team over another, it was because of what I saw. “I’m sure everybody’s pretty exhausted after that one, emotionally and physically,” said Clayton Kershaw, the starting pitcher for the losing side. “But you know what? We still have a chance at this thing.”
Scary, the built-in desire to keep going.
The last time Andrew J. Pridgen was at Dodger Stadium for Halloween was in 1999 when he attended a KISS concert dressed as David Lee Roth.