Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Confession From A Non-Boycotter

In his column yesterday, the LAT's Bill Plaschke gave thanks to his sportsman of the year: the Dodger fans who opted to stay home in 2011, leading the franchise to a precipitous fall-off in attendance, but sticking it to owner Frank McCourt both publicly / visibly as well as financially:

The most sweeping statement in the history of Los Angeles sports started with a smallest of words.


Maybe you said it. Maybe you were the first one. Maybe last spring somebody offered you a chance to buy Dodgers tickets, and maybe you surprised yourself by thinking about it, and maybe, finally, the idea of giving money to owner Frank McCourt made you physically ill.

Maybe then, for the first time in your long history of instinctively showing up at Chavez Ravine because of your blind love for the Dodgers, you said it.


The word became a mantra. The mantra became a mission. Your refusal became your neighbor's refusal, which grew into your community's refusal, which spread wildly through a city that eventually made one of the most unusual, difficult decisions in the history of the American sports fan.

You decided you loved the Dodgers too much to support them. [...]

You claimed you would never attend another Dodgers game as long as Frank McCourt was the owner and, unimaginably, you didn't. You claimed you would disappear until McCourt disappeared, and, unbelievably, you did.

No, to the three-game ticket package. No, to the annual birthday trip. No, to the fireworks night, the bobblehead giveaway, the one Cubs game with buddies visiting from Chicago.

Countless "no's" turned into thousands of empty seats, which morphed into a summer-long national embarrassment, which caught the attention of Major League Baseball officials, who finally stepped in and finished the job you started.

Today, the worst owner in the history of the Dodgers has agreed to sell the Dodgers, and it is not overstatement to say it never would have happened without you.

For this, Dodgers fans, you are my Los Angeles Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year.

One-word "paragraphs" aside, the content of Plaschke's piece was interesting. I had attributed a lot of the attendance decline to the Dodgers' lackluster 2011 performance, given the team was well out of the playoff hunt for the second year running, and the cracks in the dam weren't just showing, they were spewing filth all over the place.

Juan Uribe. Eugenio Velez. Long stretches of unproductivity from James Loney and Andre Ethier. Revolving doors of offensive black holes in left field and catcher. Back-end starting rotations that were dicey at best, and a relief corps that seemed to meltdown more often than shutdown.

All of this makes it hard for even the fervent Dodger fan to want to come out and support the team, especially not with $15/car parking fees, parking lot security issues, and still glacially-slow concession lines. Not even adding to the number of bobblehead promotions was going to save the 2011 season.

But I do think Plaschke has a point, that there were many people who looked at forgoing attendance at the Stadium as their own private boycott against putrid Dodger ownership. And if the 18% attendance decline resulted in a $27M in revenue, maybe half of which was due to the aggregation of personal boycotts--that's still over $10M in revenue sending a message to the man.

Those boycotts were nothing to sneeze at.

Now, on the flipside, I was not one of those 2011 Dodgers boycotters. In fact, I probably deepened my love of the Dodgers last year over the prior disaster of a season (who won the World Series again that year? Somehow, all of those events escape me). I got out to 14 Dodgers games last year, including one glorious road game (@St. Louis) in which the Dodgers came from behind in the ninth in improbable fashion. I took my kids to day and night games. I took my wife to date night at the Stadium. I finally got to cover the game from the press box last year, which was a wonderful experience--even more so because I got to watch Clayton Kershaw deal in one of his Cy Young Award-winning starts.

I had a great time with the Dodgers last year, despite all of the forces that would ordinarily drive one to depression. As bad as it got, I guess I was one of those people who still couldn't give up on the Dodgers. In fact, a couple of times, I kinda had a blast.

Shit, I even signed up for 2012 season tickets again.

So maybe I didn't earn Plaschke's commendation this year, even though I'm glad the rest of you did. Look, the difference in electricity at the Stadium in 2011 was palpable. I know we're at a nadir, probably even one that will extend into one or more seasons from here.

But turn my back on the Dodgers? I can't do it, you know? I'm addicted.


Dusty Baker said...

I completely agree with your take and your attendance last season. I made it to maybe 3 fewer games than my average, but that was about scheduling and travel and such.

On one level, I get that one of the few ways that fans have to make a statement is to boycott games, but I disagree with that approach overall. The players did nothing wrong. The old peanut guy had nothing to do with bankruptcy. The grounds crew who meticulously ensure that the white lines are exact are not to blame. Why boycott and punish those folks whose jobs are on the line as the team looks to keep costs down?

If I had thought the players were phoning it in, I might have had more pause. But they weren't The fact that we had a better second half of the season in 2011 is proof. These guys were running out every hit, chasing after every fly ball, chasing the Triple Crown, and sewing up the Cy Young right through the last day of the season. I wanted to reward their ultimately losing effort with my game time attendance.

Jason said...

I'm actually pretty happy that I'm not on Plaschke's list. I made it to my first Dodger home game in 5 years last season and caught 4 away games (two each in Cincinnati and DC, plus one drunken evening on the town with TGJr).

Watching Kemp's run at history and Kershaw's leap to true capital-A Ace was a great season.

I'll be there for all three games in Seattle next year plus at least one to-be-determined road trip. I'll be proudly wearing my brand new Kemp 27 jersey.

Well look at that, I was positive without karina smacking any knuckles with her ruler.

jmk said...

Boycotters did a great job. But people who went out of their way to see the Dodgers in away games did great work too! I am a proud boycotter. I still went to games, but far fewer then normal. I went with tickets won in a drawing, last second gift tickets, or scalped in the 2nd or 3rd inning when coming from work. I would bring my own food in, and limit myself to 1 small beer in the stadium. All this in order to keep as much of MY money away from McCourt as possible. The big benefit was that I listened to far more games than in seasons past, so I was able to relish more Vin. I guess I can thank McCourt for "forcing" me to do that!

Dusty Baker said...

Good perspective, JMK!

Aside from the limiting beer consumption part...this is the first I've ever heard of such a concept.

Hideo Nomo said...


A word as powerful as it is short.


A word with a shared meaning across many languages.


The name of a Bond villain that launched a film franchise lasting half a century.


Without it, I would be merely Hideo Mo.