I spent last night at Dodger Stadium with 54,000 of my closest friends trying to will the Boys in Blue to a series clinching win over the New York Mets.
It was the second time I’ve been in the crowd to see Dodgers bounced from the playoffs. And if you’re keeping score at home, this is the third consecutive year they’ve made an early exit.
No matter how inevitable, seeing your team eliminated is never an easy transition. There just isn’t the neatly scheduled conclusion of a college football season. So much can hang in the balance of a single game.
Had the Dodgers won, my brother, whose lifelong Cubs fandom was galvanized after seven years of living in Chicago, celebrated their series victory by inviting himself out for games 6 and 7 if the NLCS went that far. As someone who made a clean break from being a Cub/Dodger fan a few years ago, that would have been a fun weekend of bringing our sibling rivalry to new heights.
And then there were the assorted Kansas City fans already lobbying for me to take them to a World Series game if the stars aligned for both teams. Those were going to be awkward conversations I was not looking forward to having. Two tickets can only cover so many butts.
With first pitch at 5pm, absurdly early for a weekday in LA, there wasn’t any time for the pomp and circumstance of the series’ first two games. I met a buddy at our seats with minutes spare. Somehow the stadium was filled and rocking when Zack Greinke took the mound.
The Mets dealt the first blow with a run in the first. The Dodgers immediately countered two of their own and threatened to pile it on in the following innings but they just couldn’t knock anyone home. It was the baseball equivalent of stalling out in the red zone, a problem that has plagued the Huskers all year long.
Then in the top of the fourth, the Dodgers had a mind blowing lapse in concentration that put any of this year’s Husker head-scratchers to shame as Daniel Murphy went from first to third on a walk when he realized none of the shifted Dodgers moved to cover the unattended hot corner. He promptly scored the tying run and would belt the game winning homer two innings later.
A bit of gallows humor for the ticket box. Maybe as things shuffle around it will find itself next to a fading stub from the 2002 Rose Bowl.
As the game wore on and the Dodgers’ chances dwindled, supportive texts started rolling in as if it were the final minutes of a Husker game. Once the Mets recorded the final out, those texts became condolences.
I replied back to concerned friends and family with the same message.
Thanks. It sucks but it isn’t as bad as a Husker loss.
And that’s the truth. A person can be a fan of many teams but there can only room for one at the top of your pedestal of fandom. Seeing your teams lose hurts but one always hurts more than the others and that is the team that has become part of your DNA.
Leaving the stadium last night, I saw scores of fans whose genetic code is written in Dodger Blue. There were grown men who looked like they’ve killed for sport at some point in their lives trying their hardest to hide their tears from their children.
There was a pit at the bottom of my stomach but it wasn’t the kind of despair that needed to be filled by a danger dog on the way home. Life will go on.
The Dodgers’ 73rd loss of the season was by far their most painful but it still doesn’t compare to what it feels like to see the Big Red come up short in four out of six games.
It’s time to right the ship, the season, and to stop losing to Minnesota.
Let’s get that win, Huskers.