Tag Archives: los angeles dodgers

November, you were the worst sports month of my life

Prologue: A story in two photos.

January 3, 2002

One of these guys grew up to be a brain surgeon. The other thought dying his hair red was brilliant idea.

For 15 years, this photo of my brother and myself represented the happiest moment of my life as a sports fan.

Thanks to a ridiculous string of miracles and some computer magic, a Husker season that had been torpedoed by the Colorado Buffalos was salvaged from the depths of despair as the Big Red was chosen to head west and face off against the Miami Hurricanes for the BCS National Championship.

After a couple days showing my brother and his buddies who road tripped out from Lincoln all the best that my still newish city of Los Angeles had to offer (we feasted like kings at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles and got to see a dancer at Jumbo’s Clown Room beat the ever loving crap out of a disrespectful patron who dared to tip her by snapping a quarter at her head) it was time for the main event.

And there we were. In the second row, straddling the 50 on the Huskers’ side of the field. My  brother scored our tickets through his roommate who was a student trainer on the team. While we had hopes, we really didn’t believe our randomly assigned face value tickets were going to be the best seats in the house until we found ourselves sitting eye ball to eye ball with the prominently displayed Sears Trophy that would soon belong to the Huskers.

And then they had to play the damn game.

November 1, 2017

12 years after I tried talking her into stealing a tub of spicy mustard at our first game together we were at game 7 of the World Series. 

Cut to 15 years later. Somehow I’ve managed to become a semi-respectable adult who married a diehard Dodger fan. Since we first started dating in 2005, we’ve been to nearly 200 games together. The previous four seasons were spent in our seats in Section 2 watching Dodger playoff runs come to disappointing finishes.

But this season was different.

The Boys in Blue slugged it out to the end of the line and Dodger fans were treated to November baseball for the first time ever in the form of game 7 of the World Series.

The night before, we spent our Halloween at the ballpark watching the Dodgers deliver a game that was all trick and no treat to level the World Series at three games a piece. Contrary to the reputation of the average Dodger fan, Section 2 remained full an hour after the final pitch. There were hugs, high fives, and group photos. When you spend so many seasons sitting next to the same people, they become your summer family.

That energy carried over the next day to game 7. Imagine if the Huskers ever get the chance to play for a Natty in Lincoln and you have an idea what the scene was like in Dodger Stadium. Every playoff game up until this moment was just a warmup for what was going to be the grand finale to a dream season. The stadium and city were ready to celebrate.

And then they had to play the damn game.

November 4 – Northwestern

I snap out of my Dodger induced depression long enough to entertain some friends and a neighbor who’s a Northwestern alum, which causes my wife to break out the fancy snacks and put me on my best behavior. Up until that crushing game 7 loss, I’ve never experienced a Dodger defeat that felt anywhere close the pain of a Husker loss (back when losing was a rarity, of course). The fact that game 7 mirrored the Huskers’ loss in the Rose Bowl only added to the misery. Being down 5-0 in the second inning brought back a lot of memories of seeing the Huskers down 34-0 at halftime. Being there to see your favorite teams play for a championship is truly a special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but seeing them get shellacked will leave some very deep and painful memories.

In this game, Northwestern added to the pain by gashing the Blackshirts with a few option runs straight out of TO’s playbook. Still, the Huskers were in control until they weren’t. The shit really hit the fan in overtime as Wildcats started with the ball and proceeded to run it down Nebraska’s throat. 7 rushes. 25 yards. One game winning touchdown. And one stunned neighbor after I had to step outside and scream for a moment.

November 11 – Minnesota

Breakfast of Champions for the worst Husker game of my life.

There’s no way to sugarcoat this one. This was the worst Husker game that has ever been played in my lifetime. Sure, you can argue that Texas Tech or Kansas were worse but having a bad (by Minnesota’s own low standards) Gopher team hang half a hundred on the Huskers takes the cake. Or in this case it had me taking down enough donuts to fill a freshly dug grave that will be the final resting place of this dreadful season. Out of all 19 losses in Mike Riley’s three years at the helm, this one hurt the worst because the team flat out quit against a mediocre opponent. By the final whistle, I was laying on the floor in a semi-conscious sugar coma wondering what Husker Nation did to deserve this misery.

November 18 – Penn State 

This place used to be full of happy Husker fans.

To try and break out of the funk and get things back to the good ol’ days, some friends and I make a plan to meet up at the bar that has been Hollywood’s Husker headquarters since 2010. Including ourselves, the number of Husker fans in attendance peaked at 7 and our table was the only one that stuck around until the bitter end. That glimmer of hope in the first quarter was a welcome sight but this game was so ugly that even Ohio State’s meanest fan offered her sincere condolences.

November 24 – Iowa 

Seven fans the week before is no reason to open a bar early on Black Friday so the three of us who are suddenly without a place to take our lumps in public head over to Barney’s Beanery where we are outnumbered by a table of real-life Central Florida fans who, by the basis of arriving before us, got to control the sound on the TVs so we got to enjoy watching the Huskers get taken to the woodshed in silence.

But that’s OK because by the time you read this, we’ll have taken their coach.

Bring on a frosty December.

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Two Husker Fans Walk Into Dodger Stadium…

Like a lot of things these days, what turned out to be an awesome real-life moment started out on Twitter.

With the Philadelphia Phillies in town to play Los Doyers,  I half jokingly suggested to my friend Leslie, aka Big Red Fury’s newest contributor, that we should go to the game in Husker gear to show some Big Red love for former Husker and current Phillie Cody Asche.

She was down so the hard part became deciding which Husker shirt to wear. In the meantime, I tweeted to Cody to let him know that Husker Nation would be at the game.

Oh snap. Since he knew we’d be there, that meant it was time to break out the big gun, the mighty foam finger.

FOAM FINGERFoam finger. (File photo.)

If you’ve never done so, I can’t recommend going to a sporting event decked out in the gear belonging to a team that is A) not even playing and B) the completely wrong sport. The odd looks from security are totally worth it.

We slid into the fancy seats near the Phillies’ dugout for their half of BP and waited for Cody to take his turn in the cage.

Cody Asche - Batting CageWhy yes, Cody, Husker fans are stalking you.

When he took his final cut in the cage, I couldn’t help but let a Go Big Red rip. It was my first one of 2016 and felt good. Darn good.

Cody then walked over to some fans who were on the field for BP and it looked like he was signing a ball for one of them. But it turned out he was borrowing a pen.

Cody Borrowing PenA fan flips Cody his pen. 

The next thing you know a ball was coming our way. There’s nothing that instantly brings back every haunting memory of missed Little League pop ups like a big leaguer tossing you a ball.

Luckily, I didn’t muff his perfect throw and here’s what I found when I un-cradled my mitts.

Cody Asche Go Big Red Ball
So awesome. 

As our friend Marc snapped a souvenir photo for us, he remarked that Husker Nation is on a completely different level than any other team. He’s a die hard Dodger and USC fan and was just boggled by how much deeper Husker fandom goes.

You’re damn right.

With the ballThanks for the ball, Cody! 

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An Annual Reminder That Nothing Hurts Like A Husker Loss

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.

Dodgers 2015 World Series Ticket
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.

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