Sunday, April 24, 2011

Restoring America's Pastime in Los Angeles

This was a bad week for baseball in L.A. For starters, the uber-wealthy funsters who run Major League Baseball decided that Dodgers' owner Frank McCourt was so inept at running his own team that they had to step in and relieve him of day-to-day duties. I don't want to say that the Dodger organization has a recent reputation for things going sour, but in a 60 Minutes profile of philanthropist Eli Broad that aired tonight, a driver pulled over and suggested that Broad take over the team. Broad declined. Nobody's that philanthropic.

It hasn't helped matters that McCourt and his ex-wife have been fighting over the team the way angry exes would fight over the kids in a custody battle. Honestly, the team has been so mediocre most of the last 20 years, if I were Jamie McCourt, I would have taken the money instead.

Then in the parking lot on opening day, two guys beat up a fan so badly that he's still in a coma. This is the kind of violence we'd gotten used to when the Raiders were here. Hell, their fans didn't even wait to get out to the parking lot. They started during halftime in the stands. But I don't remember news items of Raider patrons ending up in comas. Regardless of McCourt's degree of blame, it was under his stewardship that family-friendly Dodger Stadium became a sketchy place to visit, which kids of my generation never thought possible. McCourt responded to this tragic news by announcing increased police patrols at the stadium, which is just the kind of thing that makes some of us feel less safe.

On top of which, he recently had to borrow $30 million from Fox News to stop harassing phone calls from his own team's accounts payable department. It is a terrible thing for anyone to go to Fox News for help with anything. The only reasons you do business with Fox News is if you're a Republican trying to run for President or if you're trying to bullshit people into believing that your incredibly unpopular agenda is actually going to help people. But to borrow money from Fox just to meet payroll is, in a word, pathetic.

Plus, why would you have such a gigantic payroll for such a lukewarm team? Other franchises have been just as lousy over recent years on much lower payrolls. And nobody should have problems paying their bills when they charge $15 for parking.

For all that spectacular day-to-day operating, you will be shocked to learn that attendance is down. It is down thanks to people like me. In the last 10 years or so, I've been to about three games. Part of it is because I'm a jaded adult and I don't care about the Dodgers any more than I care about the storylines on soap operas. But McCourt made my decision easier when he jacked up the price of beer to $8.

Why, there are other baseball teams that sell beer for much less money. Like Burroughs High School in Burbank. You can even get it for free if you're a player.

As if our glorious reputation as a baseball town isn't smeared enough, the Burroughs baseball team just mathematically eliminated itself from playoff contention, a .500 season, and next-to-last place. During a recent tournament in Arizona, an assistant coach gave beer to some of the kids. When school officials found out, they canned the whole coaching staff and canceled the rest of the season.

I think the lords of the baseball realm have it backwards on this one. Punish the adults who gave alcohol to minors, but don't punish the players by taking away their entire season -- especially since some of them did nothing wrong.

Now, as for a team that should have their season canceled, that would be the Dodgers. This will:

• Take day-to-day operations out of the hands of Frank McCourt, seeing as how there would be nothing to operate
• Minimize fights in the parking lot
• Reduce the citywide crime of selling beer for $8 (except at trendy bars)
• Free up the police to fight crime elsewhere

It would punish the players, but...

• They're not going to win the World Series again this year, so big whoop
• Attendance is down. Who'd notice?
• Burroughs High School could use a few coaches who aren't enablers. How cool would it be for those kids to have Andre Ethier and Jonathan Broxton coaching their team?


Dave Meyer said...


Here is a quick guide to help you bring the fun back to your sports viewing.

1) Watch games played by kids up until they hit about 9th grade. After this, the coaches get "state title" fever and start to ruin it.

2) Watch as much minor league baseball as you can. You have not enjoyed a baseball game as much as when you can a get a $2 shave at the end of third inning in the visitors bullpen (the minor leagues are full of great promotions like this and the beer is cheap.)

Good luck.

LA Nuts book said...

I keep threatening to drive out to Lancaster to watch a minor league game. But if you'd ever lived in L.A., you'd know why the thought of driving to Lancaster deflates most of us.

I DID see a summer league game in San Luis Obispo a few years ago. It was great. Whenever the home team scored, beer was $1 for the rest of the inning. And before one inning, the kids threw their shoes into buckets, which were then emptied out behind second base. The object was for the kids to run from the first base foul line, find their shoes, put them on, and race to the third base foul line. Winner got a snow cone or something.

Walking to the parking lot afterwards, I ended up in a chat with an umpire who was gracious enough to thank me for coming all the way up from L.A. to see a game in their little town. An umpire!

All in all, more enjoyable than overpaying to see overpaid athletes from a mile away.