Since the unprovoked beating of an unfortunate San Francisco Giants fan by two Los Angeles Dodgers supporters on opening day three weeks ago, the future of the Dodgers has begun to look considerably bleaker. With the team already crippled by the ongoing ugly divorce of owners Frank and Jamie McCourt–which has all but paralyzed the club’s finances–and sitting near the bottom of the National League West, the incident has raised further questions about the stability of the organization and has placed them under an even more scrutinous national microscope. Despite a sellout crowd on opening day, Dodger Stadium has averaged just over 39,000 fans this season, an 11% decrease from last year’s averages and a full 17,000 fewer than capacity.
On the eve of last Sunday’s school-sponsored All-You-Can-Eat game, one of the most popular CCLA trips in recent years, it appeared that even Pomona students had begun to turn their backs on the Dodgers. While in years past students camped outside the ASPC office and tickets disappeared before the sun came up, this year there were still several unclaimed tickets as the bus left Claremont. From a fiscal perspective, the poor attendance makes no sense, as the heavily subsidized $12 trip would cost well over $50 otherwise. And with the 2011 season still in its formative stages, the Dodgers’ mediocre record is hardly a valid excuse. Perhaps, then, the negative publicity has been more pervasive than anticipated across the 5Cs, with the famous slogan “Think Blue” evoking more images of the comatose victim’s bruises than of the classic Dodger baseball caps.
Nevertheless, a small contingent of students decided to risk the possibility of fanatical violence and entered Chavez Ravine fully intent on getting their snack on. Pomona Senior Lee Odell commented on the outrageous amount of security in the parking lot (the scene of the crime), likening the atmosphere to an airport post 9/11. Equally outrageous was the attendance inside the stadium, says Odell, who recalls the entire upper deck nearly empty and even the All-You-Can-Eat section being sparsely populated.
Fellow senior and baseball enthusiast Chris McGuire corroborated his classmate’s account, also remarking on the increased security and, in particular, the aisle-roaming cops in the bleachers. Often the site of food fights and general drunken tomfoolery, the bleachers were peaceful and incident-free on Sunday afternoon (though there may have been a full serving of nachos covertly chucked at an obnoxious St. Louis Cardinals fan, says Odell). Despite the heightened security and apparent change in bleacher culture, the two Pomona seniors had no complaints about the stadium ambience and were happy that the organization was taking the necessary steps to prevent any more incidents. Before long, they recall, the influx of police officers had taken a clear backseat to the game’s other distractions, like an abysmal rendition of the national anthem, the taste of that fifth Dodger Dog, and an awkwardly long close-up of Nancy the organist on the jumbotron. Amidst the turmoil in Dodger Nation, for a handful of fans, all was right in the baseball world.
It may seem inconceivable that one of the most storied franchises in all of Major League Baseball would have to rehabilitate its once-pristine public image, but for the soap opera known as the Los Angeles Dodgers (whose most recent episode saw MLB commissioner Bud Selig seize control of the club’s day-to-day operations), there may be a long road of rehabilitation ahead. For the sake of the organization and the league, let’s hope that the loss of one fan’s temper and of the McCourts' passion (for the team and each other) do not result in the loss of this season for the Dodgers.