If I were to say the Dodgers are my life, I wouldn’t mean to say that the Dodgers are my only reason for existence.
If I were to say that the Dodgers are my life, I would mean that the Dodgers are so much like my life that it’s frightening.
I look at my life and I look at the Dodgers, and I see so much to celebrate. I see an existence much more positive than not. I see rewards that were earned and good fortune that sometimes might not be deserved. We catch a break now and then, the Dodgers and me.
But I see also frustration. Unrewarded effort. Misplaced effort. And sometimes, downright incompetence. I see a whole that might be less than than the sum of its parts, because the guy in charge doesn’t quite have his act together.
Frank and Jamie McCourt are the target of a lot of Dodger fans’ hate right now. The McCourts now, before them Fox, alongside them the Giants or the Yankees or Barry Bonds or Reggie Jackson in 1977 or Juan Marichal in 1965. Of course, hating the enemy is one thing; it’s worse when you hate your own. People find latent joy in hating their rivals, but it’s just painful to hate the ones that hold the keys to your castle.
But I don’t hate the McCourts. Hate is a word that I have almost no use for, except that hate is a word that regularly comes up inside my head. Because there is no one in this world I hate more than myself.
I don’t hate myself all the time. I don’t hate myself most of the time. But I hate myself some of the time, because I have goals for myself, for the way I want to be as a human being, for what I want to achieve and for the quality of life I want to bring myself and my family. Sometimes when I don’t achieve those goals, I understand, or I forgive. Other times, I just hate myself for it. I’ll hate myself for it.
For so long, I thought achievement, along with a certain kind of composure or even emotional grace, was my birthright, the way World Series titles once seemed to be for the Dodgers. But on the field, I’m so much less than I intended to be.
I was born to privilege that was hard-earned by my father, who had to save for weeks to buy a 25-cent yo-yo when he was a child and never took a dime from my grandfather in adulthood. I was educated at the finest schools, yet find myself in my 40s writing about inconsequential events in a profession that may well spit me out in 10 years, give or take, without any cushion whatsoever, if what’s happened to some friends in the business is any sort of evidence at all.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were born to privilege that was hard-earned from their parents in Brooklyn. And they had a cushy childhood in this city, abundant with success. But now they find themselves in middle-age, not without their virtues, but all too often caught in moments in which they seem turned around, spread too thin, where they can’t rise to the most critical challenges or sometimes execute the simplest tasks.
Sustained greatness for us is chronically, almost pathologically elusive. We are only intermittently transcendent and never when it counts, never supreme. Some of that is bad luck, and some of that is the result of a brain or soul or body that is just inadequate.
I don’t hate the McCourts. Oh, I’ve been angry at them, but I’ve never hated them. I don’t think I can because without even thinking about it, I see in them what I see in myself – a mix of good intentions and egotistical selfishness, competence and incompetence, ostensible foresight undermined by confusion. Why should they be any better than me? If I owned the Dodgers, I’d get some things right that they get wrong, but I’d surely screw up something else.
If there’s anything I hate outside of myself, it’s stupidity and hypocrisy and injustice. I do hate the occasional hypocrisy and stupidity that I think the McCourts have shown over the past five years, from the moment they took ownership of the team and, to my mind at least, proclaimed themselves to be something more saintly than they actually were. But hate the people themselves? I have to get over my own issues and failings, first – otherwise I think maybe I’d be a hypocrite, too. And I don’t want to be a hypocrite – or more of a hypocrite than I already am.
I do so crave to be better, and of course, I crave for the Dodgers to be better. Is this really the best we can be? Good but not great? Slowly sliding backward no matter how much we want to climb forward?
The world is a strange place, such a strange place. It would be pedantic or condescending or even hypocritical for me to point out the level of angst wasted by our culture on Tiger Woods relative to the angst spent on problems of real significance, especially when I’m closer to being part of the problem than the solution. I’d be better off keeping it in my own element.
Today, I saw a film that will get wide consideration early next year to be honored as the best piece of filmed art of 2009, yet it didn’t hold a candle to the small, almost completely ignored TV show that I came home to see afterward. “Friday Night Lights” has persevered against all odds, producing dozens of hours of greatness while the big guns of the entertainment world pat themselves on the back for doing a decent job for 120 minutes – and yet continues to find ways to be even greater. My god, you should have seen this show tonight. “Friday Night Lights” made me cry. It is who I want to be. And I might never get there – probably won’t ever get there.
I want to make someone cry – know what I mean? Instead, I’ll continue to write dispensable stories about the entertainment industry or blog posts about the Dodgers, here today, gone tomorrow. How can you not hate yourself just a little for that? How can you direct anger elsewhere when you bear that kind of dissatisfaction?
And of course, there is the one all-encompassing difference between my life and the Dodgers, the one difference I’d like to ignore. There’s the grand prize that can be lost. The Dodgers haven’t won the World Series since 1988, but no one can take 1988 away from them. I have a grand prize, but a cruel world can and will decide to hack away at it at any moment. It has happened to some of you, and honestly I don’t know how you bear it. I don’t know how I will ever bear it.
This is my life. I’m happy until I get angry. I get angry often and profoundly, but the anger goes away. It goes away on its own, and it goes away quickly. It must do so because it has to. If I keep it, I’m done for. Amid the stupidity, hypocrisy and injustice – amid the impending agony – I have to keep pressing forward as if I’ll keep my peace in this world.
The Dodgers are my life.