Dodgers-Angels: The rivalry that isn’t

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesDee Gordon was safe on this slide, and that’s all that matters.

Never in four decades of being a Dodger fan have I taken satisfaction at any Angels’ misfortune.

Never in four decades have I rooted against the Angels in a game that didn’t include or directly affect the Dodgers.

I root for the Dodgers to win the division, the league pennant and the World Series. Last I saw, however, there is no city championship.

The Angels improved themselves Thursday. That is relevant to me as a Dodger fan only for the six games the teams will play against each other in 2012 and the X percent chance that the two teams will meet in the Series.

Who rules L.A.?  Who cares?

We’re out to win a title, not a key to the city.

In the wake of the Albert Pujols signing, some people are once again acting like Dodgers-Angels is UCLA-USC. It’s not. UCLA and USC fans live and die over their battles with each other — even when one has the better team, a victory in the rivalry game by the other means huge bragging rights.

The 2002 Angels won the World Series. Do you know who won the season series between the Dodgers and Angels that year? Would it make you feel better to learn that the Angels didn’t? I didn’t think so. All that matters is that the Dodgers didn’t win the title.

I understand that the Angels got under some Dodger fans’ skin when they added Los Angeles to their Orange County-based team’s name.  I can’t relate to the anger, because I found the whole saga amusingly trivial, but I understand that some people were tweaked. I also understand that Dodger fans can be jealous and annoyed that the Angels have been able to celebrate a title this century and the Dodgers haven’t.

In any case, the Dodgers’ problem is not the Angels. The Dodgers’ problem is the Dodgers and their rumbling, tumbling, stumbling 23 years since their last World Series title.

The Dodgers don’t need to improve because the Angels did. The Dodgers need to improve because the Dodgers need to improve. Thankfully, they still have Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw and a McCourt ownership that is in its death throes as a starting point.

Today, most Angel fans are happier than Dodger fans. Good for them. It doesn’t pain me to write that any more than it would to write that Rays fans or Marlins fans or Bad News Bears fans are happier than Dodger fans on a given day.  In fact, if the Dodgers aren’t going to win a title, I’d just as soon it be another team from the area, rather than a team from St. Louis, Boston or New York.

The sign of a true champion is to be the best you can be, regardless of what anyone else does. That, as ever, remains the Dodgers’ challenge.

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