Bleeding Dodger Blue: The War Against San Francisco
The other day, I sat in the exam chair at my eye doctor’s office in San Francisco.
I like my optician, Herbert Wong. He’s whip-smart and chatty and we always break shit down during my annual visits, everything from housing prices to liberal politics.
Until I spotted something that cast a nauseating pall over our conversation.
A San Francisco Giants-themed license plate.
My eye doctor is a fan — no, an avid disciple — of the Evil Empire.
That’s how my brother, Frank, and I refer to the Giants.
You see, we’re both Dodgers fans.
For us, the entire Evil Nation evokes loathing and, in 2021, a bit of fear.
Inexplicably, the Evils have clung to first place in the National League West, depriving us of another breezy laugher of a season where the Dogs — as we lovingly call them — eviscerate teams with booming home runs and breathtaking hurlers.
Over time, as the Dogs and Evils created one of the best rivalries in baseball, I have have been gifted a unique vantage point to this Boys of Summer conflict.
Living on and off in the Bay Area, I prize myself as a spy behind enemy lines. But sometimes, what I witnessed made me tear off my mask and blow my cover.
The “Beat LA” chants, the view of the City of Angels as a bastion of unwashed Okies and people from Arizona, a place on the wrong side of California’s Mason-Dixon Line.
All of it has made me wonder about the roots of sports allegiance.
What makes a fan and, more to the point, a rabid fan?
Why do we detest the other team and their loyal followers?
Because, in the end, aren’t they a lot like us?
When I first moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles some years ago, I offered advice to my wife, who worked in an office amid a nest of Giants-rooting vipers.
“Whenever talk turns to baseball,” I said, “just smile and say, ‘I bleed Dodger blue.’”
That’s unlike me, because as a sports lover, I have always bloomed where I was planted. As a kid in Upstate New York, I rooted for the Syracuse Orange. I watched the Buffalo Bills and cheered on the locals when living in both Kansas City and San Diego.
Once, spending a summer-long work assignment in New York City, I transformed into an instant Mets fan, devouring the daily coverage, watching games in my Upper West Side hotel room, gorging on beer and New York-style pizza.
My brother adored the Dodgers as a boy. I was a late-comer to the bandwagon but once I claimed my spot, there would be no rooting for those Giants, even if I did live amongst their torch-wielding followers.
No way would I join their Evil Empire.
For one, I despised Barry Bonds, their smirking steroids-injecting outfielder who denied autographs to little kids. Worse was the response by locals, who shrugged.
“He may be a jerk,’ they said, “but he’s our jerk.”
My next-door-neighbor, Gordon, tried in vain to recruit me to their lost cause.
“I’ve got Giants tickets,” he’d say. “Wanna go?”
“Nah, there’s some paint I need to watch dry.”
The workers at my corner Italian deli were all hopeless Giants fans. I’d walk in and listen silently to their banter.
“What’s the matter with Timmy?” one would ask about pitcher Tim Lincecum.
Then one afternoon, on a day the Dodgers had taken over first place, I placed my order and joined the conversation.
“So, who’s in first place today?”
The room went silent. I had unmasked myself.
One of the boys leaned over the counter and whispered his response.
“Want some extra phlegm in your sandwich?”
All of this has led me to an uncomfortable truth.
It’s far more psychologically satisfying to watch your enemy lose than see your own team win.
Teams can break your heart by blowing the big game. (Trust me, I know; I’m still a member of Bills Nation.)
But you can root lustily against your dreaded foe. If they win, you just switch off the tube and say you never cared anyway.
Sometimes my baseball obsession is palpable.
“What’s wrong?” my wife will ask.
“Ahhh,” I’ll say. “The Dodgers lost tonight.”
Her inevitable response?
“Get a life.”
Recently, though, cracks have appeared in my Evils-hating brick wall.
I have glimpsed the passion of the enemy, listened to their stories about love and loss, that “thrill of victory and agony of defeat.”
Don’t tell anyone I said this, but some Giants fans have become my good friends.
Take Sam, for instance.
He doesn’t hate the Dodgers, per se, but he sure loves his hometown team.
In fact, he told me the other day that he has missed watching the Giants — either live or on TV — only a handful of times in the last twenty years.
He bought a condo near the ballpark and has been a longtime season ticket holder.
Sam watches Dodger games as well, not as a hater but like a coach studying game film of an upcoming opponent, an act of getting to know thy enemy.
Sam endured a bit of depression a few years back.
Two events came to the forefront.
He’d lost a sizable amount of money in the stock market.
And the Giants were having a terrible year.
With Sam, I see a helluva nice guy who has come to embrace something year in and year out, win or lose. It’s become a passionate affair.
Sam loves his Giants. Like me, he’s just rooting for his boys.
And here’s something that my wife will never understand.
The Dodgers and Giants have given extra meaning to our lives.
And who can argue with that?
The other day, I learned that Sam’s younger brother, Dave, was a longtime San Diego resident and avid Padres fan.
On a Saturday afternoon, we all watched baseball, switching between games of the three teams in a heated race to win the National League West.
That’s when I suggested a bet.
The fans of the two losing teams would have to dash naked down the rural road that runs by Sam’s house.
Sam’s eyes lit. He was in.
And so, we’re on. But here’s a funny fact:
I want desperately to win.
But I don’t want Sam to lose, either.
John M. Glionna is a writer and freelance journalist based in Sin City.