Introducing the first installment of a sort of mini-series here at Dodgers Nation: Dodger Fandom Outside of Sunny Los Angeles.
I’ve lived in Tennessee since the summer of 2007. I was 22, and I had been living in northern California, Giants territory. Wearing a Dodger hat in northern California was akin to wearing a bullseye, but I still always felt like I was surrounded by a sense of baseball relevancy. I was in the hub, and in the conversation.
A Different Scene Entirely
Moving to Tennessee was a different story. I had never seen a UT flag before, and I had never quite grasped that the ‘bible bet’ could easily be referred to as the ‘SEC belt.’ I remember living in California, when the conversation steered to sports, we talked MLB, NBA, and NFL. That isn’t the case in many/most parts of the South. The nearest baseball team is in Georgia, and baseball isn’t as big as it is in many places, particularly California. Wearing a Dodger hat in Nashville made you stick out. I used to play music professionally, and for smaller gigs I always wore my Dodger hat. It made gave me a sense of identity in what seemed like a foreign land to me at times.
It’s been over 10 years, and this sensation hasn’t dwindled. I was driving home with my family just a few weeks ago when I saw this at a stop light.
I live in a different universe than most of you, so when I saw this car I wanted to catch up to whoever this was, honk, gesticulate wildly, and be their friend. pic.twitter.com/Mxjnf0mb2D
— AJ Gonzalez? (@AJontheguitar) January 7, 2019
I was being funny with the language, but I wasn’t exaggerating. Had I been able to catch up to this car in traffic, I would have 100% taken my hat off my head and made eye contact with the driver and smiled. Seeing a Dodger hat for me is rare, much less somebody who’s a big enough fan to put a license plate frame. Neil Peart once said, “I can’t pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend.” When that stranger is wearing or sporting Dodger gear, they are a long awaited friend to me.
The Clincher In Enemy Territory
In the last two postseasons, the Dodgers have played the following teams:
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Chicago Cubs
- Houston Astros
- Atlanta Braves
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Boston Red Sox
I didn’t write for Dodgers Nation in 2017, but I chronicled on my own blog my trip to game 5 of the NLCS. Obviously that was an amazing game as the Dodgers clinched their first world series appearance since 1988. I took video, photos, and mental notes that I’ll never forget. I found Dodger fans near the end of the game, and we went to the bars afterwards and toasted to each other as if we were family. We were Dodger family.
I may have not felt that way if I lived in LA. My family has season tickets, and I see their photos at games, particularly playoff games. I envy that camaraderie and I imagine Dodger fans who read this article that live outside of southern California may understand that feeling.
In the 2018 playoffs I went to game 5 in Atlanta for the NLDS. If you’re noting that I’ve gone to TWO playoff games in which the Dodgers clinched a series win–yes, you can call me ‘the clincher.’ I chronicled this experience here on Dodgers Nation.
How Does One ‘Dodger Fan’?
It occurs to me while writing this article, that Dodger fans can meet up in a public place and watch Dodger games during the MLB season. This is such a foreign concept to me. It’s a lonely experience. My editor (@realFRG, he’s a peach and a friend of his own podcast) asked where I watch Dodger games. I initially thought this was an absurd question. It only seemed absurd because I watch all my Dodger games at home. I pay for the MLB.TV package every year and watch the Dodgers in my living room or in my home office.
It’s often late, due to the time difference.
Justin Turner’s game 2 walk off home run in the 2017 NLCS remains my favorite Dodger moment I can recall. It was special for a different reason as my wife who normally would have been in bed, was watching that moment with me. I had to step outside to hoot and holler, as my daughter was asleep upstairs. For Max Muncy’s 18th inning walk off, I allowed myself to doze when Boston was batting, and figured if they scored, I’d turn it off for good. I was watching this WS game on my phone, on my nightstand. It was rather miraculous that I was awake for Max’s opposite field walk off home run, much less how miraculous it was that that game actually ended.
Go to the local bar to watch Dodger games? No. They’re not on here. You’d be much more likely to see bass fishing or televised local high school games. Occasionally if one ventures over to a Buffalo Wild Wings when the Dodgers are on National TV, you might catch a game. That’s about it.
A Proud Dodger Fan
All this to say, it’s a very lonely existence, being a Dodger fan here. When someone asks if I’m a true Dodger fan, they don’t realize how preposterous their question comes off to me. The last time I watched a Dodger game with anybody else was in Atlanta when my wife and daughter were with me. I’m a Dodger fan for no bigger reason than I love this team. 99% of Dodger games I watch during the season I watch alone, other than with my Dodgers Nation family, and my Dodger twitter family.
I started this piece in the morning, and in the middle of it I went to some classes. My first day back on a college campus and I saw a guy wearing a Dodgers jersey with a Dodger hat. He was aways away and walking quickly, so I didn’t say anything this time. There has to be a word for this experience better than serendipity. I start to write some thoughts on being a Dodger fan outside of California, and some guy is wearing a jersey and Dodger hat? What that word is–I can’t seem to divine. (Serendipitous)
It got me thinking about how in a small way, it’s nice to stick out like that. I’m the only one wearing Dodger gear in a room 99% of the time, and in some ways that appeals to our base human nature of standing out. Most the time though, it makes me miss being literally near Dodgers Nation.