We’ve all been had. Spotted as marks and taken advantage of. The salesman saw you a mile away. A woman led you on to make her boyfriend jealous. Your employer promised a raise if you did A, B and C and the moment you completed C, there was a “change in company policy.” It stings because someone harmed you, but it will gnaw at you endlessly because you facilitated it. Hell, you were an active participant and often an enthusiastic one, grinning idiotically as you were picked clean. More often than not, rather than face the humiliation we just live in denial. “Yeah, the bigger engine costs more and uses more gas and I don’t really have any use for it, but I think it was a good value.” We’ve all been there more often than we care to admit, even to ourselves. Especially if we are Dodger fans.
For decades now, the Dodgers have intentionally offered a mediocre product and charged a premium price. That is simply how they do business and with a foolish enough customer base, it’s effective. The Dodger’s fan cost index is $100 more than the Angels, but The Angels have a higher payroll. When they got Vlad we got Furcal. When they had a team that were unlucky to win only one World Series, we were fortunate to win a couple of first round series. The Dodgers see their fans as suckers who will turn up, grinning idiotically because there is a beautiful stadium, a proud tradition, many transplant fans of the opposition and many other fans who just see “A Dodger Game” as a generic outing. The McCourts, as we’ve learned in court documents, bought the team specifically because they saw the opportunity in this. If the Dodger fans will pay for anything, why not cut back team salary even more than usual, up the cost of everything else and really rip off the fans? Lord knows they’ll happily bite the pillow and take it.
It’s as if there was a make of car that was favored by a few million consumers who would buy it no matter what. Let’s call it the Dodgermobile. It breaks down and never gets you where you want to be? You buy another one. It’s slow and powerless, but only takes premium and gets 10 MPG? You buy another one. It’s boring to look at and drive? It’s uncomfortable? You buy another one. And the Dodgermobile is an $80,000 car. Who wouldn’t want to own a dealership?
Look at something as simple as the food. I remember Camden Yards in Baltimore opening nearly 20 years ago. One of the things people loved about it was that it served delicious Barbecue instead of the cheapest crap imaginable. Teams across the country quickly followed suit, offering patrons quality food to enhance fan experience. Yes, the food was overpriced, but at least it was good and often unique to the stadium. Even many minor league teams have jumped on this trend and found it profitable and rewarding for the fans.
The Dodger’s did come up with an innovation in the spirit of the Dodgermobile. They would let Pizza Hut and Carl’s Junior into the stadium, where they would sell their product for about triple price. What a unique, Dodger fan experience! Of course, the food is not exactly the same stuff you could buy anywhere in LA. An actual Carl’s or Pizza Hut makes food specific to your order, while at the stadium you chose from one of two or three pre-made options and they pull one out of the pile. Also, if the product at a fast food joint outside of the stadium sat drying out under a heat lamp for as long as the food at the stadium, they would throw it out and make something fresher. Even at the normal prices, if a Carl’s or Pizza Hut outside the stadium sold this product, it would go out of business in a month. If it charged the stadium prices, it would be gone in a week. Possibly burned down. The operation can only be pulled off if your customers are sweet, gullible Dodgers fans.
What about Dodger Dogs? I used to believe there was something special about them. Again, I’ve been as big a sucker as anyone. But they’re just grocery store dogs, marked up through the roof. We learned that when Farmer John started, well, selling them in grocery stores. I worked in a small movie theater as a kid and we did the exact same thing. We were adjacent to a Vons where we would send someone over to buy the cheapest hot dogs and buns that they carried. Then we’d pop them in the microwave and sell them for several times what we paid. People loved them. Some even asked where we gott them, so they might enjoy them at home.
I can live with the traditional crappy popcorn, “malts” and peanuts. The grumpy old man in me kind of digs it. “We ate rock hard ice cream with a tongue depressor. And we liked it just fine. We loved it!” But it’s hilarious that the Dodgers successfully market the “all you can eat” pavilion as some kind of great value. The actual product costs them almost nothing. Joey Chestnut would have to smuggle Kobayashi into the stadium on a single ticket for them to eat $40 worth of that slop. The point is to extract a maximum amount of money from the fan, and it doesn’t matter that much if they sell you three grocery store hot dogs for the $20 or if they sell you four of them for the same price. Imagine you came across a sucker who really liked pennies and had a $100 dollar penny budget. Would you really care if he gave you the $100 for 20 pennies, or if he got to pay $100 to stick his hand in a jar and pull out as many pennies as he could hold? That’s the idea behind the all you can eat pavilion.
Yes, yes the Garlic Fries are OK. But they still aren’t fresh and it’s still just a marked up chain offering. They just seem great by comparison to the other stuff.
What really matters is the product on the field, right? Unfortunately, yes. I remember being in my car eight years ago and hearing some guy on the radio say the words, “Vladimir Gurerro is coming to Los Angeles!” I was shocked and elated. After years of frustration and boredom, the Dodgers had finally brought an MVP caliber player onto the team. I actually pumped my fist and made some retarded noise, sitting alone in the garage, which is pretty out of character for me. Seconds later, of course, it was clarified that “Los Angeles” meant “Anaheim.” It was just deflating. Like a dunce, I soldiered on through eight more years of second and third tier signings. Having to listen to people on that station claim that guys like Furcal and Ted Lilly are major additions for the Dodgers, while the MVP seasons and championships were enjoyed in New York, Boston, Philadelphia… man, it sure would have been fun to watch Vlad for that stretch. Instead I willfully chose to consume an inferior product and pay more money to do so.
Next time there is a major free agent, listen to the discussions of pundits. You’ll hear that the only major market team consistently omitted is the Dodgers. Carl Crawford was looking at the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. If Pujols was to leave Saint Louis, pundits figured the Yankees and Red Sox would be uninterested, since they are set at first base. That left the Cubs and The Angels. But the Dodgers, who are weak at first base and who are the second biggest team in the sport? Not even worth mentioning. Not that I think big contracts for superstars are always good moves, but sometimes they are. And wouldn’t it be fun to see a future hall of famer play for your team? Is it too much to expect that it would happen once? There was Piazza, practically born a Dodger, but he’ll go in as a Met. Rest assured, if Kemp or any of the other young Dodgers pan out as hall of fame caliber, much of their primes will be spent somewhere else. Make a list of the most exciting young players in baseball. McCutchen, Votto, Santana, Heyward. That will also be a list of players who will never be Dodgers. Unless, perhaps, their career crashes or they limp into LA in their twighlights, like faded soccer stars playing in the MLS. In other words, if the value of their names can be marketed to dupes, even though the product is inferior, then they will be perfect Dodgers. But if they live up to their potential, contribute to championships and make a run at The Hall, they will come at full market price and play for organizations that give a shit if they win.
Manny? The Dodgers got him for free and were practically forced to bring him back when fans were shocked to discover that baseball can be entertaining. I’m sure they are delighted that it didn’t work out. They got a discount on his salary and can point to the bad contract for another ten years, like they did with Kevin Brown and Darryl Strawberry in the past. “Well, we tried signing a big free agent once, though it was with a guy past his prime. And it didn’t work out that one time, so that proves we shouldn’t ever do it.” But remember how fun Mannywood was, however briefly? Even though the rest of the talent wasn’t on par with what they have in New York, Boston or Philly, and even though it was obviously the last hurrah of his career, it was exhilarating to have an elite hitter and a superstar smashing the ball all over the park. If you remain a Dodger fan, don’t expect to enjoy another experience like that in the foreseeable future. Again, if Kemp goes off like that, kiss him goodbye. If you think that maybe this time The Dodgers will do the right thing, I’d like to invite you over to my house. I have a jar of pennies and I’ll let you grab as many as you can for only $100.
The most recent shame is the beating of Bryan Stow by a couple of the Dodger’s many gang banging fans. The team has, of course, done nothing to resist its incorporation into gang culture. And forget the “what are they going to do, ban everyone with baggy pants?” straw man. Off the top of my head, they could 1)have knowledgeable, plain clothes security in the stands waiting for fans to “represent” gang affiliations. Do it once, banned for life. 2) Ban any fan who is turned over to the police 3)Aggressively and publicly support anti-gang projects in Los Angeles. If you don’t live here, you might be surprised to learn that fewer than half of Angelinos have gang tattoos on their necks, so yeah. If you present yourself as a gangster, be prepared to show ID to check against the banned list. And no racial profiling. If you show up in a fedora, carrying a violin case, you get checked too.
You might think that, after two similar attacks in recent years, both at games against The Giants, ownership would have taken steps to prevent this entirely predictable tragedy. People have been complaining about gangs in the stadium long before this culmination. It was already a common topic on talk radio. But addressing the problem would have cost money and Frank and Jamie have really been hankering for those ivory back scratchers. That’s why, in the face of an escalating gang problem in the stadium, rather than improving their already shabby security, the Dodgers started the season with no chief of security for the first time ever. Yep, they made a conscious decision to save money at the expense of fan safety by getting rid of their chief of security and not replacing him. A penny saved is a penny earned, and Brian Stow will die, or be a shadow of himself. Either way, his family will be crippled forever. If that’s something you want to actively support with your dollar, I’m glad you’re getting such a shitty product in return.
Probably, no level of security could have prevented the blindside attack if the perpetrators were determined. Though if a couple of security guards had been within view, maybe the attackers would have withdrawn. Nobody knows. There’s really no excuse for them getting away though. It’s a fucking parking lot. An open, concrete area with only a few exits. It’s difficult to imagine a more easily monitored and policed area. The structure is about the same as that of a prison yard.
There will be more security at the games now, courtesy of the LAPD. They’ll be working over time. Tax dollars will pay for it, if not immediately, after the story dies down. The McCourts can’t be bothered or trusted to offer suffecient security for the patrons they gouge, as LAPD Chief Batch strongly implied, saying “We try to let venues take care of their own security. If they can’t, I step in. I’m going to do what it takes.”
Obviously, ownership’s negligence is not equivalent to the malice of the criminals. But most media are letting them off the hook far too easily. They chose gamble on fan safety to save a relatively small amount of money. ‘Gamble’ isn’t quite the right word, because they “lost” and the reward money they put up is still far less than they saved pinching pennies. And as a result, they now get to dip into your paycheck to cover their business expenses. So neglecting security while knowing that the stadium was becoming more dangerous was more of a win/win proposition than a gamble, but it was a calculated decision and it’s already paying off. But I’m sure the next owners turn down free security, paid for with tax money.
The Dodgers response to the beating has been an embarrassment to everyone remotely associated with the team. Some guy who hates baseball and accidentally turned into the stadium parking lot during the off season in 1987 is ashamed to be so closely associated with the Dodgers. They finally squeezed out a few grand for the reward money on the case after several other parties had contributed, including LAs taxpayers, again, through the city council. They’ve done nothing to reach out to the family. Remember when they dedicated .00001%of hot dog sales to set up a college fund for Stow’s kids? That’s because it didn’t happen and it won’t happen. Even if Frank and Jamie were actual psychopaths, you’d think that they would understand the necessity of such a gesture from a PR perspective. At the moment, the PR staff must be grappling with the decision. So much time has passed, do we look worse helping out now and keeping the story in the news, or should we just sit tight and hope people forget about it sooner?
I mean, imagine you were a bar owner and someone was beaten into a coma in your parking lot. It might not be your fault, but how would you feel? What would you do to help? Now, imagine the attack happened after you cut back on security. How would you feel then? Now imagine you were worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, what would you do to help? When you answer those questions, it’s difficult to escape feeling disgust for Dodgers ownership. After years of frustration and annoyance, finally pure disgust. Are you in the habbit of voluntarily giving money to people you find repugnant? That is what it means to be a Dodger fan.
Other than crying in my e-beer at dodgerblues.com, the only consistently great part of being a Dodgers fan has been Vin Scully. He could soothingly describe a nuclear Holocaust and make the listener feel warm and comfortable. “And there they go… it looks like missiles have been launched all the way from Russia. They should arrive in only a few minutes, if you can believe that. Of course, our ICBMs should be the first missiles to hit their targets, exterminating all human life for miles around. Funny story about the ICBM…” It wouldn’t be his fault though. In fact, if nuclear war comes, that would be the ideal way to experience it. Vin is the link between fans and the teams of our childhoods, and the intermediary between the current team and its fans. Once he steps down, which should happen after this year, the last vestiges of any nostalgia we feel for the Dodgers can finally be put aside. What remains–a cynical business scheme based on the belief that Dodger fans are an enless well of credulity and a veneer that’s become an embarrassing symbol for gang affiliation–should be discarded by fans of baseball. If you are a baseball fan, there’s nothing there for you. If you want to gang bang and still think the Dodgermobile and the penny jar sound pretty appealing, have a blast.
Otherwise, pick another team. I don’t care which one. A scrappy, small market team that tries to compete with the big boys on a tight budget. Like Oakland. Then you can still hate the Giants. Maybe you’re sick of discussing guys like Orlando Hudson and Andruw Jones as “big signings,” rather than role players. Get on board with The Mets, maybe. At least they try to put together good teams and you still get to watch guys like Wright and Reyes in down years. Plus, you can still hate the Yankees. Save yourself years of being taken for a fool, watching boring baseball and dropping twenties to eat pig shit . Stop acting like one of the biggest sports teams in the world winning the occasional first round playoff series is something to be proud of.
Watch some games in other stadiums this year. Even if you are gullible enough to remain a Dodgers fan, make a special point to take a day trip to see them down in San Diego, where the fan experience is vastly superior, and to see at least one less game at Dodger Stadium. You’ll have a better day and you can think of it as a hit of a few hundred bucks to the Dodgers for cutting back on security and putting your life at risk. It’s not like they’d have used the money to sign Prince Fielder or something. Not to mention the fact that the Padres are one of the cheapest teams in the fan cost index, while the Dodgers are one of the expensive. You’ll save enough to cover your gas and pay for a very nice dinner or a substantial bar tab in San Diego, instead of giving the money to Frank and Jamie or whichever sleazy opportunist follow them in marketing the Dodgermibile.
If you do it once, you’ll probably do it again. If you can make it to SF, catch the Dodgers play there, where the fan experience is also superior and, though expensive, still cheaper than The Dodgers. You can have a conversation about the Stow beating and how ashamed it made you. It’ll be a great opportunity to come up with another piece of perverted logic for not abandoning the Dodgers, who abandoned you so long ago.
I’m not sure who I’ll support after this year. Possibly The Tigers, as my family has roots in Detroit. They have their own problems, but at least they have Cabrerra and Verlander. It’s another team with a higher payroll than the Dodgers, in spite of being located in the third world. More importantly, I’ll get to wear the same hat as Magnum. In any case, I do hope the Dodgers win it all this year. It will a great way to end my fandom. Plus, if they luck out with a mediocre team like they did in ‘88, I know that they’ll trade on that single, chance victory to justify screwing over the remaining fans for another 25 years and I’ll be somewhere else, laughing at the suckers.