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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
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We Show Up
2003-05-04 09:30
by Jon Weisman

On Memorial Day 1997, my brother, father and 2 1/2-year-old niece went to the Dodger game. We arrived about 30 minutes early, got our food, listened to the national anthem, and watched the military planes zoom over our heads. At which point my niece turned to her father and said, "Time to go home."

And thus, as Jay Leno, my cousin James the Yankee fan, or pretty much anyone else who watches sports in this country might say, a Dodger fan was born.

Can I have a sense of humor about this, and take it in stride? Sure - almost always do. But can I also take one moment to set the record straight?

Dodger fans don't always leave early and Dodger fans aren't the only fans who leave early - any more than Columbus was the one who discovered America.

Columbus didn't discover America. Everyone knows that.

Who did?

A Dodger fan. He left earlier.

Not very funny, is it? Now you know how I feel.

Fans leave early everywhere. No city is immune from it - they're just all immune from the jokes. For example, just a week ago, Minnesota Timberwolves fans poured out of their arena throughout the fourth quarter of their loss to the Lakers in Game 5 of their first-round NBA playoff. No one made fun of those fans. But the fact that they did this in a playoff game, in the biggest game in the team's history, in a sport where big comebacks happen as frequently as cell phones ringing in movie theaters, indicates to me that they must not be above taking an early departure in other situations.

I'm not trying to single out Minneapolis - it happens everywhere.

Second of all, does any group of fans come out to see their team like Dodger fans? Even though the team hasn't won a playoff game in 14 1/2 years, their worst year of attendance has been 2.3 million - in the 1994 strike season. In every year since the Dodgers' last playoff appearance in 1996, attendance has remained above 3 million.

Yes, there is a big metropolis around Dodger Stadium. But that cuts both ways. You can't discount the 40,000 people that show up on average for every game, and then harp on the number that leave - even if that number were 50 percent (which it isn't). How many teams have 20,000 fans that stay from beginning to end?

Dodger fans go to a lot of games. I've gone to as many as 71 games in a season. I think some of us have earned the right to leave a one-sided game or a long, drawn-out one every so often.

Also, people across the country often raise an eyebrow when Dodger fans use the excuse of having to beat the traffic. I raise an eyebrow too, sometimes. That's a lot of raised eyebrows. (By the way, nobody raised an eyebrow better than John Belushi.)

Of the 30 cities represented by major-league teams, I've driven a car in 24 of them. In every city, there has been some traffic. I lived in Washington D.C. for nearly two years and took the bus or metro whenever I could; the traffic could be horrendous. Studies continue to show, however, that Southern California and Los Angeles have the worst traffic in the country. So why shouldn't that traffic be an excuse?

Do you think we want to spend our time in our cars and not in the ballpark? Of course not. But this is our (parking) lot in life.

Having said all this, I will concede these deficiencies in some Dodger fans:

--They are all too likely to come to a game because of a giveaway, as opposed to the opponent or other baseball-related enticement.
--They are all too likely to be enthralled by the Wave or a beach ball.
--They are all too likely (and this one pains me the most to admit, but it's only fair) to leave a game when something big could happen.

Cousin James will never let me forget that a certain game we attended in 1991, when Dennis Martinez of the Expos and Mike Morgan of the Dodgers were perfect through five innings. Morgan gave up a run in the sixth, but Martinez continued to be perfect. And yet, at the end of each inning, you would see groups of fans leaving the park. Those fans missed seeing a perfect game. Many fans remained, but truly, all of them should have.

There is also the legendary shot of brake lights flashing in the Dodger Stadium parking lot as Kirk Gibson's home run won Game 1 in 1988. Of course, part of the magic of that home run is that no reasonable person could have foreseen it, but I won't attempt to make any other excuses for anyone leaving.

I will say right now that I myself have a rule that dicates when it is okay to leave early. My rule was developed during the 1980s and has been tested almost flawlessly in the years since.

You can leave a game when:

[margin of the lead] - [number of innings remaining] > 4

For example, if the Dodgers or their opponents lead 5-0 in the ninth inning, you can't leave, because five runs minus one inning remaining is not greater than four. But if the lead is 6-0 in the ninth inning, or 12-3 in the sixth, it's okay to leave. I believe that only twice in 21 years of having season tickets to the Dodgers has the rule failed to work the way it should.)

Some people will say that there is no time when it's okay to leave early, but I disagree. Obviously, if you only go to a game in a Dodger blue moon, you might not want to use this rule. But if you go more often, I don't think it's unreasonable to decide that you've seen enough. Everyone has their limit.

Anyway, I'm not asking anyone to nominate me or any other Dodger fans for sainthood. But I do think it's time someone pointed out that the idea that people who go to Dodger games should be the butt of the joke about lousy fans...this idea is ludicrous.

Friends, let's not generalize. Let's not live in a world of stereotypes. Let's be sensitive. Or, let's at least come up with some cleverer jokes.

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