It’s tough to know exactly how to feel about this, because I’m a Mets fan through and through, but we all get nostalgic sometimes (pretty much constantly, in my case), and today – honestly, for all intents and purposes, daily – I got to thinking about the Dodgers.
Yes, I know the Dodgers have not played a home game in New York since 1957. No, that does not change the fact that somehow, I feel like the Brooklyn Dodgers are my team.
Perhaps this is because the Mets have done such a job at replacing them. The two outer-boroughs teams, both overshadowed by the evil empire of the Bronx, two teams of the working public, teams that belonged to the people, in all but the most literal sense.
The Dodgers constantly battled the Yankees for that elusive World Series title before finally winning one in 1955. The Mets don’t really have a comparable story, for one because divisional play means you don’t see the same two teams in the World Series every year, and for another because we don’t really have one rival, but will assign the role to whichever NL East team is better than we are. But still, the Mets give off that same sense that the Dodgers seemed to: always working their hardest, not often succeeding but always giving everything they had.
Terrible owners; long stretches without championships; players who fans connected with on almost friendly levels (it seems like every 70 year old guy from Brooklyn has a story about the time he met Clem Labine at the deli)…the Mets are today’s version of Dem Bums, and as much as the negative aspects can wear down on us die-hards, I hardly think I would find it preferable to be a fan of New York (AL), who seem to treat fun and championships as a zero-sum game. Sure, they win – but will they ever have Thor? Will they ever have Justin Turner in his heyday? Will they ever have any of the old Dodgers who made Brooklyn their home and played each game with just as much enthusiasm as the teenagers peeking through the Ebbets Field fence, trying to avoid the patrolmen who discouraged this behavior, if halfheartedly?
No, they won’t, because they’re a business. They’re not in it for the fun; they’re in it to win, and move on. Why don’t any of the Yankees even have nicknames these days? The Mets do – Thor and Batman and Superman and Murph and the Captain and Yo (gone, thankfully) and even Familia, whose last name sounds so much like a nickname already that I suppose it could count if you were being generous. Dodgers fans knew their players as friends; Pee Wee and Jackie and Gil and the Duke of Flatbush, “The Reading Rifle” Carl Furillo, Junior Jim Gilliam and, of course, Campy himself. Just consider it: Travis d’Arnaud, listening to the fans as he warms up, is subjected to shouts of “Hey, Trav!” Wilmer Flores hears, “WILMER!!!” You’re not going to tell me that Brian McCann hears “Hey, Bri!”, or that Stephen Drew hears “STEVE!!!” No, they hear “McCann” and “Drew,” because Yankee Stadium is, let’s face it, less like a ballpark and more like the executive office of a win production factory. Do they produce wins? Usually, sure. But is it really somewhere I want to go for thrills and fun?
So, the Dodgers. They left 58 years ago, and if they ever come back, it won’t be for about another 58, at least. Frankly, I’m not sure the Dodgers of old would fit in in the Brooklyn that they would come back to. Brooklyn in 1955 was populated by people who worked for what they needed: Brooklyn in 2015 is populated – and if this is a stereotype, it’s a very widespread one – by people who wear man-buns and eat artisanal kale by the truckload while watching socially conscious Buzzfeed videos. The deli owner down the street with the thick accent who had a framed picture of the time Dolph Camilli bought a sandwich from him…those people are gone, and it’s a shame for Brooklyn that they are.
If I had to reach a point, this would be it: the Mets are today’s Brooklyn Dodgers, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. “Wait ’till next year” was the sometimes ironic motto of Dodgers fans, and if we don’t live up to that, I don’t know who does. I’d love to see a title a year, and a group of superstars who didn’t care one bit about the game but did what they needed to do to win. But you know what I’d like even better? The team we have now – Wright and deGrom and Thor and Murph (man, I hope) and Matz and Harvey, who looked at his innings limit and said, a la Stewie Griffin, “Hey – shut up,” and Familia and Lagares and d’Arnaud and every damn one of them. That’s my team, and I get the feeling it’s also a team that Brooklyn Dodgers fans would be proud to support. And from my ball club – not from my accountant, my lawyer, or my physician, but from my ball club – a group like that, who plays hard and has fun while doing it, is all I need.