There are three weeks remaining in the pandemic-shortened baseball season. The NBA is now well into its playoffs, and so is the National Hockey League. It's a strange time of year, but championships are about to be won. Southern California could be a big part of that, but how are fans going to get to be part of it? How do you celebrate a title during a pandemic?
It's not too early to talk about this. In California, especially in the southern part of the state, it's huge. The Los Angeles Dodgers are about to clinch their eighth straight National League West title, but the season, as short as it is, will likely be considered a total failure if they don't win the World Series. The San Diego Padres are in contention, and the Oakland A's currently lead the AL West.
That's just baseball. The Los Angeles Lakers are in the second round of the NBA playoffs and have the league's best record. Even the LA Clippers are still alive, and are up 2-1 in their series with Denver after a win tonight. A Lakers-Clippers series in the next round would ensure at least a championship appearance for a southland team. Plans need to be made.
In June, we saw drive-though high school graduations. On July 4, some communities, including Grass Valley and Nevada City, held a neighborhood July 4 parade. You just waved from your front lawns when city officials drove by in fire engines or classic cars. Two to three months later, we're still in pandemic mode. No way will there be a half-million people lining the streets to see their team. It's not safe. Can you imagine being a Cubs fan, and told in 2016, and 98 years since the last championship, that you couldn't party? Same if you were a Red Sox fan in 2004, when Boston won its first World Series since 1918. Zoom meetings just wouldn't cut it.
At least here it hasn't been that long in most cases. The last time the Dodgers won the World Series, people likely drove to the celebration with either a Michael Dukakis or George Bush (Senior) bumper sticker on their car. That was in 1988. The Lakers celebrated more recently, in 2010, but, if you can believe it, the San Francisco Giants have won three World Series since then. The Padres got to the World Series twice, the last time in 1998, but have never won it. And the Clippers have never done anything!
It is reasonable to think about it this way, though. Maybe a toned-down season deserves a toned-down celebration. The Lakers and Clippers are holed up in hotel rooms in Orlando and are not allowed to go to Disney World. The Dodgers have the best record in Major League Baseball over a span of only eight weeks, and don't allow anyone in their ball park. It's unfortunate that we're actually getting used to looking at cardboard cutouts while watching the games on TV, and listening to that piped in cheering. Announcers, especially at the network level, are not even at the games, and Dodger radio play-by-play man Charley Steiner is doing the broadcasts from his living room! So let's not expect a whole lot when these seasons, such as they are, finally come to an end.
One thing we can say about this society, though, during this pandemic, is that people get creative. Maybe we can all get in our cars and drive to Dodger Stadium (or Staples Center or wherever), and the players can wave to us. Maybe they could all come to our houses, wearing masks, of course. I'm sure if Clayton Kershaw and LeBron James put their heads together, they'll come up with something.
Kickoff: College football, with a limited number of teams participating, kicked off this weekend, and the NFL begins on Thursday. Some NFL venues, depending on local regulations, will have at least some fans present. The opening of the new SoFi Stadium Sunday night in Los Angeles, will not. ESPN's broadcast of BYU-Navy tonight was interesting. There were just a few Naval officers in the stands, but there was plenty of noise from the team's benches. The microphones picked up some good chatter from the line of scrimmage, too.
Busy time: The Covid craziness resulted in a record 20 Major League Baseball games played on Friday. All 30 teams were in action, plus five doubleheaders. Some of the twin-bills were makeup games because of coronavirus-related postponements. Others were from the social justice protests of last week.
Speaking of social justice...: I was sent a tweet from a friend of mine that read in part, “after careful consideration, it has been decided that My Old Kentucky Home will be sung before the start of [Saturday's] Kentucky Derby.” This seems wrong. Social change has brought the end of the Stars and Bars as part of Mississippi's state flag and the removal of the name Redskins from Washington's football team. Rightly or wrongly, a statue of Christopher Columbus has been removed from California's capitol building and schools in Sacramento are being renamed because historical figures like Kit Carson and John Sutter are now racist. If you don't know, the song starts... “The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay.” Gay, meaning happy, of course, but darkie speaks for itself. The word 'darkies' in the verse, has recently been changed to 'old folks'.
Waiting all day for Sunday night: No one has said why it was scheduled this way, but the Dodgers played a rare Sunday night 7pm game this weekend against the Colorado Rockies. No national television, but no fans in the stands, either. It turned out to be fortuitous, however, with temperatures in the San Fernando Valley nearing 120 during the day. The temperature at Dodger Stadium at game time was 97.
Legends pass: Baseball has lost two legends this past week. We found out a couple of days later that Tom Seaver passed away on Monday after suffering for the last few years from dementia, and more recently Covid-19. He will be known as the best New York Met ever, but while it may be sacrilege to New York fans, I'll remember him as a Cincinnati Red. He joined that team in the late 1970s and into the early eighties when both the Dodgers and Reds were really good. Former St. Louis Cardinal Lou Brock died Sunday at the age of 81. He'll be best known for being the all-time stolen base leader for 16 years. I was ten when he broke the record then held by Maury Wills. Wills was a Dodger, but before my time. I learned a lot about Brock, and Wills as well, from that record. Rickey Henderson went on to break Brock's record in 1990.