Adventures in Geographic Literacy

E-mails from both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim showed up in my e-mail this morning, letting me know that single game tickets for the 2012 baseball season go on sale today.  As I’m a little late to this “party”, it calls to mind this comment this week from Dodger manager Don Mattingly:

But Los Angeles will always belong the Dodgers, Manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday before his team’s first full-squad workout of the spring.

“You know, honestly, if you really want what I think about it, it’s kind of like the Mets and the Yankees,” Mattingly said of the two New York teams. “The Yankees are the team, no matter what the Mets do. They’re going to have their years that they play well, but the Yankees are the team.

“I don’t to want to badmouth the Angels at all. I know (owner) Mr. (Arte) Moreno does a great job down there in Anaheim and (Manager) Mike (Scioscia) does a great job and they’ve had a great run. But we’re the Dodgers. It’s not going to change.

Note the phrase “down there”.

People from out of the area, as well as the Angel marketing department–including the Angel Talk radio folk–still don’t get it.

Of course, Mattingly kind of doesn’t get it either–New Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citifield are only about 6 miles apart from each other.

It’s a roughly 40 mile drive between the two ballparks, and if ever there was evidence of an Orange Curtain, the divide among Southern California baseball fans would be it.  Arte Moreno has yet to get a clue that Orange County is not the City of Los Angeles–two locales that generally want nothing in common with each other.  Don Mattingly is right:  Los Angeles is a Dodger town.  While it might be taken as a pejorative by the Angel Talk folks, Mattingly spoke the truth even while proceeding from a false assumption about the geographic location of the two franchises.

Dodger fans don’t become Angel fans.  Angel fans, likewise, don’t become Dodger fans.  Had Moreno simply sought to build a community with the geographic gifts of Central Orange County, without insulting our intelligence by telling us that Anaheim IS Los Angeles, he’d realistically understand that the local region doesn’t really choose to bask in the shadow cast by the larger metropolis; rather, it’s better understood as each local community within this stratified region is seeking to carve it’s own name out for itself.  It’s what the Anaheim Ducks understood when it set up shop in Anaheim.  It’s what Donald Sterling gave away when he chose to sentence the Clippers to a long sentence as the Lakers’ understudy in downtown Los Angeles.

Angels fans, I’m sure, enjoy tweaking the older franchise, and undoubtedly enjoy the chaos brought upon the Dodgers by Frank McCourt.  But such satisfaction is better felt when it comes with the understanding that the issues with the Dodgers thus become tied to Los Angeles, allowing the Angels to head down Interstate 5 to their own secure venue, away from the problems of the bigger city.  Instead, Moreno has sought to dissipate the franchise’s success by offering up a portion of whatever his team accomplishes with L.A.

How will the Angel fan base react when, and if, the team wins another World Series, and Moreno insists that the victory rally be held at L.A. City Hall?

Maybe it’s that karma–a karma you get, for instance, when you remove the “Anaheim” from the road uniforms–that’s prevented the team from getting back to the Fall Classic. It’s a karma that someone from out-of-town (Moreno hails from Arizona) has when you insist you know how to get somewhere without feeling the need to consult a map.  It’s a 40-mile divide, several generations of split fanbases, and a geographic region that enables two franchises to easily coexist without the need to co-opt the other’s territorial area.

So, even for all of the wrong reasons, Mattingly was absolutely right.

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