It was only less than a year ago when the fans of their beloved Los Angeles Dodgers were gearing up for spring training, brimming with enthusiasm and hope of reliving that special moment which is long overdue.
Despite falling just short of capturing the National League pennant in both 2008 and 2009, the Dodgers certainly seemed to be headed in the right direction. The team as a whole had momentum, and the fans were showing more passion and excitement for the first time in countless seasons.
Even owner Frank McCourt, who doesn't venture anywhere close to the media these days, felt the overwhelming emotion and intensity of the moment upon clinching the 2009 National League West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"This is a huge step for the franchise," McCourt said. "I think we have the franchise back to a place where the fans know and can expect us to compete every year. I'm so grateful to the fans for their support. You could feel the energy tonight. They willed the team to victory in that seventh inning. To be leading baseball in attendance in this economy, it says a lot about our fans. This is for them."
Those who had the privilege of attending Game 2 of the 2009 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals still have a difficult time putting into words what transpired in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Said Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier: "I put my head down when I saw the ball go up in the air. All of a sudden, I heard people go crazy."
Down to the possible final at-bat of the game, first baseman James Loney poked a routine fly ball to Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, who subsequently lost the ball in the lights, leading to a two-base error. Ronnie Belliard and Mark Loretta followed with run-scoring singles that rallied the Dodgers to an improbable 3-2 victory.
Fans with different lifestyles and personal beliefs, of varying ages, races and levels of allegiance suddenly became a unified group of one.
Ultimately, the game is decided on the field, but there's no question that the will of the fans played some type of role in that magical outcome.
Today, as the Boys in Blue prepare for their first tests of the 2011 Cactus League campaign, Dodgertown, which was once a world united, is slowly finding itself becoming divided among the fanbase. Chances of the crowd willing the team to victory are becoming slimmer by the day.
A good deal of fans have gone as far to say they will impose a boycott on home games at Dodger Stadium. Others are saying that while they won't stay away from the Ravine, they plan on attempting to hamper the economic flow of the organization by not purchasing concessions, paying for parking or purchasing team merchandise at the stadium. Boycotters vs. the blindly bleeding blue.
These folks will tell you that it has absolutely nothing to do with whether the Dodgers win or lose, but has everything to do with what Frank McCourt has done to the team, to the fans and to the city itself. They'll claim he has brought shame, embarrassment and humiliation to all of Dodgertown.
Fans are also quick to point out that they'd have the ability to suffer through even a last-place divisional finish, so long as there was light at the end of the tunnel and improvement was eminent. Yet with McCourt at the helm, the same fans believe it's impossible to have that vision.
Nevertheless, there are still those who believe that the effects of the seemingly never-ending divorce proceedings shouldn't have an impact on the performance of the club. They'll say that the ownership issues are the business of the McCourts alone, and that the players get paid to play baseball and should produce accordingly.
Also in the picture are the administrative employees, scouts, operations managers, security officers and stadium workers who almost have no choice but to support McCourt, if only because he signs their weekly paychecks.
Then there are the folks who won't be changing their normal routines and will continue to spend as usual. They're concerned about the ownership scenario, but are still showing relentless support.
Regardless, there is no relief in sight, and there's no definite answer as to how long the divorce will play out. With the possible appeal processes that are looming, it's conceivable that the current state of the team could last for years.
In the meantime, the organization continues to suffer financial woes.
McCourt required an advance in television revenue from Fox to cover the daily operations of the club in January, while it was leaked in court that in recent years he was turned down in efforts to secure financing by a Chinese investment group and a television infomercial king.
Yet through this difficult time, the team requires fan support, more so now than ever. The coaches and players need all the encouragement that's possibly attainable, and the McCourt-issues aside, the Dodger legacy deserves eternal backing from its treasured fans.
Negativity has a horrible effect on any professional sports team, and sometimes it's almost impossible to dig out of a deep hole. But, as any player on any successful team will testify, even the tiniest bit of genuine positivity goes a long way in the dugout, and the Dodgers could use every ounce of it right about now.
Nonetheless, the fans are entitled to their right to choose.
And if those same fans aren't happy and content that their hard-earned money is contributing to Frank McCourt's evil empire, then by all means, go on strike.
However, facing the challenges of how to cope with the negativity and deal with a sense of hopelessness, the Dodgers fans who have indeed decided to boycott must now be more creative than ever while mustering every measure of positivity possible—and find a way to will the Dodgers to a successful season.
D.L. Noel also contributed to this story.
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