by Mark Carlisle
“Wait ‘til next year.” That’s been the catchphrase of Dodger fans for decades – admittedly, not the ideal motto. The saying started Brooklyn in the 1940s and ‘50s when the Dodgers almost annually made it to the World Series but lost to the New York Yankees every time.
Well half a decade later, the Dodgers have moved to Los Angeles, put six championships under their belt and become one of the most successful franchises in the major leagues. However, that old mantra has arisen again as the Boys in Blue have not won a championship in over 26 years now.
When I was growing up, people felt bad for Cubs fans and Red Sox fans. Their teams hadn’t won a World Series since the beginning of the 20th century. But I felt the same as they did. Sure, my team had won championships a lot more recently, but the last time they won or even appeared in the World Series was 1988 – five years before I was born.
I’d never seen my team win. What did it matter if it had been eight decades or two? It hadn’t happened in my lifetime. I felt just like a Cubs fan or a Red Sox fan.
I’m 21-years-old now and nothing has changed. Well, the Red Sox have won three World Series. No end in sight for the Cubbies. But nothing has changed with the Dodgers. They’ve been to the National League Championship Series (the winner of which goes to the World Series) three times, but that’s as far as they’ve gotten.
AN AMERICAN FLAG IS UNFURLED AT DODGER STADIUM IN GAME 1 OF THE NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES BETWEEN THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS AND THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS. ST. LOUIS WON THE GAME 10-9. PHOTO BY MARK CARLISLE.
This year, they were the preseason favorite to win the World Series, but once again fell short, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. To throw salt into the wounds, the Dodgers' hated rivals, the San Francisco Giants, finished off the year by winning their third championship in the past five years.
I’ve hung my head a lot of times over the years, and I’ve uttered those ever-so-bitter words: “Wait ‘til next year.”
But as awful as so many of these experiences have been, I’ve realized something lately: I’m glad the Dodgers haven’t won.
I’m also a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, USC football and the Indianapolis Colts. These teams each won their first national championships in my lifetime when I was seven-, nine- and thirteen-years-old, respectively.
As great as those championships were, I feel as though I wasn’t able to fully enjoy them at those ages – not only because I was too young to understand the full significance, but also because I hadn’t experienced what it was like to not win for so long.
People who come from poverty are more able to appreciate the benefits of wealth than those who have known wealth their entire lives.
The Dodgers mean far more to me than these other teams. I got my zeal for this team from my father who had it passed on to him by my grandmother.
I’ve lived and died with the Dodgers for the better part of two-decades. I’ve watched Shawn Green, Hideo Nomo, Eric Karros, Kevin Brown, Chan Ho Park, Gary Sheffield, Paul Lo Duca, Adrian Beltre, Éric Gagné, Jeff Kent, Steve Finley, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and countless others both on TV and in person.
I’ve watched them win the division, and I’ve watched them finish in fourth out of five teams. I own all kinds of merchandise. I’ve been a part of thunderous crowds. I’ve heard more words out of the great broadcaster Vin Scully’s mouth than out of the mouths of several of my closest friends. I’ve pretended, through video games and just through my own imagination, that my team was the one that got to hoist the trophy that year.
I’ve been given the time to want it. I know what it is to lose, and every year my desire to taste victory grows stronger.
So while “Wait ‘til next year” is the sad sentence the Dodger fans utter each time the team once again falls short, it’s also hopeful. It’s hopeful of the day when “next year” finally comes and holds out that foolish optimism that this year will be that year.
My experience as a Dodger fan has been the most frustrating of any sport. But I believe it will also be the greatest. I’ve gone through the lows, and that will make the high so much greater.
When my other teams won, it was great. It was fun. But as young as I was, it hardly meant anything. But one day, when the Dodgers finally win it, I will embrace my father or maybe even hold a child of my own (boy, it better not take that long), and I will shed a tear that I have so long held back, knowing that next year has finally come.