Monday, October 06, 2008

A FEW HAPPY NOTES ON THE ASCENDANCE OF THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS and other matters of the utmost importance

For anyone who actually cares about such things, the news that the Dodgers completed an unexpected sweep of the Cubs Saturday night to clinch a berth in the National League Championship Series will be old news indeed. And certainly “unexpected” is a bit of an understatement—if you believed the conventional wisdom oozing from sports talk radio geniuses handicapping the week’s action beginning at Wrigley Field last week, it was utter foolishness to even suggest that the Dodgers had a chance against the team with the best regular-season record (97 wins) in the National League. Such an admission, let alone a prediction of the Dodgers winning any more than one game in the series, would have been tantamount to admitting your complete lack of knowledge and credibility regarding the game of baseball. Hell, even die-hard Dodger fans wouldn’t predict anything better than a split at Wrigley, with L.A., best-case scenario, returning home needing two wins to clinch. Everyone knew it was the Cubs’ year. Everyone knew it was the Cubs’ series to lose. Well, that part was right anyway.

Confident Cubs fans enter the Friendly Confines unaware that the Battle of Little Big Horn is about to break out

It’s a very unusual feeling to have my team rolling with momentum in the postseason, coming off an impressive and emphatic three-game sweep in which they led for 23 out of 27 innings, behaved like loose, fun-loving athletes and played like world beaters, pitched like demons, hit like the demons chasing those demons, and all while perched on the crest of a wave of enthusiasm and energy supplied by the man who, by all rights, should be voted the National League MVP for what he did to revitalize the Dodgers, Manny Ramirez. (Red Sox Nation can grumble all they want about Manny’s Fenway exit, but the fact remains they were a very good team with him—and remain so, having just won the ALDS on a run carried in by the man replacing Ramirez in their lineup, Jason Bay—yet the Dodgers, a .500-or-worse club at the time Ramirez came to L.A., have been utterly transformed by his freewheeling presence and unconscious bat.)

MVP Manny golfs a homer off his shoelaces in Game 1 of the Cubs-Dodgers NLDS

So on we go. I had a ticket for a Game Four on Sunday night that was, thank God and Joe Torre, not necessary. (As much as I wanted to be there to see them clinch on Sunday, I could not root for them to lose on Saturday, and I don't regret for a minute missing that opportunity.) As soon as the Dodgers clinched Saturday night, my loving wife hopped on the computer and procured for me another ticket for Game Five in the NLCS, and though I would love to be proven wrong by another offensive/defensive Dodger juggernaut I believe that this time there will be a Game Five. The Philadelphia Phillies will face my Dodgers in a best-of-seven beginning Thursday night in Philadelphia, and again, I would expect and be quite happy with a 1-1 split coming out of the City of Brotherly Love, which would mean that the Dodgers would have three games at home to finish things up, and I would be there, if all goes well, to see them clinch a World Series berth at the end of that third game at Dodger Stadium. It should be interesting. The Dodgers swept the Phillies at Chavez Ravine at a time in the season when they were getting beat by far lesser teams, and then had their heads returned to them by the Phils in a reciprocal four-game sweep during their final East Coast swing. So the teams play each other tough and pretty even.

Russell Martin's bases-loaed double drives in three during the Game 2 rout in Chicago

But that all happened before the Dodgers pulled an unexpected pounding of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ two ace pitchers in September to begin a run that resulted in their going from 4 ½ games down to 4 ½ games up on Arizona, winning the division, and against all odds sustaining the excellent baseball they’ve played ever since. And they’re not done. My prediction: the Dodgers in five games over the Phillies. They clinch here in Los Angeles, with me there in the reserved section off of third base to see it live. And then (wait for it, Jonathan), they meet Boston in the World Series, a rematch of the exhibition games played here at Memorial Coliseum to kick off the season way back in March. Only one difference: back then Manny Ramirez wore red and white. Now he’s wearing Dodger Blue and he’s shown an entire team how to play like the game means something, like the game is once again fun. Mr. Lapper, when the World Series schedule has been secured, we will settle on the terms of our bet. For now, enjoy your triumph over the Angels (Oh, how I was hoping for a Freeway Series) and get ready for a lot of hair-raising October baseball. This is going to be fun.

This Boston fan knows the score, past and future

Just a note on my whereabouts: I dropped a comment last week suggesting that I was going to be having “trouble getting around” in the coming weeks and that I probably wouldn’t have a very high profile in the blogosphere for that period of time. Unfortunately, a couple of you very thoughtful folks thought I might have been suggesting that I was having some sort of physical problem that was literally making it difficult for me to navigate in the three-dimensional world. Well, it’s not exactly a Mark Twain-early demise type situation, but I am glad to report that my comments were meant only to convey that for the next few weeks I would likely not be much of a presence on my blog here or on anyone else’s. I have discovered that student teaching in kindergarten (and soon fourth grade) during the day and working at night leaves damned little time for anything other than coming home, brushing my teeth, doing a little lesson planning, then flopping into bed, only to have to get up in about five hours and do it all again. I have already put myself through the guilt-and-unease wringer for allowing myself to post only once a week over the past two or three weeks, and unless things lighten up unexpectedly between now and mid-February my output is likely to remain at that glacial pace until my teaching assignment is wrapped up. I will have time during Thanksgiving and Christmas, which I hope to take advantage of and use to sit down and do a lot of writing. But right now it’s difficult for me to even find time to sit down for a movie, let alone to make the much more concerted effort it takes to write about one. (My wife and I made it out to see Appaloosa Friday night, and the movie was so loping and casually paced—a potentially much more positive trait in the hands of a more capable filmmaker than director-star Ed Harris—that it nearly put me to sleep.)

Fortunately or not, during this moment of limited attention to SLIFR, there are many juicy things on my plate that I am hoping to deliver to you more sooner than later, including a talk with Peet Gelderblom about his recently published Directorama, a book collecting his wonderful comic strips of the same name; an up-close look at Werner Herzog’s God’s Angry Man; an exhaustive look at some of the great offerings on the L.A. revival and repertory scene for the traditionally bounteous month of October; more than just a glance toward one of my favorite genres, especially for this time of year, horror films; another look at Breaking Away at a time when I’m beginning to prepare for a grand bike tour of the Oregon Coast next summer; and in the light of my current midlife career change, a revisiting of one of my favorite films about education, Nicolas Philbert’s To Be and to Have, perhaps in concert with Lauren Cantet’s new film about teaching, The Class. There’s so much I want to do this fall, here on the blog and there in my life, and one of the main lessons I seem to be learning, finally, is that there is simply no way to do it all in the 24 hours we are allotted for each day. As a teacher one of the things I have to condition myself for is the pacing of the lesson, how to best present the material to the student in language accessible to them, and at a rate of speed that encourages their engagement, retention and understanding. It is that way for me in all things as I find things spilling off the sides of the plate I’ve filled for myself. I thank you all, you lurkers and you loyal SLIFR readers, for giving me the assurance of your continued presence even when I’m not working at my most prolific here. I hope to return to a more productive pace soon and keep giving you more reasons to want to come back.

Look for that extensive roundup of L.A. repertory and revival cinema, including a spotlight on a very special event coming up at the New Beverly Cinema, coming up before the weekend. Until then, Go, Dodgers!

Boy, does this feel weird. And wonderful.


Anonymous said...

You are a very happy man. Speaking of revisiting Breaking Away, don't forget about John Badham's 1985 film "American Flyers"

bill r. said...

Your Dodgers kicking ass, my Redskins kicking ass...good times.

Greg said...

We've never been so close to a Dodgers/Sox Series since we started blogging. It could finally happen. I'd make another bet with you if it does, but given your schedule it wouldn't feel very fun. I mean your already exhausted, I don't want to make you post something stupid when your Dodgers inevitably lose to my Red Sox. That would just be mean.

But the Dodgers have my cheers against the Phillies and if the Tampa Bay Devil Rays(!) make it, believe you me I will become a screaming Dodgers Fan!

So for now...


bill r. said...

Jonathan, I would think you could no longer be a Red Sox fan, since they're no longer losers. Doesn't two World Series wins in the last seven years disqualify them from your underdog stable?

Greg said...

But I have to give Dennis a hard time. And baseball feels different. Unless you're the Yankees, historically you're always the underdog. In football you've got teams with five Super Bowl wins being the biggest winners ever. If you include (and why shouldn't you?) NFL Championships before the Super Bowl you've still only have teams winning seven or eight pre-SuperBowl.

But with Baseball I know, and every other fan knows, no one will ever beat the Yankees. They have been to 39(!) World Series. 39!!! The second most is 17 by the Cardinals. That's not even half. The Yankees have won 26! 26!!! The Cardinals, number two in wins as well, have 10, again not even half, almost a third.

So there have been 103 Series. That means the Yanks have been to 38 percent of them and have won 25 percent of them. That would be like the Cowboys getting to claim they have been to 16 Super Bowls and had won 10. As it is they are at half that, 8 and 5.

So really, in baseball, unless you're the New York Yankees, you are historically the underdog. The Yanks may be down for a few years at a time, but they always find a way to make it back up to the top.

And like I said, I have to give Dennis a hard time.

Headquarters 10 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bill r. said...

Jonathan - And yet the Redskins, who haven't won a Super Bowl in almost twenty years, are somehow too good. Whatever, dude.

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Washington, I always loved the beginning of football season because plastered on the front of the sports page every year would be a reason why the redskins "could totally go all the way this year." They inevitably didn't, and the air was thick with dissatisfaction for weeks on end. It was fun.

But, yeah, Red Sox all the way, now that the other Sox have met their end. Looking forward to a Sox/Dodgers world series, because it would be far more interesting than any other possible pairing.

bill r. said...

Krauthammer, I would like to point you to the Redskins current record. Doubter! DOUBTER!!!

Headquarters 10 said...

The success of the Dodgers this season only angers me more and more about the Yankees letting Joe Torre go last year. Fucking Steinbrenners...

That said, my two favorite teams have always been the Yankees and whoever is playing against the Red Sox (or the Mets). If the Dodgers can do it (and don't count the Phillies out there, Dennis), I'll be cheering them on. I wish them luck.

Brian Doan said...

Dennis, as a former Chicago resident (who used to live only a block away from Wrigley Field), I was pulling for the Cubs, but I am very happy for you, Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez. And remember, I still think the Lapper-Cozzalio bet should center on blogging about Mamma Mia and Rent.

Actually, strictly from a baseball point of view, a Sox-Dodgers series would be epic fun. Might make up for the complete collapse of my Tigers this year (between that and the Cleveland Browns, it's been a long sports year).

Best of luck with student teaching, too-- I know how much energy teaching can take, but i hope you are enjoying it, and I'd love to hear more about it, if you ever wanted to blog about your classroom experiences.

Brian Darr said...

As a wearer of orange and black (and not just on Halloween) I'm going to have to bite my tongue in regard to the first part of this post, and just chime in to say that I like the sound of your upcoming plans around here at SLIFR.

And I'm excited for your career change as well, Dennis. I have a feeling you're gonna be a lot of kids' favorite teacher.