“It’s a company.” We’ve been hearing that a lot lately, because it was the trade deadline in MLB. Any fan of any sport has heard this a million times or more. Ultimately, we’re told, it’s just a business, which is usually meant to excuse all sorts of shitty behavior from owners and front offices. But Vin Scully proves that while it’s about making money in the long run, it’s definitely a different kind of business. Certainly to the fans, who can be seen as customers by those who hold the keys but do not feel like themselves. Vin Scully is not worshiped today if the sport was just a business.
Although the owners only think of us as mobile wallets, being a fan of a team and/or a sport is much more than just being a patron. There’s so much more you take in than just consuming the product – watching the games, going to the games, buying the shirts and hats, etc. And it’s not just investing your emotions in your team’s fortunes or just letting a great game overwhelm you and feeling grateful for a day or two that you got to witness it, the same way as seeing a great movie or show.
When you become a fan, by almost nothing more than an osmosis you appropriate the traditions, the history, the feelings shared by all the fans of the team currently and all those of the past. Back when I was a Cubs fan, I wasn’t alive for the 108 years they didn’t win a World Series. I only took about 30 years of it as an active fan. Many teams have 30-year gaps in the championships. It’s not a big deal. But once you’re a fan and go deeper and deeper, you take on all of the above. You feel these 108 years, because of the fans who took their place before you, and those who came before them (and those who came before them). These 108 years weighed on us in the same way as the fans who were 30 or 40 years older than us, because we all shared them. If you’re going to be a Cubs fan, this is one of them.
This applies to so many other places. It’s unlikely that Yankees fans, other than a small percentage, have ever seen Mickey Mantle play. But that’s not to say Mickey Mantle doesn’t mean a whole lot to a 25-year-old Yankees fan. You absorb that story and its place in it. That’s what makes being a Yankees fan different from being a Pirates fan. They had Mantle once, not Pittsburgh. But the Pirates have this Mazeroski home run. I was -21 when Mazeroski hit that home run, but I still know its importance and spent all three days in Pittsburgh. Pirate fans, if any, treat this with the same respect as those who were there. It becomes part of your identity as a fan, even if you can’t fully experience it as those who were there at the time. It’s Pirate history, it’s Pittsburgh history, and it’s part of who you are.
It’s the fun of being a fan of a team why they are, or should be, more public trusts than just corporations. They chain us through the years and decades. It’s something that European football holds much more dearly and protects much more passionately than here, whether it’s institutions serving the public rather than vacuuming up dollars (although that’s changing more plus every year, of course, without the help of American ownership). These clubs or teams are part of the fabric of that city or state, and knowing and appreciating those moments when those players are as much a part of belonging to a place and its history as an art museum or a famous dish. .
The wonderful thing about Vin Scully is that he was that connection to so many generations of fans, and they could all experience it first-person. There was no absorption or osmosis. Vin was there; you could hear it. Dodgers fans in 1961 have the same memory as those in 2011. The sun setting behind the Pacific, shining over the hills, and “Time for Dodger Baseball!” in their ears. Vin’s tone was the same every night, that Southern California sweetness and freshness that always told you, “Hey, how bad can this be?” We both live here, don’t we? »
Of course, Vin has spread to more than just Dodgers fans. Maybe you were introduced to him on NBC’s Game of the Week, or with “BEHIND THE BAG!” Maybe you were in a hotel room in Hartford watching him let Kirk Gibson home run without needing to insert himself (I seriously was, having just watched the Whalers beat the Hawks at Civic Center. I will soon have my walker).
Or maybe you came to see it when the MLB Extra Innings package became a part of your life, and like thousands of baseball fans every night, you ended your day with Wine from Dodger Stadium. No matter who the Dodgers were playing, Vin was your landing gear for the day, bringing you in safely and calmly, the last cocktail to unwind, if you will.
A favorite memory or quote comes from 2006. One night, Greg Maddux was able to channel his Cy Young form for that disaster of a Cubs team, holding the Dodgers to one run over eight innings in a game that lasted about 47 minutes. . After a strike out of a jamoke, Scully passed out, “So Maddux strike out Schmendrick on a change that’s dying of exhaustion on the way to the plate…” Scully was receiving as much of a kick from a final count -work of an old master like us. But Vin found this just about every night.
I was able to experience Vin from both sides, here at home late at night, or as a resident of Los Angeles at a very unstable time in life, and let his voice assure me that it could go, at least for a few hours. Yeah maybe I was broke and directionless but Vin was on the radio or TV and it was 72 degrees and damn this place didn’t look cool at dusk… I could make that walking. I know I wasn’t the only one Vin did this for. But there’s not a baseball fan who doesn’t have something like that about Scully. It’s a testament to his longevity, but you only get that longevity if you’re so good and so loved. None of us had to imagine what it was like, we all had to be there.