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BILL PLASCHKE

His Los Angeles sports MVPs for 2011: Dodgers fans

Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw did great things. So did many other L.A. athletes. But no one had as big an impact as Dodgers fans, who by NOT going to games drove hated owner Frank McCourt out of town.

December 27, 2011|Bill Plaschke
  • A Dodger fan dances during the team's season opener at Dodger Stadium on March 31. Dodgers fans took a stand against owner Frank McCourt in 2011.
A Dodger fan dances during the team's season opener at Dodger Stadium… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

The most sweeping statement in the history of Los Angeles sports started with a smallest of words.

No.

Maybe you said it. Maybe you were the first one. Maybe last spring somebody offered you a chance to buy Dodgers tickets, and maybe you surprised yourself by thinking about it, and maybe, finally, the idea of giving money to owner Frank McCourt made you physically ill.

Maybe then, for the first time in your long history of instinctively showing up at Chavez Ravine because of your blind love for the Dodgers, you said it.

No.

The word became a mantra. The mantra became a mission. Your refusal became your neighbor's refusal, which grew into your community's refusal, which spread wildly through a city that eventually made one of the most unusual, difficult decisions in the history of the American sports fan.

You decided you loved the Dodgers too much to support them.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no . . .

You claimed you would never attend another Dodgers game as long as Frank McCourt was the owner and, unimaginably, you didn't. You claimed you would disappear until McCourt disappeared, and, unbelievably, you did.

No, to the three-game ticket package. No, to the annual birthday trip. No, to the fireworks night, the bobblehead giveaway, the one Cubs game with buddies visiting from Chicago.

Countless "no's" turned into thousands of empty seats, which morphed into a summer-long national embarrassment, which caught the attention of Major League Baseball officials, who finally stepped in and finished the job you started.

Today, the worst owner in the history of the Dodgers has agreed to sell the Dodgers, and it is not overstatement to say it never would have happened without you.

For this, Dodgers fans, you are my Los Angeles Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year.

An appropriate trophy would be a framed photo of Section 314 in the right-field pavilion during an afternoon game in late August, an image featuring long gleaming rows of bleachers occupied by exactly six people. I know, because I interviewed all of them.

Congrats, Dodgers fans, for doing something not even the tough fans in New York or Philadelphia have ever done. They've booed players and managers out of town, but you actually ran off an owner.

You bought so few tickets, attendance dropped 18%, the lowest in 11 years. So many of you stayed away, McCourt lost an estimated $27 million in revenue.

Fans have boycotted bad teams before; that's easy. Refusing to show up to watch a team you support to send a message to an owner you despise, that's tough.

Congrats, Dodgers fans, for having the strength to miss Clayton Kershaw's Cy Young starts, Matt Kemp's MVP-worthy year, and the emergence of a tough young bullpen. As the season progressed and the glowing statistics mounted, you were increasingly tempted to run over to Dodger Stadium for a few quick innings; what would be the harm? But you didn't.

Late in the year, I received an email from a longtime fan who made me believe this boycott would survive the season. She had been offered free tickets and still turned them down, saying that she couldn't even bear to give McCourt money for parking or hot dogs.

"I never thought it would happen," said Brian Gadinsky. "Everyone says fans will never truly boycott because the game means too much to them, but for once, a boycott actually happened."

Last winter, Gadinsky, a television producer and Dodgers season-ticket holder, was one of the first to say a resounding "no." He was so emphatic, I wrote about him on opening day. While his decision was singular and was not intended to start a movement, his story perhaps set the tone for a season of disgust.

Remember Gadinsky? He was the guy who canceled his season tickets because of McCourt, then endured an onslaught of phone calls from Dodgers salespeople begging him to come back.

Remember their last pitch? They told Gadinsky they had an offer he couldn't refuse, inviting him to lunch with McCourt himself.

Gadinsky refused, saying, "When you get a new owner, call me."

The column about his refusal resulted in hundreds of emails from fans who either agreed with him or felt empowered by him, and the exodus had begun. The Bryan Stow beating on opening day scared some fans away, obviously, but it was the distaste for McCourt that endured throughout the season, emptying the stadium such that, in June, I wrote a column about buying a decent seat to a Dodgers game on the StubHub resale website for $2.55.

"The ravine is beautiful, everyone wants to go there, but somebody was stepping on our Dodgers, and fans weren't going to stand for it," Gadinsky said. "Frank McCourt was like some cartoon villain who comes to town and does terrible things until the people finally fight back."

This newspaper has received plenty of emails and letters thanking us for keeping the pressure on McCourt, but we didn't do it, the fans did. Reams of 800-word bellyaching can't compare to rows of empty seats.

Gadinsky remembers late in the season, watching a game against the San Francisco Giants on television, and seeing not only empty bleachers, but also empty loge and reserved sections.

"I was like, wow, it's over, it's totally over," Gadinsky said.

The celebration couldn't become official until Nov. 1, when McCourt announced he was selling the team. And thus the sweeping statement made by the Los Angeles Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year ended in a different small word.

Yes.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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