It may take more than a free lunch for Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to convince… (Danny Moloshok / Associated…)
He was invited to lunch with the owner of the Dodgers.
Do you have any idea how that should have made Brian Gadinsky feel?
For much of his adult life, the Dodgers have been not only his team, but his family. He has long watched over them from his favorite seats in the reserved level at Dodger Stadium, 23 years attending games, eight years as a season-ticket holder, investing his loudest cheers in large chunks of his busy life.
He raised his children with the Dodgers, his son's birthdays appearing on the scoreboard, one son's bar mitzvah taking place in the Stadium Club, the entire family taking batting practice in the middle of winter with other nuts just like them.
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He has stayed young with the Dodgers, and if you ever listen to the Dodger Talk radio show, you would hear this, because he is the caller known as, "Brian from Westwood."
He has fought for the Dodgers with fans in San Francisco, celebrated for them with fans in San Diego, soaked in the history with them at Fenway Park. He has even showed up at Dodger Stadium to cheer them when there was no game, being part of a Dodger Stadium pep rally a couple of years ago when the team returned home from beating the Giants to clinch the division championship.
"It's never been about winning or losing," said Gadinsky, 54, a television producer. "The Dodgers have been part of my life, and I will love them no matter what."
One would think, then, there were few greater rewards for this love than the phone call he received this spring from a Dodgers ticket representative.
After all these years, Brian Gadinsky was invited to lunch with the owner of the Dodgers.
And he turned it down.
He turned it down for the same reason he had earlier trashed his season-ticket renewal notice, which led to the invitation in the first place.
He turned it down because it would mean breaking bread with Frank McCourt, and he is done with Frank McCourt.
"My friends all asked me if I was crazy," Gadinsky said. "I told them, no, I am just tired. … I am tired of being loyal to a man who has not returned that loyalty."
Gadinsky says he will not return to Dodger Stadium as a season-ticket holder until McCourt is gone, and as the team begins its 54th season in Los Angeles on Thursday, the story of the summer will spin around his four empty seats.
Maybe you know somebody like Gadinsky, or maybe you are him, but he is clearly not alone, and the Dodgers slog into 2011 bathed in the sludge of this disaffection.
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The next six months are not about winning back a playoff spot, but about winning back a city. The famously loyal Dodgers fans can grit down on their Dodger Dogs and endure the mistakes of new Manager Don Mattingly, the struggles of Jonathan Broxton, the moods of Matt Kemp, but can they continue to stomach the idea of McCourt continuing to handle their treasure after losing their trust?
Brian Gadinsky cannot, and if he cannot, who can?
"This is not a crusade, I am not calling for a boycott, I love my team and, as always, I hope and pray and believe they will go 162-0," said Gadinsky. "But I can no longer support a man who has taken this great foundation and allowed it to rot."
There was always a sense that McCourt wanted to be the centerpiece of this team and, sadly, right now, he's gotten his wish. One year after the announcement of his messy divorce from former wife Jamie, a couple of months after the ugly trial to determine custody of the Dodgers, the damages that his personal problems have inflicted on the team are everywhere.
You see it in the failure to sign impact players. You feel it in the failure to make major stadium upgrades. You sense it in a desultory spring training devoid of buzz.
On Thursday at Dodger Stadium, if McCourt is either shown on the video board or announced to the crowd, you'll hear it. The last time his name was spoken at a regular-season Dodgers game, by departing Joe Torre in last year's season finale, he was roundly booed. Fans didn't get a chance to say much to him during spring training, as he showed up only at his beloved Camelback Ranch two days before the team departed.
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He is trying to be nowhere, but he is everywhere, and if the season previews were completely accurate, he would be listed as everything, the Dodgers' biggest impact player, the Dodgers' biggest question mark, the Dodgers' best hope, the Dodgers' worst nightmare.
The hope is that sometime during the season, finances will finally force him to sell. The nightmare is that he will not.
"I'll tell you exactly what I told all the nice Dodger sales people who kept calling me," said Gadinsky. "I will always love the Dodgers, but as long as McCourt owns the team, I will no longer patronize him."
To be fair, there were Dodgers fans who did attend one of several lunches McCourt hosted throughout the winter, and they seemed to at least appreciate the gesture.
"When I got to the lunch, I was skeptical, but Mr. McCourt was a stand-up guy, answered all the questions; I have a newfound appreciation for him," said Dane Frank, a business owner from Burbank who has held loge season tickets for 31 years.
Frank was invited to the lunch because, like Gadinsky, he had not yet mailed in his ticket money. He arrived with questions about McCourt's financial commitment, about the shaky product on the field, about the increased unruliness in the Dodger Stadium stands. He left impressed with McCourt's willingness to face his customers and address the issues.
But did Frank leave with renewed season tickets?
"No," he said. "I'm still not buying."