COMMENTARY | There's no need to list the many great things about living in Southern California. The people that live here already know them, and the people that don't live here already hate us for them.
One thing that non-SoCal folks have always been tried to pride themselves on is the idea that, possibly because of having endured tougher living conditions, they're all better sports fans than those of Southern California -- who are widely regarded as fickle, unknowledgeable "bandwagoners."
But what if all that just wasn't true?
As a sports fan, Southern California is a veritable smorgasbord of athletic delights and championship-caliber teams everywhere you look. If you like basketball, there's the Los Angeles Lakers and UCLA Bruins -- two teams steeped in rich, buttery championship tradition. Heck, even the Los Angeles Clippers are a playoff contender now.
If you like football, the USC Trojans have an awesome track record of dominance -- and even the UCLA Bruins are ranked this year. Maybe hockey is your thing. Cool, we've got the Los Angeles Kings, who won the Stanley Cup last year. We even have a championship soccer team.
As much as I like to make fun of soccer for being a fake sport (because it is), all that running around and not scoring requires a great deal of athleticism. And, if you're into that sort of thing, the Los Angeles Galaxy have won the MLS Championship of Boredom Cup four or five times.
When it comes to baseball, we've got the high-flying Los Angeles Dodgers and the down, but not forgotten Los Angeles Angels. Both of these teams have strongly devoted fan-bases.
It's easier for fans of the Dodgers. They have a long history of winning and top-tier superstars. Also, they've recently switched to the "pay to get all the top players" motto to stock up their team.
The Angels won a World Series just a decade ago and have been relatively successful since. However, their new motto of "pay to get all the once-great, now-mediocre players" hasn't worked out very well at all. But the Angels still have the best player in baseball for at least the next four years, so there's still hope. It may be false hope, but that's something Southern Californians live on.
These two teams are, technically speaking, rivals -- though the Angels have long been the younger stepbrother to the super-popular Dodgers. But in Southern California, a rivalry mostly consists of making catty remarks behind someone's back. Some fans try to pretend they're tough guys but when they're done barking, they usually just pour themselves a light beer and finish off their sushi plate.
It's the people outside Southern California who seem to have the biggest beef with Angels fans. The East Coast vs. West Coast theme has permeated many aspects of our culture. And nowhere is that more true than in sports. East Coast fans proclaim, "We are superior because we care more than West Coast fans do!"
And West Coast fans reply, "Huh? What were we talking about? I just saw Julia Roberts walk into a Starbucks."
Angels fans get ridiculed for showing up late to games and leaving early. The fallacy of this is that at any given home game, there are a significant number of fans in attendance for the opposing team -- most of which are arriving late and leaving early. Because Southern California's traffic nightmares have permanently altered the way people think about time. We aren't just late for sporting events; we're late for everything. Late is the new on-time.
Angels fans are sometimes labeled "bandwagon" and not "true fans" like other cities have. Sorry, but not going to games when a team stinks doesn't make anyone any less of a fan. When a movie stinks, people don't go see it just to prove they're the best fans of Jennifer Aniston or James Cameron or Paramount Pictures.
Other team's fans accuse L.A. fans of not being as knowledgeable about baseball. Even if something like this could actually be measured, do you have to know exactly how a meal was made for you to enjoy it? Nope. And do you need to know who was the best at making it 20 years ago to find it delicious? Nope.
Additionally, the Angels have averaged more than 3 million in attendance for some time now. Plus, they recently signed a multi-billion dollar TV contract because of how much the fans watch from home.
Where Angels fans really separate themselves from the rest of the league is that they choose to support their baseball team as much as they do despite the myriad of other activities in which they can partake. Other cities have alternate activities -- maybe a "Sausage, Brat or Wiener?" party in Milwaukee or a round of "Who's Got Crabs?" in Baltimore or an afternoon of "Let's Start a Trashcan Fire" in Detroit.
There is certainly no denying that Angels fans are more laid-back than fans from the rest of the country. But if you think being high-strung about men in matching clothes playing a game, then it might be time to reevaluate your priorities.
When a free-agent player is looking at what team to sign with, Southern California has its location advantage, but a player can also factor in that if you succeed, Angels fans will exalt you to highest of highs; if you fail, Angels fans will just be kind of bummed a bit, but it's cool, bro, let's head out to the beach.
There are so many things to do in Southern California at any given time, but the Angels fans are committed to their team and will continue to support them through thick and thin -- though they may just be a tiny bit late getting there.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball. You can see him on Twitter @JedRigney.
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