All things considered, 2020 is a pretty great time to be a Los Angeles sports fan. The Lakers have the second-best record in all of basketball. The Rams, recently returned from St. Louis, are just a year removed from making it to the Super Bowl. Even the LA Football Club made the Conference Finals in soccer, no doubt exciting all four of their fans.
And among them all, the Dodgers still manage to stand out. They have won seven consecutive division titles, the third longest streak in baseball history, and are nearly a lock to win an eighth in 2020.
But, alas, there is an old adage in baseball: flags fly forever. In other words, when looking back at sports history, fans will not remember the Dodgers’ thrilling 106-win season or Clayton Kershaw being crowned the best pitcher of his generation. They will simply look up and see the championship flags that fly above the stadium––or rather, the lack of them. Because for all the games they have won in the past decade, the Dodgers have failed to do what matters most of all: win the World Series.
Let me tell you some things about 1988. The Last Emperor beat out Fatal Attraction for best picture at the Academy Awards. Mikhail Gorbachev headed the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. And the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics in the World Series, in what may prove to be the last time the team ever wins the championship.
I know I won’t get much pity. At least the Dodgers are in the playoffs at all, while many teams are stumbling to well over 100 losses. They have, by nearly every measure, been an enormously successful franchise.
But regardless, I think there is something uniquely tragic about the Dodgers. Watching city after city celebrate a championship is so much worse when you know just how close you got to celebrating in their stead.
In that way, perhaps 2017 was the most agonizing of their losses. Putting aside the fact that the eventual victors, the Houston Astros, are now implicated in the biggest cheating scandal the sport has seen in a century, the 2017 World Series had gone down to the wire, culminating in a decisive, winner-take-all Game 7. I spent a large part of that series out of town for a debate tournament, and so most of my watching took place in sporadic, fifteen-minute intervals between rounds. And while I have tried with all my might to scrub any reminder of the series from my mind, I still have a vivid memory of staring forlornly at a small, blurry television in a dingy Las Vegas restaurant, realizing that the championship parade would have to be postponed another year.
But despite seeing the team choke like clockwork, I cannot help but hope, like I have every year I can remember. After all, you know what they say: 32nd time’s the charm.