OK. We have all seen Thursday’s Dodger’s post-game celebration at Chase Field after clinching the NL West Title. They collectively jumped the fence in right field and cannon-balled their way into OUR swimming pool. An outcry spread across the land: “How dare they!” Willie Bloomquist called it a classless and disrespectful act. Arizona Senator John McCain described the celebrating Dodgers as “spoiled brats.” Derrick Hall, President and CEO of the D-Backs told the Arizona Republic that “I could call it disrespectful and classless, but they don’t have a beautiful pool at their old park and must have really wanted to see what one was like.” What made it worse was that the D-Backs had apparently urged the Dodgers not to celebrate on the field in the presence of our fans. I guess it was the Dodgers’ perception that they had complied since their antics in the pool happened after virtually all the fans had left the ballpark.
Once the controversy surfaced, baseball pundits began speculating that the aquatic act of the Dodgers was an offshoot of the bad blood between these two teams. In support of their opinion, they cited the Ian Kennedy/Zach Greinke incident from earlier this season. The experts asserted that the pool-partying Dodgers were allegedly providing the ultimate “diss” after overtaking and then trouncing the D-Backs in the 2013 NL West Pennant Race.
Well, I would like also to weigh in on this apparent controversy, adding to Brad Cesmat’s “Poolgate” story and Espo’s “Get Over It Diamondbacks” posting. Frankly, I don’t think the Dodgers thought one bit about the D-Backs or any rivalry when they decided to take their plunge. And that perhaps is a greater show of disrespect. To them, the D-Backs were likely the pest that they had to shoo away. Why would the Dodgers give any thought to a bunch of blue collar-type players who collectively exceeded the individual abilities of those on the 25-man rosternot named Goldschmidt? After all, this Dodger team has replaced the Yankees as the greatest team money could buy. Their team salary is over $215 million while the D-Backs’ collective salary isabout 40% of that, around $90 million. Dodger Blue just didn’t think aboutSedona Red when they elected to pillage our ballpark.
Home teams do not take kindly to having their “house” disrespected. One example involves Terrell (“That’s my quarterback”) Owens. You remember him, don’t you? In September of 2000, as a member of the 49ers, he was playing a road game against the Dallas Cowboys. After scoring a touchdown, he ran from the end zone to the mid-field insignia of the Cowboys and held out his arms in apparent triumph as he looked skyward to the heavens. This did not sit well with the Cowboys and when Emmitt Smith later scored a touchdown, he “retaliated” by slamming the football down in front of the 49ers’ bench. Owens was not about to be one-upped, even by the great Emmitt Smith. After he scored his second touchdown, Owens sprinted again to mid-field, this time slamming the football down on the Cowboys’ insignia. Owens was met immediately thereafter with a blind side dead ball tackle from defensive back George Teague of the Cowboys, proclaiming his protection of the Cowboys’ home turf. Many say that Owens’ actions that day in Dallas was the last straw that caused then 49er Coach Steve Mariucci to decide that Owens must go (which he did following that season).
Another example about behavioral codes for visitors relates more to the territoriality of the field itself. The Yankees were in Oakland on April 24, 2010 and were facing starting pitcher Dallas Braden. A-Roid was on first base and headed to third on what turned out to be a foul ball. As he headed back to first base, he stepped directly over pitcher’s mound. Braden and baseball purists were outraged that A-Roid had violated a sacred unwritten rule that the mound is the sole domain of the pitcher. There is video showing Braden yelling at A-Roid, quoted as saying “Get off my [expletive] mound.” A-Roid acted as if he had no idea what had upset the young A’s pitcher, much the same as he feigns ignorance as to why there is so much disdain for him, both inside and outside the baseball community.
Sometimes this hyper-sensitivity about disrespecting the “house” is taken a bit too far. In 2012, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers of the Sun Belt Conference were taking on the Kentucky Wildcats of the SEC in Lexington, Kentucky. This was the last of a four game series between the two interstate teams, with the first three having been won by Kentucky by a collective score of 118-34. On a trick play in overtime, Western Kentucky scored to win the game 32-31, the first ever win in the school’s history over an SEC opponent. The Hilltopper players stormed the field in celebration of the monumental victory, yet many among the University of Kentucky community took great exception to the celebration on the Wildcat home field. Really? A spontaneous celebration from a bunch of young men who beat the odds is a showing of disrespect to their hosts? I don’t think so.
So what are we to make of this scandalous pool party thrown by the Dodgers at the D-backs’ expense? Are you in the group who cries foul and are already planning our payback for the Dodgers’ behavior in our house? Or are you among those who think it is no big deal and believe the incident was a refreshing sign that despite their millionaire status, baseball players really do care about winning? Whatever your opinion, there is one thing I can say with certainty: If the D-backs want respect from the Dodgers, they should do it the old-fashioned way. They should earn it!