|What's wrong with West? Too easy|
By Graham Hays
Page 2 staff
Let's be clear. I have nothing against West Coast sports fans. They're usually very agreeable people with genuine emotional investments in their favorite teams.
Sort of like Canadians.
But there's no getting around the fact West Coast fans are a different breed from East Coast rooters. And how could they not be? We're talking about a region that includes California, a state that might actually elect Arnold Schwarzenegger governor. Not only governor, but governor of a state in serious financial crisis. Arnold Schwarzenegger! I don't care what George Pataki does, New Yorkers are never going to give James Gandolfini the last word on (publicly-funded) executions.
Now the disclaimer. I'm not a native East Coast guy. Wasn't born here. Wasn't even born in this country. I just ended up out here. That's right, I'm the Hillary Clinton of Page 2.
But East Coast sports have been in my blood for as long as I've been a sports fan. My earliest memories of baseball, football and basketball revolve around the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics. Enough of my formative years and what I remember of my college years were spent around East Coast fans to influence the way I watch games and follow teams. Those particular Beantown rooting interests are long since gone -- killed by too many years in close proximity to teams in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest -- but that's all the better.
I'm an East Coast fan without any of those sticky loyalties or biases toward East Coast teams. I know the mindset of a Red Sox fan -- I just don't bleed red.
Well, you know what I mean.
But after living in Seattle for several years, I've also seen the other side. I've awoken at 11 a.m. on a Sunday, only to find that not only are Chris Berman and Tom Jackson long since off the air, but my team is down 21-0. I've seen that mystery first-round game on the first day of the NCAA Tournament. You know, the one that starts at about 5 p.m. on the East Coast, right as the affiliates go to the local news? And I've eaten a salmon sandwich while watching Edgar Martinez hit in the shadow of a very large -- and ominously active -- volcano. Oh yes, my friends, I've been a West Coast sports fan.
But thanks to the Worldwide Leader in Sports, I currently reside in Hartford -- a city with all of Boston and New York's sports programming and none of their charm ... or restaurants. I've gone back to my roots, and there are circles under my eyes from those late-night West Coast games to prove it.
So who do we on this coast think of when talking about the West Coast sports fan?
It's not easy to define when the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco is only slightly less than the distance between New York City and Richmond, Va. Consider that the country fought a war because folks in those latter two cities couldn't figure out each other. Then throw in virtual outposts like Portland and Seattle, and we might as well be talking about another country. It's farther from San Diego to Seattle than from the Big Apple to Miami, but you're all one homogenous group of sports fans to the rest of us.
We'll grant there are differences -- Washingtonians won't leave the house without five layers, while San Diego residents don't own shirts that can't come off at the beach -- but it all comes back to the archetypal stereotype of a Southern California hipster who arrives in the third inning, spends the next three innings on his cell phone and then scoots out of the park before traffic gets really bad.
Are we giving you folks in the Bay Area or the Puget Sound region a fair shake? Nah, but there's a reason for it. Because more than anything, what East Coast fans see in West Coast fans from Qualcomm Stadium to Key Arena is a lack of suffering.
Our biggest gripes?
History: Granted, as a Colts fan, I'm treading on thin ice when it comes to stealing franchises. But honestly, it's not history when you have to qualify the question. Who is the greatest outfielder in Yankees history? Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio. Argue away. Who would you team with Julius Erving in an all-time 76ers lineup? Easy enough to debate. But ask about the greatest pitcher in Giants history and you've got to pull an answer out of your asterisk. Christy Mathewson? Oops, sorry, we meant San Francisco Giants history. How many titles have the Lakers won? Err, sorry to nitpick, but are we counting the five the franchise won in Minnesota?
The West Coast's flagship franchises came as pre-packaged winners. Just add sun for instant championship parades. Sure, teams like the Warriors and Padres haven't had much luck lately, but what's that compared to 1918 for a Red Sox fan? For crying out loud, Vinny Testaverde has been on this planet longer than the Padres.
History comes from winning (see the Yankees and Celtics) or losing (see virtually every other East Coast team) -- but it comes from years of doing something. Most East Coast fans might not have been alive for much of the suffering, but the pain of so many frustrating seasons is passed from one generation to the next in the same way a Boston youth is completely incapable of pronouncing the letter 'R' by the age of eight.
Distractions: It's not that West Coast fans don't care about their teams when they do pay attention, but there are just too many distractions once the game is over. East Coast fans suffer with the same regularity as a 7-11 stays open -- 24 hours a day. We spend breakfast bemoaning Pat Burrell's inability to hit and curse at the dog because Kedrick Brown couldn't hit a jumper if Antoine Walker was guarding him. Why not? It's freezing in the winter, humid in the summer, and even when the weather's good for a couple of weeks in the spring and fall, the Red Sox are usually losing a big game to ruin the day anyway.
But drive two hours from Portland and you could be at the beach, or skiing in the mountains, wind-surfing on the Columbia River or biking in the high desert. And while I don't have the weather forecast for early December in San Diego, I'm willing to bet my checking account that it involves sun and a temperature in the 70s.
It's not even that every West Coast fans does these things … but we think they do.
You might love sports, but you don't need sports. And that drives East Coasters crazy.
Late-night viewing: West Coast fans don't even have to suffer to follow their teams on television. We're forced to stumble into work bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived in order to follow a team on a West Coast swing, or, God forbid, watch one of those West Coast stars you're always pestering us to respect.
What's the hardest part of a West Coast fan's life? Leaving work early to catch a game from New York or Philly? Barring a marathon extra-inning or overtime game, nothing runs later than 11 p.m. on the West Coast, and you can catch the dramatic endings to East Coast games before dinner. You even have time to get out and mow the lawn in the sunshine after the "late" NFL games Sunday afternoon.
Call it jealousy if you want, but the last thing we want to hear when chugging coffee in the morning because of that three-OT Caps-Devils playoff game is that West Coast sports don't get any coverage. We've got to sleep sometime! Which brings us to …
Incessant whining: Is there an East Coast bias in the way sports are covered? You bet, and East Coast fans have earned it. As mentioned, you've got the weather, the lifestyles and the space, so what more do you need?
And it's not even like East Coast bias keeps West Coast teams from being successful. The Lakers are a lock this year. The Giants and Angels battled for the World Series last fall, while the Raiders made it to the Super Bowl, and the Mighty Ducks skated for the Stanley Cup. Sure, your Pac-10 teams get shafted in the rankings and awards from time to time, but not at the expense of any teams in the Northeast.
This is really all about a West Coast inferiority complex. You get plenty of wins and local coverage, but you won't quit whining about an East Coast bias until we admit you're our equals. That's not going to happen. Accept it and move on.
Don't take this the wrong way, it's just that bitter is a way of life for East Coast fans. If given the chance, many of us would trade in all the history, camaraderie and spirit of East Coast fandom for a life by the Pacific Ocean. Crowding onto the 4-train to sit in cramped bleacher seats at Yankee Stadium or sipping microbrews by McCovey Cove at Pac Bell? It's not a tough call.
But we're not out there, and that's why we don't understand you folks most of the time. We think you have it easy, and you don't even know it. Successful teams, nice weather, good hours. That's not what being a sports fan is about. It's about making sacrifices for the teams you support and expecting them to repay you with production on the field. It's not a social event, it's a game.
The only way to bridge this gap is for you to start acting more like us.
And is that really what you want?
Graham Hays writes 'Out of the Box,' the inside scoop on yesterday's box scores, five days a week.