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Halo Fans Need Help in Sharing the Pain

It’s the day after the Angels’ crushing, season-ending loss to the Red Sox and, once again, all of my hopes and dreams and reasons for living have been snuffed out.

Oh, I’ll get over it.

The weird thing is, I’m not even a die-hard Angels fan. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. So why was Friday’s 10-inning heartbreaker so hard to take? Why did I basically quit working and stay glued to the set throughout the final, agonizing innings?

As if I didn’t know the answer. I’ve written about it before, and thousands have written about it before me. We sports fans get ourselves all twisted up in a team’s exploits, invest our emotional selves in them, overlay our psyches on those of the players and, voila, we’re hooked.

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No small part of my investment in the Angels is that I picked the bums in April to win the World Series.

But beyond that, I got attached to that darn team. How could anyone resist after the way they played the final week of the season? Gimme a V-L-A-D! What does that spell?

Gritty, determined, lots of character -- that’s the Angels. Coincidentally, that’s exactly how I see myself, so it’s not surprising I’d relate to the team and feel conjoined to it, body and soul. That’s how fans think.

The team wins, we exult. When the team loses in a most dispiriting way, as our Halos did Friday, we despair.

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On talk radio after the game, a 12-year-old said he was bummed. He wanted to know why Jarrod Washburn was brought in to pitch in the 10th and why Chone Figgins quit running in the ninth. His mother said her son cried after the game. The host said he understood and probably would have done the same if he were 12.

I got to thinking, would it be asking too much for the players to acknowledge our suffering?

Washburn gave up the season-ending homer on his first pitch, and afterward took the media’s questions like a champ. But, like most athletes, he didn’t acknowledge the fans’ pain.

I wonder if these guys really understand what fans go through. “I hung a slider,” was the essence of Washburn’s remarks.

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Excuse me, sir. I need more. This is real blood I’m bleeding here.

Perhaps it’s time for offending ballplayers to see themselves just like any other public figure who violates the public trust and respond accordingly.

Wouldn’t you, as an Angel fan, feel better today if Washburn had issued this statement:

“It is with profound regret that I stand before you today, a fallen Angel. I was given the solemn responsibility of retiring Mr. Ortiz, and I failed. I failed miserably. Instead of throwing the pitch in a way that would make it break down and away, I threw it in a way that made it go over the left-field wall.

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“I received more than $5 million in compensation this year, and with that came an obligation not to give up a season-ending gopher ball. Fans young and old cheered me throughout the season and placed their trust in me to protect their emotional well-being. I betrayed that trust today. I can only tell you that I am human and make mistakes. But I also want you to know that I fully understand how much I have hurt you and how deeply you are disappointed. I ask your forgiveness and support during this difficult time and pledge all my efforts toward regaining your trust.”

We hurt, because we care. We care because the Angels didn’t roll over in Boston and, instead, rallied in a most unexpected way. Only to lose in a most painful way.

In this moment of emotional pain, who is here to soothe us?

No one.

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So when I hear Washburn say he hung a slider, I can only groan and mutter this coda to the sad end of a season: “Ain’t that a pitch.”

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Dana Parsons’ column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana.parsons@latimes.com. An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons.


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