Do the Dodgers really want their fans to miss Vin Scully’s final season?
It’s a wonderful bit of sentimental synchronicity, a sweet one-two tug at a city’s heart, an entire year of misty eyes and memories.
From one civic celebration to the next, the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour soon will be followed by the Vin Scully Farewell Tour.
Or, um, not.
Is it a farewell tour if more than half the city will not be witnessing it?
The question is surely haunting Dodgers fans as they watch the elaborate Bryant exit and realize that, as of now, most of them will miss a similar parade for Scully.
As the Dodgers’ television blackout enters its third season, Scully, arguably the most revered sports figure in L.A. history, is scheduled to end his 67-year run in the fall.
As with Bryant’s last game April 13 at Staples Center, there will be three hours of cheers, testimonials and plenty of tears. But, unlike with Bryant’s game, the 60% of Los Angeles-area households that don’t subscribe to a pay-TV operator that carries SportsNet LA will miss it.
Most of those at home can listen to him broadcast the first three innings on radio like always, but they’ll miss everything else. His last yarn about some obscure pitcher from the 1960s. His last cute shout-out to a kid in the stands. His last poetic description of a double play. His last out. His last call. They’ll miss it all.
What should be one of the shining moments in Dodgers history will be one of the lowest moments in Dodgers history, and such a contrast to what is happening across town.
The Lakers, whose connection with the community has continually grown under Jeanie Buss, have celebrated Bryant’s final season to the point of being criticized for slowing the development of their potential future stars. Meanwhile the Dodgers, whose bond with the community has frayed under new ownership, have refused to make any concession that would truly honor Scully’s similar final ride.
(When The Times has been critical of how this issue has been handled over the last two years, the Dodgers have consistently challenged us to disclose that Eddy Hartenstein, who was once chief executive at DirecTV, is chairman of the board of directors of the Tribune Publishing Co. and former publisher of The Times.
OK, fine, sigh, disclosed. Like that can really divert the attention from the hundreds of thousands of fans who can’t watch your games?)
The Dodgers blame everyone but themselves, yet they could fix everything with the swipe of a pen, the swallowing of pride, even if it means a small shrinking of their massive bank account.
Maybe it’s too late to change the contract to make it palatable for both parties — they lost all leverage with DirecTV — but surely they can afford some loss to forge some solution or at least put some of these games on free TV until a deal is done. It is the Dodgers’ brand that is suffering, and it will soon be Scully’s legacy that is suffering. Ultimately it is the Dodgers responsibility to the community to make that right.
Mark Walter, the Dodgers’ controlling owner who leads cheers while standing next to the dugout, takes a seat on this one. Stan Kasten, who walks the stands before games to ferret out problems, makes a U-turn when faced with this issue. Magic Johnson, the other visible co-owner, has been all no-look.
The big shots will be witness to the good parts of the Vin Scully farewell tour, but most of you won’t, so here’s what you’ll miss.
If the home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 12 is anything like Bryant’s first game since announcing his farewell, there will be ovations for Scully throughout the afternoon. He’ll charmingly react to them. You’ll miss it.
On the night of June 6, the D-day anniversary and one of his favorite days of the summer, Scully will call the game against the Rockies while recounting his wonderful stories of war veterans for the final time. You’ll miss them.
Andre Ethier is going to wallop a walk-off pinch-hit homer, and Scully will make the call as if Ethier were Kirk Gibson, one more fist pump from the press box, and you’ll miss it.
Opposing managers and players will make a parade to the press box before games to honor Scully. The Cubs’ Joe Maddon started this trend last year, and the strong production crew at SportsNet LA will capture the love and respect, and you’ll miss it.
Scully probably will give his blessing to city officials who once again are attempting to rename Elysian Park Avenue to Vin Scully Avenue, and it probably will be dedicated before a Dodgers game late in the season, and SportsNet LA will be there, and you won’t.
In the end, Vin Scully will stand in the press box in the shadows on that Sunday afternoon in September, look shyly into the camera and offer a final wave. You won’t see it, so you won’t be able to wave back.
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