Who’s more popular in the second largest metropolitan area in the U.S. now, the Dodgers or the Galaxy?
Sounds like a silly question, maybe laughable-years ago, but now, it may not be as obvious as some people would think.
Yes, the Dodgers have seating for more than 50,000 per for 81 home games, while the Galaxy only seat just over 20,000 for a possible 20 home games. And the Dodgers have decades in the city, while the Galaxy are still relatively newer in town.
Also, the Dodgers are steeped in tradition. Tradition with names and faces of legends from the past, and with their ballpark. The tradition with their ballpark at Chavez Ravine contains memories for millions of sports fans watching day and night games with a spectacular view, eating good food, and trying to catch foul balls.
But times have changed.
The Galaxy recently signed the biggest local cable TV contract of any MLS team. They are being heavily promoted on Time Warner Cable over the next 10 years.
They have possibly the greatest tandem of players (Beckham and Donovan) one soccer team has ever had in the U.S., mostly play before near-capacity or sellout crowds, and are a contender for a championship every year.
They are also the current champions after winning MLS Cup 1-0 over the Houston Dynamo last year.
On the other hand, in recent seasons the Dodgers have accumulated massive debt, had lackluster attendance, bad records for wins and losses, and a horrible reputation for safety at the ballpark.
What is even worse for the Dodgers is the probability that their ownership problems and battles with Major League Baseball will continue for a long time. Bankruptcy has been filed and MLB has appointed their people to run the team.
A new TV deal for the Dodgers had been reached with FOX Sports last year, which was how the owner, Frank McCourt, planned to overcome payroll issues and help generate revenue for new business dealings. But the deal was nixed by MLB and its commissioner, Bud Selig.
More than likely, the case of the financially strapped Dodgers will not end soon. The actions by Selig set a precedent that will probably see it finish in the courtroom. It could end up being a landmark case due to the nature of how MLB intervened in the private negotiations of McCourt as he tried to extricate his team out of debt.
But the Dodgers aren’t the only baseball team struggling to pay their bills.
On the other coast, the New York Mets are going through similar problems, though the owners have pushed much of the blame on being hoodwinked by Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme. Whether a majority of the financial problems the Mets are having come from involvement with Madoff or not, the direness of the situation is hard to ignore.
Practically a third of MLB teams are experiencing losing big money. It’s not a problem that’s going away anytime soon. Baseball got itself into this mess and will have to work itself out of it.
For example, the Dodgers must take advantage of their strong triumvirate of likable players, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. They need to ride them out and build around them. This season can be better if they gel early and rally the city to the goals of winning the division and making the playoffs.
What’s been bad for baseball has been just the opposite for soccer in the U.S. MLS is taking some advantage of baseball’s missteps just by being there.
There’s no NFL coming to L.A. anytime real soon, so if you’re a sports fan in Los Angeles right now, you can jump ship from the Dodgers to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, get on the bandwagon for the Clippers, or stay on the bandwagon for the Lakers. Both NBA teams are headed to the playoffs.
There’s another option too: fans can beat the drum for the Galaxy, which seems to make more and more sense.
Soccer and the Galaxy are the “cool” sport, and the incompetent Dodgers are helping to point this out more for everyone to take notice of.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com