By: Jamie Samuelsen
I heard the news the other day that former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda suffered a minor heart attack in New York City. Lasorda is one of the more beloved baseball figures in recent history. He was an overweight, larger-than-life personality who won two titles in L.A. and drove the Dodgers to being one of the best teams of the 70s and the 80s.
Lasorda was someone totally different to me. I hated him. I grew up a San Francisco Giants fan so the Dodgers were our archrivals. And nobody represented the Dodgers better, and therefore elicited more of our ire, than Tommy Lasorda. To quote Chevy Chase in “Fletch” – I hate Tommy Lasorda. I always have. And I always will.
Now, let me clarify something. When I heard about Lasorda’s health scare, I was NOT happy. The hatred was something on the field, between the lines. It never carried over to personal issues. Like you, I’m a fanatic sports fan. But I let it end when the game ends…for the most part.
In fact, when I heard about Lasorda’s heart attack, I was saddened to hear the news because it made me remember all the great battles and the bitter losses. Lasorda was booed mercilessly when he managed at Candlestick Park, and he used to doff his cap and wave to the Giants fans like he was a conquering hero returning home from war.
It made me long for the old days. And it made me realize that sports don’t have as many villains as it used to. Who are the bad guys in sports right now? Who is Detroit’s number one most hated rival? Everyone hates the Heat, but that’s more about the greed of LeBron James and the boastful promise that they’d win “Not one, not two, not three…” titles. Michigan fans hate Michigan State (and Ohio). And MSU fans hate Michigan.
But beyond that, where’s the hate? We need another Claude Lemieux or Michael Jordan or Phil Jackson. We need someone who makes our blood boil every single time a game starts. Some fans try to tell me that Sidney Crosby is that player now in Detroit. But that’s based on his whiny behavior in the 2009 Finals and his failure to shake Nicklas Lidstrom’s hand when the series was over. What’s Sid the Kid done to us lately? He never plays because of all the concussion issues. I barely think of him as a thorn in our collective sides.
A.J. Pierzynski? Everyone hates him, but he hasn’t done much to the Tigers lately.
LeBron? Everyone hates him, but he’s not a Cavalier anymore and the Pistons aren’t all that relevant.
Urban Meyer? He may be the best candidate out there right now. But he hasn’t coached a single game yet at Ohio State and Michigan and Michigan State fans will be (not-so) secretly rooting for him when the Buckeyes are playing the other in-state team.
Long live Tommy Lasorda. Long live Claude Lemieux. Long live the hatred.
And I long to have another villain enter the fray in our sports landscape very, very soon.