Vince Lombardi was quoted as saying “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”
That was more than a half-century ago. Like rotary phones and 50-cent gasoline, that is part of history; antiquated at best, sitting squarely on the endangered list.
Now? Sure winning is great, but celebrating is the most important thing. Who has the wackiest dance to show off at the parade? Who can find the most ingenious use for the Stanley Cup? Who has the best YouTube shot of the other team?
Take the Los Angeles Dodgers, who took their N.L. West celebration to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfield pool Thursday at Chase Field, who devises the best way to punk those losers on the other dugout/bench/sideline during our victory lap?
Don’t like it? Tough. Beat us. Shut us up.
Don’t want the University of Arizona dancing on Sparky in Sun Devil Stadium? Don’t want Terrell Owens spiking the ball on the Dallas Cowboys’ star? We can’t be expected to police our own behavior. It’s up to you, our hated rival, to save us from ourselves by winning the game.
If you don’t — it’s Waterworld: The only rules are there are no rules.
Class? Huh? How old are you? What are you talking about?
Thursday’s pool party came after the Dodgers (a) celebrated on the field after the final out, and (b) exhausted every bottle of $2 champagne in the clubhouse. It was planned, calculated (they brought their own goggles, folks) and a continuation of the childish stupidity which passes for a rivalry in baseball, and is on full display between these two tit-for-tat teams.
The Dodgers started the beanball war last season. Then Arizona management got petty, asking Dodgers fans sitting behind home plate to remove their gear so the front office felt better. Ian Kennedy and the Diamondbacks took things to a ridiculous level in June, awakening a sleeping, rich, lazy giant in the process. The epic run L.A. went on from there — going from last place to running away with the division in a matter of two months — had an obvious starting point.
Yasiel Puig didn’t kick-start the Dodgers. Kennedy and Kurt Gibson did, and the Dodgers waited three months to show their appreciation.
The Dodgers had two plans of action for Thursday. In case they lost for the third time in four games to Arizona and for the 11th time in the last 14 games (yeah, not so red hot anymore), they made sure to exact baseball’s version of revenge on the field.
Starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who had hit seven batters in 200 innings this year, hit both Paul Goldschmidt (first inning) and Martin Prado (fourth inning after Arizona had scored six times to take a 6-3 lead) on Thursday.
Both came with two out and no one on. But that’s just a coincidence because, you know, the ball slipped. The Dodgers hit five Arizona players in the last two games of the series, if you were scoring at home.
The Diamondbacks did not retaliate once. That shows more disinterest than restraint — or that Arizona pitchers don’t know how to hit opponents in the back. The same can’t be said for Arizona’s game operations people, who suddenly weren’t shy about prompting the fans with the “Beat L.A.” chant once the early 3-0 deficit was erased.
But when the Dodgers rallied from three runs down against the Arizona bullpen — gee, imagine that — simply plunking the bad guys wasn’t enough. So out to the pool they went.
As part of the “get-over-it” mentality which started in the Dodgers’ clubhouse and spilled quickly to Los Angeles and the national media, Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw offered this: “We don’t mean any disrespect towards them. ... For me, if they were to celebrate at our home field, I feel like they’ve earned that right.”
No one is begrudging an on-field celebration. Has Arizona earned the right to give Vin Scully a piggyback ride around the warning track? Or spray champagne on the legends that adorn the outfield wall? Does winning come with a carte blanche card?
The example of the Red Sox clinching in Yankee Stadium and running out to Monument Park to pour champagne on the busts of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig has been tossed out. I agree that wouldn’t happen, but not because of the stock answer that “Yankee fans wouldn’t stand for it.”
It wouldn’t happen because for all the history and all the hatred and the howling back and forth, there is an underlying respect between rivals. Beating them is enough.
At least for the Red Sox and Yankees, winning is everything.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.