What makes a great rivalry? If you were to leave that question to the dopes at ESPN, all you will hear is a bunch of slop about the Red Sox and the Yankees, Michigan and Ohio State, or from the real “traditionalists,” you might get some waxing nostalgic about Army and Navy. In other words, this is just another arena where the supposed sports experts think the world is flat, and it is inevitable one will keyboard off the edge somewhere west of the Big 12.
But rivalry transcends sports. Cities have been engaging in a game of one-upsmanship since the Neolithic Revolution, and Los Angeles and San Francisco have been trading rabbit-punches and groin kicks since Leland Stanford and Collis Huntington were building the railroads that connected these then far-off burghs to each other and to the flat earth. Granted, sports now play a major role in a city’s identity, but they do not form the exclusive standard against which a municipality may be measured.
One has to have this category as both Los Angeles and San Francisco have both had their share of cataclysms. The City By The Bay was leveled in 1906, and did its “level best” to impress for the 1989 World Series by providing the Loma Prieta quake, thus postponing the inevitable drubbing of the San Francisco Giants by the Oakland A’s in the only series to feature both Bay Area sides.
But the Southland is also land that is prone to the occasional violent thrashing. Nobody remembers the 1933 quake that rubble-ized a swath from Long Beach through Los Angeles and killed 115 people. Memories are somewhat fresher for the Northridge quake of 1994, but they are fading for the 1971 Sylmar quake.
See, the problem is that San Francisco does disasters with memory-etching style. 1906 saw the city not only literally shaken to bits, but then the bits burned to the still-moving ground. 1989’s temblor was caught on live television, and to top that, San Franciscans found a way to sing about it afterward in a way that matched the city’s general quirkiness. Not only do Los Angeles’ quakes lack that kind of panache, but they tried to atone for it by letting Hollywood turn it all into one of those 1970’s big-budget, cast-of-several, mondo-disaster cheese-fests.
Advantage: Los Angeles, but only on account of Charlton Heston, and only because he was the only guy with enough balls to find out the secret of Soylent Green. Plus, he knows how to land a crippled 747 while being fawned over by America’s sexiest 1970’s cross-eyed stewardess. When’s the last time you got off your fat, pock-marked ass to do something like that?
Both the Bay Area and the Southland have two major league sides. Only the Angels are original sons, otherwise, three of these franchises were stolen from other cities.
Since the Angels are original, they are mismatched with the Oakland A’s as the American League little brothers; they don’t really have a sense of rivalry. Even their owners were completely different types of guys. Angels’ owner Gene Autry made his dough as a singing cowboy in westerns of the 1930’s. In fact, Autry is the only person that has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in all five categories; motion pictures, radio, recording, television, and live theater. If that weren’t enough, he also served in the Army Air Corps in China during World War II.
In contrast, A’s owner Charlie Finley was more a cheap asshole than anything else. A guy who made his money selling insurance, Finley brought the miserly ways of the insurance business to baseball. For example, players were issued a certain number of bats. If a player broke a bat, they wouldn’t get any replacements. Finley also rarely ordered new uniforms at the start of a season, instead recycling old ones. Trainers were told to use every bit of a roll of medical tape, with usually heavy reprimand if they didn’t. He also never offered season tickets.
At one point during their championship years, the A’s radio flagship broadcaster was KALX, a 10-watt radio station owned by the University of California-Berkeley. Being such a low-power station meant KALX couldn’t be heard more than 10 miles from the Oakland Coliseum. At other times during Finley’s tenure, the A’s had no radio or television contracts, which made them practically unknown outside of Oakland. This helps to explain why the A’s couldn’t draw fans, even when they were winning three straight World Series titles in the 1970’s.
But in the Senior Circuit, the Giants and the Dodgers are inextricably linked in National League history. They are both handcuffed to the history of NewYork, the city they both fled in 1957. The rivalry was born in the days when the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field lent territoriality to two neighborhoods, not two cities separated by 400 miles of coastal California. But the intensity never went away. Just ask John Roseboro.
That’s Johnny there, getting a dent put in his melon by Giants hall-of-famer Juan Marichal. From BaseballLibrary.com:
“On August 22, 1965, Marichal faced Sandy Koufax at Candlestick Park in the heat of a tight pennant race. The Giants and Dodgers had come close to a brawl two days earlier over catcher’s interference calls. Los Angeles’s Maury Wills had allegedly tipped Tom Haller’s mitt with his bat on purpose, and Marichal’s best friend, Matty Alou, retaliated by tipping John Roseboro’s face mask. Roseboro nearly beaned Alou with his return throw to the mound. In the August 22 game, Marichal had flattened Wills and Ron Fairly with pitches when Roseboro purportedly asked Koufax to hit Marichal. When Koufax refused, Roseboro’s return throw came close to Marichal’s head. Name-calling ensued, until Roseboro suddenly ripped off his mask and stood up. Marichal rapped the catcher on the head with his bat. What followed was one of the most violent brawls in major league history. Willie Mays led away Roseboro, who had suffered a concussion, while Dodger Bob Miller tackled Marichal, Alou slugged Miller, and Tito Fuentes menaced the Dodgers with his bat. Roseboro sued Marichal, but eventually dropped the suit. Marichal was fined $1750, was suspended for a week, and missed two starts as the Giants finished two games behind the Dodgers. Years later, Marichal said, “I feel sorry that I used the bat.”
Advantage: San Francisco; anybody that beats the crap out of a Dodger wins.
Why this category? Because one of the best ways to judge a city is in its public works, because it shows the ability to build, manage, organize, and maintain anything. Since most cities’ largest public work is transit, it is only logical that this be an adequate measure.
Leave it to San Francisco to find a way to do logic with style. Not only does the F Market line operate vehicles people actually want to ride, but does so to places that large numbers of those people would consider to be an advantageous destination. Los Angeles completely abandoned rail in 1963, and would have been happy to remain that way until 9 of its world-famous freeways crumbled in 1994.
Once it took longer to drive from Canoga Park to Elysian Park than it took the Pilgrims to sail the Atlantic, establish a civilization that would ultimately land on the moon, then have wet dreams about Sarah Palin, Los Angeles had no choice but to build rail. The problem is that the Southland does have a style of its own, and this style applies to everything Los Angelinos do. The primary manifestation is characterized by having a very competitive nature, albeit completely misguided. Examples:
“Yeah, your girlfriend’s breast implants are bigger than my girlfriend’s, but I’ll bet you my girlfriend’s explode before yours.”
“My wife thinks I don’t know about her and the pool boy. Wait ‘til she finds out I gave them both chlamydia!”
“Sure your trains are pretty, but mine are LETHAL. FUCK YEAH!”
Advantage: San Francisco
Back in the day, the Rams and the 49ers shared a spirited rivalry. Since the NFL was the first professional league to put franchises on the west coast, these teams enjoyed huge popularity. College football is also massively popular; both the Stanford-Cal and USC-UCLA games are huge events in their respective cities. Even high school football has a massive following. So why is California football so dysfunctional?
Face it. The only way Los Angeles will ever get another NFL team is if Southern Cal is admitted as an expansion team. The Bay Area is arguably home to two of the worst football stadia in existence, and even if USC were to join the NFL, Cal, Stanford, and UCLA would all still find ways to be mediocre.
It’s gotta be Al Davis.
Face it #2. Al Davis is one of the big reasons Los Angeles lost two NFL franchises, he’s responsible for goading Oakland into building that god-awful coliseum, and he’s effectively destroyed the once-proud franchise he built.
Advantage: San Diego, because Davis hasn’t moved there…yet.