COLUMN: Reflecting On A Historic Year For Dodgers, Lakers

We’re Long Beach-first guys, as you know. But we also recognize that Long Beach is a Dodgers and Lakers town, and we’ve got some thoughts on this historic year, which saw both teams win a championship for the first time since 1988 (when we were toddlers or, in Tyler’s case, not quite born).


When the NBA first went into the bubble I wrote a column about how nice it was to get to spend evenings on the couch with my family, watching basketball and pretending that things were normal for a few hours at a time.

Indeed, as the NBA and MLB seasons stretched on, the couple of nights we had to watch a game together quickly became my favorite part of my day. With my wife rolling her eyes at broadcaster errors, my kids making fun of commercials, and exciting finishes to the action on the court or the field, it was absolutely the most “normal” we were capable of being.

But with both of our favorite teams winning the championship, it became a lot more than that, too. There’s a lot of talk of “normalcy,” or the “new normal.” What normalcy used to mean for my family was lots of fun — now it’s a term people use to describe a day that isn’t absolutely miserable.

Celebrating the two championships with running and screaming, jumping around and hugging each other — that was better than our new normal in my household. That was something like our old normal, where we could lose ourselves in moments of happiness without worrying about the logistics of having two parents with full time jobs and kids who need help with school all day.

There aren’t a lot of reasons to go outside and honk your horn out of happiness right now, so we’ll take the titles — no asterisk necessary. But with our son Vincent at 7 years old and our daughter Maya at 5 years old, another cool thought occurred to me — they’ll both remember how much fun we had as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the last out was recorded. They’re old enough that those fun hours are likely to be lodged pretty deep in their memories.

I won’t look back on 2020 fondly. It’s been a cruel, punishing grind of a year. We’ve buried too many friends, supported others as they’ve lost their jobs, and tried to make some sense of a world that’s spinning too quickly to keep up with. But it’s a genuine comfort to me that when my kids look back on this time, one of the first things they’ll remember is jumping up and down in our living room in celebration — I’ll always be grateful to the players, coaches, officials and support personnel who spent time away from their families to give my wife and me those special times with ours.


To say I watched Game 6 of the World Series with bated breath would be a massive understatement. Years of suffering through the “almost” nature of Dodgers postseasons has taken its toll, and I wasn’t going to get caught celebrating too early.

That subdued approach allowed me a lot of time to think about my life as a Dodgers fan while the team once again struggled to get the offense going in an important playoff game.

I thought mostly about the moments I’d spent at Chavez Ravine with friends and family, so it was like a big reunion slide show playing in my head all night long.

I thought about my dad and how he was holding me tightly when Kirk Gibson hit his famous home run in 1988, and then proceeded to put his fist through the roof of our cheap apartment in celebration.

I thought about the year I bought season tickets and got a great view of one of the worst seasons of Dodgers baseball. Ever.

I thought about how my friends almost took joy in battling midweek afternoon traffic, getting to the game just in time, and then battling traffic again on the way back to Long Beach as we tried to set a record each time.

I thought of the old days when you could hear Vin Scully’s voice coming out of the handheld radios in the reserved seats.

I thought of the highs, the lows and everything in-between. All of it reminded me that being a true baseball fan is like being a member of a family.

With baseball and family you have to grind through the dog days to make sure you’re prepared for the big moments. You have to maintain civil and productive conversations with family members in order to be cordial with each other on holidays. A long baseball season feels the same sometimes because the sweet is never quite as sweet without the sour.

So when the final out was recorded last week, and I had cried all of the tears I had saved up for almost my entire life, I went to a room by myself and sat down. I then played Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.,” which is obviously the song they play after every Dodgers win. I knew in my heart one day I’d listen to it after a World Series win. So I put it on repeat and listened to it 32 times — once for every season without a championship. Each time it restarted, I thought of that corresponding season, where I was and how I’ve actually loved every second of the ups and downs.

I wouldn’t trade those Dodgers memories for anything. That’s my family, and those are our moments, and now we get to celebrate the ultimate triumph together. No one will ever be able to take that away because we’ll be Dodgers fans forever no matter what. That’s the true definition of family.


Silver linings have been in short supply this year, so it’s best to take them where you can find them. Nothing that happens on the court or in the field can wash away the anguish and turmoil of 2020, but it can help. Sports has a unique way of connecting us; offering an added layer of community and shared purpose. It’s disappointing that we couldn’t watch and celebrate together, or hold victory parades like in years past, but that sense of togetherness was something we desperately needed.

In my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to see all my favorite teams win championships. I realize that’s not something that should be taken for granted, and that was reinforced this year. I have dozens of friends who are loyal Dodgers fans, but have never seen their team reach the mountaintop. It reminded me how spoiled I am.

I was 5 years old when my favorite baseball player, Derek Jeter, led the New York Yankees to the first of five World Series championships. I was 9 when my dad and I went to the 1999 Fiesta Bowl to watch the University of Tennessee win its first national championship in football since 1951. My dad was just 3 years old when the Volunteers won their last title. He’d waited his whole life to see it happen.

As I watched grown adults cry at the result of a baseball game, it was a reminder to cherish those moments. You simply don’t know how life will play out, so make the memories count, and celebrate every championship like it’s your last.

A few years after my dad died, Derek Jeter was approaching 3,000 career hits. I realized you only get one childhood hero, and this was one of my last opportunities to make a lasting memory. So I flew across the country from Cleveland to New York to witness it in person. It’s something my dad would have done with me. Even though he wasn’t there, it still feels like something we shared together. It brought back all those old memories of playing catch and going to games together.

I saw those same feelings wash over my friends when the Dodgers recorded the final out and won their first championship in my lifetime. I wasn’t cheering, yelling, or crying the way they were, but I felt their joy; and in a year like this, that was more than enough.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.