AFTER visiting an opponent’s home turf, franchise partisans often slather their experience with words that conjure daring and adventure, like “going behind enemy lines” or “surviving the lion’s den”. We are a nation of armchair warriors; bombast and overstatement come naturally to us and without much hesitation.
And so it was when I, a lifelong blue-blooded Dodgers fan new to San Francisco, home of the hated Giants, steeled myself for a season of treacherous crusades into the hornet’s nest (this type of language is especially necessary to combat the fatigue inspired by the yawn-inducing name of San Francisco’s AT&T Park or Pac Bell Park or Corporate America Park whatever it is this year).
And so it went: standing in line for my first Dodgers vs Giants game in San Francisco, I was cajoling with the enemy when he confided “We’re not really lions up here”.
The concession stands served wine, gourmet foods, and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. Instead of hurling beer, the fans (about a third of whom were on my side anyways) informed me of their disapproval of my association with the enemy through their softly intoned “Boos.”
However, whenever the drama of the game intensified, especially in the later innings, this placid gathering of the Bay Area fandom erupted in blood curdling unity: “BEAT L-A! BEAT L-A!”
I have always assumed the BEAT L-A chant was pioneered by San Francisco Giants fans. I can remember being a child and hearing it suppurate from time to time, just below the melodious hum of Vin Scully’s play-by-play.
It now exists beyond baseball. For example, “the chant” apparently follows the Lakers everywhere. And perhaps, if LA Times sportswriter Chris Erskine’s recent article “Don’t Beat LA, Join us!” is any indication, “the chant” has made its final, most insidious insertion: into the heads of LA fans.
Erskine writes: “It’s as if we’ve become the Evil Empire, or the shiny Russian dude in ‘Rocky IV.’ In the near corner, Los Angeles. In the far corner, the world. Beat L.A.!!!!!!!…Why not New York? Why not Orlando?”
I think, however, Erskine is giving our fellow sports fans way too much intellectual credit. Los Angelenos should rest assured: what’s driving the nation’s fans to drink themselves silly on BEAT LA! juice probably isn’t ideological, and it sure as hell isn’t moral outrage (when did LA replace San Francisco on that charge?). No, we LA fans just have to own up to it: BEAT LA has gone viral because it’s simply a great chant.
It’s three syllables (A must ever since stomp-stomp-clap of Queen’s We Will Rock You).
It’s clear and to the point (the slightly cringe-inducing “S-F SUCKS!” chanted by Dodgers fans always leaves the back of the mind asking the phrase to be completed. Suck what, exactly?)
And, most importantly, it’s childishly easy for inebriated sports fans to scream. The first syllable, ending in the consonant “T”, is a perfect set up for the second syllable, the two part “eh-L” sound. And to finish, the ending of the “eh-L” sound leaves the tongue in a perfect spot to launch into a hard “A” sound (think Oh-LAY!).
Just saying it makes you want to clap. “Beat L-A” blurts out with ease compared to the mealy mouthed “Beat-N-Y”. And really, do we even need to discuss the ghastly and quad-syllabic “Beat-Or-LAN-doh”?
Rest easy LA. You’re not my favorite city, (that distinction belongs to my adopted San Francisco) but you are home to my favorite team. So don’t take these attacks personally, it’s not your fault that Freddy Mercury conspired with the mechanisms of English to doom LA’s prestige in arenas everywhere. But ask yourself this: do you really need to look cool to Or-LAN-doh?