Although I’m from the Midwest, the Oakland Athletics had been at all times a fascination for me. It began properly earlier than the Moneyball period. Once I first turned a baseball fan was the rise of the Mark McGwire-Jose Canseco A’s. Even past McGwire and Canseco, when the A’s could be on the nationwide sport…they only seemed completely different. Yeah, we know why now, however to a child they seemed like one thing not of this planet. Even Carney Lansford or Dave Henderson or Dave Stewart…they had been simply monsters roaming the quiet countryside of baseball. How come they seemed and performed like that and I used to be left with these puny Chicago Cubs at dwelling? Even then, the A’s had an air about them. One thing you needed to be part of from a distance even should you didn’t know why.
Then got here the Giambi period, at an age the place my punk sensibilities nonetheless ruled far an excessive amount of of my life (nonetheless true). That group seemed like they had been all off to see Skid Row in some bar for $7 after the sport (OK possibly not punk however simply go along with me right here). How may you not love them?
As I acquired older, and have become extra conscious of how the A’s needed to battle in opposition to their very own possession, their very own circumstances, and hold reinventing themselves to remain forward of the pack, it was laborious to not be smitten. It was additionally laborious to overlook that connection to Oakland itself, one thing of an underdog in California as a metropolis. They made my very own fandom appear so…sq..
All of us knew how the Raiders represented the rebellious nature of the East Bay, extra within the 70s than of their second stint. How they spoke for the California you didn’t see on the brochure. The soiled, loud, counterculture to the glitz throughout the bay or to the south. The sneer in response to the vacationers and fantasies.
What the A’s represented
The A’s had been solely barely completely different, or not less than that’s the way it felt some 2,000 miles away. They had been nonetheless rebellious, nonetheless not becoming into any scene however their very own, however they added a weirdo quotient to it that’s additionally an enormous a part of California. That they had the white footwear, the unorthodox strategies, the creatures within the bleachers, the drums, no matter else, the general feeling that they knew they didn’t have a lot, and so they didn’t need a lot, and they’d make it work higher than those that had extra. It was solely enhanced by getting the MLB bundle and watching numerous their video games, video games that at all times appeared to happen at nighttime and gruff air that evening within the Bay tends to be. A time when solely the true creatures of the evening got here out. It had a haunting, alluring thriller to it. You needed to be loopy to wish to be there, and but should you had been you knew you didn’t belong wherever else. No less than that’s the way it seemed. There was a ardour, a goofiness, a winking on the digital camera however a deep love that I and I’m certain some others may solely be jealous of from right here.
It was distinctive, one thing you felt such as you couldn’t see wherever else, whereas most fandoms and atmospheres really feel moveable, duplicated.
A transfer to Vegas gained’t be the identical
After all, these aren’t the issues that individuals who run baseball, and all sports activities, care about. It’s what makes sports activities sports activities, it’s what turns us into followers within the first place, nevertheless it’s not what exhibits up on the stability sheet. The A’s may be swept away to Vegas, the place John Fisher can get not only his new ballpark however the remainder of the land deal he needs so that it’s going to by no means matter what really goes on inside that ballpark. The cash will hold coming in. What the Cubs have, what the Braves have, what the Chicago Bears need, and a listing of others too lengthy to put in writing out with out getting method too depressed.
It gained’t have what the A’s meant, what the followers had been within the stands. Very similar to the Raiders, it’ll be some plastic facsimile pawing at the actual factor, just like the pretend New York skyline or Eiffel Tower down the road. A glorified cardboard cutout that may try to assuage vacationers and residents that they’re experiencing one thing they used to recollect as a substitute of simply homogenized crap.
There are a ton of causes a group in Vegas gained’t work. We may begin with the 137° temps in the summertime. Visiting followers aren’t as prone to present up in the midst of the week for a three-game sequence in July as they’re for one sport on a weekend within the fall. Or that Vegas is already on the cusp of getting to ration water within the summers.
Even when any of these come to go and the A’s can’t get to Vegas, it seems like one thing is now damaged in Oakland. A metropolis that’s been in turmoil because of so many issues occurring within the space, longtime residents pushed out due to the price, and people who pushed them out getting pushed out themselves because of the prices getting much more ridiculous. And all of the layers that we don’t must get into now.
In strictly sports activities phrases, which actually can’t be considered with out the social and political implications, it’s unhappy what’s occurred to Oakland. They created and maintained their very own really feel and tradition round their groups it doesn’t matter what was occurring in The City, one thing distinctive and untouchable. After which they both watched them get co-opted as stylish and a part of the scene that these arenas and stadiums stood in stark opposition to, laying the groundwork to maneuver throughout the water for individuals who don’t actually get it, or depart the world altogether for merely more cash. Painful symbolism.
I don’t know that there will probably be a sports activities reckoning. They could have grow to be too large to fail. The homeowners and commissioners way back swatted away what made sports activities engaging within the first place, our love and dedication, and the communities we construct round them. First, they shoved us farther and farther away from the sector with their luxurious suites and exorbitant ticket costs. Then they made us pay for stadiums and arenas we will’t even get into. And typically they only take the groups away.
It’s gotten to the purpose the place these homeowners and commissioners don’t want that core it was as soon as constructed on, and it gained’t matter if these stadiums and arenas are persistently half empty. Possibly the RSN collapse is a harbinger, possibly the subsequent TV offers gained’t be as candy, possibly they’ll want us again within the seats, making it a extra vibrant place.
Or possibly that ship has sailed. Possibly we’re not coming again, not in the identical method. Not creating that place filled with weirdos and rebels on cool nights in a stadium too decrepit to be used just because it’s what we do. Not in a spot that supplied essentially the most passionate assist any group ever had after which watched that assist used in opposition to them. Possibly the final word rise up of Oakland was that it wouldn’t bow to the A’s or Raiders, that there got here a degree the place they wouldn’t be used (although that’s not precisely the way it labored, it simply feels good to say). Both method, baseball misplaced one thing late final evening when Fisher and Dave Kaval launched their assertion just like the cowards they’re. It could not suppose it issues. Possibly it doesn’t. However in the future, it simply may.