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Saying goodbye (?) to our Oakland A's

My dad and I attended what may be our last A’s game at the Oakland Coliseum. It’s not us, it’s them. They’re leaving us at the end of this season because their owner, John Fisher, is an idiot. But that’s not the point - nor is it the whole story. I have a huge thank you in my heart for the organization at large, in particular for another guy who’s not too popular in a lot of circles because of his work in helping the A’s leave: Team President Dave Kaval. Unlike Fisher, who doesn’t care about the team, the game or its fans, Dave’s a fan. I know. I’ve read his book. I’ve met him, interviewed him, and my dad and I have been treated very well by him over the years. He was instrumental in the A’s hosting a screening of one of our Boys of Summer films at the New Parkway Theater in Downtown Oakland. He got season ticket holders who didn’t know us from anyone to come out and watch the movie, eat some great food and let us know how much they appreciated what we were doing. These weren’t people connected to Parkinson’s disease, these were baseball fans. And they loved it. 

The next night Dave got us tickets for the game and gave me the honor of throwing out the first pitch. A few years later, he helped arrange for my son to throw out the first pitch (far better than I did) to his grandfather. My nonprofit, Yes, And…eXercise! has been nonprofit of the day two times at A’s games, including yesterday. The A’s have played 90 second clips of Boys of Summer on the big screens multiple times before the games, bringing our personal story to grand heights. 

None of this takes away from or makes up for the pain of them leaving at the end of the season. I’ve been a fan since 1981. I went to 44 games one summer with my best friend in my teenage years when there were bleachers in centerfield and a ticket to sit there cost three dollars. It was just before the Bash Brothers era and the team we practically lived with in the summer of 1985  was mediocre at best - but it didn’t matter. They were ours. We were theirs. We loved them. They gave us their best and that was enough. The Coliseum, believe it or not, was a fairly well-regarded stadium at that time - again, before Al Davis barfed his luxury suites into center field and everyone started playing the “who’s on first?” routine when it came to stadium management and upkeep. 

I understand the A’s and even Fisher’s need for a new stadium. There are practical economic values in play. Not getting a deal done in Oakland is ridiculous. Blaming fans for any part of it not working out is unforgivable. We’ve been there, as true and passionate as any fan base out there, when the team has been there for us. Yes, attendance has dipped at times when the team hasn’t been competitive, but that’s human nature, not a mark on the fanbase. 

Yesterday, as I wheeled my dad through the concrete mazes that make up the Coliseum we could see, hear, smell, taste and feel it all. The fans, the great players of the past, the fried onions, the nachos with jalapenos and the cheers. They didn’t announce the official attendance yesterday, but there was a decent crowd - certainly one that roared when Brent Rooker hit a bomb to left center field and again when Abraham Toro hit a bloop single that scored two in the seventh to give the A’s an all-too-brief lead. It was real and alive. There was a line to get in the official merchandise store for A’s gear before and after the game. These fans want more. Unfortunately, they’re being robbed of that opportunity. When I saw ten year old kids screaming, laughing and donning green and gold I could only shake my head in sadness that this will be it for them. They won’t get any of the greatness that comes next in growing up an Oakland A’s fan.

As an eternal optimist, I hold out the slimmest of hopes that Fisher is such a poor business operator that he screws up the deal in Las Vegas. I lived in Sin City for 20 years. The fans there do not care about the A’s coming to town. The mayor said she doesn’t think they belong there. Nevada has enough economic woes that there are serious and reasonable challenges to the idea of a publicly backed stadium. Vegas locals love their Golden Knights, Aces and the general presence of the NFL (not really the Raiders - though if they ever started to win, they’d understandably earn local fans in their beautiful stadium). Major League Baseball wants Vegas more than Vegas needs the A’s. This is just an opportunity for Vegas. But if the deal isn’t right, Vegas could walk away and I’d bet the house on MLB giving them an expansion team - one the city could brand and do right by for the community. 

And what of Fisher and the A’s then? Sell, baby, sell. You are the problem. Joe Lacob is waiting in the wings. He’ll buy the team, you’ll crawl back into your cave and Lacob will make it work in Oakland, for Oakland. That’s the win-win we’re waiting for. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. I’m also not saying it’s impossible that it could. Like I said, I’m an eternal optimist. I may even be a fool in this case, but it doesn’t stop me from believing, or being grateful. 

Dad and I had a great time at the ballpark yesterday. Holy Toledo, Rickey Henderson Field looked great. The nostalgic clips and interviews with the Big Three A’s (Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito) throughout the game were a phenomenal way of honoring some of the history in the Coliseum. The trailer for Boys of Summer: Third Base looked and sounded amazing on the big screens. We had a beautiful group of friends that joined us. For one day, all was right with being an A’s fan. I’ll take it.

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