I love sports. For real, I do. People who know me, know this already. [I am not one of these girls.] I love the thrill of competition, I am competitive – in things I should be, as well as those I should not – I use friendly competition in my classroom – sometimes between the kids and me, sometimes among them alone – even though I have been told that “the classroom is no place for competition”. And for so many of these reasons, I have always liked sports. I am a quick study and can learn the nuances of games quickly, and as such I am able to quickly deduce if I like a sport or not, as a spectator or a participant. Basketball, I love, clearly. Tennis I can get into. Golf can be thrilling – no lie. The end of a classic track meet with the 4×400 meter relay is incomparable. Rugby is fantastic. Cricket, more humorous to my American mind. Soccer? Yeah, I can appreciate it, especially as I learned all the parallels between the international futbol and basketball. Hockey? Can’t get into it. NFL? Oh man, I have tried to like it, but alas, only the college game will work for me. Volleyball? Surfing? Awesome. Cycling? I am getting it.
And baseball? I love it.
I don’t really like playing baseball, but as a spectator, I have aways loved the game. I am a NorCal kid and I grew up watching the A’s at the Coliseum through the amazing 70s and late 80s, and all the times in between. I also spent many a day watching the G-Men out at the Stick, sort of loveable losers, but always so much fun. The memories I have from and of my Bay Area teams are all amazing. I gravitated towards the A’s for many reasons: the DH, the friendly vibe, the sunnier-than-the-Stick Coliseum, the winning tradition, Billy Martin, Eck, Stew, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. But many of my closest friends chose the Giants over the A’s. It was never much of a thing, we all had our own teams to cheer on and we had fun. So much fun!
But then something yucky happened. I can’t put my finger on it exactly. All of a sudden, I started hearing really disgusting classcist, and basically racist, criticism of the A’s from Giants fans: they were “ghetto”, they were “thugs”, they were “too poor to matter”, “If I wanted to hang around [add your own undesirable] I would go to an A’s game”, and all sorts of other ad hom attacks that had little to do with anything at all baseballesque. Some might say it happened when the Giants organization built the amazing and beautiful AT&T Park. Some, like Keith Olbermann, might argue it had more to do with the Giants finally winning a world series. As far as I am concerned the jury is out on the cause, but the effects are as clear as day, and as a result I will avoid AT&T park for the foreseeable future.
Here is why.
The other day I got a Tweet from a Twitter friend, who is a total Giants fan, a season ticket holder for years, and a true supporter of this team, who said he had tickets to the exhibition games between the Giants and As at AT&T that he was not going to use, and knowing that I bleed Oakland Green and Gold, he offered them to me. It was perfect, I was on break, it was a day game and as the last spring game we would get to see lots of different looks. I was psyched and replied that I would love to have the tickets.
We headed out to the park and took our seats in the sunny, full bleachers. I wore a black A’s hat, hardly all that obnoxious, and was glad to see a good number of A’s fans around, I have grown tired of the out-and-out mockery that lately leads to pretty cutting insults from Giants fans just for being an A’s fan. In no time it was 3-1 Oakland. The previous two games had both been won by a single run by the Giants, so as one would expect there were a good number of brooms in the hands of the Giants fans. It seemed like a great day for a friendly game between two teams who are rivals only due to proximity.
But by the fourth inning (and bear in mind we are talking about midday, like maybe 1:30 p.m.) I began to notice that the Giants fans were not cheering for their team. They were basically just hating on everyone and everything. There were a couple of lovely notable exceptions, but basically, instead of cheering for their team, they were talking shit about the A’s players (and their families, and their genitals, and how pathetic they are – I’d love to see some of these fuckers try to face even the shittiest pitcher in the majors…) The obscenities were flying. And there were kids and families all around us. Then there was a huge fight – between two female Giants fans that got the attention of the entire bleacher section. Then there were two Giants fans who caused such a scene with a young family with two young kids (all sporting the Orange and Black and having a great time) that the ushers had to get forceful to remove the fans, and the fans never shut their mouths, in front of the kids. Then a Giants fan came and sat in front of us – loud, belligerent and not in his rightful seat – who, when he stood right in front of me, I told to take a seat. But oh! He was not going to take that… “What are you missing sweetheart?” He shouted at me. I told him I don’t like to miss anything, and then he got really aggressive. Tried to get the people around him on his side and finally got a less than pleasant walk up the stairs with the Cowboy. The obnoxious fan never shut his mouth the entire time, and he degenerated to personal insults after our first exchange. I cringed to think that the Cowboy was having to deal with this idiot, but I knew the guy would be sidewalk lining if he pushed it too far.
Were it not for the two really nice ladies sitting next to us, we would have left for sure. And at this point it was only 6-1 A’s. No matter, the Giants fans kept on going about how the A’s, and all things affiliated with them, are the worst sort of garbage.
Now don’t get me wrong… I can, and have heckled, with the best of them. I see a place for it… but there is a way to heckle. Seriously. For example, I love to hate on all things Duke. They are a fabulous team to hate on, but make no mistake, I am hating on the team and what it stands for: years of success and domination. The Bluedevils are really good, and I would never say otherwise – that is what makes them fun to hate: they always win! (Well, not always… hehehhhehh…) And it is never about the kids themselves (and let’s face it, that is what all these athletes are: kids) it is a macro ‘us and them’ sort of thing. It is silly goofiness to rib my friends who love Duke and it is always in fun. I also enjoy a rivalry, but at the end of the game, it is about loving the game, not hating the opponents (at least for too terribly long, and certainly not because of their hairstyle or income level). Giants fans seem to have forgotten how to love the game, instead always going on about their stadium, how they have the best food, hating on everyone, even their own people. No one has ever been killed at an A’s game – but in 2010 a Giants fan was killed by another Giants fan at AT&T Park. I never see fights at A’s games… and funny enough, whenever I point this out, this new breed of Giants fan says, “That is because the A’s suck so bad, no one would bother to go to their game/ fight over them.” Seriously? I could give shit why people around me are not violent, crass, drunkards, as long as I am not around them, and I would far rather be around the happy fans out at the Coliseum than around these people I found myself surrounded by at AT&T Park.
As we walked out on Wednesday I heard people saying “Oh, who cares losing to Oakland? They are garbage, it doesn’t even matter” and “Whatever, we still win more games that they ever will over there.” I always have to bite my tongue about this when it comes to comparing World Series wins – really Giants fans? Do you know the history? Sigh. I left the game feeling sad for what people now have to immerse themselves in, just to have a nice day out at the yard.
And that was just the start of it. In telling my family about our day out at the ballpark, I heard a far worse story about a friend who took his family to the Monday night game. And again, it had nothing to do with the game, the players, or the A’s. This family is part of my family, and they are tried and true died in the wool Giants fans from forever. A drunken Giants fan caused a horrible commotion and my friends along with their young children, were caught in the crossfire – and they were not in the bleachers! To be fair the Giants organization is doing everything in their power to do right by my friends, but that they have to is simply an embarrassment.
I guess it doesn’t matter how nice your stadium is, eh?
Like I said, I have no idea when this all started to happen, but all I have to say about it is it’s a damn shame. I am not stupid enough to fall for logical fallacies like hasty generalizations, red herrings, ad hom attacks, straw man, or slippery slopes. I know too many amazing Giants fans who have been with their team through thick and thin, and they love this game – the highs and the lows. What I do know is this: I am really looking forward to seeing a lot of A’s games this year – at the Coliseum – and I know they will probably break my heart again, it is the reality of being a small market (read small budget) team with an incredible eye for talent (read farm system). But I still love watching them play.
And I live under no illusion: this is not my team, they don’t owe me something, they are not my friends. They are athletes who get paid (or not) to do a job. It just happens to be a job I love to watch them do. Plus, I feel like some sort of proud parent as I watch all of Oakland’s studs light up the rest of the majors… Talk about looking for the silver lining… but that is the job of a fan.
And as a fan, I love this game.
Oh, and –>
I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring… which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250… not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there’s a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I’ve got a ballplayer alone, I’ll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. ‘Course, a guy’ll listen to anything if he thinks it’s foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. ‘Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake? It’s a long season and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ‘em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.