After much deliberation, my family and I decided to attend the Oakland Athletics game against the Atlanta Braves at the Oakland Coliseum last Monday. Going into the contest, the A’s had lost 11 games in a row and held an astonishing 10-45 record.
Prior to attending, my loyalties were firmly with the Braves. As I was born and raised in Georgia; I spent my life donning blue and red, visiting Turner Field and idolizing Freddie Freeman.
However, I felt a bit guilty announcing this — especially in front of my family. My father was born in San Francisco and was always an avid Oakland A’s fan. As a result, throughout my childhood, we watched both the A’s and the Braves, and we rooted for each team to win the American League and National League titles respectively.
My solidarity is particularly important now, with the A’s facing all time lows in regards to wins, stadium attendance and unfortunate lineup changes. However, the most significant black cloud looming over Oakland fans is the A’s impending move to Las Vegas. Perhaps the most devastating element of this situation is that most understand why it has happened — even loyal fans such as my father.
Contrary to what their abysmal 2023 season record indicates, the A’s have had many successful years and are the seventh-most winningest team since 2000.
Despite this, I noticed that A’s fans were hard to come by; even after I moved to the Bay Area for university, most baseball fans from Northern California were firm San Francisco Giants fans, or even Los Angeles Dodgers fans.
Why has this happened, then? How come, even prior to 2023, the A’s stadium attendance has consistently been among the lowest in the MLB?
The A’s management has never valued large spending for players or attractions for spectators. This technique for saving money was even an element of the famous business model shown in Michael Lewis’ 2003 book Moneyball, which focused on how Oakland maintained its consistent on-field success despite its low budget.
However, over time, the A’s predictable loss of talented players each time they reached free agency caused disillusionment amongst fans.
So, going into the game last Monday , I felt as though it was my duty to cheer for Oakland — despite the fact it was my first time seeing my hometown team play live since I moved to California. I admit that part of me felt pity for the Oakland fans, and I expected to see more empty seats than green and gold shirts at the Coliseum.
But I soon realized that I was wrong.
While attendance had certainly been better in years prior, it would be blatantly dishonest to say that there were few Oakland fans at the stadium. There were many passionate people in the stands, cheering on the A’s and screaming the same three words over and over:
“Sell the team! Sell the team! Sell the team!”
It took my family and I a couple of moments to discern what these angry fans were saying but, all at once, we understood.
I realized at that moment that the A’s fans had not given up. The phrase “sell the team” was clearly referencing the current owner John Fisher and fans’ collective frustration over his managerial decisions. There was a shared understanding that even though the deliberations to move the franchise to Nevada are in its final stages, the A’s fans were still hopeful that there would be a saving grace to keep the team in Oakland.
Now, in all likelihood, the A’s will finish 2023 horrifically below .500. It is also becoming increasingly unrealistic for Oakland to be able to hold onto the franchise, even despite likely empty promises to build a new stadium and Golden State Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob’s claims that he has a “standing offer” to buy the team.
In that moment, however, none of that mattered. I basked in the hope of the fans around me and their loyalty and desperation to keep the franchise they grew up watching. It felt like a moment that encapsulated the spirit of sports.
So, I joined in, repeating those three words: “Sell the Team!”
And the A’s actually managed to win the game. 7-2 for Oakland.