Earlier this week, Let’s Go Oakland’s Doug Boxer led the charge to collect 10,000+ names on a petition asking the A’s to take down the tarps at the Coliseum for the playoffs. The move worked insofar as the team announced the takedown for potential ALCS and World Series games. Sadly, we know now that those games won’t be played. Despite that, the petition drive succeeded in getting attention for the tarps and the fanbase, although Boxer’s phrasing the petition as “giving paying fans access to playoff games” was a bit of a stretch.
It’s unlikely that Boxer will be leading any petition drives to keep the Warriors in town, since the San Francisco Business Times and the San Jose Mercury News both report that Boxer, in addition to his LGO duties, is a paid consultant to the Warriors for their waterfront arena project. Boxer is a former Oakland Planning Commissioner and is well connected, making his counsel pretty valuable for getting a complex project like an arena at Pier 30/32 off the ground.
Since the Warriors unveiled their plans in May, we’ve gotten a bunch of questions here asking why keeping the A’s in Oakland is such a passionate movement while the Warriors have gotten a collective shrug, relatively speaking. The A’s have only been in Oakland three years longer than the W’s. The W’s have had much more consistent attendance and TV ratings than the A’s. The answer comes in part from Boxer’s response to the SFBJ when they asked him about his seeming inconsistency in supporting the W’s move while fighting to keep the A’s from leaving.
“The entire Bay Area shares one NBA team, its fans are all over the region, and the best place for it to be situated is right in the middle of the whole region, at a spectacular waterfront location, at Piers 30-32, equally accessible from every city, north, south, east and west,”
It’s a very diplomatic non-answer, but it sheds light on a couple of possible explanations. We already know that the team’s identity is the bland “Golden State Warriors”, a name that has only succeeded in getting fans from other cities to ask where “Golden State” is located. The Warriors have generally refused to take on the Oakland moniker, though I’d heard that when the arena was renovated for the 1997 season, then-owner Chris Cohan was willing to consider the name change in exchange for significant lease breaks. Prior to Cohan, neither Franklin Mieuli nor the Dan Finnane/Jim Fitzgerald group wanted a name change. So while the W’s are literally the only NBA game in town, the fanbase is linked mostly to the W’s regional legacy and proximity rather than a city identity. When the team started marketing alternate jerseys featuring the old “The City” logo nearly a decade ago, the jerseys proved extremely popular.
In response to “The City”, “The Town” design clothing started showing up around Oakland. That right there is a microcosm of the issue we’re seeing. With the A’s, there’s a rivalry across the bay, a distinct identity, winning tradition, all things to rally around. The Warriors don’t have any of that. Even the one championship the Warriors got in 1975, the Coliseum Arena was booked for the NBA Finals, forcing home games to be played at the Cow Palace. There’s precious little to get riled up about. It shows in the lack of grassroots or other political movements to retain the Warriors like Let’s Go Oakland. The City of Oakland’s “Oakland Loves Its Sports Teams” recent week of events barely mentioned the W’s at all. There are no websites or Facebook pages devoted to such a cause, no outlets to foment this kind of anger against ownership. Sites like Warriorsworld and Golden State of Mind aren’t terribly concerned with the issue right now. Plus there is a decent-sized contingent of fans who would love to see the W’s in San Francisco to bring SF’s prestige to the team.
Back to the subject of Doug Boxer. How can his inconsistency be explained? He can use the whole “centrally located” line with the A’s just as he does for the W’s. The problem with that is that having two “centrally located” baseball teams in the Bay Area has caused them to repeatedly steal each others customers, as the A’s did in the late 60’s-early 70’s and the Giants did when AT&T Park was built. The Bay Area has grown to the north, south, and east with no proper adjustment by the teams to reflect that change, making it possible that this cycle will continue. Thing is, that’s not LGO’s argument. To Boxer and LGO, the A’s are first and foremost and Oakland/East Bay team. And that’s fine, though Boxer’s stance short circuits at least one of the arguments being espoused by those wanting to keep the A’s in town, including Oakland resident Katherine Brown in the Tribune:
I cannot bear the thought of the hundreds of jobs that people from Oakland could lose if the A’s ventured to another city. I cringe at the idea of a stadium remaining dormant for 9 months out of the year- filled not with thousands of cheering, Bernie-leaning fans, but only with the memories of what was.
Perhaps Boxer should discuss what will happen to the jobs that normally service 44 Warriors games at Oracle Arena, or the memories of the “We Believe” season or Run TMC. I’ve personally asked Boxer on several occasions to write a post here, on this blog. I promised that it would be unedited and that it could run without comments if he requested it. He came close to doing it once, but so far has chosen not to write a post. That’s fine, but I think he owes an explanation to a lot of people about this inconsistency – and it doesn’t have to be here. Doug Boxer is a genial guy. Jeffrey and I had lunch with him a while back and it was nothing but pleasant. Other than that experience, there’s a specific observation I can make about Boxer. About a year ago at what was probably the unveiling of the Coliseum City plan I talked to him at City Hall after the press conference. He told me that there are no innocents in this franchise politics business, and I agreed with him. I just didn’t realize back then that he was Exhibit A in showing how conflicted this whole mess is.