I’ll take the blame. It’s my fault for leaving town.
I’m down in Anaheim again for work, and the antagonism in Oakland has started all over again. First it was Josh Reddick talking about small crowds at the Coliseum on Twitter. Then it was a Bob Nightengale article in the USA Today featuring Lew Wolff, who called the occasional poor attendance at home games “depressing” in light of the team’s on-field success. That begat the usual Twitter furor from defenders of Oakland and some of the A’s fan base. Some called for boycotts of GAP and related stores. Others told Wolff to go f- himself. Ray Ratto defended the defenders and chastised Lew Wolff for the umpteenth time. Then the toilet backed up in the A’s dugout, creating a huge mess and another embarrassing moment for the punching bag known as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Today Wolff spoke again about crowds, while touting the virtues of a downtown ballpark – either in San Jose (his preferred choice) or Oakland (which hasn’t been a considered option since 2006). But before people could start reading between the lines to believe that Wolff was changing his mind, cold water was poured on the notion.
Lew Wolff speculated crowds would be bigger in “downtown Oakland.” But later told me he has no plan to revisit such an idea. #athletics
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) September 19, 2013
Whining about small crowds, fans whining about the whiners, and another sewage problem, all grist for the very active mill that is A’s fandom. Then there’s tonight’s Worst Person(s) in the Sports World segment on ESPN2’s Olbermann. The Worst Person(s)? The O.co/Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the City of Oakland, Alameda County, and AEG. Check at the 1:35 mark of this video for the tribute.
There was nothing about the small crowds, the myriad issues the City of Oakland faces, San Jose, the Giants, or Bud Selig. It was just Keith Olbermann summing the much-maligned Coliseum in the sharpest way possible:
AN OUTHOUSE WITH SCOREBOARDS!!!!
I wonder if KO got the memo about how the JPA hasn’t bothered to replace the scoreboards yet because it rerouted the money for the Coliseum City study?
Anyway, I’ve touched on how the local and national narratives couldn’t be more different. At the local level, Wolff is often perceived as grandfatherly version of Rachel Phelps, who will stop at nothing to rob Oakland of its team and constantly offends the fans. At the national level (baseball writers, media), Wolff is seen as a get along type of owner who has shown the wisdom to stay out of Billy Beane’s way and let him do his job. Olbermann is a friend of A’s manager Bob Melvin, who lives in New York City during the offseason. Whether Olbermann’s bemoaning of the Coliseum was just to highlight the absurdity of the situation or to support his friend BoMel, the message was devastating. Every local columnist from Ratto to Lowell Cohn to Ann Killion could write angry missives about Olbermann’s video, but it won’t matter. This is the meme. This is the big narrative. And by lumping Oakland and Alameda County (but not the fans or citizens) in with the Coliseum, it’s quite clear what parties KO is holding accountable for this debacle.
Lew Wolff could be as devious as Oakland/Alameda County are bumbling. The former is a small story that no one pays attention to outside of Northern California. The latter is the national narrative. That’s an enormous problem for Oakland, a city already with a major perception problem. If people in Oakland want to change the narrative, they might want to change their strategy from a local one to a national one.
In the short term, here’s the biggest problem. The Coliseum was always a generally poor place to play baseball since Mt. Davis was built. Now the narrative is that it’s altogether unfit to host Major League Baseball. As diehard A’s fans, you and I know differently, that it’s plenty serviceable if not sexy or exciting. The A’s have extended a 5-year lease extension offer, which practically makes them look magnanimous for being willing to endure the conditions. Bud Selig and the Lodge are watching this and seeing how this plays out. And there’s no telling how they’ll react in the offseason if more accidents or bumbling occurs.