A FAN FOR SALE PART 3: Who Needs Grade Inflation When You Have a Bunch of A's?

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Dixon McPhillips

McAfee Stadium from my parking spot.

INTRO—California's a Brand New Game
PART 1—Yo Soy Tu Padre

PART 2—Angels Aren't Just in the Outfield


OAKLAND, Calif.—Driving up to the Bay Area was an interesting experience. For the first hour, I felt like I had driven into the world depicted at the opening of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby. It was pure desolation, a veritable wasteland. I half-expected the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg to pop out of nowhere. Then an hour further and I felt like I was on the set of North by Northwest, as crop planes soared down close over the top of my car.

A little side story for my Boston readership: When I got to Oakland Alameda Coliseum—which I discovered is actually McAfee Coliseum (oops)—I got a little lost navigating the press area and stumbled across the weight room where I found Kevin Millar (now with the Jays) introducing a family to Nomar Garciaparra (now with the A’s).

“He’s a funny guy,” I heard Millar say to one in the family as they walked away from the conversation.



So without further ado, here’s what I discovered in Oakland:

THE STADIUM

Everything about McAfee Coliseum exudes football stadium, from its awkward middle-of-nowhereness to its uncomfortably vast foul territories. But the football mentality also brings out the tailgaters, which is something I certainly haven’t seen much of at either PETCO or Angel Stadium.

I’m also disturbed by whoever picks the music for A’s games. During Rickey Henderson’s pregame ceremony, they played music straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean and as the A’s took the field at the top of the game, some eerie Nancy Sinatra-like song piped in through the speakers. Didn’t really scream “Play ball!” to me.

The views are non-existent—again, a symptom of it being a football stadium first. The rare gap in the bleachers offers a partial view of traffic on the 880 freeway.

But after talking with an A's gear bedecked fan with a banjo over his shoulder going by the name “Super A,” I came around a little bit on the stadium.

“For some reason, they constructed this ballpark perfectly, where every seat in all three decks has a great view,” he said.

And after walking around the entirety of it, I realized he was right.

I also realized that the concessions are astronomical at McAfee. They have a full array of draft beers, including local favorites like Gordon Biersch and Pyramid. But the minimum for a bottle is $7.25 and $8.00 for a draft.

THE TEAM

I chose a lucky day to come to an A’s game. In lieu of batting practice, the franchise honored Rickey Henderson before the game.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci famously wrote in 2003 that, along with Johnny Appleseed, Wild Bill Hickok, and Davy Crockett, Rickey Henderson “exist[s] on the sometimes narrow margin between Fact and Fiction.” That was certainly the case in yesterday’s pregame ceremony.

“I want to share a little Rickeyism with you now,” Henderson said in third person like one who walks the line between fact and fiction. “Rickey has tears in his eyes. Rickey has love in his heart for you. Rickey is so very, very, very humble.”

Preceding Rickey’s entrance, former teammates and friends entered the stadium riding on different era Corvettes. All looked weathered by time and one hobbled to the center of the field with the aid of cane.

But when Rickey Henderson made his grand appearance, he looked just the same. He wore a three-piece suit, sans jacket and tie. As he walked up the red carpet from center field to second base, it was to the chanting of “Rickey! Rickey!” When he reached second base—which for the occasion, had been gilded gold—he picked it up and recreated that famous pose when after he broke Lou Brock’s stolen base record.

But that was then, this is now. So what do the A’s of today have to offer?

The A’s don’t really have any names that jump out at you. Of course, one could argue that that’s the point, right? I mean that’s how Billy Beane rolls, preferring qualifying statistics over quantifying ones.

“Billy Beane used to be kind of what we call a genius till he traded Marco Scutaro for nothing,” “Super A” said before launching into a Scutaro (now with the Blue Jays) song on his banjo when the shortstop stepped up to the plate.

But with a starting rotation of Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, Brett Anderson, and Gio Gonzalez, I feel like I’m looking at the cast of an adult film and not the starting five of a Major League ball club.

THE FANBASE

Early on, I was a little worried about the Oakland faithful. Apparently Oakland is not an umpire-friendly park, as the fans shouted “Oh no!” with the announcement of each of the umpire crew.

But by the opening pitch, it seemed like every seat was filled, save some of the club level box seats. That could have been on account of it being Rickey Henderson Day, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

And as the game wore on, I actually grew to really enjoy the Oakland crowd. Perhaps because the stadium is a football stadium, the fans treat A’s games with the same intensity they’d bring to a Raiders game.

And a majority of the fans stuck around with the game till the bitter end. For good reason, too, because the A’s almost managed a comeback in the ninth inning.

And with a guy like “Super A” as their spokesman, the Oakland fanbase is in good hands.

“[Over the course of nine innings] I try and traverse the entire stadium, share the Super A with everybody.”

Spoken like a man who truly walks the line between fact and fiction.

FINAL SCORE OF THE GAME: Blue Jays 6, Athletics 5

Dixon McPhillips '10, a Crimson sports chair, is a visual and environmental studies concentrator in Kirkland House.

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