It has always been tough being an Oakland Athletics fan. Whether it’s the dilapidated stadium (which apparently had yet another sewage issue Tuesday night), the lack of series postseason success in almost a quarter century, or the presumption that any and every player on the A’s will be traded away, there always seems to be ammunition for the opposition to use against the A’s. That’s what makes it so irritating when the criticism comes from within the organization.
As the Athletics embark on their final regular season homestand of the season, they are closing in on their second straight AL West title. Apparently the expectation was that the O.co Coliseum would be jam packed as the A’s inch closer to the postseason. Right fielder Josh Reddick initially took to Twitter, but has since deleted the tweet in question. He was quoted by John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle today though, and this is what he had to say.
“It’s our last homestand, and we’re in first place,” he said. “We want to see all the support this city could bring. There are a lot of green seats, so it’s not fun, especially at the end of the year.”
I have a problem with the approach Reddick is taking here, as a fan of this team I find it rather insulting. Lew Wolff spoke with USA Today, and expressed his disappointment.
“There is something wrong here,” Wolff told USA TODAY Sports. “You would think that with our lead, people would want to come out, count down the magic numbers, and all that stuff.
“Even if you’re not a loyal fan, you would think this time of year, where the teams are in the standings, and where every game means something, people would come out.”
Comments like this are always maddening to me. Coming from those who’s life literally revolves around the Oakland A’s and their day-to-day operations, they simply don’t, and simply can’t understand what it’s like for the average fan. Sure, there are a number of ultra diehard fans who will attend 90% of the team’s home games, and develop relationships with players, coaches, ushers, security guards etc… But fans like that are the exception, not the rule.
I consider myself to be as legitimate a diehard fan of the A’s as there is. I’ve attended games in Oakland since I was a young child, and have attended 25 games or so each of the last two years since my wife and I got our season ticket packages. We drive about 60 miles to and from the Coliseum for each game we attend, sometimes taking over two hours to get there when traffic is especially ugly through Berkeley. It’s a tough trek, but we go through it because to us it’s worth it to see our team.
What Wolff and Reddick don’t seem to understand is that fans have lives that have nothing to do with baseball. Most fans have work, school, or family obligations that take them far away from the ballpark. It’s a simple fact of life. The ability to drop everything and attend games is rare.
It’s an indictment on baseball as a whole in my opinion that the game itself isn’t enough to bring fans in droves to the ballpark on a daily basis. The 18,000 or so fans who came to the Coliseum Tuesday night are the ones who really just need a good baseball game to be happy. Most fans need more than just the game to be motivated to come out. That’s a major reason why AT&T Park remains full despite the struggles of the San Francisco Giants this season. And quite frankly, the fans that pack that place are of a different breed than the ones who occupy the Coliseum.
The difference between this season and last is that 2012 had a raw energy to it that cannot be replicated. Remember that many picked the A’s to finish dead last, possibly losing 100 games in 2012. It was the ultimate underdog story and people were moved to be a part of it all. This season, there were expectations. While they’re doing very well for themselves right now, that uninhibited emotion that ran through the Coliseum last year is simply not there. That’s not to say the energy won’t be ramped up should the A’s make the ALDS, but the team may simply be cruising into the playoffs instead of making that unforgettable late charge like they did in 2012.
There are countless other factors that play into attendance figures, but the point here is that it should have absolutely zero impact on the game taking place. These guys are professionals anyway, right?
With today’s announcement that the A’s will remove the tarps on the third deck for the playoffs, the atmosphere in the Coliseum should be like nothing we’ve seen since the days of the 20 game win streak. When 48,000 rabid fans fill the Coliseum to capacity, I guarantee you’ll be able to feel the stadium shaking. For those worried about the A’s lack of home field advantage, I advise you to just wait. Wait until October, then you will see the power of the Athletics fans.
I don’t get how either of them thought criticizing fans for not attending would encourage more to come out. If anything it would make fewer fans want to come out in order to spite them. That’s not to say they should do that, because they’d be missing out on some great baseball. I can’t wait until the backtracking starts.