Traditional sources of community have been frayed in modern American life. People change jobs more frequently, are more likely to relocate across the country from their family and friends, and local clubs and organizations have declined in membership. One enduring source of community, however, is sports.
While the players might come and go more frequently than they once did and athletes might not be as big a part of the community now that their salaries have soared, there is still a bond that comes with supporting the hometown team.
The rich might be in the luxury boxes and working class people might be in the nosebleeds, but they are united in their passion for the success of the team they love. It creates a bond that cuts across race, gender, and class. It is a source of pride for a community.
That is what makes the Giants attempt to push the Oakland A’s from the Bay Area such a despicable act. It is the ultimate expression of the corporate mentality over the belief in community—in fact, it’s an active attempt to destroy a community that exists. The nauseating greed of the Giants’ ownership has crowded out any sense of civic spirit or responsibility.
As a lifelong A’s fan, I am hardly a neutral observer. But even in my Maryland home, my house bears the markings of a Bay Area partisan. Raiders, 49ers, A’s, Warriors, and Sharks pennants dot the walls. While I could not stand Barry Bonds, I harbored no enmity toward the Giants for years. I wore number 24 because of Willie Mays, admired Marichal and McCovey, and liked Giants players from Trevor Wilson to Bill Mueller to Buster Posey.
I even rooted for the Giants in 2010, not because I wanted to see the ridiculous fans rewarded who throughout that very season had been calling for Manager Bruce Bochy’s ouster on a daily basis on the Giants’ radio station KNBR, but because I wanted my friends who weathered the cold of Candlestick’s swirling winds to experience championship glory.
And I hoped that winning a championship would reduce some of the insecure pettiness many other Giants fans had displayed toward the A’s. The Giants-A’s and Giants-Dodgers rivalries are real, but the intensity had always been stronger on the Giants’ side, almost certainly because of the total absence of championships in San Francisco until 2010.
Rivalries in two-market areas are not a bad thing. They can be fun and competitive. And while there are hardcore partisans on each side, it is not uncommon to see people jump on the bandwagon when a team is successful in the postseason. This is inevitable in a community like the Bay Area.
But attempting to drive a team out of the area to corner the market and maximize profits is everything people have come to hate in sports. And rightly so. For a team to push another team out is a gross violation of loyalty to the people of the Bay Area, including, but not limited to, loyal A’s fans. It deserves nothing but opprobrium and condemnation.
It is not simply about disregarding the importance of community. The Giants’ ownership is willing to fracture a community out of corporate greed. Rivalry is turning into genuine hatred. And much of it has nothing to do with what takes place on the field. It is a toxic situation that is about economic domination, not just baseball. And in some places, it is turning friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor.
How did we get to this point? In the early 1990s, the Giants tried to move to San Jose. My family of A’s fans supported it. San Jose is the tenth most populous city in the country; it deserves a team. We did not want to lose our area’s National League team to St. Petersburg, Florida. The Bay Area has the population (over 7 million), media market (6th biggest), and wealth (first in high-tech jobs in the country) to support two competitive teams. This is beyond dispute.
At the time, the owner of the Oakland A’s shared this civic-minded mentality and loyalty to the Bay Area. He ceded the territorial rights of the A’s to Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located, so the Giants could move there and the Bay Area could keep its two teams. What compensation did he request from the Giants? None. Not a single penny.
The people of Santa Clara County and San Jose rejected the Giants’ bid for a new stadium. Fortunately (or so it seemed), the Giants were able to remain in San Francisco and build one of the best venues in all of sports. The Giants’ fan base grew and revenue soared. Eventually the Giants ended decades of futility and won a championship—and then another.
Yet that is not enough. The Giants’ owners love money more than the game. They love profits more than their community. And the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, has failed to step in to ensure that the common good trumps individual greed.
The A’s stadium is not fit for Major League Baseball, as fond as my memories are of it, both before and after the construction of Mt. Davis. It seems unlikely that Oakland can currently sustain an MLB franchise, given the financial realities of the present system. This is a shame for loyal A’s fans in Oakland, but moving within driving distance is the best possible outcome if they must leave.
The Giants’ ownership would almost certainly receive compensation or a guaranteed minimum level of revenue if they were willing to cede the territorial rights former A’s owner Walter Haas ceded for free, simply because he was a decent person. The Orioles-Nationals deal shows that there is no real barrier to fixing the situation under a new commissioner who is competent. But the Giants are doing everything in their power to block this.
An A’s move to San Jose is good for the Bay Area. It is good for baseball. But greed stands in its way.
I can’t blame Giants fans for rooting for their team in the Series. They should. They don’t have a say over whether or not their owners are greedy corporate fiends with no sense of community or decency. But for all other baseball fans, it should be obvious who the good guys are in this Series: the Oakland A’s-hearts-breaking, scrappy, base-swiping, dominant bullpen-led Kansas City Royals.