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By TED SILLANPAA

The Oakland Athletics and their unique fan base are best appreciated from a seat in the Oakland Coliseum. No way to understand what’s happening in Oakland from a seat in the press box.

Comcast’s telecasts of Giants games are nothing like what Comcast does with the A’s. Spend an afternoon in Section 123 at the coliseum and you can see that the cutesy crowd shots that Comcast makes a staple of Giants’ telecasts from AT&T don’t work in Oakland because A’s fans are actually watching the game.

Comcast feeds the Giants TV crew Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper crowd shots of guys dressed like milk men or people wearing panda hats. The shots of young, upscale families keeping the kids busy during the game are hard to find in Oakland. The A’s fans are keeping score, a lost pastime at today’s game. They’re biting their nails and paying close attention to the game.

The A’s have a blue-collar crowd with roots that run deep. Oh, there are bandwagon jumpers who don’t know the names of the former A’s who’ve had their numbers retired. But, the bulk of the fans in Section 123 have clearly lived with the A’s and never questioned why they’ve had to do it the much maligned coliseum.

Crowd shots in San Francisco are like advertisement for the latest Giants’ merchandise. (Oh, they’re selling Hunter Pence jerseys?) A’s fans throw on their A’s gear that reflects the history of a franchise … one that shuttles players in and out of Oakland at an alarming rate. Giants fans pay full price for the new gear. A’s fans around Section 123 wore jerseys with names like LaRoche, Suzuki, Dye and others long gone from the Oakland roster. How often does Comcast catch a Giants fan in a faded, old Giants’ tee shirt with Uribe on the back?

In Oakland, it’s the name on the front of the gear that counts. In San Francisco, the gear itself is most important.

Mike Krukow makes a lot of soccer moms who show up at AT&T with signs aimed at getting themselves on TV. Four women in their 20s or early 30s waltzed down the aisles in Oakland Sunday, carrying beer, mixed drinks and a horn that one woman blew to get the folks who all seemed to know each other going in what was the A’s latest must-win game. Not sure the Giants would want to sell those hard-drinking gals, dressed for a hot day at the park, in full team gear with that infernal horn … right in the middle of season ticket holders.

A’s fans talk to one another like pals, buddies. That comes from spending time at the ball park when there are 5,000 or 8,000 in attendance. Easier to make friends in Oakland because the same folks are in the same seats most every night.

You won’t see A’s fans messing around online during a game, not now especially … not with one game separating them and the first-place Rangers. It’s nearly impossible to get any time of sweeping crowd shot at AT&T without wondering why a guy would go to the ball park to scan the internet.

It helps keep the serious, score-keeping, horn-blowing A’s fans involved because tickets are more affordable in Oakland than in San Francisco. They’re there come hell, high water or one of those seasons where Billy Beane turns the entire roster over out of the blue.

It’s just the type of fan interest and ball park experience that doesn’t lend itself to entertaining folks watching at home. No slides. No baseball glove-as-art in the outfield concourse. No beautiful view of the bay. Just baseball, the most interesting bunch in the playoff race and fans who love that team.

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Comments

12 Comments

  1. K.T. Hastings

    How times have changed. I remember being at Candlestick with a couple of buddies and about 1998 other folks for a midweek beating at the hands of the Big Red Machine.

    I think there is a spirit of “event” at AT&T, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. If everyone is on their phones the players wouldn’t remark about the incredible support they get from the home folks.

    If I had owned a cell phone in those days at Candlestick I would have used it to order a down coat from Lands End and a hot pizza.

    October 2nd, 2012 1:49 pm

  2. overtime

    KT…There’s no ‘if’ in regard to AT&T customers being on their phones or other hand-held devices. They tout the in-stadium wi-fi access. You can see them when Comcast shows the crowd. My family and I see them when we’re at games. I like to think the event is the ballgame, but in SF for those ticket prices … the event needs to start with the ballgame, you’re right.

    The A’s fans don’t go to the coliseum for the circus or family atmosphere. If you don’t love you some A’s, you don’t go to the coliseum. Ted

    October 2nd, 2012 4:06 pm

  3. Matt Witthaus

    Quit bagging on Giants fans. Some of us used to watch games at Candlestick, back in the day, and it’s not our fault that Giants executives have touted the experience and amenities above and beyond the game itself. Some of us love baseball, watch it constantly, keep score and yes, don’t get ourselves on TV as often as the ones posing and waving signs to do exactly that. Both Bay Area teams are poised to make historic runs at the postseason, and all you can think to do is talk smack about what pansies us Giants fans supposedly are. You’re not acting like a journalist when you do this, you’re acting like a jerk.

    October 3rd, 2012 7:35 am

  4. Matt Witthaus

    And one more thing, the real reason the cameras don’t show the crowd at A’s games; THERE’S NOBODY THERE. Oakland Coliseum has a 50,000 seat capacity. For their game yesterday, their announced attendance was around 30,000. I predict for their clinching game today, the crowd will likely be even less.

    October 3rd, 2012 7:41 am

  5. Matt

    Well, today is a sellout, so I suppose I have to eat some crow on that one, but oh well. My claim is CERTAINLY true of the regular season. And I stand by my claim that you generalize regardinv Giants fans; those of us who earned the Croix de Candlestick in Hunters Point are at least as legit as Oaktown.

    October 3rd, 2012 9:19 am

  6. overtime

    Matt…The Croix de Candlestick I have is probably what leads me to stay away from the new ball park. The game’s the event…thus…Candlestick was fine with me as long as I could afford the ticket and parking. Now the “event” that is the new ball park has priced a lot of families and folks to become fans who only watch on TV. Good thoughts and…I’d agree that there are A’s fans…Giants fans…and lots of people who follow the Giants in the new ball park after they started winning a fair amount. Note: A newspaper pal told me a story of him standing in front of the Marichal statue at the SF park and two 30′something fans walking by and having no idea the statue was in honor of Marichal…no idea who Marichal was. One guy said, “No pitcher raises his leg THAT high…” Ted

    October 3rd, 2012 12:12 pm

  7. overtime

    Matt…Thanks for reading and starting conversations. I always figured it was just a Comcast attempt to keep the A’s crowd shots to a minimum because Glen Kuiper and Fosse aren’t equipped to make funny. Now that I’ve paid closer attention … I think fans who go to A’s games just aren’t the type fans who would help attract more fans to the park. So … they keep the cameras pointed at the field … which is where the action is, I figure. TED

    October 3rd, 2012 12:14 pm

  8. overtime

    Matt…Thanks for reading. I started following the Giants as a kid…when I was about 7. Multiple Croix de Candlestick pins…still insist there was nothing wrong with Candlestick that should’ve bothered true baseball fans. Unlike lots of fans, I didn’t pick a team…A’s or Giants. When the A’s moved in…I enjoyed following the American League somewhere other than the Saturday Game of the Week. … As mentioned in another response…the Giants and A’s fans are solid…the bandwagon jumpers who go to the ball park in SF because its trendy are a different deal. TED

    October 3rd, 2012 12:17 pm

  9. Matt Witthaus

    I started following the Giants at about the same age as you, probably more 10 than 7, though I can’t really pick the exact age. I do remember being in the skybox with my brother and his radio station buddies, for a double-header where we lost both games. But it didn’t seem to make a difference however; even as a kid I got a sense that the game was fun enough just to BE at. Winning or losing was simply the inevitable outcome you signed on for by taking the experience in.

    Giants teams of those days were pretty awful, while the A’s were putting together championship runs fairly regularly. My dad was the rare bay area guy who followed both teams. He pulled for the A’s, Giants, Niners and Raiders. But being that he grew up in Hunter’s Point, (went to James Lick High) his true loyalty fell to the Orange and Black, Red and Gold. These days, at least since the Battle of the Bay, there is bad blood between the fan bases. Ironically the players could care less. But I have to say part of the reason this bad blood exists, is because the A’s, for all their gritty “blue collar” fan base, haven’t done much to keep their good players, shipping them out often, so their championship runs aren’t as in the offing as, say, a team with a 200 million dollar payroll. For some reason, the fans of the A’s and the Raiders have viewed the Giants and the Niners with envy, and use that as an excuse to denigrate and belittle our fans, call us weak “wine sippers” or “corporate fans.” It’s garbage, and every time either squad gets a sniff of the postseason, we have to hear it. Your column calling A’s fans “a breed apart” stinks of this labeling, and it pisses me off, if you couldn’t tell. Though you don’t come right out and say it, if I could use the term “dog whistle phrasology” (hey, it’s an election year) that’s what your headline clearly suggests.

    Us Giants fans from way back? We still follow the team with as much heart, vitriol, and fervor as ever, although I admit I can’t afford to go to too many games. It’s not our fault, the way the Giants management has developed the “baseball experience” at AT&T, anymore than it’s our fault -and our rotten luck- that the prices and location of the new ball park has attracted a different and more snooty -if you will- crowd to their games. It’s not our fault that the A’s broadcast team is boring. All Fosse ever seems to do is talk smack about the Giants (go figure). We from the frozen bleachers of the ‘Stick are just as hard core as the thugs who make their way around the stone walkways of the Coliseum. We’re still around, and if we meet in the Fall Classic, we’ll hopefully get to put that misconception to bed once and for all.

    Hope that’s not too hard core a response for you, Ted. Thanks for writing.

    ~Matt

    October 3rd, 2012 2:33 pm

  10. overtime

    Matt…I think the response is thoughtful and of value to fans of all those teams. Thanks. I hope you keep reading and offering your thoughts.TED

    October 3rd, 2012 4:59 pm

  11. J.T.

    Giants win another World Series like it looks like they are, then Bud Selig should throw out their claims on San Jose. The Giants are MLB’s elite and to think they cannot compete with the A’s in San Jose is a joke of an argument.

    October 24th, 2012 11:13 pm

  12. overtime

    J.T. Thanks for sharing your thought. It’s just business … dollars and cents. The Giants don’t question their ability to compete with the A’s for fans, they built their own ball park with their own cash in San Francisco based on cash-flow projections that included Major League Baseball’s assurance that there wouldn’t be another team in San Jose. Simple. It’s a gazillion-dollar investment building that SF park … so, I understand why those who invested in it aren’t willing now to give away exclusive rights to the San Jose area. It’s easy for you to look at it like you do because … my hunch is that you didn’t invest millions in the Giants downtown ball park from which you would now like to realize the dividends — dividends that grow based in large part to drawing from the wildly-growing San Jose-area population. It’s easy for us to tell the Giants or MLB what to do … it’s not our money, right? Can we agree that if the A’s built a park in San Jose that the families and other more casual fans who help fill AT&T Park now would be thrilled to turn their attention and give their dollars to San Jose’s own MLB entry? It’s a business, man. TED

    October 24th, 2012 11:29 pm

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