When it hits the fan!

Written by Chin Music

Loyalty, Money, and Heroism

We actually agree on a lot. I also want the A's to stay in Oakland. I, like you, am willing to support Schott if he commits to Oakland. I also want the Oakland Coliseum filled with excited A's fans regardless of who owns the team. Trust me, I'm no fan of Al Davis or Warriors owner Chris Cohan, yet I'm an ardent fan of both teams, as I am with the A's, so supporting Schott is fine with me. But, like any business in the "free market", it's a two-way street. Suffice to say, you and I have two different outlooks on life. You cite the American "free market principles" several times. Well, I only wish the true "free market" laws were applicable when it came to the business practices of MLB. If that were the case, under normal "free market" circumstances, the arrogant and dishonest manner in which Selig and MLB misled Dolich and Oakland would be open to many a credible lawsuit. Sports is not "just a business", it's an affair of the heart to many people, and the people that run it need savvy, finesse, p.r. skills and imagination to successfully market it. That's why business-only people that step into the world of sports, usually fail dismally. Many bad decisions in the world are justified with the flimsy "it's only good business" argument. American slavery was defended this way, South African apartheid was defended this way, Nazism was defended this way. In less deadly, yet equally serious, ways the exclusion of blacks from baseball until Jackie Robinson was defended this way. Curt Flood being blackballed from the game in the late '60's (even though is cause was just and supported legally) was defended this way.

Regarding Derek Jeter, I think it was BAD business by the Yankees to fight him on his salary. The loyalty they could get from him by paying him his market worth is worth the cost, especially while the Yanks are turning the biggest yearly profit in MLB every year. It's classic pennywise, pound foolish mentality, and it's not to be admired, if you're smart in how you want to build a winning team. Alp, you say "what I think in this matter is irrelevant." You're wrong on this point and you sell your worth way too short as a fan, a customer, an American, and as a human. If this is truly "just a business", then what's the first rule of business? "The Customer Is Always Right!" If you say now that that is inapplicable to THIS business, then I say you're being ver selective in how you use this otherwise blanket statement that "free market" principles apply here. YOU ARE THE CUSTOMER, thus, your opinion should matter quite a lot. The fact that a team can just threaten to move,when there's ample proof that it has worked and can work again is quite galling. You stated that it "is indisputable that attendance is pathetic". On the contrary, it is VERY disputable. In fact, I will dispute this for the 2nd message in a row. Fact: Attendance was up by 200,000 in 1999. Fact: Attendance was the highest since 1993. Fact: The A's own the Bay Area season attendance record at 2.9 million as recently as 1990. Fact: 2.9 million fans is a figure the NY Yankees just surpassed this year for the first time in their fabled history. What was that about small markets again? Fact: The A's outdrew the Giants 17 out of the first 27 seasons that they shared this market. Since Schott's owned the team, the Giants have outdrawn the A's all 4 years. Ever heard of a common denominator?

Have you ever wondered why a grown man hitting a ball over the fence makes the newspaper and conjures up visions of heroism and is reveled over in song, lyric, poetry and story; while important social occupations people like nurses, schoolteachers, or car mechanics languish in relative obscurity? There's something about sports and athletics that transcends our everyday, mundane lives, that's why. While obstacles and tribulations in our human lives take many complex, sometimes abstract forms (i.e. a life-threatening disease, a trying boss, a troubled loved one), sports and movies succeed in entertaining and thrilling us and providing metaphorical, vicarious thrills for us to learn from or be inspired by. That's why "business only" approaches fail in this model. Sure, the basic bottom line must be heeded at times, but to take an extremist capitalist view every time on this 'affair of the heart' that describes sports is like trying to fit a square peg into a circled hole. It simply doesn't apply because sports is about emotion and passion. Even more simply, it's about love. The same irrational impulses that drives us humans to fall in love with a significant other is the same impulse that drives us as sports fans to pledge allegiance to a sports team. With the divorce rate over 50% these days (more on that later), it makes no sense, if you're looking at it coldly and rationally, to fall in love and get married. The 'numbers' just don't add up to a good 'investment' - whether that be time, energy or money. Yet, we do it all the time. Similarly, it doesn't make a lot of cold-hearted analytical sense to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars yearly on a group of men in uniforms who we don't know, just so we can root and watch them chase a little white ball on the field. So why do we do it? Human optimism. A need for community/communal experiences. A search for drama. A very human need for emotional investment in something romantic, something pure, something exciting. Some people find it in the stock market, or in a Coltrane album, or in a performance at their theater/moviehouse, or at the Oakland Coliseum between April and October.

But, there's a problem to this search when owners intimate or loudly state that they're going to move. The illusion is threatened. And sports' role - which is to provide a certain order to its community in a very uncertain world - becomes diminished when its caretakers start to destroy the very bond that they're supposed to protect by simply being greedy. In a culture becoming increasinly bottom-line, these kinds of real-world intrusions on our child-like appreciation of the game do irreparable damage (i.e. the '94 strike and World Series cancellation, the franchise moves of many teams in sports, albeit not baseball recently) the regular fans' emotional ties to their team and the game itself. I think fans are angry in general about the money-grubbing that goes on by both sides. Fan violence toward players is at an all-time high. A fan attacked Randy Myers in Chicago on the mound in '95. In the last month alone, Ryder Cup fans in Boston harassed and spat upon the European golfers; Bill Spiers was attacked in right field in Milwaukee, Denver Broncos cornerback Dale Carter had his vision damaged when an object tossed by HIS OWN HOME FANS hit him in they eye. Fan anger is building and you can't tell me that it's mostly their fault. When franchises threaten to move, they threaten the biggest bond - that of communal experience - that makes sports attractive in the first place. This fan anger can be seen as part of the tapestry of a larger problem, maybe even a cancer of the spirit, in our American culture. We have kids in wealthy suburbs all over the nation shooting up their schools, and most people don't seem to care as long as the DOW keeps climbing. In short, our priorities are out of whack. This "business only" approach might work for some on the surface, but its unspoken underbelly often has a hidden cost. A cost that sports owners all conveniently - and most erroneously - try to upon the fans. What does all of this have to do with the A's situation? Simply put, in the world of sports a rarely articulated paradox exists where a "business only" approach to the game is, ironically enough, very bad for business.

Go Oakland A's! (At the very least, we can agree on that, right?)

by Chin Music

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