Oakland Athletics

Is the Battle of the Bay really a battle?

The Bay Bridge series is upon us once again, so that means it’s time for friend against friend, brother against brother, and father against son.

Err… Is it?

In my family, most of us are Giants fans first and foremost, but always root for the A’s as well. Oakland is local, and they’re in the American League, so it seems perfectly reasonable to root for the Giants in the National League and root for the A’s in the American League. But of course, were the two teams ever to meet in the World Series, most of my family would be rooting San Francisco all the way.

All but my own father, that is.

He’s the kind of guy who always roots for the underdog, especially in sports, and, let’s face it: the A’s have been the underdog for the better part of the last decade, probably longer. Sure, they had some good years in the early 2000s with the big three (seems odd using that phrase in a baseball context now), but their success has been stagnant for the last 15 years. Thus, he always roots for them over the Giants because he wants the “little guy” to succeed (which is a feeling most Americans share, demonstrated by the success of Moneyball).

There’s no harm in that – he roots for a team to succeed because the organization is not really expected to succeed. But can he also root for San Francisco?

There’s fundamentally two answers to that question:

Absolutely he can. Both the teams are local and they’re in different leagues, so who cares if he roots for both?

Then there’s the not-so-friendly, perhaps more die-hard answer:

No way! These teams are rivals and you can’t root for two teams in a rivalry!

Fair enough. Both are valid answers with strong arguments.

But let’s really think about this, for a moment. Is this a rivalry to the extent of, say, Giants-Dodgers? Red Sox-Yankees? Cubs-White Sox? You get the point.

It sure doesn’t seem like it. Do any of those rivalries have these?

If so, I’ve never seen them. In fact, I don’t think there is much of a rivalry in the sense of bad blood, hostility, pure hatred, or even bragging rights. If anything, the annual meetings between the cross-bay foes is more of a fun event that the entire Bay Area looks forward to.

Don’t get me wrong, there are people out there who absolutely hate the Giants or the A’s. I know a few who say it’s heresy to root for both because when it comes down to it you have to pick a side.

Sure you do, and I think most Bay ball fans would have no problem with that.

Most baseball people around the area that I know tend to favor one of the two, but don’t hate the other. Maybe they don’t root for them as their number two team (some do), but they don’t root against them, either.

And where’s the harm in that? They’ve got their favorite team, and they’ve got their second favorite team.

A’s fans will probably hate this, but it seems that the rivalry between the Giants and the A’s has evolved into more of a annual brotherly bout where big brother San Francisco plays little brother Oakland. The Giants have the big budget ($131,355,298 payroll in 2012), new ballpark and superstar players, where the A’s have one of the smallest payrolls in baseball ($52,873,000 in 2012), a run-down ballpark they are trying to get out of, and a collection of young players mixed with some veterans without any big names. Since the Giants moved to what is now called AT&T Park, this has been the story of Bay Area baseball.

Due to the success of the Giants, less die-hard baseball fans have become bigger San Francisco fans because it’s easier to root for a team that is doing well. I don’t like that, to quote my cousin, “everyone and their mom is a Giants fan now that they won the World Series,” but that is what happened, and has been happening for the last few years.

Granted, I’ve only been around for 19 years, so maybe this happens every time one of the two teams does well and the other is performing poorly. I know there are people out there who do only root for one team, and maybe that’s the way it should be, but if the majority of the Bay Area would like to see both Oakland and San Francisco win a World Series, is this really a rivalry in its purest sense? It sure doesn’t seem like it to me.

Let’s do an informal poll in the comments section on your rooting habits (choose one):

1. Only root for one of the two teams, but don’t mind the other.

2. They’re rivals. Only root for one, and hate the other.

3. Root for both equally.

4. Root for both, but favor one.

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