There’s nothing wrong with the Oakland Coliseum. (I will NEVER refer to a stadium as its stupid, temporary sponsor name, by the way.) For me, it has all I need. Perhaps I’m easy to please. Is it perfect? Far from it. But for all the privations and so-called antiquated qualities it harbors, it suits me perfectly.
I am coming from a position of bias because I practically grew up there. It opened when I was six years old, which is about the time I could properly discern what was going on in front of me. And what a fantastic era it was to grow up in the East Bay. The A’s, Warriors, and Raiders all won a combined five world titles by the time I was 11. The die was cast. I was an Oakland lifer. Sitting at the Jack Del Rio presser on Friday, he was asked about his favorite memories of the Coliseum, and I then tacitly asked myself the same question and found it would make for a coffee table tome.
Peter Gammons, on ESPN in 2011, said that “the A’s will never win until they get a new stadium.” That’s a very curious thing for a respected baseball writer to opine, since the team has won six pennants and four World Series there since 1972. This once again is a sign that you should never trust a national writer in any sport when it comes to your team. They cover 30+ teams in their respective sports, usually from 3,000 miles away. Beyond that, it was a stupid thing for Gammons to say, especially since the A’s went to the playoffs in each of the next three seasons. I know upon what his opinion is based however, that the club needs the revenue of a new stadium to compete with the big spenders of the American League, three of which now reside in the AL West. But is the Coliseum really a deal-breaker? No.
When I interviewed A’s ownership head Lew Wolff in Spring Training of 2011, I asked him why he refers to his area as a small market when it is the antithesis of a small market. He candidly clarified that he was referring strictly to revenue. He told me, “I don’t like the term small market. I just want to be able to have revenues the Giants have, for example.” How the Giants have garnered and the hoarded all the revenue of the Bay Area is beyond me, because they haven’t. But Lew has a point – a new stadium would bring in new monies, at least for a while. You’d like to have that cash, but when you’re part of a billionaire ownership group who takes in revenue sharing and makes a profit every year, you do not need a new stadium to be successful.
I’ve nothing against San Jose. I have family down there and I’ve been a Sharks fanatic since Day One. I worked their television broadcasts for their first nine years of existence. I love the Shark Tank. I like downtown San Jose. But I don’t want my baseball team going there. Whenever I drive to San Jose from my home, it’s not unlike the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. By the time I get to Hayward, I‘ve thrown out the grandfather clock. By Fremont, I’ve eaten the horses. And at the moment I get to the San Jose city limits, I’ve formed a new religion. Dramatic? Maybe a bit. Let’s just say it’s a massive pain in the posterior. I’d rather not.
As far as the lack of atmosphere at the Coliseum when the crowds are small, which is customary, I look at in this optimistic way: small crowds mean shorter lines for concessions and more room to stretch out whilst big crowds offer a playoff vibe. Win-win, right? I’ve never used the airwaves to yell at people for not going to games or beat the drum to rally people to games. That never works in either case because fans will decide on their own one way or another.
I realize many people are born to complain. They’ll jump on a bad plumbing episode with the vigor of a hyena on a gazelle carcass and never let go. They’ll wax poetic about the charming views that were once available before Mt. Davis was built. Look, Mt. Davis is ugly, but the prior view was of a hillside quarry. Not exactly the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal. At least the Coliseum seats point you toward the action. Have you ever sat in the first deck seats along the third base line in China Basin? That architect must have never seen a baseball game in his life. Those seats point toward the centerfield scoreboard. You have to turn 90 degree in your seats to see the pitcher and batter, and because of the slightness to the terracing, one fan standing up can black out an entire section.
I understand that if you don’t like the Coliseum that I won’t change your mind here, and I’m not interested in doing so. I’m simply pointing out that it is the most centrally-located, accessible, affordable venue in Northern California, usually sitting under a warm sun and blue skies. There’s nothing wrong with it. I love it. It’s the Home of Champions. And it’s my home.