For many fans, sports is a release from everyday life, a way to let go of the stress from work or any other problems. And once in a blue moon, a team captures the imagination and hearts of a city and fan base – this year, that was the Oakland A’s.
Although the A’s lost the final game of their playoff series with the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night, the team was the true epitome of team sports. There were no superstars, no egos; it was 25+ players, along with a coaching staff that believed in each other and more importantly, believed in the A’s. Camaraderie can never be taken for granted in team sports – and the A’s had some of the best “mojo” I’ve ever seen. Walk off hits were celebrated like a World Series win, the tradition of pies in the face became almost a daily occurrence as the team racked up win after win and there was a real sense of togetherness. It was in simple terms “a team.”
The A’s did this with one of the lowest if not the lowest payroll in baseball. This team was cobbled together with rookies and castaways; but that’s what made it an even better story. Many of these players know the feeling that fans are going through – fighting for their jobs and livelihoods each and every day, not knowing what the future holds.
The best part of the A’s season is that for the last month or so, it has brought the fans back to the Coliseum. Many loyal Oakland fans left or gave up season tickets because of the constant talk about the team moving and the penny-pinching from ownership. It seemed like they were more worried about making a buck than putting a winning product on the field. Crowds were getting sparser and sparser with each passing season. The team’s best players were getting traded away for rookies and prospects. I don’t blame A’s fans for losing hope.
But this year’s squad had a heart that never stopped beating and brought those fans back. They gave them a reason to return to the ballpark and cheer on the team. Even though the players weren’t as familiar as in year’s past, they fought till the last out of every game and seemed to really thrive on the fan support. They made an emotional connection with the fans and brought them back to life, enthused by baseball again.
The baseball part of the story was great in itself. But this was more than just about baseball. It was about the East Bay, which has some of the best and most passionate fans in the U.S. It was about renewing hope in the minds of longtime fans. It was about proving that baseball – and other sports can survive in Oakland. It was proving a point to media and others that Oakland is not only about violence and murders as many people characterize it. It was about the underdog. It was a great story and a great season and the Bay Area and A’s fans should be proud of this magical year.
Photo Credit: Oakland A’s