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OAKLAND — A man dressed in all black and orange stood out Monday like a prostitute in church. It was green and gold everywhere in the plaza between the Coliseum and Oracle, which has been converted into a private party with food trucks and games. But here was a fan decked out in Giants gear.
And Keita Jones, a 36-year-old Oaklander, couldn’t let that fly.
He yelled for the Giants fan to leave. He brazenly asked why he wasn’t watching the Giants game on TV. He told the intruder to go back across the Bay where they “love Buster Posey because he’s so cute.”
“I have to let ’em know where they are,” said Jones, headed to section 149 of the bleachers. “If I see you in a Giants hat, a Red Sox hat, a Yankees hat, get ready to get roasted. Oakland is more than a place on the map. It’s a lifestyle. We’re a city of perseverance. For so long, we were treated as the red-headed stepchild, and we embraced it. Now Oakland is trendy.”
There was a distinctive feel at the A’s season kick off. The buzz of a happening scene. An aura of self-realization galvanizing a fan base.
It was Opening Night, so the novelty of the 2017 season boosted the atmosphere. The unique A’s vibe was in overdrive. Trendy mixed with ‘hood, laid back with a side of up-and-coming, a pinch of underdog with a hint of wildness.
This is A’s baseball. The attraction is the people and the culture that supports the team.
“We’ve felt the energy in Oakland since Fan Fest,” Stephen Vogt said.
A’s fans know their worth. They understand what they bring to the table. They relish in their unique identity in the sphere of fandom, especially in their sharp contrast to their cross-Bay rivals.
The A’s fans aren’t deterred by the lack of success, or the mediocre prospects of their team. Instead, they are validated by their loyalty through it, relishing in their role in making the franchise relevant.
The A’s have definitely lacquered on the hometown vibe, celebrating and fostering this unique crop. They fancied up the digs with some DIY decorations, food trucks and beer. They tarped off the upper deck, cramming in the modest legion. A run down of their special events gives you a glimpse of their keen understanding of their base: Town Business T-shirts, Game of Thrones night, a Bay Area Hip-Hop and a Star Wars fireworks show, G-Eazy Bobblehead giveaway and a Sunday brunch.
Walking through an A’s tailgate is a mini tour of present-day Oakland, the epicenter of the East Bay, and its conglomeration of culture.
Not many places you can get cajun fries covered in crab meat for $12 while bobbing to the rhythms of 90s rap legend DJ Quik. Or see a crew of senior citizens in lounge chairs relaxing in the parking lot, unbothered by young dudes in Jordans playing catch under a medicinal cloud.
In the B lot behind the Coliseum, a Nissan Sentra was engulfed in flames, torching with it an adjacent Toyota, a tailgate gone wrong. Nobody flinched as flames swallowed the car. It became a punchline, a photo op for social media after the smoke settled.
“The party’s just getting started,” one fan said as his girlfriend put on her high heel boots.
That’s A’s fans for you. Down for whatever. Two burnt cars: that’s ambiance. Losing seasons: those are stripes earned. Either way, the party doesn’t stop.
No one knows what this season will be for the A’s. They won the opener, which is rare for the A’s. But the next 161 games could reveal this season to be another stinker. Or surprisingly competitive. Or historic.
Either way, A’s fans are all in. And now they have a franchise all in with them.
The spirit surrounding the A’s is palpable, magnetic. It is diverse, in age and culture and economic status, while A’s baseball is cheap enough for all to enjoy. It is energetic — lit, in modern vernacular. It happily rejects sophistication while embracing quality. It takes pride in being loud, edgy and loyal. It robs baseball of its pretentiousness, swapping it for collegiate hype.
This spirit looovvvves personality and uniqueness. Overachievers like Vogt. Superstar talents like Khris Davis. Generally cool people like Sean Doolittle.
Fans cheered like their cousin homered when Vogt went yard to right for the first hit of the season. They danced to DMX after a homer by Davis in the bottom of the sixth inning, then rocked out to Metallica when Doolittle came on to pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Nothing riles up A’s fans like uniqueness. Weird. Swagged out. Nerdy. Outcasts. Especially legends, like Rickey Henderson.
The A’s couldn’t have picked a better player to name the field after. Not just because he is arguably the greatest player in franchise history. But because he’s the most fitting Hall of Famer to represent the fans.
The guy known for speaking in third person. Who kept the flat top until it came back in style 20 years later. Who still rocks sunglasses indoors and walks around like he wishes you would ask him to take them off.
Rickey represents the people. And the people are the best thing the A’s have going.