The Oakland Athletics have worked hard to chase away patrons this year, thus it came as a bit of surprise that they drew a season-high announced crowd of 24,403 for their Monday night match with their not-much-of-a-rival Toronto Blue Jays. The reason, of course, was a free postgame fireworks show. Fireworks always work wonders on the average sucker, especially when the ticket price is slashed to seven bucks. As a result, this was the team’s largest Fourth of July crowd in nine years.
“There was a lot of memories of the good times—a packed crowd at the Coliseum,” said Stephen Vogt, who changed his walk-up music to “Born in the USA” because, as he put it, he is “thankful for being born in the USA,” thereby indicating his failure to understand the song “Born in the USA.”
This won’t be another turgid examination of the A’s, because most of you have fallen for the ownership’s clever scheme to make attending an A’s game an unbearable chore. We’re talking about the fireworks.
Well, and kind of about the A’s, too.
More to the point, we’re wondering why, if the fanbase enjoys fireworks enough to forget the fact that these A’s are brutally bad by design, the team wouldn’t shoot off fireworks more often. Say, like all the time. Those crowds of 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 and 5,000 would be a thing of the past, right?
The answer to that is of course no, because the value of a fireworks show is that it is rare. The lure is its novelty. At least that’s what the team’s marketing wizards would suggest. They would not also point out that a fireworks show is kind of pricey when done well, and the A’s have a historical aversion to spending money unnecessarily. They might also point out that Oakland has developed its own organic DIY fireworks industry, one that crosses neighborhood boundaries and can on the right night rival anything the A’s want to throw up, both in scope and duration. But mostly, it’s the cost.
Still, if the MLB-worst A’s are actually interested in luring fans out to the ballyard for an evening of whatever the hell it is they are trying to foist off on us, isn’t the cost of more fireworks a worthy attempt? And if not fireworks, why not a nightly giveaway of some piece of clothing, headwear, equipment, or miscellaneous chunk of bric-a-brac that says, “We’re selling you baseball, but we’re throwing in this added doohickey to show that we actually don’t regard you with contempt but in fact value your patronage.” Sort of a nightly prize for turning up. Smother the customer with stuff. Fire up the completist in all of us.
What is there to lose at this point, besides more games? The attempts to poison the local well by making the in-game experience a thing of dread haven’t really convinced anyone to either build them a stadium in the East Bay or any point east, north or south, and barring the introduction of floatable hats, west. Indeed, when commissioner Rob Manfred announces that baseball is now seriously considering expansion to 32 teams, the assumption is that one of the new cities would be Las Vegas, the place A’s owner John Fisher keeps indirectly suggesting is the team’s ultimate goal. But Nevada’s appetite for building a baseball stadium has dimmed to essentially nothing, making all the more unlikely the Athletics’ grand plan of being the fourth team in Nevada and, more hilarious still, having them follow the Raiders yet again.
No, it would seem that the grand plan to make leverage where there is none is still well short of any test run, so they might as well book the fireworks people more often. They are last in attendance, last in winning percentage, and last in anyone’s leisure plans, but shooting stuff into the air and watching it turn to colors seems to pique people’s interests, at least more than Christian Bethancourt or Skye Bolt do. So what’s the harm in doing that more often, or in some other way making each night special in ways that mere losing baseball alone cannot provide? Maybe a bobblehead of an empty plastic seat, just to let folks know that though everyone may hate the idea of being in this together, they are still in this together.
Put another way, check tonight’s attendance and see how well doing nothing has been working. It’ll be part of the Inertia Night At The Ballpark series. Don’t fail to miss it—you know, the way you have been.