Tonight’s A’s Game Will Be A Party Or A Wake
9:58 AM EDT on June 13, 2023
The most devoted of Oakland Athletics fans—they're the ones who look like Jake LaMotta at the end of Raging Bull—are holding their long-planned "reverse boycott" Tuesday evening, a paying customer be-in of sorts to prove their devotion to the team and the town that the team's owner hates. It's not going to change the course of the team's future whereabouts, as that remains in the mitts of the wearying Nevada legislature, but it will make a lot of people who have been passively boycotting the team this year feel more of a community than staying home has.
Call it a gigantic staff meeting in which nobody knows to order the green-and-gold decorations or the black crepe paper.
It's the accidental timing of the gathering, though, that puts one more brick on this Winchester Mystery House of a story. For one, the A's are riding a six-game winning streak that has at least temporarily taken them out of the discussion of the worst baseball teams of all time, and they are now only a game away from no longer being the worst team of all year. For two, and this is the big one, the Nevada legislature is STILL arguing about the propriety and efficacy of coughing up a few hundred million to Blackjack John Fisher for a stadium investment that at best is ill-thought-out and at worst will draw less public interest than a casino that advertises "Tightest Slots, Most Extortionate Prices And Worst Service In Town."
And remember, this is Las Vegas. Las Vegas will build anything.
The legislature has been holding meetings designed to wear down the resistance of the majority who have found the A's’ plan amateurish in the details and trousers-down bumbling in the presentation. Governor Joe Lombardo, whose political strategy re: the baseball team seems to be racing toward having the job for only one term, really wants the A's on the notion that bringing in a baseball team will help a town that already has all the baseball it wants, but so far the dispatches from the hearings suggest that neither Lombardo nor Fisher and his confused harmonica Dave Kaval have the votes, the traction, or the know-how to break the wills of the disgusted legislators who want to go home and be done kneeling on the necks of the citizens for the summer.
But because nothing is certain in politics, the A's could still get their stadium approved in some form or other today with the right amount of hammerlocking, chokeslamming, and bank-note strangulation, and then where will the reverse boycott be then? It transforms from a party into a funeral, with the only results being more money into the pocket of the Fisher/Voldemort hologram and lots of tearful hugs for the evening news. Conversely, if the lawmakers decide to make no law today, or even more effervescent, tell the A's that the laws about hazardous waste will be applied to their detriment, tonight is a party celebrating the status quo, which has been largely unsatisfying to everyone involved but has become increasingly tenable as the state of play in Oakland—the town that keeps its team only because the people who want to move it have only perfected the art of tying their shoelaces together while wearing them on the wrong feet, and then falling face-first while raising their arms in triumph.
There is also a bit of symmetry in tonight's opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays, who have a similar stadium dissatisfaction but whose owner Stuart Sternberg has at least not poisoned the water supply to get his way. Sternberg is by no means a bargain as owners go, but Fisher is the new excremental standard to such an extent that even in baseball nobody can say his name without looking like they just chugged a can of paint. Not even Rob Manfred, himself a man whose persuasive skills could be matched by the empty paint can.
Mostly, though, there is the team, riding an unexpected wave of victory that last night included that rarest of feats in the modern age, the three-inning save in a one-run game. That came from Ken Waldichuk, a semi-local lad (Saint Mary's College) who was once the third member of the starting rotation and just made his second career relief appearance. A predictably petite crowd of 4,848 saw the event, and it seems likely that most of those will also be in attendance tonight for the long-planned and ever-hopeful victory parade and/or vigil.
Or it might just end up being one more party without a cause, celebrating yet another day of indecision for a fan base that has been living with that particular disease for almost its entire existence. These are hardy folk, though, as they are the ones who want the team nobody wants, or to be more precise, the only ones willing to admit it.