Baseball, it seems some believe, is one of the very few businesses in the world where a failure to sell the product is the fault of the consumer. National outlets publish pieces on a regular basis that assail fan support in Oakland and Tampa Bay.
“Look at all those empty seats!”
The logic that follows is something akin to “That market just doesn’t care about professional sports.” As if the Tampa Bay Rays novel idea of splitting the season between two cities will resolve the team’s inability to capitalize on a market with more than three million people by giving them two markets with three million people each to blame for their lack of market penetration.
To their credit, MLB ownership groups far and wide called this canard for what it was. The Tampa Bay Rays are the Tampa Bay Rays for the time being. No Montreal half season experiment for you, Mr. Sternberg. A similar debate, though, is playing out in Oakland and the same logic reigns supreme.
“People in Oakland don’t care about professional sports. If they did, they would be in the stands every night.”
This is a lazy way of looking at things. For example, if a Hollywood studio releases a big budget film that critics love, but audiences don’t show up… How many articles are written that blame the movie going public?
I am going to write a few history pieces about the Oakland Athletics 20+ year attempt to find a place to build a park in the Bay Area. Think of this as a sort of Doctor Who inspired trip through ballpark sites all over the East and South Bay (Is Fremont South or East?). For a lot of us who have been following almost all of that time, we know this started in earnest with the HOK (now Populous) 2001 Ballpark Site Study and here is the Executive Summary for your reading pleasure:
Monday night, I listened to Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association VP and General Counsel Mike Jacob, and African American Sports and Entertainment Group Founder Ray Bobbitt take turns talking about the future of the A’s, Howard Terminal and the Coliseum Complex on KALW’s State of the Bay. There was also a prerecorded message from Oakland City Council Member and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan. All of this was moderated by Grace Won and Ethan Elkind.
Last night, I was so excited to be at the Oakland Roots USL home debut versus the Sacramento Republic. My wife, daughter and I had plans to meetup with my brother and his family and my sister and her family. It was the first time we had seen my sister, her husband and their son in almost two years.
It all went south pretty quickly as we walked up to the gate at Laney College stadium. People were coming out of the way in and confusion abounded. Eventually, a man from the Roots came around and announced that the Sacramento team refused to play on the field and the game had been cancelled. This turned out to be untrue by the team’s own statement, so that was real bad form… blaming your opponent for cancelling a game that was cancelled because the field had dead sod and was an injury risk.
But the real event happened when my brother texted us from the parking lot and said “Meet us at Plank…”
Anyone who knows me knows that I bleed Oakland Athletics green and gold. I used to be a front page writer for Athletics Nation, Editor at Large for Newballpark and have season ticket holder pins, bobbleheads, jerseys, hats… nesting dolls. You name it, I got it in Oakland Athletics stylings.
And further, I started researching ballpark developments in 2000. This after the City of Oakland made an objectively TERRIBLE deal to bring the Raiders back to Oakland in 1996 and followed it up by refurbishing the Oakland Arena for the Warriors. Both of those deals, 25 years later, have real ramifications for the City of Oakland as they approach a potential new deal with the A’s. This despite, and probably a little bit because of, both of those teams plying their respective trades in different cities.
One of the very first “sites” I ever tried to understand was Jack London Square on Oakland’s waterfront and this was because at the time… The Giants had just completed their park right on the water and it was gorgeous. I quickly realized that “Jack London Square” really meant Howard Terminal based on the HOK Oakland Ballpark Study that was released not long after I started trying to figure this out on my own, and there were copious reasons that this site seemed like a fantasy back then, and I wrote about it. More than once.
I am here today to tell you that I am 100% in favor of a ballpark at Howard Terminal now, and it isn’t because of Sophomoric threats of relocation. It is about Oakland.
I had such a great time talking about the things I have learned in Silicon Valley as a part of National University’s Alumni Speaker Series. While I figure out the best way to publish all 17 Lessons, please enjoy this hour long talk in which I cover four of them and share my perspective on what makes Silicon Valley the juggernaut that it is from my time working at world changing companies like Facebook and Square.