Growing up in the Bay Area sports scene, I've had the luxury of being raised in an environment where young children are forced at a very young age to choose sides. Steve Young or Rich Gannon. Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds. Eric Musselman (Warriors) or Eric Musselman (Kings).
It also means that I have friends who feel very strongly about teams other than the Giants. Samuel Lam, 49ers beat writer for the SF Examiner and power source for Green Eggs and Lam, is a fan of the Oakland Athletics, and has been gracious enough to write a guest post for Archway Number Nine. Without further ado...
I don’t remember what year it was when I went to my first Oakland Athletics game, but I remember that I was still a young lad in elementary school. The Raiders had not returned to Oakland and you could see the Oakland Hills behind the bleachers. The sun was out and in the middle of the gorgeous sunny summer day. I fell in love with baseball.
From that day on, the Oakland A’s were my team. Since I grew up in the East Bay, getting to the Coliseum was much easier than trying to get all the way to Candlestick Park for a game. And since I was an A’s fan, the Giants weren’t a team I paid attention to growing up.
Even though I never made any effort to pay attention to the Giants as I started to get into baseball, I had friends who liked them that constantly talked about them. From high school all the way through college and even today, most of my friends who like baseball are Giants fans. So just by association with them, I know a lot about the team.
It was hard for me grasp the “rivalry” between the Giants and A’s because other than the 1989 World Series, the Bay Area teams had never met in the playoffs. Even when they brought interleague play back in 1997, there wasn’t any true animosity from me towards the Giants. It wasn’t until high school where I made friends who were Giants fans did I start to get a taste of it.
What are the A's chances of replicating the Giants success in 2011?
Both teams were playing great baseball in the early 2000s and when the A’s didn’t make it to the World Series, I started to hope that the Giants wouldn’t do well either. I didn’t want my friends to start ragging on me for cheering for the “weaker team” of the Bay Area.
When the Giants made it all the way to the World Series, I cheered for the Angels. As an A’s fan, cheering for any team from the AL West is not something that is praised. But I didn’t want the Giants to win. I didn’t want to be part of the “weaker team”.
Throughout the year, the interleague games started to have more meaning. Going to both AT&T Park and the Oakland Coliseum for the games, I started to sense the intensity of the fans. It never was anything that was created out of pure hatred, but it was just what it was supposed to be: a rivalry.
Since I didn’t want to the Giants to have any success before the A’s did, the entire 2010 season was a tough one for me to watch. I was hoping the Padres would win the West. I was wishful that the Braves would win in the first round. I expected the Phillies to out-pitch the Giants. And in the World Series, I wanted to see the Rangers win.
I don’t think it became a total hate for the Giants. I just didn’t want to see them celebrate something that I never experienced. I was only three when the 1989 World Series happened, so I never actually got a chance to watch and appreciate it.
Now with the Giants as world champions, it is now tougher for me as an A’s fan. I still love my team, but there’s a lot more attention on the Giants. Interleague games will be tougher with the defending champs in town. My friends are now talking all about the Giants and nobody wants to talk about the A’s. This is no longer a rivalry for me now. It has now become a jealousy issue.
I’m jealous that the Giants won the World Series before the A’s did. I’m jealous that the Giants got to be on the world stage. I’m jealous that the Bay Area is all about the Giants, not the A’s. What the Giants have now, I want.
This is what makes this 2011 season so important for me as an A’s fan. I got to see in person what it’s like to be a fan of a world champion. I want that. I want that to happen now.
Oakland has a stud rotation and an impressive bullpen. The lineup added some pop and there’s a lot of upside on the team. I believe they can duplicate what the Giants did last year.
It’s a new season and chapter for me in this rivalry—fueled by a desire to take what the Giants have. And to see how good the A’s can be, their first steps are these exhibition games against the champs. It’s going to be the first of a year-long heavyweight fight. It’s the champ versus the challenger.
Let’s get it on!