(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and the O.Co Coliseum?
It’s a cool night in Oakland, Ca with a game time temperature of 61 degrees with lows expected to drop to a chilly 57 sometime around the 4th inning. The crowd is scattered at best and attendance figures estimate the huddled masses at around 15,000 but the epic structure once formally known as, The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, makes that number feel far fewer. Yet for the A’s fans in attendance tonight, whose rabid devotion to the green and gold in the past few seasons has manifested itself in choreographed dances, Metallica backed fist pumps and a championship wresting belt, the lack of attendance isn’t noticeable in the slightest.
Bartolo Colon has been effortlessly throwing strikes all night and doesn’t seem to be affected by the scrutiny or pressures of life after a PED scandal; or really much in general. The 40 year old shows no signs of age tonight. The hefty right hander also shows no signs of the churros he’s possibly consumed from the BART bridge adjacent to the Coliseum known for its ticket scalpers, bootleg merchandise, last minute Coors and Bud Light chuggers and of course, those sugary breaded treats from south of the border. No, in fact big, bad, Bartolo occasionally will gingerly toss the game ball in the air to himself while waiting for the next batter to step into the box. It’s as if on this cool night in one of Oakland’s most neglected and impoverished areas, the relaxed Athletics are just going through a light and breezy dress rehearsal while preparing for something bigger and better to come as the ghosts of the Coliseum’s past sleep easy in this concrete mausoleum.
The game and Bartolo continue to roll along but in the stands relaxed, breezy and easy are far from the norm. At this point the crowd has been treated to not only a great game but also to their fellow spectators waving flags and pounding drums in the right and left field bleachers, a man wandering the stadium wearing a green, costumed donkey head and another man resembling a slightly less rosy-cheeked Santa Claus dressed in a homemade yellow cape with the word “A’s” sewn on plays the banjo and bellows out what must be the self-penned, “Let’s Get Some Runs”. The A’s mascot, Stomper, stops to pose for pictures with little kids and graciously hugs and high fives those adults who have possibly partook in an inning or three at The Field, the Coliseum’s on site Irish bar.
All in attendance are well aware that across the bay sits the “Mansion of The Hill” of downtown ballparks and are reminded of such on a daily basis from Bay Area media, National Media, Bud Selig and pesky co-workers that these A’s fans must endure on a day-to-day basis. But tonight 15,000 wack-a-do’s can’t be wrong and with another A’s win comes the pride in knowing that what this team, community and stadium have in common aren’t fake beards or Panda hats but rather, the knowledge that this stadium, it’s fans and it’s ghosts represent proof that the underdog is alive and well and also that the pure, organic joy and fun that comes with being an off-beat baseball fan rooting for an off-beat baseball team is a very good thing.
As “banjo man”, “donkey man” and the rest of the crowd thins out set to the sounds of Kool and The Gang’s “Celebration”, chants of “Let’s Go Oak-Land” echo all over the concrete soul of this outdated multi-purpose stadium and fill the night air with hope and positive energy. An offering of pride to the underdog as they order one more Churro for the long road home.