This is my first little installment of a series of "columns" on AN. I just got this idea from sitting in SBC's left field bleachers last night against the Braves. Let me know how you like, and yes, next time I go to a game, I will be persuing the proposed column ideas. Thanks!
Oakland Boasts Bay's Best Bleachers
By Justin Lafferty
On a chilly Monday night on the western side of the Bay, San Francisco Giants rookie pitcher Kevin Correia winds and throws to a Braves batter. If you were sitting in the bleachers at picturesque SBC Park, you would not have a clue who as to at the plate if it were not for the scoreboard.
Behind me, in the centerfield bleachers, all I could hear was the bass-thumping beats of Usher's "Yeah" and Rihanna's "Pon de Replay". No, Correia is not a big hip-hop fan, that would be the sounds emanating from the Giants' promotional "Singles Night". Giants fans can mix, mingle and dance it up behind the bleachers, making the box score numbers secondary to the seven digits swapped. All the music, along with the slide down the giant Coke bottle in left field, gave the ballpark more of an amusement park feel. I wasn't sure whether I should cheer on Braves' starter Jorge Sosa or seek out mascot Lou Seal for an autograph.
Now, I'm all for fans getting together romantically, but it was getting distracting from the game. I could not hear the announcer and really did not care to hear loud hip-hop while trying to focus on that other thing that takes place at SBC Park. I've heard they play baseball, too. Not that you would know this from the fans in the bleachers.
Yes, this was my first game at SBC, but small sample sizes be damned, I just could not get a feel for the fan base. Aside from one fan who had imbibed one too many cold ones, I heard a disheartening lack of cheering from San Francisco's left field bleachers.
I've been to a great many Oakland A's games in my short life, a vast majority of them in the popular left field bleachers, that hearty group of vocal, flag-waving diehards. From Maurice, to old-timer Paul and his pom-poms, to the man with the "510" jersey and A's catcher mask, this is a cast of characters to be reckoned with.
Players interact repeatedly with the left field bleachers, flashing one and two signs for outs and waving to the crowd. New outfielder Jay Payton even got in the act during his first series in the green and gold.
I was not totally sure if Giants leftfielder Moises Alou even knew he had fans behind him. I heard maybe one "Let's go Giants!" cheer aside from the drunken fan, who was unable to restrain himself. There were absolutely no attempts at interaction with Alou aside from maybe some Braves fans jeering. There was just a total lack of heart from the bleachers, where some of the more lively and hard-core fans usually sit.
I concede that SBC Park is much more aesthetically pleasing than the Coliseum, which looks like the world's largest cereal bowl. I may even make a case that the garlic fries in Frisco are tastier, but the lack of fan participation is saddening. I saw more people stand up with cell phones, waving in a, "Hey buddy, I'm over here!" manner than people cheering on Correia or Kirk Rueter in a tight count. Did you come to watch a baseball game, or pay to hang out with your friends?
Sitting in Oakland's bleachers, I think I've seen as many uprisings and "Let's Go Oak-land!" chants as I have Barry Zito curveballs. These fans, and I say this attempting to come through without bias, have charisma. Paul probably showed more attitude and joy in one inning than I saw in all nine combined at SBC Park. Granted, the Giants were getting liberally thumped by Atlanta, but that is no reason to give up in the first inning. Braves fans were easily more vocal than Giants fans that night.
Even when getting beaten badly by the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox, Oakland's left field bleachers crew never relent. Bleachers, I believe, have a magical power. The cheap seats can house the loudest and truest of fans, and should.
Let's not forget the last, and greatest thing Oakland's bleachers have over their cross-bay counterparts: four "World Champion" flags flying overhead compared to none at SBC.