I have been an A's fan since I can remember. When I was a little kid, they were winning 3 world championships in a row and getting in fights and generally kicking ass right along side the Raiders. The only thing I knew about the Giants is that they pre-empted Charlie & Humphrey on Channel 2 in the afternoons sometimes (Captain Delta when I lived in Sacto). I lived through the losing years, Billy Ball, McGuire's rookie season, Rancho Canseco, Kirk Fucking Gibson, the Quake Series, the goddamn Reds, the decline, the rise, Moneyball, slide Jeremy slide, Miggy WTF, and everything in between. I have lived and loved with this team for my entire life. Bill King was like a grandfather to me. Tony LaRussa like a drill sergeant father. Wash was the fun neighbor. Bob Geren was like a cousin you only see once a year but always makes you feel awkward and smells like mineral supplements.
So I know from heartbreaking loses. I was here when we came crashing back to earth against the Spankees, the Red Sux, Twins, Tigers, Toronto, Baltimore and many others. It hurts. I won't say it don't. They all hurt. I have cried. I have wept. Sometimes for a minute, sometimes for days. I have carried grief as heavy as any I have felt for the loss of a loved one. I hate some teams simply based on their history of beating the A's. I would kick Kirk Gibson in the testicles if I could get away with it physically, legally and monetarily.
But this year is different. You know what this year is like? Find out after the jump.
This is the famous final scene of the Bad News Bears.
Presented for comparison purposes only
The Bad News Bears was the first sports movie I ever saw where the team didn't win in the end. And they handled it the best way ever. This is filmmaking of the highest (probably literally) order. Matthau at his peek and kids throwing beer bottles at the "good sports" I think this should be the official video of the A's season finale. Ah, the alcohol fueled violence of youth. I believe the children are our future... hooligans.
I got a lot of sympathy this morning. Everyone knows I'm a huge A's fan and even my jerk next-door neighbor was nice about it. Then came the near suicidal messages from my A's fan friends. I can commiserate. I've been there. I know the feel, the weight of that failed championship hangover. It's a mix of sad defeat, depression, overindulgence in salty foods, a raspy voice, lingering goat regret and abundant smelliness all mixed up with a real, sinus thumping, alcoholic hangover. It can make working the next day impossible. It can end friendships like a political argument. It can dissolve marriages like a lingering crush on Kari Byron. It's bad news.
But as I changed my Facebook background from CoCo going crazy in front of Prince Feeled-her, to my usual shameless self-promotion, I realized something. I don't feel bad. I don't feel sad at all. As a matter of fact I feel good. I might even... yes, I definitely feel happy. It's like the end of that cartoon, you know what I'm talking about, The Selig Who Stole Baseball:
"What if real victory, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
What if real victory, perhaps, means a little bit more."
At the risk of mixing my pop culture references, I think my heart grew three sizes this season. (But my head is still not screwed on just right). I am accepting of this loss. I am happy for the season. I do believe in Dah Hoo Dor Ray, Deux Ex Machina and In A Gadda Da Vida. This isn't a sad day, this is a happy day. And anyone else who tells you different is certainly entitled to their opinion, but we should agree to disagree.
Yes, I want the Ligers to lose in a variety of horrible ways in the LCS, each more heart-rending (or heart rendering) than the last, but that's only cause they were shouting "Shut The Fuck Up" instead of appreciating the wit & sageisms of the Oaktown faithful. But you know what? We didn't shut up - or my proxies didn't shut up, my brothers and sisters, the maniacs in the stands - until the Tiggers had gone to their cold, lonely joyless celebration in a dingy visiting locker room in the most dilapidated clubhouse in the league (no offense Coli, but you gotta admit... wait, wait, don't get mad... c'mon, it looks good on you... you get a free bowl of soup with those tarps). And so we got some measure of revenge on those bad, bad men.
But think of it, this team could have been eliminated 2 months ago. Instead we played meaningful, fun, mind blowing, face melting, panty twisting, allegience forming, memory making, poetic justice-ifying baseball until 10/11/12. October baseball, nothing like it. Especially when you were expected to be competing for the Miss Congeniality prize. When we got into the playoffs I explained it to a non-baseball fan like this: It's as if we took a bag full of rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, weasels, ferrets, meerkats and yes, even a stoat, and duct-taped them all together and entered it into the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. And won.
I said that before we swept the Deputies, before we came back from 2 games down, before the madness of Wednesday night. I felt like we had won the division then. When we actually did win the division? It was like winning the league championship. When we won on Wednesday? It was like winning the Series. I stayed up all night. It was amazing. I still am happy from that. It's like we took our rat/weasel/meerkat/stoat thing and entered it into a duct tape project contest. And won. That's some Mythbuster-level duct tapery!
I think one of the great things about this season is that it has created an eco-system of A's fans. Because of the surprise, magical nature of it they will be fully engaged and energized next year. Oakland will be known as a place where other players can't hear themselves swear at our fans.Guess the Attendance will be replaced by Guess the Decibel Level. Dot Racing will become Dot Raging where blue always wins.
I think this year may have convinced Rachel Phelps (John Fisher) to instruct her new General Manager Charlie Donovan (Lew Wolf) to stop trying to destroy the team and help it instead. (Oh dear, another pop culture side track). There seems to be some movement toward pleasing the fans (finally) from the A's ownership, which might result in some much needed changes. Better amenities at the stadium, a looser pocketbook for player contracts and Fisher/Wolff selling the team and getting the hell of of town. Personally, I'd like Tim Westergren to buy the A's and make them the foundation of a new Pandora Sports Radio division. Tunage automatically selected for batters by the Walk-Up Music Genome Project. Just tell it what you like and their Al-Gore-rhythms will play something else you like almost as much.
I was ready to write off this team at mid-season - not because of their performance, but because of their performance enhancing drug history. I hate the way the whole A's organization stinks of steroids - from Mac and Canseco through Miggy and Manny. I turned my back on the rest of the team when Colon was suspended. But I couldn't stay away, in part because here was a bunch of guys who are young and clean. As much as I can trust my eyes, I would swear that this bunch of ragtag outcasts doesn't have a drugs cheat among them. Except Balfour - that anger is just too stereotypically steroidal.
When I remember this team I won't inwardly wince. That's a huge change from the Chemical Bash Brothers and Jason and his BALCO-nauts. This team was genuine. They put it all out there from their hearts. And won while smiling and laughing and chewing mouthpieces and doing the Bernie Lean and stylin'. They were like the great personality teams of the past. Except - no superstars, no egos, no Reggie.
It will never happen like this again. Our collective virginity has been taken along with our breath and our hearts. I think "Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" is a great film, don't get me wrong.But BNBIBT could never take the place of the OG BNB. You'll never forget the first time you heard Tanner (Grant Balfour) work blue like a Catskills comic, watched long-haired tough guy Kelly (Josh Reddick) smoking cigs and smacking balls out of the park, cheered when Lupus (Coco Crisp) makes his great catch in the big game, gasped as a careening pitch went straight at Engelberger's (Brandon McCarthy) head, were stunned when Amanda (Jarrod Parker) brought her bag of pitching tricks to the mound and smiled when human computer Ogilvie (Billy Beane) quoted statistics like bible verses. After a lot of hard work, Buttermaker (Bob Melvin in the role he was born to play) finally gives the kids his grudging respect, and it felt like your work-a-holic, emotionally distant father had finally ruffled your hair - and not just to get something slimy off his hands.
These are the reasons I feel good today. We can hold our heads up high. We can give G'nats fans hell. We can proudly say, just like little Lupus up there in the clip "Wait 'til next year."
And we can also say, like feisty, foul-mouthed Tanner, "You can take your trophy and shove it straight up your ass."
Thanks for a great year Oakland, A's, Nation and baseball.