I was not born an Oakland A's fan. I mean, nobody is born a fan of anything, but my hometown team was not the Oakland A's, nor were the A's the hometown (or even favorite) team of anyone I knew.
I was born about 45 minutes outside of Boston, so naturally my family's team was the Red Sox.
When I was 9 years old I got into baseball for the first time. I started collecting baseball cards and baseball hats, and began playing in the little league for our neighborhood. It was 1986. I got WAY into it.
Anyone who knows baseball knows what happened to the Red Sox in 1986.
For anyone who doesn't, this is the "Bill Buckner game" - when the Red Sox were literally one strike away from winning the World Series for the first time since 1918. A ground ball was hit to first baseman Bill Buckner for what would have been the final out of the World Series, but the ball went right through his legs. The Mets won that game and the next one, and won the World Series.
I was heartbroken. But not as heartbroken as my dad, who had seen the Red Sox ALMOST win the world Series in 1975 and 1967 only to lose in similarly heartbreaking fashion. He actually took me aside after game seven of the '86 World Series and said "Son, if you want to follow baseball, you need to pick a different team than the Red Sox. They will only break your heart."
I picked the Oakland A's.
This is where the true part of the story I usually tell ends.
I picked the A's because I had an aunt who lived in the Bay Area, and she had sent me an A's hat that year, because she knew I collected them. It was completely random that the A's would go on to three of the next four World Series (winning only once, but still, once is better than nothing.)
This is what I've told almost everybody I have met since then. It is a lie.
The truth is that I spent a tremendous amount of time that fall and winter, studying the backs of baseball cards and all the baseball history books I had accumulated that year, pouring through the standings, trying to find two teams that I could claim, one American League and one National, neither of which I could be accused of being a 'bandwagon fan' for, but at least one of which I had a good feeling about heading into 1987.
From what I knew about the concept of "rookies," I was pretty sure that if they were good players when they started, they'd become much better players later. So I wanted to pick teams with good rookies, thinking they would only improve. And if you have good players, you'll win a lot.
Those two teams, based on the fact that the 1986 Rookies of the Year had been Jose Canseco from the A's and Todd Worrell from the St. Louis Cardinals, were (naturally) the A's and Cardinals.
The Cardinals also had 1985's NL Rookie of the Year, Vince Coleman, so it seemed like they would be the first to win. But I asked for and received hats and T-shirts for both teams.
It turns out that me at 9 and 10 was ALMOST an incredible baseball forecaster.
The Cardinals did go to the 1987 World Series. And lost. In heartbreaking fashion. This was not what I had signed up for.
That's it then, my team became the A's. The A's now also had 1987's rookie of the year in Mark McGwire, and pitcher Dave Stewart had a great year, so I was confident heading into 1988.
The A's did go to the 1988 World Series. And lost. In heartbreaking fashion, though not in a game-seven situation. I don't know why I stuck with the green and gold instead of switching back t the team that all of my friends loved. But I did.. I stuck with the A's, who would win the next World Series which - in my part of the country anyway - virtually nobody paid any attention to, and they would go to - but lose - the one after that.
Playoffs in '92. Loss
(LONG dry spell.)
Playoffs in 2000. Heartbreaking loss.
Playoffs in 2001. Heartbreaking loss.
Playoffs in 2002. Heartbreaking loss.
Playoffs in 2003. Heartbreaking loss.
Playoffs in 2006.Win (!!) followed by humiliating loss.
In late 2011, my daughter was born. I spent most of the summer of 2012, late at night, with her in my kangaroo pouch thing, sitting in the living room, late at night, trying to get her to go back to sleep, bouncing on an exercise ball, watching last year's incredible A's season.
Playoffs in 2012. Heartbreaking loss.
Playoffs in 2013. Heartbreaking loss.
Not too long ago, I got a new job with an organization headquartered in Berkeley. In a month, I am moving to Oakland.
When my daughter is old enough to understand baseball, I will take her aside, and I will tell her this story. And I will tell her that if she decides to follow the Oakland A's, like her dad does, they will only break her heart. And that someday she'll understand that "shared heartbreak" is one of the greatest joys that sports can give us.