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Putting Fandom to the Test

The question of whether or not the A's should sign Barry Bonds is a fascinating one for me. And not just because of what I think he would do for the team on the field. I have no doubt that adding Barry Bonds to the A's lineup would suddenly make all the of players around him a LOT more threatening.

The real question is what it would do to the A's fanbase. Judging from some of these letters to the editor of the Chronicle, many core A's fans will likely abandon the team if the A's sign Bonds.

I can honestly say that I've never been in the position to root for someone that I really can't stand a player who wears my team's colors. The closest I've ever come is a defenseman who used to play for the New Jersey Devils named Lyle Odelein. He was absolutely atrocious and drove me crazy every time he was on the ice. But this wasn't a guy that I couldn't stand until he actually started playing for my team. I've had a real dislike for Bonds for quite a while now and everything that he represents that is wrong with the modern athlete. People often ask why I'm a hockey fan because it's a dead sport, but the truth is that hockey does not really breed primadonnas. I don't know whether it's the Canadian influence or whatever, but there isn't really a chest-pounding, standing and staring at a home run at home plate moment in hockey. When a player scores a goal, it's often a team celebration and you'll often see the player who scored going over to the guy who passed the puck telling him great pass. Beyond whether or not you think Bonds cheated, Bonds is all about Barry and nothing but Barry. I just don't like players that are so wrapped up in themselves and not the team. That's the thing that bugs me the most about Bonds.

Regardless, I do wonder if the A's gate receipts would suddenly go way up. The casual fan in the Bay Area has been much more interested in the Halloween-costumed folks from SF for quite a while now and I'm sure that Bonds has quite a bit to do with it. He's a spectacle pure and simple. And he has no place that would embrace him the way the Bay Area does. I do believe that the Coliseum would sell out, and sell out quite a bit.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the A's should sign Bonds simply for that reason, but as a business person, you have to think that winning the casual fan in the Bay Area has to be a goal of the A's. If you put the A's suddenly attracting more fans (I do think that the number of fans deciding to burn their green and gold versus the number buying green and gold would be significantly less) AND the team getting better on the field together, I think we have our answer.

My question is, where is the line where you decide to abandon your team? Does it happen when you sign the guy who many people think is the devil incarnate in a baseball uniform? Or does your fandom transcend anything, including putting Sputnik out there to hit third?

For me, my fandom will likely transcend anything except if the A's moved to Las Vegas or something like that. Remember, I grew up loving Jose Canseco, so it would be kind of hypocritical for me to come down really hard on Bonds for his steroid use. Granted, I was a kid at the time and couldn't really identify what a steroid even was. That doesn't mean that I would have an easy time with accepting Bonds as an Athletic. Don't misunderstand me, I want my team to win, but I'm also not a firm believer in "win at any cost" either. I do believe there is a way to win with integrity and class and feel good about winning. I guess I'd like to see my team win, I'm just not sure that I'm comfortable with winning by adding a guy who, by many published reports, is a clubhouse cancer and has become the face of this entire steroids generation because he was the greatest hitter of this generation. I might liken it to so many Patriots fans I talked to who used to really dislike Randy Moss, but, surprise, surprise, they've come to love the guy. I can't see myself ever feeling that way about Bonds. There is just too much to not like about him to ever change your mind and suddenly love him.

All that being said, I can't see abandoning the team I love because it's doing something that it was designed to do and that's look for great deals in the open market of baseball. The A's should sign Bonds if he comes at a reasonable price. It's what Beane has done with this team the last several years. Bonds is exactly the kind of bargain that Beane loves. And it is all about business and doing whatever you can do to continue to be competitive being in a much smaller market. I love the A's because they try and seize opportunities when they present themselves. They've tried to be smarter than other teams and score where other teams were reluctant. Ironically, it seems like the same reason my love grew so much deeper for this team may wind up being the reason my love will be tested.

I've never been so conflicted in my 35-years of sports fanaticism. Thankfully, it's not a done deal and it still may never happen. It will not make me throw away all my A's memorabilia and abandon Athletics Nation. But it will most definitely make me realize that sometimes the things that you love the most about something can wind up being a fatal blow to that relationship. I'm learning that the hard way.

Oh and one final note, I just want to wish a Happy Birthday to my Dad. He would've been 65 this year. I miss you, Dad.