I’m used to being the butt of the jokes at my neighborhood bar, especially during Spring Training. You’ve heard the one—any variation on the poopy Coliseum. Literally. Ha ha. My response has always been, "It may be a poop pile, but it’s MY poop pile" (perhaps with stronger wording).
I wanted to see what I was missing—not that I hated anything about my so-called "poop pile"—but it was time to start working on my Bucket List, anyway. I’d been to Gnats games, of course, and I’ve been to Safeco, and the Tokyo Dome already, so what could I possibly be missing? No, I wanted to go to the Notre Dame Cathedral of Baseball, Fenway Park… and probably Wrigley, too. I’ve been to both now, and to Safeco, and Camden. Rogers Centre is the goal this summer.
I do tours when I can, and let me tell you, it’s always a joy, walking through an empty ballpark with a dozen other tourists, getting the history, soaking in the brick, the stands, the seats, old and new, to the cadence of your tour guide’s canned speech. It’s easy to imagine yourself on the field in game 7 of the World Series as you sit in that empty ballpark, making the game-saving home run. Sometimes, you’re granted the privilege of leaning against the netted railing of the deserted dugout, arms dangling on the other side, watching the groundskeepers go about their work; you’re not allowed to step on the grass, but your imagination can run as far as it wants.
But in the end, no matter how beautiful, how seeped in history it seems, it always feels like you’re being given the grand tour of somebody else’s house, especially taking into consideration the rally monkeys, the golf claps, and the bouncing beach balls in those other houses, during the games I watched there. It's just not the same.
Which brings me to my favorite Coliseum memory.
I was a month or so removed from the Gnats losing at Wrigley, and the A’s losing at Camden. It was my first game back at the Coli. This was only a few months ago, so it would mean we’d lose this game, too. I brought along a good friend who, like everyone else in San Francisco, roots for the Gnats. It’s more of a "my family roots for the Gnats so I do too" kind of thing with her; whenever she’s got a random question about baseball, she asks me instead of the other Gnats fans we know, like why I was so excited about Zobrist in green and gold last March, or why I wasn’t surprised about who Greinke ended up signing with. I embrace the questions because she genuinely wants to know more about baseball, and you can’t be snarky or rude about that. And so she came along with me to a day game at the Coliseum, in the middle of a terrible season for the A’s, in an attempt to overcome her preconceived notions of the dive the A’s play in.
First, we got margaritas with salt, upstairs in the fancy bar, and then we made our way to our seats. On the way we passed the banjo guy, the dudes in the yellow and green bodysuits, and vuvuzelas blown just for the hell of it. Unicorn backpacks were everywhere. I pointed out that you can watch the game from any spot in the Coliseum, and she nodded in wonder as we took in the grounds crew hosing down the dirt from multiple angles.
We sat in the bleachers. I made sure we were as close to section 149 as possible (That meant in 148, by the railing)—I figured she may as well get the full experience, you know? We sat in the middle of Oakland Baseball, the drums and chants and the flags waving in the relentless Oakland sun, the rest of the ice cubes in our margaritas not standing a chance in the heat.
After the national anthem, we sat, and, as the game began, she said, "How have I never been here before? This place is awesome!"
It was the feeling you get when you show someone around your house and they won’t shut up about how cool it is. It was pretty sweet to have a non A’s fan reaffirm that.
All those other ballparks? Definitely not the same.