Opening night was spectacular. Glorious, even. But even before Sonny Gray pitched his eight innings of one-hit ball, or new guy Ben Zobrist launched a home run in his first Athletics at bat there was an electricity in the crowd.
Or more accurately, above the crowd, in the form of brand new humongous bright full color (yes, COLOR!) scoreboards. One massive display on each side, and bonus ribbon boards around the second deck. It is not an exaggeration to say that these were the talk of the stadium. What will they use all the space for? This is going to be amazing!
After about five straight minutes of a spinning A's logo it was clear that the A's didn't really have a plan for their shiny new toys, yet. But dang, they were shiny. And full of information. Did you know they can hold the lineups of both teams? And even highlight the batter that is due up in the latter half of the innings? Did you know balls, strikes and outs can be counted in elephants? Four elephants is a free pass to first! Why was anyone ever using dots when they could have used elephants?
The main center part the screen was under-utilized. A static photo of the player at bat was the basic theme, and it didn't really change. With all that space, why not mix it up? After all, the Coliseum scoreboard was where I learned that Mark Ellis is MLB's all-time home run leader...of players born in South Dakota. The opportunity to blast similarly useful facts in crystal clear quality came and went unused. Additionally, some of the basic stat functions were missing, i.e. the in-game stats of each hitter in the latter innings. Luckily, there are still 79 home games to work on this.
But wow, were they bright. And sharp. I don't know if they were full HD sharp (I was unable to speak with Ray Fosse, A's resident "high definition" expert to learn the details). And the emanating glow was a bit distracting. Sitting in Section 108 (lower box, directly opposite the left field scoreboard), it was hard to train my eyes to look down at the players. Who suddenly seemed so small next to their mega giant HD versions hovering just above. And where my eyes were able to move off the scoreboard, they landed on the equally bright ribbon boards (the all-white background State Farm ads particularly popped as the lights took effect).
The ribbon boards had useful information, although a curious choice of font and layout: Writing out the whole words for runs, hits and errors, typed vertically to fit in the narrow stripe, making it difficult to glance up and get the relevant info. The pitch speed from the radar gun was separated from the pitcher's stats, sandwiched between Cache Creek ads, and appearing for a fraction of a second before being lost to mankind. Nice colors but the design and operation is still a work in progress.
Nonetheless, despite the bright LED-led distraction and the small part of me that desired the comfort of the familiar pixelated mystery of yesteryear, the new scoreboards were a success. The real moment came on a replay. Sam Fuld slid into second base, and from my angle he looked out. But the scoreboard showed the play in intimate detail. When they froze the play with Rougned Odor's mitt showing the ball trickling out and Fuld's hand on the base, the call was never in doubt. Yes, you could actually see the baseball on the scoreboard. And yes, you could actually see the hand. And no, they weren't just relatively large or small discolored blobs. It was magnificent. That replay won me over for good.
Of course, the fact that the A's were winning also helped.
Year after year we fans experienced the annual ritual of excitement, anticipation, then numbing, quiet defeat to start the season. Like clockwork. This year, the A's flipped the script, cruising to an easy win over the Texas Rangers. It was catharsis. It was joy. It was elation. And then it was confusion.
The entire stadium got ready to sing and bob along to the time-honored tradition of Kool and the Gang's "Celebration,"played after every home victory as long as most of us can remember. But instead, an unfamiliar theme blared through the ancient Coliseum speakers:
Investigation revealed that no, this was not the Dropkick Murphys or some similar Irish-themed drinking band. This was the local legends the Phenomenauts, releasing records for 14 years with their poppy and high energy brand of punk rock. The song is called "Theme for Oakland" which seems appropriate for a team for Oakland. It was actually released last summer, so it's relatively fresh as far as sports stadium songs go. A catchy melody borrowed from folk songs started a cautious bobbing of heads before people realized that "hey, this isn't Celebration!" We missed the familiar chorus "WOO HOO!" Amidst the confusion it was unclear whether there was a party going on right here. I waited for "Celebration" to follow that song, thinking it was an opening day thing.
But alas, it seems that Celebration is gone for good. The A's marketing braintrust decided to can the tried-and-true classic and replace it with a new song from a stalwart indie band, unfamiliar to the ears of most people.
However, us A's fans are not afraid of change. At this point many of us look forward to offseason housecleanings; better than being sad every time your favorite player is traded.
So changing a song is nothing. I can roll with it. But I couldn't say I was happy about it until I read the lyrics.
Humankind calls our home
Planet Earth, this we know
But the greatest place to be
On the planet of our birth
Is Oakland, California,
The capital of Earth
And wherever we may roam
Far and wide, let it be known
That whenever we say home
It's the place we think of first
The capital of Earth
Wow. That's pretty solid. If they actually put those up on the video boards while the song was playing, I think the fans would get it.
We have a local indie band, singing an anthem about Oakland, versus a grossly overused funk song from a dated band hailing from New Jersey? I say let's give it a shot.