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Tell the A’s what you think of their Las Vegas idea

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The A’s sent their fans a survey to gauge interest in ... the team leaving?

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
John Fisher and Dave Kaval

Oakland A’s fans woke up Friday morning to an email in our inboxes from the team. It was a survey asking what we think about them moving to a new ballpark in Las Vegas.

I can’t speak for all fans, but I assume the general response would be ... no thanks?

Third-party market research can sometimes come off as cold and insensitive, and this survey might make the Hall of Fame in that regard. Would I have positive or negative feelings about my team moving 500 miles away? Gosh, if I had to choose, I’d say negative. Would I attend games at a new Las Vegas ballpark? Gee whiz, I don’t think so. Why not? Golly, probably because it’s 500 miles away, and I would not roll that far.

***

How did we get here? Quick refresher.

With their Howard Terminal project trudging through a painfully slow process, earlier this year the A’s began threatening to move to Las Vegas if a deal doesn’t get done soon in Oakland. Maybe it’s just a negotiating ploy to gain leverage over local government or maybe they have genuine interest in relocating, but either way they’ve followed through on the talk with early action by visiting sites in the desert.

Perhaps it’s working. When the team first made their threat in May, they wanted an Oakland City Council vote in July and ultimately got it. Then when they needed approval from Alameda County in October, some new quotes were floated about Vegas and a couple weeks later they got their vote from the county. While we can’t assume direct causality, it’s not a stretch to think the hardball tactics might have helped reach these elusive milestones.

However, the gambit does come with a cost. The pawns in this corporate chess match are we the fans, who have to listen to constant talk about our team leaving. Even if you believe it’s all a ruse to spur government action and that their true intention is to stay here, it still sucks to see our hearts so cavalierly tossed around. When they make a straight-faced threat to move, they have to make it to us too, not long after they adamantly pledged to be Rooted In Oakland.

***

That brings us to Friday morning. The email reads:

A’s fan,

As you may know, in addition to pursuing a new Oakland waterfront ballpark, the Oakland A’s are in the preliminary stages of assessing the potential to move the team to Las Vegas. As part of the planning process, the A’s have engaged a third party company to conduct a market study to determine demand for a new ballpark in Las Vegas.

Your participation in this survey is a very important part of this process. The survey will gauge your thoughts and opinions regarding the team, interest in attending games, and important stadium design elements for a Las Vegas ballpark.

Please click the button below to access this 10-minute survey.

Your continued interest and support of the A’s is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your participation.

The survey asked for some demographic info, then went on to measure opinions about moving to Vegas. A similar survey went out to Vegas residents earlier in the week, and that makes sense — before you consider putting a sports franchise somewhere, check to make sure the residents would want to become customers.

But to ask these questions of the current fans, who would be losing their team? It felt truly bizarre, somewhere in the region between waste of time and slap in the face.

“Overall, what is your attitude toward the potential relocation of the Athletics to Las Vegas and the construction of a new state-of-the-art ballpark?”

  • Very Positive
  • Somewhat Positive
  • Neutral
  • Somewhat Negative
  • Very Negative

I chose “Very Negative.” When asked to explain why, I was stopped in my tracks for a few minutes. How would you explain to a robot that you don’t like being sad? Because being sad makes me feel sad? Here’s what I wrote:

Why would I feel negatively about my favorite sports team moving away to a different state? I’ve spent nearly four decades rooting for them, and a team’s geographic location is an essential part of its identity. It would be an incredible betrayal for the A’s to abandon us, and being betrayed and abandoned gives me negative feelings.

It got even weirder, asking about whether the Vegas ballpark should be located near or outside the Strip, and whether I’d prefer it to be an open-air, retractable-roof, or domed stadium. There wasn’t an option for “I don’t give a shit.”

Would I (or my company) be interested in purchasing tickets for a new Vegas park? Why not? Because I live in the Bay Area, obviously. Would the extra visits from AL West rivals affect my likelihood to attend games in Vegas? I don’t think you’re understanding the issue at hand. What mode of transportation would I most likely use to get there? I chose “Other,” because the options didn’t include a wormhole that takes me to a dimension where any of this makes sense.

Toward the end, it shifted gears from the stadium to the team itself.

“What is your attitude toward the Athletics franchise as it exists today?”

  • Very Positive
  • Somewhat Positive
  • Neutral
  • Somewhat Negative
  • Very Negative

I chose “Somewhat Positive,” which felt generous. It asked why. My answer:

I love the players and the front office and the team on the field. But the owner makes it impossible to respect the organization. John Fisher has become such a toxic presence that it’s overshadowing everything great about the A’s. Whether it’s laying off employees during a pandemic, refusing to speak publicly about any topic, skimping on player payroll, or failing to get a stadium built for 15 years and counting, his relentless incompetence has become so routine that it now threatens the team’s very existence. The indifference he shows toward his paying customers is the defining aspect of the A’s team brand, despite the consistently amazing efforts of his front office and players.

It’s understandable that companies perform market research, but it’s difficult to imagine what the value was here. Did it require a survey to determine that fans don’t want their team to leave, and that customers in a local market won’t travel to a new venue if it’s 500 miles away? Is there some ambiguity in past precedents in other cities where this has happened, or in the “stAy” signs held proudly all over the Coliseum?

The whole exercise was insulting to a fanbase whose patience has already run thin. It was the latest gut punch from the organization, who back in May brought us Team President Dave Kaval tweeting from a Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey game during an A’s game. If only they’d sent a survey to gauge interest in jacking up ticket prices at the Coliseum for 2022 before making that decision.