How long is something supposed to last? A requiem for baseball

Jordan and Fernando arrived early and lost their voices during the Reverse Boycott on June 13, 2023.

After an endlessly toxic relationship, Major League Baseball is breaking up with Oakland. I have no intention of staying friends.

I realized it immediately upon walking into the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Tuesday – practically the second we walked in. This is not a team that is intending to stay.

As one of the few, proud Oakland A’s fans remaining, I was in attendance for the Reverse Boycott game on Tuesday night – I hope you’ve come across some video from that day. It was an incredible cathartic experience that was more of a protest than a baseball game. One of the greatest experiences of my life. But I confess: I left that game convinced the A’s were gone.

Like when we walked in. My friend Jordan attended the game with me and we arrived about an hour before first pitch. We entered at MM Gate (near the BART tunnel) and when we hit the flag poles, A’s employees were handing out previous giveaway items: for free. They had boxes full of hats and fanny packs, which would normally be sold in the A’s Community Corner.

This does not seem like a team that is staying in this building, I thought. But no matter. We had a job to do, so I shook off that thought (after grabbing a hat and fanny pack) and we went in search of food.

Unfortunately, bad sign No. 2 showed up immediately. If you’ve been to an A’s game this season, you may have noticed how lazy and uninspired the concession choices are. Well, the number of fountain drink stations are also greatly reduced – I assume because that saves significant money on concession costs. When the Coliseum recently switched to Coke as its soda vendor, they replaced most of the fountain drink dispensers with refrigerators for bottled sodas.

If you are planning on ditching this place, why would you invest in concessions?

From a scumbag billionaire perspective, it made perfect sense. But it also signaled clear intention to me: I’m not spending one unnecessary nickel on this dump while we’re here, which won’t be long. I went through the rest of the night with that thought in mind. Sadly, nothing I saw dissuaded me.

But I’ll talk more about John Fisher and his crimes below. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge how special Tuesday night was.

All of my favorite members of A’s Twitter were there, assembling for one last gasp of hope. To cry out together, one final time: “It’s not us, John Fisher; it’s you!” In a way, it was healing. We were mad, but with a singular focus: we were united by our fury, all at the same person.

I cannot thank the Oakland 68s and Hal “the Hot Dog Guy” Gordon enough for organizing this unbelievable event, with a special shoutout to the folks from Last Dive Bar. I will remember it for the rest of my life. I’m so grateful I had one last celebration with my A’s fanily. It might be a dump, but it’s our dump.

The whole world knows it.

And that moment in the Fifth Inning – when the entire stadium went silent, then erupted in SELL THE TEAM chants – was truly awesome. I’ve never heard anything that loud in my life. I’m not sure anyone in that building has either; including the pitcher and catcher.

I could not hear a thing

When the Coliseum is rocking, it’s as electric as sports gets. And that’s what I’ll miss the most: being with all those green and gold maniacs that love this baseball team the way I do.

As a Sacramento Kings fan, I’ve always known that core truth: sports are about community. It’s about shared unique pain, in particular hats. The hardest part of this process has been watching my friends process the loss. Some react with anger, others with hope or disbelief. Kings fans also know these feelings well; hell, local TV reporter Casey Pratt mentioned it last week on Twitter. Kings fans were in this exact spot, 10 years ago. The announcers were choking back tears on air. Our team was all but gone. Hope was lost.

It remains a minor miracle that the Kings stayed in Sacramento, but it took a tireless community effort, plus the help of a commissioner. Unfortunately, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t care about Oakland. He has been dismissive about the city, its leaders and the fanbase. When asked about Oakland after the Reverse Boycott, he got several facts wrong – either he doesn’t know the right facts, or he doesn’t care.

I still hope for a miracle for the A’s; but in truth, I have expected them to be gone all year. When the A’s unexpectedly signed a land deal in Las Vegas in April and announced intentions to move, it seemed clear: they never wanted to stay. Oakland had been used as leverage to get a better deal in Las Vegas (which clearly worked).

And so, I’ve been preparing myself for this eventuality since April. I’ve been trying to pre-grieve, as Roman Roy might say. But unlike Romulus, I actually do feel OK. I have accepted the end of Oakland baseball.

Don’t misunderstand me: I am very, very sad. I have felt my eyes well up several times while writing this, and I will cry like a baby if the A’s stay. But as I’ve written on this blog before, I understand how the world works. When a powerful institution and a rich person conspire, there is no limit to what they can do. If a sports owner decides to abandon a market, there’s little that can be done to stop them; especially if the league condones the move.

So I’ve been coming to grips with my baseball mortality for a few months. Most of the words that follow were written in April, after I visited Arizona Spring Training for the first time. That was when I decided to accept that not just Oakland baseball, but all professional baseball, is dead. We have reached the end of baseball’s prominence as a national sport.

And just like the A’s, while it makes me very sad, I accept that baseball had to end at some point. Why not now? Everything ends. What makes baseball so special?

With that, we finally arrive at the thesis of today’s blog: How long is something supposed to last?

It’s a question that’s been rattling around my brain for months. But first, an aside about movies.

Movie runtimes are very important to me

I will watch a movie of any length, even the four-hour cut of Justice League. But I need to be in the right mindset and I need to know the runtime going in, so I can gauge my expectations. I am often annoyed with a movie in the first act, when nothing interesting is happening; that’s when I have to remind myself that there are 70 minutes remaining and I need to be patient.

But every once in a while, I come across a movie so enjoyable, I don’t want it to end. I am counting down the minutes left in the movie with dread, hoping the credits aren’t included in the listed runtime.

Yet that itself is a mistake; you can easily spoil something by letting it run too long. Part of what makes an experience special is its impermanence.

It reminds me of when America fell back in love with game shows in my youth, after the success of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? It was an American adaptation of a British quiz show, and unexpectedly started a game show craze in the United States. The surprise ratings hit was put on twice a week, then three times a week, and ultimately four of the week’s seven primetime slots went to a game show no one had heard of six months prior. Guess what happened then? The ratings tanked. They had overworked the Golden Goose.

We have half a dozen clichés to remind us that nothing good can or should last. “Nothing lasts forever,” is a phrase everyone has heard. But as a trained journalist, that brings to mind an easy follow-up question: How long is something supposed to last?

I think about this question a lot as we’re heading into a recession. Whenever the stock market is hot, some people convince themselves it’ll last forever. But capitalism is incapable of a forever Bull Market. The system is prone to boom-and-bust cycles. In order for some people to be unfathomably rich, many others have to be wretchedly poor. If too many people have jobs, then some of those people will have to be laid off; otherwise, the job market is “too hot.”

If you pay attention to financial news (or my own blog), none of this is new information. But it’s what makes me ask: how long is it supposed to last? How long are you really expecting to have good news as a company? Did you really think it would last forever?

For most of us, today’s world is always revealing how impermanent most things are. But for powerful people in society, they simply refuse to give up the controller. They want their runs to last forever. They refuse to give up anything.

That’s basically what the entire plot of Succession is about – it’s in the title of the show. It’s been past time for Logan Roy to name a successor to his media empire, yet he refuses to step down. He’d rather die on the job than name one of his fail-children as successor.

So how long was it supposed to last, Logan? The man the character is based on (Rupert Murdoch) is still in charge at Fox News at the age of 92. I really should be asking him. How long is it supposed to last, Rupert?

Dianne Feinstein does not appear medically fit to continue serving as a US Senator at 89. But the Democrats are concerned they won’t be allowed to replace her on a committee, so now she has to stay.

Joe Biden would be 82 at the start of a second term. Yet he is still going to run for reelection.

The average age of a US Senator today is 65. You won’t hear many of them speak of retirement any time soon.

So how long is it supposed to last? For the rest of us, we understand the finite nature of things. We are asked to continue accepting less from corporations while paying more for the privilege. People don’t get to spend 30 years working for a single company anymore and retire with a pension.

Speaking of retirement, that’s something that won’t exist for Gen Z.

We used to care about stuff like that, as a society. We used to care about leaving behind a better world; hell, we based our children’s shows on it. But the rich and powerful have decided that Earth isn’t something that’s supposed to last.

There has to be a middle ground. There has to be some point between the scraps most people are receiving and the excess of the wealthy and entrenched.

How long was baseball supposed to last?

A huge “SELL” banner is unveiled in the middle innings of the Reverse Boycott game.

Finally, back to baseball. And the question at hand: How long is something supposed to last?

Most often, I think about this question when I consider two of my favorite things: Baseball and America. Neither is perfect – in fact, both are riddled with flaws. But they are also both special.

They are also both, inarguably, in decline. As a fan of both institutions, that breaks my heart; but I understand it. How long were both things supposed to last? America has been around for almost three hundred years, baseball about half as long. Were they really supposed to last forever? I know we wanted that, but was it ever realistic? Were we as selfish and deluded as a tech CEO?

Baseball owners seem to be. They and their paid spokesperson Rob Manfred are the primary reasons baseball is in freefall. Baseball has done very little to modernize itself, aside from goofy rules changes and the pitch clock. Television blackout rules are still in place, the league has a minimal social media presence and several teams are purposely uncompetitive. The average age of a baseball viewer is 57, a full 15 years older than the average NBA viewer (42). Those age numbers are from 2016 – do you imagine they’ve gotten better?

But the NBA has taken great pains to modernize itself for future audiences. The Association has invested in foreign markets, expanding the sport into a global game – there are Nike stores that sell Air Jordans in China. They have also promoted and improved the online product, allowing young fans to watch the game easily from anywhere, on any device (for a price). When owners are revealed to be monsters, the NBA tries to get them out; meanwhile, baseball allows John Fisher to abandon the Oakland market and trade anyone of value. All while turning a nice little profit. The NBA wants successful ownership; MLB is fine with slum lords.

I have loved the Oakland Athletics as much as a person can love a sports team. But at the end of the day, I’m still a customer of Major League Baseball. And MLB has been openly hostile to me as a customer. Why would I keep giving them my money?

John Fisher and his mismanagement of my beloved A’s have done what years of losing couldn’t do: they have killed my love for the sport.

Don’t get me wrong: I still like baseball and my A’s. Because the game itself is perfect. But the business of baseball is corrupt and disgusting. How can I give John Fisher my money? How can I pay for anything at that decrepit old concrete bowl, knowing John Fisher holds me in contempt?

I used to go to 10-15 games at the Coliseum every year; I have been to four since October 2021. I haven’t replaced the faded-out Oakland A’s sticker on my car. I haven’t purchased a piece of team merchandise in two years. When I tell people I like the A’s, the most common response I hear is “I’m sorry.”

I know my experience is common. I follow dozens of A’s fans on Twitter who have reported similar feelings. It’s hard to give your money to an organization that doesn’t seem to care about you at all. Even non-A’s fans are feeling fed up:

This Twitter account (and accompanying site) have been covering baseball for 11 years

I’m ready to say goodbye

The impending death of baseball is not a new story – even the New York Times wrote about it last year. I feel like I’ve been pre-grieving the death of MLB for a decade.

But how long was baseball supposed to last? A form of baseball was played during the American Civil War. Were 150 years of being America’s pastime not enough? Is it not a little greedy to expect more?

And so, I have reached the “high school yearbook quote” phase of grief. I am not sad that baseball is over; I am smiling because it happened.

Look, MLB is going to be around for a while longer – the league is not ceasing operations anytime soon. But as the average baseball viewer gets older and the TV dollars dry up, the sport will change drastically in the coming years. The baseball of 2036 will look nothing like the baseball of 2006, in ways we’ve yet to even imagine. The Yankees will still be here in 30 years; but I’m not sure what the game will look like.

The baseball most of us fell in love with is dead. Look at the batting averages and strikeout numbers and tell me this is the same game they played 10 years ago. Couple that with the new rule changes and consider what baseball will look like going forward. It will never be the way it was again.

But maybe we need to stop insisting on that outcome. Maybe we need to remember that everything in life is finite. Why should baseball be any different? Why should anything be any different?

Even the sun is going to die someday, in a few billion years. Is that how long something is supposed to last? I bet Peter Thiel thinks so. The PayPal cofounder likes to inject himself with the blood of younger people, in the hopes it will keep him young. Definitely not something a Bond villain would do!

The fact that everything ends is what makes life special. We all have moments we wish we could hold onto forever; but doing so would ruin the impact.

I’m not sure how long things should last, but I know it’s not forever. Baseball couldn’t and shouldn’t last forever. It has had an incredible run, and I will miss it like a dead friend when it’s gone. But after 150 years, and both the Cubs and Red Sox breaking curses, it has run its natural course. We have seen the best of baseball and it was pretty darn good. But now: it’s over.

And what I’m saying is: that’s OK. It’s OK for things to end, especially when they have had a spectacular run. A thing is not supposed to last forever.

We have to finish where we started

So many signs, I lost count

Back to Tuesday night. As Jordan and I left the Coliseum, I saw bad sign No. 3: tons of weeds underneath the seats in the lower bowl. I’m talking 18-inch weeds with leaves on them. Weeds with freaking branches.

John Fisher is really not spending a single unnecessary dime on Oakland. I’m surprised he pays to cut the outfield grass.

So even though there was still a Nevada Assembly vote to come, I left the building Tuesday pretty convinced the A’s were gone. Now, it’s all but done. Only an owner’s vote remains.

We got 55 years. 55 pretty damn good years. We’ve seen Vida, Reggie, Rollie, Bando, Campy, Stu, Eck, McGwire, Canseco, Rickey, Terry, Mulder, Zito, Huddy, Giambi, Miggy, Chavvy, Cespy, Coco, Doolittle, Donaldson, Balfour, Vogt, Chappie, Oly, Lowrie, Ramón, and Billy freakin’ Beane. Four World Series titles. 4,514 wins. 21 playoff appearances. Some heartbreaking playoff losses.

We deserve more – believe me, I know we deserve more. We have earned the right to more Oakland baseball. We have been loyal through some very lean years.

But baseball broke up with us. All we can do now is accept it.

And if this is the end? We had a phenomenal run. We got to see some very special players do some tremendous things. We had Moneyball.

I’m heartbroken, but I accept it. I’m ready.

And I wish John Fisher nothing but bad luck in Las Vegas.

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