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30 June 2007

The race factor

The last several months I've written a few articles about casual fans and their impact on the A's. Not season ticket holders, not hardcore fans. Why? Because casual fans are the bulk of attendance, and have been for a long time. They are also the great variable, since numerous factors can affect their desire to choose the A's over other forms of entertainment, whether the substitutes are Giants games, other sporting events, or entirely different types of entertainment.

The casual fan, who usually brings a spouse/SO or friends/family, has his own decision-making process. Maybe he wants to tailgate before the game. Maybe he's interested in the opponent or star players. Maybe the A's are doing well, maybe they're not. Maybe they don't care much for baseball or sports in general. Race may be a factor in determining whether he wants to go or not, but how much? Please enlighten me, because I can't see how casual fan gives it that much thought.

How much does the black/latin player disparity matter? Is that phenomenon something that can even be linked to something as localized as attendance patterns? Do casual fans care much that Milton Bradley was a black player? Or that the team's makeup is mostly white, then latin?

Now there are some that choose not to go because the stadium is in Oakland and they feel it's unsafe. Then there are others who'll go to Oakland only for A's games or other Coliseum events but never go elsewhere in Oakland because of their own prejudices. Which is worse? Is that institutional racism? Or is it someone expressing their personal preference, even if it is ignorant? When does the abundance of personal prejudice become institutional?

To extend that further, let's say ownership knew that the above attitudes were somewhat prevalent and they factored that into their decision-making on where to build a ballpark. Can they quantify it? And can you? Because if they/you can't, it's very difficult to say it's anymore important than, say, access to BART, land availability, municipal politics, or true economic factors. These days it's difficult to run a business on a notion that's hard to substantiate. Quantify it, and we can have a real discussion. Until then, it's just a hot-button topic that unfortunately hasn't changed much in the A's nearly 40-year residence in Oakland. If the perception problem is as bad as some say, it's even worse that not much has been done to change it.

16 comments:

Zonis said...

I would have to say that Oakland does give the A's a bad image, unfortunately. In my experience, when people, especially outside of California, hear Oakland, they either have never heard of it or think "Gangsters and Ghetto".

And it doesn't help that the A's are thus branded with the Raider fans tar.

Jeff said...

All I can offer is my own subjective experience. I decided to return to baseball in 2000 after several years (decades) away. I was motivated by love of the game and the fact that I now had a young son. My geographical position gave me the option of choosing between 4 teams. I am located in Fresno. Two down south were slightly farther away, with costs for attending being roughly equal. I favored the national league initially, but the American league intrigued me too. SF was to expensive to take a family of five to an entire series. Since I was traveling a good distance from home to see the game, I wished to make a mini vacation on each visit. I ended up choosing the A's after much thought. My reasoning being they were a good team (everyone loves a winner) and they were affordable. But I will have to be honest, I was almost put off by the perception of Oakland. The first game I went to I went armed (legally). That's how bad my perception of Oakland was at the time. It hasn't changed much since. The Coli is located in a blighted area. The graffiti and blight scream danger to the casual fan. To this day I have never set foot in Oakland outside of the Coli. I would do so if I were by myself, but I won't with my family.

I know this is patently unfair to the city of Oakland, but on the other hand they've done damn little to change their percieved image.

Anonymous said...

Oakland gives the A's a bad image? Does Atlanta give the Braves a "bad image?" Does Saint Louis give the Cardinals a "bad image?" Does Detroit give the Tigers a bad image?

The Bay Area's bias against Oakland rivals anything you would see in the South. This is the opinion of a white male who's had the opportunity to visit every major city in this country. Oakland is a great town and deserves much more respect than what it gets from the San Francisco worshiping region. Sometimes I get the feeling that Oakland would be much better off without the Bay Area. Oakland with all of its assets would be much more appreciated in a different region of this country. It's a sad commentary for a region which supposedly prides itself in its enlighten attitudes and tolerance.

The people in Michigan supported a ballpark in Detroit. The people in segregated Saint Louis County supported a ballpark in Downtown Saint Louis. The people in struggling blue collar Pittsburgh supported a ballpark in Downtown Pittsburgh. The people in Georgia supported a ballpark within Atlanta city limits.

But the Bay Area and Oakland? Not a snowballs chance in h-ll! And Wolff, just goes along for the ride and is happy to take yet another positive institution away from Oakland with the tacit approval of a biased populace.

Anonymous said...

"And it doesn't help that the A's are thus branded with the Raider fans tar"

What I really find unfortunate about the above comment is that the "thug"/"gangsta" image that some associate with the Raiders came from their years in Los Angeles.

Those who remember the halycon days before the move to Los Angeles will recall that the Raiders had a strong Blue Collar fan base, not unlike the fan base in Pittsburgh.

They say you can't come home again, and while I am glad the Raiders are back, it simply hasnt been the same, and it has also made life more difficult for the A's...

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

You came to Oakland from Fresno armed? Wow! I think the issues are with you rather than with Oakland.

I'm sorry to hear that your kids will never experience Fairyland the Oakland Zoo the Oakland Museum, or the Chabot Space Center. I'm sorry that your family will never see Lake Merritt, Chinatown or Jack London Square. I'm sorry you and your wife will never dine at one of the great restaurants on College Avenue, Lake Shore, or Piedmont Ave.

Jeff, do me a favor and please don't endanger my family by bringing a loaded weapon to the Coliseum in Oakland or to any other location in the city. A weapon in the hands of someone with your mindset is a dangerous thing for everyone in Oakland.

Jeff said...

Anonymous,

I don't know why I am going to bother replying to ill concieved comments, but here goes. Your attitude is indicative of the problems Oakland has. Your reaction is to blame others for Oakland's percieved shortcomings instead of evaluating the facts as presented. Let me set you straight. Oakland has an extreme image problem. There are extreme problems of violence, drug activity, and gang activity in Oakland. This IS Oaklands problem and doing. They are the only ones who can fix the problem. IT IS NOT THE FAULT OF OTHERS FROM OUTSIDE THE CITY. Do you understand that concept? Unless and until Oakland takes steps to rectify its image and problems, it is going to continue to suffer the consequences of perception and reality.

I wish no one in Oakland ill will. In fact, I believe that the neccessary ground swell of public sentiment may be forming that will bring postive changes to Oakland. I hope so. I wish nothing more than my fellow man to live safely and securely within his environment.

Let me spell something else out for you. You don't know me. You don't know my "mentality". You make value judgements based on little or no information, and the little that was provided was enough to make a considered response. You failed miserably. Your attitude may be part of the city's image problem. Have you ever considered that? Are you actively involved in trying to eliminate the scourge of gangs and drugs within your community? Or like so many others, do you consider such things to be other peoples responsibility?

I am not attempting to bash Oakland. The city, as most other municipalities, has problems. Oakland's happen to stand out for a variety of reasons. I was attempting to provide a response to a legitimate blog question by ML on why Oakland may not be the best venue for an MLB franchise. The nature of Oakland's problems and its percieved image dissuade a large segment of the population from visiting the city. The image it has is not without merit. These are issues the city is going to have to deal with in order to attract people to the area. I hope that they can successfully do so. The area has much to offer.
But blaming others for their perceptions of the city is hardly the place to start in crafting solutions. If your focus is external, then the internal problems will only continue to fester and grow worse.

Georob said...

Jeff, as a fellow resident of Fresno I wish I could have stopped you before posting that response. Unfortunately, you took the bait so let me go ahead post what I guess will be the reply to it:

(Not my opinion of course, I'm just trying to save us time :)

"Jeff, Oakland has the same problems that every other city has and we manage just fine. Therefore, the problem MUST BE YOU and those like you. But you know what, we don't need your kind."

....et cetera et cetera et cetera

But seriously, you hit the nail on the head when you said that Oakland's priorities must come from within. Unfortunately, I don't believe they include trying to keep the A's. As I've said over and over, the VOTING population of Oakland(ie: those that actually LIVE there) probably don't care that much, especially after the Raider deal.

Oh sure, there are the lifetime Oakland residents that feel that their birthright and heritage is being violated, but you know what? There's just not enough of you.

And BTW, since when is a major league baseball team a birthright? I must have missed the memo :)

Jeff said...

Rob,

I know you're right. I should have just left it alone, but I also felt ML's question deserved an answer. You really highlighted a problem with the mindset though. Oakland truly does not need "my kind", but the A's do. I represent a key demographic that a sports franchise would naturally target. I am a professional male with young children and a fairly significant amount of disposable income. If they hook me they also stand a good chance of hooking my progeny, a definite win/win scenario. Being that I'm not a local, it stands to reason that I would also be a natural target for the community that hosts such a franchise. I am going to eat, shop, and stay in the area, thus bringing tax revenue into the local coffers as well as supporting local businesses.

I won't do those things in an area where I do not feel secure. Why is this so hard to grasp? Who knows, shedding the A's may be beneficial to the city of Oakland in the long run. They can get rid of ancillary distractions and focus on core issues that are troubling the city. They have two remaining sports franchises, and should that number shrink to one in the near future they could use the adjacent land that becomes available to launch their own redevelopment project in the area.

What think you ML? If the Raiders were to leave and the Coli was demolished, that would leave only the GSW and a large parking lot that could be put to other uses. Not to mention ready made public transit already in place. Who knows, maybe the city will end up hiring Wolfe to redevelop the area into a basketball village.

Jeffrey said...

Oakland is a cool city. This is true. I take my daughters to the zoo frequently. Jack London Square is one of my favorite places. Piedmont Avenue is a great place to get some grub. Lake Merrit is visually stunning on spring time afternoon.

The challenge for the A's and any other team is that the sports venue is not in any of those locations, nor within shouting distance. It is in a fairly undesirable, uninviting area.

I believe a lot of Oakland's image problems are related to where the stadium is. Outside of the A's, Raiders and Warriors games, not too many people venture to Oakland. If your only real perception of the city of Oakland is the area around the Coliseum how else would you perceive the city?

I recently had a vendor fly out for a meeting and he wanted to take me to the game. He asked where to stay in Oakland because he had "purposely avoided staying in that city" in the past. He stayed at Jack London Square and left with a new image of Oakland.

The truth is that Oakland has an image problem. While that image is largely founded on people visiting Oakland to watch A's games, I don't believe the image problem will leave with the A's. It will only go away when the activities that occur around the Coliseum are minimized

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

Oakland has problems with crime and gangs in certain neighborhoods. The most intractable problems happen to be in the Elmhurst and Melrose neighborhoods. Why don't you educated yourself on the subject before making those broad pronouncements.

I'm sure Fresno has plenty of problems with crime, but I would never paint your city with a broad brush as you continually do mine.

Making statements like " To this day I have never set foot in Oakland outside of the Coli. I would do so if I were by myself, but I won't with my family." AND "The first game I went to, I went armed."

First of all, you admit that you have "never set foot in Oakland " and then, you go on to make pronouncements and judgments on something that you admit you know nothing about.

Have you noticed the improvements on Hegenberger? Have you seen the new shopping center and the banners and palm trees leading to the Airport? What the heck are you talking about with all the "graffiti and blight." Do you drive out of your way into the Elmhurst neighborhood, East of the ballpark, to find what your looking for?

Jeff, you know less about Oakland than I do about Fresno. So please, until you get educated on this issue, there is no need to parrot the hyperbole fed to you by a biased San Francisco centric media.

Jeff, why don't you stick to analyzing Fresno's ills before you deem yourself an expert on Oakland's.

Jeff said...

Another anonymous,

Re-read the text. I am speaking of perceptions, and the general perception of Oakland in not a positive one. Do I believe all of Oakland is a cesspool? Of course not. Did I not state that all cities have issues, including crime? Unequivocally. As for Fresno, I am from the area, but I do not live in the city. Why? Because crime is an issue with me, especially in regards to child rearing. I choose a smaller community with virtually no hardcore crime. I will say this about Fresno, the current chief is waging a jihad against street gangs...and apparently he's been quite successful.

I will repeat this for your edification, I AM TALKING ABOUT PERCEPTION!! They say that perception is often reality, and unfortunately for Oakland, that is often the case. I very much liked Jeffrey's comments. He takes the time to dispel misconceptions and points out very fine areas of the city. Some of which interest me. I may check some of them out, after I research his statements.

What should concern you is the perception of the city by outsiders. If someone believes they are running a risk by visiting your city....find out why. Then act to change the image. It can be done you know.

As of now I am through with this thread. It's a pointless discussion as well as moot. The A's are leaving, so I will leave you to your fair city. Have at it.

Jeffrey said...

You know, sometimes the specifics don't matter much. As a family man myself, I wouldn't look at a city with 3.5 times the national average for murders and think it was probably a great place with a couple of bad neighborhoods.

I agree 100% that there are many beautiful areas in Oakland, but the folks who live their need to quit pretending that it gets a bad rap when it comes ot crime.

The national average for murders per 100k people is 6.9, Oakland has 23.2 and compare that with the overly hyped city across the bay with a rate of 12.8 per 100k. Oakland has considerable mroe crime per 100k than San Francisco in every category but larceny (tourism drives this I am pretty sure).

I love Oakland. But the reputation it has is not some SF media made up story. jeff from Fresburg is 100% right about that.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey,

We can compare per capita statistics all we want. We can even do homicides per square mile. Statistics are great, but when San Francisco has 11 homicides in the first two weeks of 2007 (Did you know that?) and the media completely ignores the issue and focuses relentlessly on Oakland with a scorecard from January to December, we know there's a fundamental problem.

I've done extensive research on the issue of homicide coverage in the Bay Area for the last three years. The double standards and methods in reporting crime and homicides in the Bay Area are glaring and irrefutable.

Oakland's homicides are always made an "issue" for the entire city no matter the present homicide rate between Oakland and San Francisco. The homicides are always reported as "Oakland" with no regard for neighborhoods. The homicides are given a running scorecard from January through December.

In San Francisco, homicide is never made an "issue" regardless of how far the numbers are ahead of the previous year. There is no scorecard regardless of the homicide totals. The homicides are not reported as "San Francisco" but by neighborhoods such as " Tenderloin, Hunters Point, Western Addition, Mission, Bayview, Visitation Valley, etc.

Across the Bay, the moniker "San Francisco" is always protected while the name "Oakland" is constantly linked to crime. Is it any wonder that people like James would feel perfectly comfortable stepping over people, garbage, and urine, on Sixth Street, in order to go shopping in Union Square or go to the Theater District? They'll turn the other way and give San Francisco a pass on these issues, but wouldn't be caught walking in a clean and modern City Center in Downtown Oakland.

So please, Jeffrey, the slanted media coverage coming from San Francisco is THE biggest issue in forming the perceptions people like James and Jeff have of Oakland.

This biased two tiered system of reporting crimes and homicides has been going on for years precisely because Oakland is perceived as a threat to San Francisco business interests. The Port of Oakland has made the Port of San Francisco irrelevant. Oakland Airport is growing by leaps and bounds while SFO shrinks. The Population of Alameda and Contra Costa County is far greater than the population of the West Bay. Its growth rate far exceeds San Francisco's.

This is precisely why the city of Oakland needs to be marginalized. This insidious scare tactic has been very successful at getting Bay Area residents and visitors to skip over Oakland entirely and head directly over to San Francisco.

This is also why the Oakland A's have been always marginalized. They've won four World Series, they've been far more successful than the San Francisco Giants and yet are treated as second class citizens. It's not how good your Zoo, your museum, or your baseball team are. It's how "San Francisco" these institutions are that matter in the eyes of the biased San Francisco centric media.

This is the crux of Oakland's perception problem. Anyone who believes that this image problem is solely of Oakland's making is being extremely naive.

Anonymous said...

Oakland definitely has a public image problem. Even just the word "Oakland" sparks negative imagery in the minds of some. As a resident of Oakland, I don't think that Oakland deserves this negativity. Sure there are bad neighborhoods in Oakland such as Elmhurst, Webster Tract, Melrose, etc. However, for every bad neighborhood there is at least one good neighborhood within the city of Oakland including: Montclair, Rockridge, Claremont, Trestle Glen, etc.

The local SF-based media definitely bashes Oakland whenever it can. I blame the local media for most of Oakland's public image problem. The San Francisco Giants broadcasting network is a culprit. I watched the June 8th telecast of the A's @ Giants game on KTVU-2 (ironically an Oakland-based station.) Jon Miller was the play-by-play announcer for the Giants, and only twice during the game did he refer to the Oakland Athletics as the "A's." Whenever he had to talk about the A's, Miller would only use the word "Oakland." He said the word "Oakland" over 150 times throughout the broadcast and referred to the team as the "A's" or "Athletics" only two times (probably by mistake.)

The Giants and Jon Miller are actually smart. They know that the word "Oakland" has negative connotations with the average/casual fan and exploited it.

Jeffrey said...

Denial sucks

AntMoOAK said...

As a lifelong born and raised Oakland resident, I am deeply upset with the negative percetpion of the city. But I'd be a fool to say that the 'Town doesn't have a negative image. While the attitudes of those like the fella in Fresno don't help, this perception is Oakland's fault. Yeah the media plays a lot into this (There is no such city as Montclair or Rockridge in the Bay Area btw), but why the hell has the Coli area NOT been developed in the best 40 some odd years ?!!?! That area where Wal-Mart, etc is located was once the old Century Theater and I used to ride my bike through there dreaming that someone would build market value (not low income) housing there. The Wal-Mart etc.. could have gone to Eastmont Mall. The lumber yard and other industry should have long ago been bought out or taken over via ID for development.I'm not knocking industry as my piehole was kept full from the proceeds of my Dad's wages from Mother's Cookies down the street. A nice museum and shops and/or Little Leauge field would look so much better to those coming off of BART or from the airport as the gateway to our city. So while I'll protect the image of my beloved city... I still say shame on you (the city fathers and mothers) for not doing the right thing to change the perception of the city.