Blog: 2014 Oakland Athletics Experience
(originally written 7/6/14)
As somebody once said, it's not about what you know—it's about who you know. And I happened to know a pair of Oakland Athletics' season-ticket holders planning a cookout/chugout at the July 5 affair vs. the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.
Having known the participants for 15-20 years, my invite wasn't accepted naively—I fully knew not to be in reporter mode because the game was to be little more than an afterthought. We would be all the entertainment we needed, the Coliseum parking lot nothing more than an oversized stage for our shenanigans. You just don't assemble this group of men after a long hiatus, add in a beer bong, and expect the focus to be on Colby Rasmus' defensive positioning.
In attendance: my longtime boyz (combined 75 years) Nate, Dave, Juan, and Arnell, plus Arnell's cousin James and Juan's bro-in-law Hugh. Rumored to be meeting us at the yard: our long unseen dawg from waaaay back, Chris. Chris is a…unique individual with a...how do I put it...special view of life.
Okay, he's perverted with staggering homosexual tendencies. There, you happy now?
Reunited for the first time in what feels like decades, our group wasn’t making baseball the primary focus. Probably not even the secondary focus—again, Dave brought a beer bong.
Baseball didn't wind up just taking a backseat, however.
It wound up riding in the trunk.
Most of us met up at Juan's. I am an A's supporter, but not fan, meaning I do not own any A's attire. So when I rolled up in a long-sleeved collared shirt perhaps more appropriate for doing the postgame wrap for CSN as opposed to casually watching from the bleachers, my gold-donning buds let me have it. Of course, these guys would have let me have it even if I WERE doing the postgame wrap for CSN, so this was no shocker. The night was officially underway.
We ran late, expectedly. Fortunately, the Bay Area motorists texting, grooming, grubbing, gabbing or Earnhardting managed to do so safely; we reached O.Co barely having to even slow. This is important—for a load of busy husbands/fathers, the tailgate meant more than the actual game. Riblets, hot dogs and burgers were on tap...and soundin' mighty good right about now.
We parked, entered and went to work—Nell on the meat, Dave on convincing strangers to try the beer bong (unsuccessfully), Nate on saturating the ground by Juan's front passenger seat with urine puddles. He'd do this three times on the night, each one aggravating Nell—not Juan, the actual vehicle owner—more than the last. We all indulged in cerveza from both the bottle and the bong. Even me, a renowned lightweight whose shirt absorbed more beer than his body the last time he "bonged".
Nell's riblets turned out to be the best Q I've ever had, and I'm proud to say I got to flip them once when Nell took a break. I indulged big time, hoping the excess pounds would be counteracted by the excess laughs. Brace yourselves for what I'm about to type next—Dave went a little overboard on the beer. This allowed Nate to answer an incoming phone call to Dave's phone from Dave's wife. Maria was treated to an inebriated group performance of “God Bless America” topped off by a gassy burp from yours truly. Epic.
On the flip side: I try not to stereotype. I really do. It's hard sometimes, because rarely do those I stereotype go against it. But I still make the effort not to assume every teen in saggy pants is a punk, or that every tattooed skirted college girl is a dumb skank, or that every stranger attempting to engage me is looking for a handout.
The guy was black, muscular, about 35-40 in a cutoff shirt. He was clean and mannered. So when he apologetically interrupted a discussion between Nell, Hugh and myself, I didn't expect panhandling. I took him for a scalper at worst; maybe somebody needing info about the game. Maybe he sought a light for his grill, as we did earlier.
The correct answer: none of the above. He wanted spare change.
That's what I get for believing in people.
Chris showed about 30 minutes into the tailgate. I personally hadn't seen him in nearly five years—an apt amount of time for someone to change. But not Chris. Within the first two minutes, not only had he gone out of his way to mention his penis, but he'd also hinted at caressing us with it. It was his way of putting us at ease, of letting us know he's still the same old Chris who's turned our conversations awkward and uncomfortable for two decades now.
After two hours of boozing, smacktalking and intense grubbing, we finally headed inside the Coliseum—an inning into the action. No one cared. (On the way we passed a booth for fans interested in "free tickets", unaware of the role it’d later play in our fun.)
For those unaware, bleacher seats are basically a free-for-all—no such thing as someone sitting in "your" seat. Our tardiness cost us any chance of finding eight seats together (still, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kid sitting in the back row had to know our situation and could have moved down one row to accommodate us...turds.) From left to right sat a now-sauced Arnell, myself, and James. Nate, Juan, Chris and Hugh sat back one row. (Dave caught up later.) This is important, as you’ll see.
Almost immediately after sitting, Nell began to cruelly attack me with profanities, forcing me to ask for mercy (or at least, no F-bombs.) Talk turned to the Blue Jays of yesteryear, where I learned of Junio's John Olerud fascination for the first time. Apparently he had stacks of Olerud cards as a youngster. This did not prevent him from mistaking Olerud—a Gold Glove first baseman for 15 years—for a pitcher. I was embarrassed to even have to argue this point, and frustrated that Nelly’s saturated brain cells wouldn’t accept the truth.
(Can’t exclude the random brotha seated next to Nell who sort of blended his way into the discussion—a laugh here, a ghetto utterance there…you get it. Then he came off his high, realized he was at the A’s game instead of his daughter’s recital, and disappeared. That’s my theory, anyway.)
The ballpark photographer dude came around next, unsure if cramming our small herd into one shot was possible. He changed positions and angles, took multiple shots and was able to get us all. And by “all”, I mean all but Arnell, as was later discovered. Perhaps he sensed Nell was trying to pass off John Olerud as a pitcher and cropped him intentionally in disgust.
(Keenly aware of the situation, not for a nanosecond did Fat Albert and his Cosby kid even consider a temporary move. That’s why his live-action movie sucked so bad. But I’m not here to talk about the past.)
Why folks take wall seats when they’re gonna get up every inning—thus forcing everyone in our row to rise as well—mystifies me. One chick did, though. She knew she was pissing us off and didn’t return after the second time through. Take an aisle seat, damnit! (Additionally, standing for this chick put my rear within a foot or so of Fat Albert’s face, and I’m near-positive I heard laughter on my second rise. I didn’t have a choice, scumbag. Grow up.)
The game continued, but the only detail I recall is Josh Donaldson taking Mark Buehrle yard to left-center field. (Perhaps he was rattled by Nate’s piercing insult: “You’re a below-average pitcher, Buehrle!” I believe it was. Sadly, Chris had to jet prematurely—I’m sure he’ll turn that line into sexual innuendo once he reads it.
As the fifth inning arrived, Dave—now seated with Hugh across the aisle from us—took a turn for the worse, culminating in a vomit bath for the ground/bleacher in front of him (but not for nearby fans, luckily.) Neighboring spectators anxiously, but politely, requested a seat swap with us; we gladly obliged and—with the exception of Juan—got Dave to the restroom. (Side note: when the hell did they get rid of the troughs?)
While our bud wrapped himself around a sink, one of the puke neighbors—we’ll call him “Bratt” for resembling the love child of ex-A’s Brett Anderson and Scott Hatteberg—stopped in, jokingly giving us crap while wishing Dave well. (I mention him because of our upcoming post-game encounter.)
The decision was made to get Dave back to the car. I returned to Juan, explained, got his keys and caught back up with Nate and Hugh (Nell had forged ahead with Dave.)
On our way back to the car, we passed the aforementioned booth once more. While I hurried up ahead to Nell with the keys, Nate and Hugh were busy at the booth convincingly posing as a gay couple to the timeshare rep. Of all the decisions I’ve made in my life, the one to deliver the keys to Nell rather than lag behind and personally witness Nate and Hugh’s performance will go down as one of my most regretted.
With the infirm Dave stowed away in Juan’s ride (trash barrel within inches, just in case) and re-entry forbidden, all to do was wait for Juan and James to mosey on out.
But Juan, forgetting he isn’t a true baseball fan, stayed to the final out of the A’s win—meaning not only more goof-off time, but more time for more bums to seek spare change. EVEN AS THEY LOADED UP OUR DOZENS OF DISCARDED GLASS BOTTLES TO RECYCLE. I swear to God…I mean, why the f--- did they think we left them outside the trash can?
25,000 strong (estimate) cleared out of the Coliseum—one of them being Bratt, who happened to pass us once more. As he stopped and shot some more good-natured sh** with us, we hear a piercing shriek:
“THERE YOU ARE! WHY DID YOU GO SO FAR AHEAD? I COULD HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPED! I COULD HAVE BEEN RAPED!”
I took this person to be Bratt’s significant other. She was only partially feigning upset, and acting as if we weren’t even there.
Sometimes, you know right away whether or not you could stand more than 30 seconds of a person. Bratt’s SO qualified instantly as a “not”. As she confronted Bratt, Hugh and I glanced at one another as if to say: “Nobody is kidnapping this bitch. They’re certainly not raping her homely ass. She’s got zero to worry about.” I wanted to chime in so bad. Bratt had been cool to us and genuinely concerned for Dave, however. It would have been all wrong. (How does such a cool dude wind up with such a twat?)
The game was over now, but since we all got clearance from our respective homes—the night was just beginning! How to best spend our respite, we brainstormed. Many ideas surfaced; all sounded like good times. For a night, it was gonna be 2001 all over again!
Or…maybe not. Following a snack detour, all but Juan and I were zonked out in the backseat. I mean comatose. So much for that “night just beginning” business.
Who’s complaining, though? We got eight family-free hours of boyz time together—those are hard to come by these days. We drank, we ate, we laughed. We puked in the Coliseum and avoided ejection; we endured Chris’ come-ons and avoided erection. We made memories. We did what we’ve done for the past 20 years and intend to do for the rest of our lives.
Oh, yeah: and we got to see three innings worth of the best team in baseball!