We have blue-collar, white-collar, and pink-collar. In time for Opening Day of the 2011 baseball season, how about “green-collar baseball“:
There’s a sociological genius at work in the Oakland Athletics marketing department. The current slogan for the franchise, “green collar baseball,” speaks volumes about the culture of the bay area, and why I have become such a devoted fan of the Oakland A’s…
Across the Bay Bridge, you’ll find a better stadium (AT&T Park), a team with a higher payroll, fancier concessions, and fancier fans. You’ll find doctors, lawyers, and San Francisco techie types taking in an afternoon game, reveling in the see and be seen crowd. On the San Francisco side, baseball is very much en vogue. If you search hard enough, you might even find a fan in the crowd who can tell you what a change-up is or explain the infield fly rule.
Trot back over to the Oakland side, and you’ll see where that marketing slogan is coming from. The Oakland Coliseum is clearly a Soviet spin on the baseball stadium, a concrete gulag if there ever was one. The concession options are minimal, the team operates on a shoestring payroll, and the fans are decidedly less cosmopolitan.
All these shortcomings are what bring me to love the authentic experience of Oakland Athletics baseball, and loathe the corporate, plasticized feel of the Giants. There’s an old Taoist saying that it’s “better to be alive in the mud than dead in the palace.” Count me as one who’s happiest to feel alive in the mud of the Oakland A’s.
Having spent time watching both the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park and the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, I have a few thoughts on this subject:
1. There is no comparison in stadiums: AT&T Park is nice and has great views while the A’s play in a concrete circle. One website goes so far as to say that the A’s stadium “represents everything that’s wrong with baseball stadiums.”
2. The two teams do seem to have differences in the number of fans: AT&T Park is regularly full while the A’s struggle to even fill the bottom portion of the stadium, even when the team was good in the early 2000s.
3. Both teams have potential: the Giants, of course, won the World Series last year while the A’s seem to have put together a dark horse candidate to win the AL West based around young pitching (just like the Giants). The baseball in each place should be relatively similar.
4. San Francisco and Oakland are very different kinds of cities. Both have a grittiness to them but Oakland is known for crime and gangs while San Francisco has more glittering pieces. Ultimately, I think this is really what is behind this idea of “green-collar baseball”: Giants’ fans are painted as plastic because this is how Oakland residents view their neighbor across the bay. Oakland, both the city and its baseball team, are the underdogs, the team with a limited number of fans, limited funds, and a limited stadium. What is sociological about the use of this marketing slogan is that it invokes issues of social class and status.
I wonder if these sorts of descriptions only pop only in cities that have multiple franchises in the same sport. Almost the same argument occurs in Chicago: the Cubs fans are only at Wrigley Field because it is the cool thing to do while the White Sox fans are the working class people who really care about baseball.