Forty minutes before the first pitch of the first game in the 2014 World Series, a smattering of Giants fans were sipping beers and snacking on buffalo wings, zucchini fries and Taco Tuesday specials at an Oakland bar. Yes, an Oakland bar. Usually the hangout of loyal A’s fans, who have been itching for years for their Moneyball team to make it to the World Series and outshine their Giants neighbors.
A trio of women in orange, black and gray T-shirts, Giants colors, sat in the middle of the room at a high table. A blonde woman in a Giants jersey flipped through a newspaper, anxiously waiting for friends to fill the empty seats.
As the countdown to the start of the first game between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals wound down, more people filed into the Grand Oaks Bar – the GO Bar, as it’s commonly called – in the heart of downtown Oakland. A woman in a furry Giants earflap beanie plopped onto a corner couch. Orange, black and gray hats with “SF” stitched on the front started to appear over beers and bar snacks.
Nearly all the 15 TVs in the bar, an Eighth and Washington corner spot known as a hangout for A’s loyalists and other local sports team fans, were showing the lead-up to Game 1. A few smaller screens played the Sharks-Bruins hockey game. The walls were lined with Oakland Raiders, Cal Bears, and San Jose Sharks décor – and of course posters, pennants, and neon signs proudly displaying the Oakland A’s logo. Only one chalkboard sign made any mention of the Giants across the Bay.
There didn’t seem to be a stitch of green and yellow, the beloved colors of the Oakland A’s, on any of the evening’s patrons at the bar. But way over in the back, obscured by a chair behind the bar, sat one man sporting a black Raiders T-shirt.
With his black and silver shirt as the only potential clue to his team allegiance, Oakland resident Ron Butler, 33, looked resigned as he perched at a high table near the bar, sipping on a beer beside his girlfriend. The A’s fan, who said he decided against wearing his green and yellow A’s gear as the Giants were playing their first games in the World Series – again – said he knows some baseball fans who claim to root generously for the whole Bay Area.
“I picked a side,” Butler said, confirming that he would not be rooting for the Giants today. He said he was especially frustrated with this year’s match-up because the Royals had beat the A’s at the end of September. As the World Series started, he said, he was realizing he must admit defeat. His girlfriend chimed in that the couple wasn’t planning on watching the entire game. They were just killing time before a movie.
It can be complicated being a die-hard A’s fan when the Giants are doing their World Series thing again. This happens more frequently than the true A’s loyalist would like–2010, 2012, and if this even-year pattern continues, 2014.
As TVs showed the players starting to walk onto the field at Kauffman Stadium, the woman in the bright orange jersey clapped loudly. Scott Olsen, 46, a carpenter from Arcata in Humboldt County, sat patiently at the table next to her, a “Juntos somos Gigantes” pin on his gray Giants hat, purchased earlier this year from a street vendor near AT&T Park after he had gone to a home game. His decision to root for the San Francisco team in Oakland was a matter of convenience. His son was coming to meet him from UC Berkeley, where he had recently transferred as a junior. It was easier for the father and son to stay in the East Bay. The NorCal visitor thought he’d find more A’s fans in Oakland, but “I’m in good company,” he said, looking around the room.
Throughout the Bay Area, local newspaper headlines are all about the Giants. Facebook updates, tweets, and Instagram photos proclaim undying loyalty for the team. Restaurants, bars, shops and even gyms have Giants-themed decorations and signs posted outside cheering for the team and offering Giants-inspired specials. Cars are driving around Oakland and Berkeley with orange and black pennants waving from their antennae. And to add insult to injury, tons of AC transit buses are running through Oakland–in the heart of A’s territory–with “GO GIANTS!” on the front and side digital displays, flashed between the bus number and destination.
“It’s part of our overall effort to be a regional partner,” AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said about the message boards rooting for the San Francisco team. “If the A’s were still in contention, the signs would not be running.” Johnson said the transit agency sees it as the Giants representing the region, and the message boards are a “fun way to support local teams.” So far there have been no complaints from riders.
Johnson doesn’t have a count on how many buses are displaying the “Go Giants!” message, but each bus is equipped to display the sign. The Giants message is one of several options that include the Warriors, A’s, Raiders and 49ers. The messages are input electronically onto computers aboard each bus. Bus operators have the codes for the different messages pre-programmed into the system. It is up the driver’s discretion to display one of the preset codes to give the bus more personality. “We don’t have a ‘Go Dodgers!’ in there at all,” he said.
A’s blogger Rhamesis Muncada, who has a large following on his site newballpark.org and on Twitter, said the true A’s fans are “biting our tongues,” as they tend to do every other year. Muncada, 38, has been an A’s fan since the 1980s. In past years, he’s understood his fellow Bay Area friends’ excitement and fervor for the Giants, but this year “it’s become almost unbearable,” he said.
Because he is still a baseball fan, he will be watching the series. But there will be no rooting for either team. “I’m just going to watch it and hope that the games are well played and that we get some good baseball,” he said. He’ll also be busy live-tweeting the plays. Given the circumstances, he said he’ll be keeping it light, with mostly humorous tweets.
Back at the bar, the Giants fans were treated to a two-run home run by outfielder Hunter Pence, which elicited much hollering and cheering from bar patrons and high-fives with strangers. Someone yelled out, “Let’s go Giants!” The evening’s three Royals fans, who came separately and were sprinkled through the establishment amid the preponderance of Giants gear, gazed at various TVs, somewhat amused, and unshaken. Two of the men confidently wore their blue Kansas City T-shirts.
By the top of the fourth inning Butler and his girlfriend were out the door. The Giants would end up winning the first game, 7-1. But a block away from the bar, while walking toward City Center, Butler sighed and said he’d seen enough. They were off to see the recently release World War II drama, Fury.