Going, Going, Gone?: San Jose’s Lawsuit Part Two


Aug 4, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Mascots representing former Oakland Athletics

Rollie Fingers

(left, not pictured)

Rickey Henderson

(middle, not pictured) and

Dennis Eckersley

(not pictured) race before the start of the seventh inning at O.Co Coliseum. The Rangers defeated the Athletics 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

So now the expected motion to dismiss has been filed.  We have another month or so of trading paper and watching colossal legal egos collide in a district courtroom.  There will be finger-pointing, press-conferences and too bright silk ties.

What won’t be there?  The Oakland Athletics.  Who won’t be there?  Lew Wolff.

That’s more than just a little curious.  The addition of the Oakland A’s to San Jose’s lawsuit solves a number of problems.  After all, the A’s have arguably suffered direct injury.  They have been prevented from moving, an action its controlling shareholder obviously wants.  But they’re nowhere to be seen.  Why not?  Surely, the same attorneys representing San Jose would also represent the A’s.  Wouldn’t the press conferences be more compelling with Lew Wolff?  You can bet there have been meetings.

So where is Lew?  His only comment has been a terse, ‘litigation is not the answer’ platitude.  True, in a general sense perhaps.  Businessmen avoid litigation because, in a pure cost/benefit analysis, it rarely makes fiscal sense, i.e., what you have to pay your lawyers isn’t worth it.  But that isn’t a concern here.

So what’s on Lew’s mind?

Allow me to get philosophical.  Young men want, well, women.  Middle-aged men want money.  Old men?

Old men want respect.

If you travel to San Jose, you’ll see something you won’t see in Oakland, namely, Lew Wolff at a professional sporting event.  Lew Wolff owns the San Jose Earthquakes.  In the stands at a Quakes’ game he’s not the cynical tyrant of Oakland.  He’s the benevolent city father who brought soccer to San Jose.  That’s why he wants to bring the A’s there.  To be the man who owns the Quakes and the A’s.  To be a hero in San Jose.

Why?  Because it’s so hard to be a hero in Oakland.  Unless the A’s win rings, Lew will never be a hero here.  In Oakland, Lew is the caretaker, not the owner of the A’s. 

He’s just the latest guy to take the keys.

Once a sports franchise has been in a community for forty, fifty years, it belongs to the community.  It’s a public trust.  That’s somewhat true of football.  Ask anyone from Cleveland.  It’s absolutely true with baseball.

Ask Oakland.

Allow me to digress.

My children are dimly aware of the Raiders.  No doubt they would miss them if they left, because I would miss them and they love me.  But my children have never been to a Raiders game.  They play soccer on Sunday.  My children are aware of the Warriors.  But they’ve never been to a Warriors’ game.  I can’t afford it.

But four or five out of the 82 games played in the Coliseum each year, my daughters go with me.  They ride BART as people in green and gold get on.  They walk the bridge to the field, past the drummers and the ladies selling churros.  They sit in outfield seats with the people of the East Bay.  Black, white and brown.  Rich folk and poor folk.  The drunk and the soon to be.  They rub shoulders.  They exchange high fives with people they do not know.  They clap and yell, “Let’s go Oakland!”

My daughters will grow up (I hope) with Oakland Athletics baseball.  This is their tribe.  This is their community.  It is the one place, 82 times a year, that everyone in Oakland believes in the same thing.  A shared thing.

Baseball is different.  Baseball is the only sport that is truly important to American life.  If you don’t believe baseball is unique, if you don’t believe it’s a brilliant mirror that reflects the best and the very worst of us, why in the world are you reading a blog about the Athletics?  Why do you tear up at the end of Field of Dreams?  Why did you line up to see 42?

I live in the East Bay.  The East Bay revolves around Oakland.  It’s where I go to shop.  To eat and to play.  It’s where I go to be part of a crowd.  Where I connect with the heart of my community.

And it’s howling in pain.

There is so much bad news from Oakland.  I can’t really think about it, and I’m certainly not going to write about it.  Let’s just agree that the A’s are a good thing about Oakland, a good thing for Oakland.  82 times a year.

I think Mr. Wolff is finally starting to get it.  He’s finally grasping that while baseball would be another pleasant diversion for San Jose, it’s critical to Oakland.

Why didn’t he join the suit? I think Mr. Wolff is looking for an out.  For an excuse to sell the team and throw his hands up.  He certainly has his pride.  He can’t give up without a fight.  But after a fight?  Well that satisfies pride.  And maybe, just maybe, the loss of the suit will let him exit with honor.

Because Mr. Wolff is an old man.  And old men want to sit in the sun with their friends.