Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series reviewing Major League Baseball stadiums and desperate plea for its fans not to visit all of them.
The toilets overflow, even in the athletes’ locker rooms.
On Sundays in the fall, you could get shot in the parking lot.
And you’re standing on some of the most expensive real estate in the world, in the highest taxed state in the United States.
Take me out to the balllllgaaaaammmeee…
Have you ever gone to a house party, looked around and said “I think I’m better off getting my drink at Buffalo Wild Wings”? That’s what it’s like to go see a game at the last multipurpose open-air stadium in the county, the Oakland Coliseum. Everybody who shows up to the fourth-oldest stadium in MLB has this look in their eyes like they’re staring at the “departures” board at an airport. I bought the ticket. How long until the wait is over?
Think I’m overplaying my hand a little? Consider that about a month ago RingCentral became the fifth sponsored name for the stadium since 1998, joining McAfee, Overstock, O.co and Network Associates as companies who mistakenly thought being associated with this hole in one of the world’s angriest neighborhoods would improve the bottom line.
Hell, have you noticed nobody has sided with Oakland residents about the Raiders leaving for Las Vegas? You know you have an unappealing stadium if people think Raiders fans deserve a better environment.
I have been here for both Oakland A’s and Raiders games. In the interest of full disclosure, I was once a Raiders season ticket holder. This is how I can say with certitude that you can get shot. I saw somebody get shot in the ass, but more on that later.
Certain things about going to the Coliseum are affordable. I would suggest parking in Pleasanton, a full hour away by freeway, and taking the BART train system to the stadium. It’s cleaner than most subway systems, convenient, affordable and drops you off at the stadium. Technically, it’s probably safer, in that the path from the BART station to the Coliseum is rimmed with barbed wire to keep the locals from — cough, cough — introducing themselves.
The stadium followed this cookie-cutter design used in many cities across the country who wanted their stadiums to be used for both baseball and the NFL. In other words, the playing field from above looks mostly circular to fit a gridiron. As such, there are few seats right on the action. Even worse, when the Raiders returned from Los Angeles in the 1990s, they built extra seating in the outfield that obliterated what was once a pleasant backdrop of the nearby foothills.
Moreover, the playing field was dug below sea level and the stadium itself is less than a mile from San Francisco Bay, which might explain the perpetually broken toilets. Who knows? I’m not a plumber.
So why go? Well, every so often, the Oakland A’s play well. Despite having one of the lowest payrolls in professional sports, the A’s often cobble together a competitive team. Also, during playoff runs, fans will take a corner down the right field line and behave like soccer supporters — drums, big flags, chanting. I respect that type of spirit. That’s fun.
And if you’re banging a drum, it’s impossible to hold a weapon, so that must be the safe part of the stadium.
OK, now for the guy getting shot in the ass…
I left the stadium after a Raiders game, annoyed that they lost to the Chiefs. On my way to the rental car — before I discovered BART — a Latino gentleman skipped past me. Well, I thought to myself, I don’t feel like skipping. Why so happy?
At this point, about a dozen uniformed cops sprinted past me in pursuit of the skipper. As a side note to all of you gang members who read, stop wearing baggy clothes. It becomes more difficult to outrun the police.
The cops smashed the perp into a porta-potty and dragged him off. The rumor mill started. “Home boy shot somebody! Home boy shot somebody!” Now, I’m a skeptic. No way he shot somebody.
I was wrong. Home boy did shoot somebody.
It went like this. Random fans who didn’t have a ticket stayed by their car to watch the game on a small TV and continue drinking. Not a bad Sunday afternoon, until home boy approached, said “How-dee-doo?” and produced his weapon. At which point, the guys in the lawn chairs said “oh, my goodness! Time to run!” And one of them got a bullet in the ass after turning around.
For the record, I feel bad for that guy. Not because he died, but if you’re going to get shot, you would want it to be from a cool story. Not “Yeah, I got shot in my ass because I ran like a punk.”
Anyway, they load the poor chap on a gurney and shove him into the ambulance. And moments before the door closes, dude gave a fist pump and screamed “Go Raiders!”
Oh, they’re going, all right.