If, as Billy Beane has suggested, the important thing is to win that last game. Otherwise, people will dismiss us. Billy is the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, a major league team in a minor market. Recently, his team found themselves hosting a wild card game at the start of the Major League Baseball playoffs. The Athletics were humbled by the Tampa Bay Rays, five to one. The mild furor that was built up over the last month of the season about who would end up making it to that game has expired. Now the attention can shift to the front runners. Teams that have stars and marquee value. Baseball fans in Oakland can head home and start dreaming about basketball season.
Except their basketball team has moved on too. The Golden State Warriors have rolled across the Bay Bridge to fancy new digs in San Francisco. No more slummin' it for those guys. And no more sure thing when it comes to winning the last game of the series, with injuries and departures impacting the once super team.
The Oakland Raiders, for one more year, will be paying rent to Alameda County for one more year while they play their last season NFL season in the bay area before skipping off to Las Vegas. Their relative success is currently overshadowed by their personnel challenges. Antonio Brown skipped town just in time to have his big move to New England torpedoed by rape allegations, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been suspended for the rest of the season for an illegal hit on an opposing team's running back.
All of which is to explain my ambivalence when I see the boys at my elementary school hooting and hollering at one another during any and all games they play. Perhaps the biggest disjoint for me comes while watching them tear into one another as they play four square. Getting someone else out elicits a howling and grunting that belies their age and experience. That macho display is only overshadowed by the cries of frustration that erupt when one of them is out and has to return to the end of the line. They won't have to wait for a new season, mind you. Their disappointment lasts only until they reach the front of the line again. But the anguish they endure is palpable.
Which is why I wonder who once suggested that "it's not if you win or lose, it's how you play the game." I don't think that person lived in Oakland.