I recently attended a Giant’s game with some cousins on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The sun shined down upon us, the breeze smelled (pleasantly) of the bay, and the crowd roared its approval of a home team win. We were celebrating a family birthday, and her special day was “good luck” for the Giants. They won in grand-slam fashion as we ate cashews, fancy cupcakes, drank beers in the beer garden, and commented on the organic tomatoes and other crops growing there. We took pictures and texted with cousins and siblings and parents who could not attend the game with us. It was a fabulous day, as I don’t see this side of the family-despite the fact that we all live in California-as much as I see the Washington State cousins. Afterwards we wandered along the waterfront on the Embarcadero sidewalks and caught up. We parted at the Ferry Building, agreeing that we really should get together more often.
Something really bothered me as I sat looking around the stadium. It was my first visit to AT&T Park. I had only previously attended a Giant’s game in the 1980’s at Candlestick Park. There is no disputing this new park is a huge improvement over Candlestick (which is no longer even there anymore, it’s been demolished for new development in the area). As I gazed around, I thought that, except for the Mariner’s games I have attended with the other branch of the family in Seattle, I have never seen so many white people in one place together since my days (again in the 1980’s) attending Day on the Green metal concerts at the Oakland Coliseum back in the day.( Ha. See what i did there?)
I don’t quite know what my first thought was when I saw the organic vegetable/beer garden where my cousins and I ate the cupcakes and quaffed the beers. Oh yes, wait a minute, I do remember. I thought, wow, we don’t have this kind of fancy, elite, exclusive thing in Oakland when we go to see an A’s game! I took a lot of pictures to illustrate my amazement. When we returned to our seats in the stands I counted how many people I could see from my vantage point who weren’t white. I noted less than five in my area of the park. I started to feel uncomfortable as we all rose to sing the National Anthem, which is, of course, a baseball tradition. We also sang Take me Out to The Ballgame, and, later, Lights, the iconic Journey song written about San Francisco.
This was right around the time that 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick had begun to sit out the National Anthem at this season’s NFL games in protest of his rightfully held belief that the United States has not, historically, honorably served African Americans and minorities. I agree with him. I won’t get into all of this here, other than to say, putting my hand over my heart and singing of my expected loyalty to the flag, was a bit of a struggle this time around. I guess the past few years of watching the news has made me have zero respect for how law enforcement and the justice system has been operating in regards to our citizens of color. Here is a story about his reasons for protesting the National Anthem.
I had heard of Kaepernick’s protest, and thought, as I looked around, that this crowd seemed mighty pale. I grew up going to A’s games in Oakland (where my dad also grew up going to Oaks games), and I am used to a much more diverse crowd of people at sporting events in the East Bay. Have you ever been to a Raiders game? Me neither, but it’s a completely different crowd than at that Giant’s game. I did not share my thoughts with my cousins, as it was a birthday family day, and I am always the radical one in the group, and, I should note, they had generously gifted me the ticket when the original ticket holder had a last minute emergency. But I thought, San Francisco sure is getting whiter and whiter.
I started to feel uncomfortable as we all rose to sing the National Anthem, which, is, of course, a baseball tradition.
I was reminded of how I felt in January when San Francisco hosted Superbowl 50. That had been a very strange time for the Bay Area, as there were homeless sweeps, an unsupportive mayor, and storm trooper-like tactics used to prettify our downtown so the folks attending the game would not have to see what San Francisco looks like IRL. I had hurried home from work each night that week, through the excited, over zealous crowds, as far as possible as I could get from Superbowl Village, and counted my blessings that I could see the extreme contrast between the haves and have-nots.
In future, if you take me out to the ballgame,let’s do it in Oakland at an A’s home game. I have all the fan gear, love riding with the crowds on BART to get there, and live for the $5.00 bootleg hat guys in the parking lots of the BART station and the Coliseum. No beer garden, but if you get a family package ticket, you get a bag of peanuts, a hot dog, and a beer. And that works for me. And if you feel like sitting out the National Anthem, no one will look cross-eyed at you if you chose to do so.