The working man has long been a central figure in American sports, attracted to the games as a diversion from the 9-to-5 grind and viewing them as a more level playing field than other societal arenas, the workplace among them.
As professional sports began to expand west in the late 1950s, Oakland — anchored by ship building, automobile manufacturing and its port — became an obvious landing spot.
Within little more than a decade, Oakland became home to the Raiders of the upstart American Football League, the Athletics, the Warriors and, briefly, the California Golden Seals of the National Hockey League, who for a time played in unfashionable white skates.
All the teams played at a complex centered on a vast asphalt lot, flanked by a major freeway and a rail line.
Soon, the lot will be vacant. This is not because Oakland has changed; it has largely retained a working-class ethos, albeit with California rents. Rather, the business calculus for teams has evolved.
Franchise revenue is now driven more by television deals and sponsorships than ticket sales, though those prices have skyrocketed. The transformation of sports into media products has relegated cities to backdrops and fans to props — a point that was driven home during the coronavirus pandemic when the games went on in vacant or mostly empty stadiums.
If it is baffling why the Athletics are leaving the Bay Area, which is the 10th biggest market, according to the Nielsen Company, for Las Vegas, which is the 40th largest market, there is another factor at play, according to Roger Noll, a Stanford sports economist emeritus.