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Not OK, Computer
2006-10-01 09:53
by Philip Michaels

Something weird happened at the Oakland Coliseum last week, and I'm still trying to sort out just exactly what happened and why...

First some background: My wife wasn't exactly sandbagged by this baseball thing -- during our courtship I took her to a Dodgers-Braves game and when I broke out my scorebook to keep score of the game and she didn't run from Dodger Stadium screaming, I figured she was hooked -- but sometimes, I wonder if she realized just what she was getting herself into. The six-month season, the many games -- in person and on the TV -- the mood swings by me that stem entirely from the actions of 25 people who are not similarly affected by the ups and downs of our day-to-day lives -- it's a lot for her to endure. And she does a remarkable job of it, too. But going to as many games as we do, that's a lot to ask of someone who was dragged into the life, not born into it. And so she'll bring things to some games to divert herself -- books mostly, but occasionally something else.

So it was during the final Friday home game against the Angels. My wife had a freelance writing assignment deadline looming, so she figured -- not unreasonably -- that she would bring her laptop into the stadium and get some writing done from our right-field seats whenever the game began to lag too much for her tastes.

And she was making some pretty good headway before the game had even started, typing away on the laptop while the stadium p.a. system exhorted us to sign up for an A's credit card and to use John Deere goods, the official lawn care products of the Oakland A's. That is until a security guard walked up to her.

"You'll have to put that away once the game starts," he said, politely yet firmly.

Uh... why?

"Increased security," he said, declining to elaborate.

Now I suppose we could have pressed the issue, had we felt like it. The reasoning was dubious at best, and the request -- while not exactly unreasonable -- wasn't exactly what you would call logical. You can't use a laptop during games because... why again? Because Al Qaeda is now recruiting thirty-ish women to disrupt Major League games with iBooks? Because the almost imperceptible whirl of the hard drive is distracting, and therefore, angering to Milton Bradley out in right field? Because the Coliseum has a free Wi-Fi network -- it does, you know -- and they don't want freeloaders like my wife using it and possibly slowing down network traffic for the giant mainframe computer that Joe Morgan thinks controls the A's organization?

I'm having a hard time following along here.

Clearly, you're still permitted to bring computers into the Coliseum. Apple has made some wonderful strides in reducing the form factor of its laptops, but the iBook is still not so small that my wife can shove it down her pants to avoid detection. The security guards at the entrance gate tasked with searching our bags for canned sodas, weaponry, and other Bozo no-nos saw the laptop in my wife's bag and made no effort to stop her entrance into the Coliseum.

The fools! Now begins our plan to bring Bud Selig to his knees one stadium at a time! Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

The A's declarations of proper fan behavior on the team Web site are similarly unhelpful in trying to ravel this mystery. Neither the Stadium A to Z guide nor the Stadium Security Policies & Regulations say word one about the use of laptop computers in the bleachers when the ball is in play.

It is even more puzzling because the week before, I went to a Giants-Rockies Game at Telecom Monolith Ballpark with my pal Jason, who, several times during the game, whipped out a MacBook and began type-type-typing away with elan -- and in full view of the ushers, who stood by, helpless to stop him. Because he's a rebel. And a lousy stinking nerd. So obviously, if there's some sort of admonition about in-game computer use, it's an Oakland-only rule. That's my main point here. That, and Jason is a nerd. I can't stress that enough.

I've had a week to process this whole thing, and here are the best possible explanations I've come up with:

  1. The A's have decided that laptop computers are somehow more distracting to hitters and fielders than cell phones, digital cameras, and other electronic devices, and, thus, have outlawed their use;
  2. The A's don't want an Eric Chavez blast smashing my wife's computer to bits, and they especially don't want us demanding that Eric Chavez replace said computer, even though it would seem that the standard disclaimer on the back of your ticket warning you that batted balls tend to smash things like personal belongings and bones would seem to have that second part covered;
  3. The A's stadium operations people gave some vaguely worded directive to its security contractors, which this young man misapplied in our interaction with him.

Personally, I lean toward that last one. Earlier this year when the Giants came to Oakland, I had a much more unpleasant interaction with a security guard who refused to let me walk to my bleacher seat at the start of the game "because Barry Bonds is about to bat" and they didn't want people moving from stand to stand to catch his 714th home run ball. A reasonable enough position, I guess, if not for the fact that 1) Barry Bonds was slated to bat fourth in the inning, which meant he was not about to bat at all and 2) Joe Blanton was still making his warm-up tosses meaning there were several minutes until the game actually started. To make a long story short, a sternly worded letter to the A's was dashed off, producing an admission from the franchise that yes, their security guard clearly misunderstood the instructions in this particular case and hey, these things happen.

But I'm willing to bet that there's some other explanation that's just not coming to me right now, and I'm willing to also bet that someone out there can provide it for me.

2006-10-01 10:30:05
1.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
#3, most likely. I think it'll require another letter to the A's, which relays the experience and asks "for my future visits to the ballpark, should I expect the same, and if so, why?"

My #4: they know that secretly, your wife is running Monte Carlo simultions of the various game outcomes based upon the current game situation and relaying coaching advice to the Angels' staff.

2006-10-01 12:08:39
2.   Linkmeister
Alternatively, the game the As occasionally play on the field can be controlled by Major League 2006 (or whatever officially-sanctioned game is hot right now), and they didn't want it to be that obvious. Playing at home or in the office is fine, but from the stands? Nope.
2006-10-01 13:06:51
3.   xaphor
The experience must have certainly been a let down and had you climbing up the walls. Treating you like a tourist relegating you to subterranean homesick alien status. No doubt the guard was a total airbag, nothing but a mere paranoid android. You should have told said gaud of your fitter happier status and he should count himself lucky you would not exert your powers in electionengineering him out of a job.

Don't worry; the karma police will have them all hearing exit music in the end. :P

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