Playoff heartbreak for Oakland is nothing new

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By DAN BERNSTEIN
College Contributor Network

I feel at home between the gray concrete slabs of the Oakland Coliseum. It's where my parents took me to watch baseball before I could even speak, and where my love for the sport blossomed. But being an Athletics fan has been a difficult journey.

Since 2000, Oakland has lost seven consecutive sudden-death playoff games, which is the longest such streak in baseball history. In potential series clinching games over that span their record is 1-13.

Game 5 of the 2003 ALDS hurt the most. I was furious at my dad for making me miss the first eight innings because of a family event, and I remember sprinting to his green Saturn afterwards to catch the ninth inning on the radio.

The Red Sox led 4-3 and the nightmare of a fourth-straight Game 5 playoff exit was coming to fruition. But Scott Hatteberg began the bottom of the ninth with a walk, which caused youthful hope to swell inside of me. Jose Guillen followed that up with a walk of his own to put two on with nobody out. Grady Little yanked Scott Williamson and a walk-driven A's comeback appeared to be on.

Ramon Hernandez bunted the runners over, Adam Melhuse struck out looking, and Chris Singelton drew the third walk of the inning to set up the quintessential playoff scenario -- Game 5, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs. A little kid in the back seat of his dad's car hanging onto every loaded syllable dancing out of the radio speaker.

The moment didn't last. Terrence Long took strike three looking, Derek Lowe pumped his fists, and the A's were done. I said nothing until we arrived at our house. Once inside, I let out a primal yell and ran around throwing everything I could get my little hands on. I jumped on my bed, gave my pillow a barrage of wild punches, buried my head into it's feathery safety and cried.

Fast forward to 2014 -- it's one in the morning and I want to feel something. The A's have completed another spectacular playoff meltdown, yet my reaction to the stream of blue swarming Kauffman Field is numbness. I turn off the babbling television and acknowledge the empty silence that takes over the room. It's a silence that will last until springtime -- six months without play-by-play voices over the radio, newspaper box scores, cross-country phones calls with my little sister about the progress of the team.

In this extended offseason breather -- a time for reflection after a period of non-stop action -- the greatness of the sport presents itself. Baseball takes time. It's not a game that grants instant gratification. Rather, it is about growing up with a team that never quite gets to the finish line, just barely failing arduous season after arduous season, until one day it doesn't.

And when the A's finally get out of their own way and win a World Series, the painful wait will be worth it.


Dan Bernstein is a freshman at the University of Maryland. He is romantic about the Oakland Coliseum (where he grew up) and Anfield (where he's never been). Follow him on Twitter: @danbernsteinUMD
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