OAKLAND -- A full hour before the first pitch Monday night came the simple tribal chant that generated enough force to create a virtual symphony throughout the crowded Coliseum concourse.
"Let's Go Oak-land!"
This was the pure sound of humanity diving into baseball's opening day -- or night, in this instance.
This was the sweet sound of excitement roaring through an Oakland ballpark that too often lately had the spare, stony ambience of a graveyard.
This was the warm sound of engagement from A's fans who have opened too many recent seasons feeling displeased or demoralized, drifting between simmering resentment and outright disgust.
That the A's were silenced in a 2-0 loss to Seattle ace Felix Hernandez did little to diminish the sound of full faith and optimism, something barely seen and rarely felt around here the past few Aprils.
The A's are back, their fans came out (36,067, a sellout) and the most notable difference between the recent baseball reintroductions is that only the game seems to matter. That is the byproduct of entering a season rooting for the defending A.L. West champions instead of cursing the moves of management and the motives of ownership.
And, yes, there was plenty of profanity in the stands early last season, partly because general manager Billy Beane responded to a semi-encouraging finish in 2011 by trading all three of his All-Stars and partly because owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff remained ever more stubbornly committed to moving the team than selling it.
But as the A's sensational 2012 season carries the franchise into the spring of 2013, it is apparent Beane's moves were brilliant. And, more to the point, that the owners are better tolerated when their long-range vision is pushed offstage by a compelling product.
That is what the A's have, from solid young pitching to an intriguing lineup to an actual identity -- fresh, gifted and devilishly raucous enough to be dangerous. All of which is skillfully massaged by Bob Melvin, properly introduced Monday as the "reigning American League Manager of the Year."
"We were able to bring most of the guys back," Beane said, mentioning Brandon McCarthy and Jonny Gomes as the two significant losses. "And that's not something we've been able to do too often."
The first game of the season is about feeling your team has a chance for meaningful dates in September, inviting the possibility of the postseason. These A's, coming off a 94-win season, surely have that chance.
And to think, the A's had effectively fallen off the MLB map for the better part of five years (2007-11). They were so bland and faceless and, well, pointless, it was easy to conclude ownership and management was indifferent to aspects of the operation unrelated to moving the franchise.
Last season, then, was a most unexpected though completely welcome tonic. After years of sagging spirits, suddenly there was magic in the air and fans on their feet and towels being waved all over the Coliseum.
Truth be told, the "Let's Go Oak-land" chant has long been a staple at the Coliseum, but it was never more prominent than during the team's sizzling finish to 2012. The chorus -- also aligned with a group of fans dedicated to, yes, keeping the A's in Oakland -- has become one of the more distinctive and recognizable rally chants in baseball.
It was evident Monday, leaving open the question of how long it can be sustained.
There is this: It worked wonders last season, didn't it?