Tag: NFL

Just say no, Raiders Nation

If you’re a Raiders fan, this is the day you knew was coming, again.

Goodbye, Jack London Square. Viva Las Vegas.

By a 31-1 vote (according to reports, Miami was the only no vote), the NFL cleared the runway for the Raiders to leave Oakland for a new playpen coming to a Las Vegas near you before this decade is done.

And while fans may be crying about losing their team for the second time, it’s also time for them to act.

During Monday’s newser, Mark Davis said they’d refund the money of any season ticket holder.

They should take him up on that.

Walk away from the 2-3 lame duck seasons of the Oakland Raiders. Stay home. Give the money to charity.

For all the talk of Raider Nation, it’s really nothing more than a set decoration for the studio show that’s the NFL on TV. Doesn’t matter where they play, as long as the field is 100 yards long and 180 feet wide. Could be Oakland, or Las Vegas, or Kalamazoo.

But let’s face it, for all the mayor Libby Schaff’s brave talk over the weekend, it was too little, too late, in a city not only trying to juggle the desires of the Raiders and the Oakland Athletics, but a myriad of real life problems.

And as much as the NFL likes to talk about being a part of the communities they serve, in reality, it’s all about the Benjamins. Just ask the folks in St. Louis and San Diego.

So what happens next?

As noted, the Raiders will play at least two more seasons in Oakland, assuming attendance doesn’t fall to the point of embarassment (like in Memphis, where the Tennessee Titans played briefly while fleeing Houston for Nashville).

Levi’s Stadium? If that were really a viable option, would not the Raiders and 49ers already be sharing it?

And in Oakland?

A new stadium for the A’s – now the city’s only team in the four major pro sports with the Warriors moving to San Francisco’s Chase Center by the end of the decade – will happen, but for all the speculation of sites near Howard Terminal or even Merritt College, their best bet may be to build a new yard on the current site, which features fantastic access to the freeway, BART and the airport.

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Kaepernick and the cause

Perhaps its a tribute to how fast things change nowadays or the shortening of attention spans in the social media era, but an issue that was on the front pages a mere six months ago seems appeared to have been resolved and has been confined to the back pages.

It’s been revealed that Colin Kaepernick, who has opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers, will end his kneeldown protest during the national anthem.

Kaepernick said he’s abandoning the protest since it has accomplished its goal, to draw attention to the plight of black Americans.

Of course, the cynics in cyberspace and elsewhere, at least those who are not distracted by the flavor-of-the-day crises in Washington, Indianapolis and, yes, even Bowling Green or Sweden, will point out that he’s dropping the protest mostly because he’ll be on the job market.

Or maybe they just stopped paying attention since there was nothing more to be outraged about over Kaepernick.

There were those that doubted his sincerity, claimed it was a ploy to get into the starting lineup, or an attempt to impress his girlfriend, he shouldn’t be paid attention to because he was not a starter or he would only pay lip service to his beliefs.

But, having missed the bus the first time, why keep waiting for that ride that’s long been discontinued?

We’re seeing efforts to address the issues, not only financially (Kaepernick’s foundation is donating $1 million to community groups, a figure the 49ers matched, according to Rolling Stone), but an increase in social awareness among athletes, no doubt sparked by Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Olympics.

In the NBA, for example, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been quite vocal about social issues, as has star player Steph Curry.

Also, LeBron James was a supporter of Hilliary Clinton during the presidential race, several member of the New England Patriots have announced they will not visit the Trump White House with the rest of the team, and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler has been adamant about his opposition to Trump’s immigration ban that has since been struck down by the courts.

Even the critics have to admit his protest did not play a role in his play on the field, which was more a product of the flustercluck that’s become the 49ers in the Levi’s Stadium era.

As for concerns he’d be a distration, well, his teammates did give him the Len Eshmont Award for inspirtational and courageous play.

And, needless to say, the donations did show he was putting his money where is mouth was.

Perhaps this is why we are hearing so little about this from the social media outrage machine: He answered all his critics and then some.

And the cause has been advanced.

Why Bowling Green matters, or, the White House that called ‘wolf’

It happened again Thursday night, and by Friday, it was a social media sensation, for all the wrong reasons.

Trump spokesman Kelllyanne Conway, in the midst of defending the president’s executive order banning travel from several Moslem countries, cited the “Bowling Green massacre” as a reason why the country needs such an action.

Except, as we know by now, there was no Bowling Green massacre.

It was just yet another figment of the collective mind of the Trump administration, just like the overflow crowds at the inauguration, the millions of illegal votes cast that denied Trump a victory in the overall vote totals and the threat grizzly bears present to American school children.

Social media responded as only it can, with everything from green bowling balls, green ribbons to remember the “victims” and faux historical markers.

It’s good for a laugh, but looking at the big picture, even Trump boosters should worry.

Call them lies, falsehoods, half-truths, or, in the Trumpian newspeak that’s all the rage nowadays, “alternate facts,” they’re a series of statements that we’re being asked to buy, even though they have no basis in reality.

And while inventing massacres (personally, I hope no Nate Thurmond memorabilia was destroyed) may seem like a minor sin, it raises the matter of trust.

If Trump and his followers are going to distort the truth on these matter, how do we know they will be telling us the truth when it comes to issues that could lead us into another Constitutional criss, economic calamity or, pray not, war.

It’s the least we could ask of the man with the nuclear codes, isn’t it?

In other news:

  • It’s needed now more than ever. Alas, we have to wait nine days for pitchers and catcher to report, as of Feb. 4.
  • That ancient tome, the Columnist Manifesto (not to be confued with the book by Karl Marx) requires a Super Bowl pick. So we’ll go with the old standby in this case: Good defense always finds a way to stop a good offense, so it’s the Patriots.
  • Can’t help but think the NFL was delivered a huge karma cookie over the past few weeks with a result that was opposite of what it wanted: The Chargers moving to Los Angeles, while the Raiders will remain in Oakland rather than a glitzy playpen in Las Vegas.
  • It’s still hard to see the NFL working in Vegas, the gambling question aside.

For all the talk of increased tourism from fans of visiting teams and “guys weekends,” look at the map. Outside of metro Las Vegas, what’s the nearest big city: Kingman? Barstow? San Bernardino?

And in between, a lot of sand and spent Acme products.

How much is too much for stadia?

And for the last blog entry of the Obama era, thoughts naturally turn to … sports!

  • T’was the Romans that first developed the theory that bread and circuses were all that was needed to keep the masses happy.

It’s become clear over the last few months the NFL has bent the words of Juvenal for its own purposes: Come up with the bread, and we’ll keep the circus in town, but keep the cash in your pockets, the league will load the wagons and go elsewhere.

After 55 seasons of entertaining the masses in San Diego, the NFL is taking its show elsewhere, much like it did in St. Louis and appears to be on the verge of doing to Oakland – again.

All for the lack of an adequate playpen.

The masses may be unhappy, but in the NFL’s thinking, they’ll get over it, right?

It’s part of a disturbing pattern in the high-stakes game of musical chairs called keeping the team.

Look at Atlanta, for example, where not only have the Braves have abandoned their home of 20 years, Turner Field (originally built for the 1996 Olympics) for a yard in the suburbs, but a new stadium is being built right next to the Georgia Dome for the Falcons.

Then there’s Phoenix, where not only are the Diamonbacks making noise about wanting to replace fairly-new Chase Field, but there’s talk of giving the Suns and Coyotes a replacement for their recenlty-built arenas.

And don’t forget the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the Texas Rangers will be getting a domed stadium by 2020, which makes on wonder why one wasn’t included when their current ballpark was built in 1994.

How much is enough for deep-pocketed sports owners? Why are they afraid to open their own checkbooks, much like Walter O’Malley did when building Dodger Stadium, or seeking funds from the private sector, like the Giants did while building AT&T Park or the Warriors in the runup to this week’s groundbreaking for Chase Center in San Francisco?

And how much is too much to ask taxpayers to pay for? Especially after years of support through ticket sales and purchases of team swag?

San Diego and St. Louis taxpayers have given their answer. Oakland’s may be sending one soon.

  • We’ll acknowledge Friday will be a difficult day for a lot of folks. Me included. After all, I start to get antsy when it’s 24 days until pitchers and catchers …
  • Any truth to the rumor the Univesity of Montana Grizzly Band was not invited to the inaugural parade in case the route is detoured past a school?

  • And, finally, thanks Obama, for the last eight years and giving us hope. To think the next time we hear a presidential address, it might become a Festivus-like airing of greivances is disturbing on many levels.

King to Cooperstown: Holy Toledo!

The word cut through cyberspace and Northern California airwaves much like a Dave Stewart fastball. Or a pass from Ken Stabler to Clarence Davis. Or yet-another perfect Rick Barry free throw.

And, of course, topped off with an emphatic “Holy Toledo!”

Bill King, recipient of the Ford Frick award. Next stop: Cooperstown, 2017.

Of course, this award is for excellence in baseball broadcasting, which he did so well for the Oakland Athletics from 1980 until his death in 2005.

But, for all who have lived and breathed the San Francisco Bay area sports scene since the late 1950s, it’s validation for his work in all three sports. And he may have been better at basketball and football than at baseball.

LA had Vin Scully in baseball and Chick Hearn in basketball, but we had Bill King.

Both are one-trick ponies in many ways in comparison, namely, because they worked just the one sport.

For 50-plus years, he was courtside with the Warriors, behind the plate at the Coliseum or, in the same booth along the 50-yard line, painting word pictures of some of the greatest moments in Bay area sports history.

But beyond the routine of the game, there were the intangibles that even today’s blowed-dried pretty boy broadcasters miss without replay, helped by color analysts speaking in something resembling Sanskrit when it comes to their sport, with their talk of cover-2s, the wildcat and zone vs. man-to-man defense: Defensive switches, substitutions, changes in strategy, you name it.

And not just for the radio audience, but the thousands (like me) who turned off the network motormouths and listened to King describe what we were seeing on TV, before the proliferation of satellites and cable TV made this futile.

Off the air? You’d be more likely to find him at the ballet, opera or studying Russian literature, or, hitting the high seas as soon as NBA season ended, not to be seen again until the Raiders opened training camp.

Oh, those words! So perfect for the occasion, whether it was the defining moment of the game or yet-another tirade against NBA officiating (and we’ll refer you to the books by two of his biggest boosters, Hank Greenwald and Ken Korach, for all the details on the infamous Mother’s Day game).

But why write about them when we can listen:
From the Bay Area Radio Museum, the end of the Raiders-Chargers “Holy Roller” game in 1978:

http://bayarearadio.org/audio/raiders/1978/Raiders-Chargers_1978-09-10_Complete.mp3

From YouTube: A few highlights of the 1974 Dolphins-Raiders game mentioned above, the famous “Sea of Hands” game with Clarence Davis in the Promised Land:

Also from the Bay Area Radio Museum site, parts of a Warriors-Sixers game in 1977:
http://bayarearadio.org/audio/warriors/Warriors-76ers_1st-Half_Nov-25-1977.mp3

Another touch of the NBA, from a special commemorating the Warriors’ 1975 NBA championship. From YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k74Ge28V2KQ

From YouTube, what may very well be the last interview with King, orchestrated by KNBR’s Gary Radnich, who’s joined by the great Art Spander and Tony Bruno:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23x7LRUQIFw

And, believe it or not, a little bit of minor league hockey, involving the San Francisco Seals and the Seattle Totems in a playoff game, doing color along with Roy Storey. Again, via the Bay Area Radio Museum:
http://bayarearadio.org/audio/seals_hockey/sf-seals_seattle-totems_1963-whl-final_ut B32k.mp3

But this is about baseball, of course, so let’s start with an interview with Korach, talking about his book, with another great set of pipes, the Orioles’ Gary Thorne. Via YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tra5VyHsHGs

Speaking of Dave Stewart: His no-hitter vs. the Blue Jays, via YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ0yumX8PbY

A’s defeat Red Sox in playoff game on a walkoff bunt:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX5NRRWDGoM

A’s win 20th straight game on walkoff homer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kg1kaYhadNY&t=7s

Holy Toledo, indeed!

 

Pigskin prospects, and a fight to remember

If you’re a sports fan, it’s been a weekend. Let’s take a look back:

  • Let’s start with the state of college football in the Bay Area. What a study of contrasts,

Was about to write Stanford salvaged some pride in a disappointing season with its seventh straight Big Game win over Cal last Saturday, but a peek at the stat sheet shows the Cardinal to be 8-3, with the losses coming to this year’s Pac-12 heavyweights, Washington, Washington State and Colorado. Yes, Colorado!

A trip to Pasadena seems unlikely, but bowls will definitely be calling.

Then there’s California. Has there been a bigger mess in Strawberry Canyon since Memorial Stadium’s rebuild?

The fine folks in Berkeley knew they were hiring an offensive coach when Sonny Dykes was hired four years ago, but one lesson is being reinforced week after week: You can’t discount defense in the Pac-12 like you did in the WAC. At times you wonder if the Bears aren’t studying some of the finest matadors in Mexico when making their defensive recruiting lists.

  • Then there’s this weekend’s anti-Big Game, when San Jose State heads over Pacheco Pass to meet Fresno State in a battle of rivals that have fallen upon hard times.

Both are coming off heartbreaking late losses, the Bulldogs losing when a field goal was blocked on the last play of the game, seconds after Hawaii scored the go-ahead touchdown, while San Jose State yielded a late touchdown to Air Force.

We’ve also got a battle between a lame-duck interim coach at Fresno vs. one who may be on shaky ground at SJSU.

Still, it’s a rivalry game, and I’m sure both schools have thrown the records in the recycling bin getting ready for this one. And who knows, we may get another finish like this one (alas, I don’t have a recording of the call by Ken Korach and Dave Ellis on KCBS of this one, but would love a copy if anyone’s in a giving mood!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu3rSTjLSQY

  • Then there’s the 49ers. Or to misquote Henny Youngman, take them, please.

Change seems inevitable, but in the GM’s office, or the coach’s office?

Trent Baalke seems the most likely candidate after the disassembly of a team that was in the Super Bowl a few years ago and just seconds away from it the next.

Hard to blame Chip Kelly for not turning this sow’s ear into a silk purse in one season, but ya have to wonder, despite words to the contrary, how much longer he can re$i$t offers from places to stay with a team that tried to put the fun in dysfunction, but even fumbled that opportunity.

  • Meanwhile, another tale in the story of the Bay area’s least appreciated champion, Oakland boxer Andre Ward, was written in Las Vegas Saturday night with his 12-round decision over Sergey Kovalev for the WBA, WBC and IBF light heavyweight belts.

Ward was knocked down for the first time in his pro career in the second round and appeared to be on the verge of his first loss since he was 12 at the midpoint of this 12-rounder.

But remember, Ward is not a boxer who goes for the big KO punch, but is a student of the art of boxing, who did what it takes to earn the one-point win on all three scorecards.

Was the fix in? Very, very unlikely. Even in his dispute with the late promoter Dan Goossen, Ward has always conducted himself with class. It’s unfortunate this suit and being stripped of his Super Six title by the politics of boxing has marred this legacy.

A bad decision? Who knows, considering some of the beauts we’ve seen in boxing of late.

But, because it is boxing, there will be a rematch. And who knows what that might bring?

Making baseball great again

Thoughts for a Thursday …

The Chicago Cubs are World Champions for the first time in 108 years. Quick, someone check the slaughterhouses to see if pigs are taking flight, and check on ticket availability for the NHL expansion franchise in Hell!

This World Series, matching two beleaguered franchises, may very well prove to be a big hit with the Nielsen folks as well, likely the biggest numbers in the 500-channel era.

Yes, a lot of it comes with the story line mentioned above, and both being from large Upper Midwest and some national notoriety to boot, whether through the years the Cubs were carried on WGN or fans taking the movie “Major League” so seriously they sought to have Bob Uecker, who has broadcast Brewers games for years, to call an inning on behalf of the Cleveland Indians.

But then you look at the declining NFL ratings, and if you’re someone who truly loves the game, if this means the National Pastime has become our national passion again as well.

The NFL’s woes? You know them too well:

  • An overexposed product that has become, except for a few elite teams, predictable at its best and mediocre at its worst.
  • You can get a good portion of your house cleaned, or the Sunday paper read, during the long commercial breaks between a touchdown and the other team’s first play on offense.
  • Interminable replay reviews to enforce a rule book that’s becoming more complicated than the tax code.
  • The recent studies linking football and concussions have no doubt taken a toll as well.
  • And while some may cite many players following 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in not standing for the national anthem, that feels like so much social media outrage here. It’s hard to believe a struggling quarterback for one of the NFL’s worst teams has that much sway over TV audiences.
  • The uncertainty surrounding the future of the Oakland Raiders may be a factor as well, at least among Northern California fans. I’m sure more than a few folks in Las Vegas may be watching as well, and not just those holding betting tickets, but enough to make a difference?

Baseball is still the game folks in my demographic grew up with, the one we’ve clung to all these years. And the regular season can be a grind, but there are rewards.

For all the drama of a Super Bowl, NBA playoff series, Stanley Cup finals, Olympic gold medal chase or soccer’s World Cup, can anything top the drama of the past week? If you were to write a movie script based on Game 7 alone, it would be rejected as unbelievable, or they’d suggest a Ricky Vaughn vs. Roy Hobbs showdown to end it all.

Not that baseball is without problems. Length of games and every umpire having a different definition of the strike zone remains an issue, and the addition of replay has created some unintended consequences that must be addressed.

But, there’s approximately 104 days until pitchers and catchers report again to figure it all out. Fire up that hot stove!