A Summer Sportgasbord

September 21

                      That’s a wrap, summer’s over.  Thanks for coming.  See you next year.  Many fans are saying that about the Giants too.

                     Only problem is, in the Bay Area, we’re just hitting the peak of summer this week.   It might also be premature to say “bye, bye, baby” to the Giants as well.  It just looks like the end because they lost two games in the Wild Card to the Rockies in two days, and Tim Lincecum ran out of gas in the 5th inning Sunday.

                     The Giants stayed in the race because of their pitching, and because they won at home.  They might knock themselves out of the race because their pitching faltered, and they couldn’t win enough on the road.   I picked the Rockies to outlast the Giants for this reason, and because, well, they’re better.   I didn’t believe all the “leaking oil” talk surrounding the Rockies last week.

                     There’s still a slim chance for the Giants.  The Rockies’ final ten days won’t be easy, especially if the Dodgers and Cardinals have a shot at best overall record in the National League.  If the Giants can close the gap to one or two games by the final weekend, it could get interesting. 

                     The Giants made it interesting until at least the final day of the summer.  They could take it to the final weekend.  Sunday just felt like the end, but we do things differently here in the Bay Area.

                      ***

                    It was a bad weekend for the Giants off the field too.  Promising slugger Angel Villalona turned himself in to police in the Dominican Republic, where he’s the prime suspect in the shooting death of another man.  He’s 19 years old and he’s facing the prospect of prison.

                   Many more details have yet be released, and Villalona is due in court Monday.  Villalona signed for a then-Giants record 2.1 million dollars almost three years ago at the age of 16.  A teenage millionaire in an impoverished land.  That’s a fact which may or may not be relevant in the days to come.

                      ***

                     One thing is clear about the 49ers after two games and two wins.  They’re going to run, dammit, even if you stuff eight defenders in the box.  Teams will key on Frank Gore all year long.  The problem is, when you stuff the box, you’d better tie it up with a bow.  If Gore gets by the first wave, he’s going to run for a while.  He did twice Sunday for touchdown runs of 80 and 79 against the Seahawks.

                     The 49ers have beaten two divisional foes in the first two weeks of the season, and have done just enough to win, but coach Mike Singletary isn’t happy.  Why?  Among other things, they almost let Seattle back into the game in the final minutes, and Shaun Hill was sacked four times.

                    Right tackle is a problem area for the 49ers.  Neither Adam Snyder nor Tony Pashos distinguished themselves against the Seahawks Sunday.  Snyder was hurt in training camp and Pashos is just getting his beak wet in the 49ers system, so they can still get up to speed, and it had better start next Sunday in Minnesota.  The good news is that they’re not on Hill’s blind side.

                    That said, the final nine minute drive for a field goal was exactly the kind of ball possession that will serve the 49ers well in Minnesota.  Hopefully Gore’s ankle is sound because the next game is on artifical turf.  Without Gore, I don’t think the 49ers can beat the Vikings there.

                   All told — so far, pretty damn good.  The defense is aggressive and focused, the offense is serviceable with room for improvement.  If the Niners can get out of Minnesota with a win, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility, you’d have to figure they can beat the Rams two weeks from now.  A 4-0 or 3-1 start looks pretty damn good. 

                   I wonder what Michael Crabtree is thinking now?

                   ***

                   The 49ers were given a visceral reminder of their great legacy this weekend, as Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. was the first inductee in the 49er Hall of Fame named for his late father.  Yes, it was a different era when DeBartolo owned the ‘Niners.  There was no salary cap, and he took full advantage.  But DeBartolo was also a hands-on, caring owner who treated his players well and gave them every luxury he could. 

                      Players were expected to respond to that high standard, and they usually did.  DeBartolo constantly used the word “family” this weekend, and though such a notion might seem arcane, it’s something to which the current 49ers can aspire.  That’s where his nephew comes in.

                     So far Jed York hasn’t made any discernable mis-steps as the new team President.  He seems like a sharp young man, and the franchise is in far better shape than it was in the Terry Donahue-Dennis Erickson “salary cap hell” days.  York is far more accessible than his dad, and for good reason.  He’s much more media-savvy. 

                    Partly because of Jed, the rift in the family seems to have closed, too.  That was evident Saturday night at the Palace Hotel when Eddie, his sister Denise DeBartolo York, and Jed all embraced on stage during the Hall of Fame dinner.  I don’t think that was just for show. 

                    ***

                   The Raiders had no business winning Sunday in Kansas City.  Jamarcus Russell was his usual scatter-shot self until the final drive.  To his credit, he found his range to lead the winning drive, but this game was as much about the Chiefs’ ineptitude as it was the Raiders’ gutsiness. 

                   The Chiefs looked like the red-and-yellow version of the Raiders last week.  They laid back in the final couple of minutes, and the Raiders marched right down the field.  Much like the Raiders of recent years, the Chiefs couldn’t get out of their way with stupid mistakes.

                   The difference in the game was at the end of the first half, when the Chiefs bungled the clock deep in Raider territory without even getting a field goal attempt.  Todd Haley will be barbecued like some good KC brisket if he keeps that up.

                    ***

                    Who was more impressive Saturday, Jahvid Best with five touchdowns in a 14-point road win for Cal, or Tim Tebow in a close home win over a mediocre Tennessee team?  The answer: it doesn’t matter, because the eastern media hype machine will keep showing Tebow blowing a wingnut yelling at his teammates on the sideline.  Or it will show good ol’ boy Colt McCoy a-slingin’ and-a runnin’.

                   Allow me to blaspheme here:  maybe, just maybe, the Southeast Conference isn’t quite as good as it’s cracked up to be.  Still good, but not the only place where you can find good players.  And maybe, just maybe, Texas isn’t quite as good as they’re cracked up to be.  Ah, forget it, nobody will believe me.                 

                   ***

                   As a UCLA football fan, the 3-0 start is very pleasing, but the win over Kansas State Saturday was equaled by USC losing to an unranked team that didn’t win a game last season.  It’s like a yearly occurrence.  The well-heeled, well-paid Boys from Troy let their arrogance get the best of them, and they lose to a team that shouldn’t even sniff them.

                  I’d like to call it the Curse of Reggie Bush.  As long as the NCAA keeps foot-dragging in its investigation of  Bush’s housing accomodations while at SC, the Trojans will continue to spit up a chance at a national title every year.  That might be a stretch, but it fits my neat little world-view.

                 You see, everyone needs a villain.  Mine is USC.  The Yankees of college football, and that analogy is closer than you might think.  The school where the fat-cats celebrate their mastery of the universe.   The school where the Prom King and Prom Queen from high school matriculated and got onto the fast-track to become white collar cheats.  The school where “ethics” is a four-letter word.

                 Ah, but the karma train might be rolling down Figueroa Street soon.  A telling comment by UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel after Saturday’s win over Kansas State:  “the deck is re-shuffling.”   Somebody might catch SC on the river this year.

                 ***

                 It’s 12:01 am, and the weekend is officially over.  It’s September 21st, and I’m ready for summer.  Cannonball !!!!

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One Response to “A Summer Sportgasbord”

  1. Don Says:

    Great summary Ray. One question remains, why has Schierhoz (sp) not played more. Winn has been bad and Rowand has been worse, why not play him and give him a shot. He looks like he could be the real deal and will get better with more playing time he gets (or will prove he is not the real deal and they can move on).

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