Category Archives: Sports Desk

Why the New-Look Warriors Scare Me (And Not in A Good Way)

Consider me like you would an old friend who has watched the Warriors since grade school. I was born and raised in the Bay Area, am based a couple of miles from Oracle Arena, and have followed the team long before Curry or Durant were even college players. Since I was born in 1987, I mostly experienced a turbulent—if not miserable—stretch of fandom. I was too young to follow Run TMC—which was a glimpse of glory for the team in the early 90s before falling into a 12-year slump—so never really experienced any success as a fan. My first season must’ve been around ‘95-96, when I convinced my dad to buy me a #32 Joe Smith jersey. I wore that thing for as long as it fit my growing 5th grade body. This was back when players like Jordan and Ewing were still in the league, but I was proudly rocking my Warriors gear. The next season, the team switched up to the navy blue thunder uniforms, Antawn Jamison was drafted, and a new era began. I remember this transition vividly, how refreshing the rebranding felt. I also remember when Latrell Sprewell choked PJ Carlisemo in the locker room.

I remember lots of things about my team. For example, without doing a Google search, I can rattle off close to a decade’s worth of Lottery Pick wash ups: guys like Todd Fuller, Chris Porter, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu, Patrick O’ Bryant, Ekpe Udo; names that were supposed to signify a glorious shift in our team’s reputation from being perennial losers to playoff contenders. It never happened. I grew up literally watching those teams. I recall the years of Adonal Foyle, Vonteego Cummings, Bimbo Coles, Speedy Claxton. I remember Larry Hughes being our go-to scorer. Or, more recently, I can mope about that Monta Ellis trade (still hurts, I admit, even though things worked out for us). Continue reading


#1 – For Cubs Fans Who Encourage Me to Root for The Cubs in the Playoffs

Today is our third birthday! To celebrate, we have been counting down the top-ten most-read posts from the last year. This one is not only the most popular piece we published last year, but by far the most popular piece we’ve ever published. Never underestimate how big the anti-bandwagon is.

 

Hey Guys!calvin-disc-1-cubs_01

My my my, you have been working over time trying to convince me to root for your Cubbies. It’s cool that you’re excited. The Cubs haven’t given you much to be excited about and I get it. You just don’t know how to handle all of this pure joy. While I appreciate the invite allow me to explain why I am turning down your offer.

Few things first: I am a White Sox fan. I also recognize that the Cubs are a better team than the White Sox both on and off the field. Theo Epstein is a genius that should quit baseball and solve world hunger through the use of sabermetrics. I don’t know how that would work but I’m sure he could do it. The Cubs roster is filled with young, talented, and gritty players that are fun to watch. Joe Maddon is like your neighbor’s cool uncle that comes through town in his hippy van every summer with a different girlfriend and let’s you smoke weed with him while he talks about how Burning Man used to awesome before it went commercial. They are an enviable team set up for long-term success.

That being said, Fuck The Cubs. Why? Glad you asked.

1) I Don’t Care About Your Dead Grandpa.

I’ve heard, “C’mon Cubbies! Let’s do it for Grandpa! I know he’s watching from heaven” or a variation of that quote on Facebook, on sports radio, in person, etc a thousand times. The Cubs are not winning it all for your grandpa. Javier Baez gives no shits about your grandpa. Anthony Rizzo gives no shits about your grandpa. Cubs fans act as if the Cubs winning the World Series will unleash a zombie horde of their dead relatives to help them celebrate the title. I understand the connection between family and sports. I have a lot of great memories of going to games with my grandparents. I also have a lot of great memories of my grandparents that don’t involve sports at all. If the only connection you had with your grandpa was baseball, he was probably a shitty grandpa and he deserves nothing. Continue reading


For Cubs Fans Who Encourage Me to Root for The Cubs in the Playoffs

 

Hey Guys!calvin-disc-1-cubs_01

My my my, you have been working over time trying to convince me to root for your Cubbies. It’s cool that you’re excited. The Cubs haven’t given you much to be excited about and I get it. You just don’t know how to handle all of this pure joy. While I appreciate the invite allow me to explain why I am turning down your offer.

Few things first: I am a White Sox fan. I also recognize that the Cubs are a better team than the White Sox both on and off the field. Theo Epstein is a genius that should quit baseball and solve world hunger through the use of sabermetrics. I don’t know how that would work but I’m sure he could do it. The Cubs roster is filled with young, talented, and gritty players that are fun to watch. Joe Maddon is like your neighbor’s cool uncle that comes through town in his hippy van every summer with a different girlfriend and let’s you smoke weed with him while he talks about how Burning Man used to awesome before it went commercial. They are an enviable team set up for long-term success.

That being said, Fuck The Cubs. Why? Glad you asked.

1) I Don’t Care About Your Dead Grandpa.

I’ve heard, “C’mon Cubbies! Let’s do it for Grandpa! I know he’s watching from heaven” or a variation of that quote on Facebook, on sports radio, in person, etc a thousand times. The Cubs are not winning it all for your grandpa. Javier Baez gives no shits about your grandpa. Anthony Rizzo gives no shits about your grandpa. Cubs fans act as if the Cubs winning the World Series will unleash a zombie horde of their dead relatives to help them celebrate the title. I understand the connection between family and sports. I have a lot of great memories of going to games with my grandparents. I also have a lot of great memories of my grandparents that don’t involve sports at all. If the only connection you had with your grandpa was baseball, he was probably a shitty grandpa and he deserves nothing. Continue reading


The Wind Cries Stacy

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 IF you are a boy growing up in Cook County, you do not get to pick which baseball team you will become a fan of. It is preordained. If your father is a Cubs fan, you’ll be a Cubs fan. If your father likes the White Sox, you’ll like the White Sox. If your father doesn’t like baseball, you’re probably going to get the shit kicked out of you because you throw like a girl.

My Dad is a White Sox fan, so I am indeed a White Sox fan though I don’t think that’s the only reason. I also hated the Cubs because of all the day games they played. I remember coming home from an exhausting day at Catholic School, looking forward to kicking back with an Aldi brand cola, and an episode of “Duck Tales” only to turn on Channel 9 to find the Cubs losing by 5 in the top of the 6th while Haray Carey went on about how the donut he ate for breakfast reminded him of his childhood pal Hank Parsons who would later be killed in the Korean conflict.

Since my Dad worked nights he was able to take my older brother Matt and I to plenty of day games over the summer at Old Comiskey Park. This was the easiest way for him to drink beer in public while also looking like a model father.

Old Comiskey in the late 80s was a sight to behold. The ballpark itself was fine, the scoreboard was interesting, but the people were awesome. They looked like rejects from a Poison video. The dudes wore tight acid wash jeans and their shirts were forever sleeveless. They tailgated in their Camaro’s , drinking Old Style and playing air guitar along with back to back Van Halen courtesy of 97.9 the Loop. Continue reading


Dustiny’s Child (Revisited)

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[In Honor of Dusty Baker’s book Kiss The Sky, to be released on November 10th, 2015, and this fine little New Yorker article, as well as the Cubs losing the NLCS yesterday to the Mets (on “Back to The Future Day”, no less), we re-post this article from August 11th of last year.]
 

“Longing on a large scale is what makes history.”

-Don DeLillo; Pafko at the Wall

 

“God’s on both sides; he ain’t just on my side. If he was, I would’ve won a long time ago.”

Dusty Baker; Esquire, 2004

 
 

There were only eight outs left.

Eight.

More.

Outs.

When your starting pitcher has already made 19 outs through seven innings of two-hit shutout ball, and you have a healthy five run lead, eight outs seems like a mere handful. The last few stones in the path that have finally led you home out of the dark and terrible woods, the warm light of the hearth glowing in the distant windows. It seems like the giddiness you feel being so close to the first World Series Championship in your city since the club moved there 45 years ago can safely start to supercede the tension and anxiety you’ve had to wade through in the last weeks and months to get here. It seems that even though that same starter just gave up back to back hits, and the Manager decided to pull him so that the bullpen could knock off those last eight outs, that he is deserving of the game ball. Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, your team up 3 games to 2, ready to close it out on enemy turf. Your visiting locker room draped in plastic, the champagne on ice, a whole city 400 miles to the north on the edge of their seats, barely able to contain themselves.

So when Russ Ortiz comes off the mound in the seventh inning, and you’re the Giants’ Manager, you do just that. You give him the “game ball.”

And then, inevitably, horribly, all hell breaks loose.

I was watching the game at Lefty O’ Douls on Powell Street, just off Union Square in San Francisco, surrounded by hundreds of Giants fans, all of us jostling, laughing, cheering, ready for the biggest celebration in that city since my birthday in 1995, when the 49ers had last won the Super Bowl (Yeah, that was a pretty awesome day.) But within minutes of Ortiz’s departure, those cheers were replaced by groans of disbelief. His bullpen replacement, Felix Rodriguez, gave up a 3-run homer to the very next batter, Scott Spiezio, cutting a cushy 5-0 lead to a suddenly very precarious 5-3.

With only a two-run cushion, eight outs now seemed like a massive number to get through.

And it was. Monumentally so.

Continue reading


The Unbearable Heaviness of Joe Frazier

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1:

My Grandparents, aunts, and uncles were all from Mississippi and Alabama. They were dark, scrappy, and very tough, each having a dignity and decorum that served as a mechanism to get them through an almost unendurable pain. Their lives revolved around the pool hall my grandmother ran for 28 years, and in that pool hall they developed a working knowledge of every aspect of sports culture. Because of radio (and later televised) broadcasts of boxing, they were inundated in the fight game the most. Their tastes were subtler than most sports bros-they had a basic outsider’s appreciation for the courage and decorum of the great Hispanic fighters of different eras-and would go into intimate details about technique, character, and the history of the sport. Also, to a person, none of them cared for Muhammad Ali.

Oh, they didn’t hate him. They could tell you why he was important, and would grant him his place as the greatest heavyweight to ever walk the face of the earth. They could not grant him any more than that, however, because they believed he-and a generation he embodied-granted them absolutely nothing. A part of Black Tacoma cultural networks for almost a generation, they were ushered out of polite company because of their distaste for the Mother’s Day riots of 1969. The Black Arts Movements of the time did nothing for my Uncle Moe, who was unwilling to give up his favorite white and Jewish writers and considered Amiri Baraka “Ezra Pound’s shoe shine boy”. The feminist movements that were in the Black Panthers were not there for my Grandmother and aunts, who had too sharp a tongue and too low a bullshit barometer to deal with the patriarchal dynamics of local chapters.

And when Ali found a handsome, dark skinned country boy to abuse, my grandparent’s, aunts and uncles’ saw a symbol of an America that hated them, a symbol as complex as Muhammad was for the rest of the world. They understood the horror of the Vietnam War. They admired Ali’s integrity in taking a pacifist stance and losing 3 and a half years of his prime for it. However, when Ali-in his comeback- took his racial traumas out on “Smokin” Joe Frazier, a noble champion who looked like them, did his job liked they did theirs, and came up from similar near-impossible circumstances, they felt like they were seeing the embodiment of a black revolution that had no use for them. Continue reading


49ers – Seahawks Smackdown! Week 13: What’s Your Deal, Cuz?!

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[This preview was originally going to be a two-way smackdown, pitting a Niners Fan against a Seahawks fan, may the best writer win. However, my esteemed colleague, co-writer and opponent is understandably focused at the moment on the events in and around Ferguson and the grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson. Therefore he will not be joining us this time around. So it’s just me gabbing at ya about football! Admittedly, I feel a little dumb writing about this in the midst of everything, but it had been planned for awhile, and was mostly all written by the time the verdict was announced, so I hope you forgive me.]

 

I attended a wedding this last August, just a few weeks before the NFL regular season began. It was my girlfriend’s brother’s wedding, at her parents’ house about thirty minutes south of Portland. I knew a few of the people there, but most of them, friends and family, were new to me. So I got introduced around quite a bit. At one point I met an exuberant cousin, already half in the bag and giddy as hell, and she seemed to take to me pretty quickly. She was elated to finally meet this boyfriend she’d heard about but never seen. Somehow, about ten minutes into the conversation, it came up that she was a Seahawks fan. It wasn’t immediately obvious to what degree, but I thought I’d test the waters by admitting that I am a lifelong 49ers fan.

She recoiled with such a gasp, and a look of genuine animosity on her face, I wouldn’t have been surprised if steam started coming out of her ears. “Oh. My. God!” she cried. “Crabtree sucks! Harbaugh is such a douchebag! I have a shirt with Richard Sherman knocking away that ball, and it says ‘Just the Tip!’” She laughed wickedly.”Oh my God, I hate the fucking 49ers!” Then she turned to her cousin with a scowl and declared “You could do better.” Continue reading


Clearing the Bases

MLB: World Series-Kansas City Royals at San Francisco GiantsI’m walking to work Monday morning, through the streets of the Pearl, a gloriously crisp and sunny October morning, surrounded by that dim, cold autumn light that crushes your heart with such tender precision. I’m all choked up and my eyes are hot and my chest is tight, and not just because this is my 41st October here on earth– a distillation of every October I’ve ever known down through time. October sun, the last fingers of light slipping from the rim of summer and plunging into the dark, rainy slog of winter. No, what I’m really choked up about is baseball.

This would be nowhere near the first time the sport has stirred up such emotion and plastered my heart to my sleeve, and it is doubtful that it will be the last. All the way back to Little League, a three-pitch strike-out or a botched grounder threatened tears and looming darkness for days; a spectacular diving catch or your team putting up a string of runs on the way to victory was liable to burst the heart with untold joy. It is a wonder that gets inside you early– its encompassing atmosphere of simple thrills– from the taste of Big League Chew to the smell of dirt and cut grass to scrapes and bruises on every limb to the sick tumble in your gut when your name is called to the plate; the crack of wood and snap of leather, sunburn, gulps of sticky soda pop, cheering, rollicking parents drinking beer from paper cups in the stands; the life-size physical chess match, the zagging angles of strategy and numbers that gets in your head like the map of some strangely beautiful, rugged ballet. And this childish wonder grows with you until you are a man, and you begin see the game differently. It reflects your adult life, and the burdens of manhood and responsibility, the acute strategy and sacrifice and loss, the tense, enduring grind and the close calls– but it still carries that deep seed of magic, of sheer sensation. It has the power of pure magic and always will. It is something that others, whether they’re fans of your team or not, share a similar passion for. Step into any sports bar in your adopted city (Portland in this case) and you can quickly befriend anyone in a ball cap with their eyes tilted toward the game. Continue reading


Dustiny’s Child

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“Longing on a large scale is what makes history.”

-Don DeLillo; Pafko at the Wall

 

“God’s on both sides; he ain’t just on my side. If he was, I would’ve won a long time ago.”

Dusty Baker; Esquire, 2004

 
 

There were only eight outs left.

Eight.

More.

Outs.

When your starting pitcher has already made 19 outs through seven innings of two-hit shutout ball, and you have a healthy five run lead, eight outs seems like a mere handful. The last few stones in the path that have finally led you home out of the dark and terrible woods, the warm light of the hearth glowing in the distant windows. It seems like the giddiness you feel being so close to the first World Series Championship in your city since the club moved there 45 years ago can safely start to supercede the tension and anxiety you’ve had to wade through in the last weeks and months to get here. It seems that even though that same starter just gave up back to back hits, and the Manager decided to pull him so that the bullpen could knock off those last eight outs, that he is deserving of the game ball. Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, your team up 3 games to 2, ready to close it out on enemy turf. Your visiting locker room draped in plastic, the champagne on ice, a whole city 400 miles to the north on the edge of their seats, barely able to contain themselves.

So when Russ Ortiz comes off the mound in the seventh inning, and you’re the Giants’ Manager, you do just that. You give him the “game ball.”

And then, inevitably, horribly, all hell breaks loose.

I was watching the game at Lefty O’ Douls on Powell Street, just off Union Square in San Francisco, surrounded by hundreds of Giants fans, all of us jostling, laughing, cheering, ready for the biggest celebration in that city since my birthday in 1995, when the 49ers had last won the Super Bowl (Yeah, that was a pretty awesome day.) But within minutes of Ortiz’s departure, those cheers were replaced by groans of disbelief. His bullpen replacement, Felix Rodriguez, gave up a 3-run homer to the very next batter, Scott Spiezio, cutting a cushy 5-0 lead to a suddenly very precarious 5-3.

With only a two-run cushion, eight outs now seemed like a massive number to get through.

And it was. Monumentally so.

Continue reading