Ah, September. The time when pennant races heat up, the virgin NFL season offers hope to fans far and wide, and basketball and hockey players start practicing again. It’s a great time of year for professional sports.
Except in the Bay Area.
After a long summer of watching Bengie Molina bat cleanup as Billy Beane conducted yet another fire sale, the 'Niners and Raiders apparently opened Week One with the aim of outsucking their baseball counterparts—and succeeded beyond expectations.
Maybe it was a public service, undermining whatever optimism may have accompanied the arrivals of Mike Martz and Darren McFadden in one swift blow, rather than stretching out the agony.
Maybe Bay Area pro teams don't score because they think they’re playing golf. Given the lack of playoff runs in recent years, they're probably more comfortable out on the links than they are on the field.
It used to be kind of fun. Coming from a city that’s won six championships in the past seven years makes it easier to let all the losing roll off your back.
You’d hear some trash talk from local fans, and remind them of the days when Dave Stewart and Mark McGwire always beat Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs, when Tom Brady’s hero was leading the 'Niners to yet another Super Bowl while the Patriots perfected the model of mediocrity now employed on both sides of the Bay.
A golden age of sports for the area—these things come and go, and you can’t set your clock by them. We waited years for a championship franchise in Boston, and then three came along at once.
But despite more than a decade of title drought, it doesn’t look like those days are coming back to the Bay any time soon. Even if you don’t live and die with the teams, it still gets depressing after a while.
What baseball fan hasn’t spent a few nights tossing and turning, unable to sleep in the knowledge that in a few hours, you have to get up and go to work, while Brian fricking Sabean continues to make decisions for one of baseball’s richest and most storied franchises?
Barry’s gone, but Brian’s still here, haunting our dreams and ruining our summer for another year.
Another year of saying a little prayer and checking if the 49ers or Raiders are playing any prime-time games. I know it’s rude to force the rest of you to watch these teams, but it’s the only way we get the option of more than two games on a Sunday afternoon. (Well, that, and when the Raiders fail to sell out—cross your fingers!)
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this situation is the different paths that each team has taken to suckitude.
The Giants spent years undermining their own development system, giving away draft picks for the right to sign yet another washed-up veteran.
Over in Oakland, Billy Beane has apparently given up on winning in the near future, instead competing against the Marlins in a race to field the most inexperienced (read: cheapest) team in professional sports.
At least there’s hope, assuming the Athletics are stockpiling talent that they’ll actually hold onto, maybe even augment with a free-agent signing, once they move into their new digs.
The 'Niners gave Mike Nolan too much authority, declining to step in after he botched the No. 1 overall pick, let Norv Turner leave without a replacement, and gave the Patriots a high first-round selection in exchange for Joe Staley. They'll fire him after the season and start rebuilding all over again.
Al Davis does his best to undermine Lane Kiffin’s authority, making it clear to fans and players alike that the only reason he’s still coaching is the owner's refusal to eat the contract he gave out a year ago. Nothing's going to get rebuilt in Oakland as long as Davis is in charge.
The Sharks' front office decided not to upgrade the talent on the ice, instead blaming the team's inability to make the Cup on their coach. A perennial playoff-contender that can’t make it past the first couple rounds? Does Jeremy Jacobs own two NHL franchises?
There are fringe benefits. Amateur baseball philosophers can spend days pondering what's worse: supporting a well-run team that can't afford to keep its players, or a team with plenty of resources and absolutely no plan?
It’s almost funny to listen to the hosts on Giants flagship KNBR go through contortions to stay positive about the hometown team. “So they gave Zito $126 million, and he’s having some trouble. But at least he’s a really chill dude.”
And there's always the Warriors to look forward to. If they were my primary team, I’d probably pull my hair out, but as an un-invested fan along for the ride, there’s something entertaining about a team, down by one with a minute left, hoisting an ill-advised three-pointer, miraculously getting the rebound, and throwing up another one. Good old Baron.
Wait, Baron’s gone?
It’s gonna be a long winter.
Well, it could be worse—I could actually be a Bay Area sports fan.