Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bay Area Sports Fail

On the occasion of Cal's pipe-wrenching at the hands of USC, guaranteeing another disappointing season, it occurred to me that sports fans in the Bay Area have put a lot of dedication and dollars into extraordinarily minimal results.

It's now been almost 15 years since the Bay's last championship in any sport, when the Niners dusted the Chargers in January of 1995. Fifteen years. We have two football teams, two baseball teams, two major conference colleges and assorted minor ones, a hockey team, and a team that, on its surface, pretends to be an NBA franchise.

Before anyone starts bringing up the now-defunct Sabercats or Stanford women's basketball, I'm limiting this lament to sports that people actually care about.

I realize now that I was spoiled while growing up. One of my earliest childhood memories was "The Catch," Dwight Clark's soaring, iconic grab in the back of the endzone that beat the hated Cowboys and kicked off the 49ers dynasty. Five Super Bowl victories in the next 13 years made me think things were always going to be this way.

The Bay's other pro sports teams pulled their weight during the 80's as well. The Giants and A's played each other in the '89 series, assuring that the champion would reside in the Bay. The wrong team won, but it was an exciting time to be alive in these parts. Even the Warriors showed flashes of brilliance. "Run TMC" never got past the second round of the playoffs, but they were always competitive and fun to watch. Thankfully, the Raiders were in L.A. for most of this period, so their Super Bowl win was far less annoying. We didn't have to deal with any riots, as I recall.

The 90's brought the Sharks, and other than the Niners' last gasp, a whole lot of losing that has mostly continued unimpeded to this day. Sure, every once in a while somebody makes a run, like the Raiders in 2003 (which was hilarious) and the Giants in 2002 (which I still can't even really talk about), but for the most part it's been 15 years of pain and torture. Even when a team seems great, like the Sharks last year, they find a way to negate all the good times by flaming out with an embarrassing loss in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, except for one short-lived burst of success in 2007, the Warriors have been a national joke. Sigh.

So, why do we put ourselves through this? At least I know what glory tastes like. My teenage students aren't old enough to recall a time when Bay Area sports weren't a giant mess of steaming feces. Yet they are far more positive than I am. They constantly think that a championship is right around the corner, like Charley Brown running up to kick the football, over and over again. They often tell me to "have faith," one of my least favorite sayings, which is proven wrong over and over again.

More often than not, it's not all that fun to be a sports fan around here. Yet, I'm proud of us. Our teams suck, but we persevere. We know that when one of our teams actually does come through, all the torment and angst will have made us stronger. It will all have been worth it. After all, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly." -Thomas Paine

Consider this an ode to all the long-suffering Bay Area sports fans. Even Raider fans, in prison or on parole. We're all in this misery together.

As for those Bay Area residents who are reading this and saying, "Yeah, but at least my Lakers won last year," there's a special spot in hell reserved for fans of your particular stripe. Your blog is coming tomorrow.


Lance Christian Johnson said...

What is this "Cal" and "USC" of which you speak?

John Zubkousky said...

Wow, my new favorite website, although TFLN still wins haha

Andy Criner said...

I think this was a good post but you failed to bring up the most important point: WHY Bay Area teams are failing. It isn't bad luck or coincidence for the most part. It's been a number of factors, including:

1. The LA teams (Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Mighty Ducks, USC) have become extremely tough competition with powerful resources, making winning the division/conference very difficult.

2. Ownership and management making poor decisions (Davis), pinching pennies and limiting the players you can hold on to (Wolff), and being absolutely, undeniably unable to come to terms on new stadium (everyone except the Giants).

3. The people of the Bay Area. I know I'm going to take some heat for this, but it's true. We whine about the empty trophy cases but we don't show up to the games. We whine about how bad the stadiums are but we aren't willing to agree upon a plan for a new one, then we whine when our teams look at moving away. This is partly because of inept, tightwad owners, but you have to also blame it on the cities, which are represented by the people. Oakland and SF are unwilling to make sacrifices for their supposedly "beloved" teams. Oakland Colosseum and Candlestick Park are national embarrassments. Why do we have such crappy stadiums when we live in one of the richest areas of the country? Stadiums are just one piece of the puzzle, but it shows how little we actually care about our franchises. It's a miracle we haven't lost the A's and the 49ers yet. We have to make amenities for our teams (like EVERY other metropolitan area) if we want to keep them.

Jon Roisman said...

Completely trivial, but I believe the Niners won in January of 1995.

Nolan said...

Roisman, I don't know what you're talking about. I would never make that simple mistake. Check the blog again carefully, please.

Criner, my post wasn't about the REASONS why our teams never win, because as you pointed out, they are legion. It was just about the fact that we've had to put up with a lot of losing.

Since you brought them up, though, I'll address your points.

1. You're right about the L.A. teams having more resources. They also have a lot more bandwagonners and tend to suck as fans. They don't deserve their good fortune. I hope the Dodgers get swept.

2. Owners are the key to any prolonged success or failures. We have a bunch of different owners of varying degrees of competence, but it does skew low. Unfortunately, fans can do absolutely nothing about a bad owner. It's not our fault these guys are such weasels/crazy old men.

3. The Sharks and Giants have great stadiums. The Warriors' is just fine, and it's packed every night, despite the team's play. The Giants funded theirs with zero taxpayer dollars, which shows it can be done. The voters of S.F. passed an ordinance about 10 years ago for a stadium plan. The ownership team dropped the ball. The people of Oakland welcomed the Raiders back with open arms and helped fund renovations that they're still paying for today. Thus, the reluctance to help the A's out.

You seem to be saying that we brought some of this misery on ourselves because we're not good enough fans. Then explain why the Florida Marlins have won two (TWO!) World Series, and the San Francisco Giants have won none. Ever. And they did it in a crappy old football stadium.

Your contention that "every" other metropolitan area makes amenities for their teams is laughable. I'll stop laughing when you tell me the name of the football team the great sports city of Los Angeles calls its own.