My, what a difference five years makes

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My, what a difference five years makes

When times were bad in our little corner of the world, they were very bad. They are bad no longer.

Five years ago, the Giants were wrapping up the Barry Bonds era by getting rid of their owner and changing their dugout, and the As had just embarked on their five-year hiatus from relevance.

Stanford had just turned over the operation to Jim Harbaugh after years of meh, Cal needed to win the Armed Forces Bowl to preserve a winning season, and San Jose State had dropped back off the map.

The 49ers and the Raiders were long-term hopeless.

The Warriors had delivered their every-decade-or-so false positive, and the Sharks had their annual round-of-eight bailout.

The Earthquakes didnt exist and the SaberCats lost the Arena Bowl before disappearing with the rest of the Arena League.

It wasnt completely awful, mind you. Stanford basketball still thrived, and Cal won every rugby match it played for a long time. But mostly, it was as appealing and tasty as the bottom of an old barbecue grill.

And now?

The Giants lead their division by 7 games with 19 games to play, thereby robbing their fans of most of the reasons they have to bitch about the team, and the As never lose, and are now two games away from having THE BEST FREAKING RECORD IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE.

RELATED: MLB standings

Stanford just put a fresh elbow to the thorax of the USC Trojans, and San Jose State is getting good enough to have coach Mike McIntyre mentioned for other jobs.

The Earthquakes have the best record in MLS.

The 49ers are, well, you know.

The Raiders and Warriors are in full rebuilding mode, which means whatever they are, they arent the same thing theyve been in the past. For them, this is galactic advancement.

The Sharks management just padlocked its doors with the other 29 ingrates, so they cant disappoint anyone for awhile.

Hell, theres nary a discouraging word to be had. Not that we wont find one when it needs to be addressed, but right now, the locals are playing with a nice chip stack, and marks to either side of them.

Saturday was indicative of how things have gone. The worst thing that happened was that Cal scared the bejeepers out of Ohio State at Ohio Stadium in a game the Bears were expected to lose by 353 points. Instead, they lost by seven, late. The second worst thing was that the Dodgers beat St. Louis to remain only 7 games behind in the NL West race and move into a tie for the second wild card sport. The third worst thing was . . . well, maybe you burned your tri-tip on the grill.

But thats it. Stanford clocked SC again, an almost annual event now. The Giants won narrowly, the As won comfortably, the Quakes became the first team to qualify for the MLS playoffs, and San Jose State gobsmacked Colorado State.

Its almost as if weve forgotten how to watch bad teams.

And watching winners is as difficult in its way as watching losers. A fan has to fight against smugness, premature totaling of chickens, boring people who dont care with tales of things that other people achieved, and declaring things to be over when they clearly are not.

But it remains light years better than disconnecting ones phone, throwing the remote through the screen, wishing for people to die so that the team could make changes (and yes, you know who you are), and just being miserable wall to wall.

Of course, this can all go bad in a hurry again, because expectations have been elevated, in some places to impossible heights. Fans can forget that everything in the world is day-to-day, especially when you factor that the Mayans say we have only 97 day-to-days left in us.

But for now, for this moment, Laissez les bons temps rouler. It doesnt often get this good, so it should be enjoyed fully by those with the most interest in the game.

After all, it wasnt that long ago when the Bay Area was the kick-ee rather than the kick-er. You take the good times for granted, and they will be taken away in a nanosecond.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Seattle wins MLS Cup, beating Toronto on penalty kicks

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USATSI

Seattle wins MLS Cup, beating Toronto on penalty kicks

TORONTO -- Roman Torres scored in the sixth round of penalty kicks to give the Seattle Sounders their first MLS Cup title, 5-4 over Toronto FC after 120 scoreless minutes Saturday night.

It was the first MLS Cup final to fail to produce a goal in regulation, setting the stage for a dramatic tiebreaker.

While Toronto's Michael Bradley and Alvaro Fernandez for Seattle had both seen their shots saved, the game went to sudden-death spot kicks. Toronto's Justin Morrow could only clatter his shot off the crossbar, setting the stage for Torres to win it with a high shot down the middle of the goal.

Instant Replay: Second half surge by Jazz too much for Kings in Utah

Instant Replay: Second half surge by Jazz too much for Kings in Utah

BOX SCORE

A game of runs. The Sacramento Kings began the night with an 11-0 run, but that lead didn’t last long in Utah on Saturday evening. They did it again to start the third quarter, hitting the Jazz with a quick 10-0 burst to start the half, but again, Utah reeled them back in.

In the end, it was the home team that was able to pull away at the right moment as the Jazz thumped the Kings in the fourth quarter for a 104-84 victory at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Rudy Gobert proved he is much more than just a defender. The 7-foot-1 Frenchman dropped in 17 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks while holding DeMarcus Cousins to just 7-for-22 shooting.

Gordon Hayward missed the Jazz’ last contest with a finger issue and he didn’t 100 percent against the Kings early on. But the veteran wing got it going when it mattered, scoring 26 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the win.

Trey Lyles added 14 off the bench.and Joe Ingles scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting.

Rudy Gay got off to a fast start against Hayward but couldn’t sustain the solid play throughout the game. Gay score 14 of his 20 points in the first half and he added five rebounds.

In a battle of the bigs, Cousins struggled early, and he struggled late against the defensive-minded  Gobert. Cousins finished the night off his season averages, but still managed to post 16 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

Omri Casspi is becoming a fixture in Dave Joerger’s rotation. The veteran wing kept the Kings in the game in the second quarter as Utah made a big run. Casspi starter the second half for Kosta Koufos and managed to score 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting in 30 minutes.

The point guard tandem of Darren Collison and Ty Lawson took advantage of George Hill’s absence. Collison came out firing after halftime, posting 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting and Lawson chipped in five points and four assists in the loss.

STANDOUT PERFORMER -- Gobert posted solid numbers, but his effect on a game goes well beyond the stat book. The Kings looked timid in the paint all night long, fearing that the long-armed shot blocker

TURNING POINT -- Utah jumped all over the Kings to start the fourth quarter and Sacramento had very little left in the tank on the second night of a back-to-back. The Jazz outscored the Kings 26-8 in the final frame on their way to the 20 point victory.

INJURY UPDATE -- Sacramento continues to travel 12 healthy bodies with their three rookies in Reno with the Bighorns.

WHAT'S NEXT -- The Kings return to Golden 1 Center Monday night to face the Los Angeles Lakers before heading out for another three games on the road.