Two down, 22 to go for 49ers


Two down, 22 to go for 49ers

Occupy the Second Story. Fight the fight for the 93 percent.

After all, the element of surprise is not as important a social issue as equality of opportunity, and there are 22 49er linemen and linebackers who havent had their numbers called yet to get the ball. And Jim Harbaugh doesnt want what Jason Garrett got Sunday night players fulminating on national television about not getting the ball enough.

In other words, you dont want to see Patrick Willis when he feels like hes getting his shoes squeezed.

The high points of an otherwise desultory 20-10 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday were the passes from Alexander D. Smith to tackle Joe Staley and defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga. The game was desultory because the 49er defense tends to crush bad offensive teams mercilessly, which makes for bad entertainment en route to a satisfying result.

But Staley, the former tight end, and Sopoaga, the former rugby player, spiced up the proceedings by catching two of Smiths 15 completions against the . . . well, desultory, I guess . . . Browns. And in doing so created a potential issue in the locker room that we would like to (a) invent and (b) exacerbate, all at once.

Hey, we have time on our hands, and were impish that way.

The point here is, Willis is the most important non-ballhandler on the team, and maybe the most important anything for that matter. Cant send him out on a fly pattern, or a one-step slant near the goal line?

To Jim Harbaughs credit as the second most important coach in the building (yesterday convincing us that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio should occupy the top of the medal stand for the time being), he is finding new ways each week to keep the gentlemen amused and engaged. Theyre not new to football, mind you. Mike Ditka created Refrigerator Perry out of whole cloth and goal-line blocking 25 years ago.

But two linemen getting paid on the same day? If that isnt unprecedented, you may bet that the last time it happened was when face masks were considered sissified.

Which means there are 22 guys who need a touch between now and the opening of business January 8.

And frankly, what better place to start than Willis? Then NaVorro Bowman? Then Mike Iupati? Then on and on until youre down to Jonathan Goodwin running the fumblerooski in the NFC playoffs?

I mean, you may get some squawking from Vernon Davis, or Michael Crabtree, or Delanie Walker, or the other receivers and running backs who are used to getting theirs. But given that they have lost two thirds of their games for most of the last decade, anything that gives everyone their moment while keeping the turgid routine of navigating the NFC West has to help everyone, right?

And because the 49ers are on the verge of making people wonder what the largest margin of divisional victory in NFL history is (nine games, by new England, 2008), and when the earliest clinching in history happened (we think it was the Patriots right before Thanksgiving that year), they need a little spice here and there to keep the engines churning.

And frankly, Harbaugh is easing closer and closer to having to use costumes and props to keep the audience wanting more. Maybe if he sawed someone from Marketing in half . . .

But we digress. The point here is that Staley and Sopoaga are on the board now, and you dont want the other 93 percent wondering where theirs might be. I mean, its good to feel good about someone elses good fortune, but a little 1-for-13 never hurt anyones morale.

And having seen more of the Seahawks and Cardinals and basically given up on the Rams, it isnt like the 49ers will be hurting for easy marks to make that happen. Hell, a few fake punts and some double reverses and you can have the job done before Christmas.

In the meantime, we will have to endure Staley on the sidelines gesticulating at offensive line coach Mike Solari, shouting, Damn it, Mike, I was wide open! Am I in the progression or not?

At least we hope so, anyway. Hey, you have your fun, and we have ours.

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports


Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.