Message to Bay Area baseball fans: Be front-runners


Message to Bay Area baseball fans: Be front-runners

With the mood gone sour both inside the Giant clubhouse and out on the concourses after the Los Angeles Dodgers completed their retaliatory series sweep, there is a new way to consider this Bay Area baseball season.


Not the kind of front-running Giants and As fans are used to, when they rave incoherently about their teams strengths in good times and rave incoherently about their weaknesses in bad ones. No, were talking about flat-out front-running where you wait for each days results to come in and declare yourself a fan of the team that wins.

And when, as on Sunday, they both lose, youre a football fan.

The Giants were smothered by Clayton Kershaw (big surprise) Sunday, just as they were the day before by Chad Billingsley. The two teams are now separated by .000865135057195, which is probably how theyll be at seasons end.

The As, on the other hand, completed the second leg of their Eastern road trip with a 6-1 to Baltimore, and maintain a tenuous hold on the first wild-card spot a half-game ahead of the LAA Of A.

The two teams combined for one run and 12 hits, a nostalgic look back at their early season shenanigans, and now that they have the same record (55-46) and stand in the same place (with the fourth-best record in their respective leagues), what better time is there for pulling out the old split cap and declaring yourself a fan for hire?

Why, in the next two days, you can vault between fearing that the trade deadline will pass without your team doing something big (Giants) or with your team doing something big and screwing up the chemistry (As). That alone makes it fun to be a fan in your own head.

But by declaring yourself an emotional mercenary for the duration, you have a better chance of having a heartwarming October. You have a better chance of enjoying each and every morning when you have increased the likelihood of victory.

And best of all, you can always bitch about your cheap owners no matter what side of the coin lands on your bathroom carpet in the morning.

Why, its a marketing coup or at least it would be if you could convince either the Giants or As to become more like Switzerland and less like Yemen. You cant, of course, and you will be scorned in the office for being a turncoat, but what care you? You win more often than anyone else because you have the power of the flexible mind.

Better yet, you are only infrequently put in the position of having divided loyalties. The two teams have won on the same day only 29 times in 114 days, which means you have a three-in-four chance of not having to root for both teams on the following morning.

And like we said, when both teams lose, youre a football fan, and that works all but six days between now and the end of the season.

Now we know youre about to bleat about the quintessential fan experience being about both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, but we see you when your team loses. Youre freaking unbearable. You think that winning 55 percent of your games is an unendurable indignity. You think your front office is actively trying to screw you out of your birthright. Face it, when your team loses, youre kind of a pain in the ass.

And when your team gets swept by your most hated rival, your spouse has to spend an absurd amount of time hiding sharp things and bolting down the windows. Thats just selfish.

So this is your solution. Turn your coat, as often as you need to. Call it reversible fandom if you must. But when both the As and Giants are thick in the postseason argument, you mustnt waste the sentiment. Be a winner as often as you can get away with it not because loyalty is for saps, even though it is, but because when you have two teams in your market, you can have fun more often than most baseball fans.

Its like the old drinking theory its always five oclock somewhere. So make your own five oclock. You may be scorned, but youll be scorned with a nice brown IPA, or a rich purple shiraz, or a dark amber Scottish product in your hand and all of it with a buzz in your brain that says in a soft, lilting voice, Screw those guys. Your team won, whoever that is.

And tomorrow, well work on your Olympic experience through the acquisition of dual citizenship. Or United Nations diplomatic status, for increased flexibility.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.