I like to say being retired is the best job I ever had. Can’t beat the hours.
When I left the San Francisco Chronicle after 36 years of covering sports and city politics, I had a two-part plan: walk the dog and spend time on the subtle art of lining up that third putt.
But out of the blue, an old boss, Steve Falk — who was at the time CEO of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat — offered me a once-a-week freelance sports column here. I think that was about six years ago.
It’s been terrific. I’ve enjoyed playing sports columnist again, going to press conferences and meeting the players and coaches.
But I’ve also been impressed with the newsroom and staff. The PD is a great newspaper. They don’t hand out those Pulitzers in a box of Cracker Jack, you know.
I didn’t meet as many of the staff as I’d have liked, but if any of them are anything but enthusiastic, dedicated and smart, I didn’t encounter them.
However, the paper has decided it has enough available news that it can do without this column. Which is undoubtedly true.
Also, as someone who has been writing professionally since 1976, it is entirely possible I’ve said everything I needed to say.
So, with no regrets and no complaints, this is my last column.
Now, there are some concerns.
How will Kyle Shanahan manage his quarterbacks without the input of this space?
Will Steve Kerr even be able to put together a roster without the helpful hints provided in this column?
So to allay those worries, I thought I’d offer a final state-of-the-franchise look at the major sports teams in Northern California. Beginning with …
The Giants: They’re in a funny spot in their modern history. Most teams only hope to make it to the mountaintop.
In a five-year stretch from 2010 to 2014, the Giants got to the mountaintop and then unfurled a blanket and had a picnic. They won regularly and installed three World Series trophies in their gorgeous waterfront ballpark.
Fans loved them and they sold out every game, day or night.
And now? At the team launch event this year, team president Larry Baer was reduced to reminding everyone that tickets were still available for opening day. Last season had the lowest (non-COVID) attendance since Oracle Park opened in 2000.
There are reasons. For starters, the exasperation index for the team is pretty high. As everyone has said, the constant whirling lineup changes don’t build a connection. How about, instead of finding guys who can play a little of two or three positions, getting someone who plays one position really well?
Farhan Zaidi really, really needed to land a big tuna in free agency in the offseason. Instead, Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa were the ones that got away.
But it is also worth pointing out that the Giants may be kind of a barometer for San Francisco writ large. Maybe it isn’t everyone’s favorite city anymore.
The whole ballpark experience — walking through town, maybe stopping at Red’s Java House for a brew and a hot dog — is less charming when the streets are more crowded with tents and homeless individuals than ever.
And don’t think that doesn’t carry over to the players. They see the video clips of tent-clogged streets and open drug use on the national news shows.
After unsuccessfully wooing top free agents, Zaidi came right out and said it. San Francisco, he said, is “a bit of a polarizing place among players in terms of the desire to play there.”
If there is ever a time when a team could heal a city, this is it. If the Giants can get it together, the city can, too.
Which brings us to …
The Warriors: They are making no secret of the plan here. They are going to ride their aging warhorses from the glory years — when they made five consecutive NBA Finals and won three championships — ‘til they drop.
They won a fourth title last year, but did it a little more with smoke and mirrors. What you noticed, and still notice, is that when the game gets down to the squeaky, pressure-packed last minutes, other teams tend to force shots and launch long, hopeful threes.
And the Warriors tend to run actual plays. It’s a game-winning strategy.
The obvious question is, how long can they keep this up? Steph Curry remains a transcendent player. Remember what you saw him do, because when he leaves the game someone is going to try to tell you he was overrated.
But he’s 35. Klay Thompson is 33. The end is coming.
I think they want to give it two years — this one and the next. Then Kerr steps away to coach the USA Olympic team. There are likely retirements or trades and it’s the end of an era.
And at that point, there could be a real drought. Because as great as that Curry-Thompson-Kerr group has been, they haven’t nurtured many young players. The cupboard might be bare.
Which brings us to the least-discussed team in the area …
The A’s: To be brutally honest, I think they should move. Go to Las Vegas or Nashville or Des Moines. I’d love to see a downtown waterfront ballpark in Oakland, but let’s face it — it isn’t going to happen. Enough magical thinking. The A’s should cut their losses and move away.
Unlike the …
49ers: Let’s be honest, people like the other teams, but the football team is true love.
The 49ers are the perfect crush, because there is always plenty of drama — like Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Trey Lance — to keep everyone engaged. There’s usually just enough of a roller coaster in the season to have everyone holding on for dear life.
And, they’re good. Shanahan and John Lynch have made some bad calls — you can list them yourself — but overall they’ve been winners. Shanahan just got over .500 for career wins last year, but he’s made the NFC championship game three times in four years, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2019.
Which, of course, isn’t good enough for The Faithful, who presumably got their nickname because they faithfully consider any season without a Super Bowl trophy a failure.
But this group might just pull it off. Kudos to Shanahan for going with Brock Purdy last year. If he heals well from elbow surgery and the usual suspects of Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey come through, who is a better team?
Not that it won’t be a roller coaster, of course.
Anyhow, that’s it. Final thoughts on local teams.
In closing, I’d like to say something to those who read and got in touch.
It was my pleasure.
Contact C.W. Nevius firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @cwnevius
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