Friday, July 10, 2009

Giants fans have nothing to complain about

Dear San Francisco Giants fans:

Quit the whining. You’re starting to sound like Boston Red Sox fans.

You complained about Barry Zito and yet he’s had a winning record since May 24 and, coincidentally, the Giants have gone 28-15 since then.

You griped about needing a big bat in the lineup. Well, you got a big man with a big bat – “Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval who would have been in the All-Star Game if you had outvoted Hawaii and its native son Shane Victorino.

You grumbled about Jonathan Sanchez being in the rotation and rejoiced when he was demoted to the bullpen and yet he returned as a starter on Friday night and threw a friggin' no-hitter with his father watching.

Stop it. The Giants will go into the All-Star Game break as the National League wildcard playoff leader. They have two (Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain) of the top 10 starting pitchers in the league, if not the majors. They finally have found a lead-off hitter, Aaron Rowand. They have a lovable lug of a first baseman/third baseman/catcher, Sandoval, the best combo player in San Francisco since Huey Lewis sang and blew into a harmonica.

Following Sanchez’s no-no on Friday night, only the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers had more wins this season and were at least 10 games over .500.

And yet Giants fans seem to always find fault with someone or something about this team?

This season you’ve seen a 300th career victory. You’ve seen a no-hitter. You’ve seen progress, more than you ever expected or imagined or even hoped.

The Giants are having a truly magical season. Realize it. Enjoy it!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

ESPN show on Jerry Rice: From dirt to paydirt

There are times I have been as hard on ESPN as Rush Limbaugh on liberals, but “Homecoming” with former Sports Illustrated senior writer Rick Reilly hits a home run with me.

I watched Jerry Rice’s “Homecoming” the other night on the Mothership Station. It was taped about two months ago at the Great America Theater, a block over from the 49ers’ headquarters in Santa Clara. The show was funny and revealing. It was sports’ version of the old TV show “This Is Your Life” from the 50s and 60s.

It was a one-hour examination of Rice’s life before and after football and it included never-before-told stories that either Reilly or his crack staff had researched. It included appearances from family, friends and former teammates such as Steve Young, Eddie DeBartolo and Dwight Clark.

But the biggest surprise – and best story – came from Jackie Rice, Jerry’s ex-wife. They divorced about two years ago but she had the class to show up for the show and gave us the funniest image. We all know how meticulous Rice was and may still be about everything he did in football – from the way he played it to the way to the way he trained for it to the way he even dressed for it – but Jackie offered a tale of how Jerry used to clean their floors the day before home games.

“He’d vacuum the carpet and the lines had to line up,” said Jackie, drawing a big laugh from the audience and a big smile from Jerry.

Jackie, I'm sure, could have really embarrassed Jerry with some other stories but she told one that reflects his incredible work ethic and unique character in a way that so many of us can understand on a human level. The guy could score touchdowns and clean the house!

So when Rice is inducted into Canton with the Class of 2010, he will have completed a classic career with a new twist: From Hoover to the Hall of Fame.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Spitting mad about watching sports in Hawaii

I got up for “Breakfast at Wimbledon” today to catch the Roger Federer-Andy Roddick gentlemen’s final.

Then I remembered I was in Hawaii where it might as well be “Last Call at Wimbledon.” I missed it. I switched over to ESPN to discover that Federer won in an epic fifth set and, because I’m three time zones to the left of California, it was over by the time I was awake to watch it.

Instead, I got my morning fix of sports watching some weird team bowling event on ESPN. The bowlers were dressed in shorts, t-shirts, sneakers and caps and were rolling balls down a makeshift lane that appeared to be at some Six Flags amusement park. I know that because I swear I saw Bugs Bunny sitting in the back row of the crowd.

Following sports in Hawaii is like following the moon in daylight. Everything seems out of whack. Most major league baseball games this weekend were over before I had lunch. I’ve got  ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on the TV right now and I haven’t even thought about what I’m going to have dinner. I could go to a sports bar but 1) I haven’t found one here on Wakiki Beach (but I have found about 87 ABC Stores!) and 2) even if I did the only thing to watch would be the SportsCenter from Los Angeles and, frankly, I’ve had my fill of Manny Ramirez highlights.

So I’m stuck watching Tampa Bay pitcher Matt Garza spit as much as any man that can humanly spit.

Aloha means there’s nothing else on the TV worth watching.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Aloha means goodbye to best intentions

As I stepped off the plane in Honolulu on Wednesday, Nick Rolovich was staring right at me.

Well, a large full-length cover photo of Rolovich on the back page of the Star Bulletin anyway. Rolovich, the former Marin Catholic High quarterback from Novato, California was recognized as No. 30 on the Star Bulletin’s countdown of the 100 greatest players in University of Hawaii football history. So I called Nick at the football office and left a phone message about getting together.

Then, on Thursday, I discovered that another former Marin Catholic and U of H star, Travis LaBoy, was coaching in a clinic in Manoa. Wow. So I decided right then and there to hop in my rental car and drive to the U of H campus and see LaBoy AND Rolovich together at the same time.

Imagine my luck?

Well, negotiating a car on the tight and crooked streets of Wakiki Beach is like playing Rubik’s Cube. I got lost trying to drive to the campus – passing approximately 27 ABC Stories in the process I might note -- then I had to walk through two parking garages to find the U of H football office on the third floor where I was directed to a lecture hall of another football clinic on the first floor where a coach informed me that Rolovich was on vacation and the football camp that LaBoy (who was No. 36 on the U of H all-time football list … 36th? He made it to the NFL and played in the Super Bowl? 36th???!!! Top 25 at least) was a part of was actually at Kapi’olani Park, which is right across the street from the hotel where I was staying. But the camp ended on Wednesday.

My luck.

It turned out that Rolovich and his family were attending a wedding in Novato. And LaBoy, with his foot in a cast following total reconstructive surgery for playing for the Arizona Cardinals, was back in California, too. 

The Big `D' of the A's

I had the privilege to spend a day with Oakland A’s left-handed pitcher Dallas Braden last Sunday for a freelance article I’m doing for the next issue of A’s Magazine. I was with him from the time he left his house in Stockton that morning to go to the Oakland Coliseum to the time he left a Stockton Ports game at Banner Island Ballpark that night to go home.

I saw how generous Braden was with his time and his fans. For example, more fans were flocking to him on Sunday night than to Roger Clemens, who was sitting with his wife, Debbie, about 30 feet away watching their son, Koby, catch for Lancaster against the Ports.

I saw the softer side of Braden. I did not see the harder side.

“He’s actually a complex guy,” A’s manager Bob Geren told me. “At some points, he varies his answers to me `Yes, sir’ `No, sir.’ At other times he’s very funny or very quiet.

“I’ve seen all of the angles of him but the one thing he is when he’s in the game is as fierce of a competitor as I’ve seen and tough. I’ve never seen a guy get hit with a 106 mph line drive (off the bat of Toronto’s Vernon Wells on May 10) right in the pitching hand and just stay in the game. I’ve never seen that and I don’t think I ever will again.”

In other words, Braden deserves a big hand either way.