Is it MacTavish’s fault? His intense forensic investigation has discovered that ….
No, this is totally not his fault, according to no less an authority as Craig MacTavish.
When grouped in with Kevin Lowe and Scott Howson as part of the Oilers’ braintrust, MacTavish bristled.
“I’ve been on the job for 18 months. So you want to lop me in … I coached the team for a long time, but I have nothing to do with management. So don’t lop me into a situation of power and influence in the management level of this organization,” he said.
MacTavish coached the Oilers for eight seasons. The idea that he didn’t have input on player personnel decisions is, frankly, nonsensical. So essentially here he’s passed the buck for the poor construction of this roster over the years to former GM Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe, who is MacTavish’s boss and currently being helped from under a bus.
But MacTavish has attempted to position himself not as another example of the franchise’s addiction to nostalgia and cronyism, but as an “outsider” that is coming in to fix this mess. And claiming this isn’t his mess – and he lack of restructuring in both the roster and the team’s maligned scouting department says it is, at least partially – helps establish that persona.
“I’m pissed off. No one lives it more than me. And our fans are pissed off,” said the Rebel GM.
“We’re going to continue making rational, responsible decisions based on the situation that we’re in.”
No panic buttons. Stay the course. Patience with the young players.
More of the same. Another year in the basement.
Less than a year after a showdown over Robert Griffin III, another appears to be brewing. Jay Gruden’s desire to part ways with the ineffective quarterback may put him at odds with owner Daniel Snyder and President and General Manager Bruce Allen, potentially leaving the Washington Redskins searching for a coach yet again.
Late last week, battle lines were drawn between the coaching staff and senior management at Redskins Park after multiple team employees revealed Gruden is done with Griffin, as much because of the 24-year-old’s spotlight-craving antics as his shortcomings in the pocket. Prompted by the news of Gruden’s position, an unnamed Redskins official told ESPN that Griffin could start again during the team’s final four games, lending credibility to the notion that Gruden’s bosses still are committed to the league’s 2012 offensive rookie of the year.
This mess has been going on since Dan Snyder bought the team
Snyder supported the risky move to trade four high-round picks in order to select Griffin second overall in the 2012 draft. A former high-ranking team official said at the time of the trade the move would weaken the franchise for as much as a decade if Griffin failed to become a longtime superstar.
Considering his substantial investment in Griffin and how well the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner played in his rookie season, it wouldn’t be surprising if Snyder took a wait-and-see approach. Also, Snyder and Griffin developed a personal relationship, sharing high-dollar dinners and mingling with Hollywood stars. For Allen, trading Griffin could be a career-killer.
Allen strongly encouraged Shanahan, who had roster control, to move up in the draft to select Griffin, people within the organization say. Internally, Shanahan expressed major reservations about giving up so much for a college quarterback who did not play in a pro-style system.
But Shanahan agreed to the deal, in part, because of Allen’s persistence. After botching his first offseason in charge of the roster, trading Griffin would signal yet another failure on Allen’s part.
Allen had no role in hiring Shanahan and benefitted from Shanahan being ousted from power when Snyder gave him final say over the roster and added team president to his title. In contrast, Allen hand-picked Gruden to lead Washington after they worked together in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ organization.
I haven’t watched a game this season but even while avoiding the NFL I can’t avoid the train wreck that is the Washington football team.
Long time readers of this blog know how much I love the America’s Cup, partly because I find it to be the world’s purest sport; a sport contested by billionaires and their lawyers as amateur sport should be but this is kind of crazy. The United States is defending the cup not at home but in Bermuda.
The America’s Cup has generated some strange partnerships and situations in its 163 years. A yacht club from landlocked Switzerland once won the Cup in New Zealand with a crew full of New Zealanders. Another Cup match was an unfair fight between a big, single-hulled boat and a nimble, wing-masted catamaran.
But Tuesday provided one of the oddest plot twists in the long-running story line of the event, sailing’s most prestigious, as an American team chose — with no outside pressure — to defend the Cup outside the United States.
Larry Ellison, an American software magnate and one of the world’s wealthiest men, spent hundreds of millions of dollars — only some of it on lawyers — hunting down the Cup, and then defending it in San Francisco Bay in 2013 with his syndicate Oracle Team USA. But after considering domestic options, above all San Diego, Ellison’s team announced Tuesday that it had chosen Bermuda as the site of the next Cup, in June 2017.
This was a first for an American team. And it was only more symbolic that the announcement came in New York, home to the New York Yacht Club, which zealously kept the Cup in the United States for 132 years.
”I think it’s a curious choice,” said Gary Jobson, a former Cup sailor who is now a broadcaster. “It’s not in the United States, which I find very disappointing as a past president of US Sailing. The whole thing makes me scratch my head.”
Bermuda has long caused sailors concern — consider the Triangle — but the worries this time are that it offers too small a commercial base for teams in search of sponsors and too small a fan base, with its population of 65,000 perched on a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Bermuda is a fine and picturesque place for a sailboat race. It has a rich maritime history and is already the finish line of the Newport-Bermuda Race, held every two years. Many of the Cup’s stars, including Ainslie and Oracle’s skipper, James Spithill, know the islands and their waters well.
But shipping the Cup to Bermuda certainly does not seem like the ideal route to building big interest in the event in the United States, which was one of Ellison’s stated goals before the last edition. Oracle’s historic comeback against Emirates Team New Zealand, in which it rallied from an 8-1 deficit by winning eight straight races, generated real buzz at home as well as abroad. But instead of riding that wave in San Francisco, Ellison and Russell Coutts, Oracle Team USA’s chief executive, have chosen to start anew in a British overseas territory — as close as the British have come to staging the Cup since they lost the inaugural regatta at home off the Isle of Wight in 1851.
“Well, we’re halfway there,” said Ben Ainslie, a British yachtsman who sailed for Ellison in 2013 but is now the head of a British team, Ben Ainslie Racing.
Moving the race closer to Europe was a major reason for choosing Bermuda, Coutts said, as was the territory’s proposal to build a central base for teams and spectators. For now, there are five confirmed challengers for the 2017 Cup: Team New Zealand, Ben Ainslie Racing, Artemis, Luna Rossa and Team France. Four of those teams are from Europe.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyFinding the right time zone for European television “was absolutely critical to us,” Coutts said in an interview Tuesday.
I learned this about Pat Quinn today
- BA Economics’72 ( YorkU )
- LLB ’82 (Widener University School of Law, Delaware )
He was much more then the “Big Irishman” from Hamilton. He was a well educated and big thinking coach. In many ways he was hockey’s Phil Jackson.
Quinn for me was always the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Canucks but he had a great run in Philadelphia.
Quinn twice won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach. The first came in 1979-80, his first full season on the job, after the Flyers fashioned a record 35-game unbeaten streak that is unlikely to be broken now that shootouts are used to settle tied games. The Flyers also reached the Stanley Cup final that year.
His second coach of the year award came after the 1991-92 season with Vancouver. Two years later he guided the Canucks to within one victory of the Stanley Cup before they fell to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the final.
Quinn also served as the general manger of the Canucks and the Maple Leafs.
One of my favourite coaches of all time, even if his Canucks broke my heart by beating the Flames in the playoffs.
Sportswriter struggles to understand baseball’s relationship with—and his feelings toward—the rapist who still pitches for a AAA team.
Q: Hey, have you ever talked to Lueke?
Q: How is he?
A: Not bad, actually. Very articulate.
Q: Did you ask him about…?
The full Q&A.
Donald Sterling literally introduced me to everyone. Here’s how he did it, every single time, to every single group of people, while holding on to my hand:
“Everyone, have you met our newest star? This is Blake! He was the number one pick in the entire NBA draft. Number one! Blake, where are you from?”
Then I’d say I was from Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma! And tell these people what you think about LA.”
Then I’d say it was pretty cool.
“And what about the women in LA, Blake?”
It was the same conversation with every group of people. When he would start having a one-on-one conversation with someone, I’d try to slip away, and he’d reach back and paw my hand without even breaking eye contact with the person. Whenever he didn’t have anything left to say, he just turned around and walked us over to the next group.
“… Have you met our newest star?”
It went on like this forever. At one point, a guy who had clearly been to a bunch of these parties turned to me and said, “Just keep smiling, man. It’ll all be over soon.”
At this point, a lot of you are probably wondering why I didn’t pull my hand away, or why I didn’t just leave the party. For one, I was a 20-year-old kid from Oklahoma. But even if I had been 25, I don’t know if it would’ve been any different. The guy was my boss. Ask yourself, how would you react if your boss was doing the same thing to you?
Umm, I’d walk out, call my agent, demand a trade and if that didn’t happen then, file a complaint with the union, the NBA, and then evaluate my options of holding out and playing in Europe. Of course that is just me. I enforce my personal bubble.
The post comes from The Player’s Tribune which is Derek Jeter’s new venture.
The victors strode into the CBC’s Toronto headquarters at 250 Front St. West on June 1 in an especially humiliating denouement for what was left of the public network’s sports department and its version of Hockey Night In Canada.
Not only had Rogers Communications Inc. wrenched the Canadian national broadcast rights to NHL games from the CBC’s grasp with a stunning $5.2-billion payout over the next 12 years, but the Visigoths were actually at the gate. Part of the ensuing deal, in which those in charge of the CBC meekly handed over the company’s airwaves for free, was that the Rogers people connected to Hockey Night, along with some people hired from rival TSN, would use the CBC’s studios and take over the show’s office space on the north side of the eighth floor – the plushest in the building thanks to the show’s status as the network’s biggest money spinner.
The cash-strapped national broadcaster may have lost a Canadian institution it held for 62 years because it could not hope to match the money Rogers threw at the NHL, but no one was actually going anywhere. The show’s staff stayed put and the new bosses moved in. Hockey Night will continue to be broadcast on the CBC’s stations across the country – the show makes its season debut Saturday night after Rogers officially unwrapped its new toy this week with Wednesday Night Hockey to cover the NHL’s opening night – but the money all goes to Rogers now.
The only revenue the CBC will get is from renting its studios, offices and some staff to the conquerors.
Not long after the Rogers people moved into the CBC building, a notice went up: The eighth-floor boardroom was now off-limits to CBC staffers. If they wanted to use it, a request had to be made through Rogers.
“I’d say weird is a great way to put it,” one Hockey Night staffer said of the atmosphere in the offices on the eighth floor, adding that another emotion has a greater hold. “I’m angry at the CBC for how they handled this. I think a lot of people are mad. They fired 50 people in sports and those are people with families. This didn’t have to happen.”
It didn’t have to happen, staff at both the CBC and Hockey Night say, because they believe NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his marketing chief John Collins were willing to offer the CBC a compromise that would have saved a scaled-down version of Hockey Night for the network that still would have been a significant source of revenue. Those staffers also believe the CBC executives missed this chance because of their failure to recognize the changed broadcast landscape and to see the threat posed by Rogers and BCE Inc., which owns the TSN and CTV networks. The CBC negotiators insisted throughout an exclusive negotiating period with the NHL that any new deal would see the network stick to a regional and national schedule by carrying all games played by Canadian-based NHL teams on Saturdays.
A humiliating blow to the CBC which will have an impact on Canadian broadcasting for years to come.
This is a huge moment for the NBA and Adam Silver — perhaps an even bigger test than the Donald Sterling fiasco, though certainly not as viscerally interesting.
It’s a massive victory, of course. The NBA’s current national TV deal, signed at a relative low point in basketball’s popularity, pays the league about $930 million per season. The league has soared since then. Everyone knew the next deal, which picks up in 2016-17, would trump that figure in a landslide. Two years ago, smart teams began projecting a rising salary cap, and industry experts wondered if the new TV deal might crack $2 billion per year on average.
Ha, ha. The New York Times was the first to report last night that Disney and Turner will pay the NBA nearly $2.7 billion per year, on average, over nine years to retain exclusive broadcasting national broadcast rights. Holy f—ing crap. The sheer size of the number sent shockwaves through the league late on what had been a peaceful Sunday. Executives wondered what the TV cash bonanza might mean for the salary cap, for contract extension talks under way now, for the prospects of a lockout in 2017. The mood was a mix of excitement and, most of all, uncertainty. Planners don’t like uncertainty.
The importance of the league’s cap situation cannot be overstated. It has been the single biggest topic of conversation among team executives for the last year. The salary cap rises and falls hand in hand with league revenues, and this TV contract will be the largest injection of revenues in NBA history. It is a goddamned jolt.
The cap over the last 10 years jumped from $49.5 million to $63.2 million, a 28 percent increase. It stayed flat at around $58 million for a half decade before finally leaping about $5 million this season due to an uptick in revenue. This has been a period of cap tranquillity; an $8 million contract signed in 2007 was worth about the same, proportionally, as an $8 million contract signed in 2012.
The league right now projects a jump to $66.5 million for 2015-16, a modest rise pegged to the final year of that modest $930 million TV deal. If the new TV deal kicks in for the 2016-17 season just shy of $2 billion, the cap could exceed that same $14 million leap, all the way to around $80-plus million, in a single year. If for some reason the new TV deal starts north of $2 billion in the first year — meaning it would include smaller year-over-year jumps — the cap for 2016-17 could leap even higher. If it started at that exact $2.68 billion figure, it would break $90 million, according to my own math and some bleary-eyed late-Sunday projections from cap gurus around the league.
The plans as of now are to start at $2.1 billion in 2016-17, the first year of the deal, and escalate in even year-over-year increments to a peak of $3.1 billion in the final year, per sources who have reviewed a memo the league sent to teams today.
No one knows exactly how the league plans to infuse the money, and the solution could create fissures among the NBA’s 30 teams. Already, teams have started lobbying for scenarios that most benefit them. The league and players union would both seem to have some interest in avoiding any giant one-year leap in the cap number, a mega-jump that would most likely occur ahead of the 2016-17 season — just in time for free agency in July 2016, headlined by Kevin Durant.
This could have total chaos for the league. Instead of one or two teams vying for Durant, you could have 30 teams with the cap room to sign him. Heck, the L.A. Lakers would have enough room of three max deals. This could turn the league upside down in a bad way if done poorly.
Lesson 1: If you pull often enough on state and municipal levers, the gold of public subsidies inevitably tumbles into your hands.
Last week I strolled from the Mississippi River and the sylvan parks that line its banks, past the elegant Guthrie Theater and handsome condos, to a construction site and its forest of giant yellow cranes. A new stadium for the Vikings is rising here with a roof and state of the art everything. It is undeniably impressive, as it should be: This Taj Mahal will cost state and city taxpayers more than half a billion dollars.
Through their lobbyist, the Wilfs noted that they would pay rent on this stadium, which is grand of them. The project will also create a jewel of a public park next to the stadium.
Unfortunately, this park will not be as public as advertised. The fine print gives the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority control on most weekends other than those during the deep chill of winter. (The Vikings may place a soccer team in the stadium, which would extend their control of the park.)
The city remains on the hook for park maintenance. According to an analysis conducted for the Park and Recreation Board, the park came without any financing to pay for its upkeep.
“They’re running circles around us like we’re rubes,” former Gov. Arne Carlson said. “You have children living outside in parks and tents. We don’t have the money to take care of that problem. But we have hundreds of millions of dollars to pour into Zygi Wilf?
“It’s an embarrassment, really.”
The genius of the N.F.L. is that when talk turns to public financing, shame is viewed as a disabling emotion. We obsess on the failings of Roger Goodell, commissioner of the $10 billion nonprofit National Football League. But the men who own the league’s franchises are more intriguing, not to mention more powerful.
Continue reading the main storyThe league makes relatively few demands of these owners, other than requiring that they are terribly wealthy. And it offers them a prime directive: build ever-grander stadiums and make sure that every stream of revenue — suites, seats, concessions, parking — sluices into your coffers. Do this, and we’ll help you gang tackle cities and states. We’ll even throw in a Super Bowl to boot.
Read the entire column and ask yourself if this is a league that deserves your money. It’s sickening to realize how it literally loots cities and states to grow it’s business.
The IOC has billions of dollars laying around and billions more coming because to most people the Olympics is just a television show and the ratings are so high that the broadcast rights will never go down. The IOC doesn’t pay the athletes. It doesn’t share revenue with host countries. It doesn’t pay for countries to send their athletes. It doesn’t lay out any construction or capital costs. It doesn’t pay taxes.
It basically holds caviar rich meetings in five star hotels in the Alps before calling it a day. That and conduct weak investigations into corruption charges of the bidding process, of course. “No evidence uncovered” is on a win streak.
It’s a heck of a racket. Only FIFA does it better.
The world has caught on, though, which is why the mere mention of the IOC is toxic to all but the most desperate and totalitarian of governments.
The USOC is a non-governmental body, so unlike just about every other nation, it receives no direct public financing. It would love to host another Olympics, but the bid process is so unpredictable that wasting money and political capital on trying is risky. And then there would certainly be a public cost in the construction and hosting.
You want a good host for the 2022 Winter Olympics? Salt Lake City, which held it in 2002 and has all the venues and infrastructure already in place. There’d be some updating at minimal cost and, bang, a great location.
The IOC is too snooty for that, however. They don’t like returning to the same city so soon so they’d prefer either Aspen, Colo., (complete with bullet train from Denver which has no practical use post Olympics) or Reno/Lake Tahoe. That would require billions building all the same stuff Salt Lake City already has in place.
Anyone want to put that up for a vote?
Then there is all the kissing up and glad-handing and who knows what else? Forget just the alleged direct payouts. How petty and ridiculous are these sporting aristocrats? Their actual listed demands are ridiculous, including their own airport entrance, traffic lane and prioritized stoplights. And just providing a five-star hotel suite isn’t enough.
“IOC members will be received with a smile on arrival at hotel,” the IOC demands.
Instead the world is giving them the middle finger.
So China or Kazakhstan it is, the last two suckers on earth willing to step up to this carnival barker.
One lucky nation will win. The other will host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
- After the Saskatoon Transit lockout is done, I can’t see Ann Iwanchuk winning a second full term. Especially with Mike San Miguel quietly running again. Her campaign was largely financed by labour and with the city attacking the ATU like it did, her slim margin of victory, her constituents relying on Transit heavily, and a lack of a signature issue so far, it could be really tough to win re-election.
- It could hurt Clark and Loewen with their base and could mobilize the non voting parts of Ward 2 to really hurt Lorje. I am not saying councillors will lose their seats but rather could face much tougher re-election races than they would have. The right opponents will capitalize on this.
- Despite what people think, this won’t hurt the mayor at all. That is what the attack ads are targeted to protect (at the expense of councillors). In many ways he could come out of this the winner, especially if this weakens rivals and empowers his base which to be honest, never rides a bus.
- Of course the city being the city, coincided the lockout with the Mayor’s Cultural Gala. You had some city councillors tweeting pictures of the city’s elite having a fun time while lower class people were being kicked off buses and having to walk home.
- Why would the city run attack ads against the very union it needs to negotiate with on the first day. Saskatoon already has laughable communications and that didn’t exactly make the city look good. Of course the political nature of the ads was bizarre. Several city councillors swore to me that they never had any foreknowledge of the ads until they ran but both city staff and some others on council say that council saw and approved the ads in an in-camera session of executive committee. It’s not exactly breaking news that council members lie to me on issues.
- Speaking of executive committees, it would be a lot easier for them to lie to me if council and staff stopped leaking what happened in there. If only they had a way to investigate the leaks…
- I have had several discouraging conversations with people who are utterly dependent on the bus for work, to provide care for a spouse who is in a nursing home, to get to school. In Saskatoon we call those people collateral damage.
- It is weird to hear councillors go all out in defence of their real fiduciary duty but ignore their responsibility to those who rely on a public service. Empathy for those who have been hurt by this strike has not been something that has been communicated well.
- I don’t really miss the NFL. You would think I would after watching it every week since 1987 but I haven’t. I glance at some scores but other than that, I haven’t really missed it. I still have some college football, the Huskies, and the CFL but I have never cared about them like the NFL.
- Brady Hoke needs to be fired from the University of Michigan. He sent back out a quarterback with a concussion back onto the field. That should be a fireable offence in any league (including when the Calgary Stampeders did it a couple of years ago in a playoff game against the Riders). You send out a player with a brain injury, you are fired or suspended, especially in the NCAA.
- What could Stephen Harper be thinking? $300,000 courtesy ride for a couple of European diplomats because he wanted to have them at a reception? Does he just not care anymore? That does not look like a move by a politician who is planning on re-election. Not only that but there is still widespread opposition to the deal in Germany.
- The NFL is talking with Texas head coach Charlie Strong who has taken some strong steps in dealing with player misconduct. “We can’t compromise and sometimes that means getting rid of the best player.”
- If you are a big company and you want to associate your brand with a strong event, I’d talk to the people behind Nuit Blanche right now. Over 5000 people were on 20th Street last night for the inaugural event and it was a big time success. People were partying, shopping, and hanging out all over the place. What a great event. Someone needs to step up and get behind it in 2015 monetarily so it can get bigger.
- After reading this piece by Cathal Kelly, you will realize that the Blue Jays will never get any better than they are now. So yeah, that kind of sucks.
Most of you know how much I love the NFL. I wrote about it a couple of years ago in this post. Each weekend I catch a couple of games from Thursday night to Monday. I subscribed to NFL Now. I have a fantasy team. I have been a fan since I watched John Elway and the Denver Broncos blow the biggest lead in Monday Night Football history against the hated Los Angeles Raiders. Somehow I became a life long Denver Broncos fan and if I saw Raiders quarterback Jay Schroeder on the street, I’d boo him in real life.
All through the 80s I’d rage at The StarPhoenix sports desk for never posting the west coast scores of key Broncos games and would have to go downtown to the main library to find a “real paper” to find out the score (real paper was always the New York Times who hated their sports desk and make them stay up late so they could publish the west coast scores or USA Today who probably felt the same way). I hated the sports broadcasting of first 650 CKOM and then C95 for only occasionally mentioning the occasional NFL score which ignoring the important AFC West games. (important as in Broncos scores)
Yet for some reason this year, I’ve had enough for a few years now, the cons have been piling up:
- The response to head injuries (read the entire feature on what concussions did to former Steeler great Mike Webster to see what playing in the NFL does to players)
- The league pressuring cities in the middle of bad economic times to spend to build new buildings for owners or their franchise will move to Los Angeles (see Oakland, Minnesota, New Orleans (before the Hurricane) and Jacksonville)
- The league’s nonprofit status and how they manipulate and abuse local cities to pay for insane things for the Super Bowl (don’t click on that link, it will just make you angry)
- Turning a blind eye to the reliance on drugs (PEDs and otherwise) which going crazy over pot. (the NFL is soft on HGH but is ten times tougher on pot then the IOC)
- Finally it was the Ray Rice incident and the reality for me that the NFL condones violence against women. 21 of 32 NFL teams employed a player with a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record last year. Commissioner Roger Goodell said back in 2012 that he wanted to get serious about domestic violence. In 2014 he gave a two game suspension to Ray Rice while victimizing his fiancee (and now wife) by having her tell her version of events in front of the man that abused her.
The worst part of the Ray Rice thing was that well respected GM of the Baltimore Ravens suggested that Rice’s wife was to blame and the Ravens Twitter account even tweeted out her apology. An apology apparently for being violently hit? The NFL could have also demanded to see the video (“umm, Ray you are suspended until we see all of the sealed evidence”) and it isn’t as if the first videos of Janay Rice laying on the floor of the elevator and Ray Rice kicking her lifeless body to the side wasn’t horrible enough. If you haven’t seen it, it made me sick to watch it.
No, something is wrong at the NFL. Roger Goodell is a big part of the problem. He was going to be the new sheriff that was going to clean up the league and protect the “shield”. Instead he became obsessed over pot (which is not a performance enhancing drug) which ignoring the bigger issue why so many NFL players are violent towards women, in a league that is trying to aggressively market itself towards women.
In fact, a lower percentage of NFL players are violent towards women than in the general population but because of wealth, status and a stable of high priced lawyers most of those charged, get away without penalty (the worst example of all time is boxer Floyd Mayweather – don’t read this link unless you have some time to get angry). The other issue is for a NFL player, what constitutes a jury of their peers. Many people on that jury cheered for him, wore his jersey, and was a fan of the team he was on. The league is stuck trying to penalize it’s players. Of course by handing out ridiculous penalties for pot use or for dog violence, you would expect them to give out severe penalties for violently hitting a women. Nope, those are the lenient penalties which both reflect a problem with the league and society in general.
So yeah, I am fed up with the NFL. I still love football. Mark is trying out as a linebacker for the Bedford Road
Redmen err RedBlacks err Red Hawks. There is the NCAA, the CIS, or if forced to watch it, the CFL. I’ll still have football but unless there are some serious reforms in the NFL, I am done. How do I say to Mark and Oliver that it is never ever okay to hit a women and then sit down and turn on the NFL which condones violence against women.
It’s been a great 26 years of being a diehard Denver Broncos fan but enough is enough. Roger Goodell has to go and until something changes, I’m out of here.
The first 49ers game I ever went to was against the Chicago Bears at Kezar Stadium. My dad took me. It was a December afternoon in 1967, and I was 14 years old. Kezar was a faded old bowl plunked down in the middle of the working-class Inner Sunset. Scary-looking brick Polytechnic High School was across from it, along with some houses whose roofs afforded a free view of the gridiron—a veritable West Coast Wrigley Field. Golden Gate Park, filled with still-mysterious creatures called hippies, lay just beyond the foliage of Kezar Drive.
My memory of that day is so old that it resembles an ancient newsreel, flickering and spotty. I vaguely remember that Kezar had narrow wooden bench seating, that the stadium’s paint was peeling off, and that the field seemed a long way away. I can see seagulls circling overhead and hear 60,000 people cheering, a sound the exact pitch of which I’ve never encountered again. My only distinct memory is of the Bears’ Gale Sayers returning a punt for a touchdown, the instant when he cut back against the Niners’ defense an imperishable fragment of violent athletic perfection.
In 1971, the Niners departed decrepit Kezar for sleek, modern Candlestick Park, which they shared with the San Francisco Giants. When Candlestick opened in 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon threw out the first ball and said, “This will be one of the most beautiful baseball parks of all time.” Nixon’s prediction did not prove accurate, but the first time I saw the ’Stick, I would have agreed with him wholeheartedly. I was awed by the steep concrete bowl and the otherworldly escalator that climbed into the sky, the sea of orange seats, and, most of all, the big field, a green universe between chalk lines where epic deeds were going to be performed.
Over the years, I gathered indelible memories of the 49ers at Candlestick Park. Jerry Rice soaring into the air in the north end zone to break Jim Brown’s all-time touchdown record. Joe Montana scanning the field. Steve Young outrunning defensive backs. A young girl sitting next to me crying with happiness when Alex Smith fired the winning bullet to Vernon Davis in the 2012 NFC divisional playoff, after which Davis himself wept. And, during the last 49ers game ever played at the ’Stick, on December 23 of last year, in an ending too implausible to script, NaVorro Bowman returning an interception the length of the field and launching himself deliriously over the goal line to win the game.
The 49ers will produce more lasting memories. But they won’t produce them in San Francisco. This September, the San Francisco 49ers, the team I have been faithfully rooting for since that hazy day in ’67, will start playing their games at their new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Candlestick Park will be detonated in early 2015, joining the original Kezar Stadium in the trash can of history. An era that began in 1946, with the 49ers’ very first game at Kezar as part of the now-defunct All-America Football Conference, has come to an end. For the first time since Tony Morabito, who ran a lumber-carrying business in his native city, launched the 49ers in front of a crowd of longshoremen, factory workers, and draymen, San Francisco does not have a professional football team that plays in the city. This feels strange and wrong.
The simple truth is that, unless you’re a well-off resident of Santa Clara, San Mateo, or Santa Cruz County, or you passionately hated Candlestick (a not-so-small minority, even among San Francisco sports diehards), this move is a tough pill to swallow. The new stadium is priced for plutocrats, it is soul-shrivelingly corporate, and, of course, it is 40 exhaust-choked miles from San Francisco. But an equally simple truth is that for most of us fans, none of that necessarily matters. Because none of it is going to derail our love affair with the 49ers.
The dirty little secret about being a fan is that you’ll put up with anything. There’s pretty much nothing the team can do to permanently alienate you. The 49ers can hire Joe Thomas as general manager and Dennis Erickson as coach. They can start Jim Druckenmiller at quarterback. They can go 2–14. They can draft A.J. Jenkins. They can sign washed-up O.J. Simpson and insufferable Deion Sanders. And yes, they can leave town and build a $1.3 billion new stadium an hour away and frisk their loyal fans for thousands of dollars just for the right to spend even more on their season tickets (the dreaded seat license arrangement, more on which later), and we’re still going to watch them every Sunday. Because the 49ers are not their owners, not their front office, and not their stadium. They’re a Platonic concept, an unchanging, constantly changing entity made up of all the teams that have run onto the field over the years. And those of us who have drunk the red-and-gold Kool-Aid are not about to let the financial maneuverings of some suits deprive us of one of our favorite things in life.
For me, the move is mostly moot because, like a vast majority of fans, I usually watch the 49ers on TV. I’m as committed a fan as they come: I’ve only missed a handful of games in 35 years, the words “Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson” induce PTSD-like symptoms, and I’m still brooding about that phantom pass interference call on Eric Wright. But I’ve only been to about a dozen 49ers games in my life. The tickets were always too expensive (ah, I did not then know the meaning of the word), and I’m happy enough screaming at the set at home. So on a practical level, it doesn’t really make that much difference to me whether the 49ers play at Candlestick Point or at the bottom of the bay in Santa Clara. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m not going to be at either place.
And then there’s the other reason not to hold a grudge about being jilted: The new stadium is way, way, way better than the old one—and that’s accounting for the traffic jams and concession glitches that bedeviled the park at its grand opening last month. (The 49ers say that the problems will be addressed.) I went on a media tour of Levi’s Stadium this summer, then followed that up by joining a goodbye tour of Candlestick, so the comparison is fresh in my mind. And I can attest that Levi’s is to Candlestick as a shiny new maroon Bentley convertible with a chauffeur, a 42-inch HD TV, a Rogue RA:1K stereo, and a wet bar stocked with Château d’Yquem is to a yellow 1962 Volkswagen bug with a rusty body, torn vinyl, three empty Bud cans under the front seat, an engine that gets vapor lock after an hour on the freeway, and a worthless yet bust-inviting roach in the ashtray.
The most dramatic and obvious difference between the two stadiums is in the concourses. Candlestick’s public walkways were one step up from the Black Hole of Calcutta. Negotiating that narrow concrete passageway with a tray full of beers as a wall-to-wall phalanx of drunken yahoos bore down on you would have taxed even the lateral-movement abilities of Gale Sayers himself. Levi’s concourses, on the other hand, are like the fashion ethos of the 1970s blue jean: They’re wide. They stretch on and on. They allow even the most unsteady fan to wobble to his or her seat without colliding with half of the population of Los Gatos on the way.
Then there are the bathrooms. Candlestick appears to have been designed by one of those Werner Erhard–like behavior-modifying sadists for whom going to the bathroom indicates weakness of will. When the secret history of the ’Stick is written, its longest chapter will be about the legions of fans who missed epic moments while waiting to relieve themselves. Levi’s, on the other hand, will have 28 percent more plumbing fixtures than Candlestick and 250 more toilets. The only people complaining about this are catheter salesmen.
The contrast between the locker rooms is even starker. The old 49ers’ clubhouses at the ’Stick were ridiculously cramped, with Montana and Rice squeezed into a little space at the top of some absurdly placed stairs. The locker room below had only eight showers. The dingy, smelly tunnel that led out to the field was so low that current 49ers guard Alex Boone, who is 6 foot 8, had to duck his head when running down it. At Levi’s, the 49ers’ locker room is like a temple for oversize gladiators, with genuine walnut finishes on the 10-foot-tall lockers, high ceilings, and big TVs lining the walls. Even the visitors’ locker room (which, per hallowed, this-is-our-house custom, is much less opulent and spacious than the home locker room) is far nicer than the 49ers’ lockers at the ’Stick.
Then there are the bells and whistles. Candlestick, not to put too fine a point on it, didn’t have any. Its one attempt at being state-of-the-art, a radiant heating system, failed to work, prompting a famous lawsuit by flamboyant attorney Melvin Belli, who wore a parka into the courtroom to demonstrate how cold his box was. Levi’s, as you might guess, is wired up the wazoo. The two 200-by-48-foot scoreboards at Levi’s are the largest of their kind in any outdoor NFL stadium, and almost 10 and a half times (!) bigger than the scoreboard at Candlestick. As befits its location in the heart of Silicon Valley, the stadium has 40 times more broadband capability than any other ball field in the country. You can push a button on your Samsung Galaxy S5 and a gigantic genie will appear, bearing in his brawny arms a perfumed houri whose veiled charms are redolent of the dusky east. OK, that app is still in beta, but you can order a beer at a concession stand with your phone and pick it up without waiting, or have your food delivered to your seat. If you order at the stands, the wait shouldn’t be too bad: There’s one cash register for every 185 fans, two-thirds more than the ratio at the ’Stick. And the food will be better, too, with dishes like Rajasthani lamb curry and Niman Ranch pulled pork sandwiches with apple-jalapeño coleslaw and homemade barbecue sauce, which can be washed down with 40 different beers.
Another striking difference between Levi’s and Candlestick is the extent of the private spaces. Candlestick was built long before teams had hit upon the idea of turning over the most desirable seats in the stadium to corporate clients who would pay big bucks to sit in glassed-in luxury suites and private warrens. The new stadium’s corporate clubs are vast and opulent, and there are also 9,000 club seats and 176 luxury suites (the ’Stick had 94). The crowning privatized glory is the rooftop, whose panoramic views of the South Bay and access to a beautiful green roof, luxuriant with vegetation, are sure to dazzle the VIPs and other paying guests who are allowed entry. As our gaggle of media serfs walked for the fi rst and probably last time through one of the corporate clubs, past a custom wine refrigerator fi lled with high-end cabs and pinots, it struck me that this space was so mega-expensive that it made the $325 seats nearby seem downright democratic. The opera feels egalitarian by comparison. If you’re a techno-libertarian who ascribes to a corporationsare- people philosophy, you may find this encouraging. If you’re not, then all that gleaming corporate space may strike you as a tad creepy. But it’s a big part of how a modern, $1.3 billion stadium gets paid for.