Jeff Tedford/Cal stadium; Tiger Woods; Giants vs. A's; Death of Football?
THE CAL BEARS have led a nomadic existence for more than a year, practicing on rugby and baseball fields, with the spring intra-squad game at Edwards Field, a track-and-field stadium.The 2011 “home” season was played at AT& T Park which, as a football stadium remains a superb baseball park.
But, that is almost behind them now. The last two weeks of summer camp will be in the new Memorial Stadium, and the stadium itself is on schedule to be finished in time for the opening game against Nevada Reno on Sept. 1. The time of the game, as with the rest of the schedule, will be when whatever television network has it decides.
Meanwhile, the High Performance Center which Tedford had long campaigned for is completed. I got my first look at it yesterday when I talked to Tedford about the upcoming season and it is a beauty. “Is it as good as what Oregon has?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he said. “They built theirs after I left (he had been the offensive coordinator) and I never saw it. And now, they’ve got a new one. But I’m happy with ours. Now, we can be even with our competition and better than some, and when we’re recruiting players, between this facility and the new stadium, we’ll really have a great selling point.”
Tedford’s office is roomy, a far cry from the cramped one he had in a converted trailer behind Witter Field, the rugby field where practices have been held in the last year. I told him that, when the 49ers moved from a small facility in Redwood City to the much larger practice facility in Santa Clara in the mid-‘80s, Bill Walsh feared that the coaching staff would lose its closeness. “I can understand that,” he said. “When we were in the trailer, all I had to do was put my head out the door and shout, and everybody could hear me. Now, if a coach isn’t in his office, I have no idea where he is. We’re going to have to establish some kind of intercom system.”
That’s not a complaint. Tedford is delighted with the new facility, and he’s eager to get back to the stadium, as are his players. “They can hardly wait to ‘come home’’, he said. “Larry Baer and all the Giants people did a great job of welcoming us last year, but it just wasn’t the same as playing in the stadium. Having the students in the end zone was part of that, and every time I looked across the field and saw bleachers, I felt like it was a practice scrimmage, not a game. We played well there, except for the USC game, but it just wasn’t the same.”
He’s very enthusiastic about the new stadium, pointing out that it can be used for a lot of other events, by students or alumni, when there’s no football game on. Among other things, it will have numerous decks out on the west side, affording additional views of the bay.
The spring practices were somewhat frustrating for Tedford because some important pieces weren’t there. Cal’s best receiver, Keenan Allen, missed all the spring workouts because of a broken leg. “He’s fully healed now and has gotten medical clearance to practice when we have summer camp,” said Tedford. The other receivers? Tedford concentrated on wide receivers in his recruiting. “They’re going to have to step up because we’re really thin there,” he said, but for now, they’re still unproven on the collegiate level.”
Tedford liked the maturity of quarterback Zach Maynard, who was much better in the second half of last season, when he seemed to finally catch up with the speed of the game. Freshman quarterback Zach Kline entered school early so he could participate in the spring and looked good, not surprising, since he’s been going to Cal camps since he was in seventh grade.
Tedford liked what he saw of Richard Rodgers, a 270-pound tight end who showed good hands when he was a target on pass plays. Tailback Brendan Bigelow had a good camp. “He hadn’t played in two years because of a knee injury,” said Tedford, “so it was important for him to get back in there, but he was hitting the hole hard.”
The Bears lost both their kicker, Giorgio Torvecchio, and punter, Bryan Anger.
Replacing the kicker won’t be difficult because Vince D’Amato is there. “He’s kicked for us before,” Tedford said. “He was the kicker when we beat Stanford in the Big Game down there in 2009.”
Replacing Anger, though, will be a real challenge and, again, Tedford will be relying on a freshman punter, so he can’t be sure what he’s getting.
Usually, at this point, I’d be able to give you my own evaluations but the difficult practice situations have often stymied me, as well. I saw only one spring practice, in the first week.
So, I’ll be eager to see the new stadium, too.
TIGER WOODS: I saw Tiger on TV Friday night, after he’d missed the cut in his latest tournament, saying, “If I could just get over the ball and feel comfortable…”
How the mighty have fallen.
It’s been my experience that the truly great athletes have total confidence in themselves. I once saw Larry Bird got 0-for-10 from the field against the Warriors, but he didn’t stop shooting, and his bad game didn’t carry over. You only had to look at Michael Jordan to know that he believed he could do anything he wanted. Koby Bryant is like that today.
Tiger was like that, too. I remember vividly when he was striding confidently down the fairways at Pebble Beach during the 2000 U. S. Open with about 100,000 people trailing behind, absolutely dominating the field. He wasn’t competing against them. He was chasing Jack Nicklaus for the all-time lead in majors.
Then, his numerous one-night stands with skanky women went public, his marriage dissolved and Tiger’s self-image shattered. Now, something always seems to be going wrong, with his swing, with his short game. He’s lost his sense of invincibility and without it, he’s just another golfer.
It would shock me if he won another major, and the one coming up, the U. S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, is an especially daunting challenge. The course is a tight one normally and the USGA will make it even tighter, almost impossible for a golfer who sprays his shots. I speak from experience. I played the course just before the 1966 Open and lost so many balls, I didn’t think I could finish the round.
GIANTS VS. A’S: One of the silliest arguments I’ve heard as Lew Wolff continues in his futile attempt to move the A’s to San Jose is that the Giants are fighting that because they want to force the A’s to move, leaving the entire Bay Area to them.
To have that kind of strategy, the Giants would have to totally ignore the realities of major league history, and I certainly don’t think they’re that stupid.
The reality is that fans follow a team, not a sport. Sometimes, when a second team moves into a territory that had only one team, fans will change allegiance for geographical reasons. That happened in the East Bay when the A’s moved to Oakland in 1968 and Giants attendance dropped below a million for the first time.
But, the Giants retained a sizeable fan base in the East Bay. Years ago, when he was working for the Giants, Pat Gallagher told me they had more season ticket holders in Alameda and Contra Costa County than in San Francisco. I’m sure that still holds. The traffic on the Bay Bridge on Giants game days is very heavy, especially compared to what it is at the same time on non-game days. I know that because I’ve driven from Oakland to San Francisco on the bridge many times in both circumstances.
Also, when the Giants had their big parade on Market Street after their World Series triumph in 2010. BART was so crowded with Giants fans from the East Bay that it had to go through some stations without stopping. Ken Dito, a native San Franciscan, told me the parade showed that the Giants’ win had made San Francisco a great sports town again. I pointed out to him that relatively few of those at the parade were actually San Franciscans.
At the same time, the A’s have a substantial fan base in the East Bay and, in their 45th season in Oakland, those fans wouldn’t go back to the Giants if the A’s left. They’d just stay home.
That’s not just my opinion. When teams have left cities that had more than one team, it hasn’t helped the remaining team. Some examples:
--In 1958, New York lost both the Giants and Dodgers to San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively. The Yankees attendance that year fell almost 70,000 from the previous season, when all three teams were there. Eventually, some Dodgers fans went to the Mets, but no significant number of those left behind ever went to the Yankees.
--In 1954, the A’s moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City. Left with the city for themselves, the Phillies attendance dropped about 155,000.
--In 1952, the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee. Red Sox attendance dropped 90,000. It wasn’t until 1967, when they won the pennant, that the Red Sox attendance showed a big jump.
It’s always that way. Attendance jumps when the team wins, not for other reasons. In 1989, the Giants and A’s both set what were attendance records for them at the time, the Giants first time over two million, the A’s to 2,267,000 million. You know why: Both teams were in the World Series.
No, the Giants aren’t trying to drive the A’s out of the Bay Area. As I’ve written before, they just want MLB to live up to its part of the agreement made in late 1992, that they’d get a park built if they were given territorial rights to the peninsula and San Jose.
The Giants ownership group came together mostly out of civic pride: They wanted to keep the Giants in San Francisco, and they took losses in their final years at Candlestick, improving the park and building a strong team before they moved into their new park. A big part of the money for building the park and for their PSLs, which they call charter seats, came from Silicon Valley people. Now, they want to be able to hang on to those people. It’s hard for me to see them as the villains in this scenario.
Meanwhile, Wolff and John Fisher are playing the underdog role, though they’re making money every year because of baseball’s revenue-sharing plan, which needs some serious reworking. Last year, their worst, Wolff/Fisher claimed a profit of just under $600,000 – but that was with some very creative bookkeeping, counting money committed to future salaries as current expenditures, for instance. Forbes magazine put their profit at several millions.
And, in contrast to the Giants ownership, Wolff/Fisher have put no money into the Oakland Coliseum.
Anther writer asked me last week: “Have you ever known an owner who didn’t want to win and was only interested in his team as a real estate venture?”
My answer: No.
SAN FRANCISCO: When I came to The Chronicle in 1963, San Francisco had a reputation of being a great sports town, especially for baseball. There were major leaguers who had first developed their skills on San Francisco playgrounds, and baseball was still very big. Transistor radios had just come in and San Franciscans had plugs in their ears, listening to games, as they walked around, went to movies, even to the opera. At a 49ers game in late September, 1962, players were startled when fans let out a loud cheer, because there had been nothing happening on the field to justify that. But fans were listening to radio reports that the Dodgers had lost their final game, putting them into a playoff with the Giants, which the Giants won.
Those days are long gone, and the fact that the 49ers are building a stadium in Santa Clara, which they hope to occupy for the 2014 season, underlines that. For both the 49ers and Giants, the bulk of their fans have come from outside the city for years.
San Francisco has changed greatly over the last half-century, with an influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia and Spanish-speaking countries. The Asians have no interest in American sports. The Latinos who come from countries in or around the Caribbean area love baseball, but most of South America cares only about soccer.
And, of course, those playgrounds where youngsters learned baseball are no longer open after school hours, so even if there’s interest, there’s little chance to develop skills.
This is not a value judgment. A cosmopolitan city is not judged by its love of sports. But it does put the wailing of old-timers because the 49ers leaving the city into perspective.
DEATH OF FOOTBALL: We can all rest easy. Bruce Jenkins told us this morning in The Chronicle that it isn’t going to happen.
I’m not quite sure how Bruce knows this. I’ve been to hundreds of 49ers and Raiders games over the years and the only time I’ve ever seen him at one was in, I think, 1987 when the 49ers were playing the Rams in Anaheim. Bruce had come down on The Chronicle dime to be able to see his children from his first marriage. Of course, I’ve never seen him at a practice for either team.
Yet, he asserts confidently that, “Teams have offered cash bounties on the opposition since the 1950s, and probably much earlier.”
That was news to me, but Bruce apparently has sources unknown to me – and to the NFL. He really should give NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a call to share his information.
WITH Guillermo Mota suspended for 100 days because of drug use, Janice Hough asks, “Will his defense be that, with a 5.06 ERA, the drugs were hardly performance-enhancing?
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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