Mark Davis/Jed York; Lew Wolff/Bud Selig; Aldon Smith; Reggie McKenzie/Matt Schaub/Derek Carr; James Garner; Mike Krukow
by Glenn Dickey
Jul 23, 2014

A LAW limiting high school football practices to try to prevent concussions and other injuries was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday. Predictably, it was praised and criticized by high school coaches. (The quotes which follow are all from a Chronicle article.)
“We hold these kids future and that is a grave responsibility,” said Mike Ivankovich, head coach at Acalanes High in Lafayette. “Reasonable limitations are a good thing.”
The new law limits teams to two full contact practices during the week and prohibits them in the offseason. Ivankovich eliminated full contact practices in 2005 when he coached at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord. His team won the North Coast section championship that year. He hasn’t had full contact practices at Acalanes, either.
Patrick Walsh, head coach at Serra High in San Mateo said the new law won’t affect his coaching because he had already limited full contact practices to one a week. “Football is more violent than any other sport,” he said. “But my responsibility is to keep the kids as healthy as possible.”
An argument against the new restrictions was advanced by Chad Nightingale, coach at Salesian High in Richmond for 19 years. “Unless you practice, you’re not going to know how to protect your head and neck, how to fall properly or how to tackle someone else safely.”
It is worth noting, though, that several other states have adopted similar restrictions. Among them is Texas, where high school football is king. Texas limits high school teams to one 90-minute full contact session a week.
Nightingale brought up another interesting point, about improving helmets and pads. I’ve written before that, when I was working in Watsonville in the late ‘50s, Emmet Geiger, the high school athletic director (and very successful football coach before that) showed me how he thought modern helmets created head injuries because of the ricochet effect. Do you think this concern for player safety will result in the return of the old leather helmets, which fit right on players’ heads? Not a chance. At all levels, football coaches love the warrior look.
ON THE professional level, Aldon Smith got a pass from a Santa Clara County judge on the weapons possession case. Surprise. Does anybody think that Smith would have been treated so leniently if the 49ers weren’t opening a new stadium in Santa Clara this season?
The judge isn’t really doing Smith a favor, though. Smith has obvious problems with alcohol and needs serious counseling, but he won’t get it now. NFL commissioner Roger Goodall will certainly suspend him for a few games but that is only a patch on the problem. He is a walking time bomb, for himself and others.
ON THE OTHER side of the bay, I’m continually amazed at writers who don’t understand the new dynamics of the Raiders and look at Mark Davis as the decision-maker. He’s not. He was honest when he introduced Reggie McKenzie as the general manager two years ago when he said he didn’t know football and wouldn’t be making any football decisions. He listens to Ron Wolf and John Madden which is good. He’ll fire McKenzie when they tell him that’s a good idea, which they haven’t. McKenzie will make the decision on coach Dennis Allen after this season. No coach looks good when he has bad players. There were writers who wanted the 49ers to fire Bill Walsh when his teams went 2-14 and 6-10 in his first two years.
It isn’t Mark’s decision to stay at the Coliseum instead of making the sensible move to join the 49ers in Santa Clara. His mother, Carol Davis, wants that silly shrine to Al in the northwest corner of the stadium. It’s a disgrace there and certainly wouldn’t be allowed in the 49ers stadium.
There has been a lot of nonsense going back and forth on the stadium issue, including an idea to tear down the current Coliseum and build a new one for the Raiders. That’s bad news for several reasons, starting with the fact that the A’s would be displaced, with no other stadium/park available.
The talk about a new park for the A’s at the Howard Terminal site is just hot air. That’s controlled by the Port of Oakland, which has said it cannot be used for that purpose. There’s no longer a need to have the A’s downtown to generate business because Oakland is thriving, with new restaurants going in constantly. There is also no other open space, or one which is so accessible by BART or car.
Lew Wolff’s belief when he and John Fisher bought the A’s was that baseball commissioner Bud Selig would help him move the team to San Jose. But, fraternity ties only go so far. Selig understood that the Giants agreement with MLB gave them exclusive rights to the area reaching into San Jose and, most significantly, the Silicon Valley. He wasn’t about to challenge that.
San Jose mayor Chuck Reed was, even to the point of suing over the 1922 U.S. Supreme Court decision to give baseball anti-trust protection. That suit got nowhere but even if it had gotten to the Supreme Court, the decision would have no doubt been what earlier courts had ruled on two previous challenges: It has to be changed by the U. S. Congress. Since this Congress can’t agree on the time for lunch breaks, that was always a nonstarter.
The only one who has paid much attention to Reed is San Jose columnist Mark Purdy, who has consistently reported Reed’s opinions as facts. In September, 2012, Purdy wrote in his column that the owners would meet after the World Series and vote to allow the A’s to move to San Jose. He was so certain of that, he went on KNBR to make the same claim.
Still waiting for that meeting.
Meanwhile, taxpayers are still paying for the upgrades to the Coliseum when the Raiders returned. Nobody is going to vote for more money for another stadium, which is the key point. Football stadiums are so expensive now that teams try for public/private financing, so they can get aid from the league. That’s why the new 49ers stadium is in Santa Clara, not San Francisco; they got money from Santa Clara and were never going to get it from San Francisco. Jed York, who worked in the financial arena in New York before coming back to the family business, worked the Silicon Valley for private contributions to build the new stadium. There’s nobody in the Raiders organization, or in this group which hatched this ridiculous idea, so the new Raiders stadium idea is still born.
And then, there’s the constant rumor that the Raiders will go back to L.A. Where would they play? Nobody’s going to build a stadium for them there, either. The only people who want them back are the criminal element which was a big part of their fan base before.
As others have observed, Angelenos are quite content with their current situation, being able to see any NFL game they want on TV because there’s no blackout.
It’s a shame that all this off-field noise has taken attention away from what will likely be happening on the field because I think this could be an entertaining team this season. In general, McKenzie seems to have filled the most significant holes and the quarterbacking looks sound, with Matt Schaub and rookie Derek Carr, who might have been the steal of the draft.
JAMES GARNER, who died last weekend at 86, was always very active in sports, especially racing. He played down-to-earth guys in movies and on TV and that was what he was in person, too. We talked to him one time at the Crosby and he was very gracious, signing an autograph for our son, Scott, who was probably about five at the time. Scott kept that until it was lost in the 1991 Oakland fire that destroyed our home.
C. W. NEVIUS had an interesting story in Monday’s Chronicle about Giants announcer Mike Krukow, who has a degenerative muscle disease which has weakened him to the point that he can lose his balance if he’s even brushed by another person.
It doesn’t affect Krukow’s announcing – he and Duane Kuiper continue their entertaining and informative telecasts – but he now has to use a golf cart to exit AT&T Park, not because he can’t walk but because the slightest brush from a fan going by could cause him to fall. He also uses a cane at other times to make certain he doesn’t lose his balance.
Krukow has made no mention of this before because he didn’t want anything detracting from his broadcasting but he finally decided he needed to come forward with it before people thought he had even worse problems. He’s not seeking sympathy, either. When fans see Willie McCovey being wheeled around the park because he’s immobile after all his knee injuries, they often express their sympathy. Krukow doesn’t want that. He’s not feeling sorry for himself, and he doesn’t want others feeling sorry for him. As one who’s known Krukow since he first came to the Giants three decades ago, that is exactly the type of person he’s always been. He never made excuses. He just wanted the ball, and he wanted to pitch in the big games, even if he hadn’t had sufficient rest.
I can also sympathize with him because I have a similar problem, though a different disease. I have no feeling in my feet because of nerve damage related to diabetes. I can walk but I have to be careful, especially going up and down stairs. I had a horrendous fall going out of AT&T Park a couple of years ago but suffered only embarrassment; I have never broken a bone in my life. When I wrote that I had problems going to games, this is what I meant. I still do as much walking as I can but going up the hill for Cal games, for instance, is very difficult – and there’s no reward for doing it.
THE GOOD, BAD AND UGLY: Sports Illustrated had a very nice story by Tom Verducci on Roger Angell, who is being inducted into the writer’s wing of the baseball Hall of Fame. Chronicle writer Susan Slusser, who nominated Angell, said she can’t imagine a writer’s wing without him. I agree. On another front, an SI reader commented on the ridiculous story about the Houston Astros, pointing out that you can see several teams like the current Astros, playing Double or Triple A minor league ball. Exactly. . . A reader noted Bruce Jenkins’ recommendation that soccer teams be able to put in players who had been taken out earlier. “I wonder what he would think if somebody proposed that baseball players who had been taken out could return to the game?” When I was writing for The Chronicle, I went to as many games and practices as I could, talked to players, coaches/managers, general managers and even owners so I would have as complete a story as possible when I wrote. Bruce has this absurd notion that he knows what’s happening by watching games on TV. Perhaps that works with NBA games, which are simple, but not with more complex sports. I doubt that he’s ever been to a soccer game. He didn’t go to either 49ers or Raiders games when I was at The Chronicle and probably still doesn’t. He knows what a fan knows, and in the case of soccer, he doesn’t even know that much.
NEXT WEEK: I’ll be writing on Tuesday because that Wednesday, I’ll be going to a Media Day for Bay Area college teams at the new 49ers stadium. It will be my first look at the new stadium, and possibly, my last as well.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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