One Man's Opinion
by Glenn Dickey
Apr 27, 2005

BASEBALL HAS tried to be a year-round sport, but pro football got there first.

The first move was baseball’s: spring training. Ostensibly, that was started to get players in shape for the season, but the real reason was to get tons of stories in the New York newspapers by luring writers south (then, only to Florida) in the cold days of late winter/early March in the northeast.

Since then, baseball has started spring training earlier and expanded the season and postseason so the World Series is played later each year, and free agent signings give the sport a publicity boost between the end of the World Series and the start of spring training. But, it’s nothing like football.

When I covered the Raiders in the late ‘60s, the football season, with playoffs, ended by mid-January; the Raiders first Super Bowl win came on January 9, 1977. The draft was held the next month, and then, it was down time until training camp in July.

Now, the Super Bowl is held in February. After that, there’s 2 ½ months of speculation on the draft. Then, the mini-camps begin, and before you know it, training camp is here.

Advantage NFL.

HOW’S THAT AGAIN? Forty-Niners coach Mike Nolan said the team couldn’t afford any of the “It’ll be great if we hit on this one” type of picks in this draft – but then, picked Miami running back Frank Gore, who is undersized and has had two ACL surgeries which some think has cost him speed.

Though all the attention was focused on their first pick, the real question for the 49ers has been whether they’d do a good enough job of evaluating talent through the draft to fill the many holes on the team. That question has not been answered to my satisfaction yet.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON? Tim Vella, son of former Raiders offensive tackle John Vella, is still hopeful of a pro career. A linebacker at the University of Montana, Tim went undrafted but will attend a tryout camp on June 8 and may get signed after that. The senior Vella now operates four stores selling NFL merchandise, "John Vella's Locker Room," in Oakland, Fremont, Castro Valley and Milpitas.

GIANTS FANS who gloat at low mid-week attendance at A’s games have short memories.

Remember, that Giants attendance at Candlestick was so low that the team was twice nearly moved, in 1976 to Toronto, in 1992 to St. Petersburg. (The A’s were nearly moved in 1980 to Denver.) Remember, too, that the A’s and Giants’ attendance patterns were similar in the ‘80s and ‘90s, up with good teams, down with bad ones. The A’s had the highest season total, 2.9 million in 1990.

That all changed when the Giants moved into Pacific Bell Park in 2000. Their strategy was perfect: They put together a strong team so that fans would not only enjoy the new park but be able to watch a contending team. Now, they have a nice cushion because they have 28,500 season tickets holders and 15,000 of those are people who bought “charter seats”, a.k.a. personal seat licences, which they would forfeit if they didn’t buy season tickets.

The A’s, with a season ticket base perhaps 1/3 of the Giants, have those mid-week games when they get just past 10,000 fans – but that was common for the Giants at Candlestick in the bad old days.

SPRING STORY LINES: Remember those stories about Barry Zito stepping up as the staff leader for the A’s and Kirk Rueter being a different pitcher because he had learned to pitch inside?

Pitching lines as of this morning: Zito, 30 innings, 32 hits, 0-4, 6.60 ERA; Rueter, 20 innings, 25 hits, 0-2, 7.20 ERA. (Rueter allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings in the Giants win in the afternoon.)

Which is why it’s wise to view any stories out of spring training with extreme skepticism.

ABOUT THE GIANTS: Craig Carrozzi's book about the team, "City Scapes", is now on sale at Barnes and Noble, or on the B&N website.

LABOR STRIFE: Though many people have forgotten this, the NFL once had as contentious a labor situation as the current NHL. In 1987, NFL owners used replacement players for at least part of their teams for the first three games of the season.

It took some time and legal maneuvering by the NFL Players Association, but from the wrecks of that season, there was an eventual agreement that gave the players the free agency they sought and owners the salary cap they wanted, and the league has prospered since.

The NFL, though, was well established. The NHL’s grip on the American market has been tenuous at best, except in the northern tier of cities – Boston, New York, Detroit and Chicago – that were part of the original six-team league. After losing one season already and with a second season jeopardized, it’s hard to see the NHL surviving in anything but a truncated version.

WRETCHED EXCESS: The House of Representative is considering a bill which would force U. S. professional sports to adopt the same stringent regulations of the Olympics.

Congress should not be attempting to regulate professional sports unless there is a clear health issue, which is not true in this case.

Nonetheless, the bill will pass because of the hysteria generated by the “Steroids are the end of the world as we know it” crowd.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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