49ers Stadium, Roger Clemens, John Brodie
The most important question: Should the stadium even be in San Francisco, since most of the fan base lives down the peninsula now?
In fact, from a practical matter, it makes little difference for fans whether the stadium is in Santa Clara or San Francisco. Public transit, a big issue for baseball, is almost irrelevant because almost all fans drive to the game. Traffic for games, almost always played on Sundays, is nowhere near the problem it can be for midweek baseball games. (You should know that I have no vested interest in either of these sites. From my home in Oakland, less than ¼ of a mile from freeways going both south and west, it would take me about the same time to get to either site.)
We have learned over the last few decades that baseball parks need to be downtown, as the Giants park is and the ill-considered project for an A's park in Fremont is not. Baseball fans often spend money on restaurants surrounding the park. When fans from as far away as Fresno come to Giants games, they tend to spend a day or two in San Francisco on a mini-vacation.
For football fans, it’s a much different experience. They drive to games, bring their own food and tailgate before and after the game, and then drive home. They seldom eat in local restaurants or stay in hotels.
So, the argument for building a stadium in San Francisco comes down to two points:
1) Professional sports are part of the whole package for a metropolitan city.
Nobody would argue that an important city should not have its own symphony, opera, ballet and theatre. By the same token, a city should have professional sports teams. San Francisco has all the cultural events, and it’s had two major league pro teams. The Giants are anchored and the 49ers should be, too. Santa Clara has Great America, which is its proper cultural level.
2) San Francisco can reap an economic benefit from a new stadium that Santa Clara cannot.
There is no economic argument to be made for building a football stadium that is only used for 10 games a season. Every time a stadium is proposed, proponents talk about the advantages of providing jobs while the stadium is built, but those are low-level jobs which end when the stadium is finished. That’s hardly worth throwing a lot of public money at the project.
There is one special economic benefit, though, with a new football stadium: It would get the Super Bowl. Because of the NFL’s practice of limiting tickets for the host team, almost all of those coming to the game are coming from other areas. With tickets at $700, and more if they’re obtained in secondary markets, it’s a high income crowd. If they came to a game in San Francisco, they’d be spending money all week at San Francisco hotels, restaurants and shops – and at the one time of year when the city’s usually robust tourist economy is weak.
And if the stadium were built in Santa Clara? San Francisco would still reap the benefit. When the 1985 game was played at Stanford Stadium, visitors stayed in San Francisco during the week and saw Palo Alto only on Sunday, when they drove through on their way to the game. Palo Alto had to pay for extra police on game day while getting zero business during the week.
Santa Clara would face the same problem. Its one attraction, Great America, would not be a lure. When you’re paying $700 a ticket, you don’t bring the kiddies along.
It amazes me that Santa Clara politicians are even studying the 49ers demands for public money to help finance the campaign. No matter how it’s disguised, voters will turn it down – and vote against any politician who votes to put it on the ballot.
UNIVERSITY IN COURT: The University of California’s plans to retrofit Memorial Stadium and build an athletic training facility, as well as classrooms for the Haas Business School, has been on hold awaiting a court decision.
Originally, the case was scheduled to be decided early this month, but the judge asked for more information from the university and then scheduled further arguments from both sides. The last argument is scheduled for March 7. The judge will then have 90 days to issue a ruling but it’s unlikely she’ll use all of that. Most likely, a decision will come by the end of March or in early April.
Justice is served, but never quickly.
Though many think the tree sitters are the problem, they’re really just a farcical irrelevance. The university has already been given the right to remove them but hasn’t done so yet. The trees would not have been cut down at this point because the court case is still pending. The protestors have gotten public attention, which is probably their primary goal, but they haven’t accomplished anything beyond that.
CAL QBS: One letter writer evoked an earlier Cal quarterback controversy when I wrote about Jeff Tedford last week, the 2005 controversy surrounding Joe Ayoob.
Ayoob was a sad case. He was a very talented quarterback – he had been state junior college Offensive Player of the Year in 2004 – but he was undone by the criticism he received, at games from those who had jumped on the Cal bandwagon and on campus from fellow students. He had to be replaced by Steve Levy before the Big Game.
After the season, Tedford talked to Ayoob and told him he’d be justified if he transferred to another school, but Ayoob wanted to stay and finish his education at Cal. He barely played as a senior, so his football career will always be a matter of “what if?”, but he’s a fine young man who I’m sure will be successful in whatever he does.
STEROIDS OVERKILL: As amusing as it was to see Roger Clemens twisting in the wind at a Congressional hearing last week, you have to wonder what he was even doing there.
This is the mess that has been created by the overblown steroids story. With the economy tanking and our involvement in Iraq threatening to rival the length of our struggle in Vietnam, a Congressional committee is investigating steroids use in baseball. With use of crack cocaine spiraling out of control in poverty areas, with the parallel rise in crime, Federal prosecutors are mounting a perjury case against Barry Bonds and apparently talking about one against Clemens because of their testimony on steroids use. Does this really make sense to anybody?
Baseball fans have a much more balanced approach to the issue. They just want to enjoy the games. Though many anti-Bonds writers have castigated San Francisco fans for supporting him, the truth is that fans all around the league wanted to see Bonds. The Giants were a great road draw with him, and their road attendance dropped precipitously when he missed a season with knee surgery. Fans booed the villain when the Giants starting lineup was announced – but then they booed their own pitchers if they walked Bonds. Even in Dodger Stadium, they wanted to see him hit.
ROSY VIEW: Spring training is an unalloyed pleasure for baseball fans who love to go to sunny areas, especially if they’re coming from northern areas covered by snow, and get a chance to watch their teams in small parks, where they’re almost on top of the players.
Writers, though, often get seduced by the atmosphere in spring training. I’m speaking from personal experience. Some of the sappiest columns I’ve ever written have come out of spring training.
It’s hard not to be optimistic in the spring. Veteran players come in with a new attitude and/or new swing. Younger players come in eager to prove themselves, sometimes with the added benefit of having played winter ball, and are often impressive, though most of them fade if they actually make a major league roster.
And, there is an additional problem: Writers have to come up with a story every day and, when the games are meaningless, there really aren’t that many stories.
So, when I see the kind of story I saw this morning – two hot young Giants prospects who hit .161 and .220 at Single A San Jose last season – I chuckle. But I also think, yes, I’ve been there, too.
JOHN BRODIE: A group of friends, and Brodie’s daughter, Erin, are campaigning to have John Brodie installed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Brodie certainly belongs. He was an outstanding quarterback whose reputation suffered because he played primarily on teams with poor defenses. When I talked to Brodie for my 1995 history of the 49ers, “San Francisco 49ers: The First Fifty Years,” he said he and Y. A. Tittle would talk before each game to decide how many touchdowns they needed to win. Sometimes, it was five. That puts an enormous burden on a quarterback.
When the 49ers did put together a good defense, Brodie took them to the NFC Championship game after the 1970 season and to the playoffs the next two years. They could never get past the Dallas Cowboys, but you know that story.
The effort on Brodie’s behalf is headed by Susan Banks (firstname.lastname@example.org). Their website, which is handsomely done, is: http://johnbrodiefor footballhalloffame.bravehost.com.
FIELD OF DREAMS: The new Oakland Tech baseball field, Carter Baseball Field, is nearly complete. Dedication of the field will be April 1, with the first game scheduled for April 4 against Skyline.
Money is still needed, though, to finish the field. For further information, the website is http://www.oaklandtech.com/fieldofdreams.htm. Or, you can contact coach Eric Clayton (510-8677-0917 or email@example.com.
ARE YOU a Cybill Shepard fan? Tickets for her San Francisco show, “Curvy Widow,” are available on the TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! link at the bottom of my Home Page. Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood have three big shows at Madison Square Garden, Feb. 25-28, Bon Jovi is in Chicago on Feb. 23, Washington D.C. on Feb. 28 and Philadelphia on March 2. There are many more events available. Tickets are also available for important college basketball matchups, such as Tennessee-Memphis, Feb. 23, Kansas State-Kansas, March 1 and North Carolina-Duke, March 8. In the NBA, the Boston Celtics face Cleveland on Feb. 17, Charlotte on Feb. 29, Atlanta on March 2 and the Detroit Pistons, March 5. The Celtics also have a couple of tests against the west, the Warriors, Feb. 20 and Phoenix Suns, Feb. 22. Tickets are also available for Bay Area college teams, Cal, Stanford and St. Mary’s. For these events and others, just click on the local and national links below and they’ll all come up
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