Hoopaholic Diaries, Episode 1: Numinous Basketball Appreciation

 Photo by Ethan Miller 

Photo by Ethan Miller 

By Amos Manary

These are depraved times for a recovering basketball junkie.  As has been noted by each and every of the innumerable mouthpieces on behalf of endless outlets, this new era of ‘player empowerment’ has made the NBA an industry that never quits.  Gone are the days when the basketball monogamist had to wait through baseball and football seasons for the sporting world to resume its attention to hoops.

Unfortunately, most of the coverage is commensurately oleaginous with the tawdry, vulgar times in which we unintentionally exist.  While the NBA is perceived as infinitely more ‘progressive’ than its American professional sporting counterparts, I say nonsense.  Smarter, slicker, Adam Silver’s public relations minions are indeed shrewder than the boneheads who run MLB, the NFL, NASCAR et al.  But that’s it. Every talking hoop-head insists on referring to the human talents employed by individual NBA franchises as ‘assets,’ which of course they are, as are prospective draft picks, and enigmatic piles of hypothetical cash known as ‘cap space.’  I know, and if I didn’t, I couldn’t follow a shred of institutionalized basketball gibberish without learning that professional sports is ‘a business.’     

Except that apparently, it is also isn’t – or the hoop universe isn’t immune to the bizarre overriding hypocrisy endemic and perhaps innate to the American experiment, the central premise of which at this point seems to be: how best to pedal corporate fascism?  So while throughout showbiz, actions that might ordinarily, according to the intangible standards of basic decency, be deemed scurrilous at best, pirate-like cutthroat at worst, are excused, exonerated and elevated due solely to their [whatever action] profitability.  Floyd Mayweather, LaVar Ball, say whatever you may, are good businessmen and the business of America is making excuses for good business. Extermination of the natives, enslavement of the African, it’s a wonder these too aren’t praised more openly, as both were extremely good for the miscalled free market.

Nevertheless, for inane reasons too tribally infantile to utter, to half the folks earning their dime blabbing about the goings on of the few hundred fellas who earn their dime playing sports, Kevin Durant will always be soft, a ‘traitor’ even – as if the OKC Thunder represent their own republic.  Anything good for business is permissible, lest you’re a black small forward who prefers Oakland to Oklahoma City and chooses to play for one of the best coaches (instead of one of the worst) and to depend on the game’s top point guard, as opposed to the least reliable.  It’s not hyperbole.  Steph Curry is the most efficient, winningest point guard in the game, with the top ‘true’ shooting percentage in the league, while Russell Westbrook rates dead last in that same category.  The talking heads can’t muster four phrases without spitting out something about how it’s the age of ‘analytics,’ yet none of them point out that according to analytics, Durant would have to be a bona fide moron to continue on with bonehead Billy Donovan and Westbrick, who definitely cares more about fashion than quarterbacking his hoop squad – that OKC was up 3-1 against the Warriors is irrelevant – his move was nothing akin the Michael Jordan joining the Pistons; and even if it was analogous, who the shit cares, lest you’re an Oklahoman middle schooler.

The NBA itself – meaning the players, coaches, teams, etc. – has never been better.  The actual basketball nearly warrants nary a mention amid the mountainous coverage devoted to what someone Tweeted, which shirt Westbrick wore, what Snoop thinks of LeBron’s business acumen, what Kawai Leonard never said, along with quieter innuendos which wonder as to the validity of the so-called the Kardashian Curse and whether Reality TV alpha-sex-kitten witches will steal Ben Simmons’ soul and thereby derail the Sixers’ vaunted Process. 

Process, assets, business, that’s what it all boils down to, apparently.

Like everything else in American life, the soul, spirit and science have been stripped from the discussion.  Go outside the mainstream, it at least can get somewhat fun: the crowd convinced the NBA and all sports with money at staked are all rigged as pro wrestling, and that furthermore it’s just as obvious.  My favorite among this subgroup are those few precious Youtubers dedicated to complexly convoluted theories that all NBA outcomes are predetermined by Kabalistic Gematria wizards salaried by Illuminati honchos to ensure every final score pays homage to Horus or some other god of Babylonian Mystery Religion lore.  Now I’m as conspiracy-minded as they come and don’t for one second think the days of Tim Donaghy are dead and gone, but this business that they put in number 12 with 12 seconds on the clock so he could nail a 12-foot jumper from the short-corner to bring the losing team’s total to 112 so as to lionize Allister Crowley – I don’t think they’re right.           

 Slightly more cogent thoughts: Lookout for the Lake Show

 I don’t care what anyone says, the Lakers look good to me.  All this nonsense about “colorful characters” who can’t shoot threes.  The pervasive, patently false presumption the Warriors can only be beaten at their own game.  As in 2015 (73 wins be damned), the same two dudes represent the only real threats to GSW supremacy: LeBron and Kyrie.  Loads of people are picking the Celtics to make it to the Finals, some predicting they’ll prevail.  Nobody’s giving the LeBron a shot to make his ninth straight Finals.  Luke Walton won’t survive if the Lakers miss the playoffs.  Miss the playoffs?  Are people fucking nuts?  They may wind up a sixth in the evermore talent-heave West, but come May, when LBJ’s had many moons to figure out how to utilize his new Cabinet…

The Warriors’ vulnerability resides on the glass and in the paint – and kooky as they’re perceived, the Lakers have assembled a roster of scrappers who’ll be tough to keep off the boards and out of the lane.  But the pundits on TV seem to agree – the Lakers offseason non-LeBron acquisitions are curious, dubious or just plain dumb and doomed.  Much has been made of the collection of ‘colorful personalities,’ media-speak for head cases, which Magic Johnson and Rob (Lowe?) Pelinka chose to compliment LeBron and the Lakers’ ‘youth core.’  Everyone’s lamenting the Lakers lack of long-range snipers.  Even if it’s true, as most observers obviously estimate, that the Lakers are embarking on a one-year experiment and will tread water until they can ‘acquire’ a Name Brand To Be Named Later, I’m betting Steve Kerr feels like he’s in Back to the Future – it’s the dawn of the ‘80s all over again, the Lakers and Celtics ready to reclaim the league.

For some cruel, unusual reason, media ringleaders have chosen to forget or ignore the competency JaVale McGee displayed during his stint with Golden State.  Somehow, McGee’s reputation has been illegitimately reverted to its previous status quo nadir: Chief Galoot.  He’s no Kareem, but I’d take him over Tristan Thompson in a heartbeat.  Like the NBA PR slogan says: JaVale cares.  He gives a shit how his team does; does so without ego.  He probably won’t play too much, but he’ll contribute something and won’t harm the Lakers a lick.

Everyone says the only way to beat the Warriors is to D’Antoni them to death: take and make more three’s than the Splash Brothers.  I disagree.  The reason the Rockets took the Warriors to Game Seven (besides the absence of Andre Iguodala), was the Warriors’ inability to slow the flow of uncontested Clint Capella dunks and Chris Paul midrange jumpers.  The Warriors have trouble with muscle.  Counterintuitively, guys like P.J. Tucker can be weirdly troublesome.  By 21st century standards, the W’s two best players are extraordinarily skinny.  Durant’s become a fantastic defender and Curry’s defense has been unfairly maligned, but their slighter frames can be shoved aside.  Draymond can’t guard everyone.  The legs of Iguodala and Livingston won’t get younger.  The key to beating the Warriors is physicality – nobody’s gonna out-finesse them, you gotta pound them in the post, dribble penetration, second shots.  Move the ball, take it to the hole; get as many of the Warriors’ all-stars in foul trouble as possible.  Switch everything, shoot more free throws; get more dunks.  

Last year the Cavs traded half their roster, essentially, for the players the Lakers no longer wanted.  Now LeBron gets to play with the guys Magic Johnson thought were worth keeping.  Consider the fact that until Tyronn Lue finally gave Rodney Hood some minutes (after the Finals had long been decided), LeBron played the entire playoffs without a single teammate who could create his own shot.  LeBron needs a Kyrie Irving, a Dwayne Wade, far more than he needs Mike Miller or Kyle Korver.  Josh Hart can play Kyle Korver much better than Kyle Korver.  The combination of Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram add up to at least half a Kyrie /Wade.  All those guys can make something good happen as the shot clock winds down.  The Lakers as currently constructed are infinitely better than the 2017-18 Cavs. 

Everyone assumes Luke Walton won’t survive the season – he was never Magic’s guy.  Personally, I’d love to be Luke Walton heading into next season.  All his guys have nothing to lose and a lot to prove.  Whoever ends up coaching them, the Lakers are in much better shape than anyone’s envisioning.  They’re a hard guard; a lot of guys who can get to the cup.  Crazy motherfuckers, for sure, but LeBron thrives in chaos, and if the colorful characters exude as much chaos and contentiousness as everyone seems to think they will, Magic, LeBron and Luke will figure out how to channel that energy towards Warrior slaying.  Lonzo will shoot better and his father will shut up or the son will be benched or traded.

Don’t underestimate Magic Johnson and his Non-Brons.  They might end up with Kawai or Anthony Davis or Jimmy Butler before the trade deadline, and even if they remain more or less as is, should the Lakers and Warriors square off in the playoffs, I promise you LBJ won’t get swept again.

That being said, Boogie Cousins or not, the Warriors will win it all again next year and nobody less invested will be more pleased than yours truly.  If they stay healthy, all other prognostications will be quickly rendered obsolete.

Other underpublicized musings

See what Iguodala said about KD – Andre’s right, he has got to be the most efficient scorer in the sport’s history.  He never goes backwards, even on fade-away/step-back jumpers. Even when he ‘reverts’ to the iso-habits hones under Scotty Brooks and Bonebrain Donovan, he never dribbles for ten seconds without going anywhere.  John Wooden would like him.  Positive step.

New negative norms: I know why but still must groan why when I see the new preferred format for televised sports talk.  Show’s like ESPN’s First Take and Fox’s the Undisputed have decided the best way to maximize ratings is to have some former sorority queen in mammary-accentuating dress seated between two blabbering sports-debating dingbat-dudes and meekly, maternally referee their monkey-mind vomit.  HereI must insert mild praise for ESPN’s The Jump and its hostess Rachel Nichols, who is a relative Georgina Plimpton when juxtaposed against the useless floozies, worst of which is always the potential Playmate who sidekicks for Colin Cowherd like a lobotomized, Caucasian Robin Quivers – and boy is Cowherd no Howard Stern.

Kareem was also right when he recently dismissed the who’s-the-greatest-of-all-time question out of hand, calmly as only Kareem can, explaining that since basketball is a team game, athletes who play with different teammates, for different coaches, in different eras, is absolutely useless.  As stupid as comparing Bob Marley and Beethoven.

The dumbest topics I’ve heard explored, in no particular order:

“Michael Jordan’s legacy dinged by LeBron’s philanthropy.”  Yes, in terms of social consciousness, Nike (evil sweatshop corporation) Shill LBJ does trump Nike Shill MJ.  And Putin ain’t no Stalin.  So fucking what.  It’s great LeBron builds schools and calls Trump a bum – but to act like he’s Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell or Kareem, to infer there’s one iota of risk to his miscalled outspokenness is like making Anderson Cooper out to be Harvey Milk, or to say Cari Champion is rather similar to Ida B. Wells. 

Best Offseason Footage Findable on Youtube

Coach Pop playing spirited dummy-defense against the Team USA in drills.  Looking spry at nearly 70, it’s no wonder widower has been so successful – he loves what he does.  It’s the most underplayed aspect to the Lone Superpower, villainous for no reason Warriors, Kerr’s revolutionary emphasis on playing with joy.  Popovich ain’t known for his funniness, lest it’s the deadpan sarcasm he employs to belittle the imbecilic questions the league forces him to field.  I predict DeMar DeRozan will have a career-year for the Spurs – and more fun than he’s had in years, in spite of the Spurs’ legendary no-nonsense approach.

James Harden performs no differently in the Drew League than he does with the Rockets.  What a strange goofy-footed genius he is – and what a horrific defender.  In the NBA stats are like profits and nobody can resist lauding the giant margins guys like Westbrick and Hardshot post each quarter.  My vote for last season’s MVP would have been: 1) LeBron 2) Durant 3) Curry.  All awards suck.  Pointless, useless back-slapping.  I pray the NBA drops its new Oscarsesque nonsense.

Bringing it all Back Home

Last pot shot at those who laud the NBA as more enlightened than the NFL – it’s like saying Trump is better than Pence because the President’s fascistic tendencies are more secularized, or those who prefer Pence because he’s never once uttered pussy with vaginal connotations.  NBA players kneeling for the anthem? Out of the fucking question – standing for the anthem has always been absolutely obligatory.  The last NBA guy who tried to sit for the anthem got run out of the league faster than you can think assalamu alaikum.  Do yourself a favor and learn what happened to Chicago Bulls sharpshooter Craig Hodges after he wore a dashiki to the White House and dared to present a letter to President Bush the First a detailing his civic concerns in the wake of Rodney King.

But basketball remains the most democratic of sports – and in the Association, the best team always wins.  The team that plays most together, the most similarly to a great improvisational jazz ensemble, always wins.  Players, like those of music, can possess egomaniacal traits, but in order to succeed, those tendencies must be sublimated for the greater good.  So if one has the childlike nerve to include fun into the equation, the Warriors are even farther ahead of the pack than their insane assemblage of talent would indicate. Selah.

 Photo by Ethan Miller 

Photo by Ethan Miller 

Coming to the defense of the bandwagon fan

 Hockey fans in Las Vegas can't be described as diehard, but they are still out there having fun. (photo by Christian Petersen)

Hockey fans in Las Vegas can't be described as diehard, but they are still out there having fun. (photo by Christian Petersen)

By Michael Moniz

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a person who takes part in or becomes enthusiastic about something only when it is popular or fashionable is considered a “bandwagon fan.” Chances are at some point, someone has called you this, either to try and separate you from whatever success you’re following or just try to put their own self on a higher level as a fan. I am here to tell that it is 100% fine to be a bandwagoner and that us “diehards” need people like you to help sustain the success of our team.

You see this with every team that has quick unexpected success, whether it’s during March Madness with its alumni scattered through the country and some guy in your office who went to Loyola (happened to me this year), or people that live in the Bay Area and cheer for the Milwaukee Bucks because they are of Greek heritage and their best player is from Greece. These are the small nuances that help bring a whole new demographic of fan to the sporting world. Without them, the product that is out there would be nowhere near what we see today.

If you know me, you know that I am a diehard Notre Dame fan. I’ve followed them probably closer than any other sports team, without having any real connection to the school other than being Catholic and part Irish (not just on St. Patrick’s Day).  But back when I was about five years old, I started off as a bandwagon fan. My older brother loved Notre Dame and everything he liked, I did too. We both jumped on the Notre Dame train that year and luckily they won the National Championship. 30 years later after heartbreak and constant ridicule from friends and family, I now wish big bro John was yelling “Roll Tide” back then instead.

With the Giants title runs in 2010, 2012, and 2014, along with the recent dynasty run by the Warriors, people LOVE to throw shade at us fans and call us out for jumping on a bandwagon. We immediately get defensive and usually spout off a few facts about having a Will the Thrill poster in our room growing up or saying that we used to emulate Tim Hardaway and his killer crossover to prove that we’ve been following the team long before they were considered a success. These people will then move on from bashing us to then going after the actual bandwagon fan base. The fan that doesn’t know more than three players on the team or you could’ve sworn was a Kings fan in the 2000’s. At this point, don’t try and distance yourself from the bandwagon fans. Embrace them.

Fans from other teams will be quick to shoot them down or feel like they need to quiz them on some obscure facts about the 1954 team or something to make them feel like they’re not a true fan. But who cares about the level of fandom? There is no rulebook or certain level of knowledge one must have to cheer for a team. Not everyone can be a huge fan with season tickets or have an infatuation with certain players. Does this apply to movies too? Do people quiz others while waiting in line for a premier and then ostracize them if they don’t know what the weather is like in Mordor from Lord of the Rings?

Fair weather fans mean just as much if not more to the bottom line for your team. They’re the ones that spend the massive amounts of money at the drop of a hat to get new merchandise during the playoffs to feel part of the excitement throughout the city. These fans help fill seats throughout the season for all those diehards that choose to watch the game at home because they want to listen to the announcers.

Yes, they will be the first ones to leave when you’re having a bad season. Who really cares though? Their excitement won’t come close to match yours when your team that you’ve rooted for your entire life wins a title. The feeling you get and the pure joy that it brings you is unlike anything else and can only be appreciated by people that’ve had it. That’s what being a fan is all about.

Bandwagon and diehards are all fans at the end of the day. Just enjoy the ride.

The BIG3 Basketball League arrives in Oakland, filling Oracle with hoop legends

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

A long list of basketball’s living legends will arrive in Oakland this Friday evening for a quadruple header of competitive 3on3 basketball in Ice Cube’s BIG3 Basketball League. Starting at 4pm inside Oracle, Bay Area basketball fans will be treated to four hours of star-studded, albeit over-the-hill NBA basketball. To top it off, die-hard Warriors fan E-40 will be in the house to provide live entertainment.

Now in its second season of existence, the BIG3 Basketball League consists of eight teams, competing for eight weekends, followed by two weekends of playoffs with the championship round held in Brooklyn. Friday will mark Week 3 of the 2018 season, bringing together a collection of players and coaches that made the NBA what it is today.

The Bay Area legends that will be back in Oracle on Friday include Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Drew Gooden and Josh Childress. Gary Payton and Rick Barry will also be seen on the sidelines as coaches. If you look beyond those with Bay Area ties, you’ll find tons more star power, led by coaches Dr. J Julius Irving, Iceman George Gervin, Charles Oakley, Michael Cooper and Rick Mahorn. WNBA legend Nancy Lieberman is also a notable head coach. Other players on the floor will include Mike Bibby, Quentin Richardson, Chirs “Birdman” Anderson, Metta World Peace, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Nate Robinson, just to name a few.

Nobody will mistake this for the NBA Finals between the Cavs and Warriors, but when you put this many hyper-competitive NBA superstars on one (half) court, you’re bound to have some fireworks of some sort, rest assured.

The rules of the BIG3 are fairly simple. The half court games are played to 50, win by two. The teams are comprised of seven players. There are three circles out beyond the 3-point line that count as 4-pointers if your foot is in the circle. There is also a 14-second shot clock and the defense must clear the ball outside the 3-point line when they get a rebound.

The Trilogy, led by Kenyon Martin took home the inaugural championship trophy last season. This year, they are off to an 0-2 start. So far the league leader in scoring this season is Baron Davis. He figures to have another big game back on the Oakland hardwood.

If you can’t make it out to Oracle to see the madness in person, all four games will be available either on Facebook Watch or FOX. If you’re looking to gamble on these games, we recommend you seek help.

 --

Friday’s Schedule

4pm Trilogy vs. 3’s Company (Facebook Watch)

5pm Ghost Ballers vs. Ball Hogs (FOX)

6pm Power vs. Tri-State (FOX)

7pm Killer 3’s vs. 3-Headed Monsters (FOX)

"20 years in the making" - How Bay Area photographer Ezra Shaw got the SI cover shot he so deserved

 (Photo by Ezra Shaw)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

Over his 20-year career with Getty Images, Bay Area based photographer Ezra Shaw has been at about every important sporting event you could dream of, usually in the front row, trying not to get run over by a multi-million dollar athlete. He’s shot the Olympics over 10 times, not to mention the Tour de France, the America’s Cup, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and everything in between. If you’ve picked up a magazine or logged onto the internet over the last two decades, chances are you’ve stopped and starred at his stunning work. The articles below his photographs rarely do them justice.

Even with print’s inevitable decline, a Sports Illustrated cover shot is still the holy grail for a sports photographer in this day and age. Few things are as timeless in the world of sport. But 19 years into his career, Shaw still hadn’t had his work grace the cover yet. The box was still left unchecked. But all that would change thanks to a painful knee injury.

“Oh you want to hear about the Julian Edelman cover?” asks Shaw with a strong tone of humility over a coffee in Berkeley. “Well let me start by telling you I wasn’t even supposed to be at that game, to be honest. I was scheduled to be at a ski race that weekend.”

Instead of taking one of the most iconic photos in Super Bowl history, Shaw should have been freezing his toes off in a pair of ski boots on the side of Mammoth Mountain. Downhill skiing has always been one of his most challenging and fulfilling sports to shoot, and Getty was sending him out for a race to do what he does best. The only problem was that he suffered a nagging knee injury of his own six weeks before. Skiing down a downhill course to find camera position wasn’t going to work that weekend.

“I put a call into my editor at Getty and we figured out a solution. One of the photographers scheduled for the Super Bowl was nice enough to switch assignments with me. So I showed up at the football game with a bum knee and he went to Mammoth. The ski race ended up getting cancelled because of white-out conditions and I got an SI cover out of it, so I’m not sure how fair that trade was,” laughed Shaw.

Not only was Shaw struggling with a knee injury that weekend, when he arrived to shoot the Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl, he was assigned a position nowhere near the field. “Usually I’m down on the field, but since my knee was hurt and I was the last photographer on the list, they put me in a seat up in the second deck. It was a comfortable spot, but I certainly wasn’t getting great pictures for the first three quarters,” said Shaw.

Indeed, the game was a dud. Nearing the end of the third quarter, The Patriots trailed the Falcons 28-3. It was seemingly over. But what ensued over the next 14 minutes into overtime was unforgettable. The Pats stormed back with 31 unanswered points, highlighted by a circus catch from Edelman on a miraculous heave from Tom Brady. Both products of the Bay Area.

As it turned out, from his perch in the second deck, Shaw held a perfect position to capture the moment. A photo that would forever freeze-frame a historic comeback into one perfect image.

 The closing seconds of Steph's first NBA Title (Photo by Ezra Shaw)

The closing seconds of Steph's first NBA Title (Photo by Ezra Shaw)

---

A graduate of Syracuse University’s famed Newhouse School of Communications, it wasn’t until after college in 1996 that Shaw knew for sure that he wanted sports photography to be his career. That’s when Shaw took former Sports Illustrated editor Maureen Cavanagh up on an opportunity to attend the Summer Olympics in Atlanta to serve as an assistant for the SI photographers. He vividly remembers driving to the Opening Ceremonies in Atlanta alongside Richard Mackson and a dozen of the best of the best photographers in the world. Two decades later, when Shaw was snapping his first Sports Illustrated cover, Mackson just so happened to be a few rows down from him, capturing his own Super Bowl shots. It had all come full circle. 

When you talk to Shaw you learn quickly that sports photography has a big element of luck involved. You have to be in the right place at the right time at the right point in the game. Not to mention the right newspaper or magazine has to pick up the right photo. There are a ton of moving parts. That said, Shaw is a master at giving himself the best chance to succeed.

This involves arriving at events days in advance to scope out the best possible angles and backgrounds for potential shots. For example, he’ll climb into the catwalk attached to the ceiling of Oracle Arena in Oakland to attach a remote camera for shots of overhead dunks. Or he’ll scour sight lines for hours on end at AT&T park in San Francisco to find the perfect landscape shot of the ballpark by The Bay.

“I’m always looking to capture the atmosphere of a sporting event,” explains Shaw. “I want people to feel what it was like to be there. If I have an opportunity to shoot from a wider angle to capture the emotion of the event, I will try to provide that perspective.”  

Not only has Shaw witnessed countless sporting events and championship moments, he’s also seen an industry change dramatically over the past 20 years. Early in his career, Shaw remembers attending games with rolls of 36 exposures of film at his disposal. In other words, he couldn’t miss his moment, he only had so many shots to take on a given night. The process could be time consuming. Today, Shaw arrives courtside with a Canon digital camera that will take 14 frames per second for him. Hundreds of photos are taken at every game he attends nowadays. The idea of sticking out above the rest with a noticeable photo is more difficult than ever. It can't be the only thing you think about on a daily basis.

“Overall, one of the most important things for me is to be someone who is easy to work with among other photographers," says Shaw. "If you are trained correctly and work hard at all the events you attend, not just the Super Bowl or the Finals, the photos will come and your work will be recognized.”

So even if it is a Wednesday afternoon A’s game in Oakland, with a sea of empty green seats in the background and the playoffs nowhere to be found, Shaw will still be hunkered down in the Oakland Coliseum’s wooden photo well, chipping away at his craft. Never knowing how the story is going to end or what will ultimately wind up on the cover when the magazine finally goes to print. 

How to execute a perfect day at AT&T Park

By Michael Moniz

For the people that have never ventured to a San Francisco Giants game or just want to experience it like a veteran fan of 35+ years does it, I wanted to walk you through a “perfect day” at AT&T. At least from my humble perspective. 

Starting off at 10:30am, you arrive at Broderick’s in Walnut Creek.  Arguably the best burgers in the East Bay, having a choice of anything from Bison to Duck to Boar to Angus Beef, you can’t go wrong with any burger. These THICK burgers will give you a base to keep you going throughout the day. Also, they have a HUGE selection of beers and a full bar to choose from to get the day going.  Ask for Mikey. Best bartender in WC.

Hop on WC BART around 11:15 with a full stomach, maybe a few road sodas, and a full phone battery. About 45 minutes later, get off at Embarcadero Station. Now I know most people take MUNI to drop you off in front of the stadium, but that has never been my favorite. I find a lot of joy, walking down Spear St alongside other Giants fans during a beautiful day in June. You see, there are a few hidden gems at the end of Spear St along the Embarcadero that you’ll miss if you take MUNI.

Around 12:00PM, you have your most important decision of the day. Beer or Liquor? Hi Dive or Reds? Two historic stops that all Giants fans go to, these spots are a must to enjoy a quick bucket of beers between a few friends (Reds) or a Tito’s and Soda with two limes (Hi Dive). I personally love Red’s as you can get a bucket (6) of Rolling Rock for about $23. In the city, that’s practically free. Also, you’re literally sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the ships roll in. Can’t beat that!

When you look at your IPhone for the 13th time in the last 45 minutes and you see that it is 12:45, start the 10 min walk down the Embarcadero to the stadium.

Things to look for:

- Pedi Cabs. This is the definition of FU money. Usually cost about $10/person although there is no standard fee. I’ve negotiated to $5 one time. I recommend you to try it at least once in your life. It’s like rolling up in a limo. Cool status thing, but once you’re done and you pay, you realize it wasn’t worth it. Can help you if you’re running late or impress a date!

- Multiple kids selling various items (water, peanuts, etc). These kids are good. They will get you in conversation and literally run after you to try and close the deal. Pretty sure they make more than me.

- At least one person singing/playing a musical instrument. These aren’t the run of the mill people. These are entertainers that usually have a mic and speakers and sing covers well. Throw a buck.

- Two guys selling bootleg Bay Area sports teams clothing and hats. Out of everything, this is by far the best value on the strip. Half of my Bay teams (Niners, Dubs, G’s) clothing wardrobe has been purchased from these kinds of people. Shirts, beanies, blankets, If it has a team logo on it, they have it. Also definitely illegal.

 

Now the clock strikes 1:00PM as you’re entering the park. Best place to enter the stadium is in the back near boat docks. Quickest way into the stadium plus you don’t have to walk up the ramps.

Everyone has different preferences for seats. Obviously sitting as close as possible is ideal, but I’m assuming most of you weren’t a part of Google’s IPO. I’ve sat pretty much everywhere, but my two favorite spots were LF bleachers (137) and deep 3rd baseline (Section 134). The value for these seats is unprecedented in my mind. Bleachers you can usually get for $15-25. Section 134 are probably the cheapest lower level seats while also being very easy to get to, near food, and gives you access to the lower level and able to sneak to better seats.

You’re starting to get hungry as it been a few hours since that Bison burger. As soon as I enter the park, I go and get a nice IPA. New this year to the stadium is a partnership with my favorite beer, Sierra Nevada. Sign me up.

As I sip on the hops, I always like to walk around the stadium once and just take in all the different views. I make my way to my seat after and enjoy my view for the first inning or 2. When that is finished, make your way to behind centerfield bleachers for the famous crab sandwich. Although very expensive ($17.50), it is something that you HAVE to eat. Two pieces of toasted sourdough bread, graciously drenched in butter, around about 3-4oz of crab meat and mayo. Tomatoes are also on this and help make this the BEST sandwich in the park. I typically eat this right away. 

After devouring the crab sando, make your way to get some Gilroy Garlic Fries. I’ll warn you right now. This is pretty much minced garlic with some fries on the side. Been a staple forever, and easily the fan favorite. I’ll grab those and another beer and head back to my seat to enjoy the rest of the game.

As you’re watching Mad Bum throw the heat and Kershaw throwing the meat, remind Dodgers fans around you about their choke job last year. If the Giants can’t win, then I’d like the Doyers to suffer a slow, painful loss like they had last year.

There are 4 songs that could be played during the game. The first is obviously in the middle of the 7th, “Take me out to the ballgame” like at every baseball game you’ve ever been to. You have a civic duty to sing your ass off.  In the 8th inning, if the Giants are tied or losing, they play “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. If they’re winning, “Lights” by Journey is played. Either way, Journey kicks ass. If you’re lucky, you might see Steve Perry sing from his seat.

As the game ends in a 1-0 Giants win over the Doyers with Mad Bum throwing a complete game shutout and hitting a solo homer, you’ll walk out of the park with Tony Bennett singing “I left my heart in San Francisco” in the background.

If you want to keep the party going, I recommend 21st Amendment bar a block away or Pete’s or Momo’s right across the street for a celebratory beer. I tend to like doing that for day games so the crowd isn’t so heavy on MUNI or BART getting home.

So there you have it. The perfect Giants game. I almost forgot, you can actually live it this Sunday, June 17th as the Giants host the Doyers at 1:15PM. Do me a favor and bring a friend or your kid and have yourself a day!

Section925 Podcast Ep. 204 - Right Field Will from the Oakland Coliseum

Will MacNeil, better known as "Right Field Will," is at virtually every single Oakland A's home game in Section 149 of the Right Field Bleachers. Will sits down with Section925 and tells stories about being the most dedicated A's fan of the modern era.

Chris Seisay: The Bay Area’s NFL Draft Sleeper

Raised in the North Bay, Seisay is hoping to be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. (Photo by Kevin Cline) 

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

It was a week before Christmas, 2014 and Chris Seisay didn’t have a worry in the world. The redshirt freshman was a backup defensive back on arguably the greatest football team in University of Oregon history. The Ducks were coming off a 51-13 thrashing of Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship at Levi’s Stadium to cap off a 12-1 regular season. In a matter of days, he and his teammates would be heading down to Beverly Hills to prepare for the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. The two men he was backing up, both seniors, were surefire NFL draft picks. Marcus Mariota was at quarterback. Oregon was favored in Vegas. Seemingly nothing could go wrong.

“Then I look up, during a routine drill in practice, and I have half the coaching staff staring at me,” explains Seisay, outside a coffee shop near his home in the North Bay on a recent afternoon. “‘You ready?’ they all said. And I was like, ‘Ready for what? Yeah of course I’m ready.’ Then I look over and see our All-American first-round draft pick Ifo Ekpre-Olomu on the ground with a dislocated knee. It was crazy. Before he was even off the field they were asking me if I was ready to go.”  

At the time, you couldn’t blame head coach Mark Helfrich and his staff for reaching for the panic button with Ekpre-Olomu rolling in pain on the Eugene practice turf. The injury to the star who had led the Oregon defense all year instantly created a gaping hole in the Ducks’ secondary that needed immediate filling. Especially with a defending Heisman Trophy winner looming on the other side of the ball in Florida State’s Jameis Winston. A quarterback who had never lost in college up to that point. An unblemished 26-0 as a starter.

“Next thing you know, like a day after the news broke of the injury, I start getting blown up on Twitter and Instagram by all kinds of Florida State fans. People coming out of nowhere telling me I was gonna get torched by Jameis. How I had no shot. I had to delete my social media for two weeks,” explained Seisay with his customary smile.

As if starting as a freshman in the Rose Bowl against a Heisman caliber QB wasn’t enough, consider that this was the first year of the BCS playoff system, and Alabama and Ohio State were on the other side of the four-team bracket. The Rose Bowl’s cliche nickname, “The Granddaddy of Them All” was now even bigger. All Seisay had time to think about was “Man, just don’t let my receiver find the endzone.”   

Drawing on the guidance of his senior wingman Troy Hill, who is now with the LA Rams, Seisay and the Ducks wound up holding Winston and Florida State to just 20 points in a 39-point triumph over the Seminoles. Oregon would force five turnovers on the evening, snapping FSU’s 26-game win streak and sending the Ducks to their second national title game in school history. Seisay was not only ready, but he shined. He was a legitimate shut-down corner now. Nobody stopped Jameis Winston in college. Until he and the Ducks managed to lock him down in Pasadena.

Eleven days later, Oregon would face Urban Meyer and Ohio State at Jerry’s World in Dallas for the National Title. Seisay tallied seven tackles on the night, but it wasn’t enough. Not with Ezekiel Elliott rumbling for four touchdowns on the ground. The Buckeyes won the first playoff title in college football, but the future couldn’t have been any brighter for Seisay. He had arrived on the biggest stage in college football and delivered, twice.

Seisay lays a hit on Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott in the 2015 National Championship Game. (Photo by Icon Sports Wire) 

--

Long before Seisay ever arrived on football’s national stage in a loud green Oregon Duck jersey, he showed up in American Canyon, California during elementary school, by way of bordering city Vallejo. Before 1992, American Canyon hadn’t been incorporated as a city yet. They wouldn’t even have a high school built until 2010.  When he moved into town, Seisay essentially had no idea where he’d end up for high school, but that didn’t stop him from falling in love with the game of football at a young age.

“Both of my parents are from Sierra Leone in West Africa,” explains Seisay. “So they weren't too fond of American football, but my brothers Emmanuel and Malcolm really got me into sports. They had me playing everything in the backyard. Baseball, basketball, you name it. They were always testing me athletically.”

As a fifth grader, Seisay was an unstoppable force on the blacktops of American Canyon, linking up for touchdown after touchdown with his buddies. “This was before Snapchat, so yeah, we just played outside all the time to be honest,” he says.

By the time he entered middle school, a local Pop Warner team, the American Canyon Patriots, were recruiting him hard to come play wide receiver. Even reserving Jerry Rice’s #80 for him. Whatever would help convince his mom to let him put on the pads. Finally, it worked, and within a year, Seisay was hooked. By 8th grade, he followed his friend Chad Miller to the Vallejo Generals Pop Warner program and created a duo that had both towns buzzing. Miller, who now plays for San Jose State, made Seisay his favorite target, riding him all the way to a national tournament in Las Vegas. By this time, every high school coach in the greater North Bay yearned for Seisay’s athleticism, knowing his hometown hadn’t built him a high school yet.

“I looked into a lot of different high schools,” says Seisay. Vallejo High, Saint Patrick-St. Vincent, even De La Salle, but I wound up getting bussed up to Vintage in Napa. That’s what all the kids in my area were doing, so I just went with it. It turned out to be a really fun experience up there.”

After starring as a two-way player on Vintage’s JV squad, American Canyon High School was finally finished. His mother Princess, still lukewarm on the whole idea of tackle football, insisted he stay close to home. Seisay hated the idea, but obeyed her wishes anyway.

“That’s when I met coach Mac,” Seisay remembers with a huge smile on his face. “Ian MacMillan, the best coach I’ve ever had. Period.”

With only freshman and sophomores enrolled on the brand-new campus, American Canyon only could field a JV team that year, and MacMillan was the head man. Seisay was an instant star and immediately hit it off with his new coach/math teacher. Teams like Vallejo, Fairfield and Benicia figured to dominate them, but somehow that wasn’t the case. American Canyon was competitive right away. Coach Mac made sure of it.

As a junior, Seisay led a team devoid of any seniors to wins over Piedmont and Vallejo. The next year, Seisay led the school’s first graduating class to a record of 11-2, including two playoff victories. Seisay was a force on both sides of the ball, recording 92 tackles on defense and 11 touchdowns as a wide receiver. Coach Mac relentlessly sent out highlight videos of his senior star to the biggest programs in college football. Almost everyone liked what they saw.

“For whatever reason, during high school I decided my dream school was Boise State,” says Seisay. “I guess it was the blue turf, the Bronco logo, the uniforms, everything. Every time I played NCAA football on Playstation, I played with Boise.”

And after turning heads at a camp in Idaho in front of head coach Chris Peterson, Boise is where he thought he was headed to play in real life. That is until he stepped foot on campus at the U of O. When Chip Kelly calls, you listen, regardless of what team you grew up playing video games with.

In his first year at Oregon in 2009, Kelly immediately took the Ducks to the Rose Bowl. The next year, he had them in the national title game versus Auburn. Then in 2011 Oregon won the Rose Bowl and finally in 2012 they won the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon was literally a machine at that point and they were asking Seisay to help anchor their defense. He couldn’t say no.

Upon his arrival, however, Seisay would find himself with more unexpected change in his life. Chip Kelly took the Philadelphia Eagles job, leaving Mark Helfrich in his place. Even with Kelly gone, the Ducks were destined for success with Hawaiian wonder-kid Mariota under center, leading them to the national title game, while winning the Heisman. The post-Mariota Era was not so kind, however.

Seisay pictured with his high school coach at American Canyon, Ian MacMillan. (Photo by Marty James)

--

Seisay remembers the night in East Lansing, Michigan all too well. With a new quarterback at the helm for Oregon, it was up to a young Duck defense to hold down Connor Cook’s Michigan State offense in a hostile road environment. Toward the end of the first half, Seisay went in for a tackle. When he came out of the play, he felt something tear in his left ankle. Without Seisay in the Ducks’ secondary, Oregon went on to lose by three points. A chance at a repeat trip to the national title was all but lost. Seisay was devastated.

For the next eight games, he watched from the sidelines, nursing an ankle that was slow to heal. The secondary he was supposed to be mentoring from the field was left to struggle, mired in silly mistakes due to inexperience. The Oregon staff kept asking if he was ready, but this time he wasn’t. At least not soon enough.

By the time Seisay fully returned to health, the Ducks found themselves in the Alamo Bowl against TCU. At half, Oregon was up 31-0. Then the nightmare started. TCU had nine possessions in the second half, and they scored on every single one, eventually beating Oregon in overtime.

“I’ve played a lot of games in my life,” recalls Seisay. “But man, that had to be the worst ever. Still can’t believe that went down.”

The bad taste of the season stuck with Seisay throughout the spring and into the summer. Eventually, he decided he needed a change of scenery and longed to return to his boyhood position at wide receiver, so he went for it.

“Portland State had always wanted me as a wide receiver out of high school,” explains Seisay. “I was at the point of my career where I wanted to have fun again playing football. I knew if I went to Portland I wouldn’t have to sit out a year. I could score touchdowns at receiver and be healthy on the field again.”  

Of course, the unexpected always seems to follow Seisay’s football career, and this endeavor proved no different. After two games on offense, a slew of team injuries forced Seisay to accept a role back on the Portland State defense. He happily obliged, leading a secondary that proved to be a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy 3-8 season. The following year was an even tougher road for the Vikings. After two close losses to BYU and Oregon State where Seisay shined, the wheels fell off completely, as the program wound up going winless last year.

Seisay wraps up FSU’s Ermon Lane in the Ducks’ 2015 Rose Bowl victory. (Photo by Gary Vasquez) 

--

Since graduating from Portland State with a Social Science degree in the winter, Seisay has been back in the Bay Area training for the next step in his football career: the NFL. He doesn’t seem the least bit intimidated by the challenge. For the past four years he’s run in the same circles of all the top rated defensive backs on this year’s draft board including Derwin James of Florida State, Isaiah Oliver of Colorado and Denzel Ward of Ohio State. Looking at these guys on tape and evaluating their combine numbers, it’s hard to tell the difference between them and Seisay. With a 4.4 40-time and a 38 inch vertical, he’s every bit as athletic as your typical NFL defensive back. And at 6’1”, it wouldn’t be a stretch to compare him to some of the taller corners around the league such as recently introduced 49er Richard Sherman.   

On April 12th, Seisay was in Alameda at the Oakland Raiders’ practice facility working out for Jon Gruden. Sources close to the Silver & Black reported that Chuckie was impressed. And if he’s looking for recent Portland State success stories, he doesn’t have to look any further than DeShawn Shead of the Lions and Xavier Coleman on the Jets, both of which recently came out of the Vikings’ program.

“To be honest, I’m not really worried about what is going to happen on draft night. I’ve put up good stats for four years and played against a lot of NFL caliber quarterbacks. I’m comfortable with what I did on my pro day. I have faith that I’ll get my shot. Then it’s up to me to run with it,” says Seisay.

If and when Seisay gets his name called by an NFL team, he’ll have the whole city of American Canyon rooting for him, including an unknown high school that he helped get off the ground.

By the time I wrap up my discussion with Seisay in American Canyon, we’ve been interrupted twice by well-wishers, members of the community that couldn’t help but stop over to say hello to the Chris they’ve watched grow up and since followed on national television. “See man, there’s support in this city,” says Seisay as he continues our debate of the relative merits of Vallejo legends such as Mac Dre, E-40 and CC Sabathia.

“You gonna make it?” asks one particular passerby.

“Man I hope so,” responds a smiling Seisay.  

“Well I think you are.”