German engineered Florian Jungwirth leads the San Jose Earthquakes from the back

Florian Jungwirth has enjoyed a breakout season in the MLS since coming over from Germany's top league in February. (photo courtesy of SJEarthquakes.com)

Florian Jungwirth has enjoyed a breakout season in the MLS since coming over from Germany's top league in February. (photo courtesy of SJEarthquakes.com)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

It may not get as much airtime on American televisions as the English Premier League, but there is little debate that Germany's first division Bundesliga is one of the very best soccer leagues on the planet. Bayern Munich, the league’s flagship club, is one of the most recognizable names in all of sports. Cities in Germany all but shut down for days at a time to support their beloved clubs, stadiums of over 40,000 seats are consistently full, and fans live and die with every result. The NFL in America might be a fair comparison, only the tradition and passion in Germany runs even deeper. As evidenced by the country’s 2014 World Cup title, soccer is everything in Germany, with the Bundesliga serving as a sacred training ground for international glory.

Growing up in Grafelfing, Germany, Florian Jungwirth knew this all too well. He, like countless boys his age shared the rough framework of the same “German soccer dream”: grow up to play professionally in the Bundesliga and one day star on the German National Team. Save for your Dirk Nowitzkis of the world, it was really that simple. Germany offered the best platform, it was up to the players to see if they could rise to the occasion.

Two years ago, at the age of 26, Jungwirth had all but brought his dreams to fruition. No, he was not a member of Germany’s 2014 World Cup title team, but as a teenager he was captain of the U-19 ad U-20 German national youth teams. And by his mid-twenties, he had earned a spot in the first division of the Bundesliga playing for SV Darmstadt 98. Much of the dream had become a reality and he was living it. Sold out stadiums of roaring crowds, intense media coverage, international recognition, the Bundesliga had it all. But then, out of nowhere, Jungwirth received a call from a former teammate. One that stuck with him.

“A couple years ago, while I was playing for Darmstadt in Germany, Gregg Berhalter gave me a call. We played professionally together for ‘1860 Munich.’ It was his last year in the Bundesliga (2nd Division) and my first. He had moved on to coach in the MLS with the Columbus Crew. He asked me, ‘would you ever think about coming to play in the MLS?’" explained Jungwirth. “And from that day on I started really following the league. Now here I am.”

Berhalter, an American who played his soccer at the University of North Carolina, made 44 appearances for the U.S. National Team, as well as stints in various professional leagues around the world. Now as a coach in the MLS, he knew reaching out to Europe for players would be a smart way to improve his new team, as well as the league in general. Fortunately, Jungwirth was there on the other end to listen.

Bayern Munich's Chilian midfielder Arturo Vidal (L) and Darmstadt's midfielder Florian Jungwirth (R) vie for the ball during a German Bundesliga first division football match in Munich, Germany.

Bayern Munich's Chilian midfielder Arturo Vidal (L) and Darmstadt's midfielder Florian Jungwirth (R) vie for the ball during a German Bundesliga first division football match in Munich, Germany.

With the MLS seed planted, Jungwirth and his wife began to keep a close eye on the American league and what it could potentially offer. Cities in California were especially quick to catch the Jungwirths’ eyes. That’s why when new Quakes' general manager Jesse Fioranelli called with a handsome contract offer to play Major League Soccer in the Bay Area, Jungwith couldn’t refuse. “I think my wife would have divorced me if I said no,” Jungwirth reflects with a smile. “45 minutes from the sea, 45 minutes from the mountains, it’s hard to say no to the Bay Area. Playing for the MLS and living in California, for me, it’s the whole package. It was an interesting vision of Jesse. He wanted to create a new idea for the club with a new style of play and he wanted me to be a big part of it. It was hard to say no to that.”

Starting at center back for all 14 Eathquakes games this season, the 5’11”, 174lb Jungwith has made an immediate impact with his new MLS club. Even on the backline, Jungwirth has already recorded two goals and two assists on the young season, leading to a nomination for July’s MLS All-Star Game, as well as talk regarding the MLS newcomer of the year award and the defensive player of the year.

Perhaps Jungwirth’s largest contribution to the Quakes thus far has been his stability on San Jose’s backline. Originally slated to play in the central midfield, Jungwirth was thrust into the center back position after Harold Cummings (a Panama National Team veteran) was lost for the season due to injury. Despite the new role, Jungwirth has played with great effectiveness from Game one. #23 is constantly flying around the pitch making plays, winning 50/50 balls, slide tackling forwards, organizing the defense, orchestrating and building up the offensive attack. Watching him play for just 10 minutes lets you know his feel for the game, his technical skill, and his tactical decision making are all at a premier level. Overall, he’s quickly turned into the impact player that Quakes management were hoping for when they signed him away from the Bundesliga over the winter.

“When I first came to the Earthquakes, Jesse (Fioranelli) wanted me to be a leader. Some of my teammates could have taken that the wrong way, coming from Europe and talking from the first day, but I simply want to help the team. I’m a natural talker on the field and my position requires that. Fortunately, my team has responded well to me and we’ve been successful.”

Of course, Florian’s immediate impact on the Quakes should come as little surprise to those familiar with international soccer and the extremely high level being played in Germany. “Defending World Cup champions” speaks for itself, but the country has built up a system of player development that is second to none across the globe. Products of Germany’s system have an understanding of the tactical side of soccer that few others share. It produces players that know exactly what to do with the ball on seemingly every touch, with efficiency holding more value than flair. From a very young age, German youth are taught the correct way to play, feeding like a funnel all the way up to Germany’s national team. The art of “The Beautiful Game” will never be boiled down into a science, but the Germans might come closer than anyone to doing so.

Florian wore the captain band for Germany's Under-20 Youth National Team (photo by Thomas Starke)

Florian wore the captain band for Germany's Under-20 Youth National Team (photo by Thomas Starke)

From the age of 11, Jungwirth was taught the game in a German soccer academy dedicated to player development. It was not a soccer lab or a factory, but then again, German soccer academies aren’t all that different. Places where future World Cup and Bundesliga stars are engineered just like the latest Mercedes Benz model. For six years (U-16 to U-20) Jungwirth starred on Germany’s youth national team, competing internationally against the best players in the world in his age bracket. For the U-19 team, Jungwirth served as the team captain of the side who won the UEFA European U-19 Championship, beating Italy in the final in the Czech Republic.

When asked about the experience of leading such successful teams in international play at that age, Jungwirth smiles and shrugs it off as no big deal. “The German National Team is at a much different level than something like under-20’s. That is a huge step,” he explains.

Despite not getting the call from the world’s best soccer team, Jungwirth parlayed his success as a junior into a lucrative pro career. Nothing was given to the gritty player, but Jungwirth found a way to latch on with Darmstadt who was at that time in Bundesliga’s second division. But thanks in large part to Jungwirth’s performance, Darmstadt enjoyed one of its best seasons in years, which earned them a spot up in Bundesliga’s fabled first division.

“We were the smallest team in the second division,” explains Jungwirth. “No one was expecting us to do anything. Experts actually thought we were going to drop down to the third division that year. But we ended up going on a 16-game winning streak and we made it into the first division.”

Once there, Jungwirth enjoyed a year and a half playing in Germany’s top league, further developing his game against the world’s best, all with an eye on his own American dream. Now that he’s made the leap of faith to play American soccer in the prime of career, he hasn’t looked back. So far, it has worked out not only on an individual level, but also for the San Jose Earthquakes themselves as the team is in a good position to get back to the MLS playoffs for the first time in five years. Jungwirth doesn’t take this playoff opportunity for granted, as his days in Germany found him stuck behind NBA style super-teams like Bayern Munich.  “In Germany, you can play like you want, but if you are on a small team, you don’t have a real chance against a team like Bayern Munich, but here in the MLS, so many different teams have a chance to win a title. I like that about this league.”

Unlike David Beckham who came over from Real Madrid to play out the twilight of his career with the L.A. Galaxy or Barcelona’s David Villa who is currently doing the same with New York City FC of the MLS, Jungwirth is still very much in the prime of his career. By no means is this some sort of marketing play by Jungwirth to spread his personal brand in an American city while playing some soccer on the side. “Flo,” as his teammates call him, is here to win a professional soccer championship. Something that wasn’t going to be possible across the pond in Europe.  

Without a doubt, the Bay Area’s own Chris Wondolowski still remains the face of the Earthquakes’ franchise, responsible for the lion’s share of the club’s flashiest goals. But in his first season, Jungwirth is quickly showing San Jose faithful why he could be best described as the Quakes’ trusted engineer. Always working, always improving, always producing, but never breaking.    

Florian celebrates with the face of the Quakes franchise, Chris Wondolowski. (photo courtesy of SJEathquakes.com)

Florian celebrates with the face of the Quakes franchise, Chris Wondolowski. (photo courtesy of SJEathquakes.com)

Section925 Roadtrip: The Rogue Runs Jerry Rice's "Hill"

By: Josh Hunsucker | josh@section925.com

In 1985, aspiring Macy’s underwear model and 49er running back Roger Craig invited a rookie wide receiver named Jerry Rice to Edgewood Park in Redwood City for a morning run.  After struggling to finish the 2.5 mile run a young Jerry Rice learned two things: (1) Roger Craig was no joke and (2) he had go back and conquer what is now famously known as “The Hill.” Over 30-years later, you can still find Rice at Edgewood Park as he not only made the run a part of his NFL training plan but a lifelong part of his physical fitness regimen.

Jerry Rice’s maniacal work ethic has always been one of the most intriguing parts of his legacy.  For the uninitiated, here’s a quick recap: he caught bricks thrown by his father off of the roofs of homes in the same town Johnny Cash got arrested in for picking daisies, he showed up at the Niners’ training facility two weeks after winning the Super Bowl to workout while his teammates were still waking up from hangovers, he went to special teams meetings even though he wasn’t on special teams, he routinely caught balls for an hour before practice and ran extra sprints for an hour after practice, and he famously ran The Hill every day in the offseason. For years I thought about running The Hill, and although I lived less than an hour away, I inexplicably never made the trip, until recently.

The Lead Up

As I bombed across the San Mateo Bridge, between the Foo Fighters reverberating in my eardrums and the caffeine surging through my veins, it felt like a cross between a race day and meeting up with a good looking girl in a foreign city. I was excited, nervous, and couldn't wait to get to the trailhead. That and the extra coffee gave me an added incentive to find a bathroom before conquering the legendary run.

Edgewood Park: Official Home of The Hill

Edgewood Park: Official Home of The Hill

Cruising into Edgewood Park I first noticed how well kept San Mateo County maintains the park. There is a nice garden area, small nature museum open to public, and most importantly available bathrooms. If you are going to The Hill you have to do a little research in order to ensure you are running in the same footsteps as the GOAT (this article is probably the best place to find directions, although it is not entirely accurate, more on that later).  Because there are multiple trails a little map reconnaissance and watching the Jerry Rice “Catching History” video are a must.

Driving into the park, my initial plan was to run The Hill once leisurely to ensure that I knew the route. I would do this with no music, take in the scenery, and strategize where I would push hard and where I would conserve energy in an effort to compete against Rice’s unofficial course record of sub-16:00 for the 2.5 mile course.

After my warm-up run to the bathroom and feeling the unusually hot 90 degree Bay Area summer heat that plan changed to a more realistic plan of one time up The Hill, all out, no music because Jerry had none, and take my phone in case I start to die from heat stroke.

The Route

The start of The Hill.

The start of The Hill.

The trail starts gradually and maybe it was a rookie move, no it definitely was a rookie move, to think I was going to go sub-16:00 on my maiden voyage. Rice famously said that first time he ran The Hill he merely suffered and survived. Only repetition allows you to attack The Hill.

I hit start on my watch and go. I like to think that in my excitement to get up the trail that I would have led Jerry for the first 30 second because when my lungs started searing and I started slowing significantly, my watch read 00:30.1.

Everything about the run sucked (in the best way possible), except the view. The switchbacks at the start of the run were deceivingly brutal. As I got out of the switchbacks the trail opens up a little and the elevation rises as the sun beat down on my poor soul. As I followed the signs to the “scenic view” I could see The Hill rising to my left as I hit the next set of switchbacks.

Take the "Scenic View."

Take the "Scenic View."

As I did my research for The Hill run, the finish, or at least the part that everyone referred to as “the Summit” showed a picturesque view of rolling hills. After following the directions to “the Summit,” as described from my online research, confirmed by reviewing the end of the “Catching History,” and confirming certain landmarks I was puzzled. To be fair, tired and puzzled. First, I had only run two miles, not two and a half. Second, and most troubling, as I peered to my right I could still see more elevation on The Hill, which I had not yet climbed.

@the_rogue at the faux "Summit."

@the_rogue at the faux "Summit."

Why would Jerry Rice, the man who is legendary for outworking everyone, not run to the top of The Hill? That cannot be right. So I did the only thing that any rational Jerry Rice fan and adventure junkie would do, I set off for the top.

Fork in the Road: Go left = NFL Films "Summit", go right = "True Summit."

Fork in the Road: Go left = NFL Films "Summit", go right = "True Summit."

Trade Secrets

The view from the top of the "True Summit" of The Hill.

The view from the top of the "True Summit" of The Hill.

When I got to the top everything added up. The distance to the top was just about a half mile from the alleged “summit.” The incline to the true summit spiked skyward up until the last few feet, as described by Rice. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen to my brain but as I took deep breaths with my hands over my head and looked around, the true top of The Hill had no view. The importance of this fact cannot be understated.

Think about who Jerry Rice is. He is an intense competitor. The guy showed up to train days after winning the Super Bowl for God’s sake. This is a guy who convinced himself that he was not going to make the team so that he would work like he was fighting for the 53rd spot on the roster when he was the best player in the game.

This may just be a conspiracy theory but hear me out. When NFL Films came calling and wanted to do a feature on The Hill Rice knew he couldn’t turn down the NFL because, you know, the NFL gets what it wants. Although he couldn’t completely hide his training secret, he balanced that by only giving the rest of the world a taste of The Hill. Why not finish the NFL Films puff piece at a location with a great vista? It makes for great TV and doesn’t disclose Rice’s proprietary route.

It was that last brutal half-mile that enabled Rice to blow past defensive backs in the fourth quarter when everything hurt. That last half-mile that he refused to disclose was Rice keeping his edge on the competition, his trade secret. That last half mile forged him into the greatest football player of all time.

None of those early morning suffer sessions ended with Rice at the top of a vista arms raised in victory. Those runs ended with Rice alone on the top of a narrow path surrounded by shrubs, trees, and silence. Sweat dripping, tugging on his shorts (or tights), breathing hard, and with the fear that someone may be out there training harder than him. There is something beautiful about that.  Jerry alone at the top suffering, so that he may make others suffer.

If you ever have a chance, especially if you love the Niners or Jerry Rice. Go out to Redwood City for an afternoon, better yet a morning, and suffer up The Hill. You will be glad you did, and if your anything like me you will come back for more.

Why does Adam Rosales sprint his home run trot? Answer: He loves baseball that much

A modern day Charlie Hustle (photo by Ezra Shaw)

A modern day Charlie Hustle (photo by Ezra Shaw)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

If you listen to the interview above between Jim Rome and Adam Rosales, it's almost impossible not to fall in love with the man that A's fans affectionately call "Rosie." After all, Rosales literally sprints around the bases following his home runs, and in the interview with Romie, he explains how it all started, as a 12-year-old in Michigan who knew nothing but hustle. 

Now in his tenth big league season, the 34-year-old Rosales has already played for four MLB teams, with this being his second go around in Oakland. For his first nine seasons, Rosales never made more than a million dollars (this year he is making 1.2 mil). He's had to earn every one of his at-bats through the years, with trade talks following the utility man wherever he goes. Famously, back in 2013, Rosales was designated for assignment three times and claimed off waivers three other times, all within a tumultuous ten day window. 

As a career .228 hitter, Rosales is not exactly Ted Williams at the plate, nor does he posses the grace of a Buster Posey right handed swing. But what he lacks in talent, he more than makes up for with heart and hustle. Charlie Hustle himself (Pete Rose) was notorious for sprinting down to first base after drawing a walk. But Rosales has taken things a step forward in the hustle department, to the point where he routinely rounds the bases on homers in less than 16 seconds. 

Rosales is so passionate about respecting the game and playing it the right way, that he has gone out of his way to start a movement called "#SandlotNation." According to Rosales, Sandlot Nation is as simple as it gets. Rosie heads out to youth baseball fields around noon time across America, with not much more than his glove, bat and a bucket of balls. He organizes a group of kids to come out and play and Rosie throws to them in a sandlot style game. While most Big Leaguers are just waking up in their hotel room on the morning before a road game, Rosie is often out on an all-dirt infield, starting a pickup baseball game with a group of surprised kids. "I always seem to play better at night when I pitch a sandlot game that day," Rosales tells Rome.

The A's have moved on to #RootedInOakland as their marketing tagline this season, but the true core of the A's still lies in the #GreenCollar movement, started a few years back. If anyone embodies the blue collar, lunch pail ethos of industrial Oakland, it's Adam Rosales. A's fans shouldn't take his all-out style for granted. Every 16-second home run trot should be savored, every horizontal dive on the Coliseum dirt applauded. He might be gone before you know it.  

Giants facing new hard reality: They aren't any good

At the end of April, the Giants had the worst record in the National League (photo by Matthew Stockman)

At the end of April, the Giants had the worst record in the National League (photo by Matthew Stockman)

By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard

There’s no sugarcoating it. The Giants have been brutal to watch, and the hits - except the ones that improve your batting average - keep on coming.

To say that the Giants have failed to live up to expectations after the first month of the 2017 season would be like saying the Warriors are good at basketball. It’s a Captain Obvious statement, and one that is a result of disappointments on the field, careless decisions off the field, and the lack of decisive action made by the front office leading up to the season.

The nightmare began on Opening Day vs Arizona, a game that can be viewed as something of a microcosm of the first month.

On that day, Madison Bumgarner proved his undisputed value to the team by opening with five perfect innings and slugging two home runs (a first for any pitcher on Opening Day). Then, with the help of some spotty defense in the outfield, new closer Mark Melancon blew the save and the Giants lost on a walk-off single after the offense failed to tack on runs throughout the game.

Flash forward to the present, and you have the following realities to face, along with a 10-18 record (last in the NL): 1) Bumgarner is out for an indefinite amount of time after a dirt biking accident, 2) Melancon has blown two saves, the Giants have blown five as a team, 3) Seven players are on the disabled list, and 4) they have received almost zero contribution from their outfielders.

Collectively, these realities lead to a 10-18 record for a team that was supposed to contend for the NL West title.

Let's start with Bumgarner. After fours starts, he was receiving some of the worst run support in baseball, and was almost certainly becoming frustrated. The Giants haven’t been scoring for any of their pitchers, but the bats were especially silent for MadBum days, which must drive a perennial All-Star and Cy Young candidate like MadBum crazy.

Then, almost as if to say, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone," Bumgarner chose to go dirt bike riding on an off day in Denver and took a spill, resulting in injuries to his throwing shoulder that will take months to heal.

I don’t have to tell you how stupid, irresponsible, and baffling that is for a professional athlete who is in-season, let alone a superstar, but I’ll just say it anyway: what was he thinking? Apparently he wasn’t following the Giants back when Jeff Kent injured himself “washing his truck."

Next, the bullpen. The problems that plagued the 2016 Giants have persisted in 2017, and you can’t help but point some of the blame at a front office that made only one significant addition to the core area of need the Giants had in the offseason.

Mark Melancon has been so-so and will surely be fine as the season goes on, however the supporting cast has been inconsistent. The season-ending injury to Will Smith didn’t help, but overall the bullpen has been unreliable and hasn’t lived up to best-case-scenario expectations that Bochy and team were hoping for when they remained quiet in free agency.

Speaking of injuries, the Giants have them spread across their entire roster. Buster Posey lost a week of his season after being plunked in the head during his first home at-bat of the year, Jarred Parker separated his shoulder, Span has lingering shoulder issues, Crawford is currently on the DL, and of course there’s Bumgarner. The injury bug has also hit role players Aaron Hill and Trevor Brown.

Finally, the  cast of outfielders that many were nervous about heading into the season has proved to be just as bad as you didn’t hope. Hunter Pence has slowly rounded into form, but the other two Opening Day starters, Parker and Span, had been horrendous before succumbing to their respective injuries. The stop gap replacements have been just as bad, with the only arguable bright spot being Michael Morse’s triumphant return to SF with a game-tying HR in his first AB.

The reality is, it’s not looking good for the Giants. Yes it’s still early, but aside from Matt Cain’s resurgence, Christian Arroyo’s emergence as a rising star, and some decent batting averages from guys you’d expect to hit, the Giants don’t have a lot to be excited about after one month.

First and foremost, they need to score runs (worst run differential in baseball). Next, they need to get healthy. Finally, they need their bullpen to quit blowing the few leads they’re given.


*Not mentioned, but not forgotten: Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija have been flat out disappointing, and Ty Blach continues to exceed expectations as Bumgarner’s replacement.

Thoughts on Draymond Green

(Photo by Ezra Shaw)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw)

By Kyle Heise | @KyleHeise

With a cast of unprecedented talent, the Warriors are the team to beat regardless of last year’s result (and there will be more to come on this later). And with this current collection of Warriors players from Iguadola to Klay to Step and now KD-- my favorite player is Draymond Green. For as much as Steph can dazzle me with his on-ball pirouettes where his balance is so off kilter that getting a shot off, let alone draining a three, is beyond comprehension; or Klay’s catch and release that is more kill than conservation; or KD’s lanky body that trebuchets the ball over his defenders worse than medieval warlords; for as much as the Warriors exhibit basketball’s finesse at its optimum, I still prefer Green’s arduous defensive rate and his unselfish play. Safe to say I love him because he's the fire of the best team in the league. Draymond cleans up the trash. He has help too. He in know way can exhibit so much emotion on the court without winning. He’s also a target because of it. So before the play-offs begin, I’d like to offer some unrestrained thoughts on Mr. Draymond Green. These are some observations from this season and some of the previous post-season as well as what to come. (Excuse the banal approach to making a list, your author hopes you can see beyond the simplicity of it.)

1-Rarely does a player control the tempo of a team that is not their best player or their point guard. Rarely do the reigning MVPs listen when a role player threatens. We see it with Draymond Green. When Draymond speaks people seem to listen. Let’s start with that. Next point.

2- He's cerebral. He will probably be a phenomenal coach, and if not: a better pundit that most of those who currently ridicule him. (Most geniuses had a quirk, an oddness to them-- violent, passive, socially inept whatever) There was a game early on this season where the Dubs got beat by the Grizzlies. The game was an early lesson on game management, the 4th quarter in particular. Towards the end of the loss, Green and KD got into a visible verbal tussle. The spat appeared intense from TV. When asked after the game about what transpired, KD admitted that Draymond was just telling him the correct thing to do. That Draymond had seen a stagnation in the offense that was contributing to the team’s poor effort. In the following video, KD concurs with Draymond:

Here they are talking again:

3-He's a counter to the guard heavy league. Draymond is the antithesis of today’s NBA. He’s not a scorer. He’s a provider. In today’s game, beyond Lebron, one seldom sees this performed night in and night out by a forward. Show me another team that let’s it 6’7’’ forward play top. Show me another team that has a 6’7’’ forward capable of passing like Draymond.

3a. He doesn’t fit a position. On most possessions he plays point guard on offense but runs the floor with the big man on D. But against another opponent he’ll D-up the swing-man and then play pick-n-roll on offense, where he’s the buttery roll.

4-In a league where the King is soft, Draymond’s player types should be celebrated. Pundits who revel in the 80s should take note.The softness of today’s NBA is detrimental to the ferocity and fervor of a player like Green. Green is doing his best to make it a man's league again. The raw emotion that players show on a nightly basis in the NBA is tantamount to all other sports. It’’s hidden behind a facemask in football and shunned by traditionalists in baseball. Night in and night out NBA players are scrutinized from every angle in the NBA. Nothing on the court goes unnoticed these days and nearly everything that happens on the court can be retroactively cited as a dubious penalty or a flagrant foul. And with Draymond we’ve seen that come back and haunt him. Albeit the NBA has a history of outspoken players and it’s field of flapping yaps, when Draymond speaks his mind the ears listen. He's the loudest and faces the fire. We have a king who cowers. He's isn't afraid to challenge.

5- Green has made five defensive plays in the last minute of one-possession games that have helped seal victories this season. Game stealers are as good as game winners.

6- In league full of egos, he's a team player. Sure, he has an ego but one must in a dog eat dog league. He’s a prolific passer for his size and usually prefers a pass to a shot. And beyond that ego is a compassionate man. E.g. He made the largest single player alumni donation back to Michigan State in the school’s history. This lion’s got a heart in there somewhere. He’s known to keep in contact with his college coach, Tom Izzo. Izzo is legendary in his own right, but his praise for Draymond is high. Izzo acknowledges Green’s tenacity, sheer will to win, and that he might be the smartest player on the court. The two still exchange game plans for Michigan State. He’s cerebral. And he’s lucky to have Izzo as a mentor.

7-He scored the first triple double w/o points this season. And. Like. Ever. In. History.

8-Dray has the audacity to hit Lebron when he was a flagrant foul away from suspension during the NBA Finals. Stupid obviously, but didn’t we all want someone to do it? He did what every rational American would think at the time. All the favoring to the Lebron over the years culminated through Draymond’s little wrist flick. It only took this many years for someone to try and break Lebron’s hegemony, his invincibility. Draymond fell for BronBron’s mind game. Kudos to BronBron for eliciting a response that got Green suspended, but don’t tell me the series ended right there.

9- In March, Chris Broussard said that Draymond’s behavior lost the Warriors the 2016 title. He’s not the first to suggest so nor was it his first time doing so. But wow- what hyperbole that is.

Can they really pin one player’s one-game absence on the whole series? How about the cold shooting to start game 5? Or blowing a 14-pt lead at the half in game 7? Draymond scored 32pts, 15 rebounds and 9 assists in Game 7. He missed game 5 not the decisive game 7. There were still two games to be had. If the rest of the players couldn’t rise with the occasion and hold up their teammate, then why are they in the NBA? Seems to me like Green’s ferocity and diehard style are what kept the Warriors from being embarrassed even more. Scapegoating Draymond for losing the series is easy. What’s not easy is calling out the reigning two time MVP for disappearing in the most important game of his life. Draymond has shown he can step up when not just the game, but the season is on the line.

10-His technicals are an indeed issue though. But this is a league wider issue that stretches back years to the league’s poor ruling on technical fouls that began with players like Rasheed Wallace. The Warriors are great. All-time great. Paired with this greatness and the happy-marketable faces of Steph and KD, the Joe Cool-Spicoli-sly demeanor of Klay, and Iguadola’s Tech Ambassador moniker, there had to be a anti-hero. Enter Draymond. The refs need some to patrol. Plus,the NBA pretty much has a de facto law out that wants a cleaner game but instead rewards the flopping and coddling of star players. In today’s game, players like Green and Demarcus Cousins are hunted by the Refs. These guys can’t so much as look at a ref without the ref feeling fear. Just see John Wall’s recent comments about the reffing in the league. It’s nothing new. Refs are human. Humans have biases. And that’s just the way it is. That’s just that way it’s always been.

11-Some say Draymond looks like Donkey from Shrek (as of that’s a good thing). But damn, I think he looks like a big, cuddly man willing to risk it all in order to take our relationship (read: team) to the next level.

12-His tenacity goes back years. I can’t recall the source of these rumours but word on the street is that during his years at Michigan State, Draymond would head to the local pick-up spots and wreck house. He’d bring his fiery personality to the hardened black tops across East Lansing and pick fights. He’d talk shit to cliche old men you find at these locales. Take these with a grain of salt. All I know is that it adds to the man’s aura. I want to believe these stories because they are so perfectly Draymond. I can imagine these pick-up games--hardly even games if they are like any other pick-up league, ya know where they are more tests of spirit than skill-- taking place in the frigid weather of Michigan where it’s cold enough to where the ball embodies truly its nickname: the rock; and where the breaths of each player fill the air and each man’s perspiring skin radiates a fog that gives the whole scene a mystic feel, with that kind of occult haze that emulates a hallowed cemetery at twilight. It’s Hollywood-esque, but then again, isn’t Hollywood like real life? And it’s in these scenarios where champions are born; all the extra hours spent learning tricks and trades from the has-beens and never-wases--what Reggie Miller often calls “old man game”-- that one cannot learn from playing with your peers. These experiences are what culminate into a player like Draymond.

13-The guy's mom don’t take smack either. Remember when she was notorious for trolling fans, refs, and the NBA on Twitter? Prolly good she went awol. At least we got to see where some of the madness stems from.

14-Why’s he always flailing his legs? He always flails his legs like an untamed gymnast on offense trying to draw fouls. It’s totally dramatic folly. It’s totally Draymond. He’s playing into the malarkey permitted by today’s NBA. See this video:

The refs award this kind of play. Lebron does it. Harden does it. Everyone does. But how Draymond does it borders the finest line between fair play and just plain stupid.

15- He believes he can outshoot Steph, Klay, Steve Kerr, and even the Durantula. That fact the he believes, makes me love him even more.

16- Yes, he’s dirty. Myriad youtube vids show this theory’s truths. Show me a team without one of these players? Again, every angle of these guys on the court is scrutinized. Y’ever played for keeps like these guys? Me neither. But I’d def try to pinch a guy or two during a few rebounds for a crown.

17- Watch someone try to post him up. The way he moves his body is textbook perfect. That's how he can roll with the big dogs. It's like that scene in "Finding Forester," he know's where you are going before you do. He plays D with his legs and gets to the spot before his opponent. The last play in that game against the Pelican's was defensive genius. That play where he stripped Anthony Davis as time expired. Drey robbed him straight up. That’s big NBA D.

18-Draymond doesn’t need to change. He’s born from a different era. He’s not bred for the softness of the modern NBA. I’m sure he would have been a catalyst to the bad-boy Detroit Pistons or the fundamentally sound 2004 Champs. He grew up watching these teams and he plays like them.

19- He gonna be DPOY. Anything less will be a conspiracy and we ought to take Adam Silver to the Bastille.

This playoff run is gonna see the Warriors go as far as Draymond pulls the train. Yes, they’ll need everyone to drain their jumpers and contribute, but as Game 1 against Portland showed, Draymond is the central catalyst emotionally and his all-around phenomenal contributions will be the glue that puts all the pieces together.

Section925 Podcast Ep. 161 - Basketball Insider Jon Wheeler on Cal hoops, Final Four & More

The Mobile Podcenter returns to the Hoop Cave where Section925 Basketball Insider Jon Wheeler addresses the fall-out from his comments about the Cal Basketball coaching search, previews the Final Four, talks resurgent Dubs, and reflects on his days playing pick-up hoop against the likes of Hook Mitchell in the parks of Berkeley.

Al Davis' son cashes out, moves Oakland Raiders to Sin City

By Merlin Edwards III | @Trey_Me

The dreadful day has finally come... the Oakland Raiders will be no longer.

Owner Mark Davis has decided to pick up and leave the most loyal fans in the NFL for a city that has never even housed a professional sports franchise. There are multiple reasons why this has happened, but all of them mean nothing to the die-hard Raiders fans in the Bay Area. Sure, the Raiders have left before, but no team, until now, has ever left the same city twice. March 27th, 2017 will go down as a tragic day in Oakland sports history and nobody is to blame but the money hungry, corporate greed that is the NFL and its owners.

There are a lot of "never before's" attached to this move. There has never been a team that left its city twice. There has never been a professional team of any kind in Las Vegas. There has never been a team to leave a top 5 television market (SF Bay Area) for one as low as 40 (Las Vegas). There has certainly never been a city who has put up $750 million-plus in taxpayer money either, as Nevada has done. Oakland Raiders owner, Mark Davis is one of the least wealthy owners in the NFL and that is the reason why the Oakland Raiders will now call Las Vegas home. Oakland was not willing to put up anywhere near that amount of taxpayer money, and for good reason...why should they? NFL owners (for the most part) are billionaires. If you want a new state-of-the-art stadium, build the darn thing yourself! Just like Stan Kroenke did with the Rams in Los Angeles. Just like Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons are doing. Jed York and the 49ers...the list goes on.

However, since Mark Davis is not among those uber rich owners, the only thing he can do to get a stadium is take an enormous handout. He tried it in LA and got shot down by the other owners in favor of the Rams and Chargers. Now here is his next attempt, which turned out to be the straw that broke the camels back.

The fact that three teams have been approved to move in the span of 14 months is the zeitgeist of our political and financial society. All of these teams moving are because the other owners gave a vote of at least 24-8. The Raiders vote was 31-1. Only the Dolphins owner voted against it and his reasoning was sound with my own. Why would we take a team out of a top five market to one that is below 35? It may be a short term fix, but what about the long term? Things in Las Vegas seem to only be cool for a span of 2-5 years. So what happens after that? Mark Davis and the other owners have the belief that they'll still make money. And maybe they will. The 49ers have been top five in revenue while playing in a half-empty Levi's Stadium. The NFL making money is not about butts in the seats anymore. It's much more than that.

Loyalty on display in the Black Hole (photo by Thearon W. Henderson)

Loyalty on display in the Black Hole (photo by Thearon W. Henderson)

Now, to play devils advocate for a second, why wouldn't you vote for it? There is a relocation fee that must be paid which is evenly split between all of you. Since the fee this time was $300+ million, each owner is getting a check of over $10 million in your pocket. You also know (or can at least speculate) that the mystique of the Raider Nation fans will not be as strong in Vegas, so there is a good chance there is no more home field advantage that the Black Hole has held for years. Meaning your fans may even find another excuse to tell the wife they're going to Vegas for the weekend, and your VISITING team could be louder on those crucial 3rd downs. Not to mention you get to go to Vegas and maybe even hold a Super Bowl there.

The other owners had good reason to vote for this. The only owner that has had any semblance of loyalty to Oakland is Mark Davis. He threw that out of the window for a handout that Oakland would not give him, while assuming that the Raider Nation is so strong that the fan base will follow him.

Well, he's wrong. There are definitely fans in Las Vegas. The fans in LA are probably not angry either, as it's just a tad closer to them. But Oakland fans? We, as a whole, will never follow this team the same way. As signs in the stadium said all last season, "Las Vegas...if you build it, we WON'T come." Sure, there will be fans who follow the team, but in my humble opinion, there will be far less of the followers than the ones like myself. As soon as it was announced that season ticket holders would get their deposits back for the 2017 season, I called and did just that. So did my other family members that have had them for years. So did plenty of lifelong Raiders fans, because if you build it, we won't come. I refuse to be subject to the greed of an owner that clearly never cared about us. I refuse to give my hard earned money to a man who will leave my city without even trying to work with Oakland in the last 2 years. I respect you if you will still be a part of the Nation, but don't expect my fanaticism when there has been no gratitude shown to me. Loyalty is a two way street, and Raiders fans, for the second time, have had their hearts ripped from their chests.

The NFL is all about money, and it always will be. The fans may have mattered a long time ago, but the sad and inconvenient truth is, it will never be that way again. If they did, the Chargers would still be in San Diego and the Raiders would most definitely not leave Oakland yet again. My heart goes out to you Raider Nation. And wherever your fandom will or will not transfer to, more power to you. We are, and have always been in this together, and without us, all of us, the NFL and the Raiders will never be the same again.

The sign speaks for itself (photo by Lachlan Cunningham)

The sign speaks for itself (photo by Lachlan Cunningham)

Section925 Podcast Ep. 160 - Hoops Insider Jon Wheeler & Tommy Renno

Hoop Insider Jon Wheeler is joined by UCLA Bruin supporter Tommy Renno in the Hoop Cave to talk about the Cal Head Coach hiring process, what the likely new coach, Eric Musselman will bring to the job, and the challenges he would face at Cal, along with a discussion of who could replace Steve Alford at UCLA and how far they can go in the Tournament.

The "Even Year Magic" has run out, but Giants return ready for another World Series run

Mad Bum is back for more in 2017 (photo by Tim Warner)

Mad Bum is back for more in 2017 (photo by Tim Warner)

By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard

Well, it finally happened.

Oakland A’s faithful and MLB fans nationwide can rejoice, because the "Even Year Magic" (or “Even Year BS,” as some say) has finally run out for the San Francisco Giants.

Fitting as it may be, it was painful for Giants fans to watch the backbone of their team - the definitive strength of the 2010, 2012, and 2014 championship teams - directly lead to their demise. It felt ironic, but it was only a matter of time before their reliable bullpen arms aged, became fatigued, lost precision, and the luck began to run out.

The warning signs were there throughout the year, as the team blew an incredible 30 saves during the 2016 regular season. The front office took a gamble by not making significant improvements to the bullpen at the trade deadline - aside from 8th-inning lefty Will Smith - and it couldn’t have ended worse in the playoffs.

The 9th inning of Game 4 of the NLDS was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as Derek Law, Javier Lopez, and Sergio Romo failed to record an out while coughing up a 4-run lead vs. the Cubs, leading to San Francisco’s first playoff series loss since 2003.

Let’s take a moment to admire the team’s run, though. Leading up to the 2016 NLDS, the Giants had defeated a whopping 11 consecutive playoff opponents since the start of the 2010 postseason, which ties a record set by the 1998-2001 New York Yankees, one of baseball’s greatest dynasties.

Now, as they look ahead to Opening Day 2017, it’s out with the old and in with the new. The final three members of the Giants’ “Core Four” bullpen - Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Santiago Casilla - have either moved on or retired (Romo to the Dodgers, keep an eye on that one).

Filling their shoes will be difficult, but the Giants have several guys ready and willing to be promoted to the later innings, including Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, and Steven Okert, all with big league experience and intermittent success, primed for their careers to advance.

The Giants’ front office did their best work of the offseason when they courted and eventually signed Mark Melancon away from the Pirates to anchor the bullpen staff. Melancon brings instant stability to the role with 147 saves since the start of 2013 (3rd in the league), and although his contract is large, the Giants were very clear that they were not willing to take any shortcuts at that position in 2017.

Along with a newly solidified ‘pen, the Giants continue to bolster an All-Star caliber infield, both offensively and defensively. Amazingly, all five starting Giants infielders - Posey, Belt, Panik, Crawford, and Nunez - have All-Star selections to their names. And equally as incredible, the home-grown group of Posey, Panik, and Crawford have all won Gold Glove Awards.

The outfield, however, remains the Giants’ undisputed question mark. Hunter Pence is their biggest asset and emotional leader, however his health has been a huge question mark these past few seasons, as he’s fought oblique, wrist, and leg injuries. If the Giants plan to return to the World Series, they’ll need Pence to regain his .280 BA, 20 HR, 80 RBI form, and play upwards of 140 games in right field.

Denard Span is also a question mark, as he’s proven to be less of a prototypical leadoff hitter, despite Bruce Bochy’s insistence that he remain in that spot. If he can get on base at a good clip ahead of the heart of the lineup, the Giants will be fine. If not, then it poses a problem, and might warrant a change in the lineup order.

That leaves left field open, which is entirely up for grabs. Management made it clear that they have faith in their young outfield talent by not even pursuing a LF replacement in free agency, and at this point in spring training, it looks as if lefty Jarrett Parker will win the job...but it’s almost a certainty that both he and righty Mac Williamson will split the duties in platoon roles, depending on the day’s starting pitcher.

It would behoove Bochy to go with the hot hand, however, and avoid stubbornly sticking to the platoon definitions, as both guys have huge power and can get streaky over stretches of games. Let’s not forget that Parker has a 3 HR game on his big league resume.

Finally, the starting pitching. Unlike last offseason, the Giants went into the winter break confident in 4 out of 5 of their starting spots. In rotation order: Bumgarner, Cueto, Moore, and Samardzija. The 5th spot is there for the taking, and the Giants may well give it to Matt Cain, but he has done nothing to earn their trust this spring, and guys like Ty Blach and Tyler Beede are chomping at the bit to get their chance.

Still, having two All-Stars at the top and two solid starters at 3 and 4 is much more than almost any team can say, and the Giants certainly count their starting pitching as an advantage over most opponents.

Now that the even year magic is over, the Giants look healthy and ready as ever to challenge for the NL pennant in 2017, led by solid starting pitching, an All-Star infield, and a fresh-faced bullpen with a game-changing closer. Stay tuned, 2017 may have some magic up its sleeve.