Mister Blackwood*

Coach Tom Blackwood and arch-rival Rob Collins battling it out at Acalanes High School on some Friday night in the 90s

Coach Tom Blackwood and arch-rival Rob Collins battling it out at Acalanes High School on some Friday night in the 90s

Mister Blackwood*

Piece of work, we used to call ‘em

That kid’s a real piece of work

And so were we

You, Crazy Tommy

Roger Durant calling you that, telling me stories from the 70s

You were a piece of work

But for all who saw you scream

So few saw the art

I nearly missed it too

TJB CAT, another original Minnesotan

Basketball coach, history teacher, father

Husband, ex-husband

Letter of recommendation writer for us all

You’re a piece of artwork

And now that you’re gone, nearly two decades into a strange century

It’s all too concise and too clear

The world you’ve left will not produce another you

It’s hard to imagine you escaped the 90s intact

To call you a character understates, overstates, underwhelms

You were a Picasso, born of Norman Rockwell and Bob Knight

You were better than Bobby Knight, better than Frank Allocco

Better at being human

For all your autocratic leanings you were a softie

My parents let me choose my own religion

I chose basketball

The gym, that gym, became my church

You were my father

You made life feel like Hoosiers

Those sweaters

Those snarls

Rare and cherished Cheshire smiles

Your voice bellowing throughout greater Martinez





Thank you, Mr. Blackwood

For Olympic Drill at summer camp

For hauling us to Chico, Healdsburg, Carmel

For making me drive you home when I was less drunk than you

For teaching me how to love video poker

For the two-foot power layup

For inspiring me to attempt to perfect the elbow jump shot

Thank you Coach, for never contorting or conforming

Thank you for letting me pay you back

For allowing me to redeem my adolescent ingratitude

For letting me scream at you




Thank you for trusting me to coach Justin

Thank you for sending me out of history class to put new nets on the rims

For those magical no-look bounce passes you used to throw in practice

Thank you for always having my back

I should have wrote this before you died

I’m sorry

I love you

Your movie’s over

It’s official now, you’re a classic

Andy Read: “No one ever said Jesus Christ better than he did.”

It’s true, and it counts

Flags half-mast in Minnesota

And Miramonte 

One-Two-Three… TOGETHER

*By one of the proud, the many, worst point guards in Miramonte history

(From the Sec925 Archives) "Coming Up The Pipeline" - A's Prospect Addison Russell enters Spring Training as the one to watch

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

In four years at Pace High School, just outside of Pensacola, Florida, Addison Russell hit a cool .460 with 37 home runs. Living on the Alabama border, it only made sense that the Auburn Tigers would end up extending a scholarship offer to Russell. And at the time, the 6’0” 195 pound shortstop had full intentions of going to school. The oldest of 4 siblings and the owner of a soft-spoken, humble personality, it made sense that even a talent this large could use a few years of seasoning in the SEC.

This was all before Billy Beane made young Addison his first round selection in the 2012 Draft. For years, Beane has avoided high school players like the plague, deeming an 18-year-old simply too much of a gamble to invest millions in. The last time Beane has selected a high schooler in the first round was 2001 when the A’s took Jeremy Bonderman 26th overall. Before that, you have to date back to 1996 when Eric Chavez was picked in the first round out of high school.

Not only was Beane forced out of his comfort zone by picking someone so young, so early, Billy also had to negotiate with super-agent Scott Boras in order to sign Russell. 2.6 million dollars later, Russell, and his seemingly infinite upside, was property of Oakland.

While Big League scouts have most often compared Russell to current Detroit Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta, A’s fans could also comfortably compare Russell to the beloved former Oakland Athletic, Miguel Tejada. Blessed with a sturdy, compact build, to go along with exceptional bat speed, foot speed and arm strength, Russell possesses everyting one would need to be a breakout Major League star.

Peralta and Tejada, both eventual steroid offenders, possess(ed) the type of five-tool talent that is so coveted in young position players. By all accounts, Russell has all five tools in his quiver, and to the extent that he is the best prospect the A’s have had in their farm system in recent memory.

Scouts have marveled at the way the ball jumps off Russell's 19-year-old bat

In Russell’s first season in the minors last year, the 19-year-old started at shortstop for the Single-A Stockton Ports of the California League. After a slow start, Russell finished the season with 17 home runs, 10 triples, 21 stolen bases and a .275 average. The stat line was good enough to earn him the Rookie of the Year in the Cal League, as well as a trip to the All-Star game in New York City to participate in the Futures Game. By year’s end, Russell was on the field with the AAA Sacramento River Cats getting his first taste of professional playoff baseball.

As Russell turns 20 on January 23rd, he heads into his second year of spring training scheduled to start the year playing for the A’s Double-A affiliate in Midland, Texas. There, while he continues to accumulate invaluable professional at-bats, A’s fans will keep a close eye on their prized possession down on the farm.

“At the minimum he’ll be at the Double-A level (in 2014),” A’s general manager Billy Beane recently told CSN Bay Area. “A kid with that kind of talent, once you get to that level, anything can happen from there.”

“He’ll have the opportunity (this spring) in major league camp to assert himself before he gets to the minor leagues,” continued Billy Owens, A's director of player personnel. “There’s no timetable. People always want to make predictions, but I think his play on the field will dictate predictions.

As you may recall, Oakland's 2011 first round pick was Sonny Gray out of Vanderbilt. And we all know how that panned out. The rookie turned in a masterful Game 2 performance in last year’s Playoffs, throwing eight scoreless innings and earning himself the starter’s role for the subsequent pivotal Game 5. Granted, Gray was 23 when he took center stage for the A’s, but it is still in the realm of possibility that Beane and manager Bob Melvin would decide to bring up Russell to play shortstop for the A’s by the middle of the summer. Jed Lowrie has proven to be a step slow as a Major League shortstop. And moving Lowrie to second to make room for Russell could turn out wonderfully, assuming Russell continues his rapid development.

Coming off back-to-back playoff seasons, one couldn’t blame Billy Beane for keeping things status-quo. But, when you consider how competitive the AL West has become (most recently with Robinson Cano coming to Seattle) change is constantly necessary for the A’s to stay ahead of their deep pocket competitors. Expect part of that change to come in the form of a once-in-a-decade shortstop, by the name of Addison Russell.

"Addison is a 19-year-old with so much upside, not only talent-wise but his work ethic. His tools are all there," Bill Richardson, Russell's former Manager, explains to MLB.com. "Shortstop is such a premium. You get a good shortstop, and when you have that guy, it makes things a lot easier on your club. He might be one of the most talented players in this league. He knows what he wants, and there is no doubt in my mind he will make it. How soon is what it is."

Feeling right at home inside the A's dugout. (photo by Susan Slusser)

Section925 Podcast Episode 65 - The Filmmakers of "Don't Quit: The Joe Roth Story"

Documentary filmmakers Phil Schaff and Bob Rider, the force behind “Don’t Quit: The Joe Roth Story” sit down with @Tripperino to talk about the powerful, yet little-known story of the life and untimely death of former CAL football quarterback Joe Roth. Both heartbreaking and inspirational, Schaff and Rider discuss Joe’s story, how he impacted the lives of those who appeared in the film, including Dick Vermeil, Tony Dungy, Mike White, Chuck Muncie, Wesley Walker and everyone else with whom he came into contact. The film is available now on iTunes and at JoeRothFilm.com.

Section925 Podcast Episode 64 - Matt Cermak on the PGA Championship

Former PAC-12 golfer and Fresno native, Kevin Chappell, will try to contend at Whistling Straits in this weekend's PGA Championship.

Former Missouri State University Golfer Matt Cermak stops by the Section925 Podcenter on the eve of the PGA Championship. The last of the four majors, the PGA will take place on a challenging course off Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. Jordan Spieth is looking to capture the "U.S. Slam" while Rory McIlory is returning from a serious ankle injury.

"Wide Open West Coast Football" - A PAC-12 Football Primer

The scene at last season's Rose Bowl. Who will rep the Pac in Pasadena in 2016? (photo by Kevork Djansezian)

By Charlie Wheary (925 Native, Oregon Alum)





a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.


That ladies and gentlemen perfectly summarizes what we are about to see this year in the Pacific 12 Conference. It'll be a sports representation of the movie, Mad Max: Fury Road.  An endless barrage of action, violence, and yelling, with Oregon possibly sporting chrome mouthguards.

I should start by saying that if you are looking for a preview that just lists your rank of order, players to watch, coaches on the hot seat, etc., just pick up a Sports Illustrated or the Chronicle. You'll get your vanilla ice cream, but not much else. I'm just here to deliver that apple pie. In my preview we'll look at the teams you didn't see winning it all, mascots that define and undermine, and most importantly I'm going to outline some Vegas odds in detail.

First off, I need to repeat, this season in the Pacific 12 Conference will be beyond epic.

I don't think you people are taking me seriously though? 

Fine. Let's roll...


How will they finish:

AP / SI / ESPN Consensus:  Oregon, USC, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona St., Arizona, Utah, Cal, Washington, Washington St., Colorado, Oregon St.

Some takeaways: 

1. The Pac-12 South is going to be an absolute bloodbath. 5 of the top 7 teams are down south, and Colorado is by no means a gimmie on any given Saturday. One of the conundrums of the Pac-12 is it essentially cannibalizes itself week after week, and this year may be no exception.

2. I like Utah, a lot. I like Johnny Utah in Point Break. I like Park City. I like the Red Iguana on North Temple in Salt Lake (Seriously check it out). I like the Salt Flats. And what I really like are the Utes. I'm not saying they'll win it all, but they could come pretty darn close. An early date with Michigan, then it's off to Eugene and L.A. But they make it through that grind, and you could very well see Cinderella slippers on Kyle Whittingham's feet.

3. Oregon State will be torpedoing teams all year. The Beavers LOVE to be picked to finish last, they almost cherish that title. You know what they do when that happens? They go out and beat the crap out of USC. It's happened so many times I've lost count. So keep a very close eye on the underdogs in Corvallis.

4. Oregon has a brutal, brutal schedule, and could be floored in week 2 when they visit East Lansing. Michigan State is a very good team, and that coupled with the sheer brutality of conference play has a lot of people concerned the Ducks may be overrated.

5. Washington and Cal will surprise a lot of people. Overall, their schedule is by no means easy, but Cal has a manageable non-conference slate and also gets USC and Arizona State at home. Jared Goff has his eye on the first round of the NFL draft, and there's no better platform then conference play this year for him to show off his wares. 

Jared Goff of California (photo by Ezra Shaw)

Players to watch:

Again, I'm not here to tell you about how awesome Cody Kessler is, although that is my Heisman frontrunner right now. Instead, I'm here to give you a couple names to watch that may be flying slightly under the radar.

D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State:  The Sun Devils lost their most prolific receiver in years with Jaelen Strong taking off to the League.  So they just moved their best all-purpose player to the wing, and he is going to do some real damage. Foster is my pick for offensive player of the year, and it's going to happen. 

Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona: Wilson's only a sophomore coming off a frosh season where he tallied 1375 yards with 16 touches. Nick caught fire late in the season too, which only makes you wonder how quick he will be out of the gate. The little guy from Tucson is ready, trust me.

Byron Marshall, WR Oregon:  A lot of people may be talking about Marshall, but it's all warranted. Rushing for 1000 yards as a sophomore before moving to wide receiver where he also went over 1000 yards, he's got his mind on the draft. You'll get comfortable with him on Sundays, but this is his year for the Ducks.

Jared Goff, QB California: Under no circumstance is this guy flying under the radar, especially not after his trip inside the Section925 Podcenter, but with all the Cody Kessler pre-season pub, he's not getting his due in my humble opinion. Most impressive stat: 35 touchdowns with only 7 interceptions last year. This guy is allergic to bad reads and sloppy passes. I saw him in person last year just torch USC for 279 yards and 3 touches, without a pick. He's my Cinderella Heisman pick.

D.J. Foster of Arizona State (photo by Steve Dykes)


Mascots on the Hot Seat:

Oskie, California: I grew up idolizing that silly bear, but Cal is quickly emerging back on the national scene, and word coming out of Berkeley is that the students don't worship him like they used to. With the birth of the Capital One Mascot Challenge, the Bears may be switching gears in Strawberry Canyon.

UCLA:  Do the Bruins even have a mascot?! I love Westwood, I love Wooden, I love the Rose Bowl. As far as a mascot is concerned though, they got none.  I guess when you rip off the school colors, fight song, and mascot from your neighbor up north, this should be expected. Sorry UCLA fans.


Mascots NOT on the Hot Seat:

Puddles, Oregon: Best mascot in the United States of America. Period.


Best Fight Song:

Tie: Big "C", Cal. Fight for California, Cal.

Two ridiculously amazing fight songs right there!!! I'm an Oregon alumnus and if I'm watching a Cal/Oregon game at Autzen I actually work my way towards the Cal Band to soak it in. How you work a 'GRRR Rah' into a song is beyond me, but it works every time. Big 'C' and Fight for California still give me chills.  Bar none, best band in the conference. And they're classy, sorry Stanford.


Best Band:

California Marching Band. (Reference comments above.)


Worst Band:

Stanford. But you already knew that.


Game of the Year:

USC at Oregon, November 21:  It'll be chilly in Eugene, and I can only imagine they'll make this a night game. So just pop a bird in the oven, work out the kinks ahead of Turkey Day, and enjoy what is going to be a testament to the Pac-12.


The Action:

Now I live by 3 simple rules when it comes to sports gambling:

1.  Never ever bet what you don't have.  So if you're living with Mom and Dad still, stop reading. Kick the parents a few bones you would otherwise be laying on the line.

2. Never bet what you don't have.

3. Never go on tilt.  If you lose big early on Saturday, the Gods have sent you a message. Take a walk and we can get after it next week.

Cody Kessler and Adoree' Jackson of USC (photo by Harry How)


I'll check in on Section925 from time to time to let you know when to bet the farm, the cows, and maybe your significant other. But for now, I'm going to establish betting trends to get some green in your pocket early and often.

First, when it comes to the Pacific 12 Conference, I love the over. The over is the combined points scored by both teams, usually set in .5 increments. So if both teams combine to score more points then the predetermined amount, you win. Also, most Vegas nubes just bet the line, so the over doesn't see the swings you'll see when, say Ohio State fans steamroll the Bellagio and all bet the Bucks to win outright. I can see I'm already confusing you, so I'll slow down.

I'll say it again, bet the over in Pac-12 conference games in the early portion of the season, and do it often.  But please write this next part down, DO NOT BET NON-CONFERENCE PATSY GAMES EVER!!!  When Oregon plays Eastern Washington in week 1, I'll be watching of course, but my cash will be safely stowed in the overhead compartment as far away from Vegas as possible.  Oregon could cover what looks like a 30+ point spread in the first quarter, or let up the breaks and win by 20. Just don't do it. However, when USC plays Arizona State on September 26th, I'm betting my car (and yours if you'd let me) on the Trojans and Sun Devils popping off at least 40 apiece. So unless the over is 80+, bet that game. It's in the desert, the SC defensive line is a huge question mark, and ASU has their entire offense back after a terrific year.  The best part is, no bookmaker in Vegas wants to set a 80+ line, only to see the two teams rattle off 40 points total. So our friends in Sin City typically set over/under lines very conservatively allowing you, the now seasoned gambler, to hit often, especially in an offensively offensive conference like the Pac-12. You're welcome.

Now it's extremely hard to forecast picks in the first week of August, but I just gave you a prime example of when to run and when to gun. Here's a couple more to keep in your back pocket to stay flush in the upcoming fall months:

1. Bet the over when USC is playing on the road: The biggest question mark of the year is how well the USC defensive line will stand up. I'm afraid opposing quarterbacks may have time to read Tolstoy in the pocket versus the Men of Troy this season  Also, while Cody Kessler likes to throw it often and sucessfully, he tends to get a litte nervous on the road for some reason. I think he's the Taylor Swift of the Pac-12, he's always performing, but sometimes you just shake your head and say, "What the f**k was that?" In other words, the Trojans will be in a lot of dogfights this year. Expect some typical 63-56 scores that define the Pac-12 out of these guys.

2. Keep an eye on the Bears:  I'm projecting a Las Vegas Bowl bid this year, but if Goff can put up numbers like last year, and if that defense holds, skies the limit. The Golden Bears ran the seventh most plays in the FBS last year, which means loads of offense. I already know I'm betting the over in weeks 3 and 4 when they head to Austin and Seattle. The book will put the over on the low side because of the lack of offense on the home teams, so Cal could take the over by themselves. You heard it here first.

...And remember, don't bet what you don't have!

That's all I got for now, but whatever happens, we are in for a phenomenal year of college football out west.


Section925's SportsCentury Top 100 Bay Area Athletes of All-Time (#99 Eric Carrie)

The famed McKeon Pavilion in Moraga California. Site of many Section925 SportsCentury defining moments. 

Welcome to Section925’s SportsCentury Top 100 Bay Area Athletes of All-Time. In this exclusive series, we will be counting down the best amateur athletes in Bay Area history from 100 to 1. We will be exploring the careers and achievements of high school and college athletes from around the area to come up with Section925’s Top 100 list. To nominate your favorite athlete, make sure to leave us a comment or send us an e-mail and have your opinion heard!

# 99: Eric Carrie

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

Coming in at #99 on Section925’s SportsCentury Top 100 Athletes of All-Time is Eric Carrie. Carrie did not attend Orinda Intermediate School, but was attracted to the rolling hills and bright lights of Miramonte High School by the time he reached his later teen years. By the time he graduated, he was known as one of the all-time greats in the area.

Carrie figured he could throw his career into high gear by signing on to play for legendary coach Floyd Burnsed and boy was he ever correct. Traditionally a pass first offense, Carrie quickly provided a new dynamic to the Matadors from the running back position, turning in dominant performances virtually every Friday night in Contra Costa County.

At 5’11”, 190, Carrie was built like a bull and played with reckless abandon on both sides of the ball. Regardless of what type of game plans opposing defenses came up with, Carrie consistently thrashed them. His motor never stopped and he had an uncanny energy for the game that rubbed off on his teammates. To put it bluntly, Eric Carrie was already playing in “Beast Mode,” years before Marshawn Lynch coined the term on the other side of the tunnel at Oakland Technical High.

Carrie’s dominant performance during his senior year in 2001 was good enough to earn him the Diablo Foothill Athletic League player of the year award, not to mention a spot on the Contra Costa Times prestigious “Cream of the Crop” list.   

Although Carrie did not play in the NFL, his college career at New Mexico State was an impressive one. Playing the safety position for the Aggies, Carrie routinely squared of with some of the best offenses in the nation including the Hawaii Warriors and California Golden Bears in the early 2000’s. In sum, Eric Carrie loved football, and we loved watching him play it. 

# 100: Nick Enzweiler 

Enzo soaking in an A's game in Oakland

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

Nick Enzweiler from Campolindo High School in Moraga kicks off our SportsCentury list at number one hundred. Standing 6’6’’ and 200lbs, Enzweiler was a force to be reckoned with in the late 90’s in the East Bay high school basketball scene. His game was extremely dynamic, as he was able to score from just about anywhere on the floor. “Enzo” as he was known in the Lamorinda area, was equally capable with his back to the basket banging with bigs as he was casting corner 3’s from beyond the arc.

As a senior at Campolindo, Enzo adopted a shoot-first, pass-second philosophy. Very similar, in fact, to that of Allen Iverson at Georgetown. It paid off, at least in some regard, as Enzweiler was named the San Francisco Chronicle’s Metro Player of the Year in the year 2000.

Enzweiler makes this list not just because of his jaw dropping high school statistics, but also because of his polarizing, often entertaining personality on and off the court. Enzo seemed to fully embrace the role of the villain, especially inside hostile road gymnasiums on the Tri-County Athletic League circuit. Similar to Reggie Miller at Madison Square Garden, Enzo was not afraid to engage in vicious trash talk with opposing players and fans. In the end, it made for great theater for everyone involved.  

Enzweiler also dabbled as a wide receiver on the Cougars football team (similar to LeBron James), but ultimately accepted a scholarship to play basketball for the University of Texas-El Paso. Ultimately, Enzo would return to California to play out his career at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The highlight of which was a Mustangs triumph over the CAL Bears at Haas Pavilion in front of friends, family and East Bay adversaries.

Today, Enzweiler resides in the East Bay and is cutting out a career in wealth management. He still owns various records at Campolindo High School.

# 98: (Coming soon...)

The Bay Bridge Series – Oakland Looks to Stop a Surging San Francisco

Billy Burns has been a bright spot for the A's this season. Filling in for the injured Coco Crisp, Burns is hitting a team best .310 on the year. (photo by Jason O. Watson)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

As Josh Donaldson trotted demonstratively around the Coliseum bases on Thursday afternoon, you could almost feel the last bit of air seeping out of the 2015 Oakland Athletics’ worn tires. His moonshot in the fifth inning easily cleared the extended wall in right-center, and Donaldson seemed to enjoy every second of his journey around the bases. Head bobbing, arms up to the sky, visible grin, etc. He wasn’t shy about it.

This week was Donaldson’s first trip to Oakland after being traded to Canada by Billy Beane, following what most believe was a contentious relationship between the star third baseman and the decorated GM. By the time Donaldson arrived at his post-homer dugout and went into his series of secret handshakes and forearm “bashes” with Jose Reyes, Billy Beane most assuredly shut off the TV from his in-game workout room and turned up the speed on his exercise bike.   

A’s fans know the deal all too well. Real estate magnet and team owner Lew Wolff has billions of dollars in his bank account (literally), but is not a fan of spending it on baseball players. His GM Billy Beane does his best with a limited cash flow and is not afraid to pull the trigger on any decision, no matter how unpopular. Every year, by the time July rolls around and the trade deadline looms, Billy takes stock and decides if the A’s are buyers or sellers. Last year the A’s were buyers, and unfortunately, they flamed out in the playoffs. This year, they are sellers and as always, it’s tough to watch.

Scott Kazmir was scheduled to be on the mound on Thursday against Donaldson and the Blue Jays, but Beane had other ideas, sending Kazmir to the contending Houston Astros for two minor league prospects. With Kazmir’s departure, that leaves only Sean Doolittle on the roster from last year’s list of A’s All-Stars. Norris, Moss, Samardzija, Cespedes, Donaldson, they’re all gone too.   

After Beane put down his white flag, he emerged for a brief press conference on Thursday and reminded A’s fans what we already knew but still didn’t like. Billy did his annual A’s accounting calculation and decided that at 44-53 the A’s were behind the 8-ball and needed to sell. The market is only hot for so long he explained. Now was the time.  

Fortunately, among the many things A’s fans are good at; looking at the glass half full is one of them. The Athletics are still in Oakland, the weather is still Sonny, the tickets are still cheap, the parking lot still has plenty of tailgating real estate, and the Dubs won the whole goddamn thing.

Oakland also has a pretty good squad still in tact with more than a few players worth rooting for. They do find themselves 11 back of the first place Angels, but stranger things have happened. If nothing else, it is time for the A’s to play spoiler across the bay.

Hector Sanchez stops to admire his grand slam on Tuesday night in San Diego. The pose caused benches to clear at Petco Park. (photo by Denis Poroy)

The San Francisco Giants, with three World Series titles in the last five years, have lots to feel good about coming into the 2015 version of the Battle of the Bay. SF is winners of eight of their last nine games including two of three in San Diego this week.

The Giants will feature a healthy and rested Hunter Pence in right field, along with a middle infield who played together in the All-Star Game. Seeing the Giants double-play combo in the Midsummer Classic was more than just Bruce Bochy looking out for the Orange and Black, it appears. Brandon Crawford already has 14 homers to compliment his steady defense, while fresh-faced Joe Panik’s .316 average is good for 10th place in all of the Majors. All of this is a nice compliment to Buster Posey’s typical stellar offensive output and Matt Duffy’s out-of-nowhere performance at third base to make the masses rid themselves of Panda Hats.

Even with Timmy Lincecum on the DL, the pitching matchups in this series surely favor the Giants, especially when you consider that Sonny Gray will be watching from the dugout all three games. Meanwhile, the A’s lineup will be tasked with World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner on Saturday.

Pitching matchups aside, it is probably best to just “throw out the record books” when these crosstown clubs come together for a three game set. But do me a favor, pick a side, and don’t get caught dead wearing one of these hats. My bold prediction: A’s win 2 out of 3…

"Just Win Baby" - The Raiders Head to Camp With Optimism in Air

Derek Carr reminds some East bay fans of another #4, Brett Favre. (photo by Brian Bahr)

By Merlin Edwards III I @Trey_Me

Finally, for maybe the first time since the Rich Gannon era, the Oakland Raiders are heading into preseason camp with the legitimate ability to compete in the AFC West. In recent memory, there haven't been many years where fans in Oakland believed great things were to come. Now with an experienced coach at the helm and a talented QB behind center, the idea of holding playoff hopes is looking more and more reasonable for the Silver and Black and their fans.

The offseason was a success, as the coaching staff was revamped, as well as the offensive and defensive lines. There are new players everywhere you look, and for most teams, that is a terrible thing. For the Oakland Raiders, however, having a team with just a few returning players, is a blessing. As a Raiders fan myself, it has been hard trudging for the better part of a decade. The Raiders have been the butt of many jokes, and there has been little fans can say to rebut the negativity. When Reggie Mackenzie took over as general manager, after the great Al Davis passed, things have started to ascend from rock bottom. Thank god.

In Mackenzie's first season, he did not have a great draft, picking Tony Bergstrom and Miles Burris as his first two picks. Neither of which are still on the team. Mackenzie, however, did not have much to work with, since he did not have a pick until the 3rd round. In his next two seasons, he has been nothing short of fantastic. Since the 2013 draft, he has hand picked DJ Hayden, Menelik Watson, Sio Moore, Latavius Murray, Mychal Rivera, Justin "Jelly" Ellis, Gabe Jakson, TJ Carrie, Kahlil Mack, and Derek Carr. All of which have turned out to be starters. It may say something about the poor talent the Raiders have had in recent past, but to draft twelve starters in basically 2 years, is an amazing accomplishment.

The two of that group with the most potential to initiate change, are Kahlil Mack and Derek Carr. Ideally, Reggie could not have asked for anything better than drafting two potential game changers, who happen to play two of the most important positions, on each sides of the football. Going forward, there are lofty expectations for Derek and Kahlil.

The great part about them having high expectations, however, is that they are both supremely humble people, while also embracing, and even enjoying the pressure that comes along with being truly great. When watching and listening to press conferences and interviews with the two young studs, they exude an aura about them, and clearly have the "it" factor. Confidence seems to ooze from their mouths and body language. I expect his to translate to even more success on the field in 2015.

Of course, a lot of that confidence comes from preparation, and a willingness to be great. Kahlil Mack has added 15 pounds of muscle, which bodes well for his ability to not only hurry the quarterback this upcoming season, but bring him down as well. Mack's 40 quarterback hurries last season were second to only the Broncos' Von Miller (47).

Quarterback Derek Carr, despite being sidelined by a finger injury early in the offseason, is back and ready to build a rapport with his many new targets. Carr must truly outshine everyone, in order for the Raiders to start winning. As good as Mack can be, all football fans know that in order to play at an elite level, teams need a franchise quarterback behind center. I believe Carr can be that franchise guy.

The NFL has seen many a promising quarterback come and go, in short periods of time, because of a lack of a nurturing environment. Oakland's new coaching staff must make it a number one priority to make sure that Derek is getting everything he needs, in order to help him turn into the special player he can be. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper have been brought in, as well as OTA stand out rookie, Clive Walford. Add those new weapons to second year player Mychael Rivera, an expectedly resurgent Rod Streater, and "match up nightmare" Marcell Reese, and it certainly seems as if optimism is warranted.

As a season ticket holder, all I want is for a team that is competitive. If I can go to a game at the Coliseum and be entertained by good football, I am okay with that, win or lose. The Raiders are my team, more than any other in my fandom, and for the first time since I was about 10 years old, we have a group of players with a potential and a drive to be great, and finally, turn this thing around.

One Nation. Raider Nation. Just Win Baby. 

Thoughts on the Women’s World Cup - Shades of Brandi Chastain

Tobin Heath celebrates her second half goal in the U.S.A's World Cup Final victory. (photo by Kevin C. Cox)

By Kate McGuire

Back in 1999, not many American viewers were watching the Women’s World Cup. Sure, everyone claims to have seen the infamous penalty kick by Brandi Chastain (and her subsequent shirtless celebration), but how many people watched the semifinal match in ’99? Not many.

I remember I had to invite a guy friend, who liked sports but not particularly soccer, over to my house to watch it with me. And just the fact that Mia Hamm was playing wasn’t enough. I had to add in the incentive of food and drink to actually get him over.

Flash-forward to 2015 and the huge crowds ESPN was showing in Chicago and Kansas City and countless other soccer crazed cities across America. Apparently more than 26 million watched over the course of the tournament. With every win along the way leading to Sunday’s exciting 5-2 U.S. win over Japan, I kept reminding my friends: don’t forget to watch Women’s World Cup!

Just weeks before, my little group of “sportees” had zeroed in on the Golden State Warriors games that kept us all on the edges of our seats. After that experience, I kept trying to pump them up for the World Cup and by the end of the game yesterday, those that had never watched women’s soccer before were glued to the game.

The last time the U.S. women won the World Cup, a joyous Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey—to the shock (gasp) of viewers—to celebrate in her black sports bra! There she was, kneeling and then parading her bare, sweat-soaked midriff around the field! Oh, the horror! It was talked about in the media for weeks, can you imagine?

This time, at the end of the game, everyone kept their shirts on, but there was still some notable PDA for soccer fans to appreciate. Abby Wambach, the teams veteran star, celebrated her long awaited victory by kissing her wife on live TV. Wambach married her partner in Hawaii in 2013, but of course, now women like her can tie the knot in any state they please. The USA wins, love wins, soccer wins. See you in France in 2019...

Abby Wambach kisses her wife following the the World Cup Final vs. Japan (photo by Kevin C. Cox)

Oakland Splits with Seattle, Heads to New York to Face Yankees

Stephen Vogt will head into Gotham City as a newly minted All-Star. (photo by Thearon W. Henderson)

By Merlin Edwards III | @Trey_Me

For the 2015 Oakland Athletics, there has not been a whole helluva lot to cheer about. The team has been wildly inconsistent, and every time positive things arise, a bad game or even a prolonged slump snuffs out any light of greatness to come. When the As suffered a tough one-run loss on Sunday afternoon to Seattle, they split the series with the Mariners and ended up finishing their home stand at 5-5. Even with the team playing better recently (15-12 in June), it is still very much in question if they can make an honest run at the first place Houston Astros.

It may seem like a pessimistic stance, but A's fans might have to be real with themselves and admit that this team just does not seem to have the firepower to secure a playoff spot this season. Fortunately, when A's fans step back and admit that this team is not as good as it has been in the past couple of seasons, plenty of silver linings can be found. The team has a respectable run differential, the starting pitching is thriving, and they FINALLY beat Felix Hernandez over the weekend!

To recap the four game weekend series versus Seattle, the Athletics won the first game convincingly, 4-0. Game 2 on Friday night went Seattles way, as the Mariners pounded out four home runs. Game 3 pitted the As against the vaunted King Felix Hernandez, who hadnt lost to the As in Oakland in seven years. The A's jumped on Hernandez early and didnt look back. Fortunately, Kendall Graveman had his "A" game working, as the young right hander went toe-to-toe with the King to pull out a much needed win.

With momentum on their side, Oakland trotted out Chris Bassitt for Sundays finale. Bassitt pitched well early until his location started to falter, giving up a 2-run single with 2 outs in the top of the 6th inning to former Athletic, Seth Smith. That gave Seattle the 2-1 lead and there would be no more scoring in the game. There were bright spots of the series, however, including the bullpen pitching much better. They gave up 5 runs in the series but all 5 came during game 2's home run barrage by Seattle. Otherwise, the bullpen was almost dominant. The main positive take away, though, was most definitely getting the Felix Hernandez monkey off our back.

Ever since Hernandez started pitching well for the Mariners, it seems like there was a curse put on the A's lineup. It is not all that rare for a team to get lucky and miss out on a very dominant pitcher during any particular series. For the A's, however, that is not something fans have been able to count on when facing the Mariners. It almost seems as if the Mariners intentionally set up the rotation from the beginning of the season, to be absolutely certain that every series the A's and M's play, Felix will be on the mound.

Unfortunately for the A's, in recent years, a Felix start meant an automatic L in the loss column for Oakland. Beating him on America's birthday is a step in the right direction that can hopefully build more confidence among As hitters moving forward. The key now is to focus on the next test and take some bravado and confidence with you to the Big Apple to face the Yankees.

For the last road trip before the All-Star break, the As will make stops at Yankee Stadium and in Cleveland. Sonny Gray is on the bump on Tuesday night (back from a serious stomach illness), while the resurgent Scott Kazmir follows on Wednesday. At 38-46, the As first goal should be to climb back to .500. Thankfully, Sonny has the ball tonight, so we are in good hands. As much as Id like to point to the fact that the As are just 6 ½ games out of an AL Wild Card, Ill try to keep my expectations in check, at least for now. 

Dynamic Duo Headlines CAL’s Receiving Corps

(photo by Norman Mo)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

In just three years behind center for the Golden Bears, CAL quarterback Jared Goff already owns 16 different passing records in the Berkeley history books. And by about midway through the fall of 2015, he figures to tack on a handful more as he continues to bolster his NFL résumé. Surely, much of this passing success can and should be attributed to the wide-open Bear Raid offense that Sonny Dykes brought over with him from Louisiana Tech. It is an offense in which seemingly everything is designed around the concept of allowing the quarterback to get off as many pass attempts as possible.

But, of course, there always needs to be a capable body at the other end of every fastball Goff pumps across the middle, or fade he lobs into the back corner of the end zone. For the last few years Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs have been tasked with the duty of making Goff look good, and they have responded by making him look spectacular.

Both Lawler (a junior) and Treggs (a senior) grew up in the football skill position hotbed that is southern California. Lawler prepped east of L.A. in Pomona, while Treggs learned his craft in the city of Inglewood. Lawler has plenty of height for a receiver and lines up far outside on the line of scrimmage. Treggs, meanwhile, is under six feet and lines up inside in the slot. But most importantly, both have breakaway speed and sticky hands. Two traits that Jared Goff can’t get enough of.

As much as Bear Backers would like to believe Jared Goff has a shot at the Heisman, perhaps a more realistic goal would to simply be crowned the best quarterback of the PAC-12. But even with Marcus Mariota gone to the Tennessee Titans and NFL scouts singing his praises, Goff is still pitted behind USC’s Cody Kessler for conference QB supremacy. The duo of Lawler and Treggs know the feeling all too well.

Despite combining for 15 touchdowns, over 1,200 yards, and over 100 catches last season, Lawler and Treggs still have a lot to prove before they can bypass their PAC-12 peers. The three schools in the conference who are getting the most wide out hype are as follows: JuJu Smith & Adoree’ Jackson of USC, Jordan Payton & Thomas Duarte of UCLA, and Cayleb Jones & Thomas Duarte of Arizona.

But based on last year’s performance, CAL’s yin and yang duo of Lawler and Treggs certainly deserves to be in the conversation of the conference’s best heading into 2015. One handed catches in the corner of the end zone have become the norm for Lawler, who has steadily gotten bigger and stronger over the course of his career in Berkeley and has learned to overpower smaller defenders. His nine touchdowns last year led all CAL receivers and he is already 9th on CAL’s all-time touchdown list after just two seasons.

Treggs figures to be CAL’s emotional leader this year, when you combine his noticeable charisma and three full years of playing experience under his belt. Add on the fact that Bryce’s dad Brian was CAL’s leading receiver for three seasons from 1989-91 and is now enshrined in the Bear’s Hall of Fame. Pretty soon you begin to realize #1 has all the makings of yet another break out season in his last year in a Bears uniform.

CAL’s dynamic duo will have more than enough support around them, so if their stats somehow slip, it could be that Goff is just spreading the wealth.  Stephen Anderson is another tall wide out that is a popular target for Goff, and this year he will be playing more tight end. Even after missing the first two games due to injury, Anderson tallied five touchdown catches despite not being the featured receiver.

Another talented receiver that will provide support is herald freshman Carlos Strickland out of Texas. Perhaps CAL’s most prized recruit of the incoming freshman, Strickland’s highlight tape speaks for itself, as he is one of the most electrifying playmakers in the nation. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see an immediate impact made by Strickland vs. Grambling on September 5th.

With only one ball to go around and so many weapons to choose from, some might begin to worry that Lawler and Treggs might not get all the touches they need. But if anyone should be worried it should be radio play-by-play legend Joe Starkey. “TOUCHDOWN BEARS” might begin to sound like a broken record if he isn’t careful. 

(Photo by HArry How)

CAL Football Sets Sights on Bowl Game in 2015

(photo by Christian Petersen)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

The California Golden Bears haven’t tasted the postseason since 2011, back when the shifty, albeit inconsistent Zach Maynard was at the helm in Berkeley. That year CAL made the Holiday Bowl, only to fall to the Longhorns of Texas 21-10.  The Bears have all but fallen apart since then, but fortunately rock bottom was struck a couple years back and the rebuilding process appears be firmly on the up and up. Thankfully, Sonny Dykes and co. were able to shake off a 1-11 freshman campaign and turn in a respectable 5-7 mark this past season with some impressive wins. 

Now Dykes is entering his third year as the Bears’ head man, and for the third straight season, he will have the talented Jared Goff calling the signals for him. The calm, cool and collected Goff, who played his prep pigskin at Marin Catholic High, has already proven he is a record setting passer. The 2015 season figures to be an NFL audition of sorts for Goff, as he is already trending on many a draft big boards and is expected to be a first round pick following his Junior year in Berkeley.

Goff and Dykes seem to be a match made in heaven when you consider how fond Dykes is of throwing the ball in his patented “Bear Raid” offense. For some perspective, Oregon’s Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota only attempted 445 passes in comparison to Goff’s 509 pass attempts last season. Goff also beat Mariota last year in the pass completed category (316) and ranked second in the PAC-12 last year in touchdowns with 35. As of now, Goff already holds 16 school records at California, and technically, he has two years left to go in Strawberry Canyon.    

Of course, Goff will need someone to throw all those passes to in 2015, and thankfully he will be flush with weapons all around him. Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs figure to be Goff’s most popular receiving targets, not to mention Stephen Anderson who is listed as a tight end, but plays like a receiver. The main man out of the backfield will be Daniel Lasco who should have a big year if he can continue to build on 2014’s impressive output.

The real question for the Bears remains on the defensive side of the ball, as always seems to be the case. Veteran defensive coordinator Art Kaufman will be back for his second year in Berkeley, and it will be up to him and his staff to devise a plan to put a respectable defense out on the field to support CAL’s high-powered offensive outfit. It will certainly be a challenge to change the Bears’ offense-first minded culture and it will be doubly hard when you factor in the talent level of PAC-12 offenses, but something must be done. As the old saying goes, CAL will only go as far as their defense will take them. If they can hold offenses like Oregon and USC in check, the Bears could really get rolling.  

This coming year, CAL will again square off with Texas, but this time in a rare road game at a traditional Big-12 power. The September 19th showdown in Austin will be the first game for CAL away from home in the 2015 season and it marks the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a tough road schedule that includes trips to Washington, Utah, UCLA, Oregon, and Stanford.

Prognosticators who are long on the Bears believe there is hope they could accomplish an 8-4 season and head to a quasi-prestigious bowl. So long as the defense finds a way to step up, the idea that CAL can win eight games sounds totally possible.   

Things kick off for the Bears over Labor Day Weekend when they host Grambling State, followed by another home game versus San Diego State.  Then comes Texas, which CAL could absolutely beat, when you consider the Longhorns are far removed from their glory years involving Ricky Williams and Vince Young. If the Bears can go into Austin and steal the bacon from Texas, all eyes will be on Berkeley and the Bear Raid.

Giants' Series at Miami Proves Bitter... With Just a Smidgen of Sweet.

Dee Goran slides in safely on an inside-the-park home run vs. the Giants. (photo by Mike Ehrmann)

By Andrey Burin

Equipped with a depleted pitching staff and down an All-Star outfielder (Hunter Pence) among others, the San Francisco Giants came into this series at Miami optimistic about their chances of defeating a mediocre Marlins team. Additionally, Matt Cain's first start after a year of battling back from a smörgasbord of elbow and forearm injuries was a cause for celebration (and a coup for the pitching staff). Though the final scores of both the series and Cain's outing were less than perfect, having Matty back with Pence and Jake Peavy soon to follow should leave fans feeling bullish about the rest of the season. Here are three quick and dirty takes on the three losses we suffered to the Marlins.

Game 1

June 30

SF Giants 3 – Miami Marlins 5

Just like the Giants, the Marlins were also singing the injury blues coming in without their daunting slugger Giancarlo Stanton (if you haven't seen him hit, he smashed two of the five longest homers in June) and their fans were anxiously searching their batting order up and down to see who might give them some run support in his absence. It would turn out to be Justin Bour, who started off the series with a homer in Game 1. 

Miami's much needed jolt in this one came from speed burner Dee Gordon, who plated three runs with an inside-the-park home run and gave the Marlins a lead they would not again relinquish thanks to a solid bullpen performance paired with a good outing from MIA closer A.J. Ramos. Buster had a solid performance at the plate (HR + legged out a hustling double) but it wasn't enough to beat the Marlins.

Game 2

July 1

SF Giants 5 – Miami Marlins 6

The beginning of the 9th inning saw the Giants prepped and ready to take advantage of a botched defensive effort by the Marlins only to have Santiago Casilla blow a rare save and give up a walk-off homer to, guess who, Justin Bour on a sinker that caught just a little too much of the plate.

Bruce Bochy would say after game that Casilla's arm was tired and he would get a few days off—considering the amount of injuries the staff has already suffered a healthy and on-point Casilla is a must-have for us. This game saw Gregor Blanco continue his hot hitting as of late, going 3-4 at the plate. San Francisco also received a very solid performance from the Giants bullpen, as they pumped out two solid innings.

Game 3

July 2

SF Giants 4 – Miami Marlins 5

The overarching storyline of this game concerned two talented pitchers making their respective comebacks from injury, and after Buster Posey and Brandon Belt each plated a run in the top of the 1st and Matt Cain pitched a scoreless half-inning (his first appearance in 12 months!) it looked like this game could make up for the two preceding losses.

Unfortunately for the Giants, Jose Fernandez' tough night did not last, and this game turned out to be a mini highlight reel for him. The Cuban phenom pitched six solid innings and sparked an offensive run by knocking one out in his first game back from Tommy John Surgery. Fernandez did not hand out a single walk in his six innings, threw with consistently high velocity, and ended the game on a very solid note with six straight outs.

As for Matty, simply pitching a game in an SF uniform is an excellent sign for the team and the pitching staff, and save for some issues with control and a home run given up to Justin Bour (a habit this series for our pitchers), he looked pretty solid for being a year removed from his last outing. Gregor continued on a tear at the plate and hit a powerful home run in the fifth against Fernandez.

Tonight sees the Giants pitted against a solid Nationals squad and led by Jake Peavy (currently sporting an ugly 9+ ERA) finally coming off the DL. To capture some Ws as pitchers make their way back into the rotation and become comfortable the offense will have no choice but to be productive. Look for Gregor Blanco to continue his hot-hitting and lead the G-men to a victory tonight in the nation's capital and get things back on track for SF. 

"The Sunday Section" - Selected Stories From Around The Bay

Two Dead Heads embrace outside Levi's Stadium prior to Saturday's Grateful Dead show. (photo by Loren Elliott)

What you see below is a list of stories Section925 editors found interesting from around the Bay Area over the past week. Check back again next week! 

Section925 Podcast Episode 61 - Adrian Spinelli

Bay Area writer Adrian Spinelli (EverythingEcstatic.net) checks in with Connor from his San Francisco office. Spinelli fills us in on the Raiders fruitful offseason, Draymond Green’s future in Oakland, the Stephen Vogt campaign and the NBA Draft. Spinelli also sheds light on the upcoming Outside Lands Music Festival and even touches on trends in the local craft beer scene. 

"Thank You Warriors" - Dub Nation’s 40 Year Journey to the Promise Land

(Photo By Beck Diefenbach)

(Photo By Beck Diefenbach)

By Josh Hunsucker | @jphunsucker

How are you supposed to feel after your team wins the title? Since the 75th Anniversary of the NFL, when Steve Young tossed six TDs for the Niners’ fifth Super Bowl title, I haven’t felt that feeling. I was twelve in 1995, I was six and seven when the Niners won Super Bowls three and four and when the A’s swept the Giants. Think back twenty years, think back twenty-six, twenty-seven years. Do you remember when something, anything, happened that long ago? Not only do you remember what happened, but do you remember how that made you feel?

I don’t. My first sports memory is eating Cheetos at my Dad’s friend’s apartment in the Marina with 3:10 left in Super Bowl XXIII when my Dad said, “Come here, you should watch this.” I sat on the floor in between my Dad’s legs, watching Joe Montana coolly march the Niners down the field for their third championship. I remember the two Bengal defenders colliding as Jerry Rice broke into the secondary. I remember John Taylor jumping and thrusting the ball towards the sky after he caught the game-winning slant. I remember all of that. I have no idea how that made me feel.

I remember watching cartoons before Game 3 of the Battle of the Bay. I remember watching the A’s parade on KTVU. I remember 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV. I remember Rickey Watters and Jerry Rice shredding the Chargers. I remember saying that we would win Super Bowl XXIX because Stan Humphreys was horrible in Tecmo Super Bowl. I specifically remember Gary Plummer pulling the “Monkey” off Steve Young’s back. I vividly remember all of that. I have no clue how that made me feel.

In the last quarter century-plus, I have ended every Warriors, A’s, and Niners season in one of two ways: a loss, or having missed out on the playoffs entirely. In more recent years, I remember how I felt when those seasons ended. The emotions run the gamut, most notably: comfortably numb (‘04-’08 Niners, ’09-’10 Warriors, 2010 A’s), hopeful (2000 A’s, ’10-‘11 49ers, ’06-’07 We Believe Dubs), frustrated (’07-’08 Dubs), distraught (2003 A’s), dead inside (’11-‘12 49ers, 2013 A’s), and confused (’14-’15 49ers).

As an A’s and 49ers fan, the fanbase and to a greater extent my fandom is shaped by history and tradition. Even when the teams experience success in the present, we feel trapped by the ghosts of the past. The A’s ever-changing Moneyball roster, regardless of success, gets lost in the glow of Rickey’s neon green Mizuno batting gloves and cannot escape the shadows that covered Stu’s eyes. The Niners of the present, similarly, are always compared to champions of the past and played under the unreasonable pressure of being 5-0 in the Super Bowl, which culminated in 2012 when someone briefly forgot that Frank Gore was on the team. We are rear-view mirror fans. We always look back and long for the better times of the past. Whether we like it or not, it is who we are.

As a Warriors fan, when I look back, I try to remember the good times. That means Run-TMC and Nelly Ball 1.0, when the Dubs got as far as the Western Conference Semis. That means C-Webb, one year and a first round exit. That means “We Believe,” a Baron Davis “And 1” in garbage time of a series we eventually lost and being the best team ever to miss the playoffs. That ultimately means the 1975 champs. A team that played before I was alive and was coached by a man that we called “The Destroyer.” In fact, my best memory of the 1975 team was having Al Attles run the defensive segment of Warriors Basketball Camp circa 1995 and making a t-shirt with his likeness. Relatively speaking, my best memories as a Warriors fan are suboptimal when compared to my memories as an A’s and Niners fan.

(Photo by Josh Hunsucker)

(Photo by Josh Hunsucker)

40 years is a long time. Since 1975 the Warriors had made the playoff 10 times in 39 years, heading into 2015. That is not much of a history. Part of being a pre-2015 Warriors fan was embracing mediocrity of the franchise. Ask any Warriors fan that liked the team before the Steph Curry era and especially before the “We Believe” era and they will delight in telling you their favor awful/cult hero Warriors players, their favorite underrated Warriors (“Oh yeah, he was kind of awesome”), a reference to three to four crap teams that meant something to them, and their favorite memories as a fan, generally in that order. For example, here are mine:


Favorite Awful/Cult Warriors Heroes

1.    Adonal Foyle – Epitome of  the “sadsackedness” era. The guy played so hard but was very limited talent-wise. I will always love you Adonal!

2.   Tony Delk – Held MJ to 14 points and scored 17 points in a tough 87-80 home loss in 1998.

3.    Chris Gatling – Gat Gun!

4.    David Wood – Inexplicably made 1998 USA basketball team.

5.    Larry Hughes – Larry Hughes Headband Night.

6.    Rony Seikaly – Spray painted his shoes black because he did not have team colored shoes.

7.    Anthony Randolph – I still don’t know how he didn’t become a more athletic Chris Bosh.

8.    Earl Boykins/Speedy Claxton – Professional versions of “Circus” King.

9.    Vonteego Cummings – Name alone.

10.  Kent Bazemore – All-time bench guy. Honorary 2015 Champ, right?


Favorite Underrated Warriors

1.    Sharunas Marshalonis – Lefty wingmen have a special place in my heart, so does anyone that Bill Walton loves.

2.    Latrell Sprewell – Still one of my favorites.

3.    Jason Richardson – The bright spot on a lot of crap teams.


Favorite Crap Teams

1.    ’97-’98 – Almost beat the Bulls at home.

2.    ’02-’03 – Made me think that a team that played absolutely no defense and featured a big three of Antwan Jamison, Gilbert Arenas, and Jason Richardson was worth watching on a nightly basis.

3.    ’93-’94 – C-Webb’s first year, Mully, Spree, Avery Johnson, and Jud Buechler!


Favorite Memories

1.    My first game: Mully drops 25 in a 126-118 win against Portland.

2.    Only time seeing MJ live: We lose, Tony Delk holds MJ to 14 points. Tony Delk drinks for free at my house for life.

3.    Pizza Pizza Pizza: Jud Buechler hits a three with under a minute to go to give the Warriors 120 points and all fans in attendance free pizza.

The sad part is that I ripped that off the top of my head in about five minutes but that is exactly what my Warriors fan friends and I talked about. Yes, we sometimes talked about Mully. Yes, we talked about the “We Believe” team. Yes, we talked about the current Warriors and how they may be something special. But all of those conversations existed in the context that the Warriors definition of “best” was being something other than comically awful or being merely a fleeting moment of success.

Being a Warriors fan has meant dreading the end of basketball season. Not because I miss watching below average professional basketball, historically speaking, but because it meant I was weeks away from the team perpetuating its losing tradition through the draft.

Last week, Bleacher Report NBA editor and all-around great human Chris Trenchard asked “What was your low point as a Warriors fan?” My knee jerk reaction was the 11th pick of the 1996 NBA draft. I thought and I thought, that really cannot be my low point. There had to be a gut wrenching loss or a bad trade. There had to be something else, right? Well, there isn’t.

I was at UCLA basketball camp. The Warriors were three years removed from Don Nelson pushing Tim Hardaway out of the organization and heading into the '96-'97 season, the Warriors were looking at washed up versions of Mark Price and B.J. Armstrong as their point guard tandem. I was hopeful that the Warriors would pick Section 925er, Santa Clara alum, and Steph Curry prototype, Steve Nash. That did not happen, this did:

David Stern slowly walks to the podium, the TNT camera focuses in on Stern, he looks at the draft card, “with the 11th pick in the…,” he looks at the draft card, “…1996 NBA Draft…,” he looks down at the draft card, “…the Golden State Warriors select Todd…,” he looks down at the draft card, “…Fuller from North Carolina State University.”

My 1996 self did not notice Stern looking back down at the card four separate times in 12 seconds, but since the advent of YouTube I can honestly say that I can account for at least 18 of the 12,403 views associated with the Todd Fuller draft clip. Every time I watch it I try to talk my self into the idea that maybe David Stern keeps looking down at the draft card because he does not want to misspeak at the podium. I really do. But he looks down four times in 12 seconds. 1/4 of the time he is verifying what he is reading is actually true, this can’t be overlooked or under-analyzed.

The key look down moment is after David Stern says “Todd.” When he says “Todd” he is looking dead-on at the camera, just seconds after he had previously looked down. Then he pauses and looks back down right before he says “Fuller,” as if he is flabbergasted as to why the Warriors refuse to make a good draft pick, let alone why in the world anyone would spend a lottery pick on Todd (pause...look down) Fuller.

Not convinced? Compare the Fuller look down to other lottery picks. David Stern either looks at the name the entire time (Allen Iverson and Peja Stojakovic) or looks up the entire time (Marcus Camby and Ray Allen). Generally, this is based on the complexity of the name. Well, Todd Fuller is about as vanilla as you can get. Yet, he looks down. I knew it, you knew, David Stern knew it, and the Warriors must have known that was an awful pick.

Smash cut back to 1996, I'm in the UCLA dorm common area. David Stern just uttered the name of the 11th pick in the draft and 14-year old me’s heart sinks and I blurt out “Are you F**KING serious, that is why we suck.” I remember thinking to myself, “Why do I like this team? Why do I like a team that never wants to get better? Why do we need another slow white center? Are we ever going to be good? What did I do to deserve this?” I should be having teenage angst over a girl that didn't like me back, not an existential crisis about liking a horrible basketball team. I’ve never been more miserable for a worse reason but that was my nadir as a Warriors fan.

In the grand scheme of sports fandom, having Todd Fuller define your low moment is arguably more depressing than say, Kirk Gibson’s walk off, not handing the ball off to Frank Gore, or being a Cold War Russian hockey fan. At least being an A’s or Niners fan meant that you went to the World Series or Super Bowl and being a Russian hockey fan in 1980 meant that you basically hadn’t lost in forever and hadn’t seen "Rocky IV" or "Miracle" yet. Those teams were relevant. True, those moments were historical gut-punch loses, but at least members of those fan bases can collectively share in those low moments. Having Todd Fuller as your low moment is isolating. It’s 12 insignificant seconds in the history of the Warriors that only 12,000 some odd people in the world have cared to actively remember. Nonetheless, because it’s an objectively trivial moment that I have given a lifetime’s worth of importance, to me it's the worst kind of low point.

Being a Warriors fan means truly appreciating the fleeting moments, like a good sideline closeout by Danny Fortson. Being a Warriors fan means growing accustomed to keeping games close, climbing back but never getting over the top, and making a fatal fourth quarter error to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but always getting sucked into thinking we can win next time. Being a Warriors fan means understanding that we will never have the best player and being OK with that. Being a Warriors fan means consistently showing up in the face of assured doom. Being a Warriors fan meant not being defined by our history because we never really had any.

These qualities forged a fan base that irrationally loved many unlovable teams. For the last 25-plus years, Warriors fans have filled the Coliseum/Oracle to near capacity. Inexplicably, they never quit on teams that quit on them. That is not to say that the organization did not push us close to our breaking point on a few occasions. When Chris Cohan low balled Baron Davis and broke up the “We Believe” Warriors, something shifted. Warriors fans had seen competent basketball for the first time in over a decade and in two seasons the Warriors were back to losing over 50 games again.

(Photo by Bleacher Report)

(Photo by Bleacher Report)

In 2009, the Warriors drafted Steph Curry. My top three draft options that year were Johnny Flynn, Steph Curry, and Ty Lawson, in that order. In defense of Johnny Flynn I saw the UCONN game that year and became a believer. That draft was the only good and lasting thing that Chris Cohan did for the Warriors besides bring back the “The City” style uniforms and selling the team.

Under new ownership, Warriors fans were exposed to something new, an ownership group that gave a crap about winning. Initially Joe Lacob’s absolute positivity baffled and confused us. Saying something like this: “I'm looking forward to a tremendous ride on our journey to the return to greatness. We will work extremely hard to represent you as the championship organization that you deserve and the team that you will be proud to be a part of,” just doesn’t compute to a Warriors fan in 2010. It was too lofty for me not be skeptical. Return to greatness? When? Championship organization? Yeah, ok.

This attitude boiled over on the disastrous Chris Mullin Jersey Retirement Night when Joe Lacob inexplicably took the mic to address the crowd right after he traded fan favorite Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut. There was a poison in the crowd that I had never seen come out in all my years of watching Warriors hoops. Although Lacob was ultimately vindicated by the trade and correct in his assessment of the Warriors impending success (which were not helped by Rick Barry’s futile pleas to the crowd), he was tone deaf to the emotions of a fan base that had experienced decades of losing and refused to be put on by another owner that they felt was lying to them about working “extremely hard” to build an organization that the fans deserved and could be proud of. The Warriors finished 23-43 that year and the status quo was felt as though it would remain firmly in place.

(Photo by bleacher Report)

(Photo by bleacher Report)

With Mark Jackson in his second year and a core group of competent players, the 2012-13 Dubs started to give off a “We Believe 2.0” vibe. There was guarded optimism when Steph made it through the season healthy and we actually gave the Spurs a series in the Western Semis. More importantly, basketball was fun to watch again. We played hard. We played creatively. We, as Jalen Rose says, “gave up good shots to get great shots.” We played together. This carried into the 2013-14 season, which ended in the most hopeful and satisfying seven game series loss in all of sports.

I remember thinking last year after the Clippers series, “we can actually be proud of that team.” We were banged up, down in the series, and fought all the way until the end. We were eliminated but there was a pseudo-Spartan romanticism to losing, “with your shield or on it.” I can live with those losses. As a Warriors fan, I am not gut punched by those losses because losing in seven games and going down swinging was better than we, yes “we,” had ever done as long as I had been alive. Were there problems with the team? Yes. But they were fixable basketball problems, not systemic organizational issues that infected and poisoned the team as they had previously.

The 2014-15 season was like playing a season of NBA 2K on a skill level setting which is one below the level that think you might not be able to beat. Sure the computer may go into “no effing way the user wins mode,” at times, but for the most part, everything fell into place perfectly under new head coach Steve Kerr. Losing not only became rare, it became surprising. Literally almost everything went right and success turned into legitimate cultural significance.

Steph gets the most all-star votes, “Steph Curry with the shot,” “Chef Curry with the Pot,” this, this, this, and this all became things, then we led the Association in wins, offense, and defense, Steph won the MVP, swept NOLA, out-grinded Memphis, overwhelmed Houston, and Riley Curry set the world on fire. Before we could even realize what the hell was going on, we were squaring off in the Finals against the “best player in the world”/ best player of this generation.

(photo by Ezra Shaw (@eoshaw))

Going into the Finals my inner Warriors fan took the position that making the Finals was gravy. We haven’t suffered like MJ did against the Pistons or LeBron against the Spurs and Mavs and just making the Finals seemed like enough of a happy ending. Another part of me felt abject fear whenever the name LeBron James was uttered. But still, a part of me remained that said, "hey, we can absolutely win this."

With the exception of Games 2 and 3, where the Cavs played harder and smarter than the Warriors, the Dubs put together four of the most beautiful basketball games I have ever seen. They played their best basketball, on the biggest stage, in the history of the franchise. As the final moments of the fourth quarter of Game 6 ran out I focused on one thing, remember the feeling, soak it in.

It is hard to describe the wave of emotions that come with winning the title. Joy and disbelief were the first that hit. That joy was pervasive for most of the night after Game 6, as I watched interviews and highlights well into the start of the next day.

However, after looking back on that night, witnessing the win in Game 6, reading about the celebration at Morton’s the next day, watching the championship in-flight Coco video, sharing in the happiness with 1,000,000 of my blue and yellow clad basketball friends at the parade, and re-watching the parade on Saturday, one feeling has been present through this entire playoff run and has only grown since the clock hit 0:00, thankfulness.

(photo by Jason Miller)

(photo by Jason Miller)

Being in a position where I have no effect on the outcome of the games (contrary to what I tell myself while executing any of my dumb superstitions), I am thankful that I get to watch a team that plays unselfish basketball and does so in a way that it is not only entertaining but, as a basketball junkie, is beautiful to watch. I’m thankful that Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber meant what they said when they bought the team and acted on it. I am thankful that Bob Meyers had the vision to build a championship team out of a mold no one had ever used, or at least used properly. I am thankful that Steve Kerr decided to take a coaching job close to his kids. I am thankful that Kerr surrounded himself with a great coaching staff (and that on some level Bill Walton’s mojo was aimed in the Warriors direction). I am thankful that everyone on the team embraced their roles, even when they changed. I am thankful that Steph Curry has no ceiling, that Iggy has no fear, and that Draymond has no filter.

Most of all I am thankful that we as fans all got to be a part of this ride. When Steph Curry spoke at the parade his first words to the millions in attendance were “We did it! We did it!” WE. It was clear that “We” extended to everyone, not just the team. This Warriors team embraced the motto strength in numbers (in case you missed everything this season) and a big part of that was making us fans feel like we were a part of the team. The MVP continued to emphasize the theme of inclusion, asserting that “We deserve this,” an assurance to the fans that stuck through the lean decades that suffering through every 50-loss season or bad draft was worth this moment of glory.

As I listened and re-listened to Steph’s speech this weekend the overwhelming feeling that runs through me continues to be thankfulness. For all I know, the parade that I went to on Friday may be the only one I will ever get to experience as long as I live. If it is, I am thankful guys like Steph Curry, who made that parade possible, understood the importance of making every fan feel like they just as well could have been up on that stage too. “Celebrate this trophy like there is no tomorrow,” Steph urged the crowd as he closed out his speech.

Thank you, we will.

"Since '74 - '75" - Oakland Feels Itself at Long Overdue Dubs Parade

(photographs by Garrett Wheeler, Ray Chavez, Anda Chu, Thearon W. Henderson and @SkyHighOakland)

By Garrett Wheeler

We take our place at 12th and Broadway in a throng of blue and gold clad revelers, the sounds of Mac Dre and E-40 thumping from portable speakers. Small clouds of weed smoke drift through the morning air, champagne bottles are passed around. A dance circle forms and some girls drop and pop while others goad them on, waving and cheering in delight.

I’m in the buildin’ and I’m feelin’ myself

Man I’m feelin' myself

It's 8:30 AM, a full hour and a half before the parade is scheduled to begin, but the festivities are well underway. I’ve called in sick (err, professional development day), dragged my butt out of bed at 5 AM, and traveled two hours to celebrate this Warriors season with close to a million other like-minded folk. Because like Steph and Coach Kerr reminded us all season, winning championships don’t come easy.

As the minutes tick by, the party keeps growing. Bodies enclose around us. Standing room becomes sparse, and latecomers begin hanging off ledges, climbing atop bus stop awnings and into trees. Three CHP officers on motorcycles fly by and that is all the mob needs to understand that the moment has arrived: the men who delivered the first Warriors championship in 40 seasons will soon be among us, if only for a moment.

And then, there they are. First the D-League guys, (and D-League Champs!) McAdoo and Kuzmic, plus Justin Holiday. Then, Klay Thompson, hat backwards, nodding and clapping in affirmation from the bow of his double-decker bus. Yelling, screaming, chanting as the Champs slowly cruise by atop their buses. Wait, is that MC-Hammer up there next to Mayor Schaaf? A new chant: “Too legit, too legit to quit! Too legit, too legit to quit!” Hammer Time bopping his head to the rhythm, holding up two fingers in acknowledgment.

Buses with two players on each filter down Broadway. Draymond and Mo Speights, then the two bigs, Ezeli and Bogut. Harrison Barnes and Leandro. D. Lee and Shawn Livingston. Finally, the MVPs. Curry at the helm, clutching a gleaming Larry O’Brien trophy in one arm, waving and pointing with the other, pausing for the occasional selfie. The Baby Faced Assassin is surrounded by family, of course. Those faces that have become so familiar are all there: his wife Ayesha, little Riley, brother Seth and sister Sydel, and parents Dell and Sonya. The Curry’s, what adoration! A new “Riiii-Leeeyy” chant swells forth and Sonya is all beaming smiles, and Dell is a proud, proud man.

But wait, who’s that toward the rear of Steph’s bus? That would be Finals MVP, Sir Andre Iguodala. The chant quickly switches to “M-V-P, M-V-P!” and there’s Andre’s wide, toothy grin and a Bill Russell Award trophy hoisting into the air, glinting in the mid-morning sun. The man who contained Lebron on one end of the floor and hit daggers on the other is before us, and then he too is gone.

Coach Kerr rolls by in the back of a black Lincoln Continental convertible followed by a few buses packed with season ticket holders. And now the parade has traveled out of sight, but the memories, as they say, will last a lifetime.

Warrrrrioorrrrrs. Warrrrriorrrrrrs.

We leave our spot and join the mass of people attempting to traverse down to Lake Merritt for the parade terminus and rally, but the streets are blocked and we’re routed all the way around Laney College. By the time we reach the Kaiser Center, it’s readily apparent that we won’t be getting within a mile of the stage so we post up near a giant screen erected on Lakeside Drive. We watch the interviews, the executive speeches, and the owners’ speeches as the sun grows warm overhead. There are no chairs and no shade but still we watch as Tim Roy and Bob Fitzgerald each have their turn with the mic.

Then one by one, Bob and Jim Barnett introduce the starters, plus Iguodala, and each gives a short speech at the podium. (Ok, Green’s speech wasn’t short, obviously.) The players talk about how magical the season has been, and how much they owe to Warriors fans. They talk about the City of Oakland deserving a championship, and about how they respect the Town and the people who call it home. “Stay in Oakland!” people yell, while others wonder aloud if there is anything that can keep San Francisco from stealing away a team that’s played its last 43 seasons in Oakland.

And while, as an East Bay native, I’d love to see the Warriors get a sweet new stadium in Oakland and the Coliseum City fantasy become reality, it’s necessary to separate the future from the present in order to savor this moment. After-all, this was a championship, a season really, that was so extraordinary, so perfect, that all those hyperbolic clichés actually apply.

It was a story-book of narratives: the rookie head coach humbly allows his players to be themselves and never overreaches; the team’s best player becomes a league MVP and an NBA mega-star; the “heartbeat” of the team pulses from a stretch forward with moxie like Ali; Klay drops 37 in one quarter; an undersized lineup runs and guns (and defends) its way past bigger and stronger opponents; King James himself is dethroned, in six, and the Warriors win it all.   

Long after the confetti is all cleaned up and the players and coaches have gone their separate ways, the legend of the 2015 Golden State Warriors will live on. It was a season Warriors fans will never forget, a season that bonded all corners of the Bay Area together. Because as frivolous as sports can seem in comparison to the graver realities of life, it’s moments like these that seem to transcend the stats and the box scores and even the hardware that comes with a winning season.

To quote Riley Curry, quoting Big Sean: “I’m way up, I feel blessed." 

Section925 Podcast Episode 60 - Baseball Insider Jon Zuber



In a "must listen" for all high school and collegiate baseball players and their parents, Section925 Baseball Insider Jon Zuber sits down with @Tripperino to talk about the College World Series and important differences between minor league and college baseball in terms of player development. This is essential listening for any player choosing between minors and college baseball, and for anyone interested in learning more about the path to the Big Leagues.