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 |

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…

“Champagne Campaign” – Curry Gives Us 45 More Reasons to 'Vote Steph'

The human torch, Steph Curry. (photo by Noah Graham)

The human torch, Steph Curry. (photo by Noah Graham)

By Connor Buestad |

It was a familiar scene inside TNT’s Studio J following Thursday’s Warriors win over Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers. Four men, three of which were once NBA superstars, sat around the ultimate NBA water cooler and tried to figure out what they had just witnessed from Steph Curry. It’s something we all go through as followers of the enigma that is number 30.

Sure, this has happened time and time again this year as we all know. I keep telling myself it shouldn’t be a surprise. Steph gets hot early, and never really seems to ever cool off. His silky smooth jump shot so simple and repeatable that it becomes hard to believe when one of his beautifully arching shots actually draws iron. Out of Curry’s 45 points on Thursday, eight of them were 3’s. Most all of said 3’s could be traced back to a creative dibble series that allowed him to slip free of double teams and find a window from which to launch another bomb from. His celebrations were on point two, as they usually are. And the Oracle crowd boiled over once again, this time breaking into well-deserved chants of “M-V-P, M-V-P…”

By the time the first segment of TNT’s postgame show went to its first commercial break, it was clear Shaq had already finished his first glass of Curry Kool-Aid and had ordered another round. Meanwhile, Ernie Johnson, who has been through his fair share of “40 Games in 40 Nights,” was just trying to keep everything in perspective. But over on the other side of the desk sat Isiah Thomas, lifetime cardholder of the Detroit Pistons Bad Boy era teams. “Come playoff time, everything isn’t going to be so free and easy. You know, just run around the court nice and loose and pop shots up,” explained Thomas. “In the playoffs things slow down, there is more pressure on each shot. It’s different.”

Coming from a guy who was tasked with containing the greatest ever, Michael Jordan, Isiah’s smiling sentiment on Curry come playoff time is tough to ignore, even for a Warriors fan wearing a We Believe shirt.

Fortunately, the debate of whether Chef Curry can continue to somehow pull off this high wire act all the way to the NBA Finals is what will make the next six some-odd weeks of basketball so invigorating to watch. Can he keep doing this? Can he keep casting 3’s from the depths of double teams only to splash the net, again? Can he continue to find space where there is none in the playoffs and whip no-look passes to Draymond and Bogut for another easy dunk? Can this furious train just keep on rolling until it meets LeBron, Delly and the Cavs? Is this what we as Warriors fans should now comfortably expect? Or should we listen to Isiah Thomas.

That’s for you to decide I suppose. But for now, there’s no arguing that you should go ahead and enjoy the moment. There are three games left, all on Warriors Ground, and Curry already has made 276 3-pointers on the year. Ray Allen, aka Jesus Shuttlesworth, once hit 269 3-pointers in a season. No man has ever done better than that, except for Steph. Twice.

In 38 games in Oakland this year, the Warriors have won 36 of them. They are on pace to go 41 and 2 at Oracle Arena this year. That is insane. When the Warriors sadly move across the bay to a shiny new arena with all the corporate bells and whistles, there will inevitably be story after story about that wild year in 2015 when the Warriors had their Oakland faithful worked into a frenzy night after night. When a skinny kid from Davidson College won the MVP, not because he was the best player or the best athlete, but because he literally almost never missed a shot.

To Isiah’s credit, you know what he must be thinking. You can almost see him racking his brain and comparing the Steph of 2015 to the Jordan of 1991. This guy Curry can’t be that good, man. Unless he is…




(photo by Ray Chavez)

(photo by Ray Chavez)

San Francisco's Bruce Mahoney Game – “A Tradition Unlike Any Other”

A left handed Timmy Hardaway, Trevor Dunbar displays his handle on The Hilltop(Photo by Doug Ko,

By Connor Buestad |

San Francisco isn’t supposed to still have this much tradition left in it.

It was supposed to be lost somewhere during the Dot Com boom and bust. Or at a martini bar in a gentrified yuppie hideout, or at a Mark Zuckerberg keynote address on internet privacy, or at an Orange Friday at AT&T Park. The seven by seven stretch of real estate bordered by the Bay and Ocean Beach is thought to have become too blue for it’s own good. Too liberal, too progressive, too obsessed with 3G, 4G and 5G. Too far from its roots.

In a city of transplants and tech mercenaries, the notion of being from San Francisco, has developed an increasingly foggy definition. Ask a post grad on polk street who’s “from San Francisco” where they went to high school, and the zip code usually won’t start with 941.

To be certain, not all of the tradition has gone by the wayside. Not even close. It is still there, still burning as hot as ever, it just requires one to look a few layers below the surface, like inside a 55 year old gymnasium near the corner of Fulton and Masonic.

The first time Sacred Heart Cathedral and Saint Ignatius (both private Catholic high schools in San Francisco) played against each other, the year was 1893, or maybe it was 1891, but no one seems to be exactly sure. Fittingly, the game was held on Saint Patricks Day, on the corner of 8th and Market. The Irish of SH beat the Wildcats of SI by a final score of 14-4. Leather helmets may or may not have been worn and the forward pass may or may not have been invented at this point. The game was believed to be a cross between football and rugby. Admission to the game was five cents even.

World War I came and went, Babe Ruth did his thing for the Yankees, and eventually history gave way for the arrival of The Greatest Generation.

For the six years between 1939 and 1945, America was at war. Up and down the hallways of SI and SH, conversation didn’t consist of SAT scores and safety schools, but rather when and where you and your buddies were headed off to fight for your country. The era was ripe with pride and love for country and the football, basketball and baseball fields held less relevance in the grand scheme of things as they do today. To call the era tumultuous would be an understatement. America’s history was hanging in the balance.

As heated as the rivalry between Sacred Heart and Saint Ignatius was in the 1940’s it obviously paled in comparison to the realities of war overseas. Many products of the two proud schools lost their lives serving their country, but two stood out as special young men.

The Bruce Mahoney Trophy was established in 1947 to memorialize the death of Bill Bruce of Saint Ignatius and Jerry Mahoney of Sacred Heart. Bruce served as the student body president for SI, graduating in 1935. During his tenure as Wildcat, he was also a standout football player. Mahoney was an All-City football and basketball player at SH and also went on to be an accomplished boxer during his time in the service. Both men died while members of the Navy during WWII, Bruce in an airplane crash, Mahoney in a sinking submarine.

Since 1947, these two San Francisco cross-city rivals have duked it out for the right to hold the fabled Bruce Mahoney Trophy. Each year, the two schools play a football game in the fall at Kezar Stadium. Once the home of the San Francisco Forty Niners, Kezar is an historic venue that sits on the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park. The winner goes up 1-0 in the three game Bruce Mahoney Series that also includes basketball and baseball.

Come winter, the first time the two schools meet in basketball counts toward the Bruce Mahoney Series. If the series moves to 1-1, the first baseball contest of the Spring, held at Pac Bell Park, ultimately decides who takes home the trophy for the Summer.

While the football and baseball games between these two schools are wondrous events in their own right, it is on the basketball court where the Bruce Mahoney rivalry reaches it’s most fevered pitch.

Fittingly, the Bruce Mahoney basketball game takes place in the heart of San Francisco, inside War Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of USF. Built in 1958, the 5,300 seat facility seeps with history and nostalgia. Some call it “The House That Bill Russell Built” as it opened it’s doors two years after Russell left the Hilltop for a hall of fame career for the Boston Celtics. For the Bruce Mahoney game, literally every seat is accounted for. Students from both schools pack the upper levels, the last rows ducking to avoid the low ceiling.

At this point, of course, the football game has already been decided months ago. Now, the trophy is on the line in earnest. For the crop of seniors down 1-0 in the best of three Bruce Mahoney series, every possession takes on a do or die significance. The 10 players on the court carrying the bragging rights and expectations of a sea of fellow students and proud alumni. A palpable tension fills the air, every basket cheered passionately, every foul call argued vehemently.

Much like the Axe in the Cal-Stanford Big Game, the fabled Bruce Mahoney trophy serves as a constant reminder of what’s at stake. In the 65 years the trophy has been in existence, St. Ignatius has won the series 45 times, compared to just 20 wins for Sacred Heart. Sacred Heart won the trophy last year, however, and were looking to build momentum and close the gap with a repeat series win in 2013. If they wanted to retain the trophy in 2013, they would need to not only beat SI in hoops, but they would also have to win on the diamond.

On this night, St. Ignatius would prevail over Sacred Heart by a score of 56-46. Trevor Dunbar ran the show for the Wildcats all night from the point guard position. A wizard with the ball in his hands, Dunbar repeatedly drew oohs and ahhs with his uncanny dribbling skills. Led by Khalil James, Sacred Heart never seemed to back down and proved fun to watch. Undersized, the Irish did yeoman's work on the glass all evening to keep the game in question deep into the fourth quarter.

After the final buzzer sounded at War Memorial and the Wildcats of St. Ignatius climed into the stands to greet their fellow students, yet another small chapter of the Bruce Mahoney series was etched in history. More important than who won and who lost on Tuesday night, was that the history and tradition between these schools grew one game stronger, and for that, San Francisco should be proud.

Many would argue Gonzaga at USF doesn't get this full... (Photo by @ConnorBuestad via Instagram)

The America’s Cup World Series Arrives on the Shores of the San Francisco Bay

[youtube=] By Connor Buestad (

It is a bit of a stretch to think Oracle’s CEO, Larry Ellison, pays much attention to the Summer X Games. Skateboard Vert, BMX, Street Luge, and Motocross are not exactly the traditional leisure activities associated with billionaire software moguls pushing 70. The folks at ESPN have never been shy to admit that their target demographic is more 15-year-old kids who are perpetually “stoked” and less 67-year-old fat cats who own one of the Hawaiian Islands (Lanai).

Even still, one can’t help but wonder if Ellison was flipping through channels in his private jet back in 1999 when he saw a highlight of X Gamer Travis Pastrana launching himself out of a motocross stadium and into the San Francisco Bay atop his dirtbike. It was the type of attention-grabbing stunt that etched Pastrana’s name into San Francisco lore forever, a goal that Larry Ellison seems dead-set on achieving himself.

The 2012-2013 edition of the America’s Cup might be just the event to finally give ‘ol Larry a sufficient amount of attention. Luckily for San Franciscan’s, Ellison will be showing off his newest toys for the whole city to enjoy, and it all begins (sort of) on August 21st, right here in the San Francisco Bay.

11 boats from eight countries will be arriving in San Francisco this month to kick off the second season of what’s called the America’s Cup World Series. The World Series has no effect on the winner of next year’s main event, the America’s Cup Finals, but it will serve as a fantastic showcase of a sport that is currently experiencing a  technological renaissance of sorts. From August 21-26, 45-foot catamaran boats will race off the shores of the Marina Green and Piers 27/29. The boats will also be in SF for the second leg of this year’s America’s Cup World Series during Fleet Week (October 2-7). A true San Francisco spectacle if there ever was one.

While next year’s America’s Cup Finals will feature 75-foot catamarans with 11-men crews, this month’s World Series will involve 45-foot catamarans with crews of five. Ellison’s Team Oracle will be split into two teams for the World Series, “Oracle-Spithill” and “Oracle-Coutts”. James Spithill is a 32-year-old sailing phenom who was the youngest skipper ever to win the America’s Cup in 2010, while Russell Coutts is known as one of the best sailors of all time and has won multiple America’s Cup titles. For the big race next year, the young Spithill will be the skipper of Team Oracle, while the older Coutts will work on strategy from the shore as the team’s CEO.

The catamaran boats that fans will see this month on the bay are without a doubt some of the most exciting and cutting-edge water vessels ever created. America’s Cup level sailors must be in premier physical shape and have the fearless attitude of a NASCAR driver in order to compete. With speeds upwards of 40 MPH, these boats whip across the bay in a blink of an eye, a brutal capsize or collision always one wrong decision away. To be sure, vodka swigging joyriders no longer have a place in this sport. They’ve been replaced by ultra-fit athletes in Red Bull helmets.

While the America’s Cup World Series will give San Franciscan’s their first taste of international sailing at the highest level, the main event won’t get going until next summer. That’s when the Louis Vuitton Cup will be decided and subsequently, the America’s Cup Finals Champion.

The America’s Cup, make no mistake about it, is a very hard sport to understand, follow, and fully appreciate. The rules are constantly changing, the teams are almost all comprised of sailing mercenaries (Oracle only has one American-born sailor), and well, who actually knows how to sail here in the United States? Nevertheless, Ellison has harnessed technology to the point where sailing is becoming digestible and enjoyable for even the most casual of sports fans.

With all due respect to hockey and Lord Stanley’s Cup, the America’s Cup has by far the coolest trophy in sports. It’s been around since 1851 and is appropriately nicknamed “The Oldest Trophy in Sports.” Unlike hockey, the winner of the cup not only gets to parade around town with a giant silver trophy, but they also get to decide when, where, and how the next America’s Cup competition will be held.

Boats from various countries are invited to compete in America’s Cup competition whenever they are held, roughly every four years. Most every boat is bankrolled by mega-millionaire businessmen who sponsor the boat and hire a crew of the best sailors they can find in the world to sail it for them. In essence, it is an event where the Donald Trumps of the world get to compete with one another to see who’s the real king of the One Percent Castle.

In 2010, Larry Ellison’s “BMW-Oracle” boat beat billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli’s boat from Switzerland called “Alinghi”. To the victor went the spoils, and Ellison has decided to hold the America’s Cup right here in San Francisco Bay for the first time ever.

Based on their victory in 2010, “Team Oracle” automatically has a spot clinched in the San Francisco edition of the America’s Cup Finals which won’t be held until September 2013. This race will pit “The Defender” (Team Oracle) versus “The Challenger”. The Challenger must earn the right to compete one-on-one with Team Oracle by winning what’s called the Louis Vuitton Cup. This event will be held in San Francisco from July 4th – September 1, 2013, and will consist of four boats from around the world battling it out in the Bay until one boat moves on to face Team Oracle.

As is often the case in the sport of sailing, Ellison and his team’s 2010 America’s Cup victory did not come without a great deal of controversy. Long story short, Ellison and Bertarelli became tangled in an ugly lawsuit leading up to their America’s Cup Final race. The argument was essentially a debate over the rules, and by the end of the suit, a fair agreement was never truly reached. Believe it or not, the two teams didn’t even race the same style of boat in the America’s Cup Final. Bertarelli’s Swiss team ended up sailing a catamaran while Ellison’s crew sailed a trimaran. As it turned out, Ellison’s three-hulled boat proved faster than Bertarelli’s two-hulled boat.

Unsurprisingly, Bertarelli will not be competing in next year’s Louis Vuitton Cup. Unfortunately, various other teams are also opting to stay home and not attend Ellison’s party. It was originally thought that up to 15 teams would be arriving in San Francisco in 2013 to compete for a chance at the America’s Cup. Many speculated that this influx of foreign money could be prove to be a boon for city of San Francisco, even despite the up front investment the city has spent on infrastructure. As it stands today, the four teams scheduled to sail in the Louis Vuitton Cup include Artemis Racing (Sweden), Emirates Team New Zealand (New Zealand), Luna Rossa Challenge (Italy) and Team Korea (Korea).

Teams must pay an exorbitant amount of money to build a competitive boat and acquire a sufficient amount of sponsorship dollars to compete in the America’s Cup. In Ellison’s defense, he and race officials have worked toward making next year’s America’s Cup more fair than in year’s past. For starters, all entrants must sail 75-foot catamarans that possess similar specifications. Regardless, all the talk of the 2013 America’s Cup being akin to a Super Bowl or World Cup is beginning to seem overblown.

Whether or not the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America’s Cup Finals will be a boon or a bust remains to be seen. Four teams have RSVP’d and it is rumored that the list may dwindle down to three by the race’s opening gun. What we do know for sure, however, is that the America’s Cup World Series is still in good health. 11 state-of-the-art boats from around the world will be sailing into The Bay later this month to showcase the sport in the best way they know how.

Even if you don’t know the first thing about how to “jibe”, “tack”, or “hike-out”, grab your dearest set of binoculars, your iPhone to track the race online, and your favorite pair of seersucker shorts. After a 161 year wait, America’s Cup sailing is coming to San Francisco.