I’m not a sports writer. And, I certainly don’t want to step on Tyler Takeda’s toes. But, I can’t let the current sports season slip by without a comment. Of course, it would be easy to blame the craziness on Donald Trump because everything has been topsy-turvy since his inauguration in January. But, that would be too easy. In fact, I think that there are certain paranormal factors that come into play.
As some of us may remember, the Oakland Raiders began a long winning streak after Derek Carr’s second start as quarterback in 2016. That momentum carried through to the 2017 season, at least for the first few games. Then those paranormal factors struck the team.
No one really understands paranormal factors in the sports world. In baseball, when a pitcher has a no-hitter on the line, other players in the dugout will not sit near him. When a batter is on a hitting streak, he may not change his socks. When a pole-vaulter is going for a personal best, he may not touch the pole between attempts. I’m pretty sure that nobody knows how these superstitions came into being, but they are almost universally observed, like “knock on wood,” which also makes no sense.
In the case of the Raiders, the decline seems to have coincided with the announcement that Derek Carr had produced some kind of music album. About the same time, the number of his commercials for a credit union seemed to multiply. Finally, one can’t really overlook the fact that the team’s poor performance began shortly after Carr’s agents negotiated a secure five-year, $125 million contract with the Raiders.
I’m not saying that the curse is on Carr’s head; the defense has been miserable. But, one has to wonder how other players may react to a single stand-out getting Hollywood-style stardom exposure. Then, as things looked bleakest, with the Raiders trailing at the very end of last Thursday night’s game and with the ball in their hands, and 00 showing on the game clock, defensive holding extended the game. Another penalty nullified a muffed catch in the end zone. On the next extended-game play, Carr hit Crabtree in the end zone to tie the game. The PAT was good, and the Raiders broke their 3-game losing streak by one point. See? Crazy!
While most fans in this part of the valley seem to be Raider fans, our secondary “home team” is the San Francisco Forty-Niners, who actually have their home park about 40 miles south of the City by the Bay. But, this year, there is a stark difference between the two teams. The fate of the Raiders seems to be a coin toss; sometimes heads, sometimes tails. The ‘Niners coin only seems to have one side, and its always face down.
The ‘Niners started the season with a QB named Brian Hoyer, who seemed to throw butter-coated footballs. His throws were accurate, for the most part, but his receivers couldn’t hold onto them. A few caught passes might have made a difference because, after a poor opening (3-23) at home against the Panthers, the next five games were lost by three points or fewer. Here’s the record: 9-12, away, vs. Seahawks; 39-41, home, vs. Rams; 15-18, away, vs. Cardinals; 23-26, away, vs. Colts; and 24-26, away, vs. Redskins.
This past Sunday, Coach Kyle Shanahan started rookie C.J. Beathard at quarterback with great expectations. The game was played against the Cowboys on the “home” field in Santa Clara; it was a warm, bright day; hopes were high. Final score: Dallas, 40; San Francisco, 10. On the Win-Loss chart, the ‘Niners record is now L, L, L, L, L, L, L. And an eighth L might very well be added tomorrow when the Bay Boys face the Eagles in Philadelphia.
After Monday night’s game, the Eagles have six wins and only one loss. Regardless of whom Shanahan starts, odds-makers give the ‘Niners very little chance of winning. In fact, barring tremendous improvement in every element of the game, the ‘Niners best chance of getting even one W this season will be on Nov. 12 when they face the New York Giants in Santa Clara. After falling to the Seahawks by a score of 24-7 on Sunday, the Giants stand at only one W to six L’s. Although the Giants seem to be marginally better than the ‘Niners, San Francisco will have a paranormal advantage: the home field. So, something crazy could happen.
After a hiatus of 27 years, the Los Angeles Dodgers made their first appearance in the World Series on Tuesday evening. I really haven’t watched baseball in quite a number of years, probably because I grew up in Brooklyn when the Dodger team was composed of the “Boys of Summer.” In those days of wine and roses (actually beer and dandelions), to live in Brooklyn and not be a Dodger fan was like hanging a “Beat-me-to-death” sign on one’s back. We weren’t just Dodger fans, we were rabid fans who bled Dodger Blue.
When owner Walt O’Malley moved the Dodgers to L.A. in 1957, the magic died. When a Brooklynite was asked: “If you had a gun with only two bullets and were in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and O’Malley, who would you shoot,” the answer was, “O’Malley, twice!”
But, it wasn’t just the move that caused me to abandon baseball. The “old” Dodgers started to retire, the club tried to trade Jackie Robinson to the hated Giants (Jackie chose to quit the game), free agency meant that next year’s team might have different players from this year’s, and new rules were implemented, like the designated hitter (in the American League).
I know that a lot of today’s baseball fans can’t understand my hatred of the designated hitter rule, but they weren’t around when “Preacher” Roe came to the plate to bat against Pittsburgh at Forbes Field in 1953. Roe was a great pitcher, but a notoriously bad hitter. He could barely swing the bat over the plate, looking like a six-year-old with a battering ram in his hands. But, on that particular day, Roe hit a home run, the only one of his long career. The entire Dodger team came out of the dugout, some spread red towels on the ground (like a red carpet for Roe to trot in on), others pretended to faint. Crazy. That was the magic. Paranormal? Now the question is, “Can the Dodgers be world champs, again?”