Thursday Thirteen - Sports!
Okay, how about my thirteen favorite sports franchises/teams, just for kicks (geddit?) Yeah, I know it's not Thursday anymore. Shaddap! It took me a couple days full of interruptions to decide which to include and what to write. Enjoy.
1. The Collingwood Magpies
My drug of choice and my favorite sport to spectate. Australian Rules Football, affectionately dubbed "Footy," is faster and wilder than other forms of football, and definitely not for girlie-men. To the uninitiated it looks disorganized and chaotic, a swirl of anarchy, yet that's far from the truth. It is a game of wile and courage, and Collingwood is the most storied and most hated team in Australia. I first loved 'em because they were in black, and their fans sound like psychos in the stands. And now, for me, it's Good Old Collingwood Forever.
2. The Oakland Raiders
How the mighty have fallen. When I was a little tyke, I found myself growing up in the midst of a rabid family of San Francisco 49er lovers. True fans they were, and still are. My elders grew up watching games at the old Kesar Stadium. They never missed a game on TV, either, no matter how bad the team was. There was no other team on earth for them. Naturally, I knew better. When I was five, Dad took us to Sears in San Jose and showed us two little mannequins, one with a kid's sized 49er uniform, the other with a Raiders uniform, pads and all. He pointed to the 49er one, said, "Here's what we're going to get, boys." I pointed to the Raider uniform, "I want that one." Dad blanched and said, "No, we like the 49ers." I stuck out my chin and answered him, "No, I like the Raiders." So I got my Raiders uniform. Being a Raiders fan was fun growing up. The Raiders were BAD and they were winners. When Oakland didn't take it all, the team that won had to go through the Mighty Raiders, sometimes by sucking out with the help of flukey miracles. Alas, the days of old seem so far off as Oakland struggles in the grip of Owner/Debilitator Al Davis. Here's hoping they can someday soon find a way to Just Win, Baby.
3. The Oakland Athletics
Same basic story as the Raiders/49ers things without the whole uniform drama. My love for the A's was certainly helped along by the magnificent dynasty of the mid-seventies, with Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, and Rollie Fingers. Later I got to enjoy the LaRussa era, with our juiced up sluggers, the Eck, Bob Welch and Dave Stewart, and the Earthquake Series with the San Francisco Giants. Ah, rubbed that one in the family's face.
4. Newcastle United
The Toon! My favorite Football(i.e.: Soccer) club in the world. I picked 'em several years ago after asking my buddy Zen how one goes about picking a club to follow and support if one doesn't live in England. He said, "you just pick one, then stay with them forever. Except don't pick Man United, because only arseholes do that." Well, I'm glad I dodged that bullet. I knew little about the teams, but Newcastle had a black and white kit, like Collingwood, and were called the Magpies, like Collingwood, and an exciting and colorful history, so that worked. Their season this year is in the toilet, what with personnel problems and owner problems. Sounds like another team I know/follow/support. I did get to enjoy the last few seasons of the inimitable Alan Shearer, a football god in Newcastle upon Tyne and a perennial star in all of England. He's gone, Michael Owen is on crutches, our defense is spotty. Ah, well, at least they're not Leeds United, right Zenners? Howay the lads!
5. The San Jose Sharks
A recent expansion team in the NHL in 1992, the Sharks were the team to bring hockey to the conscious level in my life. Before then it was just a game that those crazy Canuckleheads up in the tundra played. My boss bought season tickets to the inaugural season and gave me a pair for a matchup vs. the already hated Los Angeles Kings. The HP Pavilion in San Jose (a gorgeous facility) was still being built, so we had to go to the Cow Palace in San Bruno to see them play. Both teams lined their goons (i.e.: enforcers, i.e.: guys put on the ice to fight rather than play) on each other at center ice. The moment the puck dropped, so did the gloves and those two pounded on each other, neither gaining the upper hand, though the LA goon slipped first, so the refs broke it up. (They don't stop the fight until one goes down. Nice rule.) The announcer then announced the major penalties against each, detailing who they were, what they did, and what team they were on. The last thing he did was announce how far into the game the penalties took place. The dude drew in a huge, deep breath and shouted, "TWO -- SECOOOOOOOONDS!!!!" The place went riot, and the Sharks devoured the kings 6 - 0, their first ever shutout as a franchise. The Sharks didn't take too long to shed the expansion = loser persona and are regulars in the playoffs, showing good form again this year. One of these days they will hold the Cup aloft. I just hope I can afford tickets!
6. The San Jose Earthquakes
US Soccer is experiencing an exciting renaissance these days, popularity not seen since the day of Pele and the New York Cosmos. The San Jose Earthquakes were a powerful team in the West. The were the latest iteration of the San Francisco Blackhawks, becoming the San Jose Clash until the formation of the modern MLS, where they became the Quakes. Their best known star was the amazing Landon Donovan, now laboring in the dungeons of the hated L.A. Galaxy. Yech. But San Jose won the 2003 MLS Cup, but facility issues forced a move to Houston, where the club was renamed the Houston Dynamo. Like the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens nightmare, the team wasn't allowed to take their name and history along. Good thinking, because there is hope. The owners of the abovementioned Oakland Athletics have bought exclusive MLS franchise rights to the Bay Area and are apparently working on reestablishing the team in the near future. Fingers crossed.
7. Chivas USA
In the meantime, I have to have an MLS team to support, and I hate Houston now, for obvious reasons. Prefer California. But I HATE the L.A. Galaxy even more! Ah, fortunately Club Deportivo Guadalajara, known as "Chivas," a 100 year old powerhouse club in Mexico, founded a sister franchise in the MLS, Chivas USA. Playing at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, the bring some Latin American flair to the MLS and have gone from worst to quite good, making the playoffs and winning the first leg of their opening round against... Yup! The Houston Dynamo. They're in California, and they're not the hated Galaxy. Go Chivas!
8. The Golden State Warriors
I'm not the biggest NBA fan in the world. I find the negative, gangster image some of their biggest stars exemplify to be distasteful and harmful to today's youth and culture. And the game is just no fun watching on television. However, I finally had the chance to attend a couple games with a customer who over the years has become a dear friend. Watching it live is a completely different experience. There is a lot to appreciate. I chose the Warriors because they play where the Raiders and the A's do. Simple as that. Ol' Don Nelson is back this year, and the team is looking good out of the chute. Maybe we'll go back to the 80's and find some form and swagger again.
9. The New Zealand All Blacks
I first fell in love with the All Blacks when I started getting into Rugby about four or five years ago. They came on the field and did the Haka. Wow, that was cool. But then they backed it up by kicking arse. This video features several huge All Blacks stars, including Carlos Spencer (who leads the Haka), Tana Umaga (in dreads), and the phenomenal Joe Rokocoko. The All Blacks are the best in the world. And it doesn't hurt that they wear black!
10. The Cal Golden Bears
Having never attended a four-year university, I had to simply pick a California team to support, preferably one I could actually watch on television regularly. First, I detest USC and UCLA, if for no other reason than they are southern californian. Stanford is too snooty for me. The San Jose State Spartans (the wife's alma mater), Fresno State Bulldogs and SDSU Aztecs don't get much TV time. Stanford is just too snooty for me. That leaves Cal. I've watched and supported Cal for a good decade now, and they're always a scrappy, fighting, high-speed football team. They've hung around the top ten all year after recovering from a shocker loss to Tennessee. Their big test comes against USC in a couple weeks. USC just got humbled by the Oregon State Beavers (FIL's alma mater) and are probably smarting and looking to regain the respect they think they deserve (they don't, but they think they do.) Hopefully Cal will humble them further and knock them from the top 25.
11. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Well, one of the necessities of growing up Irish and Catholic is indoctrination into the church of Touchdown Jesus. I don't know why, but I can't shake the idea that Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz are heroes, that Charlie Weiss is here to set things right, and that the world simply waits for the Fightin' Irish to be champs again. Brady Quinn makes for thrilling football these days, and opposing teams once again tremble in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus.
12. King City High School Mustangs
My daughter's high school. No, she doesn't play football. She's in the drumline, but I have to go to the football games to see her play. Yeah, twist my arm!
13. Soquel High School Knights
My and my wife's alma mater. I never get to games anymore, but I still follow their progress. They usually field a good team, often into the local and regional playoffs.
So there you are. If you hate sports, I'm sorry. I've had sports on the brain lately. Check in next time. Maybe I'll get over it.