March Madness is over … and has given way to Opening Day.
Much like many offices around the area, ours was bracket-watching for the NCAA college basketball national championship tournament with some friendly competition as it came down the stretch. Now, though, we turn our attention to the diamond, with roughly an equal number of Giants to A’s fans in our 12-person, three-newspaper operation. Several of us were lucky enough to take in part of the Bay Bridge series over the weekend, another headed out to the official regular season opener for Oakland on Monday night. For those of you that have been paying attention since 2010 … this is an even year. The San Francisco Giants won it all in 2010, 2012, 2014 … it would be just fine with me to add 2016 to that list.
Baseball, football, hockey and women’s soccer are the professional sports I have had the privilege of seeing live and there just isn’t anything to compare to being there. It’s one thing to watch on television or listen on the radio but another experience entirely to drink it in live. The sounds, the smells, the excitement, the $7 sodas … the subtle nuances of the game that don’t quite translate on the screen or through the speaker. And there’s just something about being there with several thousand other fans that makes it special. Even when ‘my’ team has lost, it still was worth it.
One of my most favorite moments was getting the chance to go with a good friend to a 49ers playoff game several years back (we crushed ‘da Bears) and meeting up with her sister in San Jose, where we got into a limousine for the trip to San Francisco. Faces painted red and gold, decked out in 49ers gear, we popped up through the sun roof as we neared Candlestick and just enjoyed how surreal it all was.
When I lived in New York I did get the opportunity to attend games at both Yankee Stadium and the old Shea Stadium, former home of the Mets. We were over 200 miles north of the city, but what’s a little driving when you get to visit a historic park or be part of the crowd as the ’86 Mets played their way to the World Series title?
My only dilemma this time of year is juggling my sports watching with my work schedule. Yeah, I still have to work … just as baseball starts and hockey hits the Stanley Cup Playoffs. At least this season, my Sharks are in the playoffs, and we’ll see how far they go.
When I was discussing ideas for this column with co-workers, we settled on a sports-themed one, and then went a little deeper, talking about some of the more unusual team names we have heard. Most of the really good ones belong to minor league teams – of course we have the Modesto Nuts nearby – can you imagine being a ‘Nut’ as you start your pro baseball career? Actually, it’s not so bad, since the Central Valley is known for its almond and walnut production, and certainly not the craziest name. Personally, I really like the Albuquerque Isotopes, though that came in at Number 11 on one list of the ‘best minor league names’ that I found while surfing the Internet. (The ‘Nuts’ were number 15, in case you were curious.) Other favorites are the Savannah Sand Gnats and the Lansing Lugnuts. Or even the Las Vegas 51s, a tribute to the famed ‘Area 51’ in Nevada.
Hockeywise, there’s a couple that stand out – the Florida Everblades is pretty good and I also like the Syracuse Crunch. That definitely sounds like hockey.
Whatever sport you enjoy, whatever team you follow, I hope they bring you some fond memories this season.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.