General Sports

Catching Up With Old Friends

        One thing you learn as time goes on is that things change.  For instance, when I was in college, the term “single malt” meant having only one forty instead of two.  But just as tastes change, so do people.  Take Jason Giambi, for example.  At one time, he was a king, treated as a hero wherever he went in the Bay Area.  When he played for Oakland, Giambi was free to grow his hair long, sport a goatee, ride his motorcycle, take steroids, and drink heavily, and people loved him for it.  A’s fans started “MVP!” chants every time he came to the plate after August 1st, and his own teammates carried him off the field on their shoulders.  He was the leader of a young, cocky team that looked up to him like a big brother.        But this wasn’t enough for Giambi.  He wanted to make big money, play in New York, and don the pinstripes, to fulfill his dad’s Yankee wet dream.  So he signed a deal worth $120 million over 7 years, moved to the Big Apple, became my least favorite person on the planet, shaved his goatee, cut his hair, and neutered his personality.  Here’s a brief summary of what’s happened to him since: booed at home by his own fans; developed a brain tumor; benched during the World Series; co-poster boy for baseball’s steroid scandal; replaced by the very player he was brought in to unseat 4 years ago; asked to accept a demotion to the minor leagues by a team that no longer wants anything to do with him.  It’s safe to say that since 2001, things have taken a slight turn for the worse for Giambi.  Pitchers throughout baseball are taking Lou Brown’s advice from “Major League” (“forget about the curve ball- give ’em the heater”) every time Giambi comes to the plate, knowing that he can’t catch up to anything over 90 mph.  In short, he now looks helpless in a batter’s box, the very spot where he used to seem completely comfortable.

        All of this has resulted in talk that the A’s would take Giambi back from the Yankees, like parents taking back a runaway child who learned his lesson the hard way and wants his old room back.  But runaway children don’t come with $80 million owed to them over the next 4 years.  And runaway children don’t bash their parents on Letterman.  And most importantly, runaway children don’t bat .195.  If they did, their parents would never take them back.  And so it is with Giambi.  The A’s offense is so bad right now that they may have to use their pitchers at DH, but there is a limit to their desperation.  For all the heat Billy Beane has taken lately for choosing Eric Chavez over Miguel Tejada (which is still the right call), he has to take solace in his inability to re-sign Giambi.  And while the A’s new owner may look like a crazy man who lives underground, he’s not quite crazy enough to pay $20 million a year to a man who’s been nothing but bad luck ever since he skipped town.

        Compared to Jason Giambi and the Yankees, Terrell Owens and the Philadelphia Eagles are practically bosom buddies.  Since Philly’s Super Bowl appearance 4 months ago, their offseason has been pretty tame: Owens requesting a new contract, Owens taking shots at the franchise player, and the team owner shooting down any notion of Owens’ contract being renegotiated.  I’ve gone on dates that weren’t as friendly.  Unfortunately, this means T.O. will hold a couple of national TV interviews to explain that he never really said what he said, and that the media (who is out to get him) misunderstood the true meaning of his statements.  This happened in San Francisco, when Owens fought with Steve Mariucci and Jeff Garcia, and now it’s happening again.  Maybe I was wrong: maybe people don’t change.

        Now that Owens has hired agent Drew Rosenhaus to serve as the Chest Rockwell to his Brock Landers, T.O. has been infused with a new confidence, which obviously has grown to the point where he believes he’s worth more than he was a year ago.  The bad news for Owens is that he was the best receiver in the NFL 2 years ago, he was the best receiver in the NFL last year, and he’s the best receiver in the NFL now.  This would be good news for anyone else, but T.O. is looking for reasons why he deserves more money, and the status quo just won’t cut it.  If this were “Boogie Nights”, Owens and Rosenhaus would be on their way to the coke dealer’s house in Owens’ new orange Corvette, unaware that they’re on their way to hitting bottom.

        Owens obviously went into last year’s offseason with the plan that he would get to Philly any way possible, sign a contract, and then renegotiate it after the season, once he’d earned their trust.  2004 was the first season since Steve Young retired that T.O. didn’t tremendously piss off his own team, either with his antics or his mouth.  In fact, Owens’ Ray Lewis dance was the only time he even stepped his little toe into the controversy pool.  But once the season ended and he was in the Eagles’ good graces, T.O. shot himself in the foot and then put the foot in his mouth to stop the bleeding.  There are few players in the league more respected than Donovan McNabb, and Owens chose him to call out for his performance in the Super Bowl.  Quarterbacks don’t take that sort of thing lightly; Jim Everett has fought people for less.  McNabb managed to restrain himself and give the first “keep my name out your mouth” admonition in sports history, but there’s still some bad blood there.

        Owens is quickly proving that he cannot function in a team environment, where he must trust other people.  He’s much better suited for an individual sport, such as track or tetherball, but he’s come too far now to leave the NFL.  No, at this point Owens has to continue on the path he’s chosen, which has led him to a standoff with the only people he had left in his corner.  Owens has entered a grown-up version of Red Rover, and Andy Reid has linked arms with McNabb, daring the receiver to come over.  Jeremiah Trotter and Hugh Douglas have played this game before Owens, and it didn’t end well for either of them.  Freddie Mitchell ran his mouth one time too many, and Reid put out a hit on him.  T.O. doesn’t have a long leash with Philly, but sadly for him he doesn’t realize it.  He may be a big bright shining star, but Reid’s the one with all the power.

        In an attempt to ensure that his team was built more for the NBA playoffs than for “NBA Live 2005”, Mark Cuban decided to let point guard Steve Nash sign with Phoenix and replaced him with former Warriors center Erick Dampier.  The thinking was that the Mavs needed to stop the layup line that opposing teams formed every time Dallas entered the postseason.  Unfortunately, Nash was the league MVP this season, and Dampier turned out to be…well, Erick Dampier.  To make matters worse, Dallas is now matched up in the playoffs with Nash’s Suns, who skip layup lines altogether and use the paint as a collective carpool lane.

        Of course, anyone who watched a Warriors game from 1997 to 2003 could have told Cubes that if you’re looking for a center to help you in the playoffs, Erick Dampier probably isn’t your guy.  Playoffs are won in the paint with guys like Shaq, Duncan, and “Dem Wallace Boys”, as Charles Barkley would say.  Dampier is a player who drifts through the majority of his games, content to simply be out on the floor.  The only above-average season he’s had in his career came last year, when he had the carrot of a big paycheck and a one-way ticket out of Oakland dangling in front of him.  

        One gets the impression from watching Damp that he only plays basketball because he’s 6’11”, not because he actually enjoys the game.  In his 7 years as a Warrior, I never once saw Dampier display a single emotion, unless you consider “passive” an emotion.  Trying to figure out what’s going on in his head can be maddening, because Damp’s sense of self-worth is completely at odds with his level of production.  Just this month, Dampier took the word “clueless” to new heights, proclaiming himself the best center in the Western Conference just as his team was preparing to play Yao Ming and the Rockets in the opening round of the playoffs.  I guess NBA players view their games the way the rest of us view our farts- everyone likes their own brand.

        This isn’t to say that Cuban completely screwed the pooch.  After all, I can’t bring myself to bash the guy who’s saved the Warriors from the 4 worst contracts they’ve had in my lifetime (Jamison, Fortson, Dampier, and Mills).  The Mavericks were a flawed team that had reached its ceiling, and Cuban made proactive moves to improve the club, as any good owner would.  In fact, replacing Nash with a center was actually a good plan of action.  The only mistake was selecting Erick Dampier to be that center.  Damp is only effective when he has the offense run through him, with a point guard who makes a concerted effort to get him the ball in the post.  In other words, he can only succeed when he’s playing with someone like Nash.  If you’re looking for points off rebounds or a center who can command a double-team and pass to open teammates, Damp’s not your guy.

        Because the Mavericks placed so much hope in Dampier, their disappointment in him has become especially bitter.  Dirk Nowitzki chewed Damp out on the floor in Game 1, and turned his post-game press conference into an anti-Dampier public service announcement.  If Dampier gets off to a poor start (read: picks up 2 quick fouls again) in Game 3, expect the Dallas fans to be all over him.  Of course, this would never have happened in Golden State.  Who was going to berate Damp in Oakland, Calbert Cheaney?  And as far as the fans are concerned, we’re not exactly looking to win a championship anytime soon.  In fact, Warriors fans would be so happy just to have a playoff team at this point, the idea of a parade down Broadway for an 8th seed doesn’t seem entirely implausible.  Put simply, we’re easy.  If Warriors fans were a girl, Damp wouldn’t even have to buy us a drink.  You saw how crazy we got for Baron Davis- it doesn’t take much to get us excited.  Booing a player who helped get us to the postseason would simply be out of the question.

        Of course, not every ex-Bay Area athlete has fallen upon hard times.  Tim Hudson is pitching well in Atlanta and has a very un-Athletic offense behind him, which the Braves can afford because they have their own national network deal and draw strong ratings thanks to their time slot behind “Captain Planet”.  Mark Mulder went through a mental collapse down the stretch last season reminiscent of Cougar in “Top Gun”, but now he’s back to pitching like an ace.  No flying cargo planes full of rubber dog mess over Hong Kong for him.  Miguel Tejada is even receiving some undeserved praise as the best player in baseball (can we please wait until he has one good postseason before we rank him ahead of Pujols or Manny?).  And Gilbert Arenas, Larry Hughes, and Antawn Jamison, the ex-Warriors who elevated their games upon leaving Golden State (that’s so 1996), are now in the second round of the NBA playoffs.  With that comes victory T-shirts and the chance to get swept by Miami.  Congrats, fellas.

        So what have we learned about the Bay Area?  Well, we’ve learned that other cities’ grass isn’t always greener than ours- after all, if there’s one thing the Bay Area knows, it’s grass.  We’ve also learned that going 12 years without a championship has made the fans here desperate to the point where we’ll cheer anything that moves.  Wait, maybe we’re just loyal.  Yes, we’re loyal.  And while we can’t guarantee that you’ll develop a brain tumor or feud with your quarterback or resemble a wax statue if you leave one of our teams, it’s probably better not to take the risk.

By sign_arenas

Ray was born and raised in the Bay Area, and has been addicted to the local sports scene since Luis Polonia was roaming left field for the A's. You can always pick him out of a crowd by looking for the guy in Warriors gear. Ray is the Oakland Sports Examiner at, and his work can be found at:

3 replies on “Catching Up With Old Friends”

Great article This will be my vote for the best article if it makes the voting top 5.

“Now that Owens has hired agent Drew Rosenhaus to serve as the Chest Rockwell to his Brock Landers”

Awsome… This was a great article…. it had everything about all the ex bay area guys… also was very funny and entertaining, one of the best sports columns i have ever read!

“shot himself in the foot and then put the foot in his mouth to stop the bleeding.”

Good job I really enjoyed this article. Since I am from NoCal, it was great to “catch up with old friends”.  Great article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *