(This is a Robby Biegler production.)
There was growing sentiment, a little over three years ago, that Northern California sports were becoming, all too quickly, all too literally, a Black Hole.
While a particularly harsh assessment it never the less felt prescient. The land of Walsh, Madden and Adelman had become a wasteland where overwhelmed coaches with underwhelming backgrounds (Erickson, Turner, Shell, Musselman) were given second, even third chances to resuscitate careers that didn't really deserve resurrection. The Giants and Kings flirtations with championships felt like aberrations and the A's were always just good enough to get swept in the playoffs.
But it never felt that awful, at least until this fall that is, when the sports scene went from bad to apocalyptic. Bonds is gone, and with him any intrigue surrounding the Giants; the Raiders, on their 4th coach in 4 years, still haven't resolved the offensive line or penalty problems from the previous regimes; the Sacramento Kings seem to exist solely so that Tony Realli and Marty Burns can make Hang Time and cornrows jokes and the Cal Bears, #1 in the country for a few minutes just a month ago, had their College Game Day match-up with USC preempted by a Division III game between Williams and Amherst. Whatever hope previously existed has given way to non-existent expectations and rebuilding rationalizations.
But step back from the ledge, suburban Sacramento/Central Valley sports fan. Stop trying to suffocate yourself with those Thundersticks. I have good news, there is one Northern California team dominating its respective sport (no it's not the Sirens...do the Sirens still exist?). It is none other than your Northern California New England Patriots.
Before you stop reading (assuming you, in fact, haven't already stopped reading) take a look at these selected players-and their respective hometowns-off the Patriots roster:
Tedy Bruschi: Roseville, Roseville High alum
Lonie Paxton (the team's long snapper): A Sac State alum who, I believe, with Otis Amey and Marko Cavka out of the league, is the only Hornet currently playing in pro football
Ryan O'Callaghan: Susanville
Logan Mankins: Catheys Valley (outside of Merced)
James Sanders: Porterville (which is stretching it a bit)
and Tom Brady is from the Bay Area.
That Bruschi is a Sacramento area native is well documented, and when Stallworth was signed by New England I was not the only one who found it amusing that the city's two most famous football progeny (outside of Rae Carruth, of course) were on the same roster. But that's 6 kids with Central Valley roots. Yes I know football rosters are massive. I'm sure some boast upwards of 12 players from Texas. But we ain't Texas. And on the Patriots roster that's the highest concentration of players from a single area. Some of this makes sense: Pat Hill was a Belichick protégé, and a majority of Fresno State kids are from the area; Belichick is well known for his like of players with high football acumen; and O'Callaghan, a Cal kid, was taught by one of the best in Tedford. Though nothing explains the presence of Paxton and it's too bad we can't prove Randy Moss went to Burbank.
What's the relevance of this you ask? Who said anything about relevance? Sometimes the best way to build confidence is convincing yourself that the woman at the strip club is flirting with you because she wants to. Does it say something for the current state of futility in Nor Cal sports that said stripper is a Sacramento State long snapper? Maybe, but Lonie Paxton does have 3 Super Bowl Championships. That has to mean something.
So I'm encouraging all of us to become closet Pats fans as they approach that nearly impossible feat of an undefeated season. After spygate it's become fashionable to dislike New England anyway so while we'd no doubt be bandwagoning in our fandom, we wouldn't exactly be front running.
And if the Patriots happen to lose next Sunday to the Bills we can take comfort in knowing that the loss will have come, at least in part, thanks to running back Marshawn Lynch, former Cal Bear and Oaklandite.