November 2015, Destination : San Francisco /Events- 5 /Role call: Bernard, Ed, Lou, Riis
As usual our 2015 annual sports trip was a doozy, our flight touched down in San Francisco on Thursday and we visited 6 cities, saw 7 stadiums and went to 5 games in 4 days. This is what I remember. I apologize in advance for the length of this post but I think you will enjoy it, we sure did..
After spending the first day of the trip just kind of driving around San Francisco we set out on the first of our scheduled events, an NBA Basketball game in Sacramento. Sacramento is the capital city of the State of California which in and of itself seems pretty strange to me. The reason I think so is that the state of California is home to so many interesting, unique and world famous cities you wouldn't think that the state's capital would be in a place that is so exceedingly normal. Don't get me wrong Sacramento is a beautiful city and I'm sure it's a wonderful place to live and create memories but Sacramento itself is not memorable , at least not in a way that will stay with you visually after a short time there. It just kind of looks like every other beautiful scenic place to me. If you’ve seen beautiful trees and rivers anywhere else you’ve kind of seen Sacramento. Sacramento is nice but that's kind of ALL it is, it just doesn’t seem special to me. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To sum it all up I'm no expert but visiting Sacramento for a couple of hours is like having an ok slice of pizza. Because even if it’s not the best pizza in the world a decent slice of pizza is always worth eating.
We were going to Sacramento to see their basketball team the Kings play in a place called "Sleep Train Arena" let me repeat that "Sleep Train Arena" honestly, what kind of name is that for a place where exciting things are supposed to happen ? Leave it to the Sacramento Kings to sell their arena naming rights to a regional mattress company who's only goal is to help you sleep comfortably. Once inside the arena it doesn’t take long to realize that the name is the only unique thing about the place. I've never been inside a more nondescript arena, it was kinda small, plain and the concourses were devoid of any visual reference to the Kings. No murals, no signs, no statues, not even team colors or a logo. Well thats not entirely true they did have one life sized cardboard “standee”of their star player DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins which looked like something you would see inside of a Dunkin Donuts or a convenience store.
To be fair 2015 would be the last year the Kings would play in "Sleep Train" before they moved into a brand new arena in 2016. Maybe that’s why it was so bland but I doubt it. The Kings have historically been one of the NBA's moribund franchises so it’s not inconceivable that the Arena they play in wouldn’t be cool. They haven’t had much success on the court in a while either. The franchise has had Hall of fame players in its history but Oscar Robertson (Royals) and Nate Tiny Archibald (Kings) played for the team when they were based in Kansas City in the 60's & 70's. So the only real successful period the team can point to without getting laughed at is the handful of years when they had an exciting and contending team with Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Bobby Williams, Mike Bibby & Vlade Divac in the early 2000's.
Besides that time the only thing the Sacramento Kings are known for is losing, a cool blue throwback jersey (which they happened to be rocking the night we were there) and the sweet hairdo Reggie Theus rocked in the 1980's.
The Brooklyn Nets had come to town to play the Kings, whose best player was the aforementioned Boogie Cousins, a 7 foot tall stick of dynamite that is just as likely to blow up his own team as help them win. Cousins is extremely talented but also extremely immature and prone to misbehaving on the court (Surprise, surprise who would expect a grown man who calls himself Boogie to be immature?) True to form, Boogie spent more than half the game scowling and talking back to his coach, yelling at his teammates, taking bad shots and turning the ball over. So much so that Ed and I spent the entire first half complaining about what an ass he was, how hard he must be to coach and how difficult it must be to play with him. But all that changed in the second half, all of a sudden out of nowhere Boogie started to ...(forgive me for this)... Boogie he blocked shots and stole the ball on defense and scored points in every conceivable way on offense, throwing down power dunks, making acrobatic layups and hitting long range 3 point shots. The game was close and once Boogie's Barrage (sorry again) was underway the crowd went wild! So wild the entire Arena was rocking as the fans started chanting Let"s go Kings! Let's go Kings! over and over. it was all very cool and fun except for one thing. there was one fan, a man probably in his late 30’s that was sitting directly behind me yelling LOUDER! in between the chants. So every single time they chanted Let's go Kings this dweeb yelled LOUDER directly in my ears. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he would have yelled different things but repeatedly yelling louder in rhythm for at least an hour made me want to turn around and just punch him face! At one point Boogie scored about 19 points in a row for the Kings and the crowd started to listen to the idiot behind me and got louder & louder after every basket. It got to the point that you couldn't hear anything but the roar of the crowd and that knucklehead behind me yelling. The game was so good and the crowd was so into it that you would think it would be impossible to sleep in Sleep Train Arena. It was for everyone except one person, Bernard, the ringleader of our 4 man traveling circus somehow found a way to sleep like a baby as Boogie blew up the Brooklyn Nets and about 17,000 fanatical Kings Fans screamed their lungs out for close to 45 mins straight! all that noise and all that excitement but somehow Bernard unbelievably slept though it all! it really was a great game and to top things off the Kings won the game on a last second shot in overtime.
So in the end Sacramento turned out to be memorable after all. We will always remember our trip to Sleep train, that idiot screaming LOUDER behind me, that Boogie Cousins is good at basketball, that Kings fans absolutely love their team no matter what and that Bernard can sleep though anything!
Arena rules didn't allow me to bring my professional camera inside so the only photo that I posted is the cellphone pic of the Boogie standee. the other photos were taken from the internet and credit for the photos is unknown. I've attached a link to highlights from the game below enjoy.
Part II San Francisco Treat
San Francisco, California
During our stay in San Francisco the guys in the crew thought it would be interesting to ferry over and take the tour of Alcatraz Island to see the famous Prison in San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately we grossly underestimated the tour's popularity and found out that the tours were booked for weeks in advance and the only way we could get tickets was to get to the box office before 7am the next morning and wait in line for the chance to get 4 of the small amount of tickets they make available every morning at that time. The guys were really interested in the tour so we decided to give it a try. We got up at the crack of dawn in order to get there early enough to get tickets but some genius among us decided that 2 of us should make a Starbucks run while the other 2 waited on line. Well that plan failed miserably because in order to receive tickets you had to actually be present on the line! Because we didn’t anticipate that perfectly understandable rule we only got 2 tickets so we decided not to go. But fear not, thanks to google I won't let our lack of forethought deprive you of some facts about Alcatraz island.
- Alcatraz Island served as a military prison from some time in the 1850s and was used to house Civil War Prisoners of War as early as 1861
- Alcatraz Island became Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, a maximum security facility in 1934 and was designed to hold America's most dangerous criminals who continuously caused trouble at other prisons. Infamous criminals such as Al "Scarface Capone, Robert "the Birdman of Alcatraz" Stroud & James "Whitey" Bulger were all imprisoned there at some time.
- Even though a few prisoners attempted to break out over the years no inmate ever escaped from prison nicknamed "THE ROCK" which closed in 1963.
- Alcatraz Island became a National Historic landmark in 1986
It was 7:30am when we got the bad news so the guys decided to take the 40 minute drive back to our hotel and relax. I decided I would stay out and see how much of San Francisco I could see before I had to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in order to meet them on the way to our first planned stop of the day. That morning I just wanted to be a typical tourist so here are some of my typical tourist photos.
I really enjoyed being able to take my time and actually see a city we visit. We usually are zipping from one event to another when we go places so this was a welcome change. I walked all of Fishermans Wharf, took an old fashioned Trolley Car ride up the hill to Lombard street, through Chinatown and walked through downtown San Fran back to Market Street and caught the BART to Dublin/Pleseanton to meet up with the crew by 1:30 pm and it was well worth it.
Part III Micro Chips And Mean Girls
Santa Clara, California
Our next stop was Levi’s Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers new home. There was no game there that day and we didn’t have time for a full tour but that won’t stop me from being a useful source of information or a huge pain in the ass, so let the google fest begin! Levi’s Stadium is located in the part of California nicknamed “Silicon Valley” it was originally called this because there are a large number of silicon chip manufacturers in the region but now the area is home to many of the worlds most successful and innovative high tech information technology corporations and their headquarters. In short a lot of really really smart & really really rich people work and live there. So quite naturally the stadium designers formed a mutually beneficial partnership with the tech companies to create the most high tech stadium in all of sports. Built in 2014 Levi’s Stadium has WiFi infrastructure that can accommodate 70,000 fans all at once. that’s one WiFi router for every 100 seats in the stadium so that fans can get the same online experience that they get at home while in the stadium. I live with 3 people and my WiFi router at home barely reaches me in the bathroom so the WiFi experience in Levi’s stadium is definitely better than the WiFi in my crib. In addition to excellent WiFi signal there are 2,000 Sony TVs placed all around the stadium and 70 Sony 4K TVs in most of the Luxury suites. The stadium has a bunch of other cool nerdy shit I can't explain or don’t care about enough to write about here but I have to tell you about this...
They created a smartphone & tablet app that offers these cool features :
- The app can guide fans by GPS from the parking lot to the entrance closest to their seats and once they are inside the stadium guide them to their seats as well.
- Fans can watch up to four replays at once during the game as if they were watching on TV at home, they can also get stats and other game related info on the app as well.
- Fans can order food and drink from any seat in the stadium and it will be delivered directly to their seats.
- Lastly and I think most importantly the app can guide fans to the closest bathroom with the shortest line.
Now anyone who has ever tried to go to the bathroom at a live sporting event knows that last one is pretty damn innovative!
oh yeah, I almost forgot we did have time to visit the 49ers team store and Hall of Fame while we were there:
Palo Alto, California 1884
As one of his many interests and business endeavors Tycoon and railroad magnate Leland Stanford Sr. bred and trained some of the world's fastest trotting horses on his farm in California. Unfortunately tragedy struck his family when Leland and his wife Jane lost their son Leland Jr. to typhoid fever in 1884. As a memorial to their only child the Stanfords decided to deed all 8,180 acres of Leland's Palo Alto Stock Farm to be used as the campus for Leland Stanford Junior University which opened in 1891. The campus in Palo Alto has been nicknamed THE FARM ever since and is now known simply as Stanford University.
Palo Alto, California 2015
It's a pretty short drive from Silicon Valley to Palo Alto, about 12 minutes to be exact so it didn't take us long to get to the Stanford campus. We parked in the lot at Palo Alto High school and walked the few blocks to the campus. It was game day on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I was anxious to experience game day on The Farm. A few minutes later we hit the parking lot on campus where the fans tailgate and the first thing that struck me was how quiet it was. Don't get me wrong there was energy but not the usual energy you find at a college tailgate. College fans are usually a bit more intense & loud and their tailgates in the parking lot are a bit more energetic. There usually is loud music playing, fans with painted faces & elaborate outfits in their team colors and a couple of boisterous drunk people. And the fans of the two teams don't usually mingle unless they are teasing each other. The Stanford tailgaters were laid back. I didn't really see any painted faces or elaborately costumed fans. These fans were wearing their team colors but a lot of them were tailgating together! It was all very grown up and civilized almost like a picnic or a family barbecue. They even took the time to speak to us as we passed by. The only way you could tell it was game day was that people were wearing team apparel.
while we were walking towards the stadium we heard music playing in the distance then suddenly out of nowhere the Oregon Band appeared! they were playing music and kind of singing.
In case you didn't know the 4 of us are geniuses so we figured out that they were probably headed to the game so we just decided to follow them and they led us to the stadium. Our next order of business was to find a will call window and pick up the tickets Stanford had left for us. when we got to will call we waited on the wrong line and they sent us to another area. When we got there the entire oregon band was in line ahead of us but as we lined up behind them security pulled us off the line again. We all looked at each other and figured we were in the wrong line again but boy were we mistaken.
Before I go on let me give you a better idea of how all this works. The 4 of us in the crew are High School Football coaches so when we want to go to a college football game usually all we have to do is call the home team, tell them how many tickets we need and most of the time they will provide us with free tickets to any game we ask for. The only 2 things we kind of worry about are whether the tickets will be there or not when we arrive and the fact that we have no idea or control over where our seats will be. So when we were pulled off the line the second time we figured there was a problem. To our surprise there wasn't a problem at all they pulled us from the behind the huge line of band members and directed us to an empty table where they handed us these...
Yes, Stanford gave us tickets and pregame field passes! when they handed them to us we all tried to look like we expected them just in case it was mistake. I don't know how the other guys felt but as we left will call I was walking towards the field with my camera feeling like I had stolen something! And even though I had the field pass with my initials on it around my neck I was still a bit nervous every time I passed a stadium security guard, avoiding eye contact and fully expecting someone to tap me on the shoulder and say it was a mistake! I guess thats how shoplifters feel as they walk out of a store with shit they didnt pay for hidden in their pants. But once I passed the last gate and actually stepped out on to the field it was on!
This wasn't the first time I was on the field for a college pregame but it was the first time I was on the field with a camera. Bernard, Ed and Lou soaked up the atmosphere, took pictures with Billionaire Nike CEO Phil Knight & Super Bowl winning QB Jim Plunkett who won the Heisman Trophy at Stanford in 1971 but I didn't care at all about them I just wanted to be like this guy!
So while those guys basically stayed in one place on the sideline I tested the limits of that damn field pass! I got as close to the players as I could without getting in their way I walked around the entire field doing exactly what the cats in the white media vests did. Sometimes even kneeling next to them and talking to them while shooting. Bernard & I had visited Oregon for a couple of days during the spring so a couple of their coaches and even a player or two recognized me and came over to say hello which gave me an excuse to kind of get further out on the field and talk to them. But mostly I just walked around taking as many photos as I could.
Once both teams were on the field it was kind of cool to see the physical and athletic difference between the players on each team. During our visit to Oregon in the spring their coaches explained how they recruited speedy skill guys regardless of their size and how they recruited taller lean players and built them up for their front lines. That approach to recruiting was evident when you looked at their players. Oregon puts a premium on speed and athleticism and that fits the style of football they play.
Conversely the first thing you notice about the Stanford players tells you what their coaches value. Because most of their players are tall and thick and look strong as hell!
The other cool thing about being on the field is getting to see players you've heard about or only watched play on television up close in person. When we were in Oregon the staff talked about this QB who was coming in to play for one year after graduating from Eastern Washington University. His name was Vernon Adams and he had put up great passing numbers at EWU but he wasn't eligible to practice in the spring so we weren't able to seem him then. It was obvious that they thought he would give them a better chance to win than their current QB Jeff Lockie so it was cool to see them both on the field.
Full disclosure I like Oregon their program is cool, their many uniforms are flashy and they stay on the cutting edge of everything but I love Stanford. I like and admire their coach David Shaw, one of my favorite college players Christian McCaffrey plays for them and I prefer their more traditional, physical style of play. I mean they use 3 or 4 tight ends on plays sometimes. who wouldn't love that.
It was getting close to game time, pre game was winding down and the stands were starting to fill up. So the vibe down on the field was starting to change. Both teams pregame drills were starting to get more physical, the referees where starting to get loose and practice their positioning and even the pretty Fox Sports sideline reporter had her game face on.
But to me the coolest part of the entire pregame experience was watching Stanford Head coach David Shaw just before his team took the field. when you see him do interviews he's always calm and composed but in the few minutes just prior to leading his team onto the field he was pacing back and forth like a caged tiger. He even smacked his laminated play sheet in his hands and talked to himself as he paced. His intensity surprised me not only because it seemed out of character for him but as a coach I always try to remain as calm as possible leading up to games. It was at that moment that I remembered Shaw played for Stanford and the football player in him was taking over.
it was finally game time and we had to leave the field and head up to our seats. all in all being on the field was a really cool experience. We all really appreciated the fact that Stanford went above and beyond just giving us tickets and let us go behind the scenes to experience how their team prepares on the field. Our seats weren't bad they were section 104 in the lower bowl in the south end zone in the student section called the red zone.
Once again we were treated to a exciting game as Oregon jumped ahead early but Stanford mounted a comeback that fell short and Oregon won 38-36 in overtime. The loss knocked Stanford out of the playoff picture but it was a really cool night & the only annoying thing was that we had a run in with some
I mentioned earlier that we were sitting in the student section. Unfortunately in this case that means students were sitting with us. We were on the Stanford campus for roughly 5 hours and everyone we encountered was super pleasant and nice except for the female Stanford students we encountered in the student section. The row of seats in front of us was empty at the beginning of the game and periodically throughout the game students would come sit there and leave which wasn't a problem at all. the problem was that almost every female student that sat in that row was rude or obnoxious. it was crazy, wave after wave of spoiled entitled pretty young ladies behaving poorly! Come on Stanford you can do better!
Part IV The Home of Oski
After the Stanford game we made our way to our last stop of the night the Cal Oregon state game by this time we were pretty beat and the weather up in Berkley which is further north than Palo Alto was pretty chilly no make that COLD. I realize that this post has been pretty long so I will try to rap it up here with a few things I remember about this part of the night.
- The Cal campus is pretty interesting it is almost entirely made up of hills with the stadium at the very top.
- 2016 NFL #1 Draft pick Jared Goff #16 in Blue is good at football he shredded Oregon State for 453 passing yards and 6 touchdown passes.
- Conversely Oregon State ( below in orange and white) is not very good at football but they always have nice uniforms.
And last but not least.
Cal has the absolute worst mascot I have ever seen! His name is Oski, I'm pretty sure he is supposed to be a bear but he looks like an old man wearing a sweater and a hood. Most college mascots dance and entertain the crowd but all Oski does the entire game is slowly walk back and forth hunched over with his arms folded behind his back and this stupid high stepping strut. The ONLY time he unfolds his arms is to touch the end zone pylons! Without a doubt Oski is the most boring mascot ever!
Well thats it for this post guys we went to 2 more events the next day, An Oakland Raider Football game at the O coliseum that i will post about later and a College Basketball game at Stanford but I've taken up too much your time already with my silly stories about our trip to the Bay Area and the thousands of useless photos I took thanks for taking the time to read this and look at the pictures.
So until next time be well.
Yo somebody wake Bernard up!