Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How I listen to local announcers during the World Series

This gentleman shows the sentiment of many Giants fans regarding Joe Buck.  Source: Facebook.

San Francisco Giants fans love their hometown broadcasters, and with a team containing Jon Miller, Dave Fleming, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, who can blame them?

With the Giants in the World Series this week, however, San Francisco fans have had to stomach Fox broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver as national TV broadcasts bump out local ones. Buck in particular has had to face criticism for his style, including his perceived bias against West Coast teams and for the St. Louis Cardinals (the team for which his father broadcast for decades and the Giants' opponent in the NLCS). Such criticism includes:

Never fear, because the Giants' regular broadcasting team are on the radio! Alas, because the TV broadcasts need time to encode, go up to the satellite, come back down and be transmitted, the radio feed is a few seconds ahead. Not easy to watch that way. So what to do?

When the Giants made their 2010 World Series run, I came up with the following method and have continued it this season. You do need a DVR and a smartphone with the MLB At Bat app to make it work.

First, turn on the TV, mute it, load the At Bat app and start the audio (right) for the team you wish to hear (yes, you could even listen to the Tigers if you want). You'll notice that the audio (thanks to the encoding and download process) is now about 30 seconds behind the TV broadcast.

Now, use your DVR to pause the video (as seen below) and press play when the radio broadcast over the app starts. This easiest way to do this in my experience is to wait until a player hits the ball and pause the video. When you hear the crack of the bat on the radio broadcast, press play.

You should then be more-or-less in synch. While I have Airplay for my iPhone and stream the audio through my stereo system, probably any speaker system will work. Heck, even a little tinny phone speaker sure beats listening to Fox!

The City's sure supporting the Giants, as I saw downtown last night:

San Francisco City Hall decked out in Giants orange the night of Oct. 23, 2012. Photo: John Baker

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A very first-world day

This Tweet perfectly reflects how I'm gonna feel on a very exciting tomorrow:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Florida adventure

Holmes Beach, my home for the past week.

As soon as we exited the plane, I knew we were in trouble.

I am typing this blog entry both pool side and beach side, so I guess I don't have much to complain about. But from the moment I got onto the jetway and felt toy the hot blanket of moist air seeping through the seals, I could tell we'd be fighting the humidity -- as bad, or worse, than what I experienced during my last trip to the tropics (Darwin, Australia). And we did, the whole week.

We've spent the last week visiting Florida, mostly in an around the home of my grandparents in the Tampa Bay area. But we also spent some time in the Miami area, St. Petersburgh and Legoland in Central Florida.

We arrived at Fort Lauderdale airport shortly after 6 a.m. and it was already hot, as described above. After an adventure in and around the airport, trying to figure out how to get to our rental car, we finally got on the road. The first stop was Miami Beach, where we watched people watching what Miami Beach is famous for:

We then had breakfast at a beachside café, where we were given complimentary mimosas post-meal. The alcohol did not help our exhausted state after a red eye seated next to a baby. I did hope that we'd run into the crew of Burn Notice while in Miami, but no luck.

Next, after a detour into Hollywood, Fla., for a car sick member of our crew, we got somewhat lost -- to our chagrin in these days of GPS and smart phones. Instead of cutting west onto Alligator Alley, somehow we ended going north, curbing along the north shore of Lake Okeechobee along rural roads. Moreover, Google Maps on my iPhone directed me to take an exit off the Florida Turnpike that did not have a cash toll plaza -- only a Sunpass (similar to Fastrack in the SF Bay Area) lane. Of course, we did not figure that out until already on the exit. So we are expecting a large fine in the mail when we get home.

Upon our arrival, Ian went straight into the pool. A pattern that was repeated later that evening and again and again and again over the next eight days.

My grandfather, Ian, myself and Charlotte during one of our many pool trips.

Most of our week was spent at my grandparents' condo on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in Holmes Beach. What a condo! Great view of the Gulf out the back window, pool in the back and sufficient air conditioning!

(Update, Nov. 16, 2013: OK, I admit this post won't be updated. Suffice it to say, a fine time was had by all.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Comic-Con 2012 wrapup

Comic-Con has gotten so big that it's almost impossible to give a sense of scale for the crowds.

The past four days I’ve been in San Diego at Comic-Con 2012. It’s been a good experience, and I was privileged to spend much of the weekend with my old friend Rob Roy.

After many hours of line waiting the last four days, I stand by the assertions I made in my last blog about the need for clearing rooms and panel reservations. But in general, I think the folks with Comic-Con and the San Diego Convention Center have done the best job they could with the massive crowds.

Comic-Con has taken over much of downtown San Diego, so much that even nearby supermarkets have set up junk food refueling stations (below) outside their shops for hungry geeks.

Arriving at the convention about mid-day on Thursday, I took a quick tour of the floor, where the always-impressive costumes encouraged me to make the following observation:

One of my first panels was an appreciation of the late Ray Bradbury. A number of prominent authors, including the esteemed Margaret Atwood outlined the impact Bradbury’s writing had on their work. As an example, Atwood noted that Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” influenced her acclaimed novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” in regards to “who (is allowed) to read.”

Authors Margaret Atwood and Joe Hill talk about Ray Bradbury.

Following that, I stayed for a panel about 1982 -- called “the greatest geek year ever.” And with flicks such as Blade Runner, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Tron and E.T. released in 1982, it’s hard to argue. After a couple more panels, Rob and I got into Phil Plait’s roundtable about science in science fiction. Good discussion. I think the best point was about explosions in space: No, you really shouldn’t hear noise when they go off. But you don’t (usually) hear music during important moments in real life either, and music is prevalent in movies. Explosions, like music, are non-natural sound elements that accentuate drama. I think I can buy that.

Matthias Harbeck, of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, discusses German stereotypes in comics since WWII.

On Friday, I eschewed the long lines for Firefly and Hobbit panels and spent most of my time at the Comics Art Conference, where serious academics present papers on serious comics topics. I sat through a series of lectures on how comics view nations (“Captain America: Court Jester or Patriotic Icon?” the portrayal of Germans in comics from World War II to the present day, etc.). I made an interesting point, I think, with one presenter whose paper was on Alpha Flight (the Canadian super team). Instead of most super teams, which are an assemblege of archetypes (tech hero, science experiment gone wrong, Norse god, etc.), I argued that Alpha Flight was composed instead of Canadian stereotypes: the angry Quebecois (Northstar), the noble First Nations (Shaman), the mysterious northern beast (Sasquatch) and the white Inuit (Snowbird). The presenter, from Carleton University in Ottawa, came up after the session and personally thanked me for my points.

Rob and I went to a strange panel for an Adult Swim-like Marvel cartoon called the “All Winners Squad,” hosted by Morgan Spurlock (of Super-size Me fame) for some reason:

That was weird.

Rob and I took advantage of the Comic-Con atmosphere later that night to watch The Amazing Spider-Man at a downtown San Diego theater. Rob was unhappy with the changes from the source material, although further conversation indicated to me that he was probably still upset with the reboot from the Toby Maguire series. I quite liked it. I thought the chemistry between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy was well above that between Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. I liked Garfield’s performance, which brought some humor that Maguire had trouble portraying (at least in his first and third movies).

Saturday was a day lost in lines for me. I tried to get into the "Futurama" panel (right) by joining the Ballroom 20 line almost two hours before the noon panel, but didn’t get in until about 1:45, where I watched the Family Guy presentation. I then moseyed across the convention center to the Avengers vs. X-Men panel, which presented little new information about Marvel’s ongoing crossover.

But noticing that the same ballroom was to be used for the ever-popular “Mythbusters” panel a few hours later, I decided to stay in the room. As a result, I was subjected to the whims of TV marketers. First off, I watched the pilot of Fox’s new drama “The Following.” Kevin Bacon (below right) plays a retired FBI agent consulting on taking down the copycat followers of a serial killer he arrested. In this endeavor, he is being “assisted” by the manipulative serial killer himself. I actually enjoyed the pilot a lot. Good acting, good tension and some nice twists. I don’t see what the premise has to do with Comic-Con, however.

(On a side note, if there’s any panel video with me in the background, my Bacon Number has dropped to one!)

The other pilot, for NBC’s “Revolution,” was also promising, but less so than “The Following.” This series has a premise that some mysterious force knocked out all the power in the world 15 years previous. Setup was good, but execution was a bit clunky. It did bring up one sobering thought for me during the panel:

The “Mythbusters” panel itself, hosted by John Landis, was great. It featured some interesting back-stage stories. My favorite was one where the crew tried to test the myth where a drunk man asked a blind friend to drive him home with his guidance, under the assumption that a ticket for driving without a license was not as bad as one for a DUI. They found that a sober person, describing when to turn, brake, go, etc., could indeed guide a blind person quite well, but a drunk person made the blind person drive like a drunken driver!

The "Mythbusters" panel. From left: Director John Landis, Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, Jamie Hyneman, Grant Imahara and Adam Savage.

Sunday, I took no chances. I got up shortly after 6 a.m. and hopped an early train, getting into the massive Hall H line at about 7:05 a.m., hoping to get into the 12:30 p.m. “Doctor Who” panel. It didn’t look promising at first, as the linked snaked through the outdoor queueing area, long behind the convention center and around an artificial island/marina in the back. But I got into the hall about 10:30 and sat to enjoy the presentations.

While not a watcher of either "Fringe" or "Supernatural," the two panels I had to wait through, it was apparent those shows have an enthusiastic fanbase. But they had nothing on the love the audience showered on "Doctor Who" producer/writer Steven Moffett and stars Matt Smith, Karen Gillen and Arthur Darvill. We got to see some intriguing extended clips from the upcoming season, including one appropriately titled, "Dinosaurs in Space."

The "Doctor Who" panel. From left: Moderator Chris Hardwick, showrunner Steven Moffett, Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy), Arthur Darvill (Rory) and producer Caroline Skinner.

After the "Who" panel broke up, I headed over to a panel featuring another beloved genre powerhouse, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Celebrating 20 years since the (poor compared to the almost-unrelated television series) Buffy movie started the franchise off and made Joss Whedon an entertainment powerhouse, the panel featured actors from the movie (although not the promised Kristy Swanson) and TV series and writers and artists from both the TV show and comic series. With the panel followed up by a sing-along showing of the musical episode "Once More, with Feeling," Whedonites left satiated.

At the "Buffy at 20" panel: actors Nicholan Brendon (Zander) and James Marsters (Spike) and writer Jane Espenson.

I did have a nice fan-interactive moment on Sunday, when I tweeted that I'd been right next to Plait while leaving a panel. Plait wrote back that I should have introduced myself, and I replied that I didn't want to interrupt his phone call. That brought on this reply:

That's what's great about what I still refer to as the "San Diego Comic Convention" -- despite the now-huge scale, fans can still have direct contact with celebrities.

My first Comic-Con was in 1992, a much-more restrained affair. It's gotten more crowded, more expensive and less about comics each year. But it's always (except for lines and frustration over not getting into certain panels) been a fun event overall. It's just taken a bit more adaptability on my part and forced me to lower my expectations over what I'm going to do in San Diego. For example, this was probably, save for a whistle stop in 2004, the convention in which I've spent the least time on the floor (less than 90 minutes over four days) and the Con where I bought the least -- one measly comic.

But where else can you take a picture with the Adam West-era Batmobile?

Just a note: I'm still trying to find the owner of the camera I found last year!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lining up for San Diego Comic-Con

This week I will be attending my 17th San Diego Comic-Con (or just "Comic-Con" as the world is becoming to know it). I first went in 1992 and have both embraced and lamented the changes made as Hollywood took control.

(For the record, I've blogged about Comic-Con before: here, here and here. Plus, I'm still trying to find the owner of the camera I found last year.)

Hollywood has (much to the traditionalists' dismay) invigorated Comic-Con, but also made it much too crowded. Last year, I waited in the Hall H line for literally (and I am using "literally" in the correct, literal sense here) four hours at one point. My wait was in part due to camping-out fans going into the hall early for panels hours later than the panel currently happening(such as those depicted below, waiting for a "Lost" panel in 2009). This has been getting worse each year, for several years.

Comic-Con has got to cut down the waiting in line. It's unhealthy for the sun-averse (such as myself) and prevents me from enjoying as much of the show as I'd want.

So two things. One: Clear out the rooms between panels. (Hypothetical) Why is my Doctor Who panel full of Twilight fans waiting for good seats for their panel six hours from now (or vice-versa)? We could fit 4,000 more Doctor Who fans in here.

Second: How about online reservations for panels? Why should I have to wait in a six-hour line for Hall H and have no guarantee of even getting in? I could be going to the Roy Thomas panel in the meantime. Put aside a certain number of seats in each Hall/Ballroom/Conference room (say half) and let people make reservations for them online. Let registered badgeholders reserve one panel per badge per day. Let them print out a bar-coded ticket for the panel which means I just have to get into the short pass-holder line. Once that line clears, let in others until the room fills. Technology can do that these days.

Crowds (such as those in the picture above) will continue to overwhelm Comic-Con, there's not much that can be done about that without severely restricting ticket sales. But certain measures (such as having reservations for panels) can make the experience of wading through the crowds more enjoyable.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Wikipedian train of thought: Kuiper Belt to Oscar Wilde

What do beavers, Oscar Wilde and deep-space rocks have in common?
One of the worst, and best, things about Wikipedia is how it can become such a colossal time suck.

You go onto the site to look up one thing, and through a series of links and "Hmm, I'd like to know more about thats" you end up somewhere completely different.

Take this morning. I visited Wikipedia out of boredom and saw that the featured article was about the Kuiper Belt. Being an amateur astronomer, I began reading the article.

That took me to the article about Makemake (left), a plutoid with such a funny name that I had to visit.

When it was first discovered, close to a certain holiday, Makemake was given the code name "Easter Bunny," so I had to visit the Wikipedia article about that particular holiday icon.
I learned that easter bunnies were associated with colored eggs because of the abundance of eggs due to abstinence during the spring celebration of Lent, which led to that article.

Reading about Lent, I was astonished to discover that some churches allowed the consumption of beaver tails during the normally meat-free (except for seafood) period. So I read about beavers.

Finally, on the beaver page, there was a famous picture (left) of Oscar Wilde in a beaver fur coat. So I ended up reading a bit about the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray -- an article I somehow refrained from reading.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Interwoven destinies: A review of Richard Walker’s Country in the City

The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay AreaThe Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area by Richard A. Walker

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There is sometimes a perception that two things must be polar opposites: the poor preservationist and the well-off landowner; the city and the country; the rural and the urban. Richard Walker’s The Country in the City: the Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area (University of Washington Press, 2007), however, makes it a point to demonstrate that the presence of one of the above is not mutually exclusive to the other. In fact, Walker notes, the preservation of so much green space in the Bay Area was reliant upon an interweaving of factors that might otherwise seem oppositional. As examples, the efforts of well-to-do landowners trying to preserve the uniqueness of their exurban land were just as critical to keeping the Bay Area green as were the protests of poor urban minority families suffering the ill effects of pollution. For another, having so much “country in the city” — parks, beaches and open space in the immediate urban area — was critical in keeping the Bay Area from overflowing its current spatial limits. According to Walker, a juxtaposition of idealists and money, the country and the city, and accidents of geography all helped preserve some sense of nature in the Bay Area.

The Country in the City provides a detailed historical overview of more than 100 years of development in the Bay Area and the corresponding efforts to keep it in check. With more than a million protected acres of state parks, wilderness areas and other green space, compared with “only” about 750,000 acres developed, the Bay Area is unique in its mixing of the city and country. While some more-ardent preservationists may decry having a public seashore next to an airport, a mountaintop preserved but ringed by subdivisions, or a reservoir serving as an urban recreation area, the countryside woven into San Francisco’s urban landscaping may well be a model for the foundation of any future conservation movement (Kareiva, 2008). Walker’s premise from his own introduction — that as the Bay Area goes in terms of conservation, so eventually goes the nation — is dependent on establishing that local preservation projects have had national implications. For the most part, Walker succeeds. But while trying to put to rest the “myth of Bay Area exceptionalism” in terms of conservation, Walker also leads one to believe that the Bay Area is indeed unique thanks to its special geographical and social makeup.

Early on, Walker points out that Olmstead’s goal of having the “country in the city” meant much human intervention. Golden Gate Park (created by flattening of sand dunes and planting of tall non-native tree around the periphery), numerous recreational lakes (created artificially with dams), the pastoral hillsides (once covered with harvested redwoods) — all are taken for granted as “natural” by much of the population, yet are each as artificial as a freeway interchange. But this nearness of “nature” to the city helped inspire many environmental idealists. In some places, this might have led to a struggle between idealistic lower-income city dwellers and the moneyed classes on the outskirts. Yet, “all is not class harmony when the forces of capital storm the gates of landscape consumption. Many times the redoubts of the rich have been threatened by urban expansion, and many times the privileged have had to take on developers head to head,” (page 11).

Walker calls the mixed-social standings of the moneyed and the idealists who led calls to preserve open space “the two-headed nature of greening” (page 131). While each may have different inspirations on the surface for their work, deep down both the rich and the idealists have self-interest at heart — the rich want to preserve their property values and the idealists their principles. In reading Walker’s work, it is apparent that the author believes that the San Francisco Bay Area has a neo-liberal bent — the private sector is leading the charge, both in favor and against development. For every Maxxam (page 33) or similar company seeking to maximize profits for its shareholders, there is a well-off Samuel May (page 132) who helped a group of like-minded citizens found the East Bay Regional Parks District while a professor at UC Berkeley. The book abounds with such examples.

Such thoroughness in collecting the history of the Bay Area’s environmental movement sometimes works against The Country in the City. While Walker tries to avoid relying on “great man theory” in his history, sometimes he goes a little too much Howard Zinn-like in his talking about the “ordinary people” who contributed to the cause of preservation. “A critique of growth arose spontaneously from a thousand voices and a broad mobilization to protect the land and waters bubbled up from below,” he writes (page 83) before seemingly naming each voice. The author tends to occasionally get hung up on including names or organizations, many of which are only mentioned once in passing. This tendency to overly detail complicates the narrative.

A list of the giants of the conservation movement has always had a California lean: John Muir, Ansel Adams, and the like. Walker seems to suggest the names of such local environmentalists as Caroline Livermore, Dorothy Ward Erskine and Ralph Nobles (among many others) should be added to the list. While those names might lack the cachet of their predecessors, their efforts in promoting smaller projects (Livermore helped prevent Angel Island being bulldozed for a new transbay bridge, Erskine was instrumental in creating People for Open Space and Nobles preserved Bair Island from becoming a new Foster City) helped create a quilt of a green and nearly sustainable Bay Area from the patchwork of conservation efforts that have historically shaped the region.

Walker’s text is authoritative, but also opinionated and sometimes snarky. The death of a protester whose tree is cut down beneath him brings a comment of, “apparently, saving Redwoods is more fraught than the old conservationists ever imagined.” Calling the clear-cutting of the Bay Area’s redwood trees a “slaughter” is just one example of loaded language that Walker frequently uses, along with numerous unveiled slams at the planning process in the Los Angeles area. The text also occasionally suffers from inconsistencies in Walker’s message. For example, on page 142 he writes that peripheral suburbs “are generally ruled by a class alliance … looking to profit from growth and the machinery of government rests in the hands of city managers looking to expand their domains.” Not only is the latter part of the quote an insult to Wilsonian-inspired public administrators, but on the very next page, Walker cites the examples of Petaluma and Livermore as enacting early and influential anti-growth measures. In another passage he praises the planning that kept Walnut Creek’s downtown “thriving,” yet calls the same downtown “banal” on page 153. While a thriving downtown could still theoretically be banal, it is one of a number of mixed messages in the book.

On the positive side, the attention to detail in The Country and the City, while sometimes harming the book, is generally effective in showing how ideals developed over time. Walker succeeds in describing how “urban environmentalism,” usually recalled as a Bay Area invention associated with 1960s efforts to save the Bay (Davis, 1990), has spread nationally. There have been more failures in preserving the natural state of the Bay Area as there have been triumphs. To his credit, Walker is not afraid to address them. In fact, he does a good job at showing how cyclical the environmental process sometimes seems to be.

Indeed, the Bay Area seems to have reversed a national trend: as land use restrictions or environmental opposition in outlying cities make new housing construction difficult (for example, the current disputes over redevelopment of former Cargill salt ponds in Redwood City), residents are returning to redeveloped residential areas in the urban core. Observers note that San Francisco and Oakland seem to be fast becoming “bedroom communities” for Silicon Valley workers (Solnit, 2000). People are returning to the central city — and, as Walker would note, the interwoven country close at hand.

Davis, M. (1990). City of Quartz. New York: Verso.

Kareiva, P. (2008, February 26). Ominous trends in nature recreation. Procedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, 2757-2758.

Solnit, R. (2000). Hollow City: Gentrification and the Eviction of Urban Culture. New York: Verso.

Walker, R. (2007). The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
View all my reviews

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Is this the worst protest song ever?

In 1999, the province of Kosovo, in what was then Yugoslavia, erupted in ethnic violence as Serbs and Kosovars battled over the small Balkan territory. Eventually drawing in NATO, the brief war over the region displaced thousands.

David Burchwell, an Ohio native studying at Cañada College (above) in the hills above Redwood City, was so moved by the carnage that he write a song called, “It’s a Troubled World.” The song was placed on an independent album designed to raise money to help relieve the refugee situation in the Balkans.

"(I) was watching the news and hearing about ethnic cleansing and ... Congress saying ‘We want an exit strategy before we commit anything.’ In the meantime, we’ve got people over there, our own young men and women, getting shot at," Burchwell told me when I interviewed him in April 1999. “Having been a soldier, the last thing you want is power brokers that are indecisive about supporting you when you’re over there fighting.”

Cañada College was also the site of a benefit concert for the refugees, thanks to Burchwell.

I wrote a story about Burchwell's efforts in a May 1999 issue of the Redwood City edition of The Independent. Besides an interview, Burchwell also helpfully gave me a home-burned CD with several versions of "It's a Troubled World," including a "dance mix" and "garage mix."

After I listened to the CD to get some perspective for my story, I struggled to continue writing because the song was just plain awful. I played it for my then-girlfriend and she also panned it. Horrified, I hid the CD in some files and rediscovered it recently while cleaning.

"It's a Troubled World" is at least as bad as I remember.

Maybe it's the insistence on repeating "It's a troubled world, yes it is" ad nauseum throughout the song. Perhaps it's Burchwell's singing like he's trying too hard, with an unnaturally strained voice. Alternatively, it's the distracting, off-pitch shouting of the background singers during the chorus.

Whatever the case, it's bad.

Judge for yourself. Here's the song, in all its glory:

It's no "Blowing in the Wind," is it? The "dance" and "garage" mixes are even worse, but I didn't want to torture my readers with them.

Still, the song was for a good cause -- and I admit that I could not do better. I never would have criticized the song like this at the time, but I think 13 years is enough time to get some distance from the events and put the awfulness in perspective.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My son writes to Buster Posey

Last year, my son's favorite baseball player -- San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey -- was injured in a horrific home plate collision and missed more than half the season.

This year, Posey is trying to make a comeback, so Ian wrote a letter to encourage him. There's nothing more heartfelt than an earnest letter from a second grader, so here you go:

The text reads:

Dear Buster Posey,

I hope your leg is better.

Besides, how is your wife(?)

On April 15th, I'm going to come in at 9:30 a.m.

From, Ian

P.S. Hope you play well.

(Ian is noting that we will be visiting the ballpark, with other members of South San Francisco Youth Baseball, for a 9:30 meet and greet with some yet-to-be-determined Giants before that day's game with the Pirates.)

I love the kid's idea of small talk! "Besides, how is your wife?" Priceless.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

El Camino falls, 71-53 in CCS championship game, but comes away with school pride

El Camino's Anthony Knight tries to drive past Sacred Heart Cathedral's Herman Pratt in the first quarter of the CIF-Central Coast Section Division III championship game Saturday at Santa Clara University. Photo by John Baker.
From CCS Chamipionship game

After opening its doors in 1961, it took 51 years for El Camino High School to earn its first league championship and get to its first Central Coast Section boys basketball championship game. After Saturday, the Colts are raring to get right back next season.

Despite being significant underdogs to top-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco, who play in the powerful West Catholic Athletic League, El Camino came into Saturday night's Central Coast Section Division III championship game with high hopes.

Those hopes were dashed, as the Irish (ranked 14th in the state by took advantage of a sluggish El Camino second quarter to win the championship, 71-53, at Santa Clara University.

Coach Archie Junio (right), who took over the program again this season after coaching the Colts in the early 2000s, will get serious consideration for CCS basketball coach of the year after leading El Camino -- which had never gotten past the quarterfinals -- to a championship game and state playoff berth.

"It was the (SHC) guards shooting lights out," Junio said. "We were banking on them missing some shots, but they weren't missing many shots, especially from the outside."

The Colts were handicapped by playing without starting point guard Elijah White, who was suspended for unrevealed reasons. El Camino could have used his nearly 16 points per game average and floor leadership.

"We didn't have the full force of our arsenal," Junio said. "And even with Elijah, who knows? We needed to be clicking on all cylinders and we weren't -- especially defensively."

Sacred Heart Cathedral coach Darrell Barbour, who had faced a weaker El Camino many times when he coached Woodside, said the El Camino players will always remember this year, regardless of the final result. Barbour should know, as his Irish have made the finals five straight years.

"It never gets old, it can't," he said. "It's just a blessing for these kids to have this experience. I tell them all the time to be humble about everything that happens to us because not every high school kid gets this opportunity."

Indeed it was a special year for El Camino's sports programs.

"We won our league in football, we won our league in basketball," Junio said. "It was just overall a great year thus far for the entire school and the population."

Colts football coach Mark Turner, who also assists Junio on the basketball squad, says more will come for El Camino.

"As far as I'm concerned, we've always been the best school in the city of South San Francisco," Turner said. "We haven't been the winning-ist program, but we're building. It's an everyday process."

For Sacred Heart, the win was the school's third CCS championship just on Saturday, as the Irish won titles in boys soccer and girls basketball earlier.

El Camino still has at least one more game in the State basketball tournament. Pairings will be released late Sunday on the California Interscholastic Federation's website.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Best's best retort to a ref

Last night I covered the annual induction ceremony of the Pacifica Sports Hall of Fame for the Pacifica Tribune, where one of the inductees was retired NASL referee Klaus Kretschmer.

Kretschmer, a German immigrant and a Pacifica resident for almost five decades, related stories of his old refereeing days, including an encounter with soccer legend George Best (below). Kretschmer said the fiery Best, who like many aging European stars of the 1970s (e.g. Pelé*) was earning a past-his-prime paycheck in America, had a verbal issue.

George Best as a San Jose Earthquake.

“George Best had a problem with the English language — all he knew were the cuss words,” Kretschmer joked.

Best, then with a previous incarnation of the San Jose Earthquakes, had been previously carded by Kretschmer, who was about to book him again.

A cursing Best came running up to Kretschmer, and the referee said he’d pretend he didn’t hear Best’s verbal assault.

“You’re not just blind, you’re deaf too!” was Best’s reply.

* Or David Beckham and Thierry Henry these days.