For sports fans who pray 2021 is the year athletes shut up, a reality check: It won’t happen. Athletes have always talked, even before anyone cared what they had to say. They aren’t going to stop speaking their minds anytime soon.
Jack Johnson, who in 1908 became the first Black fighter to win the world heavyweight championship, was never at a loss for words. But his most enduring quote from his “Fight of the Century” in Reno against ardent white supremacist and former champ Jim Jeffries was eloquently simple: “May the best man win.” Johnson beat the bigot in 15 rounds.
Sometimes I wish Inside Sacramento had an award called “Local Sports Person of the Year.” I know the guy I would nominate for 2020: Dusty Baker. He’s at the top of his game at age 71. And while the year was miserable and Baker did his best work in Houston rather than Sacramento, he will always belong to the city he calls home. He’s a paragon of leadership, integrity, pride, hard work and perseverance. He’s also pretty good at baseball.
As 2020 began, Baker was unemployed in Sacramento, his career finished. It was a bittersweet end. Baker has been involved in professional baseball since 1967, when he was a senior at Del Campo High School and drafted by the Atlanta Braves.
The big problem with the Kings isn’t their history of failure, their dumb trades, mystifying draft choices, chronic mismanagement, clueless owners or inability to hire and retain people with the brains and talent to compete in the NBA.
The big problem is their potential to drag the city of Sacramento toward bankruptcy.
Can the Kings hurt the city’s fiscal stability? For decades, that’s been a mostly abstract question. Now the threat is real. The city’s vulnerability began 23 years ago, grew slowly and gained speed in 2015. Today, in an economy convulsed by pandemic, warning signs flash red.
Sacramento soccer fans are patient. It’s the secret to their survival. Elder aficionados have waited 40 years to see a local side match the skill and excitement of the Sacramento Gold, which filled Hughes Stadium, won the 1979 American Soccer League championship and lost the final in 1980.
Someday local fans may cheer a stronger left foot than the one that made the Gold’s Ian Filby the best scorer in the league. And they may find a more clever coach than Billy Williams, who built the Gold into a United Nations of diversity with winners imported from England, Scotland, Latin America and South Africa.
Running should be among the safest of pandemic sports. Open trails. Space for social distancing. Virus loads diluted by fresh air. Fit and healthy runners. If two sturdy legs and a decent pair of running shoes don’t guarantee immunity, they help the odds.
But what happens when 800 or 1,000 runners congregate for a Sunday race? Or when 29,000 show up for the Thanksgiving Run to Feed the Hungry? Health officials don’t want to think about that. In mid-March they banned organized races until further notice—a prohibition that wiped out the running calendar and threatens to linger into next year.
Summertime in Sacramento and the streets sizzle. After months of coronavirus and social upheaval, my thoughts naturally turn to sports. Specifically, ice skating.
Imagine the joy of heading to Del Paso Boulevard and cooling off with a few spins around the frozen pond at Iceland. But skating is impossible at Iceland. The ice is gone.