Sports Authority

Bad Sports

My kid got mad at me the other day when I said esports were video games masquerading as athletic competition. He said I didn’t know what I was talking about. He said esports require tremendous coordination, concentration and stamina, and involve lots of money.

Those qualities define modern competitive sports, he said.

My kid’s in graduate school, which means he’s smarter than me. But I was a professional sportswriter for 20 years, and still know a few things. For instance, I know a great way to get sports fans arguing is to suggest their favorite game isn’t really a sport.

The Good Book

Trouble began when Frank Miller, 66, dropped dead from a heart attack while listening to a horse race.

Miller didn’t die at home. He collapsed on the second floor of a bar and cafe called the Equipoise Club at 415 K St., in a room filled with chalkboards, teletype machines, telephones, betting slips, loud speakers and dozens of people. A bookie joint.

Eleven days later, 15 Sacramento police officers rushed into Equipoise, climbed the stairs, blew their whistles and interrupted about 150 racing fans. Eight people were arrested, including the club’s owner, Frank Nisetich, known to family, friends and prosecutors as “Bookie Butch.”

“We’ve got the dope this time,” Police Chief William Hallanan said. “We’ve got them dead to rights with plenty of evidence.”

Football Fantasy

Sacramento will never have an NFL team. It won’t have a stake in a major college bowl game. January playoffs and bowl games present a cruel reminder of these facts.

A city without an NFL or major college team isn’t necessarily deprived. Local football fans can find joy watching Sacramento State score touchdowns against Northern Colorado and Montana. Several high schools have excellent programs.

And there’s always the 49ers. Santa Clara is a miserable drive. The worst Levi’s Stadium seat is ridiculously expensive. But there’s no threat of the 49ers moving too far.

In the late 1980s, the Raiders discussed moving from Los Angeles to Sacramento. It was a leverage strategy by Al Davis. He ignored a $50 million down payment from the City Council and returned to Oakland. He played us.

Dirt Cheap

After 37 years, I’ve finally figured out the curse of the Kings. It’s all about real estate.

I’m not talking about a real estate curse that involves ancient Native American burial grounds.

For some Kings fans, the fictional image of bones beneath old Arco Arena explained why the team was so lousy.
The burial grounds theory collapsed when the team moved Downtown. If anything, the Kings got worse on K Street.

Goal-line Stand

Some of us remember when beating UC Davis meant everything to Sacramento State’s football team. But with success defined by one game, victory was impossible. Between 1970 and 1987, the Aggies defeated the Hornets 18 consecutive times.

The annual mismatch made UC Davis coach Jim Sochor smile when he heard the word “rivalry.” He would say, “It’s not a rivalry until they beat us.”

Sochor died in 2015 at age 77. He lived long enough to see some improvements in Sac State’s football program, but not many. Since 2000, Davis has won the Causeway Classic 15 times.

Must Win?

My two favorite sports clichés are “must-win game” and “rebuilding year.”

Back when I was a young Sacramento sportswriter, I avoided those phrases. They were trite. But I always smiled when local TV and radio pundits rolled out “must win” and “rebuilding.” Still do.

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