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.
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.
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.
There was nothing lovely about the old brick building at 3520 Fifth Ave. The roof leaked. The second-floor gym reeked of sweat and leather. But for years, the place was a magic castle.
Young people climbed the stairs and left the streets behind. They pounded the heavy bag, skipped rope, shadow boxed and learned to properly throw and take punches.
The Oak Park building was home to the Police Athletic League boxing program, the city’s premier recreational safe ground for underserved young people, ages 7 to 17. As Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the City Council ponder why today’s teens become tomorrow’s gangsters, the answer is found among the ghosts of 3520 Fifth Ave.
Being a sports fan in Sacramento isn’t completely awful.
True, the Kings have exploited the community’s one-horse status for decades. The basketball team sells far more tickets, suites and sponsorships than failure warrants.
A season or two of home games with 10,000 empty seats would embarrass the Kings, if that’s possible, and provide visual and financial motivation to fix the mess.
The town’s favorite sports bookies didn’t wear mouse ears. They chewed toothpicks and smoked cigars. They hung out at the Bar of Music on 11th Street and Georgian’s on J Street. When those joints disappeared, they moved to Joe Marty’s on Broadway and Simon’s on 16th Street.
What would our legendary gamblers—a hall of fame led by Jackie King and Sid Tenner—think about Mickey Mouse muscling in on the action?