The world watched Week 1 of the NFL season after a terrible offseason, and it was a lackluster collection of mediocre football — which begs for wild overreactions, not to mention the question of why an at-least-not-abjectly-awful Colin Kaepernick sits at home while the Scott Tolziens and Tom Savages of the world suit up for actual league-administered games (but that’s a column for another time, and possibly a different section of the paper).
The Oakland Raiders might be the exception in an unexceptional week of action. With the caveat that we don’t know exactly how good the Titans are and a standard small-sample-size warning, we saw virtually everything we could have wanted from the Bay Area’s lone contender.
Derek Carr looked sharp in his first real game since a broken leg, spreading the ball around for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree both looked good, especially when Cooper pushed the pile a solid four yards into the end zone. Marshawn Lynch looked like Marshawn Lynch as he led the backs in snap count and production. Even kicker Giorgio Tavecchio was aces in his regular season debut.
Perhaps most importantly, after an ugly first drive that saw Marcus Mariota and company parade down the field and into the end zone, a much-maligned Raider defense was stalwart. Karl Joseph and company made plays in the secondary that limited damage, and the front seven did an admirable job against a team with some reasonable runners.
If you were touting the Raiders as a Super Bowl threat coming into the year, you have to like what you saw in Week 1. Week 2 gives them a chance to put an exclamation point on their initial announcement with the moribund New York Jets coming to the Coliseum.
Unfortunately, it’s safe to say that we saw what we expected from the 49ers. They’re a team with a quality running back and a lot of other problems.
San Francisco has one professional running back and one professional wide receiver (Pierre Garcon). Outside of that, they appear woefully short on professional offensive football players. The offensive line is fine on the edges but miserable in the middle. Brian Hoyer is not the man to make up for those deficiencies, especially with a shortage of playmakers. There is some promise on defense, certainly, but the injury to Reuben Foster combined with the ineffectiveness of top draftee Solomon Thomas dampers much of that and Cam Newton’s inaccuracy probably limited the Panthers’ damage.
Most disappointing, though, was the debut of head coach and purported offensive guru Kyle Shanahan, who made questionable fourth-down decisions (coming off of a Super Bowl where his over-aggressiveness arguably lost his team a large lead) including a sequence where he failed to get a timeout called to avoid a delay of game. He also failed to get his feature back and probable best player more than nine carries and we can count the Niners’ point total on one Jason Pierre-Paul hand.
The good news is that none of this really matters much in the long term, and the 49ers are off to a solid start in the chase for a top draft pick and a future starter at QB.
Beth Mowins made history earlier this week when she handled play-by-play duties for the Monday Night Football game between the Chargers and Broncos. It was a well-deserved placement for a talented broadcaster, and she did a solid job.
Unfortunately for Beth, she was paired with rookie analyst Rex Ryan, who was okay when you consider he literally has no idea how to do the job. It seemed she spent nearly as much time coaching her partner as she did calling the action. It was also a distinctly uninspiring football game, despite Philip Rivers’ ill-fated attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Nevertheless, I thought Mowins was good and I’d be intrigued to hear her step in for the uninspiring Sean McDonough alongside a capable partner (and potentially for a decent game).
This also gives me a chance to mention another history-making play-by-play announcer — Bay Area product Kate Scott. The incomparable Pac 12 Network talent (who is my friend and former coworker) called Arizona’s season opener on Sept. 2. Look for me when she’s calling 49ers games in a few years, I’ll be the guy saying “I told you so!” on whatever social media application is popular on whatever is left of this planet.
The NBA seems to have officially made the grade as a 365-day-news-cycle sport as controversy-mongering sinks to new lows. The latest in a series of Warriors’ off-court-non-stories is the shoe-gazing battle between Kevin Durant and Steph Curry over KD’s dis of Under Armor.
The quick summary: Durant provided the unfortunate soundbite, “Nobody wants to play in Under Armours,” on a podcast with Bill Simmons — contextually he was talking about the facts of the business of youth basketball, where coming up through the camps of one shoe company not-so-organically leads to players leaning toward schools that have contracts with that shoe company. But in Twitter’s America, context and reason have no place.
It’s absurd this would have a marked effect on the Warriors’ locker-room. I liken it to two friends rooting for rival football teams: you’ll yell and scream and insult each other, but you’re adults you realize it’s not life and death. Curry and Durant endorse competing brands, but they play for the same basketball team and they’re adults.
The KD shoe story we should be focusing on concerns the text on the insoles of his new NBA Finals-themed KD 10’s. This is a new level of pettiness and a remarkable commitment to cracking back at haters and I can’t imagine a shoe-related thing that I would love more. He literally wrote his stats on top of nasty things people said about him. He’s the real MVP, really.
In the Yes, More Offseason NBA Talk category, the Warriors also announced their sponsorship deal with Japanese tech company Rakuten, which will place a small patch (or “badge” if you want to use the team’s preferred nomenclature) on the front left shoulder of their jerseys. About half of the league has a similar patch/badge deal as the NBA is allowing this sort of advertising for the first time.
Soon enough, there will be no controversy about ads on jerseys in America. It’s happening, there’s no avoiding it, and honestly I’m not sure anybody really cares about it now. What’s worth caring about is the fact that the Warriors’ deal is reportedly worth twice as much as any other, and that the team made a point of saying that Rakuten was not the biggest offer and was chosen for its global presence as the team tries to bolster a global brand in a global league.
The NBA is growing, at home and abroad, and the Warriors are the tip of the spear. As football rushes headlong toward what looks like inevitable decline, basketball has its sights set on being the biggest sport in the world, and it’s not as ridiculous a goal as it would have seemed as recently as five years ago.
Also a free pro tip — I’ve been aware of Rakuten for years because their website is a veritable cornucopia of discounts on technology and I get weekly emails from them about the best current deals. They’re holding a lot of my money for me, and I regret nothing.
In a year that has been an unqualified disaster, as they’ve watched a team win less than 40 percent of their games and suffered through injury and ineptitude in nearly equal measures, fans of the San Francisco Giants finally have something to cheer about.
Schadenfreude is more than just fun to say — it’s a true delight to experience, and one of the best ways to overcome your own struggles. It’s alive and well for the orange and black as the Giants stretched the Dodgers’ losing streak to 11 before dropping last night’s game. But I would caution everyone to pace themselves.
The Dodgers will likely win the division; it’s reasonably inconceivable to imagine them giving nine more games back to Arizona with only 15 left to play. They’re definitely going to be in the playoffs. I’m not saying don’t jinx it, I’m saying don’t burn yourself out.
The inevitable playoff collapse is going to be so much sweeter than a meaningless late-season losing streak.
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives with an aging Shih Tzu/Schnauser mix in Berkeley. You can hear his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. Find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.
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