A lot of people take a lot of things for granted in the Bay Area. Those of us who have lived here all or most of our lives are particularly guilty as charged.
Weather, scenery, convenience, social tolerance, etc. We’re somehow numb to how good we have it, to the point that you’ll actually hear someone piss and moan about a little rain in early March, clearly oblivious to the Hollywood-blockbuster-gone-bad conditions experienced out in the real world.
This comforting but clueless complacency seems to extend to the world of professional sports in these parts, too. No doubt there are exceptions, but it’s highly unlikely that many of us natives truly appreciate the fact that we have six big-league teams that, together, fill the entire calendar year with action and all play within about an hour’s drive — tops — of each other.
For instance, if you’re a hard-core Niners fan, you probably couldn’t care less that the Raiders even exist. And vice-versa. Ditto the Giants-A’s dynamic. But the fact remains that it’s damn cool for any casual sports fan to have the myriad choices afforded them.
Same goes for the deliciously diverse, entertainingly animated and generally successful group of head men currently running their respective shows in Bay Area pro sports. With the exception of the Raiders with Dennis Allen, every team has a guy out front that would be snapped up by another team almost immediately should the current relationship come to a surprisingly sudden split.
So let’s take a moment to examine what we have, and appreciate these men for what they represent.
Jim Harbaugh, 49ers: He tops the list in virtually every way. He checks pretty much every box in terms of what makes for a quality coach. He wins at an incredibly high level, for one thing, and that’s all that matters to a lot of fans. But he’s supremely interesting in all kinds of ways, too, and that matters as well. Could he be a nicer guy in general? Probably. But whatever faults he has are mitigated by the fact that he has a twisted form of genius that few share.
Which is why the 49ers best look past whatever faults they perceive and lock him up. Forever, if possible. The man’s absence would create a void nearly impossible to fill.
Bruce Bochy, Giants: He wears the label “players’ manager” proudly, and he deserves it. More than any coach in recent Bay Area history, he is universally adored by his charges. Those two rings he gets to rock when it’s dress-up time don’t hurt, of course, but even if he weren’t a big winner, he’d be someone you’d be crushed to see go before you got a chance to sit down and have a beer with him. He’s neighborly and noble at the same time.
In short, he’s another man who should be able to write his own ticket.
Mark Jackson, Warriors: The jury is still out on whether he is or ever will be a master of X’s and O’s, but who cares? He’s utterly transformed a noxious culture in short order, and while he’s not quite as outwardly bizarre as Harbaugh can be at time, he’s kooky enough to keep us interested without turning us off with his incessant and occasionally self-indulgent rhetoric.
Do NOT let this man escape to New York, Dubs. He’s perfect for this team, this fan base, this era.
Bob Melvin, A’s: Much like the franchise for which he toils, he’s no-frills. And that means he’s a perfect fit in an age where perfect fits are exceedingly rare. Now that A’s management actually appreciates the impact that a quality skipper can have on a club, it’s hard to imagine the team ever wanting to part ways.
It’s even harder to imagine Melvin doing anything remotely manipulative to enhance his status.
Todd McLellan, Sharks: Former player, respected taskmaster, winner. That’s all you need to know about him, really. And given hockey’s place in the Bay Area sports universe, unless you’re a ticket-holder it’s probably more than you knew before reading this.
And finally, we come to Allen and the Raiders: Poor guy. He’s been here two years, he’s the only coach in the region who hasn’t tasted success, and he’s associated with a franchise associated with buffoonery.
That doesn’t make him a buffoon himself. It simply makes him the which-one-of-these-doesn’t-belong guy were we living in a strictly Sesame Street world.
We’re not. We’re living in the Bay Area, where, as the aforementioned men should remind us, we’ve got it so good in a million ways.
Mychael Urban, a longtime Bay Area-based sportswriter and broadcaster, is the host of “Inside the Bigs,” which airs every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon on KGMZ “The Game” (95.7 FM).Jim HarbaughMark JacksonMychael UrbanSan Francisco 49ers