Kolsky: Let’s be thankful for the 49ers

Bay Area Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a championship-caliber franchise and burger dogs

It’s Thanksgiving folks, and we all know what that means.

First and most importantly, it means So. Much. Food. I’m a stuffing guy at the core, but I love it all and today is the day that eating until it hurts is an appropriate holiday celebration and not just self-sabotage.

If your family is anything like mine, though, today is also a day where you are forced to sit at a table and listen to what people are thankful for — whether you like it or not. You may find it a trite and empty tradition, but it’s what we do.

I’m no better than any other American in this respect, so here we go…

I’m thankful for Eric Paschall, Omari Spellman and Marquese Chriss.

There’s not a lot to be thankful for right now if you’re a Warriors fan. There’s always yesterday’s successes to cherish, but the departure of Kevin Durant and the injuries to virtually everyone else have left Golden State in shambles.

Even if you’re the kind of fan who is capable of separating themselves from today’s results in the interest of tomorrow’s rebuild, this has already been and will continue to be a very tough season. Any time you’re playing multiple games without your entire starting lineup, it can get ugly.

In a year where the ceiling has a lot of moral victories, the bright spots stand out even more; Eric Paschall is a shining star on that scale, and the fact that the Warriors once again seem to have found an exceptionally useful player in the middle of the second round could be the season’s saving grace.

Paschall looks like a rotation player at the very least, potentially even a longtime NBA starter. In Spellman and Chriss, the Warriors took cast-off big men from other teams only to see them inject some much-needed energy into both the team and their own careers.

Both bigs are just 22 years old — actually younger than the rookie Paschall — and being given a rare opportunity to grow into NBA roles with extended playing time. Either could be a solid depth piece for the Warriors in the future.

Certainly until D’Angelo Russell gets back, but likely until the return of Steph Curry, imagining a bright future that includes Paschall, Spellman and Chriss is the most fun a Warriors fan can have during games.

That, and a Hot Dog Bill’s burger dog at Chase Center.

I’m thankful for the continued presence of a championship contender in the Bay…

The bottom line is that the 49ers have as much claim to the label of NFC favorites as anyone.

Their mettle was tested on Sunday Night Football — or at least, it was supposed to be. The Niners’ unmitigated beatdown of the previously 8-2 Green Bay Packers was a finger in the eye of anyone who dismissed their hot start as nothing more than a soft schedule. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for an easy 253 yards and two scores as his team dominated every facet of the game.

The 49ers have a suffocating (and scoring) defense led by Defensive Rookie of the Year-to-be Nick Bosa and a line full of pass rush demons, they have a rushing attack that is tops in the league when it’s on and they have the best tight end in football. These are undeniably the makings of a Super Bowl contender.

If Sunday night was an announcement of NFC supremacy, this coming weekend will tell us where San Francisco stands with the other conference’s best. The Baltimore Ravens present a unique challenge for the 49ers defense, which has been at its relative worst against mobile QBs. They also bring a defense that will almost certainly take advantage of any mistakes made by the 49ers’ QB.

If the 49ers win an early game in Baltimore, they’ll likely enter December as Super Bowl favorites. It’s a remarkable turnaround, and just in time to keep the Bay in a title hunt despite the Warriors’ regression.

I’m thankful for a competent Raiders team.

Sure, they likely torpedoed their playoff chances on Sunday with a repulsive loss to the Jets. And sure, they’re catching the next offseason train out of town without looking back.

They’re still the Oakland Raiders for now, though, and a competitive final season in the Town beats the hell out of another 4-12 mess to say goodbye. Raider fans can walk into the Coliseum on Sundays believing they have a chance to win.

Perhaps more importantly, a team that appeared clueless at the top when they were enduring the dramatics of Antonio Brown turned in a highly professional effort through the first 10 games of the season. (For the purposes of remaining thankful, let’s write off Sunday’s embarrassment as the relatively common West Coast team showing up unprepared for an early start out east).

Perhaps even more important than their on-field improvement is the apparent success of their offseason. While we were focused on an erratic wide receiver with frostbitten feet, the Raiders actually made a lot of nice additions after hiring GM Mike Mayock.

Josh Jacobs is a stud, Clelin Ferrell is coming along and Darren Waller looks like an epic free agent steal. If Derek Carr can bounce back from an ugly day in New York he could still put together one of the best seasons of his career.

It may be little comfort to those who intend to wave goodbye to the Raiders when the moving trucks depart for Las Vegas, but this is a franchise that seems to be pointing in the right direction for the first time in many years.

They haven’t won their division since 2002, but it looks like they may have a shot at breaking that ignominious streak before it gets to 20 years.

I’m thankful for a young, exciting baseball team on the rise in Oakland.

They’ll be the only pro squad left in the East Bay come February, so it’s a damn good thing the Athletics are in such great shape.

They’ve got young building blocks who have established themselves at the major league level, and they have the starting pitching that last year’s team lacked raring and ready to go from their farm system. A couple of savvy offseason adds should have the A’s in playoff position again.

Oakland’s continuing ascension may have gotten an assist this winter with the Astros sign-stealing scandal. We don’t know exactly how that will play out, but at the very least it’s an ugly black mark on the team that has held the AL West in a stranglehold for the last three years.

If a penalty is imposed upon the Houston franchise, it likely won’t be something that has a major effect on the 2020 season, but if they’ve been stealing signs constantly and this stops them, it certainly could bring them back to earth.

Either way, the A’s enter 2020 with as much hope and excitement as they’ve had in a while.

I’m thankful for a relative lack of interest in the NHL.

I’m not sure the Sharks deserve our attention anyway, even with their recent success.

Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives in Oakland with his wife, son and an aging Shih-Tzu/Schnauzer mix. You can hear him on the Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 the Game, 2p-6p every weekday evening alongside Damon Bruce and Ray Ratto. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can 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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