Category Archives: Sports

Hardcore Workout: Swimming the Bay

Photo by Maria Bruun-Schmidt, edited by Alec Fernandes

While most San Franciscans run along the polluted water in the harbor near Fort Mason, a few people have bewildered others by working out in the bay. Meet an open-water triathlete who swims among the boats and oily soil every week to train for Hawaii Ironman Triathlon – referred to as “the most demanding triathlon in the world.”

So you made your way to the end of the pier of Fort Mason. It is Saturday and the silence seems scary out here, no honking horns, no downtown sounds. You can’t even here the sloshing water from the Bay that is as still and grey as the sky. So you pay attention to the Golden Gate Bridge in the horizon – covered up in fog as always. You turn around clockwise; there is Alcatraz, the skyline of San Francisco, here are the big boats, the polluted water and an old sign in front of you.

“Only allowed for swimmers!” the old paint reads. You wonder what it means. Who would swim in a dirty harbor? Wouldn’t it be dangerous?

It doesn’t make any sense, so you forget about it immediately before something breaks the silence.

You hear the sound before you see the man. A red swim cap is moving slowly by, up and down, like as the needle on a sewing machine. Now and then the swimmer raises his head and reveals his swimming goggles and an open mouth – it looks like he screams with no sound. He is not alone. A blue swim cap is following him at the same pace and you look around – behind both shoulders – stoked to share the moment with someone.

Nobody is here.

You look back at the water. It looks freezing.

“It is! – it might be around 50 Fahrenheit today!” exclaims a person behind you, it is 42-year-old Robert Rogers who is an open-water swimmer and a triathlete.

“But actually your body get used to the low temperature. If you sit in the shallow water for about 5-10 minutes the body will acclimatize – and you can go for a swim. If you don’t your body will go into shock,” he says and zips his wet suit at the back of the neck as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

“Luckily I have a wet suit, but look at these guys,” Rogers says while he points with his index finger on the man with the blue swimming cap. “He doesn’t wear anything! That is crazy! He is definitely a Polar Bear,” Rogers says and explains that there are different groups of swimmer in this harbor.

The Polar Bears don’t wear any wetsuits. “The guys from Oakland do,” Rogers says. He does as the rest of his local club – The Dolphin Club; he is swimming with a wet suit. This is his second time swimming in the San Francisco Bay. He is originally from Los Angeles.

“I am used to 60 [degrees] and above – so the first time I swam here it was so very cold. I think it was 49 [degrees]. It was freezing. But now I am getting used to it. I am not afraid for the grey water, or for boats suddenly coming into the harbor. This is a pretty safe area to swim in,” Rogers says.

He swims here every Tuesday with The Dolphin Club.

“But it is open to everybody who wants to do this on a Tuesday night,” he says and bursts into a laugh, as no one other than triathletes would ever do this. And while he is laughing there is not really any body fat that vibrates under his skin. He is well-trained as a result of all the exercise he has done.

“The hardcore workout has changed my life! And I am very happy with the way I am living today ’cause it hasn’t always been like this. I was a smoker. That was in 2011,” he says and pauses so the drizzling sound of the waves, that hits the edge of the sand, yells in the afternoon. When the foam grows it looks like when you pour your soda in a cup.

“I was a smoker,” Rogers repeats: “My friend too. He kept saying he would sign up for Ironman – ’cause his assistant did it and all – and I said, ‘You’re joking, you’ll never do it. If you sign up, I sign up,’ I said. So one day he actually did it. And I am a man of my word so I had to do it too. I didn’t even think about it, I just did it. That was the last day I smoked a cigarette, it was in January 21, 2011.”

Roger did an amateur triathlon race in 2011. “And I just got hooked! When I finished my first run, I just wanted to do it again. And again. And again,” he says as if he is talking about his tattoos.

“It is just addictive,” he says – even though the first month was though with smoking lungs and him in bad shape. He started to swim in an open water pool but after a month he transferred to the real deal.

Miles away from swimming in a pool

“And that is a whole other thing! When you swim in a pool, you follow a line. In open water you might think you swim completely straight. But you don’t. You can’t see anything, that is why you raise your head, and you are not sheltered as in a pool,” Rogers says and explains that different elements in open water as the flow of the waves and the tone of the water all in all make it more difficult to swim in open water. Especially here near Alcatraz, according to Rogers, where a famous triathlon race is held every year. It is called the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.

“They’ll say that if you make it here, you make it anywhere. That is because the water is so brutal,” says Rogers. And that makes is difficult to swim in a straight line, as you would normally do in a pool. That is why it is a good idea for the open water swimmers to choose a specific spot they are swimming towards – to keep sight of the track.

“For example…” Rogers says in long words while he points out to his right. “The roof of that red building is my point and when I am going back…” he says points in the opposite direction, “…the tower of that white church is my spot.”

Rogers normally swims less than an hour. In 40 minutes he can make two loops in the open water. As a part of his training he rides his bike 4-5 miles with the club afterward. This helps him improve the transition between different sports which – according to himself – is the hardest part of a triathlon.

“I take it step by step. I want to swim 2.4 miles within two hours as you would have to complete the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, which is the highest level a triathlete can complete. That race is my next goal,” Rogers says. According to him, you have to finish the run within 11 hours.

You wouldn’t imagine this man had smoked a single cigarette in his life.

“For me it has been a complete lifestyle change. That’s for sure. And everybody can do it, just sign up for a race! Don’t think about it!” says Rogers as he straps on his goggles and gets up to enter the freezing water.

Will injuries defeat the Giants?

Baseball season is back in full swing and the 2014 World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants, are off to a tremendous start. The Giants just wrapped up a three game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks with Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, and Chris Heston pitching the season openers. The Giants won the series, 2-1, and made a great start to the beginning of baseball season, but not all went as planned.

Hunter Pence, Travis Ishikawa, and pitcher Erik Cordier were all placed on the disabled list, DL, before the regular season even began. On April 7th, Matt Cain whose season ended early last year due to bone chips,was also placed on the DL with a flexor tendon strain in his right forearm. During Tuesday’s game, first baseman Brandon Belt had to leave the game during the bottom of the fourth inning after chasing a foul ball and straining a groin muscle. To top the injuries off, pitcher Jake Peavy has been suffering from back soreness. The Giants have not placed Peavy on the DL yet but after a bullpen session on Tuesday Peavy did comment that he felt soreness in his back.

With the season just beginning the question is, how are these injuries going to effect the Giants as they try to break the stereotype of only winning the World Series during even number years. Bruce Bochy said that he has never gone through such bad luck with injuries in the beginning of the season. Two of the Giants better at-bats are currently residing on the DL list which could effect them as they head into a three game series against the San Diego Padres.

But knowing the Giants, these injuries are just a bump in the road and they won’t let it get into their head too much. After Buster Posey’s season ending injury back in 2013, the Giants were shaken but still strong after losing one of their best players to a broken leg. And sometimes the injuries can be blessings in disguise, allowing minor league players to come up and play professionally, usually shining as they replace someone we believed couldn’t be replaced. Take Ishikawa for example, he was brought up after Angel Pagan was sent to the DL last season. Ishikawa played well but on a faithful Thursday night during a playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Ishikawa hit a walk-off home run which sent the Giants to the World Series, which they later won.

It’s too early to tell where the Giants will be come October but hopefully things will be looking up when their plays get off the DL and back onto the field to chase their fourth World Series Championship.

SF State Student to Play Basketball for Manny Pacquiao

Robbie Herndon, a basketball player for Manny Pacquiao’s team, stands in SF State’s gymnasium Tuesday Feb, 3. Photo by Hyunha Kim

SF State student Robbie Herndon is unofficially set to play for the team in the Philippines Basketball Association that is coached by boxing champion Manny Pacquiao. The shooting guard, who majors in criminal justice, intends to sign with Pacquiao’s team after he graduates in about a year.

After seeing Herdon play in a San Francisco tournament and finding out he is half-Filipino, one of Pacquiao’s friends and business associates invited Herndon to play in front of the boxer in Los Angeles. Herndon was grateful for the opportunity.

“I just want to give a shoutout to Jason Aniel for setting this up for me and making this happen,” he says. “It was fun, I played well. It just felt right.”

Though he felt good about it, Herndon tried not to get ahead of himself.

“I didn’t get my hopes all the way up because I know how it is, but I got excited,” he admits.

His Filipino heritage gives him an advantage over others who might hope to play basketball in the Philippines but are not from the island nation.

“Me being Filipino makes me a citizen,” Herndon points out. “Each team only gets one import, so it’s really competitive, but I’m not considered an import.”

Herndon relishes the chance to continue playing the game he calls his passion.

“I’m just glad it’s not over,” he notes.

He started playing when he was around five years old. From a young age, he has been inspired by Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, his favorite player and fellow shooting guard. He came to SF State on a basketball scholarship but stopped playing after two years because he felt it was not the right fit.

Herndon could have played in the Philippines after high school but decided not to because he “wanted to experience college.” Also, he wants to get his degree before he leaves so he will have a solid foundation to return to and “so I don’t have to go back to school when I come back,” he explains.

He acknowledges that living in a foreign country straight out of high school would have been hard on him. Now, he looks forward to seeing the world and relatives he has yet to meet. Herndon values family, especially his grandmother.

“I love my grandma … She’s my inspiration,” he says with a smile.

He appreciates how she took care of him when he was a child and his working parents were too busy. Herndon’s grandmother was very happy to learn he would be playing for the boxing star.

“She’s a hardcore Pacquiao fan and was thrilled when she found out I met him and was going to play for him.”

Herndon would like to play basketball in the U.S but knows he likely will not.

“It’d be awesome to play professionally here in the States, but, realistically, it’s probably not going to happen,” he realizes. When he is done playing, he hopes to become an investigator or a firefighter.

Once Herdon starts playing for Pacquiao, those who are interested can keep up with him on Instagram by following ootyconrad.

Photo by Hyunha Kim
Photo by Hyunha Kim

Giants’ World Series Trophy Tour to Stop at SF State

The three SF Giants trophy will be at SF State. Photo from the Giants Twitter
The three SF Giants trophy will be at SF State. Photo from the Giants Twitter

The trophies commemorating the San Francisco Giants’ World Series victories in 2010, 2012, and 2014 will visit SF State on Wednesday as part of an ongoing tour.

The Giants spent more than fifty seasons without winning Major League Baseball’s top prize after moving to San Francisco from New York in 1958. They finally brought a championship to San Francisco by beating the Texas Rangers four games to one in 2010. The team followed this up with a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers two years later. Last year, the Giants won the World Series, this time in seven games over the Kansas City Royals. Between San Francisco and New York, the Giants have won eight titles.

The World Series trophy is the only piece of championship hardware in the four major American professional sports leagues not named for a specific individual. Its official name, The Commissioner’s Trophy, sets it apart from the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup, the National Basketball Association’s Larry O’Brien Trophy, and the National Football League’s Vince Lombardi Trophy. Tiffany & Co. builds a new trophy for each year’s top baseball team.

The San Francisco Giants World Championship Trophy Tour began on January 7th and will run through Opening Day at AT&T Park on April 13th. Most of the tour takes place in California, extending as far south as San Luis Obispo, though it will also make stops in Nevada, Oregon, and even New York.

All three trophies will be at SF State on February Four from 9:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. in Jack Adams Hall. People will not be allowed to line up before 9:00 a.m. Each person may take one photo. Those in a group may either take separate pictures or one all together. A Giants representative may cut off the line early to ensure the trophies are able to leave on time and being in line during the scheduled time does not guarantee a chance to get a photo of them.

Quest for Three: Raise your glasses Giants fans

Madison Bumgarner shows off his trophy to fans. (Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)
Madison Bumgarner shows off his trophy to fans. (Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)

Orange and black confetti fell in unison with the rain as thousands of Giants fan gathered under umbrellas along Market Street and the Civic Center to watch the 2014 World Series parade, the third parade in five years for the Giants.

Two years ago today the Giants were doing this exact same thing, winning the World Series in 2012 and celebrating on Halloween with their fans.

Fans lined the streets early this morning, all hoping to get a great seat to see their favorite player make their way along the parade. Before the parade even started, fans were excited, chanting “Lets go Giants!” waving their flags in the air even with the rain pouring.

According to Bart, their parking garages were full in several locations including Dublin/Pleasanton, Orinda, Walnut Creek, Fruitvale, and Daly City.

Some of the Giants great including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds, and Gaylord Perry joined the new Giants hero’s in today’s parade.

  • (Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)

  • (Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)

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  • Former San Francisco Giants Player Barry Bonds made an appearance at the 2014 Giants parade. Bonds waved to fans while riding a black and orange convertible.(Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)
  • Former SF Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry smiles and waves to fans. (Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)
  • One of many floats at the SF Giants parade. (Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)
  • Excited fans dance and wave signs while riding a float. (Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)
  • Matt Duffy waves to fans while riding a float during the 2014 Giants parade celebrating the SF Giants’ World Series victory. (Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)(Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)
  • Michael Morse rides through downtown San Francisco during the SF Giants Parade. (Brenna Cruz/ Special to Xpress)

The players and their families made their way down Market Street in double decker buses, seeming to enjoy the parade just as much as their fans. Some players, like Matt Cain, had camera attached to their hats to capture the moment forever. When Pence mad his way down Market, a chant of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” followed him while “MVP! MVP!” range out as Madison Bumgarner, solo on his double decker bus, made his way through the parade route. Pablo Sandoval got the crowd riled up with his own version of the “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant while Michael Morse just stood on top his bus and waved to the fans.

The parade ended with Bruce Bochy, holding his third world series trophy, along side his wife. The fans non-stopped chanting “Bochy! Bochy!” all cheering their favorite coach who they know will be etched into MLB history.

As a fan and a reporter this experience was surreal for me. Being able to see my favorite team and my favorite players win another World Series and then celebrate with me was simple amazing. Being able to do something I love, write and report, on this whole experience was a dream come true.

When the confetti started to fall and the team made their way down Market, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face and fan-girling screams escape my lips. The atmosphere around me was contagious and I knew I was in one of the happiest places today. Even though I was up at 4 a.m. and the rain was falling on me, nothing mattered besides the story I was creating and parade I was watching.

5th Annual Giant Race

Photos and Video by Martin Bustamante

On a cool, clear, early Sunday morning, rare for the normally foggy city, runners began to line the Embarcadero in front of AT&T Park to participate in the 5th annual Giant Race. The runners gathered together to run the half marathon, 10k or 5k, all for a great cause, Project Open Hand. The nonprofit donates groceries and healthy meals to elderly and people in San Francisco and Alameda counties who are battling chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDs, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

“Almost every race supports a great cause and the Giant Race is no different,” Ted Torres, a half marathon runner from Atwater, says. “I originally signed up last year because I thought it would be cool to finish a race on the field at AT&T.”

The Giant Race was founded when Project Open Hand and the San Francisco Giants paired together. Originally, Project Open Hand would rent out AT&T Park for their Plate to Plate event and allow runners to run inside, but not finish in, the park. The San Francisco Giants saw the cause and work that went into Plate to Plate and decided to align with Project Open Hand to create the Giant Race. The Giants knew that in being a partner in this amazing event, fans would like the idea of running inside of AT&T Park, finishing on the field, and being able to relax on the field post-race.

The Giant Race takes participants on an amazing scenic view of San Francisco while running. Runners start on the corner of 3rd and King Streets and run along the Embarcadero, passing many sights along the way.

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Torres, having just ran his second Giant Race, describes the race as “amazing,” with the thirteen-mile course leading runners past amazing vistas and landmarks. Fisherman’s Wharf and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge are just a couple of these landmarks.

Throughout the race, you are continually cheered on by fellow runners, volunteers, and people watching from their roof tops. For Torres, a Dodgers fan, this amazing cause helped him show a bigger message that he thinks people need to know about.

“I had another reason for running this year—I had a message,” said Torres. “Over the past few years, we have seen far too much violence between fans at games, especially between Giants and Dodgers. I had printed on the back of my shirt, ‘Stop Fan Violence.’ I wanted to show that fans from rival teams can come together to support a good cause.”

As you come to a finish, you are allowed to run onto the field, just like Hunter Pence running the outfield. Once the runners pass through the gates, the crowd erupts into cheers as you run to the end of the race. At the finish line, Lou Seal, the Giants’ mascot, waits to give you a high five, congratulate you your accomplishment, and hands you a snazzy medal with his face on it.

“My experience was great and fun,” said Jennifer Mose, a 10k runner from Rodeo, California. “I got to run this year with my dad; it’s his first time running a 10k. Finishing the race, getting a medal, and being around Giants fans at the best place on Earth.”

Project Open Hand set a fundraising goal this year of $400,000. As of the race, they have raised well over $250,000.

“We are ahead of where we were last year and we are on track to have the best year yet,” Maria Stokes, the Director of Communications at Project Open Hand, said. “People continue to donate even after the race is over and we won’t know the total until a month after the race. We really rely on people to fundraise and donate.”

Stokes added that the Giants were great when it came to helping donate and fundraise for the event. This year, the Giants raffled off a signed Buster Posey bobblehead and all the proceeds from the raffle went to Project Open Hand.

“I think Project Open Hand’s cause is amazing,” said Mose. “There are seniors and critically ill who do not have the opportunity to eat a nutritious meal, and sometimes I feel their needs can be ignored. Just knowing there’s one less individual who is not hungry or feels like no one cares about them make Project Open Hand a worthy cause.”

Next year’s Giant Race is already proceeding full-force: planning of the event and what they are going to do to make it better than the last, there does not seem to be an end date attached to this spectacular event. JT Service, the event coordinator for the Giant Race, said the Giants are happy to host fifteen thousand people for a great event on a day they aren’t playing baseball.

“It’s amazing one person started this all,” said Stokes, referring to Ruth Brinker, founder of Project Open Hand. “We went from feeding seven people to making twenty-five hundred meals a day. This race is one-of-a-kind and we are grateful for everyone’s participation.”

A Culture of Violence is Alive and Well in the NFL

Ray Rice during the  Baltimore Ravens training camp. Creative Commons photo by Keith Allison
Ray Rice during the Baltimore Ravens training camp. Photo under Creative Commons by Keith Allison

Janay Rice was a victim of domestic violence. As individuals who have never had to walk in the shoes of a victim of abuse, we do not know how to accept that she could endure such treatment, even once, and stay. But as the wave of stories have flooded the Internet with the hashtag #WhyIStayed, it has become more clear why women and men from every walk of life do stay.

Janay Rice does not owe us anything. Why she made the choice to follow through with marrying Ray Rice, to openly place blame on herself for the attack, and to defend him now, no one knows but her. What we do know is that there is clear evidence of what Ray Rice did: he spit in her face, knocked her down to the ground, and dragged her on the floor. Janay does not owe us anything, but the NFL owes it to women and society as a whole to allow no tolerance to abuse.

This week , the Baltimore Ravens released Ray Rice from the team, and the NFL suspended him from the league. They should have done this seven months ago when the first video documenting the abuse  was released. Now, these decisions have caused more confusion than clarity.

The first video, leaked by TMZ in February, shows the Baltimore Ravens running back drop his then-fianceé’s lifeless body to the ground; the elevator doors hitting against her motionless legs, Rice pushes at her body. The second video, leaked on Monday, September 8th, reveals the full extent of the violence that took place.  For the NFL to not exhaust all of its resources to confirm exactly what happened in that elevator was disregard to all victims of abuse.

Just two years ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell promised to make changes to the league’s policies dealing with domestic violence after a chain of such incidents arose. After acknowledging from the original evidence that the twenty-seven-year-old committed domestic violence, he concluded on July twenty-fourth that a fair punishment was a two-game suspension. The moment the NFL made that decision, they confirmed every accusation that they do not give a shit about women or victims of abuse.

All that this recent video did was show everyone, in detail, what they already knew. Goodell, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, and owner Steve Bisciotti claim that further repercussions were not made because no one in the organization had seen this video before it went viral – this is unacceptable.

Rice was charged with third-degree aggravated assault and indicted by a grand jury. Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said in a statement that his office approved Rice’s request for New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program, allowing him to avoid any jailtime. This led to the NFL’s “halt of fact-finding,” according to Goodell. The video was out there, TMZ got their hands on it, and if no one affiliated with the Ravens, Goodell, or the NFL had seen the video, they chose not to.

The Ravens made an immediate decision to release Rice after seeing the entire surveillance footage, and the NFL followed by suspending him indefinitely. Goodell stated the same day that it is possible that Rice could someday return to the NFL.

The fact of the matter is that twenty-one of the thirty-two NFL teams employed a player with a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record last year, according to statistics from U-T San Diego. Ray McDonald, defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, was arrested for alleged domestic violence just two weeks ago and played during the team’s first game of the season on Sunday.

Regardless if Rice ends up being suspended permanently, this will not change the history or future of domestic violence in the NFL. The league instated its new Personal Conduct Policy last week, before the new evidence of Rice was revealed. Under the new penalties, domestic violence or sexual assault violations will merit a six-game suspension for a first-time offense and an indefinite suspension of at least one year for a second offense.

This is bullshit, and it has got to change. Violence is not justified by paying fines or sitting on the sidelines. Physical abuse is serious and real and it needs to be treated that way. The NFL is a massive and influential organization and until they drastically change their policies surrounding such conduct, they are fully condoning domestic violence.

Dropping the Ball

  • Liz Piscano, of How We Roll, throws the ball between her legs during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
    Liz Piscano, of How We Roll, throws the ball between her legs during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Feb. 20th, 2014.
    Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
  • The Artist Formerly Known As Freeballs and The Big Laballskees congralute each other after a game of skeeball at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
    The Artist Formerly Known As Freeballs and The Big Laballskees congralute each other after a game of skeeball at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014.
    Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
  • Kayla Clark prepares to throw the ball during her team's skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Clark plays for the team Aww Skee Skee.  Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
    Kayla Clark prepares to throw the ball during her team's skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Clark plays for the team Aww Skee Skee.
    Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
  • Ty Hyland monitors the score during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Feb. 20th, 2014. Hyland runs the San Francisco Skeeball League with two other people. The league was started three weeks ago, and plays every Thursday at Bar None. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
    Ty Hyland monitors the score during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Feb. 20th, 2014. Hyland runs the San Francisco Skeeball League with two other people. The league was started three weeks ago, and plays every Thursday at Bar None.
    Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
  • Myra Navarro (left), of Fighting Falangees Balls of Fury, and Chris Chang, of ASTRO Ballers, play each other during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
    Myra Navarro (left), of Fighting Falangees Balls of Fury, and Chris Chang, of ASTRO Ballers, play each other during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 20th, 2014.
    Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
  • Brad Davis, of The Artist Formerly Known As Freeballs, throws the ball down the lane during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
    Brad Davis, of The Artist Formerly Known As Freeballs, throws the ball down the lane during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014.
    Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
  • Amanda Hoffman, of The Big Laballskees, throws the ball down the lane during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress
    Amanda Hoffman, of The Big Laballskees, throws the ball down the lane during a skeeball match at Bar None, in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20th, 2014.
    Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpress

Written by Jessica Mendoza
Photos by Gavin McIntyre

As you walk down the streets in the Marina district, every corner you turn is bursting with restaurants showcasing the finest meals and small boutique shops that carry the cutest clothes. The Marina is the perfect place where twenty and thirty-somethings can unwind from their busy lives to enjoy a cocktail at a sleek lounge. But what people may not realize is that the Marina district is also home to the San Fran Skeeball League.

Yes, a skeeball league.

The San Fran Skeeball League take place at Bar None, located on Union Street. The inside of the bar is like a frat boy’s fantasy home. There is foosball, pool, boxing games, beer pong tables, television and of course, a skeeball machine.

On February 6, 2014, “San Fran Skeeball League” held the first game of the skeeball season. The league coordinated by Ty Hyland and Sean Pratt, has become one the newest attractions in the Marina district where people can drink cheap beers, engage in casual conversation, and play skeeball all at once.

Teams sport names like Ball Don’t Kill My Vibe, ASTRO Balls, SKEENUTZ and The Big LaBallSkees

“Its super fun” says Amanda Hoffman of The Big LaBallSkees, “It’s competitive, but we’re here to have a good time.”

The mastermind behind the Skeeball League, Giovanni Marcantoni, wanted to create something competitive and fun for people to enjoy.

“We wanted to create a sociable environment to distract people from their problems,” says Marcantoni. Before he created the Skeeball League, Marcantoni and his friends established a bocce ball league in Baltimore. Marcantoni and his friends played bocce outside in the grass, but weather conditions sometimes put a damper on the bocce game forcing them to cancel.

“It was too cold outside,” says Marcantoni about playing bocce. People were also getting hurt and injured during the game. The bocce league’s problems inspired Marcantoni to create a league that is indoors in a bar where people can drink and play games without traveling anywhere else. Marcantoni branched the skeeball league into different cities on the East coast. He has expanded the league to Manhattan, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Charleston.

After a successful run on the East coast, Marcantoni decided to move the league West. Marcantoni added cities Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco—the newest city in the league.

Pratt explored the city to find the perfect bar to hold the skeeball games. The problem in their search was no bar already housed a skeeball machine. That was until they came across the Marina and found Bar None. It was perfect bar, already carrying gaming machines and already with the perfect laid-back atmosphere.

“They help us out by allowing us to have the Skeeball League,” says Pratt, “We help them bring more people to the bar.”

As they finally settled on a location, it was time to spread the news about the new league in the city. They created their website sanfranskee.com where people can register and create a team.

“It’s a good rational mix of people,” says Justin Beann, a league member of team The Artist Formerly Known As Free Ball.

“Anyone can join and play,” Pratt said. “You don’t have to be perfect.”

So how do you join the San Fran Skeeball League? Anyone can register on the website. Each team has to have a captain and a group between six-to-twelve members with each person paying a fifty dollar entrance fee.

“We don’t turn people away,” says Meg Nash, another member. “We want people to come here and make lasting friendships.”

Of course, whoever signs up to play in the league has to come up with a name for their team. People put “Skee” in their teams names. Like the guys from A. SKEE Slater who of course name their team from the popular “Saved By The Bell” television series. Other teams give themselves more progressive names like R.W.A which stands for Rollers with Attitude. Each member has names like Skeeyonce Rolls, MsSkeeElliot, Run DMSkee, Big Skeeballs and Andre Skeethousand.

“We wanted to have names to intimidate other teams,” says  Skeeyonce Rolls about her teams choosing their alter-ego identities.

Not only does Hyland and Pratt host the tournament but they join in the game. When David Miller was the only member from his team that showed up, Hyland and few others jumped in and played with him.

The Skeeball League is far beyond different than other tournaments. The league is created for people to come together and have the time of their lives.

“Most of these folks just come here and have a good time.” says Hyland.

Barry Bonds: On the Road to Redemption

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Written by Jessica Mendoza

The name Barry Bonds immediately evokes memories of steroids and legal indiscretions. He’s known as the man who took the home-run king title away from Hank Aaron while parading around as the villain of baseball.
But let’s forget all of Barry Bonds’ woes. Move on. But it seems a lot easier writing in words than to actual move on from the scrutiny like Bonds experience towards the end of his career. But it must be harder to make come back from being under surveillance from the media. Bonds was back in the spotlight this year and it wasn’t about his legal issues or whether he should be in the Hall of Fame. In March, Bonds went to Spring Training and offering a week as hitting instructor for the Giants. Bonds back in the orange and black.
Let’s remember Bonds hasn’t been in a Giants uniform and hasn’t played baseball in years. So the question is why now? Maybe it’s to reconcile with Bonds after letting him go after he broke the home-run record. The answer is Bonds loves the game. Baseball is his first love. It’s only the lasting longest relationship that Bonds have ever been in. However, it’s another way to erase the past and start over again with a new generation of players.
“He is trying to rehabilitate his image” says Henry Schulman, a SF Chronicle sports writer.
Bonds asked the Giants to come back to Spring Training, but the Giants had to think about bringing back the former face of the franchise back into the game.
“ The Giants’ brass thought about his request to come to spring training and decided they couldn’t really keep him away while they invite all their other greats from the past to come.” say Schulman about the Giants decision to bring Bonds back.
The Giants brought Bonds as a special hitting instructor for the players for one week. It must have been a sign from the baseball Gods that the Giants were getting the help they need for their offensive.

Let’s face it: the Giants could use all the help they can get when it comes to scoring, by not leaving any stranded on the bases. When Bonds arrived to Scottsdale, Arizona where the Giants Spring training is located, the media circles was there as well.
The more important question is how where the players were going to react with Bonds or how was Bonds was going to interact with the players?
According to Jim Moorehead, San Francisco Giants Head Senior Director of Media Relations. seem to be nervous on the players were going to react when they get on the field.
“He was kind of nervous how he is perspective from the players.” says Moorehead.
The Giants welcome Bonds with open arms and some were star struck by Bonds presence. According to Moorehead, right outfielder Hunter Pence had a poster of Bonds from his childhood.
It seem no one cared about the whole “steroids issue” which has plagued over Bonds. They treated him like a rock star who wanted to learn from one of the greatest hitters in the game.
Every player went to Bonds and seek for his advice on their hitting techniques.
“He sat down with all the hitters behind closed doors for forty-five minutes” said Moorehead about Bonds and his relationship with the players. Bonds worked with all of the players.
Bonds talked to the players about their hitting techniques including shortstop Brandon Crawford.
“Crawford talk about keeping his shoulders in.” says Moorehead about Crawford when it is his turn to bat. “Look at his numbers against left-handers pitchers.”
According to ESPN.com, Crawford’s stats has gone up when it comes to hitting against left handers. Crawford is averaging .400 compare to last year when he was at .199 average. That is a huge difference. After Bonds one-week training ended, there is no doubt he made an impact on the players. Giants fans have seen a difference in the offensive and notice Bonds influence over the Giants.
Antonio Solano, an art major at SF State and long-time Giants fan couldn’t be any happier to have Bonds back as a hitting instructor.
“They can definitely use someone like him and his skills to help with the offensive.” says Solano.
Solano goes on and says “You see players like Crawford and Belt are getting balls into plays instead of popping up. You can tell Bonds made impact in their hitting.”
But let’s pretend for a moment and the Giants did decide to bring Bonds as a hitting instructor. Great news to Giants fans like Solano and it is not because it will help the offensive. The reason is fans will love to see Bonds back in the black and orange uniform. But the whole “steroid issue” will resurface again. People will question either or not he did take steroids.
“I grew up watching Bonds as a kid and I remember the player who was before this whole steroids.” Solano goes on “People do not know anything about how he was as a hitter and they were not paying attention until he was breaking the record.”
Is it fair to justify Bonds as the poster child for steroids man who broke the home-run record instead of the man, the baseball player who never was afraid to hit anything.
No matter what Bonds will be that idol as one of the greatest hitters of all time. Maybe it is a good idea to bring Bonds back so the public outside of the Giants fan base and they can see Bonds before the steroids.
If it can work for McGwire, the hitting coach for the Dodgers and steroids user, why not bring Bonds back?
It’s time to  move on…now.

Jumping off the bandwagon

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Written by Jessica Mendoza

Now that baseball season is just around the corner, Giants fans are preparing themselves for another exciting season by sporting their Giants gear and rushing the ticket booths for the best seats possible.

On February 1, 2014,  AT&T Park swarmed with attendees of the twenty-first annual Giants FanFest to the point that the entrance to the fields was clogged for a long period of time. Fans spent over an hour in autograph lines just to meet their favorite player.

Where do all the Giants fans come from?

The Giants are coming off a horrific season. They finished the year nineteenth in the league and could not defend their previous title as World Champions. As a Giants fan, it was heartbreaking.

More and more people show up to Giants games than ever before. According to ESPN’s Major League Baseball attendance status report, the Giants are in the top five for most sold-out games over the last three years.

After the Giants won their first World Series title (since moving to San Francisco) in 2010, everywhere you went, someone was wearing a Giants jacket or baseball cap.

The bigger the fan base for any sports team usually means more sold out games, giving the team more morale. Right?

Many people started watching the Giants play only when they were winning, especially after their World Series championship.  However, long-time Giants fans are not very pleased with the many people jumping on the bandwagon.

Characteristics of bandwagon fans include only showing up to games when a team faces their rival, attending more games than usual when the team has a winning record, and not paying attention to the team during offseason and spring training.

“I can spot a band wagon fan by the way they dress such as going to a game with, or having on those foam fingers and wearing them during the game,” explains Marc Miranda Jr, a physical therapy major at San Francisco State.

Miranda and his parents are season ticket holders and have been attending games since the Giants played at Candlestick Park.

“Those casual fans might scoop up tickets to go to games, but then sit on their phones or talk non-stop to their neighbors or leave in the fourth inning if the home team isn’t winning,” Chelena Goldman, a sports writer for SFBay, says.

But what makes a true Giants fan? Are true fans required to have loved the Giants since birth? Do they have to attend every game throughout the season? Must they splurge on Giants gear?

Many die-hard Giants fans believe bandwagon fans are not in tune with the team at the same level as the most devoted. They think fans should watch the games both on and off the screen. Die-hard fans will watch the local sports channel for highlights and interviews and stick by the Giants during a winning or losing season.

I personally think a true baseball fan is someone who loves the game of baseball. Whether it be someone who has been a long-time fan born into a family of Giants fans like Miranda, or someone who has just jumped on the bandwagon.  If you love the game, you’re a fan.

Summer Ignites Winter

Summer Fenton, Olympic hopeful and SF State Biology major, is on her way to the pre-qualifying round in Colorado
Summer Fenton, Olympic hopeful and SF State Biology major, is on her way to the pre-qualifying round in Colorado. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress

Words and Photos by Mike Hendrickson

Summer Fenton began snowboarding when she was four years old.  By age six she was competing and had picked up her first sponsorship.

When Mammoth Mountain opened November 7th, a month earlier than the slopes in Tahoe, Fenton was among the first groups of boarders who rode the chairlifts to the top.  With winter fast approaching, Fenton is hitting the slopes in anticipation for the Olympic trials in Colorado this month.

“I want to feel how Olympians feel, I want to feel the honor and feel the competitiveness, the adrenaline, and I want to represent my country,” Fenton says.

Currently, Fenton is ranked in the top-ten nationally for women’s halfpipe competitions.  She hopes to be one of three to represent the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics this February in Sochi, Russia.

When the nineteen-year-old biology major at SF State found out last July that she was invited to the pre-qualifying competitions in Colorado, Fenton said that it provided some extra motivation.

“I needed to get on my snowboard so bad, I’ve been really hungry to go. I hadn’t snowboarded since July in Oregon. I wish I was snowboarding right now actually. It was nice to be back in my environment and I felt at bliss.”

Summer spends California’s many powderless months in workout sessions with her personal trainer. Every other day she spends two-to-three hour sessions running up sand dunes, spending time on a balance, beam or just general core strengthening.

Two years ago, Fenton suffered a head injury that cost her the season. Despite the setback, she looked ahead seeing the positives that came from the situation.

“Last year I basically had to start from the bottom and work my way up to the top, so last year was a big comeback year for me.  It ended up working out well because I did end up qualifying for the Olympic trials.”

She won the Burton US Open qualifiers which lead to being invited to one of the biggest snowboarding competitions in the nation.

“I think it’s anybody’s game and whoever stomps a run will be the winner.”

Winter is coming, and Fenton plans on being that winner.

  • Fenton is a top-ten ranked competitor in the women's halfpipe and is invited to compete in the olympic trials in Colorado this December. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton is a top-ten ranked competitor in the women's halfpipe and is invited to compete in the olympic trials in Colorado this December. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • loosens her snow boots after a day on the slopes during opening weekend at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton loosens her snow boots after a day on the slopes during opening weekend at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • Summer Fenton rides the bowl at Balboa Skatepark, San Francisco, Calif. When she's not able to practice in the snow, Fenton uses other board sports such as skateboarding and surfing to help her prepare.  Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Summer Fenton rides the bowl at Balboa Skatepark, San Francisco, Calif. When she's not able to practice in the snow, Fenton uses other board sports such as skateboarding and surfing to help her prepare. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • Fenton keeps balance while holding up one leg on the balancing beam. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton keeps balance while holding up one leg on the balancing beam. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • does exercises with leg bands and weights at Lake Merced in San Francisco, Calif. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton does exercises with leg bands and weights at Lake Merced in San Francisco, Calif. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
  • Fenton keeps balance while her personal trainer provides resistance during a training session at Lake Merced. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress
    Fenton keeps balance while her personal trainer provides resistance during a training session at Lake Merced. Photo by Mike Hendrickson / Xpress

The End Of An Era

Remains of tailgating at Candlestick Park after the 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals 32-20 on Sunday, Oct 13, 2013. This will be the last season the 49ers play at the 'Stick'. Photo by Benjamin Kamps / Xpress
Remains of tailgating at Candlestick Park after the 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals 32-20 on Sunday, Oct 13, 2013. This will be the last season the 49ers play at the ‘Stick’. Photo by Benjamin Kamps / Xpress

Written by Jake Montero
Photos by Benjamin Kamps

The destruction of Candlestick Park will mark the end of its more than fifty years as a professional sports forum.  It will signal the end of professional football in San Francisco, a tradition of forty-two years that has spawned five Super Bowl champions.

San Francisco’s original waterfront stadium was once seen as a model of modern engineering.  Opened on April 12, 1960 Candlestick Park has gradually drifted to the other end of the spectrum, now considered obsolete both as a sports venue and an aesthetically pleasing attraction.  In early 2014, after the 49ers complete their season, their longtime home will be stuffed full of dynamite and quickly imploded into a pile of rubble, making way for the new Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment project.

The 49ers future home, Levi’s Stadium, is currently being constructed in the South Bay city of Santa Clara, with building costs totaling about $1.2 billion.  The 49ers will be the second team to leave Candlestick for new digs, the San Francisco Giants being the first with their departure to then Pacific Bell Park in 1999.

Despite complaints about the stadium’s swirling winds, lack of general aesthetic value and hilariously disgusting trough style urinals, Candlestick’s unique character has set it apart from its contemporaries.  Character that will be sorely missed by those who have shared wonderful experiences within its decaying exterior.

“It’s very melancholy for me, I’m probably gonna tear up for that last game” says Cooper Reynolds, a former 49ers season ticket holder.  “I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember and I’ve never missed a game there.  It’s a pain in the ass to get to, it’s run down and it’s old.  But it has character and history and great moments that are second to none.  That’s something you can’t build.”

For those who have followed the franchise over the years, there is nearly unanimous agreement that the legendary touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship game is one of the quintessential events in the stadium’s history, and in the history of the 49er franchise.

With the Niners down six points in the game’s closing moments, a third-year quarterback named Joe Montana marched his team down the field eighty-three yards only to stall on the Dallas Cowboy’s six-yard line.  On the next play, Montana rolled to his right under heavy pressure from three Cowboy defenders.  Off his back foot, Montana floated the ball over the outstretched arms of six-foot nine-inch Dallas defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones, in what many assumed was an act of desperation.  Miraculously, the fingertips of Montana’s rookie year roommate, a fully stretched wide receiver Dwight Clark, brought the pigskin back to Earth, and sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

In addition to becoming an iconic image, “The Catch” is seen as the beginning of the 49ers 1980s dynasty and the first in a series of memorable playoff games against the Cowboys.

“You probably have to go with the ‘81 Championship game”, says Reynolds when asked about the greatest moment in the stadium’s history.  “Before that play, those guys on the field weren’t the Niners as we know them now.  They’d never been to a Super Bowl.  The play has actually become overrated, but it was their up and coming moment and is certainly remembered most.”

The Cowboys could’ve actually won the game just seconds later.  When Dallas got the ball back with less than a minute to go, the Niners blew coverage and allowed all-pro wide receiver Drew Pearson to catch a pass over the middle with room to run.  A game saving grab of Pearson’s collar by Niners defensive back Eric Wright bailed out the 49ers and squandered any attempt to soil the legacy of Dwight Clark’s now infamous touchdown catch.

“That play literally built the 49ers franchise.  It was a monumental upset,” says Chace Bryson, 35, a season ticket holder who’s been to about seventy games at Candlestick.

The Catch might be the most iconic moment in the stadiums history, but certainly wasn’t the last time the 49ers would score a go-ahead touchdown at the end of an important playoff game.

The 2011 Divisional Playoff against the New Orleans Saints was the first postseason game to be hosted at Candlestick in nine years. In the final minute, the 49ers drove sixty-one yards to the New Orleans fourteen-yard line.  With nine seconds left, quarterback Alex Smith capped off arguably the best performance of his career at Candlestick, by fearlessly firing a bullet to the back shoulder of well covered tight end Vernon Davis.  Davis, who had suffered for five years on sub-par Niners teams, made the catch and held on for dear life, emerging from the pile with his first career playoff victory and tears of joy running down his face.  The touchdown sent the 49ers to their first NFC Championship in fifteen years.

“I was sitting in the upper reserve, in the corner of the end zone facing the Jumbotron,” Bryson says.  “Smith makes the throw to Davis.  I can only describe the feeling as euphoric.  I’ve never heard Candlestick so loud…it was epic.  There were plenty of hugs and definitely some tears.  As far as a stadium experience goes, it doesn’t get better than that.”

Ironically, a stadium that will be most remembered for legendary football moments, is the only current NFL stadium originally built for baseball.  Though it seems like ancient history now, Candlestick was also the home of the world champion San Francisco Giants for nearly four decades.  After the 49ers arrival in 1971, the attempt to convert the stadium into a multi-purpose facility wasn’t without its flaws, leading to many obscured sight lines and left entire sections of seats virtually unusable due to lack of visibility.  San Francisco resident Bjorn Griepenburg has been to upwards of sixty games at Candlestick, the vast majority of those Giants games as a young boy with his father.

“The first time I saw it, it was the first time I ever went to a pro stadium and as a kid it was a spectacular sight,” says Griepenburg.  “I remember I just couldn’t believe the size and the number of people.”

Griepenburg misses Candlestick as the Giants’ home because its lack of extracurricular stadium activities ensured that everyone who made the trek was there to support the team.  He feels that the move to an expensive and polished new stadium alienated some longtime supporters, and that new technological distractions create an atmosphere and a fanbase that is no longer hanging on every play.

“My biggest complaint when they moved was they were moving to a park not built around baseball.  It was all about the Coke slide and the giant mitt,” says Griepenburg referring to the Giants current home at AT&T Park.  “Even as a kid I refused to ride that thing because I thought it was a stupid distraction.  When they left Candlestick it wasn’t the same diehards.  Now it’s a wine and sushi crowd on their cell phones networking.”

Many have complained for years about Candlestick’s obsolete facilities, cramped hallways, lack of women’s restrooms, its “middle-of-nowhere” location, and lack of state-of-the-art technology (have you seen the “Jumbotron”?).  However, that doesn’t stop longtime visitors from feeling more bitter than sweet about the execution of a football cathedral.

“I’ll remember it as a place of happiness, great memories, even in the bad years,” says Bryson.  “Something about football is it’s okay to have a cramped stadium.  There’s some charm in having the leagues most outdated stadium.  It’s part of a collective experience where you suffer along with the players. Fans go for the experience, to pack in with your buddies and everybody is pulling in the same direction. The new stadium feels a little too much like corporate NFL.”

After the 49ers were unable agree with the city of San Francisco on a deal for a new park within the city limits, the move to an alternate location became inevitable.  The new venue in Santa Clara will be the most technologically advanced stadium in NFL history, with an unprecedented Wi-Fi network that will allegedly support access from every fan simultaneously and downloadable apps that tell you which beer line is the shortest.  Unfortunately, the astronomical cost of tickets and distance from the city is going to stop some fans from attending.

“A lot of people including me are being priced out,” Bryson says.  “Season tickets would be double and I’d be driving much farther so there would be much more money involved.  I understand it, but I wish there was a way to keep them closer.”

“Candlestick has that special place in the hearts of the fans,” Griepenburg concludes.  “It rises out of a parking lot in one of the worst neighborhoods, it’s architecturally awful and an eyesore.  But a stadium can become so much more than a place to watch sports.  Stadiums are like church to a lot of people.  It’s one of the last places where you can go where everybody is pulling for the same thing.  It’s just an extraordinary place.”

With the 49ers looking like one of the best teams in the NFC, there is always the possibility for a historical farewell Super Bowl run that would no doubt be a perfect send off.  Regardless, it would be in the cities best interest to give the stadium some sort of farewell aside from the climactic dynamite spectacle.

“I think they should have one more Giants vs. Dodgers series before destroying it,” Griepenburg says.  “That would be perfect.”