Crunch Time: Oh sweet championship relief
by Peter Burke / Press-Banner
Dec 29, 2010 | 9077 views | 0 0 comments | 575 575 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Christmas day, I opened a box from my parents. In it was a T-shirt. It was not just any T-shirt. It was a 2010 San Francisco Giants World Series Championship T-shirt.

Two months later, it’s still sinking in. The Giants are the champions of the world.

In my predictions column a year ago, I wrote this: “The Bay Area is a wonderful place to be a professional-sports fan, although an occasional championship would be nice.”

I had sense of malaise about sports in 2010, and the San Francisco Giants’ improbable road to the top shook me to my core.

Before I make predictions for 2011, I have to let you know how bad it got.

In August, I stopped using an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. No matter how tired I was during the week, my eyes would pop open between 6:50 and 7 a.m. Like clockwork, I would get out of bed, shave, shower and dress, simply biding my time until Murph and Mac on the KNBR 680 morning show would interview Kruk, Kuip or Jon Miller, the Giants announcers, at 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

The announcers broke down the previous night’s game, talked about the Giants’ situation and hyped that night’s matchup. I don’t think I missed a show for two months during the pennant race. Something special was happening. It was championship fever. It was talked about in the grocery stores, coffee shops, schools and bars, even in line at the gas station. There was a level of interest in a sports team that I can’t remember since the ’89 earthquake series.

But bygones are bygones, and soon it will be spring training and a fresh start.

Here are a couple of tempered predictions for 2011. (Last year I predicted the Sharks would win the Stanley Cup, and look how that turned out!)

• With Mike Singletary and Alex Smith gone, the San Francisco 49ers will go 7-9 and miss the playoffs. The division still stinks. The 49ers are still rebuilding. The only way the team improves on the record is if an accomplished quarterback comes in and takes control of the offense.

• The Oakland Raiders will finish atop the AFC West with a 10-6 record as Al Davis slowly lets his coaches actually coach more than ever. The team is very talented and appears to have found a steady, solid quarterback in Jason Campbell and a strong runner in Darren McFadden. Coach Tom Cable has weathered Davis’ best and made it through. The team is on the upswing.

• Behind a second-half surge, the San Jose Sharks will win the Western Conference as a No. 3 seed and make the NHL finals. Once they get there, it’s a craps shoot. If the Sharks are hot, then they will win. If they are playing a young team with confidence, they are shot. With Thornton, Heatley, Marleau, Clowe, Pavelski and rookie Logan Couture, they have as much talent as anyone. So far, it has not come through.

• It pains me to say this, but the Giants will win the West and battle the Phillies to six games before succumbing in the National League Championship Series.

• The surprise team of the Bay Area in 2011 will be the Oakland A’s. After shedding Erik Chavez, Billy Bean has assembled a young pitching staff that’s as good as any in the American League in Brett Andersen, Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden. Adding Josh Willingham and David DeJesus will improve the offense in a weaker division.

Thanks to the Giants, 2010 was awesome. Will 2011 deliver? Only time will tell.

• To comment, e-mail editor Peter Burke at peter@pressbanner.com or call 438-2500.

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