Right Field: Streets of San Francisco are paved with sporting gold

Californian city is blessed with spectacular landscapes, a booming economy and, now, championship-calibre sports teams

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 February, 2013, 4:00am

The traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area is so brutal, it robs you of your spirit. And when you wander around the city you spend most of your days dodging endless panhandlers. Of course none of that should come as a surprise considering the fractious nature of local politics, which is more theatre of the absurd than civic service. And let's not even talk about the weather because a summer day is often a bone-chillingly frigid experience in haughty San Fran.

Yet despite all that, folks around the Bay Area are digging themselves something fierce these days. Sure, some of the most desirable property in the world is just across the Golden Gate Bridge in the groovy hills of Marin County and a little further north is the world-class wining and dining of the Napa Valley. Lake Tahoe is due east and down south on the peninsula the way the world lives is constantly redefined as the tech boom rages on in the Silicon Valley. And let's not forget the city itself, home to a plethora of entertainment and dining options where almost every corner is a postcard.

What it all means is simple: there is clearly no place in the universe that needs humbling right now more than the San Francisco Bay Area. But unfortunately for those not residing there, it doesn't look like it will be happening anytime soon.

As the corporate orgy known as the Super Bowl returns to New Orleans for the first time in 11 years, not to mention the first time since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005, the San Francisco 49ers arrived as four-point favourites to beat the Baltimore Ravens for the NFL championship.

But as far as the city of San Francisco beating the city of Baltimore, or any other US metropolis for that matter, there is no betting line because the Bay Area is absolutely destroying the rest of the country. The Giants just won their second World Series in three years and they play in arguably the most scenic sporting facility in the world. Their waterfront ballpark has been sold out for years and the team not only have great young pitching talent, they now have tons of money and astute management to spend it. This run could go on for a bit.

Meanwhile the perpetually hapless Golden State Warriors are now surprise contenders in the NBA thanks to a dynamic young team led by Steph Curry. The Warriors have also announced that they will build a glittering new arena on the shores of the bay a few blocks away from the Giants park and come September that same bay will be a hub for the 34th America's Cup to be hosted by the Golden Gate Yacht Club featuring some of the most spectacular urban scenery the venerable race has ever seen. But because too much of a good thing is obviously not enough, here come the resurgent Niners.

During the 1980s and 90s, the likes of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young led the 49ers to five Super Bowl titles and cemented their place as the kings of Bay Area sports. This century, however, had not been a good one for the team until the arrival of the prodigal son in 2011. Like the brilliant Bill Walsh in the 70s, Jim Harbaugh also worked wonders coaching at Stanford University before migrating about 40 minutes north to take over the 49ers. In his first season they were in the conference championship game, in his second they are in the Super Bowl.

After leading his team to a 6-2 start to the season, quarterback Alex Smith was sidelined with a concussion. Harbaugh turned to a little known 25-year-old backup named Colin Kaepernick and the rest, as they say, is history. Kaepernick comes in to this Super Bowl as the most riveting young talent in the game thanks to record setting play-off performances.

It was Harbaugh who kept Kaepernick at starter even when Smith was ready to return and it will likely be Harbaugh who is set to enjoy a long lasting run of success with Kaepernick similar to what Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have produced over the past decade in New England. And regardless of what happens in this Super Bowl, next season the 49ers will move into a brand new, revenue rich stadium which almost assures that most free agents looking for one last shot at glory will have them at the top of their list.

So yes, this run could go on for a bit and that means business as usual in the Bay Area these days.