Global Golf Post: McIlroy Leaves Without A Word

By Art Spander
Global Golf Post

OAKMONT, PENNSYLVANIA — He had telegraphed his feelings clearly upon arrival. "I'm obviously excited to be here," Rory McIlroy told us a few days earlier at Oakmont. But now after missing the cut he wasn't saying anything other than, "I'm not talking."

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2016 Global Golf Post


S.F. Examiner: Fans’ faith not enough against rejuvenated Cavs

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

The crowd had come for a coronation, a celebration, an evening of noise and joy on which their basketball team, the Warriors, the record setters, the defending champions, would make it two titles in row, would start an NBA dynasty. But something was missing — maybe because someone was missing, Draymond Green.

And so the noise ebbed, the joy diminished. The coronation was put on hold.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Sharks' dream run ends by watching Penguins celebrate

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

There’s only one winner. As we know so well. And so painfully, if the players we choose, the team we choose, is not that winner. Then too often, that ultimate loss, in the Wimbledon final, in the Super Bowl or in this instance for the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup, overwhelms all the bliss and the results that went before.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


Red Sox beat Giants at Fenway West

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy told us it was just a game. Of course, that was before it was played. That was two hours before the first pitch, and a reporter wondered if the Giants against the Red Sox would give both teams, particularly San Francisco, the chance to find out whether each was as good as some thought.

Including the players.

“Same thing when the Cubs came in,” said Bochy, the Giants manager. “What these guys (his Giants) have been through, I don’t think they have to measure themselves against anybody.” Then he added, “This is a tough group, Boston.”

Very tough. And if the game, which the Sox won 5-3 in 10 cold innings Tuesday night at AT&T Park, wasn’t a measure, for the Giants it had to be a disappointment — and proof that missed tags and wild throws will beat you just as quickly as big hits.

No, this one wasn’t ordinary. Maybe no game involving the Red Sox is ordinary. Boston people can’t get out of their city quick enough. They go to Florida, to California, everywhere.

But if they leave the premises, they don’t leave their fanaticism for the old town team. They take great delight in overwhelming visiting ballparks, chanting “Let’s go Boston,” and generally acting as if the Red Sox had never traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

It’s one thing when, say, the Boston expatriates fill the normally empty seats at the Oakland Coliseum when the Red Sox face the A’s. But to see them swarming sold out AT&T is a bit unnerving. The place looked and sounded like Fenway West.

“Boston has a huge following,” Bochy as much as warned pre-game when asked if this two-game series were special, “and so do we. Both are storied franchises that have been very successful the past decade. It creates interest. These two teams are having great years.”

The most recent part of the Giants’ year has been less than great. San Francisco now has dropped three straight, two on the road to the St. Louis Cardinals and then the return home against the Red Sox.

“The little things hurt us,” said Bochy. He meant catcher Trevor Brown throwing the ball into center field on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s steal in the seventh, then on a ground ball to short by pinch hitter David Ortiz, the runner from first, Chris Young, eluding the tag by a diving Brandon Crawford. What looked like it could have been a double play instead was only a single out, and Bradley dashed in from third to tie the game, 3-3.

In the 10th, with Santiago Casilla working his second inning for the Giants, Boston’s Mookie Betts laid down a bunt with two on and no one out — and beat it out. “We didn’t handle that one,” said Bochy. Not at all.

The Giants did get the runner from third on a force at home, but then with two strikes Xander Bogaerts blooped a ball in front of center fielder Denard Span, driving in the game-winners.

If there was any consolation for the Giants, it was the pitching of Albert Suarez, making his second start of the season. “We just want him to give us a chance,” Bochy said before the game. “I hope he throws like he did in his last start.”

He threw better, allowing only five hits, one walk and two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. “Albert did a great job,” affirmed Bochy. 

Which most of us wouldn’t say about Casilla, although Bochy wasn’t critical of his closer, especially since he pitched more than the normal one inning. Sandy Leon led off the 10th with a double, however, and Casilla and the Giants were in trouble.

“That’s a tough lineup,” said Bochy of the Red Sox. “They lead the majors in offense and scoring. I thought our pitching did a very good job.”

When someone wondered if he might change his closer, Bochy all but shrugged. “I still have confidence in Casilla,” he said.


Sharks need answers beneath beards and clichés

By Art Spander

SAN JOSE — What are the Sharks going to say? That they’re not as good as the Pittsburgh Penguins — which, obviously, they’re not. Athletes never say that, even though deep down, beneath the beards and the clichés, they may think that way.

Instead, they tell us what we’ve heard dozens of times from teams in a hole — mainly that they just need a break or, more precisely, a goal.

Just need to play from in front, something that in the first Stanley Cup final of their quarter-century history, the San Jose Sharks have been unable to do.

They did win the third game in overtime on Saturday. But those few seconds that led to eternity marked the only time in four games, including Monday night’s 3-1 loss, that the Sharks held a lead.

The Penguins were favored in this final, and it’s easy to understand why. They skate better, score faster and keep control. Four games, the last two here at SAP, where the enthusiasm of the sellout crowds diminished as the periods mounted — reality can crush even the most optimistic of fans — and there’s no mistaking a trend. Or a mismatch.

So strange the comparisons between the Bay Area’s two teams in the finals, the Warriors, rolling along in the NBA over a Cleveland Cavaliers squad that is saying it just needs to perform as normal, and the Sharks, being rolled over — all right, skated over — and uttering the same responses.

This doesn’t mean either the Sharks or Cavs are to be keel-hauled by that awful description, loser, because how can you be a loser if the team has won enough to reach the final step? It’s just that the media and the fans put so much stock in championships that sometimes the character and success that had everyone gleeful is abruptly discounted.

Sure, the Sharks could win the next game, Thursday in Pittsburgh, but also it could snow Thursday in San Jose. Neither will happen. Yes, as Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said matter-of-factly, the games have been close — Game 4 on Monday was the only one decided by more than one goal — but that emphasizes even more the difference between the teams.

The Penguins find ways to win the close games. That’s the ultimate mark of a champion.

“We’ve got to find a way to get on the board early,” DeBoer said. Exactly. But why would they be able to do it now when they couldn’t four consecutive games?

The only thing that’s certain is if they don’t have the lead when the next game is over, the series is over, and the Sharks will be standing there at the handshake contemplating next year.

Maybe they already are. Joe Pavelski, who played so many years before reaching the Cup final, implied that the Sharks on occasion have been virtual spectators, maybe overwhelmed by playing on the NHL’s biggest stage.

“Sometimes the players didn’t make the play,” he said. “You want to keep it simple.” You’ve heard it before in other sports: the Super Bowl is just a football game, the U.S. Open just a golf tournament. But when you’ve never been there after waiting your whole career, years and years, to get there, the approach is different — not necessarily frenzied, but less focused. Or too focused, not relaxed.

After the game, too many of the Sharks used the word “if” in their conversations with the media. If they had capitalized on the passing early on. If they had played the first and second periods as intensely and aggressively as they did the third, when they got their lone goal, by Melker Karlsson, well ... you know the rest of the comment.

But they didn’t, because the Penguins, who locked it up with that third goal after Karlsson’s score, wouldn’t let them.

“We have to find ways to get the first goal,” said the Sharks' Logan Couture. “We haven’t played our best hockey. I think everyone has another level they can rely on.”

Said DeBoer: “We’ve been chasing the lead the whole series.”

The lead and the Penguins.