Warriors are not collapsing; they are getting beat

The national media is salivating at the thought the Golden State Warriors may lose their Western Conference Final series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In true journalistic form they love building you up and love tearing you down. In many instances we are seeing the true dis-taste the pontificators and pundits have for the DubNation.

In one respect it’s understandable. Whether in life or in sports most of us are reticent to change. We fight change. We knock the status quo. The Warriors in their own delightful way have bucked the trends and have done things their own way. They are not conventional. When clicking they are hard to fathom in their greatness. So when someone comes along (Oklahoma City) and kicks them in the teeth and takes their lunch money, there is much rejoicing. Whether it’s Charles Barkley on TNT or Chris Russo on Mad Dog Radio, if the Dubs lose those two will both enjoy their post-mortem exam

One storyline being pushed is that the Warriors are collapsing. Nothing could be further from the truth. The definition of “collapse” is; “structure falling down or giving way.” The Warriors aren’t falling down or giving way. They are being overwhelmed by a brute force. They aren’t succumbing to any type of external pressures. They aren’t tired from the 73-win grind. They aren’t injured preventing them from performing. These are all excuses of teams that fail to live up to the expectation of some of the “experts” among us. To say the Warriors are collapsing is discount the greatness of Oklahoma City in this series. They are doing everything a team needs to do to stop and contain the Warriors. They are running with the Warriors. They have the perimeter athleticism to pressure Steph Curry and Klay Thompson from making smart and accurate entries. They have been “smartly” physical is disrupting routes to the bucket. They have rendered Draymond Green useless with size and pressure and defensive rotations. Throw in their role players playing great basketball and the capper, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are the two best players on the court.

This is not a collapse. This is a tsunami that is washing the Warriors ashore.

I don’t know what tonight holds. I don’t know what the rest of the series holds. I don’t know everything, but I do know this. There are times in life and there are times in sports when the perfect storm arises and as a person and franchise there isn’t much you can do about it. We may be witnessing that time right now for our beloved Dubs.

Warriors lose and I’m NOT WORRIED……

The Golden State Warriors loss in Game 1 of their Western Conference Final series versus Oklahoma City is not surprising considering how poorly the Dubs played.

I give all the credit in the world to the Thunder. They kept grinding it out and waited for their opening, sadly for Dubs fans the Warriors gave OKC numerous openings. Poor shot selection and quick shots while leading by double digits was the death-knell. Carelessness with the ball was clearly the Dubs un-doing and chances to add-on turned into buckets in transition for the Thunder.

Steven Adams was tremendous registering a double-double as the Thunder stayed with what they do well and that is go big. Russell Westbrook shook off a 1-for-10 to score 19 points in the 3rd quarter and finish with 27.

The Warriors clearly had trouble with Westbrook’s dribble attacks. His aggressiveness in the 3rd quarter was a tone-setter. It was something the Warriors could stymie during the regular season, they will have to get back to those defensive principles in Game 2 and beyond. Saying they need to defend Westbrook better is easy,  how do you do it ? Not easy. Dubs will need to throw multiple bodies at him and try to guard him with length. Iguodala is the natural choice but he needs to be on Durant. Thompson is probably where the Dubs need to go and hope he can slow him down.

We are already hearing the Warriors talk about how they played the Thunder’s game in Game one. Shaun Livingston, “I think we played their game tonight instead of them playing our game.” Andre Iguodala saw problems with the Warriors pace, “we gotta find our pace at a more consistent level.”

Notice, nary a word about missing so many shots or taking so many rushed shots.

Contrary to what the national media and the Dubs haters will want you to believe, the outcome was only slightly because of things the Thunder did.  Let’s be intellectually honest here, the Warriors were pretty bad. The ball didn’t move. Isolation dribble drives were preferred over pick-and-rolls and ball movement. If OKC is going to insist on playing big the Warriors need to make them pay with ball movement and pick-and-rolls causing mis-matches. They did that tonight on occasion but not nearly enough. When Kerr, Walton and company look at the game film it will become clear.

I am not very concerned. Am I in denial ? Maybe. I just don’t see it. As good as KD and Westbrook are I don’t see the liabilities that Kanter and Waiters are defensively being able to get the Thunder over the top. The haters are hoping that THIS is the Warriors team that shows up the rest of the series. I regret to inform them that this is the worst game the Warriors will play in this series.

The Warriors will win this series. The only question is will it last 5 or 6 games.

From outhouse to penthouse as Cats claim CCAA Tourney title

Be honest, you didn’t think they could do this. Be honest, No fibs here people.  After a tumultuous and sometimes rocky ride the 2016 Chico State Wildcats baseball team silenced the doubters and in turn wrote their own glorious chapter in Chico State baseball lore.

With four wins in four days, squeezed around a gut-wrenching loss the Cats summoned the guts and guile of some of Chico State’s greatest teams. The Wildcats have punched their ticket to the NCAA West Regional.

Chico State not only limped into the conference tournament, they needed a walker. Chico had dropped 5 of 8 against two sub .500 teams and had lost 13 of 22 over a five-week stretch. Even the greatest of optimists would have been pushing the envelope in thinking the Wildcats could turn the table.

In the end, this is a story about a team that refused to be deterred, refused to let recent poor performance dictate their current circumstance and a team that showed a toughness and resiliency that has been a hallmark of the Chico State program.

In winning the school’s fourth CCAA Conference Tournament title the Wildcats exorcised numerous demons from the previous three months. Their win over Pomona avenged a 9-2 shellacking where CCAA Pitcher of the Year Michael Koval threw a three-hitter over 8 innings out-pitching Clayton Gelfand. This time Gelfand twirled 7 gutty innings, not giving up an earned run and holding Pomona to 1-for-16 hitting with runners on base and 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Their win over Monterey Bay signaled the signature moment for sophomore starter Hunter Haworth. He not only won two must-win contests against Sonoma and Stanislaus over the last couple of weeks, but he shoved against the power hitting Otters. Haworth scattered five hits over 8 innings and carved up a potent Monterey line-up.

The win over East Bay on Friday night was a performance for the ages by Steven Baker. The right-hander had lost six straight decisions, primarily out of the bullpen. His gem came just a day after surrendering a game tying double to UC San Diego with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 9th inning. But Baker shoved all of that aside and shut-down the conference’s best-hitting team, limiting East Bay to 7 hits and 2 runs over seven and a third innings as Chico played themselves into the title game with a 4-2 win.

There are not enough superlatives we can shower on Wildcat reliever Grant Wright. The submarining right-hander took the ball in the fourth inning of the title game on Saturday, pitching in his fifth straight game and for the fourth straight day. Wright pitched 5 innings of one run ball before tiring in the 9th. But, his tenacity and bulldog demeanor signified a sea-change for this 2016 team.

Historically this is a program that doesn’t get “excited” by CCAA Tournament championships. There hasn’t always been an emphasis put on this tournament,  but this year was different. Chico State played so poorly down the stretch that their regional lives were hanging in the balance. There were scenarios that if Chico went 0-2 or even 1-2 in this tournament that they would not be going to the regional. Faced with the prospect of folding and completing an epic collapse, the Wildcats instead chose to fight, to dig deep, to grind, to “figure it out” as a club. No one could do it for them. This was all about those guys in that uniform. So, while we all celebrate them and what our favorite baseball team accomplished. I think this group should take great pride in the fact that they rescued a season that was sinking fast. They went on a run against some very good teams and played at a championship level. I for one see no reason why they can’t continue this amazing run.

A week ago  Wildcat faithful were lamenting a series loss to Stanislaus State. But now, here we sit, with a banner that will hang from the rafters of Acker. I put nothing past this group. They remind me of another group of ne’er do wells, the 2006 Wildcats. Supremely talented, frustrating at times, but gutty and hard-nosed. Each and every time that team was counted out, they responded, they refused to give in. This group has had a ton of chances to do the same thing, they haven’t quit.

There has been nothing easy about this season. The players will tell you that, the coaches will tell you that, the fans, heck even the broadcaster, but I would rather go to battle with a group that has been tested, then a team that has faced no adversity all season long.  No one can ever take away the last four days from this group. This feat belongs to them. And now they have a chance to add a chapter or two to this amazing story.

*PHOTO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS VISIT THEIR WEBSITE AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM 

New found love for CCAA Tournament….

Sometimes out of a necessity you embrace something that has been seen as a hindrance or speed bump to your overall success. We see it all the time in every walk of life. How many times has a conservative complained about big government Medicare and prescription drug benefits, only to tout the programs when they desperately need them. Necessity breeds understanding.

This is where the Chico State Wildcats baseball program  is today. Embracing the CCAA Tournament as their sole life line to the NCAA West Region Championship tournament. Historically this early post-season confluence of conference foes was a pre-cursor and tune-up for the big prize, the regional. Nothing could be further from the truth this week.

The CCAA Championships is the Wildcats nadir. Their regional hopes ride on their performance over the next four days . I know it. They know it.

I will spare the Wildcat faithful the insidious numbers since April 3rd. I would rather focus on when this team was a dynamic offensive machine hitting nearly .340 as a club with an on base percentage hovering near .420. Sitting at 22-6 on the night of April 2nd in San Marcos, I never thought they would be in this position.

Several years ago after a change in Wildcat fortunes I said, “baseball is a fickle mistress.” She has never been so downright audacious.

There is no diminishing the conference tournament today in Wildcat land. It is Chico’s lifeline to more baseball next week. I saw this team perform with machine-like efficiency for two months, its time to recapture the magic.

For 20 years Chico State baseball has been about performing when the lights shine the brightest, they are shining. I fully expect them to rise to the occasion

Chico State parents turn on one of their own

The old adage is, if you go to the ballpark you will see something you have never seen before each and every time you go. That certainly happened to me over the weekend broadcasting the Chico State and San Francisco State series from San Francisco.

As the Chico State Wildcats were playing game two of their double-header on Saturday afternoon, a miniature up-rising of Chico State parents took exception to my descriptions and analysis of what was happening on the field. Let me be clear, it is well within their right to question my descriptions, especially if they are present and disagree. Hell, they can even disagree if they are not present. Momma and poppa can certainly think the radio guy is a horses arse and refuse to give his calls, descriptions and opinions any credence. I have no problem with that. They aren’t the first and they certainly won’t be the last. But, there were some comments that I did take exception to, and feel my role as a play-by-play broadcaster needs to be clarified.

First a little background, I grew up learning the trade listening and admiring the great Bill King. His descriptions and accounts were impeccably on point. His detractors cite his effusive opinions that didn’t pull any punches. He is the guy I admired. He taught me the game. King called a spade a spade and I loved that about him.

In my 19 years behind the microphone I have had several mis-steps during games. It kind of goes with the territory when you broadcast for hours on end. You come to expect the occasional foible, it’s part of the deal. It usually comes when a broadcaster backs themselves into a corner verbally, and they flail to get out. Saturday was not one of those days, which makes the parental outburst all that more confusing.

During the game in question Saturday, the Chico State pitcher was struggling with his command, struggling to find his location and hit his spots. You combine this with a ridiculously small and tight strike zone and you have the makings for some trouble. So, as the pitches continued to be called balls, and the frustration mounted the peanut gallery (Chico State fans) got a little bit perturbed and start voicing their displeasure toward the home plate umpire. Let me add, all well within their right. But, in San Francisco my broadcasting venue is behind the back-stop to the left of home plate. Not directly behind home plate, but to the left. My crowd microphone was picking up everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. There came a point, where those of us behind the dish got a little uncomfortable with the comments, as San Francisco State staff and myself kind of looked around to witness the vociferous reactions. As the broadcaster, knowing listeners at home were hearing this, I felt I needed to expound upon the reactions that were being transmitted through the crowd mic.

As the pitches out of the strike zone mounted, the voices grew louder. My contention on the broadcast was, “if you are a pitcher, and you don’t have any command of the strike zone you should not expect border line pitches to be called strikes from an umpire that has a tight zone and hasn’t seen you establish any of your pitches.” Broadcasting out in the open is never really fun. It’s better to be self-contained in a booth where one can have some semblance of privacy, in this instance I needed it.

Chico State parents took exception to this analysis of the strike zone and where these pitches actually were. Some of the comments that reigned down, “get with it, you are clueless.” (Good One), “you are a Chico State announcer, you shouldn’t be saying these things, you need to be supportive of Chico State” (talk about this in a moment) “I am behind home plate, these pitches are right over the plate, you have no idea what you are talking about.” (LOL)

Love it !!!!

Let me answer a few of these things since I couldn’t answer my “home” fans while on the radio. First, any parent or fan would be hard pressed to find someone who wants Chico State to win more than me. Chico State is my alma mater. I have broadcast Chico State athletics for 23 years dating back to my days as a student. I absolutely want Chico State to win in all athletic endeavors every single time without exception. My competitiveness when it comes to Chico State winning is obsessive. I am happy and gleeful when they win, I am bummed and trudge around the house when they lose. So, this inference that I relish their demise is comical.

My job as a radio broadcaster is to provide, what I believe to be an accurate account of what is taking place for the Chico State fans. It’s not to sugar-coat a sub-par performance from an athlete when he or she isn’t performing. This is not an indictment on that player as a person, it’s just about their performance. I would venture to guess not many of those in attendance on Saturday would agree with the legions around the conference who have asserted that I am the ultimate”homer” in the CCAA. I have never thought of myself as a “homer” where I mask the performance of Chico State athletes with platitudes.

Being called “clueless” been there…..done that. “No idea what I’m talking about” not the first time I”ve heard that. “Being a Chico State announcer, and having to tailor my description a certain way.” Well, I haven’t done that for 23 years and it’s probably not a good idea to start now.

The crux of the problem on Saturday was I simply didn’t think command had been established, so when a pitcher throws some borderline pitches, doesn’t get them, and then complains, he isn’t going to get any calls. The peanut gallery can disagree, heck even Chico State head coach Dave Taylor got ejected for his disgust with the strike zone. I agree, the zone was tiny and it was horrible. How else would a 7-inning game last three hours ? What I was trying to impart, as I usually do during a broadcast is “today, those aren’t strikes, and if you want them to be strikes, you better have command.” If I was an umpire, I wouldn’t have called those strikes either. I can certainly empathize with Chico State fans who thought the San Francisco State pitcher was getting those borderline calls. In fact, he was. He was also getting hit hard by Wildcat hitters. Therefore there weren’t a lot of deep and leveraged counts.

The passion of Chico State fans is unmatched. I am far from perfect. I make mistakes all the time. Heck, I may even be wrong about this. But one thing has always been clear to me, being a Chico State broadcaster shouldn’t blind me to the reality of the action, and Saturday it didn’t.