Sporting News

The wonderful world of sport, packaged to appeal to a city of blasé cafe intellectuals

SFW: In other words, Fineman displayed the kind of fast-twitch muscle action, fancy footwork, and layered sporting strategy that has marked champions through time. Thanks for your thoughts, John.

But did Fineman learn anything in this round he might use in future contests? Will Fineman Associates seek to defend its Bulldog title. Where do they go from here?


Fineman: I would say that I am proud of my agency's role in this situation, that we came in with good intentions, and we counseled what was right and good, and our client listened, and at least for that moment in time, the right thing happened. The right thing happened, and the radio station reopened.

SFW: It certainly did, Michael. Thank you.

If you ask any former athlete what aspect of competition he is glad to have left behind, you'll likely hear him describe the fear that throbs in a champion's chest on the morning before an important event. It's a terror born of the painful knowledge that prowess will someday fade, that the champion will lose; he will be forced to return to life as an ordinary man. It was a feeling that fading San Francisco champion Willie Brown no doubt felt, very early last Thursday morning, on Bike to Work Day.

Like Jacques Anquetil or Francesco Moser before him, Brown is in the twilight of his reign. Sure, he still won, but it seems that, these days, he prevailed through inertia, rather than through enterprise. But if the glory has faded, opponents still have to fear Brown's powerful, seasoned team -- and his continued stature as patrónof the California peloton(2).

Brown arrived at the Huntington Square Park start line about 8 a.m., milled around a few minutes, talked to reporters, mounted his silver aluminum Specialized Crossroads bicycle, and then pushed off toward the front of the 25-strong group in the direction of City Hall. The first two blocks following the start were calm enough, with Brown pedaling smooth, confident strokes near the front of the pack. Wearing a "Still Da Mayor" baseball cap and a "Presidency of the United States" jacket, he looked every bit a champion. Then, somewhere around Sutter Street, up-and-coming challenger Aaron Peskin appeared as if from nowhere. Pulling an audacious move, he opened a gap between himself and the main group of riders that seemed harmless at first. But by the time O'Farrell had been reached, Peskin enjoyed a block-and-a-half lead, and it looked as if the old champion was going to be outclassed in his own back yard.

But as unexpectedly as he had broken away, Peskin looked back, slowed, and waited, apparently deciding to bide his time, and challenge another day. At the City Hall finish line, Brown spoke with supporters and journalists, then ducked into a limousine, heading home for a shower. A crowd of supervisors and supporters hung around for another 45 minutes, chatting congenially. Nobody mentioned the events of Sutter Street, but it was clear this sport would never be the same. There would be future attacks, future breakaways, and someday, the morning's events seemed to presage, the upstarts would not wait for Da Mayor to catch up.

A sports column wouldn't be complete without homage to the athletic endeavor that has become all the rage in San Francisco during the past year: sidewalk-automobile steeplechase. Ever since the Department of Parking and Traffic began yielding to miscreant motorists' desire to park anywhere there is flat space, our city's sidewalks have become automobile gauntlets.

In front of my apartment building at any given moment there are at least four automobiles illegally clogging the sidewalk. This means my older neighbors, neighbors who push strollers, and all but the most athletic or lithe of other passers-by are forced into the street. These forced pedestrian detours make for a spectacular sporting spectacle: Taxis whip around the corner at 30 miles per hour, braking in time to avoid a sidewalkless pedestrian, then continue on their way. I haven't seen any collisions yet, but I've got a lawn chair and a six-pack positioned on the roof in case there are.

Sadly, other San Francisco residents don't share my enthusiasm for sidewalk track and field. The Senior Action Network, for one, has made a campaign of clearing the city's sidewalks of illegally parked cars. The pedestrian group Walk San Francisco, for another, says sidewalk hazards hurt San Francisco's quality of life.

"If we are going to have a livable city, it must be a walkable city. And if we are going to have a walkable city, then we need our sidewalks back. Our sidewalks are for walking, for children to play in, for talking to neighbors. They are not for providing free parking for those not responsible enough to obtain a legal space," says Walk San Francisco Board President Michael Smith. "People will park absolutely anywhere they can get away with it: double parked on the street, in bike lanes, on the grass in our parks, in crosswalks, and of course on sidewalks. We need to draw the line. We need to make sure that we have our priorities straight. We need to protect our elderly, our children, our disabled, and our pedestrians in general, and not facilitate even more automobiles in our congested city."

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