First Purposes

Forget Ring Lardner and Roger Angell. When it comes to sportswriting, what Glenn Dickey starts, no one can finish.

Thrice weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle's Glenn Dickey -- the Solomon of the Sporting Green, the sage of the sports page, the Plato of the press box -- takes up his quill and delivers shrewd, considered, well-turned verdicts on the issues of the day. "Though the season is not yet three weeks old," Dickey began a column in April, "it's clear that the Giants and A's will have much different experiences in their quest for the World Series." Wise words, especially for those readers who don't know that the Giants and A's are different teams in different leagues, with different managers, different players, and different schedules.

Dickey's columns are masterworks; aphorisms and bons mots are strewn about like tinsel on a Christmas tree. The genius, though, always lies in Dickey's first sentences. They're more -- far more -- than thesis statements or quick glosses on the sports world; they're signposts, sermons, philosophies, words to live by. We weren't surprised, then, when we learned that Dickey -- the author of several books about the A's, Giants, 49ers, and Raiders -- had found a publisher and begun compiling a decade's worth of his best opening lines in book form, under the working title The Wit & Wisdom of Glenn Dickey. We have obtained some page proofs, provided here, that perfectly illustrate a point the man himself might make: The key to good writing is the ability to write well.

On the vagaries of life:
Circumstances have caused the Giants and A's to take much different approaches to building their teams.

On ontological inquiry:
Which is the real Giants team, the one that started 18-4 or the one that has played just slightly better than .500 ball since? It's the classic question of whether the glass is half full or half empty, and of course, you know which side I'll come down on.

On success:
Athletic success obviously starts with talent, but it can't be fully realized unless the athlete has both confidence and determination.

The most important factor in consistent baseball success is the ability to make the right decisions on players, athletically and economically.

On memory:
Baseball is a game where memories of the past exist side-by-side with the action of the present, and any fan who ignores either aspect isn't getting the full enjoyment from the sport.

On globalization and the human condition:
European players have been flooding into the NBA because they know how to play basketball. Too many American players don't.

On the prevalent attitudes in modern sport:
Vince Lombardi once said, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Lombardi meant that to be a motivating tool for his team, but that sums up the modern credo in sports.

On existential uncertainty:
As the Warriors wait for their turn in today's NBA Draft, serious questions surround the team.

On capitalism and the status of the worker:
Rich Gannon might be in his last season as Raiders quarterback, because of the contract he signed last year.

It will be best for the A's future if they do not re-sign Miguel Tejada. The best interests of the player and the team do not coincide, and the team is more important.

On assumption:
The World Series is a great event, but don't ever make the mistake of thinking it determines the best team.

On the establishment of order:
The Giants are a virtual lock for the postseason, so it's time to move on to serious matters, such as helping manager Felipe Alou make out his batting order.

On meteorological portents:
Even after their improvement this year, a dark cloud hangs over the Warriors.

Even as the Giants were getting off to their fast start, a dark cloud has hovered over the team because the bullpen is already tired.

Even as Oakland and Alameda County politicians revel in the Raiders' success, dark clouds hover over them.

Even as the 49ers sail along with a perfect 5-0, there are ominous clouds on the horizon.

On first impressions:
The first time I talked with Jon Gruden, I knew he would be successful. I have the same feeling about the Warriors' new coach, Eric Musselman.

On philosophy and the enduring value of the prepositional phrase:
A copycat mentality among baseball people has brought about a fundamental change in philosophy that has resulted in a general deterioration in pitching.

On himself:
Everybody has a bias. Mine is for intelligent people who challenge conventional wisdom, which is why I've admired the A's for the past 23 seasons.

On cause and effect:
The Giants' path to the postseason has been made easier by the unexpected decline of other top National League teams.

On ... shit, we can't tell:
A's hitting coach Thad Bosley will have to leave the team soon because, when you have a rookie manager, Ken Macha, everybody must be on the same page.

On risk, error, and deforestation:
Yes, I was wrong about Tyrone Willingham, spectacularly so. As readers know, this is a high-risk column. I frequently go out on a limb. Sometimes, it gets sawed off.

 
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