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A Sport and a Pastime: San Francisco Politics Level the Playing Field and Then Ban the Game 

Wednesday, Mar 19 2014
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There are, your humble narrator is convinced, parts of McLaren Park no one has ever been to before. Dinosaurs may yet roam within. Jimmy Hoffa could operate a concession hawking ice cream to a mysterious subterranean civilization. Possibilities abound.

San Francisco is a place in which various — and changing — states of being exist next to and even atop one another. So, it's fitting that McLaren's isolated, windswept acres form a contiguous greenspace with the soccer-industrial complex of Crocker Amazon Park. On a recent weekend, the latter was inundated with a statewide, Under-17 girls' soccer tournament. Five games were staged simultaneously; wandering through the flurry of nonstop activity harked to the kung fu army training sequences in Enter the Dragon.

It was, truly, a glorious sight. Decades ago, coaches at your humble narrator's high school thought themselves rather clever by referring to soccer as the pastime of godless communists. And yet, here were teams hailing from California's deep red midsection; places like Turlock and Fresno where God is not a metaphor and Fox News is not considered a comedy program. These players demonstrated a deft passing touch and field vision one would associate with adult leagues in places run by regimes. Clearly, things have changed.

In San Francisco, change is a concept equal parts polarizing and terrifying. Change, and the anxiety it spawns, seems to underpin every issue now percolating to the surface here. This is a city periodically beset by seismic events of both the natural and man-made variety; now, our latest bout of transmutation has rendered San Francisco an object of fascination and analysis for observers worldwide.

Despite being the focus of far-flung international psychoanalysis, San Francisco remains unique in that its denizens' day-to-day lives will, all but certainly, never include interactions with people from elsewhere who fundamentally disagree with them. As such, our notions about change, even our definition of what "change" entails, are peculiar in their lack of context.

On and around these soccer fields, however, stood plenty of people hailing from elsewhere. Move the discussion past sports and weather, and you'll dribble into fundamental disagreements.


"Yes, I know you have food. You're a restaurant," a frustrated Latino man in a powder-blue tracksuit barked into his iPhone. "That's not why I'm calling you. Can you take a party of 30? Tonight?"

San Francisco has much to offer. But those hoping to swing a reasonably priced sit-down dinner for 16 soccer players and their parents on short notice are likely out of luck. A chain restaurant on a wide suburban boulevard would seem to loom in his future.

The soccer coach hung up the phone abruptly and shook his head. He said he has no idea how San Francisco residents can exist without the amenities he enjoys back in Fresno: a house with a three-car garage, a big truck, isolation, sane political views. These, in fact, are the things people flock to San Francisco to escape.

But the ongoing glut of tech-fueled development and orgiastic displays of wealth besetting our city have led some to question whether San Francisco's status as a bastion of liberalism is due to change. Short answer: No. Long answer: Hell no.

As is the case with so many cities, left-leaning individuals are coming here to barricade themselves within ideologically similar communities. No matter how obscenely wealthy San Francisco grows, no matter how many Bitcoins it requires to buy toast or coffee, this city will not transform into a haven for people holding out for three-car garages and non-Muslim presidents. Our municipal elections are still dominated by the city's crustiest and most veteran voters. And on federal and state issues, the double-income-no-kids tech power couple is all but indistinguishable from the working-class family they price out of town and off to parts unknown.

They may even root for the same soccer team.


San Francisco's local political spectrum, then, is wafer thin. And, in a city buffeted by change, the earmarks of liberalism have themselves changed. One needn't be an out-of-towner pining for a Ford F-150 to grow puzzled. Oddly, the au courant mark of San Francisco progressivism is to legislate away citizens' personal liberties. In recent years, this city has effectively banned Happy Meals, plastic bags, and the declawing of cats. The Board of Supervisors this month approved a fatwa against bottled water on municipal property and has set its sights on curtailing access to e-cigarettes (the city long ago banned the sale of actual cigarettes alongside pork rinds and Dr. Oz crap medical supplements within pharmacies, as these establishments are in the "health business.")

The nudity ban so many of our progressive stalwarts railed against — while, yes, supporting the government's right to strip down your fast food options — was the brainchild of Supervisor Scott Wiener. The development-friendly Castro supervisor is the board's most effective legislator, the bête noire of city progressives, and the master of quality-of-life politics centered around addressing the problems of a class of San Franciscan that doesn't really have all that many problems. Wiener is what passes for conservative around here. So it's intriguing that he's the driving force behind going into bonded debt to install pedestrian city conveniences such as streetlights, taxing soda-drinkers, and hitting up property owners with a parcel tax to fund trees.

Strife over corporate shuttles, their well-heeled passengers, and the city's ascendant tech barons has laid bare the paradox of San Francisco: Our most conservative residents eagerly want to enable change, while our most liberal want to freeze the city in a perpetual state of yesteryear. Your humble narrator's longtime writing partner, Benjamin Wachs, recalls William F. Buckley's "mission statement" for The National Review: "It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it."

It's hard to argue that's not the position of our city's left. It's even harder to claim the modern master of conservative rhetoric hasn't more capably explained the ethos of city liberals than they ever could.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more

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