The headline above the fold in the San Francisco Examiner on Thursday June 2, read “Golden Opportunity,” followed by “How the Warriors can bring us together, and restore San Francisco’s tarnished reputation.” The article quoted the Warriors CEO, Joe Lacob, who said, “We need to change this national narrative about San Francisco. It's terrible. People think it’s all homeless people and drug addicts and empty stores and burglaries.” He nailed it, or at least much of it.
I wanted the Warriors to win as much as anyone else, but I didn't think that beating the Celtics would work wonders. San Francisco columnists have a way of clutching at straws. Sports victories rarely if ever solve social and political problems. At best, championships provide distractions from drug addictions, homelessness and chronic burglaries. They don’t offer the kind of New Deal that Roosevelt offered in the Depression or the Great Society that LBJ promised to deliver in the 1960s. You probably know that already, but it still seems worth saying.
I watched the Warriors lose big to the Celtics at Celia’s, my neighborhood bar, in Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California. At the end of that first game, a woman who was sitting catty-corner away from me said, “I was watching you. I saw the expression on your face go from glad to sad in less than a minute.” I’m sure she saw what was there. It was an automatic response on my part. I didn’t have to tell my face to change its expression.
Al Saracevic, the Examiner’s able, eloquent columnist, explained that the 49ers "Helped San Francisco heal in the early 1980s…after the brutal and bloody ‘70s,” and that “the Giants helped galvanize the City in the wake of a major economic crisis.” That’s giving far more credit to the 49ers and the Giants than they deserve. It doesn’t acknowledge the civil engagement of citizens.
What happens if the Warriors lose to the Celtics, who looked unbeatable in the first game of the series? If they lose does that mean the City goes even further in decline? Indeed, it seems to me that win or lose the battle against the Celtics, San Francisco will have the same social and political problems to solve. Al Saracevic knows that. At the end of his column he writes, “The Warriors won't solve homelessness, Or curb the drug trade.” But he adds, “They have a chance to offer us hope, provide common ground and build civic pride. They have a chance to make us all look good.” On Thursday night the Warriors looked bad, and the streets of the city, with its homeless and its drug addicts looked as bad as ever. Don’t count on a miracle on the basketball court.