Fanatical thinking

Fear beards, or …

Fear beards, or …

A cold wind blasts down H Street on a cloudless Sunday morning. Commotion from inside the Sacramento County Main Jail echoes throughout the block. Along the sidewalk, five San Francisco Giants fans load chairs and coolers into an SUV, readying a carpool for the City by the Bay. The men laugh as I ride past in an Oakland Athletics hat and T-shirt.

Later on Amtrak, the “Humm-Baby” nightmare continues, like that scene from Being John Malkovich where the bald one repeatedly bumps into his doppelganger. Fans on the train taunt “Sweep” and “Get a real team.” They also grumble when the conductor announces a delay: A young man, hunched over in his seat and sweating, is having some kind of diabetic attack. It takes 11 police, firemen, Amtrak cops and employees to help the guy off and onto a gurney.

Later, the train zigzags along the S.F. Bay between Martinez and Richmond. The tracks are but a half-dozen yards from the coast, and 2-foot tall waves slap the shore. The U.S. media doesn’t like to report on Arctic ice melt—who wants to dissect the ultimate taboo, our planet’s terminal prognosis?—but Al-Jazeera reported this month that the melt up north is occurring a rate four times faster than during the 1990s. Someday, this Capitol Corridor Amtrak route surely will be underwater. Maybe in 25 years, even?

The Giants stadium also is but a few yards from the bay. A statue of slugger Willie McCovey marks the spot. It’s a remarkable ballpark, nestled in a now-revitalized South Beach neighborhood, and cost $357 million to build in 2000. Raley Field opened the same year and cost $42 million.

This week’s report by developer David Taylor will estimate the cost of a new downtown Sacramento Kings arena at upward of $400 million.

Late in the game, Giants reliever Brian Wilson emerges from the dugout, and the entire sold-out stadium of 42,000 gushes. “Ahhh!” Never before has a man with a Taliban beard and a penchant for S&M masks captivated an American city like Wilson, who pitches one inning and mows through the Oakland lineup like a barber buzzing Army recruits.

Yet he’s no eternal heartthrob: Wilson’s arm may not last much longer after hurling his elbow and oblique to the limit during last year’s World Series triumph. Such is the price of immortality—or infamy, as per Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong—in the world of sports.

Sacramentans may soon pay the price, too. Five years ago, voters roundly dismissed measures Q and R, which would have built a Kings arena in the rail yards. And now, it appears that another arena tax of sorts will be on this November’s ballot. Will Sacramento someday taste Mount Olympus? Or will we forever lament Mount Torn Meniscus?

Meanwhile, who’s going to help the sick, stop the thieves—or prevent the tides from rising?