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It’s been a big week for sports figures with local ties.
Granite Hills alum Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500. That’s a notable achievement for a couple of reasons, one being that Johnson is from Crest, an unincorporated hillside community east of El Cajon. Crest sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
If you had held a gun to my head prior to last Sunday and demanded to know where Johnson was from, I might have panicked and said Miami. The ads for Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet in Kearny Mesa probably should have tipped me off. Also, holding a gun to someone’s head may be an unreliable method of gathering information. Fangraphs and Looking Landing baseball writer Jeff Sullivan (himself a former San Diegan) recently suggested offering a warm cup of tea instead of a gun to the head. Duly noted.
According to U-T San Diego’s Bill Center, I’m not alone in my lack of NASCAR awareness. Center noted that for Daytona 500 ratings, “San Diego viewership was in the bottom five nationally despite the win by native son Johnson.”
Of whether we should be proud or ashamed, you may be the judge.
Johnson’s victory was also noteworthy for being at the expense of Danica Patrick, the first female to win the pole position at Daytona or any other NASCAR race. More impressive, however, was the 500 being run at all after the gnarly finish-line crash at the same racetrack the day before. If you didn’t see the wreck, watch this video shot by a spectator:
Flying metal and a sizzling tire rains down on spectators, sending 14 to the hospital, and what do they do? Patch up the fence, er, flimsy shrapnel filter and do it all over again the next day, of course. America!
The Helix alum lost the starting quarterback job to Colin Kaepernick after a mid-season hit knocked him out of a game. Many NFL observers second-guessed former Chargers quarterback and USD head coach Jim Harbaugh’s decision to bench Smith. Harbaugh was vindicated as Kaepernick led San Francisco to the Super Bowl, and now Smith will come home to San Diego when the Chiefs face their division-rival Chargers this fall.
Mighty 1090 producer Marty Caswell astutely pointed out that the trade makes it three starting-quarterback San Diegans in the AFC West, along with Chargers quarterback and North County resident Philip Rivers. Oakland Raiders thrower and former USC Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer lives in Del Mar.
Not to be outdone by his San Diego sporting brethren, NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton and his once-again fashionable scruffy beard may soon be seen on the lower legs of area hipsters. Stance, a company based just a ways north of us in San Clemente, is taking orders for socks with the likenesses of selected basketball legends including Larry Bird, “Dr. J” Julius Erving, Dennis Rodman and Walton.
Though the Big Redhead is displayed with his iconic beard, San Diegans may be disappointed to see him featured in his form-fitting Portland Trailblazers uniform instead of the tight shorts of his hometown San Diego Clippers, for whom he played from 1979 to 1984. The La Mesa native, elder Helix alum and local resident Walton might have appreciated the fancy leggings in his playing days, when he was frequently plagued by foot and ankle injuries. Stance has good footwear-making company in San Clemente, where Rainbow Sandals has been churning out flip-flops since 1974.
Yet another local made the news this week when Sports Illustrated ran a feature on those big printed heads you see at basketball games. SDSU alum Conor Mongan came up with the idea when he saw Michael Jackson’s disturbing visage on TV. He printed out the King of Pop’s face and waved it around behind the basket while an Aztecs opponent was shooting free throws.
“I never looked at the heads as anything other than something to distract a shooter,” Mongan told SI, unaware he was spawning a weird nationwide craze. The story notes that the fad originator “stopped attending classes at San Diego State in 1999,” which sounds a lot like the way my own SDSU academic career went.
Finally, once-upon-a-time area band Stone Temple Pilots made headlines for firing their lead singer. The ’90s-era rockers formerly known about town as Mighty Joe Young issued a one-sentence statement announcing that they “have officially terminated Scott Weiland.” Harsh. So, what in the Sam Hill does firing the frequently relapsing Weiland have to do with sports? Well, aside from other news outlets inexplicably passing on an easy “STP Cans Weiland” header, the band supposedly chose their name because ubiquitous STP motor oil stickers were a cheap way to promote themselves. Which brings it all back to auto racing. You’re welcome.