Liotta: A Bay Area sports resurgence 

Somewhere, somehow, a piece of the Bay Area sports scene is off its axis. Is it actually safe to put faith in the Sharks? Barry Zito?

Overtime victories. Come-from-behind efforts. Joe Thornton smack dab in the middle of it all for the HP Pavilion diehards? Pretty amazing stuff for the Sharks in April and May.

And I don’t care what anybody says about the quality of these confounded Detroit Red Wings. These guys are wearing the same uniform that caused plenty of postseason pain for Sharks fans. To jump all over them in the playoffs is a sweet epitaph to a regular season filled with high hopes.

Hopes? Has anybody had more draped around his or her neck than Zito the past few years?

It’s beyond a comeback. It’s getting down-right hard not to giggle when one of Zito’s curve balls falls off the table for a strike. So far this season, he’s dominated on par with Tim Lincecum or Roy Halladay, the best the National League can throw out there.

What were the odds that Zito (5-0) and Jonathan Sanchez (2-1) would combine for more victories than Lincecum (4-0) and Cain (1-1) after the season’s first 26 games?

So finally, almost a fifth of the way through his fourth season on this side of the Bay, the Giants have an excellent chance of winning when Zito’s name is listed in the pitching probables.


Random thoughts

It didn’t take long for the post-Tiger game of professional golf to find a fresh face it can count on. Irishman Rory McIlroy, who turned 21 this week, put on a performance last week that some thought was reserved for Tiger’s A-game.

Sixteen holes into his second round, McIlroy spotted a group of leaders that included Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim a dozen strokes ahead, and roared past them without so much as a flinch to win at Quail Hollow. McIlroy played the last 39 holes in 18-under-par to beat Mickelson by four. And Mickelson played pretty well. 

After too many years of Woods’ soiling the game with his on-the-course antics and his off-the-course escapades, McIlroy is the kind of gentleman golf has built its history upon. 

- The local sports scene lost a tremendous competitor when horse trainer Greg Gilchrist prematurely retired this week. Gilchrist, who reached national fame as the trainer of Lost in the Fog, was such a positive spokesperson for horse racing, his good-natured spirit overshadowed a ruthless ability to win.

Gilchrist sent out horses to win at a rate some thought was impossible, and he did it because he was as good a judge of horses and as careful a horseman as the sport ever turned out. He made his reputation far from the limelight in Northern California, and he was a true class act.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at

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