Nolan has Niners back in race 

Before this column officially begins, I have to ask a question.

Could the Giants have started their season any way more depressing? Or is it, started their season in a more depressing fashion? Or, is it a depressing manner? What word goes best with depressing besides Giants?

Anyway, I think you get the point. According to my inner feeling magic number, the Giants are due to be mathematically eliminated this Thursday.

Now, back to what I was going to talk about.

To me, the NFL offseason is a race, with every team trying to catch the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts. The race begins the day after the Super Bowl — that same day, I’m stupid enough to say, "Well, everybody’s 0-0."

For every team, this is a sprint to add talent to the roster. This time, the 49ers began this sprint near the back of the pack, a sub-.500 team with a hint of momentum left over from last season’s finish, a team that the contenders ought to keep track of over their collective shoulders.

Then, with that free-agent avalanche, the Niners were off and running, moving up on the outside, with coach Mike Nolan as the crew chief. A cornerback, a safety, a deep-threat wide receiver, a couple of guys for the defensive front seven and the Niners had a nice run going.

At the next turn, the NFL draft in a couple of weeks, a great place to add young talent. My first thought was that if the Niners could hold their place, hang on to the ground they have made up, I’d be satisfied. Then I find out they’re holding as many cards as anybody out there.

My first reaction to this was: C’mon, it has to be a misprint. Eight picks in the first four rounds? The 11th overall pick, the 10th pick in the second round — No. 42 — two picks in the third, and four in the fourth. Suddenly, I have to shift gears. Not only should the Niners hold their ground, now I’m counting on them to gain a little more.

Now, with this cavalcade of good news pouring in, it’s begun to feel like, by the time training camp begins, Nolan and the 49ers will have put a pretty nice team — on paper, at least — around Alex Smith. And that is where the pressure is going to be focused. I can feel it building already.

Oh, by the way, the Niners’ first two picks — a defensive lineman and a wide receiver. In that order.

» Here’s how out of whack the expectations are for Daisuke Matsuzaka. On Wednesday night, Dice-K gives up three runs in seven innings — seven baserunners in all — and is overshadowed and beaten by Felix Hernandez throwing a one-hitter and the reaction was that Dice-K disappointed. Think the Giants would be disappointed if Barry Zito went seven innings and allowed three runs?

Fifteen innings into his major-league career, and Dice-K has an ERA of 2.40 with 14 strikeouts, and the experts are already writing him into mediocrity. What a world we live in.

» I’ve spent an entire season trying to figure out Warriors fans. Imagine rooting like mad for this team to simply finish within sniffing distance of .500. C’mon, beat out seven other crummy teams, and earn the right to get spanked by the Dallas Mavericks in the first-round of the playoffs.

Either its starvation orloyalty from the best fans in the world of sports. Can’t tell which.

Progress? Minimal at best, no matter how the season turns out. This team is about an inch and a half better than it was last year under Mike Montgomery — no matter what the players think of their coach.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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