Kurt Warner

The free agent athlete’s anti-Bay Area checklist

Residents of the Bay Area like to say how we live in the best part of the country, partly because it’s true and partly to convince ourselves we aren’t “dumb” like Jeff Kent said we were (more on that later).

True, if you’re into a temperate climate, natural beauty, great restaurants and a progressive mindset, the Bay is your place to play. Unfortunately for the professional sports franchises in the area, who keep getting manipulated by marquee free agents like those girls did by that D-list actor delightfully indecisive single dad named Jason in “The Bachelor” finale, athletes don’t look at quality of life the same way normal people do.

Athletes are looking for a place to work for six months, and they have certain needs and desires. Whether or not the Giants were ever interested in Manny Ramirez, the Bay Area hasn’t acquired a top-level free agent in years that wasn’t criminally overpaid and/or overrated. The 49ers had no chance at swaying Kurt Warner to move his family to Los Altos or Atherton or some other rich athlete enclave, and in effect spent somewhere around $50,000 in one day to force the Cardinals to spend $3M more than they wanted to for Warner’s services.

To show how different athletes look at life and where to live it (and why the Bay Area isn’t a preferred destination for those who throw, hit and catch balls for a living), here’s a list at the top-five priorities (besides money) when it comes to selecting a new home base:

1. Real Estate: We laughed when Kent said, “You people in the Bay Area are so dumb, paying so much for property,” but Kent was just voicing what most athletes think. If they don’t have to live in an area where $1M doesn’t even guarantee a great condo in many cases, why would they? Sure, many athletes live in other areas during their respective off-seasons, but that doesn’t mean they feel like paying $2,500/month for a mediocre apartment while they’re playing, either. This is the main reason why Bay Area teams have to wildly overpay for athletes who are already wary of agent’s fees and…

2. State taxes: In case you haven’t heard, California is in the midst of a little budget crunch, and the state’s already high income tax (the highest in the country) will increase even further within months. This is why many if not most professional athletes live in states like Florida or Texas that don’t have state income taxes, or Arizona where taxes are capped at 4.5%. Athletes fear high tax rates more almost as much as ACL tears, which is why most of them are Republicans.

3. Weather (baseball players only): You might be thinking to yourself, “The Bay Area has the best climate in the world, what are you talking about BASG?” Well, did you notice it was hailing yesterday? For athletes who have summers off the weather around here is fine, but baseball players aren’t the type of people who appreciate dealing with temperatures under 75 degrees at any time, which is why 90% of them live in Arizona or Florida, and the rest live in Orange County. The weather issue goes for during the season as well, especially for the Giants. Now that Manny’s experienced a summer in L.A., do you think he’d ever want to stand in left field at 24 Willie Mays Plaza from April-July?

4.  Image is Everything: European tourists see San Francisco as a major attraction, one of the shining beacons of natural beauty and culture the United States has to offer. Athletes? Um, let’s just say they don’t really care about Fisherman’s Wharf, fine dining or catching  the next showing of “Wicked.” Athletes don’t go to plays or go for hikes in the Marin Headlands, athletes play videogames or watch television and big budget movies in cushy leather chairs between trips to The Cheesecake Factory. To many athletes, the Bay Area is some place where fruity men skip around the Castro in rainbow leotards. Not exactly a mature mindset or even close to accurate, but a lot of athletes have more John Rocker in them than Adonal Foyle.

5. Winning: Here’s comes the part where we look inward. Who in the United States, athletes or otherwise, could possibly hold the Bay Area in high esteem when it comes to sporting excellence? The Giants have suffered through four straight losing seasons. The 49ers are looking to break a six-year streak under .500, while the Raiders have the worst record in the NFL since 2002. The Warriors are the NorCal Clippers and the A’s may or may not have existed in 2008. No local team has won a championship since 1994. All of which brings up a chicken-or-the-egg question: is fan support around here rather apathetic at times due to all the poor play we’re subject too, or is the lack of passion around here in part to blame for all these crappy teams? Regardless, we have an area full of dysfunctional teams and disaffected fans. It’s not that fans around here don’t care, it’s just that we’ve been beaten down after years of teams going about winning in a half-assed way, leading to an overall malaise that can’t be too attractive to prospective free agents. Let’s face it, at this point the Bay Area as a whole is giving off an air of desperation similar to a boat full of prospective Russian brides. True, no area gets behind a winner quite like the Bay Area, but what athlete wants to have the pressure of uplifting an entire metropolitan area’s hopes on their shoulders?

Until further notice, Bay Area teams are going to have to drastically overpay any free agent to have any hopes of enticing them. With housing prices, taxes, occasional rain, an artsy-fartsy-fresh-and-fruity image and perennial losing going against us, the only way to steal a star from a rival is to beat the rival’s offer by at least 10-20%. Otherwise we’ll keep getting used by athletes and their agents, while signings on the level of Barry Bonds-in-1992 will remain a distant memory.

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