For those of you visiting this website expecting "nothing but music" related information, you're in for a shock. For those of you who've known and followed me and my music for awhile, you probably won't be too surprised at this sports related News entry. After all, I've been known to write a column or two on sports here and there, and the urge to do so now has struck. Having been a San Francisco 49ers fan for many a year, it's been painful to watch the team struggle so mightily for the past seven or eight years. There have been some games in some of those seasons where I simply can't bear to watch my team lose so badly. Especially after their storied success in the 1980's and 1990's. Things finally began to improve in the middle of the 2008 season. Mike Nolan, the beleaguered coach of the team since 2005, was fired and replaced by Hall Of Fame Linebacker Mike Singletary. Singletary brings a Pentecostal type fire to the team. It hasn't always been well received here in the liberal thinking Bay Area. But I felt from the beginning that he was what the team needed. A strong disciplinarian who immediately gained the players' respect. Singletary's over the top style softened somewhat this season. Some tough losses and a realization of the team's limitations in talent made him less brash and more realistic. But with the team's finish this season at eight wins and eight losses, (their best record since 2002), things are starting to look up. In my view, Singletary's biggest weakness is as a game tactician and what they call an "X's and O's" guy. He tends to inspire and get the most out of his players, but the subtleties and nuances involved in the offensive side of the ball don't always come easily to him. But, he's proven to be flexible, allowing his assistant coaches to do their jobs and make changes in the offense when appropriate. After all, this was his first full year as a head coach, and at least a bit of a learning curve seems reasonable, even in the Win Now mentality of the average NFL fan. Coach Singletary deserves and will get at least one more year to further improve this team. He's done a good if not a great job, and I predict a playoff appearance for the Niners for the first time in nearly a decade next season. Across the Bay, the Oakland Raiders have improved, too, over last season. But just barely. Coach Tom Cable is fighting for his job after finishing the season at 5-11. Raider fans are staying away from the games in droves. Only one home game was televised locally this season because of a lack of sellouts. The reality is that for most games, the stadium is barely half-full. Al Davis, the 80-year old patriarch of the Raiders, has refused to seek any upper level management help in running his team for the past eight years. Raiders fans are frustrated - big time. Many fans donated some of their hard earned cash to pay for the erection of a billboard on Interstate 880, which runs next to the Oakland Coliseum, begging Davis to bring in a General Manager to help him run the franchise. So far, the billboard hasn't produced any results. Much of the disillusionment to fans and media about the Raiders in general has to do with their unique way of doing business. Davis tends to cloud himself and team personnel in secrecy, sending out a vibe that many compare to the Mafia in that regard. No one, including beat sportswriters who cover the team, seems to have any idea of what Al and the Raiders will do next. With one of the worst won-loss records in professional sports over the past eight years, it's fair to say that their shrouded in mystery approach hasn't paid dividends. Overpaid draft choices and free agents have haunted the Raiders for years. Most recently, JaMarcus Russell, an overweight and undermotivated quarterback, has been relentlessly booed off the field after too many horrific performances. Just when or how the Raiders will significantly improve their fortunes is anybody's guess. While Cable insists he's the right man to coach the team, the smart money seems to suggest that he will be let go within the next week. We'll see. Professional football, and pro sports in general, have become largely an activity centered around huge dollars and big business. This saddens me, as it detracts from the healthier aspects of sports: teamwork, camaraderie, overcoming adversity, and improving one's skills. But to one who's followed sports and in particular the San Francisco 49ers for so long (50 years and counting!), it's still a nice diversion to keep abreast of "my team" and of sports in general. Even for those of us lucky enough to be able to be musicians and artists for a living. Truth be told, many musicians are sports fans. There's artistry in athleticism, and as my father always told me, a healthy body equals a healthy mind. At least most of the time. This much I'll promise: the next "News" entry on this website will pertain more to music instead of sports. Happy New Year to all. Thanks for checking in. Jim Hudak Clayton, CA

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