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San Francisco Giants' fans celebrate in Civic Center Plaza during the World Series victory parade in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. The Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in four games to win the World Series for the second time in three years. (Jane Tyska/Staff Archives)

Between January 1995 and October 2010, while the Internet was insinuating itself into every corner of daily life, cellphones were transforming into indispensable techo-tools, and O.J. Simpson was looking for the real killers, the Bay Area sports landscape was a nearly barren wasteland when it comes to what matters most: championships.

Check it out now. After 16 years during which the only championships were won by the San Jose Earthquakes, the Bay Area is experiencing a boom the likes of which it has rarely known. On the heels of the Giants' second World Series triumph in three years, the 49ers are headed for the Super Bowl. On Jan. 1, Stanford won its first Rose Bowl since 1972. The A's were the surprise story in baseball last season. Even the Warriors are good.

"It's a golden age," said veteran sports executive Andy Dolich, who has worked for the A's, Warriors and 49ers.

It could be built to last. Both the 49ers and Giants are led by 25-year-old wunderkinds, Colin Kaepernick and Buster Posey. The A's and Warriors have that up-and-comer look. Are we embarking on an age more golden than any other in Bay Area sporting history? And, after 16 lost years, how did we get here all of a sudden?

Predicting the fortunes of any team in any sport is risky business. But some who have observed and experienced Bay Area boom times insist there is a common denominator: pride, with a side of envy. One or two teams set a standard, and others scramble to match it.


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"I think there is an infectious quality," said Dave Newhouse, Bay Area native, longtime columnist for the Oakland Tribune and sports talk-show host for five years on KNBR AM-680. "It's a very competitive area. Think of all the teams the Bay Area has. I think they do feed off each other."

"I have a bias," said Dolich, a marketing whiz with the A's from 1980 to 1995, "but I think the Giants were pushed by the A's during all the great years we had, not just winning, but reaching into the community, doing things right."

Tony La Russa managed the A's during most of Dolich's tenure with the organization.

"There's no doubt in my mind that it's real," La Russa said. "That's why I never begrudged success by the other franchises whatever the sport. Selfishly, it creates a different vibe in the area. It creates a healthy kind of edge and you want to be a part of it."

And so we see it happening now.

In fact, we are seeing something more, a trans-bay, cross-sport support group. Ted Griggs, president of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, cites the budding relationship between the Giants and the 49ers, highlighted in the fall by coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Alex Smith.

"After the Giants won the World Series, you had Harbaugh and Smith come out for the parade. You saw Smith wear a Giants cap, and the Giants start wearing 49ers caps," Griggs said. "I think there is something to one business looking across the street and saying, 'Those guys are doing well. We better step up our game.'"

Both Stanford (now ably coached by David Shaw) and the 49ers stepped up their game by hiring Harbaugh. San Jose State football became relevant again under coach Mike MacIntyre -- since departed for the head coaching job at Colorado. The Warriors are finally gaining traction in the third season of the Joe Lacob-Peter Guber ownership. The Sharks have made the playoffs seven straight years and are off to a 5-0 start this year. It's still difficult to explain how the A's won the American League West title in the fall.

More easily explained is the impact winning teams have on their home turf.

"There are people who derisively call sports the toy department," Griggs said. "I really think it's part of the fabric of life, connective tissue. You see people talking about the 49ers and Giants in shopping centers, restaurants, bars. It starts to build on itself."

"Sport is the vanishing front porch and town square of America," Dolich said. "It's the location to which people from all parts of the community, of all colors and economic backgrounds, can cheer as one or feel let down as one and maybe commiserate as one."

This isn't the first golden age Bay Area fans have cheered as one. In one respect, it doesn't compare to those that preceded it, according to KRON sports anchor and KNBR radio host Gary Radnich.

"I would say there were bigger stars then," Radnich said, harking back to the old days. "I think each (current) team has one guy, maybe. If it's the Giants, I'd say Posey. The A's, Beane. The 49ers, Kaepernick. I'm talking about breakout stars."

Another area in which it falls short (for now): It isn't as decorated.

From 1971 to 1977, the A's won three straight World Series titles, the Raiders won a Super Bowl, the Warriors stunned the NBA by winning the 1974-75 title, and Stanford won two Rose Bowls.

"The glory years," Newhouse said. "Also included in there, Jim Plunkett won the Bay Area's first Heisman Trophy. The Oakland Coliseum (complex) was known as the House of Champions."

Another convergence occurred from 1988 to 1990, when the 49ers won back-to-back Super Bowls, the A's appeared in three straight World Series, the Giants won their first National League pennant in 27 years, and the two local major league teams met in the earthquake-interrupted 1989 Fall Classic, with the A's winning in four games.

Now this.

"We're pretty big on the best of the best," Dolich said. "You better play big or go home."

Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him at Twitter.com/garyscribe.

The "golden ages"
1971-77
  • Number of championships: 5 (A's win three consecutive World Series from 1972-74; Warriors win 1974-75 NBA title; Raiders win January 1977 Super Bowl)
  • Other notables: Stanford wins two Rose Bowls
  • Comment: The gold standard for Bay Area sports golden ages until further notice
    1988-90
  • Number of championships: 3 (49ers win consecutive Super Bowls; A's win 1989 World Series)
  • Other notables: Giants win National League pennant in 1989, meet A's in all-Bay Area World Series
  • Comment: A lot of action in a short time. No wonder the earth shook
    2010-present
  • Number of championships: 2 (Giants win 2010, 2012 World Series)
  • Other notables: Stanford wins 2013 Rose Bowl
  • Comment: Takes wing with a 49ers Super Bowl win