Halloween is an everyday thing in the sports world. You're scared, I'm scared, and the ghosts and goblins are rushing for 200 yards a game.
KINGS -- It's been awhile since we've attached the Kings to the term "lowered expectations." The fans no doubt have turned down their interest. Here's something that will send the needle on the scream-meter off the dial: The Kings haven't even sold out their home opener Tuesday night against Seattle. Which means the fan base, passionate and unconditional over the years, is losing faith with the Kings' administration and direction. Ron Artest is serving a suspension, Mike Bibby and top draft pick Spencer Hawes are injured, and new coach Reggie Theus starts the season with a half-empty roster. It used to be fright night for the visitors at Arco Arena, not the home team.
49ERS -- Mike Nolan's heart is in the right place regarding the reeling 49ers (2-5), but his brain must be circling Neptune. He risked the safety of his quarterback and the immediate future of the franchise by keeping the injured Alex Smith on the field during the second half of a game already lost last weekend. That Smith insisted he was OK wasn't relevant. NFL players, who always know the clock is ticking on their tenure, are programmed to play as long as they can breathe. It's up to more rational folk to make the smart decisions. If Nolan keeps blowing such fundamental calls, he might not be the man for that job.
SELIG -- I saw kids wearing costumes of a cell phone, a Rubik's Cube, a washing machine and pile of leaves this week. But there was no Bud Selig costume -- a guy looking confused with his hands stuck deep in his pockets. Baseball's less-than-impressive commissioner did it again when his office announced its displeasure over the timing of Alex Rodriguez's opting out of his Yankees contract (Sunday night during the Red Sox's title-clinching win). Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras are nothing less than conniving, of course, but baseball had no right to question the timing. This is the same outfit that staged contraction hearings on the Twins, Expos, Athletics and Devil Rays less than two days after the end of the thrilling 2001 World Series. Thanks again, Captain Buzz Kill.
FRANKLIN -- Football coach Tom Verner, the man at the bottom of the unprecedented mess at Franklin, made himself the headless horseman when he resigned from a football program that no longer exists. Had he stepped down two weeks ago instead of on Halloween, he would have at least left the Yellowjackets with a football team. But much like the cover-up sometimes trumps the crime, the haughty and defiant reaction by Franklin and the Stockton school board resulted in the football shutdown until 2010. They apparently didn't buy into the old saw, "If you find yourself in a hole, quit digging."
NBA -- Commissioner David Stern must have borrowed the Selig costume. Remember when Stern, brimming with self-righteousness, insisted on following the letter of the law after San Antonio's Robert Horry hip-checked Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash into the scorer's table during last season's playoffs? Suddenly, the Suns' Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended for leaving the bench during the incident. Stern scorched the Suns and all but escorted the Spurs into the NBA winner's circle with that move. Compare that to the referee crisis surrounding the disgraced Tim Donaghy, who apparently wasn't a "rogue official" after all. The majority of NBA officials violated league gambling rules, yet Stern decided not to punish them. He hammers the Suns over the head with the rulebook, then tosses the same book into the 10th row regarding the officials. Remember, this is the same man who's courting Las Vegas. Hypocritical, no?
CAL -- The Winchester Mystery House has nothing on the Cal Bears. Three weeks ago, the Golden Bears (5-3) were one play away from being ranked No. 1 in the country. Today, they sit in sixth place in the Pacific 10 Conference, a cliff-drop worthy of Wile E. Coyote. Pick your reasons: an ill-timed injury to quarterback Nate Longshore, an underachieving defense and offensive line and creeping conservatism in the play-calling from coach Jeff Tedford. It's time for a bold move -- bench Longshore, whose gimpy ankle weakens him in the second half, and plan ahead with promising freshman Kevin Riley.
Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.