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Which is the most important Bay Area pro sports franchise? Which is second, and so on?

In the interest of irresponsibility — sports allows us to be delightfully irresponsible — we apply zero criteria to our questions, nothing more than the gut feeling of this particular columnist. We do not include the Sharks because we are being irresponsible. Here are the teams in descending order.

San Francisco 49ers: The Niners are hands-down the most significant team in the Bay Area, in Northern California, in California. They are quickly ascending the national rankings.

Why are they such a big deal?

For starters, they are a National Football League franchise, and the NFL is tops by a mile. It's like the 49ers are running a 100-meter dash against the other local teams and get to start at the 60-meter line.

The 49ers have a glorious history around here, starting before the Bill Walsh years, but really kicking in with Walsh and George Seifert and those five Super Bowl victories — not to mention Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice. The list is virtually endless.

Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke have restored the 49ers to their rightful — yes, rightful — place as the preeminent local franchise. You should expect the Niners to be an elite team for at least a decade. They may contend for the Super Bowl next season when they actually have a training camp and the players learn the nuances of the offensive and defensive playbooks. The 49ers are in place to get a new stadium — a palace instead of their current dump. Things look rosy.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants are second. Call them a distant second to the 49ers. They still enjoy the glow of winning their first World Series in San Francisco two years ago. They play in the most beautiful ballpark in America. They are fan friendly to the max. Fans feel they know Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and Pablo Sandoval even though they probably don't. Bruce Bochy is a fan's and writer's delight — Harbaugh should take notes at a Bochy news conference.

The Giants will contend for the NL West championship in the upcoming season and, now that baseball is including one more wild card team, their chances of making it to the postseason are pretty good. We can't help noticing the Giants are a little old where they should be young and a little hurt where they should be well.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders should be in second place on this list. Remember the rule — the NFL rules. And the Raiders, after all, have a glorious and distinguished history in Oakland. They are an iconic franchise in the NFL.

It's just that they have been so bad for so long, although they are showing signs of improvement. Until recently, they were weird. Al Davis, without meaning to, had taken them down the wrong road and, compared to normal teams, they were strange and even a little creepy. If the rest of the league is Western Europe, the Raiders were East Berlin before they tore down the wall.

And they left the Bay Area for a while. That will louse up a fan base. It's hard to trust the Raiders. You feel they might leave yet again. And they may.

Credit the Raiders for recently rejoining the mainstream of their league. If they have a few good seasons and stick around the Bay Area, they could dislodge the Giants from the No. 2 spot.

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors try so hard to be relevant. They give good banquet. They play with passion and make quality teams sweat before they lose to them. The Warriors seem to be on the rise. And they mean well. They really do.

It's just that the top players won't come to the Warriors because they have a history of losing and a history of bad owners. In sports, they call that a losing "culture." The Warriors are highly cultured.

The new owners are trying to change all that. The new owners overestimated their ability to improve the team overnight. The new owners have a lot to learn. It would help if they could get a new starting lineup.

If the Warriors do well, like make the playoffs, fans will go wild. The Warriors might challenge the Raiders for the No. 3 spot. That's way in the future.

Oakland A's: It is an insult to this list to include the A's. Until now, the list has ranked serious sports franchises. The A's are not a serious sports franchise. The A's are a charity. They live on revenue-sharing money from the serious teams. They are a man in a tuxedo standing by a freeway off ramp. The man has wiped dirt on his face to look poor. The man holds a sign made of wet cardboard. On the sign he has written, "I need a new stadium in San Jose. Please give me a penny."

The other teams on this list try to win their divisions. The A's say they try to win, but you know better. The A's trade away all their good players for players who may be good in two or three or five years, at which point they trade away those players. The A's search for players who are wounded or old or anonymous. The A's are usually out of the hunt by early summer.

The A's are tops when it comes to excuses. And complaints. Ask and they will complain to you. It is difficult to see them escaping the No. 5 spot — the cellar.

This is one writer's list. Alternates exist. What is your list?

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.