49ers achieve rare feat done just 40 times since 1940

49ers achieve rare feat done just 40 times since 1940

This is how far the 49ers came in one evening: They played well enough to convince their fans that the officials screwed them.
 
I am not here to take a side on this. You play in a league with indecipherable rules, you take your chances with the officiating. Besides, if you want to avoid getting whistled out of a game, don’t give up 41 points.

Worse, don’t score 39 and lose. That’s happened only 40 times since 1940 out of nearly 15,000 games, so that’s an achievement in and of itself. 
 
But the complaining is a sign that, for the first time since 2013 perhaps, the 49ers mattered enough to their shrinking audience to haul out the old “Jeff Triplette did us dirty” meme. 
 
That is significant progress in a non-technical way, because as the shots of the stands have showed us, the modern 49er fan is more used to walking (as in out) than talking (as in smack). They are not by and large interested in the gestation period -- they want to see the baby.
 
And, rarely for the NFL, the 49ers’ greatest eras did not come with long rebuilds. They happened almost in a flash. Bill Walsh was 2-14 and 6-10 before the heavens opened in 1981. Jim Harbaugh went 13-3 after eight non-winning/stagnant seasons which didn’t come close to being an actual structured rebuild. 
 
In other words, around here, patience is for saps, the journey is not entertaining on its own, and progress is declared only upon arrival.
 
The real world, though, is different, and though everything about Thursday’s loss speaks to advancement here/regression there and has in no way a relationship to the 12-9 loss to Seattle a week ago, blind officials are a nice cheap way to pretend that there is. Nothing is more satisfying for a chronic loser than to say, “We would have won if those thieving bastards blah-blah-blah.”
 
It is also a dose of empty calories, but if you can’t have something nourishing, a bag of candy will do in a pinch.
 
In any event, the 49ers are 0-3, but good enough to moan that they can be unlucky or cruelly treated. It may not be progress inside the building, but it is outside, and judging by the sea of empty stadium seats, the 49ers need all that they can get. 

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

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AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.

How to free agent: Iguodala played Rockets, market like a fiddle this offseason

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USATSI

How to free agent: Iguodala played Rockets, market like a fiddle this offseason

Andre Iguodala was very nearly an ex-Warrior, which we suspected at the time and had reaffirmed by ESPN’s Chris Haynes.

He was reportedly very close to joining the Rockets after "the best recruiting presentation of all time" from GM Daryl Morey that included a plan to beat the Warriors and highlighted how much more money Iguodala would take home, after taxes and cost of living, in Texas. Houston thought they had him.
 
But the fascinating lesson in all the twists and turns of his free agency/hunt for maximum value is how rare situations like his actually are.
 
He took control of his negotiations, something most players don’t (or feel they can’t) do. He was working with the casino’s money in that he had several teams that wanted him, rather than the other way around. He was negotiating with people who had targeted pitches from which he could make easy and educated choices.
 
It was free agency in heaven. Most aren’t that good.
 
Then again, most players aren’t Andre Iguodala, whose comfort in his own skin, both as a player and otherwise, gives him an advantage most athletes don’t have. They live in an uncertain world, where one is always an ACL, a bad personal choice, a foolish decision or just plain bad luck away from the street.
 
In other words, free agency would work for him because he had developed the tools to make it work for him.
 
But it also serves as a healthy reminder for the Warriors’ brain trust that they are not the be-all and end-all that so many of their acolytes think they are. They may already know that – one suspects they do – but knowing how close they came to losing one of their own, one they wanted desperately to keep, is a good post-it note with the legend, “Not everybody loves you unconditionally all the time. Not even you.”
 
In short, while they lucked their way into Nirvana (nobody could have figured Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green would grow as they have), they had to work hard to polish it (Kevin Durant) and even harder to maintain it (Iguodala).
 
So the lesson is this: Dynasties are hard to make, even harder to maintain, and they don’t even have one yet.