Big O Tires

Anybody offering to help Mark Davis actually trying to help themselves

Anybody offering to help Mark Davis actually trying to help themselves

It’s usually a good day for anyone who holds a billion dollar asset. I mean, your day is not going to end sitting alone with a microwave dinner in a two-room apartment unless you’re the sort of life-battered misanthrope who prefers your day to end that way.

On the other hand, there’s Mark Davis, who desperately wants to upgrade the surroundings of his billion-dollar company but is finding out that (a) he can’t do it alone, and that (b) anyone willing to help him wants him to surrender his company in exchange.

Put another way, imagine that you want to upgrade your home and go to the bank for a home improvement loan, but the bank will only agree if it can have your kitchen and both bathrooms. Or pretend that you are a very good sprinter who wants to become world-class, but the only trainers who will work with you want you to saw off your right leg as collateral and convince you that hopping is the new Fosbury Flop.

We will now wait while you try to imagine what would have to happen for you to develop sympathy for Mark Davis.

Anyway, the latest shoe store to drop on him is the story that Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire who has pledged $650 million to the stadium that would house the Las Vegas Raiders, says he is willing to pull his money out of the deal because Davis wants too much (which is billionaire for “is willing to give up too little”).

This comes after the news from Oakland that Fortress Investment, a multi-billion dollar company which is allegedly bankrolling Ronnie Lott’s pitch to buy the Coliseum and (presumably) a piece of the Raiders, has presented a term sheet to Oakland and Alameda County that it would like to be rushed for presentation to the NFL owners.

In other words, Davis needs money to improve his team’s business profile, and anyone offering to help is going to want a significant piece of the business he is trying to improve in exchange. And that includes his fellow NFL owners, who have to vote to approve his move to Las Vegas – while the fee for their votes has not yet been expressed, you may rest assured that they aren’t doing him any favors for free.

Again, check your sympathy at the door. He inherited the business, thereby giving him a level of entitlement most people do not have.

But his options are as curious as they are varied, they all have a time element, and they all have pros and cons – the biggest con, of course, being that almost all of them end in him losing control of the team over time.

LAS VEGAS: Adelson clearly wants a piece of the team in exchange for his 33 percent contribution to the proposed $1.9 billion plant (he hasn’t said so, but nobody is buying any other version of the nature of his role). Davis needs 24 votes from his wealthier brethren, but their actions in the January vote that put the Rams in Inglewood and stopped the Chargers and Raiders from going to Carson showed where their respect for Davis truly lies. To allow him to move without strings is unthinkable for them, and what they seem to want most of Davis to divest himself, even incrementally, from day-to-day control.

INGLEWOOD: He still has the option to join Stan Kroenke in the Los Angeles venture if San Diego owner Dean Spanos either wins the hotel tax measure that would fund his new stadium or loses and declines the option he still holds on Inglewood. But Kroenke is a well-known squeezer of delicates (thus explaining the reason Spanos doesn’t want to join him) and would be the dominant figure in that relationship, both financially and tactically. He could conceivably hold his 40-plus percent control of the team (though Kroenke would not be above muscling in on that, too) but he would no longer be master of his domain.

OAKLAND: He could do business with Fortress, although the city and county seem unimpressed with the offer and their obligations within it, and Fortress would want its own piece of the franchise in exchange. Or he could stay in the Coliseum, as much as he may hate the place, and profit-take forever. He may be angry at the city for not rolling over for him, and he has tried to deflect blame for the current conditions on the city’s refusal to jump to his song, but Mayor Libby Schaaf has seen no compelling reason to worry about that – not even polling numbers. Her position is clearly, “If he stays, he stays, if he leaves, he leaves, and I’m good either way.”

In other words, there is no perfect scenario for Davis in any of these options. He gets a new home but loses a chunk of the only thing that makes him famous and/or rich, or he stays in a city whose power brokers are unmoved by his demands for better treatment, thus costing him the leverage he needs for the thing he says he wants most.

On the other hand, he still has a billion-dollar team that in the worst-case scenario he could sell for $2 billion-plus if he could slap Las Vegas or Los Angeles in front of the nickname. So no, there is no good reason why you should expend a moment’s pity toward him.

So he can either roll the dice and aim for the stars, knowing that anyone offering to help him is actually offering to help themselves to his belongings, or he can sit back and get comfortable with doing (and getting) nothing at all.

This, then, is what an NFL owner without leverage to get whatever he wants looks like. Think of it as you would a sighting of a great white elk – a once-in-a-lifetime thing that will stay within view for only a very short time. Bring binoculars and plenty of water. You’ll want stories for your grandchildren.

The neck-breaking rise and fall of daily fantasy sports


The neck-breaking rise and fall of daily fantasy sports

The apparent cratering of the Draft Kings/Fan Duel phenomenon is largely a tale of greed gone wild, with coatings of arrogance and bullying through advertising, not to mention naked avarice, raw cupidity and what the Greeks used to call “pleonexia,” which is Greek for greed, avarice and cupidity.

It is a tale of what happens when you try to game a system that’s bigger than your own without cutting the people who run the bigger system in on the goods. It’s alleged wise guys finding out that it’s easier to skirt the law when you make the law. And it’s very definitely guys who got out over their skis trying to dominate a market that was doing fine on its own.

And hey, what’s better than smart guys getting theirs?

But there is actually a greater lesson in this for all of us, and it is this: Fantasy sports leagues are best left as small, interactive tribes whose competitors see each other, talk with each other, exchange money with each other and socialize (re: drink beer) with each other. The phenomenon began as an entirely holistic and communal idea in the 1960s in Oakland surrounding the still-larval American Football League, and grew on the ground level in other sports, in bars, rec rooms, bars, office break rooms, bars, vacations, bars, taverns, and ultimately, bars.

It was a way for friends to gather and ignore the bigger issues of living (like, say, families, which are far too time consuming, expensive and always end up with the parents battling desperately for a tie in a game once it becomes clear that they cannot win).

It was not meant to be mass-produced, let alone dominated by the guy with the best algorithms. That’s not sports, that’s math, and when was the last time you said, “Honey, I’m going out. Some math teachers are getting together to raise a little hell, and I don’t want to miss it”?

So never mind the “The DraftDuelers and FanKings tried to pull a fast one” angle, even though they did. Ignore the “They got too big and too grabby too fast” narrative, even though they did that, too.

What happened here was a perverse monetization of something that didn’t actually need improving or enlarging, because it was perfectly good the way it was. And perverse monetization is the path to perdition, I think we can all agree.

The fantasy industry also made a fatal error by trying to say for legal reasons that it wasn’t gambling, which it clearly was – except in one very granular way that nobody ever addresses.

Gambling, as in finding a bookie who will let you bet on games in any manner of exotic fashions, is meant to be a solitary pursuit left best for quiet brooders. If you have Seattle plus the 1½ when everyone else is bitching about the evils of a 6-6 overtime tie, you quietly accept your incredible good fortune and start to handicap Broncos-Texans, which you probably lost.

Fantasy sports, on the other hand, are meant to be shared, but only with those in your particular fantasy league as opposed to all other people, who do not give a steaming chalky damn about your made-up aggregation of athletes and actively hate you for breaching their worlds with your relentless yammering about your alternate-universe imaginings.

Put another way, people who tell you about their fantasy teams are people who need to be taken into the desert and abandoned. And people who commit these crimes should be allowed to avoid hypothermia, dehydration and coyote dinner only by making regular offerings of alcohol and foodstuffs to those whose peace and quiet they have thoughtlessly breached.

And the industrialization of fantasy sports was the last frontier of that obnoxio-hateful social development. It used commercial television to beat us all to death with something only a few of us cared about, and it reminded us that our culture loathes two things above all others – people trying to pull a fast one, and people telling us repeatedly about things we’re not remotely interested in hearing.

In other words, even if you were planning to be saddened by the collapse of the first wave of industrialized fantasy sports, don’t. They were people trying to cut themselves in on action that wasn’t theirs, and make a national phenomenon out of a social development best confined to a single room with six-to-20 people, all of whom had the good sense to bring wine and snacks.

I mean, seriously. Why would you want to screw with that setup?

Spurs show early superiority over Warriors with sum of their parts

Spurs show early superiority over Warriors with sum of their parts

The Golden State Warriors wasted no time dismissing one of the 95 Narratives for this season – namely, the one that has them gunning secretly for 82 wins.
In a game very reminiscent of last January’s 120-90 win over San Antonio, the Warriors played the role of “90,” or to be more specific, “100” in a richly deserved 129-100 mauling. They provided a fiercely anticipatory and Beyonce/Jay-Z-enriched crowd everything they came to see – in the Spurs.
Kevin Durant? Did swell. Won a lot of hearts. Draymond Green? Had bursts of good and moments of not. Stephen Curry? Numbers but not a lot of impact. Klay Thompson? Didn’t shoot well, and didn’t do much else to mitigate that fact.
But the real failures came not from the individual components but the sum of their parts. A disrhythmic offense that highlight moments obscured too infrequently, an undistinguished defensive effort across the board, no bench presence of any kind, a casual attitude toward possessions in general and an almost dogmatic refusal to engage in rebounding skirmishes – in sum, they exhibited a severe pre-title hangover nine months before the fact.
So with all that as prelude, coach Steve Kerr attacked the media horde with a squinty-eyed “Anyone got any good jokes?”
And knowing that nobody did – at least none better than the game that had just been concluded -- he got down to the duties of the postgame presser. He broke the ice with the throwaway platitude (“I didn’t have them ready to play, obviously”), the dismissive swat (“I think they were embarrassed tonight. I know I was”), the quick nuts-and-bolts analysis (“We missed easy shots, didn’t get a lot of loose balls, second efforts, third efforts, and we didn’t play with much physicality”), said the collective performance was massively inadequate at best (“’Strength In Numbers,’ it’s got to be about the group”), and the one dagger that will be the emphasis of Wednesday’s unpleasantness (“We didn’t really look engaged, like we were taking for granted that things were going to go well”).
Which brings us to the box score, where the locals were outrebounded, 54-35 (20-8 on the offensive end), outscored on second chances (24-4), and crushed by the non-starters (54-16 points, 24-6 rebounds). Durant had a less effective game than Kawhi Leonard, Green had a less impactful game than LaMarcus Aldridge, and Curry and Thompson were not as dynamic as second-year shooting guard Jonathon Simmons, local deadeye Patty Mills and the forever-young Manu Ginobili.
In short, it was not a coming-out party for the new dynasty, but a reminder that this is not last year, or the year before, and the Warriors are not nearly the finished product they seemed to present in 2014-5 or 15-6.
Their rotation is still a work in progress, and their combinations are even further away still. Kerr has been saying as much all summer and fall, and logic supports the fact that all teams take time to coalesce.
This is not to say they are going to be minus-29 bad; that would be, well, typical morning-after media analysis, for all fetid air that is worth.
But tonight was a good bucket full of icy well water to everyone’s sensibilities. Just as a year ago, the Warriors have been crowned champions by far too many amateurs before the rite of succession has even begun, and Kerr just received all the fodder he needs to drive home an early-season rebuttal to the ones most in need of hearing it: His players.
As for anyone else who needs to hear such a lesson – well, narratives don’t die that easily. The Warriors are the most covered team in NBA history (imagine the Bird Celtics or the Showtime Lakers in this era), and their failures will resound as much as their triumphs, and it’s all background noise come April 15.
You know, when the season actually starts.