49ers failed to cheat The Reaper


49ers failed to cheat The Reaper

SAN FRANCISCO -- Numbers fight with sentiment all the time, and in a game as rigorously regulated as football, the two wage an uneven war.

Put another way, the 49ers 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game will be remembered as Kyle Williams cross to bear. But in the grander scheme, this will be the game in which the 49er Way was more hindrance than help, and the Giants got what they deserved more than the 49ers did.

The trip to Indianapolis to bask in the aura of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

The 49ers tried to cheat the reaper with Alex Smith-to-Vernon Davis on offense, and pressure on Eli Manning on defense. And ultimately that wasnt enough, because not enough other players who rose so high against New Orleans the week before were sufficiently in evidence Sunday against the Giants.

Smith was short on miracles and long on failed third downs -- 12 of 13, to be exact, with the only conversion coming on the last play of regulation, a third-and-eight that was in essence a third and goal from the 49er 38.

The defense caused no turnovers, only the third time all year that happened (at Detroit in Week 6, and at Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day).

RATTO: Williams earns cruel place in 49ers lore

And when they needed the big play most, they had already used it twice -- a 73-yard touchdown pass to Davis, and a 28-yarder to Davis in the third quarter. No other touchdowns from anyone, and only two first downs of their own making in the games final 28 minutes.

It was reductive football at its most debilitating, at the worst possible time. And as a result, the Giants did get what they deserved, more than the 49ers did.

The killing blow, the strip of Williams by the Giants Jacquian Williams (and recovery by Devin Thomas), was not bound to happen. It was a football play, like so many others. Kyle Williams will eat that one because thats the way its played.

But the 49ers worst tendencies -- the long stretches where the ball could not be moved and the absence of their best virtue -- taking the ball from the other guy meshed into the anti-Saints game. It was a game where the other guy gets his credit through clenched teeth, the rehash takes a few days of pain, and then the resolve of the new year begins.

Along the way, there will be thoughts of what could have been, how deliciously the merging of the 49ers first and sixth Super Bowl appearances would have seemed to those who lived through them both. Defying the trends of historical badness, turning six wins into 15, Walsh v. Harbaugh -- notebooks would ooze with parallels, both real and forced.

But the one wrench in the spanner was the one that happened Sunday. The Giants played better, and more often, and they found more people to make big events happen. Character was not revealed or exposed Sunday -- it was just the vagaries of football played between two teams that if pitted against each other 20 times would have gone 10-10, 11-9 at the outside.

Sunday was New Yorks day, and if the reward -- a Super Bowl -- seems bigger than the size of their victory Sunday, it only seems that way to 49er fans. San Francisco had its shots and couldnt do enough with them. They couldnt make 7-0 turn into 14-0, or 14-10 into 24-10. They couldnt the Giants outside arms length, and they couldnt make the succumb.

Its football, face-first and cruel on cruel. But the result was football fairness. The better team won, on a day when better was defined in the final analysis by a blown punt return by a player who is about to find out just how heavy a weight can be when it must be carried for months on end.

The truth, though? The Giants got what they deserved more than the 49ers did. And if youre not too fixated on making this Kyle Williams fault, you will see that this is exactly the way the end of an effervescent season should be explained. Just desserts, all around.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time


A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

As rumored over the past two months, Major League Baseball just lowered the Oakland Athletics’ revenue by $34 million, and now all the other developments of the past few weeks have finally become a call to arms by an organization that has always been strident pacifists when it comes to money.

In other words, The Little Engine That Occasionally Could has now been stripped of its little-engine classification, and the conditions that allowed them to play the cute little underdog are gone. No more waiting for more clement economic circumstances, or a more favorable political climate, or for the ever-nebulous “future” which the A’s always dangled before its dwindling fan base.

That was the news of Wednesday. Thursday, reports from ESPN’s Jim Trotter indicated that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos is going to swallow his pride to exercise his option to join Stan Kroenke in Los Angeles, thus reducing Mark Davis’ viable options to Las Vegas and the tender mercies of the NFL, or Oakland and the tender mercies of whoever decides to tackle the problem of a new football-atorium.

In other words, push and shove are now jockeying for position in what is expected to be a crash.

First, the A’s.

With the news that Major League Baseball is going to hack the team’s revenue sharing check by 25, 50, 75 and then 100 percent over the next four years, the margin of error for new front man Dave Kaval to get a stadium built has been reduced to those four years. He is following the dictates of his boss, the persistently hologrammatic John Fisher, who essentially shoved Lew Wolff out the door for preaching San Jose and then caution.

The A’s don’t want to share anything with the Raiders, which rules out a Coliseum site. They have investigated Howard Terminal, which is not without its issues. And there is a new darkhorse site, the land around Laney College which, in a tart bit of irony, is the site of the Raiders’ first Oakland home, Frank Youell Field.

The city and county are in the early stages of a deal to sell the Coliseum land to a group faced by Ronnie Lott and the money-moving Fortress group, and get out of the landlord business entirely. It has pledged somewhere between $190 and $200 million in infrastructure improvements, though in the case of two stadia, the question of whether that amount is split remains to be politicized.

But the real point here is that the Gordian knot that is Oakland’s weird hold on its franchises remains tightly raveled. The Fortress announcement was supposed to be a point of clarity, but the revenue sharing news and now the Chargers-to-L.A. rumors have returned chaos to its usual position at the tip of the food chain.

And chaos makes for hasty decisions, and hasty decisions are often regretted. But hey, what’s life without rich people awash in regrets?

The new developments ratchet up the pressure on the City of Oakland and Alameda County to decide what support – if any – to provide a new A’s stadium, and coincidentally what support – if any – can be provided to the Raiders if they are forced to stay in Oakland by the NFL.

It even ratchets up the pressure on the NFL owners to decide among themselves whether their actual end-game goal – to have the Raiders controlled by someone other than Mark Davis – is better served by allowing him to move his team to Las Vegas or denying him his escape route.

But now for the first time there are time constraints – a few months for Mark Davis, a few years for John Fisher and Dave Kaval. The principles of subsidized Moneyball are now conjoined with the principles of Darwinism, and as the A’s have had innovate-or-die thrust upon them, the Raiders have approached the day of reckoning they’ve been desperately kicking down the road since Al Davis’ death. Plus, the political structures of Oakland and Alameda County will catch the holiest of hells either way, and probably across the board.

But as Paul Weller once wrote, “That’s entertainment.” Find shelter, children. The acrid smell of roasting money is in the wind.

Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman


Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman

Officials are a pet cause of mine, since they are uniquely hired and set up for daily failure as a condition of having the job at all. They are given a supervisory role against a group of mesomorphs running, jumping, colliding and athletick-ing all over the place, only so that they can interpret a rulebook written in Cambodian script in such a way that he or she angers everyone involved, and is supported by none of the people who gave him the rulebook to defend.

But sometimes, despite all this, officials need to be left alone to apply common sense in direct defiance of the dictates of the bloated swine who made the rulebook a tool of the socially ignorant.

And no, I am not talking about Doc Rivers snapping like a stretched bobblehead the other night after Ken Mauer tossed him from the Los Angeles Clippers-Brooklyn Nets game for being geographically inappropriate with fellow official Lauren Holtkamp (he crossed the midcourt line, and curb your dirty minds). Screw him. He had it coming.

No, this is about Frank Schneider, who refereed the otherwise unremarkable Paris Saint Germain-Angers match in Ligue 1, the top division of French soccer, and felt compelled to yellow-card PSG goalscorer Edinson Cavani for doing this.

For you link-averse weenies, Cavani scored a goal and then took off his shirt to reveal an undershirt that read “ACE FUERZA” in support of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, the team involved in the plane wreck that killed 77 of 81 passengers, including all but a few of the team’s players and staff en route to the championship match of the Copa Sudamericana in Colombia against Atletico Nacional.

It was a thoughtful gesture, one we want our athletes to produce to show that they are not just mercenaries with expensively shod feet. It was a credit to Cavani, who is Uruguayan and who knew none of the players involved. He did it to be a human being.

And Schneider knew that. But the rules say he had to give Cavani a yellow card for removing his shirt as an act of celebration or in this case, sympathy, and if Schneider had ignored it, his supervisors would have punished him knowing full well that ignoring it was exactly the correct and decent thing to do.

This right here is one more reason why people hate officials, even more than they used to. They are not allowed to apply their own common sense to a situation that demands it, and if honoring fellow athletes who died in an accident doesn’t demand the common sense of saying, “Heartwarming thought there, Scooter. You’re a good lad. Run and frolic with the other woodland creatures, unconcerned with any notion of punitive action.”

Maybe Schneider walked up to him as he presented the card and said, “Listen, this is crap. You know it and I know it, and I will back your play in the game report, but I have to do this. Please find it in your heart to forgive my bureaucratic obligations.”

That’s not the zenith of understanding as we would wish it, but it would be a way to try and shield Cavani from the withered arm of the law.

Or maybe Schneider said, “I give this card to you in my role as a strident and iron-willed defender of mindless regulations. I spurn you as I would spurn a rabid wolf.”

I don’t know. All I know is, Schneider ends up looking stupid for carding Cavani for supporting his soccer-playing brethren, and officials across the globe cry out as one, “You put him in a ridiculous position, you suit-wearing filth. Where is your compassion? Where is your dignity? Why can’t we line up in an orderly fashion and kick you squarely in the groin 30 to 70 times?”

And a decent human instinct is stamped out as though it were caught stealing office supplies.

You can extend this lesson as far as you wish, including the No Fun League’s old-white-guys fetishistic ban on post-touchdown self-expression, but right here is where that sort of mockable nonsense starts. People died, some of them soccer players. A fellow soccer player honored them on the field of play without disrupting the game itself. He was sanctioned. This is idiocy.

But Doc Rivers getting flipped in Brooklyn? Sorry. There’s only so far we can go with this, and in this case, well, to quote the old philosopher, “Nice tantrum, Glenn.”