I dont think Jerry Brown is going to go see Moneyball, and I have no knowledge that he has an opinion either way on Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill or Philip Seymour Hoffman.Unless perhaps as potential political donors.But I can infer with some safety that if he did go, it wouldnt be for the baseball back story. He made it pretty evident when he was the mayor of Oakland that the Athletics didnt move his needle much.Okay, thats not fair. They didnt move his needle at all.He saw no value in considering creative alternatives for the As ballpark issue while the mayor of Oakland. The town was destitute, as it is now, with school closures as the latest body blow to a city that has taken about all it can. And as mayor he didnt commit much effort to figuring out how to make such a plan work.And now, as governor of California, he has signed two bills that will help hasten the reality of an NFL stadium in L.A. Whod have guessed?His logic in Oakland? Boiled to its truthful essence, he saw no political will or benefit for it, and he is far less careful at selecting the windmills at which he will tilt than he was 30 years ago.But now that he has regained the governors chair after routing the free-range boss Meg Whitman, he has found the wisdom in stadium construction for a football team in Los Angeles.Somewhere, Billy Beane is aiming both middle fingers at him with considerable malice.Or maybe not. Maybe the As were so hell-bent on the myth of San Jose that a working plan for Oakland spearheaded by Brown would have offended Johnny (The Spectre) Fisher and his real estate agent, Lew Wolff.But when you hear helpful phrases from the governor like Its time for big thinking and big projects that put Californians back to work, and it is imperative for the state to cut the red tape that could delay projects like this for years, you cant help wonder why that logic didnt work in Oakland.The difference is, it doesnt have to. For Jerry Brown, at an age where legacy shopping is important, its about timing and location. The timing is he isnt going to be a player in politics much longer, and the location is Los Angeles instead of Oakland. There are benefits to him in helping a stadium grow in Los Angeles that there clearly were not in Oakland.This does not make Brown unique. Any politician in his place would probably arrive at the same conclusion for the same reason even the really loony ones.Still, The Billy Beane Story would be much different if he couldnt use the Coliseum as an excuse for not pursuing free agents and resigning free agents-to-be. Hes already dropped that one on Josh Willinghams agent, and frankly, if thats the new battle plan, then he may as well just head for the hammock.Should Brown have been more aggressive about an Oakland stadium? An open question. The A s seemed reluctant, the city seemed broke. But creative men like Jerry Brown are required for tasks like that, and Brown didnt expend any energy, charm or brain cells in seeking that solution. He simply didnt regard it as important.But now, despite showing no particular interest in football, he has hastened the process by which Los Angeles gets its football stadium thereby offering the deliciously perverse scenario in which the Raiders decide to move to L.A. and become a tenant in a Jerry Brown-endorsed stadium.So no, we dont expect the governor to race right out and see Brad Pitt play a fictionalized version of Billy Beane in a fictionalized movie of a kind of fictionalized season. Hes not a baseball guy.And as he must surely be aware, Billy Beane isnt a Jerry Brown guy, either.
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?
You can almost hear the sound whistling between the 49ers’ teeth at this point, beneath the droned platitudes and vague responses to what is a fully lost season:
“Look, what do you want from us? This is who we are.”
You can almost hear it, that is. They wouldn’t dare express such rampant defeatism – I mean, if they didn’t after Sunday’s 34-17 muzzling at the hands, arms, torsos and feet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unlikely you would hear it at any point.
But they must surely know by now that this is a season already in the rear-view mirror. There are no secret plans, or stashed players, or untried ideas left to unearth, sign or try. The coming bye week will not clear their heads and give them new inspiration, save that of having a week off from the steady beatings. They are 1-6 on merit, and proved it again yesterday before another dispirited two-thirds-of-a-sellout crowd which is coming to realize that their hope is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Sunday, for example, Colin Kaepernick was their best running back, Shaun Draughn was their best receiver, the downed kickoff was their best special teams play, and their best strategic decision – well, they lost the coin flip so they didn’t even get a chance to defer the opening kickoff.
And their defense? It only allowed whatever Tampa Bay wanted, and only on demand. Jacquizz Rodgers became the sixth running back to gain 100 yards against them (and the first to do it in one half), which is noteworthy only because they allowed five all last year in a bad season, and nine in the four seasons before that, four of those by Marshawn Lynch.
And quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball to wide-open receivers and into coverage with the same sense of well-placed bravado. Though his numbers didn’t exactly aurora the borealis (21-of-30, 269, 3/1, 117.2), he never emitted a sense that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted – save get the officials to give him a better spot when he snapped and cost his team a potential touchdown with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for headless-chickening.
In other words, this was not materially different than the Buffalo game, or the Seattle game, or the Carolina game. The only game that has been different is the opener against Los Angeles, when everything worked and made sense and life was happy and Jed York hummed “I Am 16 Going On 17” all through the suite all night long.
That game was 50,000 years ago. These are who the 49ers are now, and who they are going to be for awhile to come.
They speak of consistency, and yet they are the very model of it – leading the league in punts, and ranking second in three-and-outs, 27th in first downs and 31st in plays per drive. They don’t stay on the field, in other words, and when on defense, they allow 118 more yards per game than their offense gets them.
And they swear with unanimity that they are together as a team, and work hard each week to achieve the acme of their talents and learning. So this, if that is so, must be at or near the top of their game – which, as head coach for now and the future Chip Kelly (stop thinking this is just a coaching problem, please) put it, “We’re not doing what it takes to be successful right now.”
That was in response to a question about whether the 49ers were going backwards. He ducked the issue by saying, “I don’t think forwards or backwards,” which is probably a lie, but we can help anyway.
They have gone dramatically backwards since Game 1, and essentially stagnated since Game 2. It’s how they have gotten to where they are right now, and how they have become who they are right now.
It may be that stranger things have happened in the NFL than a team starting 1-6 and rallying to win eight, nine or 10 in a row, but on this team, based all the available evidence, this team won’t be that strange. They have revealed themselves for what they actually are, which is not good enough to change what they actually are.
And if that is too tough a sentence for you to swallow, well, go out and write some of your own. You can tell any tale you want, but this is the tale of the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, a team awash in unpleasant self-realization and the knowledge that there is nothing to be done but to go out each week and do it again.
Except next week, of course. Bye may be a favorite, but Bye must be played, just like all the others.