Ratto: 49ers learn limitations in loss to Dallas


Ratto: 49ers learn limitations in loss to Dallas

Sept. 18, 2011

Jim Harbaugh prides himself on saying nothing, and explaining less, when it comes to the outer workings of his job and his teams jobs, but to his great revulsion, he must face the fact that he revealed the central essence of the 49ers in one sentence Sunday.We played well enough to win the game, he said, and without taking a breath, followed it with, but we didnt play well enough to win the game.Oh. Well in the case, well done, and shame on you.

I suppose there is some sense to be made in controlling the Dallas Cowboys early, taking a 14-0 lead with the same conservative deftness that propelled them to a 16-0 lead a week ago against Seattle. Nothing flashy, nothing too demanding, just regular tough-minded flatnosed football.But then came the final 39:16, in which they gained 52 yards and three first downs, en route to a galling 27-24 overtime loss in front of a very happy transplanted Cowboy crowd at La Candeliere. A week after they finished 31st in yards gained, they gained three fewer yards than that. They ran for 11 fewer yards. Why, if the Cowboys werent such damaged goods (their injury report starts with Tony Romos ribs and shoulder and goes weird from there), this might have been a full-on rout.In short, Harbaugh might defiantly refuse to play the blame game, saying, Im not gonna play the blame game, the blame here is clear.The man who failed the 49ers is Ted Ginn, Jr. I mean, if he isnt going bust two returns a game, this is going to be a long season.Oh, lets be honest. This is going to be a long season anyway, and the number of 49er fans who sold their seats to Cowboy fans is an indicator that most people know it. There is no quick fix, and Sunday showed the conundrum in which the 49ers are truly wedged.They are at their best when they are careful with the ball, but they cannot run because defenses have put 16 and 17 men in the box to squeeze Frank Gore. The receiving corps were average before Michael Crabtree and then Brandon Edwards went down. The offensive line was stripped naked by Dallas greater talent and multiple fronts.In other words, the 49ers at their most efficient can jump out on a team quickly, but are not yet a team that can keep that opponent jumped upon, and they know it.Or at least they are beginning to suspect it.This isnt about coaching. It certainly wasnt about leaving David Akers 55-yard field goal on the board with 11:12 to play. The 49ers were playing against a crippled quarterback whose two best receivers, Jason Witten and Miles Austin, were clearly hurt. It was the right percentage move.But it also demanded that the defense continue to stifle Romo, Witten and Austin, let alone Jesse Holley, who caught the 77-yard throw on Dallas first offensive play of overtime. The Cowboys gained 237 yards and scored 17 points in fewer than 14 minutes of playing time, and nine minutes of possession time.Thats not a team that played well enough to win, or is in a position to say such a thing, even if it it just pre-programmed, stonewalling nonsense from a coach who is not in a position to say, Were not good enough yet.At least not without two stiff belts of Ginn.Not that Harbaugh will get any more glib in the months and years to come, so lets never mind fixing that idiosyncrasy. It is, as most existentialists will tell, what it is.The fact is that whether the opponent is Seattle or Dallas, scheme will only take you so far. The rest is toughness, and an even more difficult trait to develop, talent. One player change doesnt do it, either, so stop with the blathering about You Know Who. This team simply isnt in a place yet to stand steady on ground like two games over .500.And you all know this as well. Otherwise, Sunday wouldnt have been a modified home game for the Cowboys.But if its any consolation to 49er fans, consider this. The lead the 49ers blew was three fewer points than the one the Raiders coughed up in Buffalo three hours earlier.That, kids, is what happens when you play well enough to win the game but not well enough to win the game.

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?

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

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.

[MAIOCCO: Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss]

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.