Ratto: 49ers' stadium drive stalls short of end zone

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Ratto: 49ers' stadium drive stalls short of end zone

June 8, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEORay Ratto
CSNBayArea.com

So maybe, in light of the fact that the stadium cost overruns have begun and the 49ers still dont have half the money they need to make this Santa Clara thing happen, we need to tell them this:

If you aint got it, kids, move on. Either start sucking up to San Francisco again, find the other 500 large on your own, or just stop talking about it.

We bring this up because the 49ers, without anyone asking them, trumpeted the one-year anniversary of the vote from about 62 citizens from the City of Santa Clara that said they would be welcomed with open arms and turned-out pockets. And whats happened in that year?

The stadium costs another 50 million, no doubt for the platinum-inlaid urinals on the suite level. The financing from the 49ers and the NFL went, in the charming words of the San Jose Mercury News, from 493 million to unclear. The new governor of our state -- who is the same as the old governor of our state, only without the extraneous family -- is casting a covetous eye on the states development money. And there is a pending lockout by the owners of the players, of which John C. and John E. York clearly approve.

In short, the gap between can-do and theyre-screwed is growing, and all this inertia is allowing us to worry about the million billion other things that tend to intrude upon our lives.

Like the largely absurd Camp Alex, in which players who have been told by their boss not to come to work are working on the side, for free, so that theyll be ready to work harder when they are allowed back inside the compound.

Theres a name for this kind of labor-without-recompense philosophy: Student-Athlete.

But lets get back to the stadium that isnt, and may never be, shall we? Because there is nothing quite like perpetually undeveloped real estate to make the blood run hot.

The 49ers have talked this stadium to death and beyond, when it is painfully clear to anyone who can read a Forbes Magazine that they cant do this themselves. They keep saying they have good financing, but nobody gets to see it. They say theyre ready, and there is neer a shovel on the site.

This means one thing. They havent got the money yet, and they dont know where to find it. They may even think that investing half the family worth in a football stadium is a less than prudent investment, an idea whose time is beginning to come for a lot of teams and a lot of cities.

So why are we celebrating the first birthday of this stuff and nonsense? So that people will say, Hey, we forgot! Wheres the stadium?

I mean, since they forgot about it and need a press release reminding them, one can only conclude that it clearly is not an idea that resonates in their minds. I mean, what with trying to find schools for their kids that can afford pencils, jobs that dont evaporate and cost of living rises that shame Paraguay and all.

Thus, to the 49ers, heres an anniversary to celebrate and trumpet. The one when you say, in a press release as gaudy as the one you just put out:

Hi kids. Yorks here.

Listen, we still want the stadium, we still think its a good idea and all, but were not ready, and apparently neither are you. Its called re-bar fatigue, and we dont even have any re-bar yet.

So heres the deal. The Santa Clara thing is what we in the construction business call dead in the water, which means we have no hole in the ground to show you, and no bankbook to show how close we are to making the hole. Hey, it happens.

This then is our pledge to you. Were not going to say another word about it until burly men and burlier women with shovels and back hoes and cement mixers show up and start making that hole. Well get the money, well do the work, and we promise above all to shut up about it until the work has at least gone past the standing around and scratching our heads stage. Dont think another thing about it. Honest.

And if it doesnt get done, we wont blame anyone. Sometimes stuff just happens, and part of being a good citizen in these perilous times is in knowing when not to whine about it. So were not going to whine. Well either do, or we wont, and either way, were at your service.

People would applaud that rare bit of candor. Plus, theyd be able to return to their daily lives and say in a moment of tavern-inspired reverie, Remember that Camp Alex thing? I wonder why it never caught on in any other line of work.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Raiders' magic dissipates, but valuable lesson about contending learned

Raiders' magic dissipates, but valuable lesson about contending learned

So the Oakland Raiders are good, but not magical, let alone soaked in destiny. So they can make every game a hard slog for the opponent, but they are not invulnerable. So they can be inefficient, and too sure of themselves, and terribly wasteful when they’re cold.

In other words, they are part of the National Football League – no longer too good to be true.

Their performance against the Chiefs in Kansas City was a pyramid of blown opportunities, opportunities made necessary by a terrible start. A week ago, against a borderline playoff team, they could get away with it. Thursday, on hostile ground, against a team that has lost three of its previous 23 regular season games and has a defense that specializes in standing on your chest until you whistle Yankee Doodle through your navel, they couldn’t.

The result of the 21-13 loss in a game with 12 more points than degrees of temperature is that the Raiders are now the fifth-best team in the American Football Conference rather than the first-best team with four more chances to change that position.

In other words, Thursday’s defeat only provided this much wisdom: The Raiders are a good team vulnerable to other good teams with an iron-plated sense of purpose, stubborn defenses that can apply and maintain a chokehold for hours on end, and offenses that don’t feel compelled to imitate Oakland’s offense by getting into a shootout.

And also this: There is nothing that would necessarily prevent them from beating the Chiefs in case of a third match, even though Kansas City held them to fewer points in two games than they scored in every other game save one. They are still, as the pedants say, “in the argument.”

But they have flaws to be exposed against the right team in the right situation. Kansas City has been that team twice, and New England probably is, but there the list probably stops. Nobody in the AFC North or South seems terribly capable of matching them in neutral conditions, but here’s the other bone spur:

The playoffs are not about neutral conditions.

The Raiders have come a long way in what most people think is a long time, but in fact in terms of team construction, you can throw out everything before 2013, and almost everything before 2015. They are just now getting a full understanding of the hardest part of becoming a Super Bowl contender – the other Super Bowl contenders.

Yes, Kansas City has an indifferent playoff history under Andy Reid, but it is clear that under current conditions the Chiefs are serious players. And while we have no link to how the Raiders would fare against new England, we are pretty sure that they wouldn’t want to play the second weekend of January arse-deep in snow in Foxborough.

The point? Now they get how hard this contender stuff really is. They could not have learned that lesson any other way – not anyone they’ve played yet save Kansas City.

Their next lessons come in Weeks 16 and 17, when they face the frantically desperate Indianapolis Colts in Oakland and then the Broncos in Denver the week after. Desperate teams can be very difficult indeed, especially to teams that are safe and dry and home, playoff-wise.

And then there are the actual playoffs, which if they were played today would have the Raiders traveling to Houston for a very winnable game against the stultifying Texans. The week after, they could be either in Kansas City again or in New England, getting a gut full of visiting field disadvantage.

But as a learning experience, the Raiders may have come out very well indeed. They now know in very real and personal ways the real difference between where they think they should be and where they are, as well as how many ways this can go terribly wrong between now and then.

And also how well it can go, if they learn what the Chiefs taught them again Thursday.

Marshall's admission a reminder culture of health doesn't exist

Marshall's admission a reminder culture of health doesn't exist

Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets had one of his greatest games ever against the San Francisco 49ers two years ago and remembers almost none of it, because, as he told reporters Wednesday, he was cloudy-minded on painkillers.

This admission is one more reminder that sports are not necessarily good for one’s health, in large part because the culture of health in sports really doesn’t exist.

There is, rather, a culture of ordnance, and the players are the weaponry.

Marshall’s acknowledgement that he was masking pain from a high ankle sprain that should have kept him out of action for “four to six weeks,” by his own estimation but had him returning to action 10 days after the original injury.

“I’ll say it: I took a couple pain pills, so . . . I took a couple of pain pills to mask the pain,” he said on a conference call with CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. “I really wasn’t supposed to play. So I don’t remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. That was pretty much it.”

We now re-enter the culture of playing when it isn’t prudent, either out of a misplaced sense of bravado or employer-based pressure to perform (there is no direct statement from Marshall saying that the painkillers were given to him by the team). The sense of bravado, which most athletes have, probably can never be legislated, and the culture of downward pressure to perform no matter what the infirmity has proven immensely difficult to conquer.

But there is another factor here, and that is the general lack of efficacy of painkillers. Warriors coach Steve Kerr took to using a form of medicinal marijuana because the painkillers he was taking for long-lingering symptoms from his back surgery were doing more harm than good. He said he found the marijuana was equally lacking, but he had enough concerns about the deleterious effects of Vicodin, OxyContin and other standard medications assigned to athletes in pain.

“I’m not a pot person; it doesn’t agree with me,” Kerr told CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole on the Warriors Insider Podcast. “I’ve tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all. So I’m not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you’ve got a lot of pain, I don’t think there is any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin. And yet athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal.”

He later expanded on that after the initial “Kerr Is A Sparker” headlines hit the Internet.

“Having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery from back surgery, a lot of pain, a lot of chronic pain, I had to do a lot of research,” he said. “You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet . . . NFL players, that’s what they’re given. That stuff is awful. That stuff is dangerous, the addiction possibility, what it can lead to, the long-term health risks. The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players.

“But I understand that it’s a perception issue around the country. The NFL, the NBA, it’s a business. So you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of potheads.’ That’s what it is. To me, it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues because the education will overwhelm the perception. If you do any research at all, the stuff they’re prescribing is really bad for you and the stuff that they’re banning is fine.”

It is instructive, then, that when Marshall was asked for his position on the NFL’s stance not to include marijuana as a permissible substance for pain management, substance, a Jets public-relations employee who could be heard in the background of the call saying that Marshall “knows better than that.”

But Marshall did answer the question, saying in essence that he fully intends to know better, period.

“That is something that I actually want to research more this offseason when I have time,” he said. “I’m not a guy that knows about the benefits of what it can do for pain and other things. But I’d like to hear others’ opinions and really research the effects it can have on us – positives and negatives.”

In the meantime, sports soldiers on, using increasingly debunked methods for dealing with the pain their businesses inflict upon their employees and issuing warnings about breaching the silence of the workplace. But tales like Marshall’s will continue to surface until the businesses that require him and his like come to grips with the toll of their shortsightedness and, in some cases, neglect.