Ratto: Bonds' legal drama the trial of century .. kinda, sorta


Ratto: Bonds' legal drama the trial of century .. kinda, sorta

March 21, 2011RATTO ARCHIVERay Ratto

Two significant trials open in the Bay Area Monday, and one involves a broad-daylight murder, allegations shootings, the kidnapping of two women and the torture of one of them, the vandalism of liquor stores to stop the sale of alcohol in the inner city, some miscellaneous sexual assault charges and the defense attorney comparing his client to Hermann Goering, Hitlers chief accomplice.

The other involves Barry Bonds.

Game, set and match, ballplayer.

Not that we ever expected the Chauncey Bailey trial, the newspaper editor shot allegedly to silence him over stories of corruption he planned to publish regarding a local empowerment group, to trump the Bonds trial for gravity. For one, the Bailey trial will not include the word flaxseed.

But this is the trial of the century, kinda sorta, in that it has taken so long to get to this point and involves one of the three to five greatest players in the history of baseball, performance-enhancing drugs aside. It covers perjury, tax evasion, money laundering, clubhouses, other players, unsterilized needles, a conspiracy of silence that reaches all the way to the top of the baseball foodchain. It is our national pastime in the dock.

Oh, who are we kidding? Its about Barry Bonds. It may cover all those other things, just as the Roger Clemens trial when it begins, but this is the first big one involving a player (a) of such grand stature who (b) denies knowing anything about anything no matter who says they have the goods on him.

Its also an education of jury selection, in which two armies of lawyers try to find 12 people in the Bay Area who believe that Bonds was the artist who recorded Dear Lady Twist and New Orleans. Its an education for those who want to know the intricacies of evidence gathering. Its an education about the competing philosophies of sporting purity and cheating for the greater good. Its an education about the differences between not allowing perjury to go unpunished and prosecutorial zeal. Its an education about the concept of the greater good, about fan loyalties, race, the rights of the unpleasant defendant in a society that purports to live by laws. You can put those in any order you want, because until the verdict, you are your own official scorers.

Oh, and one other thing. Its definitely an education for anyone who wants to know how to thrive in this economy by going to jail.

Its high principle and low comedy brought together before the bench of Judge Susan Illston. Shell be the one in the black robe and the ball cap hitting herself in the head with her own gavel about 60 times during this trial wondering why she hadnt forgone law school for tavern management.

The Bonds case is not particularly sexy if you strip away everything that doesnt have to do with Barry Bonds. Youd barely notice it at all, and the Bailey trial would be a much bigger deal.

But pre-law chicks, and cats for that matter, love the long ball, and for all the sideshows about whether he was a lousy companion to his mistresses (which he was) and whether he played with Lex Luthors skull (which he allegedly did), the real case, perjury, is lost amidst the rest of the maelstrom that surrounded Bonds in his heyday.

And weirdly, that maelstrom has been muted considerably by the Giants, his team, winning the most recent World Series. Giant fans, who were prepared to defend his rights as a citizen who won games for their favorite team, have bigger concerns these days -- like whos going to replace Brian Wilson. For many of them, this wasnt even about Bonds but about the team he played for, and the team he played for just did the one thing fans wanted more than Bonds -- a trophy with 30 pointed sticks on it.

Oh, this trial will get off to a quick start, notoriety-wise, because who doesnt like the first sounds of a circus calliope? But for a lot of folks, it will quickly join the background noise of the lead-in to the baseball season, because not as many locals were as committed to Bonds the man as to Bonds the Giant.

And this wont even give us much of a precedent about anything except whether 12 people who say they dont know Barry Bonds can decide how much they dont know Barry Bonds. In fact, what we think we know about Barry Bonds may not be determined until we find out what we know about Roger Clemens. Wont that be a lot of fun?

In the meantime, the Chauncey Bailey trial will go on with far greater principles in play, to the attention of almost nobody. Maybe if hed hit a few more homers, or his hat size had grown, or he had a personal trainer that would go to the jug on his behalf.

Nahhh. Who in their right mind could come up with stuff like that?

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports


Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.