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

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.