Ratto: Oakland still in game for new A's stadium


Ratto: Oakland still in game for new A's stadium


You knew, you just knew that when the As San Jose ballpark plan kept running into snag after logjam and procedural hurdle that it was actually a harbinger of Never mind. Were not that keen on it after all.

And while San Jose has not yet chunked in its interest of grabbing Los Elefantes, Oaklands newfound interest in jumping back into the fray is a clear sign that, after months and even years of resigned indifference, the East Bays anchor is interested in becoming the ship again.

RELATED: A's Plan for San Jose Stadium Hits Snag

The citys community and economic development committee approved a 750,000 environmental impact report (that the city council will approve next week) for a study that will show that the Victory Court stadium site (think the estuary waterfront, cheek by barnacle with the Giants aging basilisk across the way). And frankly, getting Oakland to spend money on anything related to the As is in and of itself the civic version of the baseball team signing Albert Pujols.

Lew Wolff, the reluctantly public face of majority ownerstealth ninja John Fisher, still wants the San Jose stadium because, well, in considerable part because hes spent so much of the past few years trying to convince fans that Oakland is a political and financial sinkhole and that San Jose is the only alternative.

RELATED: Stadiums Must Go Back to the Future

Well, apparently it isnt, as Major League Baseball has already weighed in on Oaklands site selection as though it believes Oakland is still viable. True, MLB never says no when someone else is footing the bill, and its word on stadium and location matters is always reliable . . . until it isnt.

But the San Jose plan is suddenly the neglected stepchild despite Wolffs plan of holding his breath until you and I turn blue. Rumors during the winter meetings last week that suggested strongly that Major League Baseball (which is Bud Selig about seven owners) favors an Oakland site tend to make a fella go, Hmmmmmmmm.

Understand here that MLB goes where the clout is, and Oakland suddenly has surprising clout. Each of the last two mayors have given approximately zero percent of a damn, but theyre both gone one to the governors mansion in Sacramento, the other to speaking tours. The Jack London area is going through some understated but eventually dramatic upgrading (the banks willing), some heavy hitters like Sen. Barbara Boxer have skin (i.e., land) in the game, and in case you havent noticed, San Jose hasnt moved a millimeter in its ability to make the As their own.

And history shows that when nothings happening in baseball, theres a good reason.

It isnt territorial rights, which the Giants wave like a giant foul-line-to-foul-line flag. And it isnt the blue ribbon commission from MLB which is supposed to offer recommendations but in fact offers what it is told by MLB to recommend.

But the point here is that Oakland, sclerotic but stubborn as it is, is playing like it has lapped the field without anyone seeing. And in this economic and political climate, even 750K for an EIR is a hell of a check-raise.

All of which leaves Wolff and, more to the point, Fisher with a decision to make. Whether to retract everything either of them ever said about Oaklands lack of suitability for their little ball team, or to hammer down a For Sale sign and let someone else enjoy the migraines.

And the revenue sharing checks.

Were still in the early stages here, and Oakland could end up mangling the pooch yet again, as it has repeatedly with the As. But for the moment, the Oakland As may have a new reason to slap Oakland back on the front of the jerseys again.

And wont that be a press conference to see? Ladies and gentlemen, Lewis (I Am No Longer Gertrude Stein) Wolff, will answer your questions about Victory Court Ballyard, Automotive Repair Center, Public Library and Dry Cleaners from behind that barricade. Mr. Urban you may begin.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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.