Ratto: Raiders invoke self-inflicted collapse

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Ratto: Raiders invoke self-inflicted collapse

Nov. 28, 2010RATTO ARCHIVERAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

We know one thing for sure about the Raiders' latest disaster and their traditional descent into disinterest that such performances produce.Nobody will be blaming God.That was Stevie Johnson's reaction to the drop that cost the Buffalo Bills victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, and apparently God can only ruin one NFL team at a time.
Bills' Stevie Johnson Blames God
The Raiders did it the old-fashioned way. Self-infliction.In losing so demonstrably (33-17, though it should have been much worse) to the depleted Miami Dolphins, the Raiders collapsed. They found a new go-to guy in Jacoby Ford but lost everything else - both quarterbacks, the tight end, the functional offensive line, the running game, the defense as a whole and the secondary in particular, and quite likely Coach Tom Cable in due time as well.They allowed the Dolphins to have the ball for 41:38, the second-longest time of possession imbalance of the season. They allowed the pitiable Miami offense to gain 471 yards, by far a season high to go with their season high in points.But that's not the thing that has killed this season.There's Cable, who couldn't remember how many times he has tried to remember who his starting quarterback was supposed to be, committing publicly to Jason Campbell before the Pittsburgh game "because he's earned it," going back to Bruce Gradkowski before this game, and now has lost Gradkowski to a re-injured shoulder and has to go back to a Campbell who has lost the coach's trust and who seems hesitant to give the coach his own."I didn't understand the whole thing," Campbell said. "He explained to me that when Bruce is healthy, fully healthy, he goes back in as the starter. My thing was in the Pittsburgh game, I was like, well he was healthy.""It's not easy. It's not an easy thing to be going through, by no means. You're a competitor, you like to compete . . . but by no means are you understanding or anything. It's kind of tough because you're caught right in between something and you don't know what's going on. It's not something where I really know what's going on. I can't worry about it."You lose the quarterback, you lose, period. You lose the quarterback the owner traded for and is paying a princely sum, you lose something more.And then there were the effort issues, which typically crop up this time of year for the Raiders when they finally see the forest instead of the trees."It's a simple question," safety Mike Mitchell said. "Is everyone on our team going to decide that we're &@ around, and are we going to play? But that's what this game was. It wasn't coaching. It wasn't scheme. It wasn't anything. It was us. If you're not 100 percent committed, you can't play. You can't be with it. That's what it is. That's what I gotta say about it. We need everybody on the same page doing it. Every play. That's what it is." Or defensive tackle Tommy Kelly."I don't see what the problem is," he said. "I mean, we're going for the playoffs, the division. It's just hard to swallow. I mean, the thing is, we had a good week of practice. That's the frustrating thing. Everybody had a good week of practice. We knew what they were running. We just didn't execute worth &@."Or the injured cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who noticed the flagging attention spans as well."I didn't sense it in the beginning," he said. "We started off pretty fast with the kick return (Ford broke a 101-yard score from the opening kick to begin and end the Raider highlight package) and I thought the guys were fired up. I think that point might have come in the second half, I didn't see it in the beginning."But it came, and a number of players noticed, including defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who said, "It was horrendous. We've seen better days, but the beauty in it all is we'll make up our minds we want to go out and play. We can still control our own destiny, but playing like that, we don't control nothing."
This was, in short, one of those pearl-handled disasters the Raiders put up in November when they're not sure whether to push ahead or lay back and wait for January. This time, they were within screeching distance of the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs, playing one of the few seemingly easy games they had left, and they were comprehensively inert.And it makes you wonder if these are yet one more version of the end of days the Raiders have specialized in since 2003. The anger is still fresh, but the symptomology is clear because we've seen it so many times before. Important game, beatable opponent, no effort, no execution, no performance whatsoever.Indeed, it trumps even Cable's inability to convince Al Davis that Gradkowski is the best man for the quarterbacking job, or keeping Campbell's head in a happy space. Yes, the quarterback situation is an irredeemable mess, but it isn't the only reason the Raiders turned back into the Raiders in eight hard days.They went to Pittsburgh tied for first place, and they came out of the Miami game gasping for air and doubting their will to play hard, let alone actually win.Eight days, it took. Eight. And unless this team has a storehouse of will Raider teams don't typically possess, we can mark this as the day they surrendered their eighth consecutive season, and then waited for the NFL player lockout to end so they could start another new era with another new coach.And God won't have anything to do with it.What's on your mind? Email Ray and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

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AP

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

As rumored over the past two months, Major League Baseball just lowered the Oakland Athletics’ revenue by $34 million, and now all the other developments of the past few weeks have finally become a call to arms by an organization that has always been strident pacifists when it comes to money.

In other words, The Little Engine That Occasionally Could has now been stripped of its little-engine classification, and the conditions that allowed them to play the cute little underdog are gone. No more waiting for more clement economic circumstances, or a more favorable political climate, or for the ever-nebulous “future” which the A’s always dangled before its dwindling fan base.

That was the news of Wednesday. Thursday, reports from ESPN’s Jim Trotter indicated that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos is going to swallow his pride to exercise his option to join Stan Kroenke in Los Angeles, thus reducing Mark Davis’ viable options to Las Vegas and the tender mercies of the NFL, or Oakland and the tender mercies of whoever decides to tackle the problem of a new football-atorium.

In other words, push and shove are now jockeying for position in what is expected to be a crash.

First, the A’s.

With the news that Major League Baseball is going to hack the team’s revenue sharing check by 25, 50, 75 and then 100 percent over the next four years, the margin of error for new front man Dave Kaval to get a stadium built has been reduced to those four years. He is following the dictates of his boss, the persistently hologrammatic John Fisher, who essentially shoved Lew Wolff out the door for preaching San Jose and then caution.

The A’s don’t want to share anything with the Raiders, which rules out a Coliseum site. They have investigated Howard Terminal, which is not without its issues. And there is a new darkhorse site, the land around Laney College which, in a tart bit of irony, is the site of the Raiders’ first Oakland home, Frank Youell Field.

The city and county are in the early stages of a deal to sell the Coliseum land to a group faced by Ronnie Lott and the money-moving Fortress group, and get out of the landlord business entirely. It has pledged somewhere between $190 and $200 million in infrastructure improvements, though in the case of two stadia, the question of whether that amount is split remains to be politicized.

But the real point here is that the Gordian knot that is Oakland’s weird hold on its franchises remains tightly raveled. The Fortress announcement was supposed to be a point of clarity, but the revenue sharing news and now the Chargers-to-L.A. rumors have returned chaos to its usual position at the tip of the food chain.

And chaos makes for hasty decisions, and hasty decisions are often regretted. But hey, what’s life without rich people awash in regrets?

The new developments ratchet up the pressure on the City of Oakland and Alameda County to decide what support – if any – to provide a new A’s stadium, and coincidentally what support – if any – can be provided to the Raiders if they are forced to stay in Oakland by the NFL.

It even ratchets up the pressure on the NFL owners to decide among themselves whether their actual end-game goal – to have the Raiders controlled by someone other than Mark Davis – is better served by allowing him to move his team to Las Vegas or denying him his escape route.

But now for the first time there are time constraints – a few months for Mark Davis, a few years for John Fisher and Dave Kaval. The principles of subsidized Moneyball are now conjoined with the principles of Darwinism, and as the A’s have had innovate-or-die thrust upon them, the Raiders have approached the day of reckoning they’ve been desperately kicking down the road since Al Davis’ death. Plus, the political structures of Oakland and Alameda County will catch the holiest of hells either way, and probably across the board.

But as Paul Weller once wrote, “That’s entertainment.” Find shelter, children. The acrid smell of roasting money is in the wind.

Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman

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AP

Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman

Officials are a pet cause of mine, since they are uniquely hired and set up for daily failure as a condition of having the job at all. They are given a supervisory role against a group of mesomorphs running, jumping, colliding and athletick-ing all over the place, only so that they can interpret a rulebook written in Cambodian script in such a way that he or she angers everyone involved, and is supported by none of the people who gave him the rulebook to defend.

But sometimes, despite all this, officials need to be left alone to apply common sense in direct defiance of the dictates of the bloated swine who made the rulebook a tool of the socially ignorant.

And no, I am not talking about Doc Rivers snapping like a stretched bobblehead the other night after Ken Mauer tossed him from the Los Angeles Clippers-Brooklyn Nets game for being geographically inappropriate with fellow official Lauren Holtkamp (he crossed the midcourt line, and curb your dirty minds). Screw him. He had it coming.

No, this is about Frank Schneider, who refereed the otherwise unremarkable Paris Saint Germain-Angers match in Ligue 1, the top division of French soccer, and felt compelled to yellow-card PSG goalscorer Edinson Cavani for doing this.

For you link-averse weenies, Cavani scored a goal and then took off his shirt to reveal an undershirt that read “ACE FUERZA” in support of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, the team involved in the plane wreck that killed 77 of 81 passengers, including all but a few of the team’s players and staff en route to the championship match of the Copa Sudamericana in Colombia against Atletico Nacional.

It was a thoughtful gesture, one we want our athletes to produce to show that they are not just mercenaries with expensively shod feet. It was a credit to Cavani, who is Uruguayan and who knew none of the players involved. He did it to be a human being.

And Schneider knew that. But the rules say he had to give Cavani a yellow card for removing his shirt as an act of celebration or in this case, sympathy, and if Schneider had ignored it, his supervisors would have punished him knowing full well that ignoring it was exactly the correct and decent thing to do.

This right here is one more reason why people hate officials, even more than they used to. They are not allowed to apply their own common sense to a situation that demands it, and if honoring fellow athletes who died in an accident doesn’t demand the common sense of saying, “Heartwarming thought there, Scooter. You’re a good lad. Run and frolic with the other woodland creatures, unconcerned with any notion of punitive action.”

Maybe Schneider walked up to him as he presented the card and said, “Listen, this is crap. You know it and I know it, and I will back your play in the game report, but I have to do this. Please find it in your heart to forgive my bureaucratic obligations.”

That’s not the zenith of understanding as we would wish it, but it would be a way to try and shield Cavani from the withered arm of the law.

Or maybe Schneider said, “I give this card to you in my role as a strident and iron-willed defender of mindless regulations. I spurn you as I would spurn a rabid wolf.”

I don’t know. All I know is, Schneider ends up looking stupid for carding Cavani for supporting his soccer-playing brethren, and officials across the globe cry out as one, “You put him in a ridiculous position, you suit-wearing filth. Where is your compassion? Where is your dignity? Why can’t we line up in an orderly fashion and kick you squarely in the groin 30 to 70 times?”

And a decent human instinct is stamped out as though it were caught stealing office supplies.

You can extend this lesson as far as you wish, including the No Fun League’s old-white-guys fetishistic ban on post-touchdown self-expression, but right here is where that sort of mockable nonsense starts. People died, some of them soccer players. A fellow soccer player honored them on the field of play without disrupting the game itself. He was sanctioned. This is idiocy.

But Doc Rivers getting flipped in Brooklyn? Sorry. There’s only so far we can go with this, and in this case, well, to quote the old philosopher, “Nice tantrum, Glenn.”