Ratto: Relevance, not All-Stars, is Warriors' goal


Ratto: Relevance, not All-Stars, is Warriors' goal

Jan. 31, 2011


Ray Ratto

Okay, calm down. Sunday did not harm Monta Ellis chances of making theNBA All-Star Team. They are, to steal and modify Fran Leibowitzclassic line about the lottery, the same whether he plays or not. And truthfully, Ellis at the All-Star Game has always struck us as oneof those empty-calorie things, one that really doesnt advance theWarriors in any meaningful way.
In fact, its right up there with those other familiar Warriorbromides, like, If they were only in the Eastern Conference, If itwerent for the injuries, If we could move these three guys forCarmelo Anthony, wed be set," and "The refs never cut the bad teams a break."The Ellis thing has already been discussed to death. He isnt one ofthe best six guards in the West, which is more a statement of the guardquality in the conference. Plus, the Third Law of all-star gamesremains, You get on two years after youve earned it, and you stay ontwo years after you stop.
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And finally, the argument that usually ends any plea for Ellis to make the team is, And the Warriors could use a break. This last one is particular nonsense, because what the Warriors dontneed is more whining for a break. Its off-putting to the rest of us.
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What the Warriors need is a coherent, methodical plan for getting outof the cul de sac that is their place on the NBA map. It means hardwork, an open mind to starting over, smart decisions that showlong-term thinking, and getting rid of the notion that your good playeris the same as the Lakers good player. The Warriors have missed 27 of the past 33 playoffs because theyvemade a series of personnel errors, and then try to convince themselvesthat what they have is more worthy than it is. Its called indulging the illusion, and its gone on from Purvis Short and Joe Barry Carroll to the present day. But the Warriors have done one other thing, and that is convince theaudience that playing attractive basketball is as worthy as playingwinning basketball, and this is where the All-Star Game and Ellis comesinto play. Entertaining basketball is winning basketball, period. Would youhonestly say you would rather have the Warriors of the last 20 years,or the San Antonio Spurs, just to name one team slandered for not beingfun enough?
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Let me help you with that. In an arrhythmic heartbeat, you would. The plain fact is this: This franchise needs to be gutted andcompletely made over, top to bottom. History demands it. The fansdemand it, when theyre not being bought off with free pizzas. Theyneed to get comfortable with the idea that this isnt good enough, andit wont be good enough until 12th becomes eighth and eighth becomesfourth and fourth becomes second, and they become a playoff fixture. And to define this, lets just say theres only one team with a worsehistorical pedigree, and thats the Clippers. Thats a much lower barto clear as Monta Ellis at the All-Star Game. True, this argument doesnt do Ellis a lot of good, because hed liketo go to the game and be thought of as One Of The 24. But Warrior fansdevelop unhealthily comfortable attachments to players who have almostuniversally failed to make them consistently competitive, and Ellis isone of those players. And it must also be said that Ellis has made it clear repeatedly thathed rather win, so he cant be dismissed as a selfish player who justwants his. He has been here long enough to know the crushingdevastation of irrelevance.
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And frankly, relevance needs to be the only goal here. You can say thatin the short-term that Ellis on the All-Star Team is a nice reward forthe customers, but the damage that follows is that the fans get tooattached and forget the real goal here. That is to get Ellis (or someone else) on a lot of All-Star teamsbecause you cant have a 55-win team without a representative. Thatsputting the cart and the horse in their proper places.
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Marshall's admission a reminder culture of health doesn't exist in sports


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

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 ordinance, 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.

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


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.