Ratto: Stanford's Luck Gives a Lesson in Physics


Ratto: Stanford's Luck Gives a Lesson in Physics


Thiswas Andrew Luck on the face-the-music moment he inflicted on Cal's SeanCattouse in Saturday's 48-14 Big Game victory by Stanford:"I didn't really get a good look at him before we came together. I just hit him and let physics take over."Okay then. It was the immutable laws of physics that explainedStanford's most lopsided victory over Cal in a non-rugby-rules BigGame. The really good team faces the okay team and uses basic physicalproperties over and over again to administer an inspirational beatdown.And if one play explained it for the unseasoned, it was Luck'scollision with Cattouse midway through his 58-yard sprint from his ownpocket into Cal's heart. The almost sure Heisman Trip invitee brokefrom his pocket on a third-and-five from his own 21 hoping to extendthe drive, saw green, then saw a flash of blue out of the corner of hisleft eye at the Cal 45 and moved Cattouse involuntarily with hisforearm - his forearm, for God's sake.And yeah, "moved" can be said with emphasis. Cattouse, one of theGolden Bears' best defenders, came hard from the left side and wasdriven five yards up the left hashmark.At the moment, the game ended. There were throws and runs and blocksand pass defenses and all the other things that TV colormen like tospew about, but with 4:52 left in the first quarter, the moment Luckdelivered the blow to Cattouse, Cal's chances of upsetting thesixth-ranked Cardinal evaporated into nothing."He's gotta be a 4.5 guy," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said of Luck,lapsing into NFL combine-speak for any scouts in the audience, "andhe's big and strong and he's got real good speed. It was fun to watchhim run. I just like to see him play."Cal coach Jeff Tedford wasn't nearly so excited, though. He expectedmore of his team than a game like this, but he does know a thoroughbredwhen it canters on his team's face."No, I'm not surprised by that," he said, the disappointment tighteninghis jaw with every word that he forced out of it. "He outweighsCattouse. When I saw him at the luncheon (Monday) I saw up close howbig and strong he is. He's a powerful guy. That's why I keep sayinghe's the best quarterback in the country in my opinion."Tedford, of course, saw more than just the one run. He saw three earlyturnovers and nine penalties that enhanced Stanford drives anddestroyed one of Cal's. He saw his team owned at home, an unusualenough event under any circumstances, and owned by Stanford, aparticularly galling thing especially given the way Harbaugh ripped theCal players for their pregame noisemaking."The Cal players talked a lot of trash before the game during thewarmups," he said, referring to the events that led to both teamsapproaching each other around the coin toss and resulted in a Calpenalty and the ejection of Stanford sophomore Jamal-Rashad Patterson,who took a swing at Cal's C.J. Moncrease in response to an apparentprovocation."We told our team to keep its poise, maintain its discipline, but Idon't like that kind of football where you try and talk and intimidate.It's not real. You play with your feet and your legs and your hands.Just play football. Shut up and play football."Safety Richard Sherman, though, said the talking was not unilateral. "They talked, and we talked, and you just got a conflict of interests."He said this while shirtless and shoeless, having been partly denudedby Stanford fans who were celebrating an enormous win that was dampenedonly by the come from behind victories by Ohio State and LSU, keepingtheir postseason plans in stasis. They are 10-1, the first time they'veever won 10 games without benefit of a bowl win, and watching Luckbrazenly throw into double coverage and come out a winner every time isenough to almost make any bowl committee forget the fact that Stanfordis a notoriously poor travel school.Losses by LSU and Ohio State would have made it harder to keep Stanfordfrom a BCS bowl, probably the Rose. As it is, the Cardinal still needshelp to get what Harbaugh is loath to say it deserves, although hetried."We'll see, we'll see," he said, when asked what postseason reward the Cardinal deserved. "Definitely something good."Now there's a headline: "Harbaugh Approves Of Good Things For HisTeam." Right up there with "U.S. Explorers Discover Farmland In Kansas."Whatever happens tomorrow, though, comes tomorrow. Today, the Big Gamegot its wings yanked off its back. Stanford crushed Cal in a game thatlasted barely 10 minutes before Andrew Luck used his left arm to put anexclamation point on what his right arm did all day.You know. Physics.
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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.

Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman


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.”