Ratto: Troy Smith Still Getting Ninerspeak Treatment


Ratto: Troy Smith Still Getting Ninerspeak Treatment

Nov. 14, 2010
The question kept being hurled at every 49er who made himself available for it: Is Troy Smith your quarterback?And they all agreed. With their eyes, with their posture, with theexpressions in their voice. Just not with actual words, because headcoach Mike Singletary doesnt go there until he wants to go there.So lets just say it, first in Ninerspeak, then in English: AlexSmiths shoulder still is progressing but its not quite there yet.Troy (Smith) will be our quarterback for Sunday (against Tampa Bay)."And: Of course he is. Were you not paying attention, you bucket-headed nitwit?The numbers Smith produced in the 49ers 23-20 overtime win over St.Louis spoke to his ability to play with damp dynamite: 17 of 28 for 356(the most since Tim Rattay hit for 417 in an overtime win overArizona), one score, no picks and a bunch of long yardage saves.The endorsements, couched as they were, were just as strident, and could be encapsulated thus:This is just like playing football in the park, Michael Crabtree said. Just having fun, making plays.Its just like when you were a little kid, Frank Gore added. You make plays. Thats all you gotta do. He makes plays.And Smith made bucketfuls, although in the weirdest ways. He convertedno third downs but a huge fourth-and-18 on the final drive ofregulation. He was occasionally flustered in the pocket and hurriedintermediate throws but hit 10 passes of more than 10 yards and had threescores negated by penalties.He was, in short, better than you could have hoped for a semi-newquarterback, but not quite as coldly efficient as the best of them. Or,for that matter, St. Louis Sam Bradford.But when youre 2-6 (in case you ever are, that is), you dont havetime to work out the kinks, or pass up something big for something withstyle points. You need to electrify, and Smith was the third rail on ateam that was spitting out AAA battery-type efforts.Hes a playmaker, tight end Vernon Davis said, and hes not afraidto let the ball go. Hell do whatever he has to to make it happen.There are too many tremendous athletes here to not share the ball,Smith said, for everybody to not have a chance and an opportunity tomake a play. Its on me to do that.And when asked if Singletary gave him an endorsement, he smiled andsaid, I dont know if you would call it praise. It was his scowl that,I know youve probably seen it, that he told me, Good job, and wedefinitely have to go back to the drawing board, watch the film, breakit down. Theres going to be some thing that definitely you wished youhad done better.'"The Singletary Way: Not too low, and definitely not too high.There are, of course, some painful truths that hide behind thisperformance, all of which fall under the general heading of NecessaryBuzzkill, To Be Filed Away For Later.One, the Rams arent very good defensively, certainly nowhere near as good as Tampa Bay, this coming weeks opponent.Two, Seattle beat Arizona to keep the 49ers two games out of first place in the NFC Cess (as in pool).Three, if the 49ers dont make the playoffs, the new head coacheveryone presumes would be in place would almost surely want to bringin his own quarterback.And four, this game was the season. Now Sundays game is the season.And the more games you play that mean the season, ultimately one ofthem will destroy your season. Its the law of big numbers, and youcant argue with math. If you think you can, Paraag Marathe is holdingon Line Two to have a chat with you.But in desperate times, people live in the moment, and Troy Smith playsin the moment more than any 49er quarterback since . . . hell, maybesince Muddy Waters in the Shotgun Sixties. Every quarterback since thenwas a system quarterback with playmaking skills. Smith showed Sundaythat he looks like a playmaking quarterback who may have system skills.He is, basically, the kind of quarterback for this moment, on thisteam. What comes later is, well, later. But for right now, there is noreal alternative. There is, in fact, no alternative, everyone knows it,and nobody has to say Troy Smith is the starter any more than anyonehas to say Eating glass is bad for your soft palate.It is the most rhetorical of questions, no matter how many waysSingletary tries to find not to say it. It doesnt matter that there isno printed imprimatur. The 49ers are cornered, pure and simple, andthis is the only way out they can conceive.Right now, Im just going to . . . Singletary said, his voicedropping off into you-dont-get-what-youre-after-today mode. weregoing to enjoy this win, and before I get into whos the startingquarterback and all that other stuff, well sit down as a staff andtalk about what we need to talk about, discuss what we need to discuss.And when Smith was asked if he thought he would, or should be thestarter, he said, Youre trying to put words in my mouth, brother.And he wasnt smiling. He knew the answer, too. He wasnt going to sellout Alex Smith, which is what declaring the job his own required, andhe couldnt declare himself anything for fear that even Sundaysperformance wouldnt be enough to keep him out of the Singletarianpooch hut. After all, the job really isnt his, anyway. ItsSingletarys.In more ways than he wants to consider right now.And thats the other thing to remember. This is still a temp job,because the 49ers remain a team looking up at too many teams. Even withSundays win, they are tied for 11th in a six-team race, and with allthe euphoria that Smiths real 60-minute debut created, they managedonly 23 points because they made more than enough mistakes to destroymost teams. The 14 penalties for 105 yards alone would undo most teams,and the 12 for 135 the Rams committed certainly undid them.But like we said, pretty is someone elses problem. Seat of the pantsis good enough for this team, at least until further notice. Werejust playing football, trying to make plays, Crabtree said.And dont ask if Troy Smith is the starting quarterback. He is. Today.But Id check back next Monday. Seat of the pants is a hard way to live.Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

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.”