Ratto: Who are best, worst owners in California?


Ratto: Who are best, worst owners in California?

June 30, 2011


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We have long taken pride in our ability to match other cities sports owner for sports owner and claim, We Are The Absolute Worst. And for years, we were.No more. Weve been passed, and worse, weve been passed by our friends in Los Angeles, and now we are a distant second, and fading from view.The reason: Frank McCourt. He kills everyone. If there has been an owner who used his sports franchise as a poison pill against hostile takeover by his wife or the home office, we havent met one. There have been tax evaders and philanderers and slumlords and racists and weasels and creeps and criminals and brigands of all kinds but not this.Thus, he is now the leader in any clubhouse, beating even the old leader in the clubhouse, Clippers owner Donald Sterling. How can we, a large mid-market, compete with that kind of depth?The answer is, we cant. Thus, the new world order shifts south, and were just going to have to live with it. From best to worst:1. LAKERS
Jerry Buss body of work remains impressive, as he has parlayed the advantages of being the big dog in a metro area of 10 million and turned it into the biggest dog. He is not mega-wealthy in and of himself, , but he does have power, influence and Kobe Bryant, the latest in a long line of extraordinary playing icons that stretches back to Magic Johnson (for him) and Elgin Baylor and Jerry West (pre-him). Building always filled, and in prime real estate. Hes a lock.2. GIANTS
Its easy to say this coming off a World Series, but they have their own building (more or less; the city still chunks in upkeep every year), its always filled, and people dont seem to mind paying big money for the same old view of Cody Ross beard, and the 12 drinks that make it palatable. How they have managed to extend the honeymoon for a new stadium into 12 years is easy to understand they won, and the baseball has clearly been the draw for all but the first couple of years and the brief fallow period of post-Bonds. They still have problems telling the truth about their history in the post-Lurie era, but owners do tend to spend as lot of time polishing their own trophy cases.3. SHARKS
Full building they havent started bitching about yet,a team that contends, a fan base that goes in happy and goes out relatively content (hey, the season always ends in a loss, so what do you expect?). They lose a tolerable amount of money (or make a non-obnoxious amount of money, depending on which accountancy firm you use), and have done nothing particularly annoying. Yet.4. HOCKEY KINGS
Philip Anschutz has money he hasnt even hired people to count yet, seems to stay out of the way of the hockey operation, and has spare change to own half of MLS. Also, you can never find the guy, so its not the fame that drives him. Points off for no titles, and his interest in a football team waxes and wanes, but he has no extraordinarily public evil impulses.5. DUCKS
Henry Samueli is a billionaire who has supervised one Stanley Cup. He is a philanthropist of some note. He seems like he should be higher on this list, but he also pleaded guilty to U.S. securities regulators in an investigation about backdating stock options. The result: he was suspended by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and being suspended from owning a National Hockey League team is really hard to do.6. USC
Not a pro team? Please. They are a major driver in college football, the majorest driver west of Austin, and the most important cog in Larry Scotts Empire Of The Air. They do fly a bit wide of the NCAA rulebook, but apparently thats all the rage in college athletics now, and athletic director Pat Haden has a long fight with history in front of him. Trendsetters, or brigands? You make the call.7. ANGELS
Arte Moreno came in as a hero, couldnt sustain his hero-dom (its been nine years since that World Series, after all) and has now settled in as an owner who has learned the pitfalls of both wacky spending and backhanded fame. Sort of a split decision here.8. WARRIORS
A huge advance for this historically ridiculous operation, but the absence of stupidity in failure is not the same as the evidence of wisdom in success. We know Joe Lacob likes to do things, but we dont know if those things are good. We also know he likes to tell people about the things he does, and we know how that usually ends.9. 49ERS
Same as the Warriors. Theyve done some mildly sensible things, but not enough of them to make you think a corner has actually been turned. The Yorks are in the process of being paralyzed by their stadium problem in Santa Clara, and they still havent streamlined their football operation with an expert NFL hand, which is just stubbornness, but they havent done anything really absurd lately.10. ATHLETICS
Were probably entering the beginning of the end game for the Fisher-Wolff ownership, because San Jose looks about as dead as dead can be, and the scorched-earth plan in Oakland has been a predictable failure. But our irritations are mild compared to those in . . . well, you know.11. BASKETBALL KINGS
Going broke is never a good plan for an ownership, especially a family ownership. I mean, you cant sell off relatives to make the nut, if you know what I mean. The Maloofs arent evil theyre just, well, poor. Still, poor is its own punishment, and poor and wanting to leave town is an even less admirable business plan.12. RAIDERS
Al Davis has skins on the wall like few entrepreneurs in the history of sports, but hes been pelt-less for nigh on three decades now, and those decades (well, 28 years) have featured only eight playoff appearances, and none in the last eight. Points for being one of the few men to start in the sport before becoming an owner. Points off for the coaches he has hired and for becoming unfashionable in a cruel Internet world.13. CLIPPERS
Donald Sterling could be the worst ever, but it wasnt like he took a great idea and crushed it. It was bad when he got it, and hes kept it there with an iron will and a defiance for even the laws of bouncing objects, with a side of racist and slumlord to spice up the meal. But in a contrived contest in which we want McCourt to finish last, the silver medal is all we can offer.14. DODGERS
Taking a team from a jewel in the crown to a knob on the porta-potty is a remarkable skill in any amount of time, but McCourt did this at warp speed, and did it mostly to keep money from his wife in a divorce so ugly that it ranks somewhere on a list the starts with Hitler v. Stalin in World War II. Cant be worse, because his greed has a particularly vindictive quality to it, and he trashed a valuable American icon without a moments hesitation.In short, the Southland does well near the top of the list, but their worst is also the worst in America, and that counts for plenty. We may be gilding the Sterling lily a bit by not making him dead last, but McCourt is an inspiration to the conscience-free everywhere. And well done to him for actually offending a guy (Bud Selig) whose salary he is actually helping to pay. Beat that with a stick, we dare you.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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.