Ratto: Why is Camp Alex so riveting?


Ratto: Why is Camp Alex so riveting?

June 29, 2011


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Just something Ive wondered about when Im not consumed with why there are no smores served at Camp Alex: Why the hell Camp Alex is such a riveting concept.To Comrade Maiocco, who covers this every day, I present a complete exemption. Its the job, and if he had a choice, he wouldnt do it. But he knows you want to know, he wants to provide you with all the camp hijinks he is allowed to see, and so you get daily updates on Michael Crabtree, the 49ers Reluctant Debutante. Ooh, look at him stand. Ooh, look at him study.
But taken empirically, Camp Alex is pretty much a hoax if you apply to it all the great philosophical and ethical guideposts being attached to it. It is a glorified pitch-and-catch, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Some guys get to learn a little more about the Harbaugh-ian playbook, but mostly its a day at the park, only the park is a football stadium, the kids are running about doing what you would do if you werent barbed-wire-tethered to your cubicle, and there are people watching it.
MAIOCCO: Smith takes charge at Camp Alex
Its not the activity. Its the import attached to it that is so, well, stupefying.For one, why is it Camp Alex? Because Smith calls it that? No. Because he organized it? No. Because hes the quarterback? No. It could just as well have been called Camp Vernon, or Camp Domonique, or Camp Wheres Michael. Its become Camp Alex because we think it is a form of proof that he is a natural leader, that he wants everyone else to know he is a leader, and this is what leaders do.This is the fact: Alex Smith will be viewed as a leader when the actual for-real you-can-bet-on-this-one games begin, and he actually, well, leads. People follow people who can guide them to success, and when his teammates and coaches decide hes the guy because he just is, then he will be a leader.For two, why is it such a shining example of devotion to duty? Its actually working for free, preparing to do your best for a boss who has essentially said he doesnt want you around. Its always dangerous to equate the work of an athlete with the work of a regular civilian, but the last time there was a stoppage at your plant, did you fill out forms in your spare time just to stay caught up? No. Nor should you have.This is the fact: The owners should have to suffer the rust of the football players they prevented from working. A diminished work product is a fair exchange for placing individual profit above the concepts of shared work experience and were-all-a-family that football is supposed to built upon. They wanted this to be about keeping more money? Fine, its about money. They just should just understand the costs of stopping the work for their own tactical benefit.For three, is this really going to be used as more proof of Crabtrees diva-hood? Wasnt football always about production? Werent the inherently uber-talented supposed to get their perks? Dont fantasy points trump all else?This is the fact: Crabtree will be condemned for any and all transgressions until he catches 97 balls for 1,358 yards and 12 touchdowns. Then he will be forgiven and hailed as a secretly wonderful human being who just needed time to warm to his surroundings. That he hasnt whole-heartedly bought in to the program this summer is indicative of nothing. He will either thrive or fail in September, October, November and December, because all athletes are graded by the amount of good they can do for the customer, either in entertainment, bets cashed or fantasy results, And dont kid yourselves that its about anything else.And for four, why arent there smores, and a campfire, and scary stories, and a veteran playing an acoustic guitar and singing selections from Lil Wayne Unplugged? while all the other kids sit around and share tales of their innermost fears and dreams? Isnt that bonding too?This is the fact: There should be smores. The rest of it is frankly too creepy to contemplate.

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.

NFL disregards domestic violence, as Giants extend its tolerance scale


NFL disregards domestic violence, as Giants extend its tolerance scale

The National Football League has been reminded yet again that it neither understands nor cares to understand about domestic violence.

But it will do better, you may rest assured. They’ll have a week where all the on-field personnel wear purple to commemorate the bruises.

That’s what the NFL does when it can no longer ignore its own tone-deafness – they turn their stupidity into a marketing opportunity. After all, every social problem can be solved in the league’s eyes by figuring out a way for the league to monetize it.

The latest example of the NFL’s slack-jawed world view comes from New York, where the Giants could not and still cannot figure out what to do about kicker/serial domestic abuser Josh Brown except not let him go to London for the weekend.

This means the league has learned nothing from the Ray Rice incident, even as Rice of all people is showing on a regular basis how to learn from it. More than that, it means it has no interest in learning anything about it, and will never prioritize it beyond crisis-management level – “Uh-oh, something bad just happened. Quick, put it behind us.”

Then again, the league has been so relentlessly ham-handed on so many things that, as convenient as this may be for it, we should stop expecting it to do so, to the point that when someone from the league wants to explain some social issue to us we should simply say with one voice, “Oh, shut up, you yammering frauds.”

It is difficult to prioritize the number of ways the Giants failed to comprehend the problem currently smacking them between the numbers, although owner John Mara’s “He admitted to us he'd abused his wife in the past. What’s a little unclear is the extent of that” may summarize it nicely.

Put another way, one could make a case that the Giants extended the universal talent-tolerance scale (if you have the talent, anything can be tolerated until it can’t) to include placekickers.

That seems less likely, though, than the more obvious point that the league doesn’t regard domestic violence as something worth concerning itself with, while bloviating all the time about all the things with which it is concerned. The league is the beat cop who never gets out of his car to see what is happening on his beat, and is shocked when something does.

And while it will be handy to pile this atop the list of reasons why Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t get it, the truth is he is merely the painful rash that reveals the league’s case of shingles. The league’s 32 constituent elements are culpable here because ignorance in the face of so much evidence becomes willful, and Goodell’s skill is not in guiding the league but in figuring out where his 32 bosses want him to go, and avoiding all the places they don’t.

Hence, domestic violence. This is not an easy problem to solve, as any expert will say, but Mara trying to decide how many punches are enough isn’t it. The league’s six-game suspension guideline that is now four years old has never been imposed on any player. It wants the power to use the talent-tolerance scale at whim to do what it wishes when it wishes to do it.

Or in this case, not do anything at all until it has to, and then in as minimal a fashion as it can manage.

So, Josh Brown loses a week in a foreign country on the company dime as a trade-off for continually terrorizing his wife. The league says it punished him for a game but was powerless to do anything else while knowing all along how severe the problem had become.

In short, it did the minimum. Now that everyone knows the fullest extent of Brown’s abuse, and how much the league knew without doing anything, it will now extend the minimum out to what it thinks is a new minimum.

So we now know that the NFL is looking for some metric that will determine the transactional “extent of that,” as John Mara so eloquently put it for us. When it comes up with that formula, it will surely ignore that standard, because the real standard is still “talent-tolerance,” and the world is made up of concentric circles surrounding the people who make the league and its members a dollar more tomorrow than it made today.

And spouses are a long way from the center.