Ratto: Why is Camp Alex so riveting?

June 29, 2011, 11:07 pm
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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.