For SF, this is a full-blown QB controversy

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For SF, this is a full-blown QB controversy

Colin Kaepernick seemed to be the only one who understood how delicate the next few days and perhaps weeks of the 49ers season would be. Good vision on the field, good vision off it.

He was asked, based on coach Jim Harbaughs notion of having two quarterbacks with the hot hand, if he thought he was ready to be the starting quarterback going forward, and he smiled and said, I dont think one game can be a hot hand.

Thousands will beg to differ after his exemplary work in the 49ers ridiculously easy 32-7 throat-punching of the Chicago Bears Monday night. He gave no indication of being the neophyte he did the week before against St. Louis, not only staying in the pocket but commanding it. His raw numbers (16-of-23, 243 yards, two scores, a 133.1 rating) were arresting enough, but the way he rolled the 49er offense and even rediscovered tight end Vernon Davis in a surprisingly easy win over an allegedly good opponent.

Indeed, starting now, he will be considered by the outside world to be the real starting quarterback even if the ever-coy Harbaugh decides otherwise.

In fact, youre probably safe in thinking that Harbaugh will decide otherwise. One game does not a star make, and Harbaugh not only knows it, but frankly is banking on it. Having created Smith, he isnt likely to abandon him off one impressive performance against a broken team.

Oh, he kept the door open, to be sure. He dismissed the notion of the rule that an injury doesnt cost a player his starting job, and he said again and again, We have two quarterbacks with the hot hand, and well make that decision when we have to make it.

He also evaluated Kaepernick in the highest possible terms, citing his accuracy, poise in the pocket, running the offense, understanding the game plan, and describing his pre-snap reads as in the high 90s, an A-plus operation.

In short, Harbaugh raved about Kaepernick. But, and we cannot stress this too much, he has raved about Smith in his time, too. Harbaugh raves easily, even if all hes doing is trying to smother a story.

Still, the Kaepernick raves, atop what all our eyes told us, creates a dynamic that hasnt legitimately existed since the Montana-Young days. Oh, weve tried to create others, but the ingredients havent been the same. So, yes, this is about to get very very weird if Harbaugh lets it.

And he just might.

Now either he knows the dynamite with which he plays, or like so many other external pressures, he doesnt care. He is sure that he can dominate his environment, and media speculation and the shrieks of the populace are part of that environment.

But Harbaugh is less a swashbuckler than a pragmatist, and even if Smith cannot clear all his protocols before the New Orleans game next week, hell want to see Kaepernick in a loud and hostile environment before he commits to anything longer term.

In short, Alex Smith will be the 49ers starting quarterback again, and theres no use you bitching about it. Whatever his limitations, perceived or otherwise, Smith has shown more in the aggregate than Kaepernick. And Harbaugh plays percentages.

Smith, on the other hand, is already sensing that he is about to become unpopular again, this time through no fault of his own. He has endured much in his time here, most of it as the earnest victim of the franchises wilderness years, and he has fixed almost all the things that have been laid at his feet by coaches who werent very coach-worthy and players who often werent.

And now that hes shown he can handle the brand new car, people are trying to pry the keys away from him again. We may have to come to grips with the possibility that he is simply cursed.

But the real test for Smith now is narrowing his focus even more, and this is where Harbaugh can make things easy for him by telling him--if not anyone else--that he will be the starter again. He can say whatever he wants about two hot hands, but he can only put one man behind center Jonathan Goodwin. And he does not yet know with the metaphysical certitude a coach must have that Colin Kaepernick is the next superior 49er quarterback.

We all thought the Bears game would be an enormous test for either Smith or Kaepernick, and we were wrong, as it turned out. The 49er defense saw to that, holding Chicago to 143 total yards, the second lowest total of any team this season, and two yards fewer than the 145 the 49ers held the New York Jets to in Week 4. Aldon Smith stood proudly on Jason Campbells thorax, but nothing else worked for the Bears, either.

That, though, is the backstory. This is a quarterback controversy town, and this is a full-blown quarterback controversy, with 20 rooms, marble floors, platinum inlaid fixtures, a magnificent entry hall, and a huge garden with wild animals running free behind it.

It isnt really, of course. Not inside the building, where such things really matter. Harbaugh isnt ready for that one yet, only because Smith remains the smarter play.

But outside, where the screaming happens, its on, Jack. Its so on.

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

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AP

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

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AP

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.”