Stanford must go on, knowing Oregon is better


Stanford must go on, knowing Oregon is better

Andrew Luck in the Fiesta Bowl sounds a little anticlimactic, given the fantasies of those who worked so hard to contrive scenarii by which the Stanfords could play in the BCS championship game.

But based on what Oregon did to the Cardinal in its 53-30 kneecapping, the Fiesta Bowl is just and fair and . . . well, theres nobody to complain about it, anyway.

The Ducks did what they do, the way they do it, and in doing it just that way against the Cardinal in the verdant pasturelands of Stanford Stadium Saturday night, they showed the difference between aspirations and destinations.

Thats the thing about Oregon, head coach David Shaw said with the first sick smile of his head coaching career. You beat them when you make them do things they dont want to do, and to do that, you have to get up on them early, and you cant make mistakes.

They scored early, we made some mistakes tackling them on a couple of our long runs, and then after halftime, well, Chip (Kelly) is probably the best coach in the country at making a lot of subtle little halftime adjustments, and if youre behind, it just makes that much harder.

Put in more mathematical terms, Oregon won the first half, 22-16, and the second, 31-14. In short, the Ducks did what they do they got better. Their speed exposed Stanfords comparative deficiencies on the flanks, their power rush showed itself as Stanford was forced out of its running game, and Luck was belted and bounced as his receivers flailed against Oregons coverages.

This was, put simply, last years game. Oregon trailed, 31-24, at the half, made the Kelly adjustments, and scored four unanswered scores after the bands cleared to win by a strikingly similar score, 52-31. In short, Oregon was a point better this year, and Stanford was a point worse.

The damage to Lucks Heisman Trophy candidacy can not be measured, except by people who have no idea how much damage was actually done. It isnt like the field has raced up to meet him, and his inability to beat Oregon singlehanded should not be held unduly against him. True, he had only one tackle and no pass receptions, but theres only so many positions a man can play.

And thats the lesson that arches over this game. There is only so much anyone can do when someone else is faster, does better halftimes, and never trails. You sometimes have to take your beating with a grimace and dream of that parallel universe where those things are not necessarily true.

There were slight variables between the 2010 and 2011 games, of course, but the central theme was the same. Oregon may be the best second-half team in the country, and proved it against Jim Harbaugh a year ago and again against Shaw Saturday night.

Not even Luck, who threw for three scores but also threw two picks, one for Oregons last touchdown, could do what-ifs very convincingly. Or really, much of any remarks. Even when he said, It was obviously my worst game of the year, he was speaking accurately but also taking on a level of blame that wasnt his.

Luck was not going to beat Oregon by himself; for that, he would need running back Stepfan Taylor at his very best, but after 20 carries for 87 yards in the first half, he got the ball three times in the second because the game situations removed him from relevance. In the battle of tactical wills between the two teams, the Ducks had all the best of it, because they never trailed at any point, and forced Stanford to become the one-dimensional team Shaw was trying to make the Ducks.

Of such basic calculations are games won and lost, and with two full games of evidence in the books, we can say that this would be the outcome seven of 10 times, maybe even eight. Even with full health on both sides, Oregons gifts are more comprehensive, and it isnt just Kellys brain, but the arms, legs and torsos of his players.

So Stanfords season of dreams is now over. They cannot reasonably expect to win the Pac-12 North, are not likely to make the Rose Bowl, and will have find their bliss against California next week and Notre Dame the week after. Then maybe they get to play for, with all due deference to Brent Musburger, all the Tostitos.

Well, all the kind of old, crumbly, bottom-of-the-bag Tostitos. There will be no national championship game for the Cardinal, and that is the just result. Oregon proved it is better, twice, and under eerily similar circumstances. To be the king, you have to beat the king, and Stanford is not yet ready to be the king. The Cardinal can throw a hell of a party, but they will go from here to the end of their season knowing someone else will throw a better one.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports


Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.