Ray Ratto

49ers failed to cheat The Reaper

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49ers failed to cheat The Reaper

SAN FRANCISCO -- Numbers fight with sentiment all the time, and in a game as rigorously regulated as football, the two wage an uneven war.

Put another way, the 49ers 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game will be remembered as Kyle Williams cross to bear. But in the grander scheme, this will be the game in which the 49er Way was more hindrance than help, and the Giants got what they deserved more than the 49ers did.

The trip to Indianapolis to bask in the aura of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

The 49ers tried to cheat the reaper with Alex Smith-to-Vernon Davis on offense, and pressure on Eli Manning on defense. And ultimately that wasnt enough, because not enough other players who rose so high against New Orleans the week before were sufficiently in evidence Sunday against the Giants.

Smith was short on miracles and long on failed third downs -- 12 of 13, to be exact, with the only conversion coming on the last play of regulation, a third-and-eight that was in essence a third and goal from the 49er 38.

The defense caused no turnovers, only the third time all year that happened (at Detroit in Week 6, and at Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day).

RATTO: Williams earns cruel place in 49ers lore

And when they needed the big play most, they had already used it twice -- a 73-yard touchdown pass to Davis, and a 28-yarder to Davis in the third quarter. No other touchdowns from anyone, and only two first downs of their own making in the games final 28 minutes.

It was reductive football at its most debilitating, at the worst possible time. And as a result, the Giants did get what they deserved, more than the 49ers did.

The killing blow, the strip of Williams by the Giants Jacquian Williams (and recovery by Devin Thomas), was not bound to happen. It was a football play, like so many others. Kyle Williams will eat that one because thats the way its played.

But the 49ers worst tendencies -- the long stretches where the ball could not be moved and the absence of their best virtue -- taking the ball from the other guy meshed into the anti-Saints game. It was a game where the other guy gets his credit through clenched teeth, the rehash takes a few days of pain, and then the resolve of the new year begins.

Along the way, there will be thoughts of what could have been, how deliciously the merging of the 49ers first and sixth Super Bowl appearances would have seemed to those who lived through them both. Defying the trends of historical badness, turning six wins into 15, Walsh v. Harbaugh -- notebooks would ooze with parallels, both real and forced.

But the one wrench in the spanner was the one that happened Sunday. The Giants played better, and more often, and they found more people to make big events happen. Character was not revealed or exposed Sunday -- it was just the vagaries of football played between two teams that if pitted against each other 20 times would have gone 10-10, 11-9 at the outside.

Sunday was New Yorks day, and if the reward -- a Super Bowl -- seems bigger than the size of their victory Sunday, it only seems that way to 49er fans. San Francisco had its shots and couldnt do enough with them. They couldnt make 7-0 turn into 14-0, or 14-10 into 24-10. They couldnt the Giants outside arms length, and they couldnt make the succumb.

Its football, face-first and cruel on cruel. But the result was football fairness. The better team won, on a day when better was defined in the final analysis by a blown punt return by a player who is about to find out just how heavy a weight can be when it must be carried for months on end.

The truth, though? The Giants got what they deserved more than the 49ers did. And if youre not too fixated on making this Kyle Williams fault, you will see that this is exactly the way the end of an effervescent season should be explained. Just desserts, all around.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
 
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
 
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
 
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
 
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
 
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
 
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
 
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
 
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

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AP

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

There is no inherent reason why you should care about Miami FC or Kingston Stockade FC, two lower level professional soccer leagues in the lower right quadrant of the nation.

But when they joined together to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the international governing body for any sport not run by Americans for Americans, to demand that all American teams submit to the concept of promotion and relegation, from MLS to, presumably, your kid’s under-8 team, they became interesting.

And the best part about soccer, except for Neymar being worth twice as much as all other humans in the history of the sport, is promotion and relegation.

In fact, it would be a great idea in all sports – although the idea of the Giants and A’s in the Pacific Coast League might scare the bejeezus out of Larry Baer and John Fisher.

Now we are not optimistic that the CAS will see this Kingston and Miami’s way. Americans like their sports top-heavy, where only a few megaclubs get most of the money and attention while the rest sort of muddle along, safe but unremarkable. And to be frank, promotion and relegation is most a fun media construct for making fun of bad teams – say, like the A’s and Giants.

But we can agree, I think, that having Jed York pay Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to keep his football team out of the Canadian Football League, or better still, the Mountain West Conference, would add to healthy dose of spice to what promises otherwise to be a pretty humdrum year.

And promotion/relegation would certainly reduce all that troublesome tanking in the NBA people endlessly whinge about.

So here’s to Kingston Stockade and Miami FC. Your cause is just. Persevere. After all, in this rancid period for American sporting culture, someone's got to stand for the quixotic yet indisputably correct thing.

And when it fails, and it probably will, just know you sleep with the angels -- if that’s what passes for fun at your house.