Ray Ratto

49ers-Giants title game a matchup nobody saw coming

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49ers-Giants title game a matchup nobody saw coming

The New York Giants victory in Green Bay guarantees us one thing and one thing only the absolute certitude that anyone who says they predicted this is a stinking liar who should be shunned by all of society until his or her much-deserved death.And were not kidding here. None of you saw this one. In fact fewer of you saw this than predicted that Alex Smith would be capable of doing what he did Saturday. Youre all liars, too, but you were forgiven in the euphoria of Saturday.But this? Uh-uh. Dont even try. Youll come off not only as a complete B.S. artist and a comprehensive gasbag, but youll have completely missed the spirit of the thing.

This NFC Championship is the triumph of wacky possibilities, between the team that blew an entire decade to make this moment as good as it is, and the team that allegedly fires its coach every other week whether he needs it or not. This is the game between the two quarterbacks who between them look like their aggregate age is 15. This is the game whose historical antecedents predate the death of Kim Il-Sung.This is the worst thing young people can endure their forebears talking about games that are older than they are.But mostly, its about a game nobody saw coming, and will be unable to properly process. Not that we wont try, mind you. Pundits must dit their puns, or fear losing their cushy gigs on the punditry gravy train.But theyll be lying, too. Theyll mercilessly break down the Giants-49ers game of midseason in search of entrailclues, but this game wont be played like that one. We dont know what it will be played like, but what we saw from the 49ers and Giants this weekend should convince anyone that nobody knows anything about anything any more.So, with that as the backdrop, you should embrace the wacky unknown this week. When someone asks you what you think, your answer should be, I have no freaking idea. I know what Id like to happen, but I havent got a clue. Not one. Now buy me a beer.I mean, why would you want to act like Jim Parsons in The Big Bang Theory? What would you gain from feigning expertise you dont have about an event you didnt think would occur, let alone in the ways in which they were made possible?Ill tell you. Nothing. Youd look like a jerk, is what. Youd be the one everyone backs away from in the office, and who doesnt get invited to the party on Sunday because youd foul the air with cries of I knew that was going to happen.Better off to be like all your friends, laughing and shrugging and saying, Well, Ill be damned over and over again. Better off to admit your fallibilities among your fellow fallables, and drink for free. Frankly, its better to drink for free than claim you invented the cure for polio even if you have Jonas Salks social security card.But in case you cant fight off the temptation to sound like Peter Kings dry cleaner and spout off all the reasons why you know it would be Giants-49ers, just weigh that knowledge against the contempt of everyone you know or are likely to know for all eternity. Nothing is worth that.Oh, and if you actually did see it coming, and you even have a dated and notarized betting slip to prove it, keep it to yourself. Youll still look like a jackass, even if you did pull this prediction out of your earhole. There is some wisdom youre better off keeping to yourself.Now, let the pundits do their dance. And youll all be forgiven if you end up shaking your upraised middle finger at the screen while they do. Youll be right to do so.

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.