Ray Ratto

Alex Smith detractors -- take your medicine


Alex Smith detractors -- take your medicine

If (or when, for you pigheaded optimists) the 49ers get their new stadium, there should be a statue of Alex Smith near the front gate. He will be standing in uniform, a football in one hand, and an upraised middle finger adorning the other.

Not for the people who doubted him, necessarily. Given the results and hands he was dealt, he should have been doubted. Everybody doubted him for the perfectly good reasons that (a) he hadnt done anything as a pro and (b) nobody in a position to help him do something ever did.

In fact, the only people who can say now that they didnt doubt him are relatives and liars.
RATTO: A day of redemption for Alex Smith

But this is his moment to consult his long I-told-you-so list (if he had one) and refer to it for a few minutes nightly. It would be his version of a cool aperitif at the end of a long day, a reward for the kind of perseverance that The Guy In Denver can only guess at.

And no, we do not refer to The Guy In Denver with any level of disrespect. In fact, we choose not to use his name only so that we cant be accused of sucking in some hashtag detritus from the far monomaniacal reaches of the Internet.

But The Guy In Denver has endured two years of idiotic shouting, and half of it in his own defense. Smith has swallowed six years of undisguised contempt and pity from all corners of a remorseless world dominated by two things: results, and fantasy results.

Indeed, you would think that there has never been anyone with Smiths record of forbearance in the face of negative reinforcement. When youve had two head coaches who neither liked or bettered you (one of which who drafted you), and a parade of offensive coordinators, two of which even had a remote idea what to do with you, and you still have your gig after six full years, youve cheated the reaper good.

RELATED: Smith earns complete 2.5 million incentive package

But there are some comparison points, and other quarterbacks who got to keep their jobs after extended periods of failure for various reasons, and were going to drag you through them now.


Began his career with the expansion Minnesota Vikings and spent six years running for his life from both tacklers and his perpetually enraged coach, Norm Van Brocklin, then got shipped to the Giants for five more years, one of which including a winning record, before returning to Minnesota for the tail end of the Vikings glory era. Now in the Hall of Fame, for you dreamers.

Took the Dallas Cowboys from their third year and got them to the Ice Bowl in his fifth, but was much unbeloved in the Metroplex before that. He came an icon later, and then avoided the light of the retired icon until his death in 2010.


After four years watching Dan Pastorini in Houston, he went to Green Bay and endured some profoundly mediocre Packers teams in the post-Lombardi era, getting hammered for two years, then missing two, then starting for another six, with only a playoff appearance in the strike year of 1982 as his only winning record. A much underappreciated quarterback, especially in Green Bay where his coach for most of those years was Bart Starr.


Devoted his career to getting his brains kicked in in the service of the hideous New Orleans Saints, but he was never considered as unpopular as he was frightfully unlucky. Put it this way no quarterback, living or dead, could ever make those teams win, and everyone knew it.


Another expansion baby, this one in Seattle, but he snuck in two playoff-less 9-7 records in years three and four, so he was pretty much on scholarship until he lost his job to Dave Krieg and Ground Chuck Knox.


Custodian of a series of rancid Washington teams, broken up only by an 8-6 record under Vince Lombardi. Big arm, big liver, very popular in D.C. until George Allen came in and substituted winning and Billy Kilmer.


A local favorite who introduced the concept of Its Always The Quarterbacks Fault to San Francisco, a legacy that says far more about us than him. His win-loss records were mostly average and he did have some weapons around him, but some crackpot coaching (including one year with three starting quarterbacks) and better teams in the Western Conference (Green Bay, then Dallas) kept him out of the postseason until his 13th year.

Of those denizens, we can throw out Manning and Jurgensen, who were popular and received mostly sympathy for the enormity of their tasks. Zorn is exempted because of his position on a brand new team and because he got two winners in early, and Meredith gets a pass because he got to enjoy some good teams in year five.

That leaves Brodie, Dickey and Tarkenton. Tarkenton doesnt quite fit because he entertained people while running around like a beheaded fowl, and because he seemed more likable than Van Brocklin, who probably beheaded the hen in question. Brodie divided the 49er fan base rather than had it rise up against him, though the vitriol of his critics was pretty heady stuff.

So its Dickey then, and even there the comparison is strained a bit. Dickey had a much bigger arm than James Lofton, John Jefferson and Paul Coffman, but he had to because while Smith had Frank Gore, Dickeys running backs were Willard Harrell, Barty Smith, Eddie Lee Ivery and Gerry Ellis. And the Packer defenses in that era were gruesome, which meant he threw more interceptions than touchdowns.

Dickey did lose two years to David Whitehurst and a broken leg, and he is underappreciated in hindsight by the quarterback than preceded him (Starr) and those that have followed (Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers). To say he deserves better is probably wrong, because in football, nobody deserves anything they actually get its either way too much or way too little.

But until this year, Alex Smith wasnt underappreciated. He was appreciated in proper measure to his surroundings and circumstances. He has seized his opportunity to defy the laws of physics as they pertain to his calling, and he has endured far more than anyone can accurately surmise, even The Guy In Denver.

He is not only a game away from the Super Bowl, but a game away from evening his career quarterback record, and he has finally, after six years of universal contempt and dismissal as a bust, gotten to the point where he can expect not to ever buy a drink in this town again.

In short, nice work if you can get it, and so few ever do. If that doesn't merit a statue, well then, we don't know the statue business as well as we think.

If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team


If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team

If the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe is right and the total eclipse of the sun is actually a harbinger of the end of life on earth . . .

- It’s good news for the Giants, who have been eliminated from the National League West race for less than 24 hours, or that they will not have to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers put their feet up on baseball for the first time in 28 years.

Besides, there won’t be any more years, so time becomes meaningless.

- It’s good news for the 49ers, who won’t have to endure a harsh week of practice from freshly irked head coach Kyle Shanahan, who finally saw exactly why the job came open for him in the first place.

- It’s good news for Raiders’ fans, who won’t see their team move to Las Vegas, and because they won't be soul-crushed if they can't beat the Patriots -- who will also die en masse despite Bill Belichick's entreaties to ignore the noise of seven billion terrorized shrieks.

- It’s bad news for A’s fans, who will never learn in what location their fabulous new franchise-saving stadium will not be built.

- It’s good news for the Warriors, who can say in their death throes that they were the last NBA champions ever, and that the Lakers will never get LeBron James.

- It’s good news for the Lakers because they cannot be found guilty of tampering with Paul George. It’s also good news for Jimmy Kimmel because he can’t lose a draft choice (some faceless F-list actor as a guest) as a result.

- It’s good news for the Kings, because they’ll never have to have the difficult meeting about Zach Randolph.

- It’s good news for the Chargers, because they won’t have to answer any more questions about why only 21,000 people were announced as the crowd for their second practice game, or to confront the very real possibility that they could become the NFL’s Washington Generals.

- It’s good news for the Jets, Mets, Nets and Knicks because the end of the planet is the only just solution for them all.

- It’s good news for Cal because it can stick its middle finger to the sky and say, “Here’s your $400 million debt. Try to collect it while we’re all dying.”

- It’s good news for Kevin Durant because he doesn’t have to slalom through the Internet trolls any more.

- It’s bad news for Roger Goodell, because he sure left a boatload of money on the table as he was hurtled into space like the rest of us.

- It’s bad news for Nick Saban because he will have never seen it coming. On the other hand, it’s good news for the people who cover Alabama football because they’ve endured their last journalism lecture from Prof. Nick on why they do their jobs so poorly.

- It’s bad luck for Jim Harbaugh because he will feel like a complete nitwit as he learns just what “an enthusiasm unknown to mankind” really means – the end of mankind.

- It’s bad news for all the sixth graders in America who are being offered scholarships that they will never be used by college coaches they will never meet. Of course, that would have been true even  if the world doesn’t end.

- It’s bad news for the hackers who have been spoiling Game Of Thrones because this is Game Of Thrones, only the dragon is the sun incinerating us all.

- It’s bad news for Kyrie Irving, because he will have died a Cleveland Cavalier.

- It’s good news for America, for the obvious reason that the planet will expire before our current political class can murder it.

- And finally, it’s good news for dignity, because the Mayweather-McGregor “thing” will never happen, and that alone means that even as we are torn asunder, we will know that the deity loves us all because both McGrogor and Mayweather are being torn asunder too.

Of course, if you’re reading this Tuesday, you’ll know the world didn’t end, and we’re just as screwed as we ever were. Oh well. Try to find your happy place, and drink like there’s no Wednesday.

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.