There was a Big Game not that long ago in which Cal was a heavy, even prohibitive, favorite over Stanford, and in an attempt to try and even out the sides, we recommended rain.Not just rain, though, but a Biblical torrent, frogs, locusts, water drops as big as a babys head the whole nine yards. It would ruin tailgates, make the game unwatchable (unless you like mud for more than the usual psychosexual or medicinal reasons), but it would even out the scales.People objected. It didnt rain. The game was a rout.And we are confronted by such a possibility again, with Stanford a heavy (though not yet prohibitive) favorite Saturday night, with everything to play for, while Cal is working for pride and a slightly better insignificant bowl berth.But rain to the point of flooding? Nah, and not a meteor shower, or monsters leaping up from the foot-high turf at Stanford Stadium. None of it. Cal is on its own, warts and all.And strangely, a lot of people seem to think so, too at least people who like to put their money where coaches mouths are.The game opened at 20 points for Stanford, a three-touchdown spread which typically is the harbinger of a five-touchdown victory. There arent many straight-up upsets in the face of such numbers, and only Oklahomas loss to Texas Tech this year while giving 29 falls under that category.Yeah, Oklahoma. The one thats in the thick of the BCS title race.But when the Stanford line was introduced, the assumption was that it was too low, that this really was one of those rout-of-the-century possibilities.Instead, the line has dropped, and its only Wednesday morning. Its 19 in some places, even as low as 18 in others. There is a groundswell for Cal in the only place where such things can be reliably measured in the marketplace.And when you have that, you dont need Gods Meteorology Department for intervention. This may have the makings of a big-kid college football game after all, and even if it doesnt, there is enough doubt in the minds of the spectator class to leave things as they are, cloud-seeding-wise.This is not a prediction of how the game will actually turn out, mind you. The players will determine that, and we leave them to their own devices in that way.No, this is about planning the folks who bring generators and satellite dishes and start tailgating at 9 a.m. by watching the days games with one eye and the fondue pot with the other. The folks who pick out their cardinal and blue and white and gold finery so that they can be identified by like species and cage free links and drinks from strangers and offer the same to others.This is an entreaty to whichever deity handles such mundane details that rain is not required for the game to be interesting, at least for awhile. The wine needs only to be protected from sunlight rather than hail; the venison wings and the brie sculptures do not need little tents to protect them from the horrors of death from the sky. The shoes do not need to be wrapped in Nike-approved foot-foil.This is going to be regular old football, with the two variables being the performances of the athletes and the last time the grass was cut. Stanford still has all the earmarks of the better team, but there is always the possibility of Cal being Texas Tech for one day, and for Jeff Tedford to get some weve-been-mean-to-you-and-were-sorry love from the fan base. Yes, the game is being played at an idiotic hour for what few people will be interested but not in attendance, and there may be minor Heisman Trophy implications.But intervention from the planetary forces that can lay waste to entire states? Not needed this year, thank you. If the line jumps back to 22 or 23, maybe youd have a discussion point or maybe that would be evidence that the games been fixed but for now, let the day be clement and the dispositions rosy. There is drinking and eating and high-speed collisions between young men to be enjoyed. And the gamblers are happy and moving money in the time-honored capitalist way. What more could you possibly want?Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com
Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.
But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.
Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.
Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.
Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.
But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.
Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.
That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.
You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.
Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.
It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.
As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”
But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.
Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.
As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.
The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.
But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.
Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?
By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.
The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.
But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.
Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.
And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.
But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.
There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.
Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.