Ray Ratto

Cal's seven plays that made a win a loss

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Cal's seven plays that made a win a loss

Californias return to bowl football ended up being a face-first education. But the choice of lessons is greater than merely, Texas is better.In losing to the Longhorns, 21-10, in the Holiday Bowl Wednesday night, the Golden Bears learned the distance between themselves and a middle-of-the-pack Big XII team. Also, what happens when two legitimate offensive weapons match up against five turnovers. And especially how hard the Pac-12 would have become if it had become the Pac-16.Theyre a very good team you have to give all the credit in the world to, and they have a lot of very skilled athletes, head coach Jeff Tedford said after watching those athletes slowly but surely dominate his own athletes.RECAP: Texas tops Cal 21-10 in Holiday Bowl
And his own skilled athletes . . . well, they were fewer in number, and fewer in impact.

Indeed, Cals entire production was limited to its opening drives of each half. In the first, the Bears moved smartly and cleverly downfield for 40 yards and what ended up a 47-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio. In the second, they looked even more Texas equal by driving 69 yards for their only touchdown, a six-yard toss play by Isi Sofele.And then there were The Seven Plays That Made A Win A Loss.1. The 17-yard punt return by Marvin Jones after Texas was forced to punt from the back of its own end zone, putting Cal at the Texas 27 down only 14-10
2. The incomplete pass from quarterback Zach Maynard to Sofele.
3. The personal foul by tight end Anthony Miller that took the ball back to the 44.
4. The sack of Maynard by safety Adrian Phillips, causing a fumble that was recovered by Texas tackle Chris Whaley.
5. The 37-yard run by wide receiver Marquise Goodwin to take the ball to the Cal 7.
6. The three-yard push by fullback Cody Johnson.
7. The final four-yard push by Johnson.And that was surely that. Cal would have enough problems getting the touchdown that would have put them ahead, but two was asking far more than Cal had the ability to give.That was obviously a big swing there, Tedford said wearily. To be in that position and have it turn around that quickly, that was hard to overcome.Truth be told, though, it would have been an event against the run of play, because the Longhorns turned the game into a study of being overmatched. Cal would have trouble with Texas under any conditions, in any venue and this was a substandard Texas team.But throw in the four fumbles, three by Maynard, and the interception by Maynard, and the season-high six times he was sacked, and the number of times Sofele couldnt find open ground and how Jones and Keenan Allen couldnt separate from the Texas secondary . . . and frankly, what you find out is that 21-10 really was not a representative score for the differences between the two teams.And Texas in its present state would be, at best, the fourth best team in this years Pac 12, distantly behind Oregon, Stanford or USC. Which means that Cal found out Wednesday what it already knew that their 7-5 record was a true measure of their worth on the open college football market.And that Texas didnt regard this as a crowning jewel in its history.Were not jumping up and down, and were not throwing Gatorade all over the place, head coach Mack Brown said. But this was a particularly important game for our seniors, and for the players coming back.He went on to make a point that Holiday Bowl wins one year have become bigger bowl wins within two years the Cotton Bowl win over LSU a year after the Holiday in 2001, the national championship over USC two years after the Holiday in 2003, the Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State the year after the Holiday in 2007 and a loss in the national championship to Alabama the year after that.Cals goals are more modest by necessity, even if the Golden Bears are loath to admit it. They went from 5-7 to 7-6, but lose Jones and Allen, their two nonpareil receivers, plus defenders Mychal Kendricks and Trevor Guyton. They relearned the art of winning, but they have to consolidate that knowledge to become less susceptible to being slowly devoured by a team like Texas.Thus, Wednesday did have lessons. Starting with the understanding that as 21-10 losses go, this one wasnt close to 21-10 at all.

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

O.J. Simpson is free. The system as it is defined by those who run it in the case of the Nevada Parole Board, worked.

But the issue that lingers is whether we can free ourselves of him. That system is far more amorphous, arbitrarty and essentially unfair. And in its own revolting way, it works too.

The O.J. market has always been bullish. The old cliché that people can’t get enough no matter how much you shovel at them is more true for him than for any other sports figure of the last 50 years. More than Tiger Woods. More than LeBron James. More than Michael Jordan. More than all of them.

And now his parole hearing, televised and streamed by every outlet except Home & Garden Television, proved it again. He will never not be O.J.

But he is also 70. He is also planning to go to Florida and be with his family, based on what he told the parole board Thursday. He has assiduously avoided the media in his nine years in Lovelock, and if his family is providing the support it pledges, it will do its utmost to keep him from our prying eyes as he enters his dotage.

There is nothing we have that can do him any good. We have eaten all the forms of O.J. there are, culminating in the Emmy-award winning documentary on him, and finally, his release from prison. If he is wise as well as smart, here’s nothing left of his life but re-airs.

So the question becomes not so much whether he can leave fame alone, or whether fame can leave him alone. Our national appetite is poor on the topic of leaving people be, let alone deciding enough is enough. The fame we make for people gorges, purges and gorges again, in a hideous cycle that demeans all involved.

In sum, O.J. Simpson can, if he is paying attention to the value of normalcy, end his addiction to fame. I have far more serious doubts about fame and its addiction to him.

Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations

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Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations

Some time not that very long ago, someone in sports management who will almost certainly spend all of eternity bobbing for razor-studded apples in a pool of lava saw an opportunity in the phrase, “The quietest time in sports.” And decided to fill it with filth.
 
It is believed to begin right after the end of the NBA Finals, although that artificial start date has been extended through free agency now that the NBA’s principal entertainment vehicle is the burning of money. It used to be right after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, though now it has been extended backward. And it ends roughly at the beginning of NFL and/or college training camps, depending on where you live and which of those two beasts you profess your God to be.
 
But let’s get back to the management succubus who has set us on the path that has led inexcusably to the current point. The idea that baseball no longer holds the interest or attention spans of the young, cool and inadequately trained in the value of money is now accepted as fact, and as any marketing nitwit will tell you, nature abhors a vacuum.
 
So here’s what we’ve got. Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in what is very simply a lazy-stereotype-laden comedy tour that isn’t funny let alone even mildly convincing. They have both been on the stage too long, with a month still to go before the final shame-off August 26, where they simply enter the arena, stand with their backs to each other at the ring rope and spend 45 minutes trying to target-spit into the eyes of the high-rollers. Why the promoters didn’t just muzzle Mayweather and McGregor and use actual professionals like Key and Peele and Aisling Bea and Ed Byrne to work the crowds for a million per is simply a lack of imagination at work.
 
Here’s what else we have. Our idiotic fascination for Lonzo Ball’s two best Summer League games being achieved wearing shoes other than those promoted by his father/huckster as though his skills and intelligence are all in his feet.
 
What this actually is, of course, is people using Lonzo’s momentary and mostly microscopic achievement to call LaVar a tedious swine without ever using his name or his product catalog because he, like McGregor and Mayweather, beats down crowds and calls it entertainment, and people have signed on in a weird backdoor way – by finding reasons to like the son as a weapon against the father.
 
Thus, Lonzo Ball gets to learn how to be a professional athlete of note while carrying the load of his father’s impression upon the nation as well as the loads of those who believe that sins of the father must revert to the son. Popularity’s dominant property is its corrosion, and Ball will have to have very fast feet and well-constructed shoes indeed to dance away from the rising tide of a bored fan base with an ax to grind.
 
It isn’t as instantly gratifying a train wreck as Mayweather-McGregor, but it is a triumph of the new marketing strategy of wholesale idiocy that diminishes the watcher as well as the watched.
 
Neither of these events are in and of themselves interesting. Mayweather-McGregor is simply a kangaroo boxing a bear because circus entertainment no longer has circuses as venues, and Ball’s summer bears almost no relationship to the true test of his career – how to be the best player on a terrible team and then make the adjustment to being the third best player on a rebuilding team.
 
Ball has a longer shelf life because of that single useful component, but it is made less rather than more interesting by the presence of his father, who is now indelibly part of the tale at a time when most parents leave their children to find their fortunes by the virtues of their skills and wits.
 
McGregor-Mayweather has the sole benefit of being cringeworthy both before, during and after the event, a month-long smear of degradation that reduces all involved, including those who buy the fight, into penitents, into rolling apologies. It is an event in which nobody gets out with any shred of dignity, with the single revolting example of the grisly accountant-beasts who will take the Internal Revenue’s cut immediately after the fight.
 
And if that isn’t Satan winning, then you don’t know how to score a game in which Satan plays on all the teams at once and sees to it that the game is scheduled in the middle of July because some client of his told him it was the best time of year for personal and professional disgrace with a scoreboard on the end of it.