Four acts of blasphemy after 49ers' win


Four acts of blasphemy after 49ers' win

SAN FRANCISCO -- On a day rich with highlights at La Candeliere, four acts of blasphemy stood out.The first was the event itself -- the 49ers crushing Tampa Bay 48-3, the largest number of points and winning margin in eight years. Thats pretty out of the norm right there, and an indication that the bad old days might not necessarily be over, but over is visible on the horizon.The second came when Colin Kaepernick entered the game for Alex Smith with 10 minutes to play, and the crowd expressed a clear and enthusiastic preference for the status quo.

And the other two came via the spoken word, the first being when Jim Harbaugh was asked about the passing of Al Davis, who once hired him in Oakland.I think Al would have been very proud of the way we played today, was his response, and the next sound anyone heard were the aortas of several DeBartolos and Yorks seizing like an overheated motor.And the final came from Frank Gore, who has yet again eased toward the third rail of running backery only to back away and break into a 125-yard sprint. After copiously lathering credit upon the offensive line and wide receivers for their work, and laying it on double thick for my guy Alex Smith, he said:For the first time in seven years since I got here, we can do whatever we want to do.Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the new version of Whats Your Deal?True, there was no rebuttal to be had for Gores analysis Sunday. The 49ers played their most complete and minimally-flawed game in eight years, both statistically and aesthetically.Smith nearly set a personal best in quarterback rating, the occasionally useful rubric, with a 127.2 -- no picks, no sacks, three scores. Gore, abandoned as done two weeks ago for the perfectly good reason that he looked it, rolled up 125 yards (6.3 average) and a score. The defense choked the allegedly smart-moving Bucs to 272 mostly useless yards (they got inside the 49er 30 once all day, five plays out of 61), picked off two passes and recovered a fumble ...
Oh, the hell with it. They knocked down a 3-1 team and jumped up and down on its chest for a full three hours, tying their next opponent, Detroit, for the most points and widest margin of the season.Is everything fixed? Surely not. If you havent figured it out by now, the National Football League cannot be figured out. A stinker is always right around the corner for everyone, and this weeks triumph means nothing next week.But thats as close as one can come to downing on this game -- unless, of course, you throw out Als name in support of the team he always found his greatest and most immediate irritant.Not that Harbaugh cares, mind you. Barring the fact that Davis would have watched the 49ers and spat with derision if he watched at all, the fact is Davis would have been almost content if he had seen Harbaugh do that for his own team. As it was, he and his newfound afterlife companions would have to find solace in his own teams 25-20 win in Houston -- another 3-1 team.But the ownership must have gritted a bit of enamel off their teeth hearing Harbaugh connect their team to Davis even for a moment, given that his passing throws their own stadium plans into disarray -- starting with the fact that nobody knows who will control the Raiders in a year, let alone where they will be controlled.Gore, too, tempted fate a bit by uttering the new battle cry, because hubris is not something that the 49ers have been very good at. Mike Singletary was the last one to try, and, well, lets put it this way. The last time the Bucs and 49ers met, in 2010, the Bucs won, 21-0, and held the 49ers to 187 yards. The 49ers have improved in a year by 66 points and 231 yards.In other words, tis better to sneak up on an opponent you mean to harm than to talk smack and let him know youre coming.In fairness, though, Gore hasnt been able to say anything like it since he left Miami. If it comes off as harsh or a bit too cocksure, well, chalk it up to the exuberance of the persistently beaten-down.The 49ers are, for the moment, one of the seven best teams in the NFL by record. There have been years when they havent been one of the top 27. So heres to Al Davis, who would be proud as hell of the boys ... except that he wouldnt be ... and wouldnt actually give a damn, since the two teams dont play again for the foreseeable.And heres to doing whatever you want to do, at least until Monday practice.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

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.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.