Giants, A's games capitvating in their own mutant ways


Giants, A's games capitvating in their own mutant ways

The Yankees and Red Sox do this a lot, these nine-inning four-hour games, and the nation soaks it up like vintage Montrachet.

Thats a wine that neither the hoi nor the polloi can afford.

So the Giants and As have decided this weekend to pout together two turn-back-the-clock-until-it-breaks games, and they have actually been captivating in their own mutant ways.

Of course, before that happens, they have to go through their agonizing GET-ON-WITH-IT stages, but when Ryan Theriot chased down Jemile Weeks blooper into right field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth on the games 385th pitch Saturday, those who stayed either in the ballpark or in front of their sets and laptops got a level of their moneys worth that they really had no right to expect.

The Giants have won both games, 5-4 and 9-8, in a grand total of eight hours and 772 pitches used by 23 of the 32 available pitchers, and while there were periods in both games that resembled the tortures of the damned, the end product was two games the attendees will remember for a good long time.

As opposed to games that are just, well, long.

There is a subtle difference here. The Yankees and Red Sox, for example, have perfected the purposeful dawdle, and it isnt just the extended commercial breaks between half-innings that do it. Terry Francona, Joe Torre and then Joe Girardi both loved slowing a game down to the pace of daguerreotypes, and not all of them deserved the extra time.

The Giants and As, though tend to rank among the teams with the shortest elapsed game times (mostly because they hit like the Amish), so the Friday and Saturday extravaganzas were unusual, both in execution and excess.

Friday started slowly because Tim Lincecum tried to see how close he could come to total meltdown, and because the Giants took advantage of a ninth-inning Oakland bullpen collapse. Saturday was just agonizing from the start, then seemed to crater completely when the As bullpen deconstructed again in the sixth and seventh, allowing the Giants to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 9-4 lead.

But then came the 50-minute, 76-pitch ninth, when the As sent 10 to the plate against three Giant pitchers, scoring four and coming within a foot of Weeks being the improbable hero in a game Oakland seemed hopelessly out of at the time.

The lesson? Its isnt the time of game that hurts baseball, its the type of game in the time of the game that does it. Both Friday and Saturday were worth the investments because stories came and went, moments piled atop moments, and baseball erupted in more ways than the average person can count.

And maybe dinner plans were crushed, and maybe parties were skipped or attended late, but fun was had for those who were open-minded enough to let it come to them. Even Theriots game-ending catch, in which he threaded the needle between Gregor Blanco and Nate Schierholtz while paying complete attention to the ball, was a moment to savor.

Even for As fans, this was worth it, because they got to see that their team is a harder out than it seems. Yeah, the results might blow, but the methodology is still sound at least as sound as a low payroll and a thin offense can offer.

Of course, that and about three bottles of that Montrachet will make that vein in Bob Melvins head stop throbbing, but since all but one of you out there aren't Bob Melvin, that isnt your concern. Fun baseball has been performed here, from the sublime (Brandon Belt) to the ridiculous (Brandon Moss) to the just plain Brandon (pretty much everyone else on both teams, including winning pitcher Brandon Bumgarner and the reliever who collected the save, Brandon Hensley.

Hey, back off. Were punchy here. Eight hours of this may be fun, but it wears on the cerebral cortex.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

The Super Bowl is today, which means the best day of the year is fast approaching.

Namely, the day after the Super Bowl.

At that point, we as a nation can complete the inventory of gastric damage we did to ourselves on what shall be known to future generations as Fried Festivus.

At that point, the people who bombard us daily with news of the game – the least important part of the week-long trade show, as we have come to learn it – will all be on planes and too tired to re-explain what we already saw 37 times on game day.

At that point, nobody will care that Terrell Owens was apparently one of the first of the 15 Hall of Fame finalists to be rejected for induction because of crimes against the NFL state. The Hall of Fame is one of the sneaky ways in which the NFL never lets us escape its obnoxiously shouty profile, and the fact that Owens is right about the flawed process doesn’t change the fact that he’ll be just fine with the process when it allows him passage.

At that point, we’ll know whether Tom Brady is to be deemed a god, or merely maintain his demigod status. At least we’ll hear more about it, because it is easily the most tiresome debate in the football diaspora, engaged in by idiots with no better idea about how to kill time. A note: If you think Tom Brady is a greater quarterback because his team won a fifth ring, or a lesser one because he didn’t, your head is now officially empty enough to be reclassified a dance hall, and you are of no more value to normal society than a papier-mache goose.

And at that point, we can return to the two things we in these parts care to know – where the Raiders are going, and how the 49ers are going to present their new football brain trust.

We needn’t explain the Raiders again to you, first because you’ve heard it all if you’re paying any attention at all. Mark Davis has been trying to cobble deals at a frantic pace in hopes that one will stick, and his 31 fellow owners still have to decide how much longer they want to endure him, while faced with the painful fact that the East Bay is getting out of the exploitative license-to-be-stolen-from stadium business. They also get to know as they go to the meeting in Houston that will ostensibly decide Davis’ fate that they have ruined California as a market by their excessive greed-laced stupidity and deserve every lousy market the state can give them.

Which brings us to the 49ers, and the latest round of Judge Them By Their Press Conferences.

If there is anything worse than this team’s on-field profile, which is why Jed York hired Kyle Shanahan, it is the way it explains itself to the outside world, which is why Jed York hired John Lynch. Both Shanahan and Lynch will be paraded before a braying mobs, probably Tuesday, and York will be there as well for the cheesy photo array and a few unconvincing words of praise about each of them (as a note, Paraag Marathe will be present but only in hologrammatic form).

They will then promise – well, something or other – and Lynch will be hailed as the face of the glorious future because the man he replaced, Trent Baalke, had the public persona of a meth-tweaked hyena. Hard to find, and not worth it when you did.

Then we’ll all remember that the job Shanalynch (or Lynchahan, depending on what part of Ireland you’re from) are being asked to do is a three-year reclamation at the very least, and that the only useful question either can be asked is “Can you fix this before Jed gets embarrassed and angry and cans you both?”

And on Wednesday, there’s the start of pre-draft prep (in order words, The Eighty-Day Slave Market), and the hamster wheel to hell gears up again toward Super Bowl LII.

Only next year, the chances of relocation hysteria and a front office upheaval are that much less, and we haven’t sufficient distractions to make the year go faster.

But enjoy Fried Festivus. We can always look forward to that, even if we change the name back in December to the more traditional "Christmas."