Bud Selig says he will retire after the 2014 season, which we believe to be a recurring whopper. That, though, isnt the cool thing.The cool thing is that he said he wants to teach and write a book. And while I have no faith at all that he would choose me to be his hagiographer . . . er, ghost writer, I do want to take that course.I want to know what he thought when Joe Torre and Bob Brenly came up him in that All-Star Game and said, We ran out of pitchers, and what are you going to do about it? I want to know how he continually enraged the Internet coven and still managed to stay more lovable than Roger Goodell, David Stern and Gary Bettman. I want to know how he managed to guide the quintupling of MLB revenues while mastering the overflowing hamper fashion statement. I want him to explain territorial rights without invoking the names James Monroe, Emperor Franz Joseph or Walter OMalley. I want to know how he not only kept the 30 owners from eating each other but became an eight-figure a year employee while doing it.And I dont want to read it in the book, where he has editorial control, but I want him in the classroom, leather patches on his coats and whiteboard marker stains on his short-sleeved white shirts, explaining it all.I want him to tell us about the letters C as in contraction, and E as in expansion, and R as in Reinsdorf, and L as in Loria. I want him to show us how an avowed purist caused interleague play, moved teams from league to league, expanded playoffs twice, and how to monetize the Internet. I want him to explain how Major League Baseball sued to gain sole control of the numbers of baseball and, after losing, profited madly from their use by others.I want him to explain how to sell a used car, a bad team to a rich guy, and an imaginary committee to an entire region of fans and get them to buy it for four years.That last one, I definitely want to take as an extra-credit class.I mean, as near as I can tell, he picked a unicorn, a sasquatch, a UFO and D.B. Cooper and convinced them to become a blue ribbon panel to study the Bay Area baseball situation. And the longer nothing happened, the longer people believed in it. He put together a mythical panel, never had the stones to even fabricate a report, then decided the Giants and As had to barter out a bribe schedule all while getting people to believe the committee did exist and was tackling a problem thornier than the Middle East.So, yeah, I want to know how he clones sheep without any sheep DNA.And I definitely want the seminar on how not to know about PEDs in 2000 after being warned about them in 1988 with all the other owners. I will absolutely play double the class fee for the steroid lecture series alone.I surely want him to preview his Hall of Fame induction speech, especially if he goes in with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.And I really dont give a damn what grade I get, because even if his lessons are filled with historical anomalies and legacy-protecting errata, I think he could sell of it the entire, inconsistent, head-scratching, logic-defying lot.Because lets be honest, Bud Selig is a natural teacher. He can hold a classroom even while the class is furiously tweeting to their friends about what a tool the instructor is. He just has this way of sucking you in even when hes arguing that expanded replay is both bad and good at the same time. He looks fearless while constantly having a wet finger pointed into the sky to monitor the wind.He is, in short, a freaking genius. The kind of guy who has tenure as an owner, a commissioner, and with any luck, a teacher too.And I want to be part of that first class, as soon as I take a second out on the house to cover tuition. After all, its college in the new millennium, and you need the money of a drug lord to stay long enough to earn a degree these days.Or maybe I can get a McCourt Scholarship. After all, a man whom Bud turned from a hundredaire to a billionaire while being hated by Bud all the same owes a debt to the business. Thats another lesson Im ready to learn, as soon as I can get Pat Courtney, the professor's aide, to send me a class schedule.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com
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.
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.