There is nothing particularly new about Billy Beanes interest in the Athletics stadium issue. Hes been telling this one for awhile now, since he has started publicly linking the illusory San Jose stadium to his ability to signing players.Theres also nothing particularly useful about it. Baseball budgets are set by owners, not general managers, so Beanes claim that he cannot make bolder forays into the market has always been true. The owners determine what goes out based on what comes in, and that has always been the case.The intriguing thing is the claim that the As lost money last year, which one can only assume does not include the revenue sharing check the As annually receive from Major League Baseball. And assuming that, we can assume that once again, John Fisher and Lew Wolff didnt actually lose real money.So lets remove that as the reason for the As new P.R. push for stadium action, and that they are becoming more strident in their impatience for a report from the largely mythical blue ribbon panel studying the San Jose market. Why this fiction continues is a marvel of modern mythmaking, as the issue isnt about San Jose as a market.The issues are in fact these: Do the As have the money to do this? Wolff says yes, but as there is no independent way to know, there is no reason to believe or disbelieve him. There is no shovel in the ground, and that is sufficient information. Do the Giants have a way to prevent the As from moving? No. They can lose territorial rights with a simple owners vote, and they cannot sue Major League Baseball if the vote goes against them. So the Giants have no leverage whatsoever. None. At all. Does baseball want to screw the Giants? Sort of, yes. What Bud Selig is actually trying to do is what he does best back-channel everything so he can find a dollar amount that the As would be willing to grease the Giants with to buy their acquiescence and silence. The As are standing with their original offer of nothing, and the Giants are insisting that no amount of money actually exists because their long-term plan has always been for the As to be nowhere near them.And no blue-ribbon panel can decide any of those issues.This is what it always has been an exercise in politics and arm-twisting, with Selig trying to find the middle ground that makes everyone a little bit unhappy but not so unhappy that theyll start bitching out loud.Bud likes peace and quiet that way.This is why all the screeching about territorial rights has always been nonsense, and why the blue ribbon committee has been a joke, and why every assumption based on either of those two things is erroneous and even silly on its face.Whats actually important to know is this:MLB can live with the status quo, right up until the day that Fisher and Wolff decide to sell, or simply get out. There are those who believe the Dodger settlement issues are tied to the As because Wolff and perhaps even Beane are casting covetous eyes southward, though that seems something of a stretch at this point.If the Dodgers and As are not linked that way, then the urgency to solve the issue isnt baseballs but Fishers and Wolffs. And in baseball like every other sport, there are owners with throw-weight within the organization and owners without throw-weight. They are among the withouts, and so, frankly, are the Giants group. Theyre just guys fighting over a piece of property, and neither side has the leverage to bully the other one aside.And Billy Beanes role? Hes largely involved at ownerships behest now to put a public face on this otherwise faceless issue, as in, We wanted to keep Gio Gonzalez but Buds been mean to us.Yeah, thatll work. One, Bud barely cares about Gio Gonzalez, and two, this isnt about baseball. This is about a haggle over hush money traveling westbound on the Bay Bridge, pure and simple, and the political issues involved in either making that happen or ignoring it altogether.And you wont be seeing any press conferences about that.
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.