Marvin Miller won them all

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Marvin Miller won them all

One of the odd but telling reactions to the death of Marvin Miller Tuesday is the way hockey fans said, God, if we only had him. Hed straighten this lockout up in a New York minute.Thats how much Miller mattered. He was a strong man at a time when strength was confused with bullying, and he broke the baseball owners resolve with a cool boa constrictors logic. He had decades of labor law, a united constituency, and short-sighted owners to fight, and he found the mismatches invigorating.RELATED: Former baseball union head Marvin Miller dead at 95
Of course he did. He won them all, simply by seizing onto the central point of whatever the argument was, and never letting go of it.Indeed, his acolyte Don Fehr, whose record against the baseball mavens was nearly as good, ended up as an occasional disappointment to Miller because he was in the end a pure absolutist. Right v. wrong, with rights greatest advocate being a cold Jesuitical logic that never backed up a step. It was the one threat the owners couldnt beat, and every time they tried, they made their own positions worse.Or do the words treble damages for collusion not have the same chilling ring at your house?Miller was, ultimately, respected for his indomitable will, and with the NHL well into its 11th week of refusing to entertain people, a lot of people who still care about the game want the business to be settled no matter who gets the thin edge of the wedge.So they see Millers passing, remember how he went umpty-ump and zero against the owners and wish he could snap his fingers, win the day, and open the rinks.Of course, it was never like that. Miller worked methodically, as Fehr has. He had the value of knowing his players would wait as long as it took to close the deal, but the owners were no less stubborn than the NHL owners are now. Fehr essentially has that set of dynamics now, although some players have groused a bit that he hasnt caved before now.But Miller represented power in a simpler time, and hockey fans seek simple solutions to a convoluted process that isnt designed to reach agreement. The philosophical turning point in this disagreement whether labor or management is financially responsible for the struggles of individual teams is much thornier than mere who-gets-the-last-slice-of-pie debates.RELATED: U.S. federal mediators to join NHL talks
So Millers passing, other than reminding us that the Hall of Fame is still one worthy candidate short of inclusion, also tells us that people want strong and winning personalities when an argument goes on longer than anyones endurance.And it tells us also that the NHL owners, as much as they demonize Fehr, are lucky they didnt get Miller in his prime. Hed have held a pillow over their faces until the thrashing stopped, just as an opening act.At this point, who could disagree with that plan of attack?Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.comAP Images

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.