Ray Ratto

NBA owners need protection from themselves

541028.jpg

NBA owners need protection from themselves

I will now explain the NBA lockout at its essence for you. Actually, Rashard Lewis will do that. I will cut and paste his remarks. This is, after all, a full service shop.Speaking to the Washington Posts Michael Lee from Las Vegas, Lewis, who has been targeted as one of the reasons the NBAs salary structure is whacked by its owners, pointed out a very salient point.Talk to the owner. He gave me the deal.Exactly.

Lewis signed a six-year, 118 million deal with the Orlando Magic after the 2007 season not because he walked into Rich DeVos office with a pistol and told him to empty his vault and common sense, but because DeVos offered it to him. Just like every other player in every other sport in the history of the industry.When it comes to contracts, the players arent sitting there negotiating that contract, Lewis said. Im sitting at home and my agent calls me, saying, I got a max on the table. Im not going to sit there and say, Naw, thats too much. Go out there and negotiate 20 or 30 (million) less. And neither would any of you if the chance ever arose.The fact is, salaries get out of whack because of two things:1. The owners get that blood apumpin when they fall in love with a player.2. The owners get buyers remorse when it turns out that players deteriorate over time.In short, every time an economic model in sports is broken, it is because the owners situation has changed. Either too many teams have lost their sense of proportion, or they arent generating as much money, or most often of all, losses in their other businesses have inspired them to shoot down their expensive hobby.In other words, the players are not responsible for anything except agreeing to play for the money the owner has offered them. They didnt break the system, if the system is actually broke. The owners did.Or at least the owners say they did. They say theyre bleeding money, which is what they always say the year before a CBA is due to expire. It is part of the life cycle of labor-management relations, which runs like this:1. A deal is signed, and the owners trumpet victory and the mechanism for profitability is ironclad and foolproof.2. The owners start getting that I-want-that smell in their noses that people do in car dealerships and malls.3. The commissioner tells advertisers their league has never done better and everyone is happy.4. The collective bargaining agreement expires in a year to 18 months, and suddenly everyone is losing his or her pantaloons.5. Lockout, until the players acknowledge that they are killing the golden goose.6. Repeat Steps 1 through 5.Happens every time.But Rashard Lewis is still right. No contract is ever signed without the owner saying, Yeah, Im good with this. Because owners are fans, and owners need fans, and owners fear fans. Owners love to look like the baddest dude in the room, and hurling money at the employees is a pretty big rush at the press conference.Conversely, not giving in to that quick adrenal fix makes the owner the butt of talk radio and newspaper and Internet japes, and owners have egos that are like yours and mine, only they can fire people to keep them fed.In short, they want their cake, they want to eat it, and still own the bakery. Which would be fine if they werent positioning themselves as moral and financial exemplars being screwed daily by the evil players and their malignant agents.Put another way, the next owner to stand up and say, I was a jackass. I am a jackass. Im probably going to keep being a jackass. Our salary structure is my fault will be the guest of honor in a crawlspace.But heres the best part. The owners want the players to shave a third off their salaries and agree to a hard salary cap, the one that the NHL owners got after closing their game for a year. Well, guess what? The NHL CBA comes up after this year, and owners are already saying the system doesnt work.You know what system would work for the owners? For players to play for nothing. And supply the balls and shoes and the uniforms. And treat their own injuries.Thats the goal. But theyll never get close but because, as Lewis said, they dont have the discipline God gave a heroin addict. They blow their own money because it gets them high, and then blame the players they give it to for taking it.I understand the owners dont want to overpay players, Lewis said, but youve got to do better negotiating. Try your best to save money.No, thats no fun, no fun at all. And after all, isnt that what you all go out to the arenas and stadiums every night and weekend to do -- see the owners have fun? Of course it is. Thats why so many people go to games to watch the ticket takers, and ignore the events on the field to stare rheumy-eyed into the owners' box.If thats what youre in it for, great. But youd save thousands each year merely by parking in front of a bank and staring at the ATM machine all day. And go team!

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

ward-andre-knees.jpg
AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

For the record, and just so you can’t say you weren’t told, these are the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and the 50 backups. Draw your own conclusions.

(Author’s note: We list these only because Joe Webb was just signed by the Buffalo Bills, whose starter and first backup, Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates, are still in the concussion protocol).

AFC WEST

DENVER: Trevor Siemian (Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler)

KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith (Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray)

LOS ANGELES: Philip Rivers (Cardale Jones)

OAKLAND: Derek Carr (E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook)

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE: Joe Flacco (Ryan Mallett)

CINCINNATI: Andy Dalton (AJ McCarron)

CLEVELAND: DeShone Kizer (Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Josh Woodrum)

PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger (Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs)

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON: Tom Savage (DeShaun Watson)

INDIANAPOLIS: Scott Tolzien (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett)

JACKSONVILLE: Chad Henne (Blake Bortles)

TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota (Matt Cassel)

AFC EAST

BUFFALO: Nathan Peterman (Taylor, Yates, Webb)

MIAMI: Jay Cutler (Matt Moore, David Fales)

NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady (Jimmy Garoppolo)

NEW YORK: Josh McCown (Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg)

NFC WEST

ARIZONA: Carson Palmer (Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert)

LOS ANGELES: Jared Goff (Sean Mannion)

SAN FRANCISCO: Brian Hoyer (C.J. Beathard)

SEATTLE: Russell Wilson (Austin Davis)

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO: Mike Glennon (Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez)

DETROIT: Matthews Stafford (Jack Rudock)

GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers (Brett Hundley)

MINNESOTA: Sam Bradford (Case Keenum)

NFL SOUTH

ATLANTA: Matt Ryan (Matt Schaub)

CAROLINA: Cam Newton (Derek Anderson, Brad Kaaya)

NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees (Chase Daniel, Taysom Hill)

TAMPA BAY: Jameis Winston (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin)

NFC EAST

DALLAS: Dak Prescott (Cooper Rush)

NEW YORK: Eli Manning (Geno Smith, Davis Webb)

PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz (Nick Foles)

WASHINGTON: Kirk Cousins (Colt McCoy)

Again, draw your own conclusions. I know I’ve drawn mine.