No mystery in Warriors-S.F. connection


No mystery in Warriors-S.F. connection

On the one hand, Joe Lacob picked a good day to announce he was flirting with moving the Warriors to San Francisco and leaving Oakland. Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Lakers had just been turned into victims by the new arm-twisters who run the NBA, so the nation wasnt paying a lot of attention to the petty concerns of one of its lesser noticed franchises.

But we noticed anyway, and there really isnt a good time to tell people who already feel like all their favorite amusements are looking to beat feet out of town. This was always part of Lacobs plan when he bought the team, and there was not going to be a good time to drop the news.

In short, Chris Paul couldnt provide enough cover. Now maybe if the Warriors had somehow cheated the laws of logic and physics and traded for Paul, he could have, but as it is . . .

Thus far, Lacob has not given the impression that he is long on patience, or that he can masterfully navigate the shifting winds of public relations. He has good days and bad days like all public figures, but his fan base is the East Bay, and the East Bay is probably going to lose the As and has no idea about whether it might lose the Raiders as well.

Then he throws this one into the wind -- announcing that he has been talking with Giants front man Larry Baer about the possibility of an arena near the baseball teams little business park that wouldnt be built until 2018 at the earliest. He just gave his East Bay fans, who are already on edge about having one of the games most nationally invisible franchises for most of the past 15-plus years, more reason to worry.

Of course this has always been the master plan. Lacob is a West Bay guy, he bought the team with a covetous eye toward San Francisco, and the idea of land by the bay never fails to put a glint in a wealthy mans eye.

But a fan base that has been nothing but faithful in the face of such remorselessly bad entertainment isnt interested in what puts a spring in Joe Lacobs step. He is trading in all his remaining good will on two huge gambles, and if he is wrong on either, he will learn what Chris Cohan learned the public eye isnt always flattering.

The first gamble is that the Warriors will win, and soon. The longer it takes for the franchise to be torn down and rebuilt, the less patience will be expended on his behalf. This is why the teams history matters seven playoff appearance in 36 years, and one in 17, add up no matter who has the corner office.

The second is that Larry Ellison, the Oracle billionaire whom Cohan played into driving the price up on his franchise, may view the Warriors interest in San Francisco as the opening required to buy say, New Orleans, just to name a distressed franchise and move it to San Jose.

This has been a popular stalking horse for awhile now, the Ellison card, but it has its flaws. The league may be interested in protecting Lacobs investment by not putting a team 40 miles to the south, and more to the point, the new nastier NBA owners may be reluctant to have a new big spender in their midst.

And even if they do like Ellison, whats to say he wouldnt prefer buying the Lakers from the ailing Jerry Buss? The new owner power base has made it clear that the Lakers are now a target for their jealousies and incompetences, and the family might be interested in cashing out for the right exorbitant price. I mean, if your choices are the Kings or the Lakers, what would you do?

In short, this is like everything else a far more complicated process than it seems. But Lacob has decided to show a face card before the flop. The question whether he is paired, or bluffing, or whether he figured that since everyone knows he wants to be in San Francisco anyway, he may as well wait for the NBA to do something big enough to make his announcement seem small.

So no, there wouldnt be a good time for Joe Lacob to drop this little bomb on The Chronicles Rusty Simmons. And this is a long way from getting done, given what we know about the City and County of San Francisco. But it is an interesting new twist in the story of the Warriors, The Team That -- for the past 17 years at least -- Has Known How To Make Sure The Last Guy Got Blamed For Not Getting Anything Done.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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.

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.