Raiders favored in Week 15's least interesting game

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Raiders favored in Week 15's least interesting game

The answer to the question nobody is asking – How bad are the Kansas City Chiefs believed to be – is this:

Oakland opened at minus-1 ½ in Las Vegas, and the line quickly jumped to minus-3. Oakland did that. Damn.

Now say what you will about gambling, and all four team sport commissioners said it in New Jersey last month in their hypocrifest before the state attorney general. But when a public that has seen the Raiders for the past six weeks regards the Chiefs in such a way . . . well, you get a sense of the problem’s true depth.

What problem? Whether you want to invest any time or energy in Sunday’s game.

If you’re a diehard Raider fan, this does not apply to you. You believe, and you’ve believed far longer than anyone would begrudge you. You do what you wish, because you’ve earned your enjoyment however you define it.

But for those who are thinking about it week to week, yeah, Chiefs-Raiders is a tough pull. The Raiders are 3-10, losers of their last six by an average margin of 17 points and 68 yards. The Chiefs are 2-11, losing nine of their last 10 by 12 points and 1.4 turnovers per game.

And they aren’t the only cold teams in the NFL. Arizona just lost its ninth straight, 58-0 to Seattle, and are losing 15 points and 60 yards per game. Jacksonville is also 1-9, by 10 points and 102 yards per game. Detroit has lost five straight, though the Lions have been representative in them all.

But for this week, Chiefs-Raiders is the bottom of the card by any measure, including number of seats that will have to be eaten for this to be a sellout. Nobody has that appetite.

Well, we shouldn’t say nobody. Jacksonville played in Oakland, and that game was shown to home viewers despite an announced attendance of 51,634, a good 12,000 and change below capacity. Someone bit the bullet there.

But the Chiefs are equally awful, and there is rain in the longterm forecast, as there was for the Cleveland game (speaking of crummy operations).

The Raiders are, as we have said since January, an expansion team in all but chronological terms. They hit E in October after their successive wins to – yes – Jacksonville and Kansas City, and the needle hasn’t inched back since. They are at least two years away from salvation, and are so bad now that Hue Jackson seems like Jon Gruden.

That is usually the way, though. When Tom Cable was fired, some Raider fans thought he had been wronged. The rear-view mirror looks better and better as objects in it get smaller and smaller.

Will times get better under Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen? On the basis that they are unlikely to get much worse, you can say that. But that’s the long-term view, and our view here stops at Sunday. And what we know is, Oakland is still considered less horrific than Kansas City.

So, with this tribute to the resistible force meeting the movable object, we tip our hat to the worst game on this week’s card – and that includes Detroit at Arizona, and Jacksonville at Miami, and Carolina at San Diego too.

And if you got in Raiders minus-1 ½, you could have a nice healthy middle by game time. Happy times are where you find them.

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.