Ray Ratto

Raiders give fans a reality check

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Raiders give fans a reality check

The Raiders blew up Sunday, did so spectacularly, and didnt have the strength of will to joust with the assumptions that come from such an explosion.All they did, then, after saving so many teams but not themselves, was restate the obvious, or resort to deadened platitudes.We had plays we needed to make, and we didnt make them in crucial spots, defensive tackle Richard Seymour said after Oakland blew a 13-point lead with 7:47 to play and stunningly lost to the Detroit Lions, 28-27 . They went 98 yards to score a touchdown, and thats really tough.We had our chances and we just didnt convert on them, said head coach Hue Jackson. Right now, Im 7-7, and Im not a .500 coach, and I dont like it. We have to get better, and we will. People thought we wouldnt come back after Miami and Green Bay, but we did.But no they didnt. They didnt come back at all; they actually lost more revoltingly, and in doing so helped not only Detroit, but Denver, San Diego, the New York Jets, Tennessee and Cincinnati as well.

Comrade Gutierrez outlines the plays that killed them in the end Sunday, but the loss was comprehensively far worse than the sum of its shards. They all add up in the end, from the incompletion from Carson Palmer to Denarius Moore on fourth-and-one from the Detroit 24 on Oaklands first possession, to the Tampa 2 coverage that left middle linebacker Rolando McClain and safety Jerome Boyd on Calvin Johnsons 48-yard catch with 1:33 to go.Calvin Johnson, of course, being the best receiver in football as well as Detroits only truly reliable weapon, Boyd being a rookie, and McClain being a linebacker.But mostly, this was the revelation that the more lopsided losses in Miami and Green Bay didnt provide. This was the one that shows that the Raiders arent yet ready for the next step, the one that mediocre teams need to take to become good ones.I feel like were better, Seymour said, staring into space with an odd sense of detachment, but we have to prove it, and were not. No excuses about it. We have lapses in crucial situations, and we cant have it.That is the dagger, right there. A 7-4 team now 7-7 and on the verge of extinction because it cannot hold serve at home against a reeling one-dimensional team. It is telling alone that the Raiders put its last egg in Sebastian Janikowskis left foot from 65 yards away with four seconds left, an act of desperation even for the strongest kicker in the game.Janikowski told a Polish reporter afterward that the snap and placement on the kick were perfect, and that he hit the ball as well as he could have hoped. But Detroits Ndamukong Suh deflected it into a harmless low-spinning spiral that fell well short of the target.And now, all there is left is Kansas City next week, and San Diego to close the season. The Raiders are not eliminated from the postseason yet, but they have to win twice and hope that Denver loses twice. Their wild card hopes are even less inspiring, as they currently stand as the ninth of six in the AFC, exactly that 7-7 team Hue Jackson says they arent, and him exactly that 7-7 coach he says he hates.One can make the case that the Raiders would have been a different team without the injuries to Darren McFadden and Jacoby Ford and Michael Huff and on and on and on, but the parallel universe game is a loser. You are, as Bill Parcells famously said, what your record says you are, and what could have been means nothing.The plain stabbing fact is that the Raiders positioned themselves to win this game with all those injuries, and keep themselves in a discussion they were dominating three weeks ago. Instead, they failed, swallowing soot and bile all the way down the stretch. They are now the longest of shots, and as famous for blowing big leads (Buffalo, Denver and now Detroit) and fourth quarter leads (Buffalo and now Detroit).They are, to sum up, not ready for the bright lights yet. Even if they do the highly improbable and reach a 17th game, it will be because the rest of the AFC imploded around them. They are moving backwards in December, the worst time of all to be doing so, and it will take some months to convince the customers that 2012 will be different.Oh, the fans come around eventually, full of hope again and dreaming the dream, but they did that this year and are now ruing that decision. Sunday surely convinced them that their future is still in the future, because the right now feels lousy.

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.