Ratto: America deserves Nelson-Kahn in Minny

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Ratto: America deserves Nelson-Kahn in Minny

July 14, 2011

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Please let it be Don Nelson. Please oh please oh pleeeeeeezzzeee.Please, Lord, use your powers of persuasion, whether it be a soft white enveloping light or torrential frog showers, to inspire David Kahn to hire Don Nelson as the new head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.It will make the NBA lockout worthwhile. It will divert attention from LeBron James. It will make Minneapolis the What-The-Hell capital of the world, wresting the crown from wherever James Harrison happens to be today.It must happen.

Nelson needs no introduction in these parts, and frankly, he probably wouldnt like the one he would get. And for those of you who dont know, David Kahn is the T-Wolves answer to Bobby The Brain Rowell, at least in Minnesota, where most folks think he does goofy stuff just to see the looks on peoples faces.STEINMETZ: Nelson to T'Wolves ... ridiculous or real?
In short, it is the percent merging of reputations that couldnt be worse and therefore could only improve . . . or become a disaster the likes of which hasnt been seen since Al Davis brought back the overhead projector.The Timberwolves with Kahn as the architect are currently awful, way worse than the Warriors have been at nearly any time in the past 20 years, and as you know, thats saying something.Nelson was essentially run out of town by new Warrior owner Joe Lacob even before he was the new Warrior owner, and since it is typically hard to be fired by someone who isnt even your boss, thats saying something too.So their commingling must happen, because only entertainment can happen. And since the NBAs principal job these days is to show us old All-Star games and old drafts (Hey look, its Joe Smith!), the league needs all the entertainment it can emit.Lets break this down more simply, though.Kahn needs either a genius to save him from himself. Or a human shield. Nelson needs a team to reconstruct his legacy. Minnesota owner Glen Taylor couldnt be worse than Chris Cohan, and Kevin Love is more interior presence than Nelsons had in years.But thats just for starters. Kahn thinks he is the smartest guy in the room because he does strange things nobody else would dare try. Nelson knows hes the smartest guy in the room because hes done even stranger things that nobody else has dared replicate.And best of all, Nelson has a track record of considerable success that Kahn hasnt even remotely approached, thus promising a glorious fight for the owners love and attention between resentment of the basketball-underclubbed boss and the frustrations of the hyperexperienced underling.You dont think thats a beer and a brat in heaven? You dont think thats must-see training camp? You dont think thats the argument between the captains of the Titanic and the Andrea Doria over who gets to steer the ship to the bottom? On the other hand, who doesnt like a gloriously redemptive tale of the wizened old head and the stubborn kid who find magic somewhere between their positions? I mean, if Nelson saves the Wolves, he comes out whole, and Kahn escapes his reputation as the general manager who put levities and enmities in Minnesota Timberwolves.In short, they need each other, even though they might kill each other. And if thats not your idea of fun, then you hate fun.So please let it be Don Nelson, as surely as there is a sun in the sky, dirt on the ground and the prosecutors in the Roger Clemens trial being beaten with leather-bound books. He deserves it. The T-Wolves deserve it. You deserve it. America deserves it.What, you dont like America either? Damn. You are hard to please.

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.