Ratto: Bay Area coaches must walk a fine line

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Ratto: Bay Area coaches must walk a fine line

June 7, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE
Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Jeff Tedford is coming off his first losing season at Cal, and the Ursines are playing every game away from home this year. Mike MacIntyre is coming off a 1-11 season at San Jose State in which he lost a lot of starters. And David Shaw is entering his first year on the job at a national power -- well, Stanford -- so the pressure there is dancing on his windpipe like you wouldnt believe.

But be happy, kids. None of them are Bill Stewart. Or Jim Tressel. Or the SEC coaches who defended gray-shirting last week. Theyre just three guys trying to get by.

At least we hope they are. At this point, the college football business makes the monument to brazen venality it is, and anything is possible about anyone.

Yeah, we said it. Anyone. You dont know your coach. You dont know him at all. You dont know what he does, or how he does it. This isnt the old line about making sausage. This is not knowing whether theres even pork in the stuff.

So how does this affect our three poster children? Easy. College football doesnt mean that much to most of us. Oh, well kvetch about Tedfords inability to find a successor to Aaron Rodgers, and well look at SJSU and wonder how much longer it can go on as a program, and well fantasize about the good old days under Jim Harbaugh (two of them, mostly with Andrew Luck), but we dont have them hiding players who barter memorabilia for tats, or trying to set up their assistants for firing, or oversign their rosters without a thought for those who get strung along.

Or if we do, there arent enough of us to get our delicates in a knot over it.

Oh, we could be smug and say, These three noble and honorable men would never consider doing such things. And that might be so. They all seem like guys who would drink a beer with you without spitting in your ear.

And we might take the even more elitist road and say, These three magnificent institutions would never allow such things to occur, and that might be so, too. Funny the way when Cal is an exemplar, Stanford is a cesspool and vice versa, but thats just middle-aged fans arguing over the pate.

But this has nothing to do with elitism, or the basic rectitudes of MacIntyre, Shaw and Tedford. This has everything to do with a more basic truth, namely this:

Where there is attention, there is money. Where there is money, there is corruption. Where there is corruption, there is more money. Where there is more money, there is a need to defend the money by considering more corruption. Its the circle of life, and it leads either to shame, a statue, or an NFL job.

And we don't plow enough money or attention into any of these schools to consider the things that happen with such magnificent frequency in other parts of the country parts of the country where college football is king.

And keep your noses down, smugmeisters. We love the fact that the Raiders at their best wiped their feet on the ethics and morays of the NFL. We applauded with great vigor when Eddie DeBartolo spent his way to the top of the heap, and didnt care when they got caught cheating the salary cap. We dont mind our NFL teams weaseling their way to advantages, because thats what we care about. Thats where our money is. Or where it used to be before quality stopped being Job 1 at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway and 4949 Centennial.

So maybe its just about resources. Weve allotted our abilities to look the other way toward our pro teams, and our college teams . . . well, we dont have Bill Stewart or Jim Tressel. We dont have a national championship being lifted, and we dont sign more athletes than we can use. We cant afford it. Or we choose not to.

The point here is this: Virtue is nice to have, but it is often a sign of the meek and their relationship to the earth. Shaw, Tedford and MacIntyre seem like fine fellows; we have no compelling reason to think otherwise.

But when we start getting snotty about it, we should remember that there but for the grace of the Continental Divide and the Mason Dixon Line go us. Wed probably want them to cheat if we cared enough. This way just seems saner.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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.