Ratto: Don't expect changes in A's situation


Ratto: Don't expect changes in A's situation

June 21, 2011

Follow @RattoCSNRay Ratto

Not ever having been too geeked up by the Lew-Wolff-to-the-Dodgers conspiracy theories, we find the new news from Divorce McCourt fascinating, though slightly baffling.With Bud Seligs energies about to be turned full-force onto what will be a parade of nuisance lawsuits from McCourt now that his plan to have Fox pay for his divorce has been foiled, the As go even further onto a back burner. In fact, the As are now behind the stove entirely.It is a view the franchise should be used to, but one of its own making. The San Jose gambit seems essentially undone, not because of inaction from Major League Baseball but from the California side, and slowly but surely it is dawning on people that the ownerships next step is in fact an exit strategy.It doesnt have to happen right away, not while the revenue-sharing pixie waves her fortune-dispensing wand each year. But unless Wolff and John Fisher have a change of heart about Oakland, or would rather have a team in an old park than none at all, theyre pretty well boxed.
San Jose cant save them. MLB cant save them. They dont seem amenable to the Screw it well do it ourselves plan, and whatever back-channeling Wolff could do with Selig to whip territorial rights votes his way has either failed or not been done at all.Now that the Dodgers are the game, the As are just not an issue. And with labor discord scheduled just up the road, the problem of Oakland will remain, well behind the stove.In other words, the status is way quo, and is going to stay quo for the foreseeable future. Unless, the conspiracy freaks and tinfoil-hatters are correct in their supposition that Wolffs road out of town is Highway 5, to the 110.That may be true in the end; one always guesses as to just how close Selig and Wolff actually are, and whether Wolff wants a piece of the Dodgers in their current distressed state.But for the moment, McCourt seems ready to blizzard MLB with court dates protecting his prerogatives as well as he can given that he may have take his lawyering out in trade. That hardly seems like the barrel of monkey owning the Dodgers used to be. Wolff may, in fact, want to wait until the shrapnel clears if L.A. is in fact his goal.That leaves the As where they have always been -- in the Eat At Joes Coliseum, without discernible options for relocation, no chance for contraction, and unless they can find the next Walter Haas, always available for strangulation.Indeed, what the As need most isnt a ballpark at all, but a sense of greater purpose that starts in the big leather chair and works its way down. They need an owner who wants to make his stand in Oakland, whether it be on the present site, Victory Court, or in the Piedmont hills. They need an owner who wants to engage the Giants despite the disadvantages inherent in their position. The franchise needs an owner who frankly is willing to forgo the unicorn of San Jose and get people believing that this team has its own intrinsic value.Maybe that requires a building. Maybe not. But in an ever-shifting landscape -- anyone want to take bets that the Raiders will still be in Oakland in a decade, or that the Warriors wont flee for SouthOMarket? -- what we believe as immutable truth with the As rarely is. All things are cyclical, including the Giants hegemony, and all it takes to change the equation again is someone who knows not the grass isnt greener, but that there is no other patch of grass. No other city to move to, no new stadium awaiting them down the 880, nothing but the right here.And other than the fact that its damned difficult to find such a person or persons, that has always been the fact.In sum, the As dont have a Portland plan, or a Sacramento plan, or a Memphis plan, or a San Antonio plan. The San Jose plan is withering if not completely dead. And contraction isnt an option because whatever it takes to buy out the As, it will take six times that when the other owners who want an easy way out of their situations petition MLB for the same deal the As got.This is what they have, and this is who they are. And as long as Frankie Empty Pockets can make trouble in L.A., and as long as a new CBA remains undone, that will not change in the slightest.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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.