Ratto: Giant lesson in Super Bowl chaos


Ratto: Giant lesson in Super Bowl chaos

Feb. 7, 2011


Ray Ratto

There is a lesson in the steaming disaster that was the Super Bowl for the San Francisco Giants, if they are prepared to absorb and act upon it.Which, we would bet heavily, they are not. The moneys too good the other way.
The Super Bowl was a spectacular failure on all but football grounds. The ice that crushed the Metroplex, the people hurt when the stadium burped up part of the icy roof, the turbulent undercurrent of the labormanagement spit-fest, the tickets-that-werent-for-the-seats-that-never-existed, Christina Aguilera (who we thought was already retired) shrieking in some unknown code, the Black-Eyed Peas and their interpretation of an airport runway at night, and in all, the rigors of greed unchained and unashamed made this one of the worst Super Bowls ever. Except for Aaron Rodgers, and Mike McCarthy, and Ted Thompson, and the state of Wisconsin, that is. They had a hell of a time.
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So what does this have to with the Giants? Im glad I asked. As you may have noticed from FanFest, the Giants are hotter than theyve been since the day they got here. They turned away almost as many people as they admitted for the annual slap-and-tickle, and that may be an accurate gauge of the demand right now.
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But heres the thing. The Super Bowl crushed its own mordant avarice. Charging hundreds for a party pass that allowed you to get close without seeing the game, setting up temporary seating areas that people who paid full retail couldnt use, and putting up a show of purest malignant excess all of it the karma that comes of squeezing the money lemon until the seeds explode in your eye.
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And theres the lesson. There is money the Giants dont want, and that money is too much. Finding new ways to choke a guys wallet ought to be beneath them. Charging for everything you can charge for is not only unseemly but antithetical to what Bow Tie Billy Neukom says he believes. And this requires an ongoing examination of how they deal with the marks . . . er, the customers. In short, where the Super Bowl asked the question How much can we charge for even stuff that has no value? and got the response, Heres a record-breaking ice storm, the Giants have to ask the question, What can we afford not to charge for? Its kind of a zen question, in fact, because the Giants need money to feed their pet Lincecums and Cains and Poseys. But they have also flogged the brand to a fine gray paste, to the point where they are either nudging the line of excess or treading merrily over it, depending on your position relative to your checkbook. The Giants have two choices here striking while the iron is hot, or gently nudging for a prolonged and triumphant future. Every kid who couldnt get into FanFest had a lousy experience, and it doesnt matter to him whether the team or the fire laws kept him out. There will be other moments where the customers dont get serviced, either, and thats where the creativity comes in. When someone gets shut out of an event, they should get something free in exchange. A T-shirt, a stuffed Machine, a suite for the Pirates series, something. And charging for everything is what they do in the Mob. The team orientation at this, their finest moment, should be, What can we not charge for? because those moments linger a lot longer than the Visa bill. Fans sign up for a lifetime when given something they didnt expect. This is the law. Conversely, fans walk away when their favorite team has its hand in the fans pockets at every turn, and they dont come back. The Giants are as close as theyve ever been to owning the market, but the more they try to own, the worse it will get. If fans are born through the influence of their parents, their parents get hooked on their kids being handed something for nothing, even if that something is as small as an autograph or just a smile. Which is why not charging for everything under the sun is the way to go here. The Super Bowl is the example of what happens when your appetite for other peoples money outstrips your ability to dance for it. And the task for the Giants is to find ways to put the price gun away. Can they do it? We suspect not. The instinct to double-down when youre hot is almost Pavlovian with most enterprises. To go the other way takes more discipline, but it also makes better sense in the long run. Even barflies know this -- buy the first round of drinks, and it wont be your turn again for quite some time. And thats what the Giants can take from Super Bowl Week. Well, that and keeping Christina Aguilera from showing up to yodel Battle Hymn of The Republic.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.

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.