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.

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.

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

The Super Bowl is today, which means the best day of the year is fast approaching.

Namely, the day after the Super Bowl.

At that point, we as a nation can complete the inventory of gastric damage we did to ourselves on what shall be known to future generations as Fried Festivus.

At that point, the people who bombard us daily with news of the game – the least important part of the week-long trade show, as we have come to learn it – will all be on planes and too tired to re-explain what we already saw 37 times on game day.

At that point, nobody will care that Terrell Owens was apparently one of the first of the 15 Hall of Fame finalists to be rejected for induction because of crimes against the NFL state. The Hall of Fame is one of the sneaky ways in which the NFL never lets us escape its obnoxiously shouty profile, and the fact that Owens is right about the flawed process doesn’t change the fact that he’ll be just fine with the process when it allows him passage.

At that point, we’ll know whether Tom Brady is to be deemed a god, or merely maintain his demigod status. At least we’ll hear more about it, because it is easily the most tiresome debate in the football diaspora, engaged in by idiots with no better idea about how to kill time. A note: If you think Tom Brady is a greater quarterback because his team won a fifth ring, or a lesser one because he didn’t, your head is now officially empty enough to be reclassified a dance hall, and you are of no more value to normal society than a papier-mache goose.

And at that point, we can return to the two things we in these parts care to know – where the Raiders are going, and how the 49ers are going to present their new football brain trust.

We needn’t explain the Raiders again to you, first because you’ve heard it all if you’re paying any attention at all. Mark Davis has been trying to cobble deals at a frantic pace in hopes that one will stick, and his 31 fellow owners still have to decide how much longer they want to endure him, while faced with the painful fact that the East Bay is getting out of the exploitative license-to-be-stolen-from stadium business. They also get to know as they go to the meeting in Houston that will ostensibly decide Davis’ fate that they have ruined California as a market by their excessive greed-laced stupidity and deserve every lousy market the state can give them.

Which brings us to the 49ers, and the latest round of Judge Them By Their Press Conferences.

If there is anything worse than this team’s on-field profile, which is why Jed York hired Kyle Shanahan, it is the way it explains itself to the outside world, which is why Jed York hired John Lynch. Both Shanahan and Lynch will be paraded before a braying mobs, probably Tuesday, and York will be there as well for the cheesy photo array and a few unconvincing words of praise about each of them (as a note, Paraag Marathe will be present but only in hologrammatic form).

They will then promise – well, something or other – and Lynch will be hailed as the face of the glorious future because the man he replaced, Trent Baalke, had the public persona of a meth-tweaked hyena. Hard to find, and not worth it when you did.

Then we’ll all remember that the job Shanalynch (or Lynchahan, depending on what part of Ireland you’re from) are being asked to do is a three-year reclamation at the very least, and that the only useful question either can be asked is “Can you fix this before Jed gets embarrassed and angry and cans you both?”

And on Wednesday, there’s the start of pre-draft prep (in order words, The Eighty-Day Slave Market), and the hamster wheel to hell gears up again toward Super Bowl LII.

Only next year, the chances of relocation hysteria and a front office upheaval are that much less, and we haven’t sufficient distractions to make the year go faster.

But enjoy Fried Festivus. We can always look forward to that, even if we change the name back in December to the more traditional "Christmas."