Ratto: Giants' win trumps sideshow for a day

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Ratto: Giants' win trumps sideshow for a day

Aug. 9, 2011

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The thing that most resonates after the Giants 6-0 victory over the Pirates Tuesday is the relief that comes with knowing that for one day there wont be a migraine-creating sideshow.

RECAP: Bumgarner, Huff lead Giants to 6-0 victory
That may be the most enduring issue with this team as it holds on desperately to first place in the National League Amish Division. When theyre not playing smart, crisp baseball, the hardest core of the fan base tends to get distracted by ancillary issues.Tuesday, it was whether or not Aaron Rowand had offended the city and his employers. Before that, it was the Internet argument over Ramon Ramirez immigration status. Before that, it was The Brawl For It All. Before that, well, theres always that hardly old perennial, Barry Zito.Thats how it is around these parts these days. Theres never a dull day, even if there is a dull game.

Thus, Tuesdays return to what Giant fans believe is normalcy came as somewhat of a relief around and about the Thing On King. Oh, there may be some highly caffeinated debates about Pablo Sandovals hands after his two errors, but since neither led to any kind of Pittsburgh inning, that would be looking for trouble where it doesnt yet need to be found.Madison Bumgarner threw his usual 70 percent strikes, but avoided giving up any first- or third-inning runs to propel his second career double-digit strikeout game. The oft-maligned Aubrey Huff homered and hit a double that looked like a departing plane. Chris Stewart muscled his way next to Duane Kuiper on the all-time major league home run list. Sergio Romo had his 10-inning perfect game broken up by Andrew McCutchens eighth-inning double but began a new one immediately thereafter.And in all, the Giants scored three times their normal complement of runs to stay a half-step ahead of Arizona, which played a Canadian Football League game against Houston before winning, 11-8. They became the 29th team to break the mythical 400-run barrier, something that happens to every team in every non-strike year.Mostly, though, they looked the way they have been advertised to look for one of the few times in the past three weeks. They took the audiences mind of what they havent been doing by, well, doing it, allowing the customers to avoid the side stories that exasperate some and befuddle others.There is always up-side to be a conversation-starter, as the Giants have become. Most notably, the question of Alex Smith never comes up when the topic is the Giants. Or the debt ceiling, or the stock market, or the London riots, or the collapse of civilization, or worst of all, the rumors of a four-hour Kardashian-related show.The down-side, though, is that when things go south as they have, little things become big, and semi-big things become enormous. And somewhere between those two extremes rests Carlos Beltrans wrist injury, which went from sprain to strain and from day to day without added incident.RELATED: Beltran day-to-day, might play Wednesday
That is, to be honest, the biggest story of the last week as it pertains to the Giants ability to survive August, but it lacks the effervescence of weirdness. The others, though, got legs and stayed running awhile because they filled in the long stretches of dead air between Giant hits.That is a hidden but still very real element of long hitting slumps. Nature abhors dead air, and will fill it with whatever happens to be available. The Rowand story came and died right before game time, and the game sold itself.But theres a game Wednesday, and unless Pat Burrells trip to North Carolina for a further examination of his foot reveals that it is in fact a hoof, the Giants may have to settle for more baseball like Tuesdays. I mean, thats novel enough given how theyve handled the last three weeks, but one can never tell where a fertile imagination will take a team with a soggy bat rack, an eager marketing department, and a beast that must always be fed.

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.