Ray Ratto

Ratto: Here's to the Chaos of The Big Game


Ratto: Here's to the Chaos of The Big Game

Nov. 17, 2010


Ray Ratto

I would like to report to you that because the line has been moving steadily toward the underdog in Saturday's Big Game, this means that Cal will make it a memorably close game, based on the fact that Cal has dominated the betting (and subsequent paying) in this hardy perennial.

But, like the hangover over Cal's close loss last week to Oregon, the possibility that Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh may never see another Big Game, the possibilities of a Rose Bowl for Stanford and a Holiday Bowl for Cal and how the boys endured the food and conversation at the Guardsmen's Lunch, this doesn't tell you a whole lot.

What it means is, Cal has more people betting on it (the line has gone from 8 to 6 - since Sunday morning) because it has more fans and graduates, and that the Oregon game rekindled betting hope. That is all.

Like the Oregon hangover, another non-starter logic-wise. If the Cal players haven't gotten over that one yet, they deserve to be crushed Saturday.

Or the Luck and Harbaugh stories. Luck will leave because there are untold riches and challenges awaiting him, barring an NFL lockout. And Harbaugh will leave as soon as the right riches and challenges come a-beckoning. We know that, they know, their teammates know that. Nobody is stupid here.

Or the bowl possibilities. Stanford needs Auburn to lose, soon. That's it. An Auburn loss probably puts Boise State in the title game, freeing the Rose Bowl from the obligation of taking an AQ team (say, TCU) - that is, unless the Rose Bowl doesn't think Stanford will travel as well as TCU, in which case it could take the Cardinal anyway. And Cal could sneak into the Holiday Bowl as the next Pac-10 team in the pecking order after Oregon goes to the national championship, Stanford to the Rose and Arizona to the Sun.

Suits make that call, though, and the Big Game isn't the last dance on either team's schedule.

And we make no judgment on the Guardsman lunch. We weren't there. We've never been there. If the Guardsmen have anything to do with it, we never will be there. That's what guardsmen do, after all. Keep out the riff, not to mention the raff.

No, all that stuff doesn't matter in terms of figuring the game. What does, is this weather forecast.

Yeah. Rain. Lots of it. It's the one thing that will change Saturday's game, by a lot. The Memorial Stadium turf will hold up better than the traditional grass field, unfortunately, because nothing says a great rivalry game quite like the kind of mud that obscures all uniforms and obliterates footing. But it will be a bother, and so will the wind expected to accompany it.

See, we tend to see big things in small ones all the time when it comes to football, because there's so damned much time to kill between high-speed collisions between borderline insane young men. We want the psychological stuff to matter. We want to bathe in the minutiae so the majutiae (the big stuff, I guess, though my make-it-up-as-you-go-along Latin isn't as strong as it used to be) can be ignored.

But we know that Stanford is on paper the better team with more to play for. We also want the Big Game to be about the unpredictable, the zany, the downright unforeseeable, and other than injuries, the weather and the band are the best you've got.

And we're not rooting for injuries, or either band, as far as that goes.

That leaves weather, and this is not a bad forecast. It would be better if the game was at Stanford because the Cardinal play on God's own mulch, and therefore can turn it into God's own bog within a quarter. At Cal, you need puddles and high winds to get the kind of chaos we're looking for here.

And truthfully, since we don't give a damn who wins, having attended neither school, we'll root for chaos every time.

So never mind all the other stuff. Root for a nasty front to come in off the Pacific and make the game a complete silent movie comedy. We can't vouch for the result (except that in such an eventuality you should bet the under), but you'll remember it a lot longer.

And if you're attending the game and need to keep that grill working, then root that the Weather Channel, the closest thing we have to the Almighty, is wrong. I mean, never mind the game. You've got coals (and guests) to keep lit.

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in


In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

For the record, and just so you can’t say you weren’t told, these are the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and the 50 backups. Draw your own conclusions.

(Author’s note: We list these only because Joe Webb was just signed by the Buffalo Bills, whose starter and first backup, Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates, are still in the concussion protocol).


DENVER: Trevor Siemian (Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler)

KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith (Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray)

LOS ANGELES: Philip Rivers (Cardale Jones)

OAKLAND: Derek Carr (E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook)


BALTIMORE: Joe Flacco (Ryan Mallett)

CINCINNATI: Andy Dalton (AJ McCarron)

CLEVELAND: DeShone Kizer (Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Josh Woodrum)

PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger (Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs)


HOUSTON: Tom Savage (DeShaun Watson)

INDIANAPOLIS: Scott Tolzien (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett)

JACKSONVILLE: Chad Henne (Blake Bortles)

TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota (Matt Cassel)


BUFFALO: Nathan Peterman (Taylor, Yates, Webb)

MIAMI: Jay Cutler (Matt Moore, David Fales)

NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady (Jimmy Garoppolo)

NEW YORK: Josh McCown (Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg)


ARIZONA: Carson Palmer (Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert)

LOS ANGELES: Jared Goff (Sean Mannion)

SAN FRANCISCO: Brian Hoyer (C.J. Beathard)

SEATTLE: Russell Wilson (Austin Davis)


CHICAGO: Mike Glennon (Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez)

DETROIT: Matthews Stafford (Jack Rudock)

GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers (Brett Hundley)

MINNESOTA: Sam Bradford (Case Keenum)


ATLANTA: Matt Ryan (Matt Schaub)

CAROLINA: Cam Newton (Derek Anderson, Brad Kaaya)

NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees (Chase Daniel, Taysom Hill)

TAMPA BAY: Jameis Winston (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin)


DALLAS: Dak Prescott (Cooper Rush)

NEW YORK: Eli Manning (Geno Smith, Davis Webb)

PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz (Nick Foles)

WASHINGTON: Kirk Cousins (Colt McCoy)

Again, draw your own conclusions. I know I’ve drawn mine.