Ray Ratto

Ratto: Just another day for David Shaw

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Ratto: Just another day for David Shaw

Sep. 3, 2011

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On the day that Larry Scott apparently clinched the Heisman Trophy by doing nothing much more involved than watching Oregon-LSU, the news from Stanford was somewhat more mundane.

Unless youre David Shaw.

Oh, most folks were focused on Andrew Luck holding serve in his quest for the trophy that Scott will now win. His numbers were impressive without being gaudy (17 of 26, 171, 2 scores through the air and one via his legs, and he wasnt kept in the game to run up his numbers against a game but mostly overmatched San Jose State team.

The final score of 57-3 was marked neither by ruthlessness or piling on. Nobody was hurt, and seasons were not changed. It was in every sense your run of the mill opener.

RECAP: Stanford overwhelms SJSU in opener 57-3

That is, if youre not Notre Dame, or Oregon State, or TCU.

Scott, for his part, did far more by doing far less, standing faithfully but silently while Oklahoma took the best cuts of the Big XII Conference tri-tip and dragged them westward, which is the conference commissioners equivalent of going 70-for-53 for 1,967 yards and 86 touchdowns.

But thats a tale for later this week, when an announcement is anticipated that Stanford will have four new playmates in a Pac-16 that will be broken up into the Larry Division and the Scott Division.

And so, too, is the Andrew Luck story, because that will be an ongoing grind.

No, its reasonable to let this be David Shaws day. His first game as Stanford coach, his father Willie as an honorary captain, and the knowledge that it will never be quite this clean or easy ever again. Now that deserves commemoration.

That is, if Shaw would let himself relax, and he wont. Hes one of those Type A guys.

We were going along in the third quarter, and we were starting to get a rhythm, he said, calmly but firmly, and the coaches had to come up to me and say, Maybe its time to get some of the starters out. Its good they said that, because I was so focused on the way the game was going and what it was I wanted us to do that I wasnt paying attention to the score.

Wasnt paying attention to the score? Well, it was 43-3 at the time, so it wasnt one of those factors that demanded his full attention.

He also wasnt paying attention to Lucks now quixotic search for the Heisman as we said, Scott seems to have finished that debate by eviscerating the Big XII with just a smile and a charged cellphone.

No, Shaws big day felt to him like all the others that led to it, with one exception.

When Dad went out on the field (as one of the honorary captains, after a long and admirable career as an assistant), that caught me a little bit, Shaw said. I mean, I knew it was happening, but it just hit me more than I thought it would, I guess.

But he let nothing else exceed the ordinary. He did force himself to spend more time paying attention to the defensive and special teams areas, but he did not allow his equilibrium to be otherwise disturbed.

I slept great, he said of his Friday night. I always sleep great the night before a game. Bill (Walsh) always said the week is for the coaching and preparation, but Saturday is for the players. This was their day.

And it was. San Jose States multitude of errors (seven penalties, six fumbles, half of them lost, a missed field goal and a ton of standard blocking and defending mistakes) made this a hard game to evaluate cleanly. Luck himself called his day average, with the emphasis on not up to snuff. Indeed, the game never had the feel of a 54-point win, as Stanford gained only 373 yards and had the ball for a middling 34:30.

But it was David Shaws first, and that would matter. It only gets harder from here, because the first game of a coachs career is the only free one hell ever have. Fans start offering strategies, alums want more time, and the complications start to crowd out the simplicities.

Yes, he may sleep fine on Friday nights, but his weeks will only get harder from here. And he will have it no other way.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
 
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
 
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
 
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
 
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
 
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
 
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
 
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
 
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

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AP

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

There is no inherent reason why you should care about Miami FC or Kingston Stockade FC, two lower level professional soccer leagues in the lower right quadrant of the nation.

But when they joined together to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the international governing body for any sport not run by Americans for Americans, to demand that all American teams submit to the concept of promotion and relegation, from MLS to, presumably, your kid’s under-8 team, they became interesting.

And the best part about soccer, except for Neymar being worth twice as much as all other humans in the history of the sport, is promotion and relegation.

In fact, it would be a great idea in all sports – although the idea of the Giants and A’s in the Pacific Coast League might scare the bejeezus out of Larry Baer and John Fisher.

Now we are not optimistic that the CAS will see this Kingston and Miami’s way. Americans like their sports top-heavy, where only a few megaclubs get most of the money and attention while the rest sort of muddle along, safe but unremarkable. And to be frank, promotion and relegation is most a fun media construct for making fun of bad teams – say, like the A’s and Giants.

But we can agree, I think, that having Jed York pay Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to keep his football team out of the Canadian Football League, or better still, the Mountain West Conference, would add to healthy dose of spice to what promises otherwise to be a pretty humdrum year.

And promotion/relegation would certainly reduce all that troublesome tanking in the NBA people endlessly whinge about.

So here’s to Kingston Stockade and Miami FC. Your cause is just. Persevere. After all, in this rancid period for American sporting culture, someone's got to stand for the quixotic yet indisputably correct thing.

And when it fails, and it probably will, just know you sleep with the angels -- if that’s what passes for fun at your house.