Ratto: Orange Bowl victory ushers new Stanford era


Ratto: Orange Bowl victory ushers new Stanford era

Jan. 3, 2010

Its always enriching to see folks who didnt see Stanford this year, see Stanford this year. The sense of goggle-eyed wonderment is, to us scabby old Stanford-watchers who have seen this for four months, delightful.Andrew Luck won the nation. Jim Harbaugh won a few extra job offers. Shayne Skov and Coby Fleener may have won NFL scouts hearts. The Cardinal won their 12th game, 40-12, over a typically shell-shocked opponent, this one ACC champion Virginia Tech, and it could have been 42-7 if not for one hilarious play, one misjudgment and two missed extra points.
RELATED: Stanford 40, Virginia Tech 12
Frankly, there was the slack-jawed amazement of discovery throughout the Orange Bowl. It was what Stanford plays for, even if the players dont cop to it that look on the opponents faces when the light goes on and the realization hits that its never going to get any better, and can only get worse.And typically does.That this was a team that cant be duplicated, so it may as well scatter and remember these days for what they were. That was the point they all tried to make in their subtle (and in a few cases, not so subtle) way, that this was too good to brush aside in a burst of career advancement.I just ask you to respect the game and the process and respect these players, was Harbaughs stocksnippy response to all inquiries about his future. This is about them.Well, yes, but so many of them have reached their collegiate crescendos that its hard not to ask.I want to enjoy this, talk to my folks, and make a decision in the next couple of days, Luck said in response to the same question.Translation: Bye-eeee.Secondary translation: What more could you possibly want from us?I dont want to be rude, Harbaugh said later, But Id rather enjoy this moment, every minute with these guys. This team. Something thats never been done in exactly this way in the history of Stanford football.The Cardinal, looking as brutally clinical as they have most of the year, dismantled the Hokies the way a snake eats slowly, methodically, and comprehensively.And in doing so, they not only set a new water mark for Stanford football, they hastened its new era new coach, new quarterback, new everything. There is more than this, true, but the difference is so small that only a fool would see the old gang trying to do it one more time.This was, in short, more than a beatdown. It was a goodbye-to-all-that party. Graduation Day, if you must.Luck finished 18 of 23 for 287 yards and four scores, for a quarterback rating of 258,929.26. Running back Stepfan Taylor gained 114 yards in 13 carries, and Jeremy Stewart 99 in five. Fleener caught six balls for 173 yards and three scores. Skov, the sophomore linebacker, finished with eight tackles, three sacks and said, I missed about four or five others. Owen Marecic, the two-way player of national renown, was the two-way player of national renown again. And on, and on, and on.In short, this was pretty much your standard Stanford performance feet to the floorboards, the imbalances between the two teams growing with every series. The players all pointed to the two-play, 97-yard drive early in the second half as the deal-breaker the 56-yard counter by Taylor, and the 41-yard post to Fleener on the next play but it had already begun before that.This was the New Stanford Experience, only not one that the rest of the nation had fully comprehended. They saw the scores, they read the stories, but their most intimate memories of the Cardinal came in the 52-31 loss to Oregon, the game they would all like to have back even now.
REWIND: No. 9 Stanford fades, No. 4 Oregaon wins
I think were better, Harbaugh said. I think weve gotten better and stronger as the season has gone on, and thats a character of a very good football team. Thats part of what I meant when I said they really respect the game and respect the process. You are allowed to get better as the season goes along. But now there is no more season, only career choices for the fortunate few. Starting with waiting for the first falling shoe -- Michigans decision on Rich Rodriguez. It will help Harbaugh see just how many jobs he will be eligible for starting Tuesday.One of those is with the Denver Broncos, whose new boss, John Elway, heartily approved of what he saw as he stood on the field after the game. Pretty impressive, is how he put it. Very impressive.Another is with the 49ers, though the general feeling is that that is probably one of his fallback positions. It is believed that Jed York would eat all the stucco and fixtures in a burning building to get Harbaugh, but other gigs will either pay more or offer more power or more sensible structure.
MAIOCCO: Would Lombardi deliver Harbaugh?
And Luck? Hes the new richest Carolina Panther ever, because they lost their way to the top draft choice and would not seriously contemplate Denvers logical (we assume) offer of Tim Tebow and the second pick for the first pick. Luck came off Monday as one of those natural superduperstars just waiting for a contract to sign, and he has nothing left to show anyone on this level.Nor, truth be told, do any of the Cardinal. What happened this year cant be repeated, because sports simply doesnt work that way. Theres a time to show and a time to go. Stanford showed Virginia Tech, and a skeptical nation wanting to be awed, Monday night. They were. You could see it, and you could hear it. The process was respected.Now it will be completed.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

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.