Ratto: Peering into the Giants' Post-Bowtie era

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Ratto: Peering into the Giants' Post-Bowtie era

Sept. 15, 2011

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CSNBayArea.comWere only a few hours into the Post-Bowtie era of Giantsbaseball, so anyone who thinks he or she knows what the future will look likeis a certifiable know-it-all, gasbag and idiot.So heres what the future will look like:
In the vaguely-defined immediate term, not much different. The new world orderhasnt even been settled upon, and until that happens, the old world order isstill in play.Indeed, Billy Neukoms tenure of four years is among the briefest in baseballhistory for operational control of a team, except inheritances, but the WorldSeries of 2010 casts significant throw-weight. One, it helps inure most of theimportant figures from immediate dismissal, while also being the largest causeof Neukoms forced exit.The Giants, you may know, have been raking massive piles of cash through salesof everything down to spent sunflower-seed shells expelled from Buster Poseysmouth. But Neukom, who came into the big chair because Peter Magowan forgot howto keep the rest of the owners acknowledged, consulted and mollified, amazinglymade the same mistake.And both times, the linchpin for that dissatisfaction came from the HarmonBurns family.Burns was the silent partner with the most money in the game, and he didntmind Magowan running the shop alone. His wife Sue, who took over his 35 percentof the club (give or take a receipt) upon his death, did want to be consultedmore, and had the most shares to make change happen.Enter Neukom.Now, because the math is roughly the same, the Burns daughters, TrinaDean and Tori Burns, had to be among those disaffected by Neukoms style. Afterall, if they approved of his operational skill and control, their third and his20-some-odd percent made more than a majority. And unless the sisters have hada split, that math holds now.In short, nothing this momentous could have happened without their approval, ifnot instigation. There is no other big-piece investor to force his or her will.And for those of you who want to see in Larry Baer, the man who would win everySurvivor series without even taking off his coat, aSvengali-esqueMachiavellian mastermind, stop. He can be persuasive, but asthey say in baseball, money talks and -------- walks. Baer could not haveorchestrated this, and his place at the top of the food chain is eithertemporary, cosmetic, or both.The safest and most logical guess, in fact, is that either a big new investoris coming who wants Neukoms operational control (for which there is noevidence), or Burns and Dean are desirous of taking a more active role. Towardthat end, Trinas husband Rob Dean has long been believed to have taken aninterest in the business.Nothing along that line is imminent, though, unless this ownership moves a lotfaster than it ever has before. Neukom was moved out because he overstepped hispercentage of the stock, and the smart play is for the replacement orreplacements to remember that lesson as well.As to the baseball side, thats an open question as well. The Series stillweighs heavily on everyones judgments, and even the largest complaints, thecontracts of Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand, are sunk costs from two owners ago,and not the responsibility of Brian Sabeans wing of the building.Of course, Sabean is also a convenient and often misplaced target for fandisaffection, so if tickets suddenly become more plentiful on the market nextyear . . . well, who knows?That ultimately is the point. The volatility of the moment prevents anyone Baer, the Burnses, Emmanuel Burriss from declaring him- or herself the newemperor. That will play out in a transition far less linear and far moreconvoluted than the one which elevated Neukom in 2008.
And that will be the new Giants Way until further notice.

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

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AP

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.