Ratto: PR outreach a 49ers-Raiders photo op

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Ratto: PR outreach a 49ers-Raiders photo op

Aug. 29, 2011

RATTO ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEO

Follow @RattoCSNRay Ratto
CSNBayArea.com

Jed York sat in the stands at Parco del Candeliere Saturday night to show he was one of the people. Amy Trask sent photos of happy smiling New Orleans Saints fans with small children at Le Colisee dOakland to media outlets to show that Raider games are as close as you can get to Disneyland.And somewhere, public relations experts weep.The owner-as-fan idea was done first and best by Bill Veeck back in the 40s. He would roam the stands in Cleveland and later in Chicago so that people could express their desires directly to the one person who could make those desires come true.Then again, he also sat shirtless in the bleachers on hot days and bought beer for those around him. Taking a walk around the plant doesnt do it, but buying a beer for a section certainly would.
Jed isnt Bill Veeck, then. Okay, weve established that.And fan photos with babies and smiling parents are, well, sort of posed, and in todays hypercynical world, not entirely believable. I should know. I am the man who invented hypercynicism, and defend it against all humanitarian impulses. In fact, every time you use it in conversation today, I get a royalty, so let fly, my children. Daddy needs a new pair of tuitions.REWIND: Two men shot outside Candlestick Park
Now were all for owners commingling with the people who enrich them. Most owners would never ever consider it, and most who have tried stop pretty quickly when they decide that they are attracting exactly the wrong type of clientele for their personal comfort zones.You know. Fans.So while J.E. York and A. (middle initial unknown, though wed happily use it if we knew it) Trask may have had their hearts in the right places over the weekend, there is actually a trick to this that requires more serious and aggressive out-of-the-box thinking.And truth be told, it isnt a photo op as much as it is an attitude.And part of the attitude is this: if youre going into the stands, you have to go into the stands a lot. This means forgoing the suite, even if youre entertaining the other teams owner. This means getting to know some of the regulars. This means being the real deal, or as close as one can get when one is trying to catch up as frantically as York is.Once you get there, you can proselytize all you want about not being crass, crude or violent at the game. The fans will buy that because they perceive you as being one of them as long as you have plenty of other ways to encourage their best behavior. Even Veeck was prudent when it came to securing the atmosphere except maybe on Disco Demolition Night. Look it up. Theres plenty to find.As for Trask, the problem of fan identification is different. Her boss, The Al, used to be that real deal guy. He didnt go into the stands, but he would walk into the stadium and in front of the Black Hole to deal out high-fives and fists of approval to those who worshiped at the hem of his track suit.But Davis health forbids those trips now, and there really isnt a logical, credible alternative. Thus, the Raiders best way to show they make a safe environment is to work the parking lots before and let their customers to know to bring their best selves. An in, You punching that Bronco fan does a lot less for us when the Broncos have a third-and-nine at the Black Hole end than you making all the noise you have in you.Crowd security is an ongoing issue that can never be truly solved and done with sort of like performance enhancing drugs, if you really must know. But trying to change a perception isnt nearly as important as changing the conditions that prevail. Stadium policing and parking lot fan rapport are the minimal standard. Photos and photo ops arent really as useful.But the first step is in breaking down the barriers that most owners have built between them and their customers. And treating them less like customers or P.R. props and more like regular folks and fellow fans is the best way to start.Bill Veeck knew it 65 years ago. But just because he was first doesnt mean he has to be last.Ray Ratto is a columnist at CSNBayArea.com.

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.

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.