Ratto: Raiders' Ford -- The Little Engine That Could


Ratto: Raiders' Ford -- The Little Engine That Could

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Thisis as good a time as any to go over the top for the Raiders. I mean,its been seven years and change since the last time they won threeconsecutive games, so what the hell?And of all the what-the-hells to emerge from the 23-20 overtime victoryover Kansas City, the most hellish of all was wide receiver-ette JacobyFord.It was Fords 94-yard kick return to start the second half that put theRaiders back into a game it had shown little interest joining. It washis outmuscling of Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers for the 29-yardcompletion that set up Sebastian Janikowskis game-tying field goal.And it was his sensational 47-yard catch in overtime that set up thegame-winning kick by Janikowski, putting the Raiders in very rarefiedair, to wit: Theywon three games in succession for the time since the end of the 2002season (two to end the regular season and two in the postseason). Theyve beaten all three AFC West opponents for the first time since that season. They have a winning record for the first time since Week 3 of 2004.For this, a lot of people can be thanked, but first and foremost isFord, the 5-9 (if that), 185-pound rookie from Clemson who made themost of the vacancies opened by the injuries to Louis Murphy and tightend Zach Miller and became a full fledged go-to guy.I did something I dreamed of doing, making plays, having fun, Fordsaid, admiring his six-catch, 148-yard, kick-return-touchdown day.Its something Ive been dreaming of since I was little.No pun allowed.Strangely, it wasnt his work as a wide receiver that openedquarterback Jason Campbells eyes to him, though, but the kick returnthat started the second half and took out most of Kansas Citys 10-0halftime lead.I just found a lane, got a block and started running with it, he said. It was set up really well for me.And armed with the kind of nutritional spark that comes only by eatingspaghetti and meatballs before a game (because Frosted Flakes arentavailable), he burst into prominence in the teams first true must-wingame since Super Bowl XXXVII.Then again, it might not have been the kick return, but the ball hewrestled from Flowers on the third-and-8 from the Kansas City 45 earlyin the fourth that set up Janikowskis first field goal, a 23-yarderthat made it 17-13.That might have been the one, when I scrambled and threw it down thefield for him, Campbell said. He just went up and got control of theball. When a guy makes plays like that, you want to keep going to himto make more and more.So he did, four more times, for 12, 7, 28 and 47 yards. He threw onlyfive other balls to other receivers after that catch, because hedfound the man who not only could save the Raiders but save himself froma day head coach Tom Cable described as frustrating, kind of ugly,frustrating and then really something.Indeed, Ford saved a lot of bacon Sunday. While the defense did asuperb job bottling up the Chiefs offense, the Oakland attack wasmiserable in the first half and needed a two-yard fade to tackle KhalifBarnes to take the lead in the second half. And then there were the 15 penalties for 140 yards that stirred Cableswire-haired ire; I know were a more disciplined team than that, hesnapped, closing on criticizing Jeff Triplettes crew without actuallydoing so.And the third-down conversions, and the silly fake punt call that Cabletook the blame for, and just a general disarray that undermined whatcould have been their true breakout game.Then again, three weeks ago, they lost to the 49ers, so this is prettymuch as big a breakout as they have any reason to think they deservefor now. They are not yet a well-oiled machine, but at least theirgears move for a change. Campbell has not yet won Cables heart (Idont want to get into that right now) but he stopped people frombooing him as though he were a guy whod stolen a school bus with thekids still in it.But they are in a place they havent been for quite some time, and ifthis is as good as it gets, its better than its been. And for that,the first meatball goes to Jacoby Ford. It may not seem like much of areward to you, but hell understand, and appreciate it.

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.