Ratto: 'Smilin' Hue' won't be smiling for long

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Ratto: 'Smilin' Hue' won't be smiling for long

Aug. 20, 2011

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Even when Hue Jackson is annoyed, he expresses himself with a smile. Saturday, it was an odd, forced, unconvincing smile, just like his claim that the Oakland Raiders decrepit performance against the San Francisco 49ers was on me.

How we doin? he said, trying to fake it as best he could. You guys are doing great? Im not.

Over and over again, he cited failure after failure in a 17-3 loss at Candlestick Park And UFC Octagon that made both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick look like mid-level NFL quarterbacks and his own Jason Campbell look like what he was last year.
RECAP: Hunter runs 49ers past Raiders 17-3

Injury prone, at worst. Inconsistent at best.

And over and over again, he went back to the mantra, Thats on me. Im not going to put that on the players.

Were obviously a little disappointed in the way we performed tonight, he said. Obviously the practice performance hasnt met the on-field performance, and thats what I gotta get done. Thats my job. I will get that fixed. Were not playing like I think the Raiders can play, and I told them that. That starts with me. The head coach, and then it goes all the way down. We got some work to do. And thats what we need to get done.

So its not the players fault? A sensible person would say, Well, why the hell not? What else are they there for but to be reminded in public as well as private that being run on, thrown on and bullied by a team like the 49ers is a great way to be a 5-11 team?

Thats the real problem here for the Raiders as they limp back to the wine country. They have nothing except rookie wide receiver Denarius Moore to be excited about after a uniformly turgid performance. Even Smilin Hue, when tossed the, What impressed you tonight? softball, said, Nothing.

RELATED: Raiders' Campbell being tested for concussion

He elaborated, but your brain tends to stop at the word nothing. Hes right, of course, but when the optimist loses the lilt in his own voice on D-minus-23, the level of failure is considerable, and the fear of the future is palpable.

They allowed the 49ers to gain 239 yards rushing in 41 carries, including 105 by the new putative Frank Gore trainee, rookie Kendall Hunter, all on what Jackson dismissive called basic runs. The linebackers and secondary allowed both Smith and Kaepernick to throw at will to pretty much whomever they wished, except for the one time defensive end Matt Shaughnessy dropped into coverage and intercepted a pass aimed at tight end Vernon Davis. And they were stopped persistently when they needed either first down or touchdown yardage (2-for-11 on third or fourth downs, and 0-for-2 inside the red zone).

And if none of the starters looked good, and only Moore among the backups, against a team that is trying to find its own consistency, well, you can pretty much figure how downcast Smilin Hue must truly be.

And how nail-chewing angry his own head coach, Al Davis, must be.

Oh, no doubt. No doubt, he said, not about Davis but about how his own plans for the evening disintegrated. I mean, I made a statement that we wouldnt get the ball run on us like that, and we did. Thats disappointing. I guess thats my point. The things that I want to see fixed that we talked about that I think weve shored up a little bit, being able to stop the run, being a little more consistent in the scoring zone, doing some things I think our football team is starting to do, in practice, didnt show up today in the game.

But then he fell back on the old Im-not-worthy schtick that will age quickly if things dont change quickly.

Thats the disappointing part. Thats on me. Im not going to put that on them. Obviously we gotta go back and continue to do those things better than what were doing to get to where we need to be. Thank gosh today was the second preseason game. Its not the regular season.

And thank God these teams dont meet again this year.

An announced crowd of 69,732 which was actually 40,000-some-odd, distracted itself with what one security guard called, a lot of fights. It was crazy. There were some girl fights, too. A bunch of them.

In addition, three people were shot near Jamestown Avenue around 8:15, according to San Francisco police. One victim was hospitalized and two others had not yet been found at the time of this report (9:30 p.m.). No reason for the shooting could be ascertained, but the time and location of the incident suggested that it was fans leaving the game either as perpetrators, victims or both.
NEWS: Two men shot outside Candlestick Park

Of the brawls inside, we dont believe that they were expressing their opinions of the poor level of play one particularly strident encounter about six rows into the lower deck behind what once was home plate pitted two 49er fans against each other. The best guess as to why they went at it? One probably said, You know, I think Smith looked pretty good tonight. In this town, those are genuinely fightin words.

Even the peacemaker ended up throwing hands at the end, and they all had punched themselves into exhaustion before police, who doubtless had just finished adjudicating another coin flip, could reach them.

In short, it was a bad night for almost everyone. Oh, Jim Harbaugh crowed about his team, as you knew he would, but the 49ers arent that much further along the trail than the Raiders. They still hit their traditional two-touchdown glass ceiling, and thought they handled the Raiders at home, the Raiders were every bit as responsible for that as the 49ers.

And that, apparently until further notice, is the fault of Smilin Hue Jackson. A man who isnt going to be smiling much longer if this continues.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.
 

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.