Ray Ratto

Ratto: Stanford May Not Be As Lucky When Bowls Come Calling


Ratto: Stanford May Not Be As Lucky When Bowls Come Calling

Nov. 6,2010

PALO ALTO -- Mentioningthe future in an uncertain world makes Stanford players and coachesbreak out in hives. Bowl games, BCS placement, out of town scores ingeneral ooh, scary, kids.Before, its because the Cardinal was not involved. Now, its becausethey all claim that a narrow focus is good for the mind and healthy forthe soul.And coach Jim Harbaugh well, leave it to him to find the one thing the Cardinal cant have.Were playing for a championship, he said after the Card throttledArizona, 42-17, Saturday night. Thats our goal. To go to the RoseBowl and win that. The Pac-10 championship, to get that.Well, Stanfords not winning the Pac-10, not unless Oregon has twolosses in it amidst a field that includes Cal (barely beat WashingtonState), Arizona (just got boxed) and Oregon State (lost to UCLA).And the Rose Bowl?Well, maybe they can get that. A lot of dominoes still need to fallright, though, including either Boise State or TCU playing for thenational title against Oregon. And if the dominoes fall wrong . . . oog.Put another way, Stanford could go 11-1 and win the title as the bestteam ever to end up in the Alamo Bowl. And that speaks to the one thingthat Harbaugh has been unable to control in his four years here:Crowd control. The Cardinal, dominating a huge game that will probably propel theminto the Top 10 in the BCS standings with one of the games elitequarterbacks (Peyton Manning-like, according to Harbaugh) in AndrewLuck, drew an announced 43,506, which was the second-smallest crowd bya Top 25 home team this week (Boise States capacity is a modest33,500) and third-smallest among any Top 25 teams playing anywhere(Iowa drew only 42,991 at Indiana).Crowds dont normally matter when youre unbeaten, but when youre not,crowds matter a lot, especially to people with bowl invitations, andStanford has a notorious reputation for not, as they say in bowlcircles, traveling well.So while the players say they have their destinies in their own hands,they do so only in terms of winning as many games as they can (atArizona State, at Cal, home against Oregon State), they could still endup in El Paso, trying to plaster happy faces onto unhappy mugs.Or not. There is also the possibility that incandescent performanceslike Saturdays might make them an attractive team under anycircumstances. For this, next to the USC win in 2007, was quitepossibly their finest hour.I told them (afterward) that I thought this was their best game,Harbaugh said. It was our most complete game. I thought we were veryphysical, and disciplined, and I liked the way we just trusted eachother.Harbaugh then went on to list five coaches and, by our informal count,about 19 players who were exemplary, the most noticeable of which wereLuck (23 of 32, 293 yards, two scores), wide receiver Chris Owusu (ninecatches in 10 balls thrown his way, 165 yards, a score and maybe thebest catch Ive ever seen on a sideline, according to Harbaugh), theoffensive line that allowed no sacks and very few hurries of Luck, thesecondary that shut down Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, the defensiveline that slowly squeezed the Arizona running game, andblah-blah-blah-de-blah-blah.This was, in short, a comprehensive throttling of a top-15 team by onewhich is by any measure a top-10 team, maybe even a top-7 or top-5 team.Its hard to know really where the Cardinal stands now, because theloss to Oregon puts them in an odd kind of stasis a bad loss after aquick start, yet the only loss on the resume, a fact Harbaugh pointedout speaking of behalf of our guys.It is hard to fit them amidst TCU (which crushed Utah), or Boise (whichtortured Idaho) or Auburn (which dismembered 1-AA Chattanooga), orNebraska (which has lost to a bad Texas team and nearly been clipped bynot only Iowa State but South Dakota State) or Oklahoma State (whichlost to Nebraska) or Michigan State (crushed by Iowa) or Ohio State (byWisconsin) or Wisconsin (by Michigan State) or Utah (TCU) or Nevada(Hawaii).You can make the case that Stanford ranks ahead of all but the fourremaining unbeatens because their loss was to the best team, but on thebackhand they have only played three teams with winning records(Oregon, USC and Arizona).Even the computers tend to fritz the more you expand the field.But Saturday proved that this might be the finest Stanford team innearly forever, a team that would be a worthy representative in the RoseBowl, or the Fiesta, or the Sugar, or the Orange.Or God help them, the Alamo. The BCS has been a crueler mistress toequally deserving teams in the past, after all, and if the Cardinal isto be punished for not traveling well, then thats just how it plays.Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team


If eclipse ends life on Earth, it's bad news for fans of one Bay Area team

If the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe is right and the total eclipse of the sun is actually a harbinger of the end of life on earth . . .

- It’s good news for the Giants, who have been eliminated from the National League West race for less than 24 hours, or that they will not have to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers put their feet up on baseball for the first time in 28 years.

Besides, there won’t be any more years, so time becomes meaningless.

- It’s good news for the 49ers, who won’t have to endure a harsh week of practice from freshly irked head coach Kyle Shanahan, who finally saw exactly why the job came open for him in the first place.

- It’s good news for Raiders’ fans, who won’t see their team move to Las Vegas, and because they won't be soul-crushed if they can't beat the Patriots -- who will also die en masse despite Bill Belichick's entreaties to ignore the noise of seven billion terrorized shrieks.

- It’s bad news for A’s fans, who will never learn in what location their fabulous new franchise-saving stadium will not be built.

- It’s good news for the Warriors, who can say in their death throes that they were the last NBA champions ever, and that the Lakers will never get LeBron James.

- It’s good news for the Lakers because they cannot be found guilty of tampering with Paul George. It’s also good news for Jimmy Kimmel because he can’t lose a draft choice (some faceless F-list actor as a guest) as a result.

- It’s good news for the Kings, because they’ll never have to have the difficult meeting about Zach Randolph.

- It’s good news for the Chargers, because they won’t have to answer any more questions about why only 21,000 people were announced as the crowd for their second practice game, or to confront the very real possibility that they could become the NFL’s Washington Generals.

- It’s good news for the Jets, Mets, Nets and Knicks because the end of the planet is the only just solution for them all.

- It’s good news for Cal because it can stick its middle finger to the sky and say, “Here’s your $400 million debt. Try to collect it while we’re all dying.”

- It’s good news for Kevin Durant because he doesn’t have to slalom through the Internet trolls any more.

- It’s bad news for Roger Goodell, because he sure left a boatload of money on the table as he was hurtled into space like the rest of us.

- It’s bad news for Nick Saban because he will have never seen it coming. On the other hand, it’s good news for the people who cover Alabama football because they’ve endured their last journalism lecture from Prof. Nick on why they do their jobs so poorly.

- It’s bad luck for Jim Harbaugh because he will feel like a complete nitwit as he learns just what “an enthusiasm unknown to mankind” really means – the end of mankind.

- It’s bad news for all the sixth graders in America who are being offered scholarships that they will never be used by college coaches they will never meet. Of course, that would have been true even  if the world doesn’t end.

- It’s bad news for the hackers who have been spoiling Game Of Thrones because this is Game Of Thrones, only the dragon is the sun incinerating us all.

- It’s bad news for Kyrie Irving, because he will have died a Cleveland Cavalier.

- It’s good news for America, for the obvious reason that the planet will expire before our current political class can murder it.

- And finally, it’s good news for dignity, because the Mayweather-McGregor “thing” will never happen, and that alone means that even as we are torn asunder, we will know that the deity loves us all because both McGrogor and Mayweather are being torn asunder too.

Of course, if you’re reading this Tuesday, you’ll know the world didn’t end, and we’re just as screwed as we ever were. Oh well. Try to find your happy place, and drink like there’s no Wednesday.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.