Ratto: Troy Smith Still Getting Ninerspeak Treatment


Ratto: Troy Smith Still Getting Ninerspeak Treatment

Nov. 14, 2010
The question kept being hurled at every 49er who made himself available for it: Is Troy Smith your quarterback?And they all agreed. With their eyes, with their posture, with theexpressions in their voice. Just not with actual words, because headcoach Mike Singletary doesnt go there until he wants to go there.So lets just say it, first in Ninerspeak, then in English: AlexSmiths shoulder still is progressing but its not quite there yet.Troy (Smith) will be our quarterback for Sunday (against Tampa Bay)."And: Of course he is. Were you not paying attention, you bucket-headed nitwit?The numbers Smith produced in the 49ers 23-20 overtime win over St.Louis spoke to his ability to play with damp dynamite: 17 of 28 for 356(the most since Tim Rattay hit for 417 in an overtime win overArizona), one score, no picks and a bunch of long yardage saves.The endorsements, couched as they were, were just as strident, and could be encapsulated thus:This is just like playing football in the park, Michael Crabtree said. Just having fun, making plays.Its just like when you were a little kid, Frank Gore added. You make plays. Thats all you gotta do. He makes plays.And Smith made bucketfuls, although in the weirdest ways. He convertedno third downs but a huge fourth-and-18 on the final drive ofregulation. He was occasionally flustered in the pocket and hurriedintermediate throws but hit 10 passes of more than 10 yards and had threescores negated by penalties.He was, in short, better than you could have hoped for a semi-newquarterback, but not quite as coldly efficient as the best of them. Or,for that matter, St. Louis Sam Bradford.But when youre 2-6 (in case you ever are, that is), you dont havetime to work out the kinks, or pass up something big for something withstyle points. You need to electrify, and Smith was the third rail on ateam that was spitting out AAA battery-type efforts.Hes a playmaker, tight end Vernon Davis said, and hes not afraidto let the ball go. Hell do whatever he has to to make it happen.There are too many tremendous athletes here to not share the ball,Smith said, for everybody to not have a chance and an opportunity tomake a play. Its on me to do that.And when asked if Singletary gave him an endorsement, he smiled andsaid, I dont know if you would call it praise. It was his scowl that,I know youve probably seen it, that he told me, Good job, and wedefinitely have to go back to the drawing board, watch the film, breakit down. Theres going to be some thing that definitely you wished youhad done better.'"The Singletary Way: Not too low, and definitely not too high.There are, of course, some painful truths that hide behind thisperformance, all of which fall under the general heading of NecessaryBuzzkill, To Be Filed Away For Later.One, the Rams arent very good defensively, certainly nowhere near as good as Tampa Bay, this coming weeks opponent.Two, Seattle beat Arizona to keep the 49ers two games out of first place in the NFC Cess (as in pool).Three, if the 49ers dont make the playoffs, the new head coacheveryone presumes would be in place would almost surely want to bringin his own quarterback.And four, this game was the season. Now Sundays game is the season.And the more games you play that mean the season, ultimately one ofthem will destroy your season. Its the law of big numbers, and youcant argue with math. If you think you can, Paraag Marathe is holdingon Line Two to have a chat with you.But in desperate times, people live in the moment, and Troy Smith playsin the moment more than any 49er quarterback since . . . hell, maybesince Muddy Waters in the Shotgun Sixties. Every quarterback since thenwas a system quarterback with playmaking skills. Smith showed Sundaythat he looks like a playmaking quarterback who may have system skills.He is, basically, the kind of quarterback for this moment, on thisteam. What comes later is, well, later. But for right now, there is noreal alternative. There is, in fact, no alternative, everyone knows it,and nobody has to say Troy Smith is the starter any more than anyonehas to say Eating glass is bad for your soft palate.It is the most rhetorical of questions, no matter how many waysSingletary tries to find not to say it. It doesnt matter that there isno printed imprimatur. The 49ers are cornered, pure and simple, andthis is the only way out they can conceive.Right now, Im just going to . . . Singletary said, his voicedropping off into you-dont-get-what-youre-after-today mode. weregoing to enjoy this win, and before I get into whos the startingquarterback and all that other stuff, well sit down as a staff andtalk about what we need to talk about, discuss what we need to discuss.And when Smith was asked if he thought he would, or should be thestarter, he said, Youre trying to put words in my mouth, brother.And he wasnt smiling. He knew the answer, too. He wasnt going to sellout Alex Smith, which is what declaring the job his own required, andhe couldnt declare himself anything for fear that even Sundaysperformance wouldnt be enough to keep him out of the Singletarianpooch hut. After all, the job really isnt his, anyway. ItsSingletarys.In more ways than he wants to consider right now.And thats the other thing to remember. This is still a temp job,because the 49ers remain a team looking up at too many teams. Even withSundays win, they are tied for 11th in a six-team race, and with allthe euphoria that Smiths real 60-minute debut created, they managedonly 23 points because they made more than enough mistakes to destroymost teams. The 14 penalties for 105 yards alone would undo most teams,and the 12 for 135 the Rams committed certainly undid them.But like we said, pretty is someone elses problem. Seat of the pantsis good enough for this team, at least until further notice. Werejust playing football, trying to make plays, Crabtree said.And dont ask if Troy Smith is the starting quarterback. He is. Today.But Id check back next Monday. Seat of the pants is a hard way to live.Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

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


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.