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

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.