Ratto: Warriors Ownership a Potent Pairing


Ratto: Warriors Ownership a Potent Pairing


"This isn't the cure for cancer. It may be the cure for Cohan, but it isn't the cure for cancer."
-- Warrior owner Peter Guber

Ray Ratto

SAN FRANCISCO -- That sentence may well be among the last you hear from Guber, the principal investor in the New Golden StateSan Francisco Bay AreaAnd Don't Forget Marin CountyCheck With Me Later Warriors, because it speaks to the principal difference between him and front mangovernor Joe Lacob.

Lacob wants you to know he's the guy making the decisions -- collegially, of course, with all his other partners, because he knows partners and he works well with partners.

Guber wants you to know he'll say anything at any time just for the sheer kinky fun of saying it.

This should lead to some interesting Skype sessions between the two men. There is no indication that they won't be collegial and cooperative owners, though multi-gajillionaires do not tend to run in packs. But they are stylistic opposites, and expertise opposites, and opposites make sparks.

Put another way, Joe Lacob wants to be Red Auerbach. Peter Guber wants to be Bill Veeck. At the same time.

Thus, when Guber dropped the Cohan line, one last middle finger toward the departed owner of this forlorn operation, Lacob's heart may have soared, but his brow furrowed and his dyspepsia made an appointment for later in the evening. He probably agreed, but he didn't need the grind of having it out there for us mean-spirited louts to find such amusement.

Lacob wants all vestiges of the Cohan era to disappear, because he doesn't want to have to re-plow old ground and keep having to atone for the sins of his predecessor. Thus, when Guber offered his impromptu assessment of this nation's most prevalent killer and the old owner, Lacob ground down a molar. He tried to hide it, but you could tell.

Of all the things to come from Monday's meet-the-new-kids media fete on the Embarcadero, this was the one thing that didn't need words. These are radically different men, thinking radically different things about this new property they have just consumed. This doesn't mean they will turn into Frank and Jamie McCourt any time soon, but their partnership will not be seamless. It can't be.

Lacob went on and on and about the kind of team he wants to run. Guber went on and on about the fan experience he wants to build. These seem like mutually exclusive notions (when asked about the new geometry class logo, he said, "That's probably something you should take up with Peter), but they are not, and when they intersect, they will both have to be Gandhi supplicating himself to Ali Jinnah at the partition of India not to throw things at each other."

At least metaphorically.

Today was the last day that they could play the "Hey at least were not the guy you used to have here" card, and other than Guber's little knee to Cohan's nethers, they avoided it well. True, Cohan won't appreciate the oblique comparison to mela'noma, but he got paid. "Let him complain to his autobiographer" seems to be the stance of choice.

Now they are two playing the role of one, and between them, they will define your field of interest in the Warriors. If the basketball team loses seven of nine, or general manager Larry Riley trades Monta Ellis for Sebastian Telfair, you now will be yelling at Lacob. If the twerp brigade delivering pizzas during timeouts knocks your soda over, or if the Warrior girls aren't girly enough for your warped tastes, you'll be screaming about Guber.

And if the team isn't good and the crowds start to dwindle, the two men can argue about whether it was the Telfair trade or the T-shirt gun that is chasing them away.

And they will. As they must. It is how they deal with these conflicts that will tell us how long this partnership will endure.

"I've had partners," Lacob said. "I know how to deal with partners. And there are partners with a capital-P. Peter is a Partner."

He said this in what looked and sounded like genuine admiration. But things change once the new-team smell goes away, and this is a relationship that will bear constant monitoring.

There are plenty of land mines, to be sure. Lacob kept calling basketball "my passion," and spoke in glowing terms about the essential zen of rebounding, which means he will make Riley's eye throb with tension headaches from time to time.

He also has installed his son Kyle as director of basketball operations, working "for Larry Riley," he emphasized, although you know how things can change.

And Guber? Well, to call him a potential loose cannon is to call loose cannons socially inhibited. He talks in grand gestures and emphatic arm waves, and he never met an opinion he couldn't tweak into an article of faith.

They are not oil and water so much as oil and vinegar, and if you do it right, sometimes you get a hell of a salad dressing. You might also get some real eye-watering, mouth-puckering moments of, "He said WHAT?" and "He's thinking of doing THAT?"

The issues of where the team might be in five years wasn't settled, as it could not be, but Lacob left every door open but the notion that he would welcome a second team coming into what he regards as his . . . er, sorry, their territory. The logo, the team makeup, the long-term future of anyone in the building, from Cohan's button man Robert Rowell on down, all of it is open to evaluation and change, depending on which way the wind is blowing from the dumpsters.

But first and foremost, there are Lacob and Guber. Two men that seem great at having a beer or 12 together, but who might also decide to go out in front of the bar and throw hands at each other before, if they're mature and rational men safeguarding their investment, going back into the tavern and having a few more as good pals will do.

And maybe at that session, Lacob might suggest to Guber that comparing folks to things you might need chemotherapy to cure is not as helpful an ad-lib as it might seem at the time.

Ray Ratto is a sports columnist for Comcast SportsNet.com.

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

O.J. Simpson is free. The system as it is defined by those who run it in the case of the Nevada Parole Board, worked.

But the issue that lingers is whether we can free ourselves of him. That system is far more amorphous, arbitrarty and essentially unfair. And in its own revolting way, it works too.

The O.J. market has always been bullish. The old cliché that people can’t get enough no matter how much you shovel at them is more true for him than for any other sports figure of the last 50 years. More than Tiger Woods. More than LeBron James. More than Michael Jordan. More than all of them.

And now his parole hearing, televised and streamed by every outlet except Home & Garden Television, proved it again. He will never not be O.J.

But he is also 70. He is also planning to go to Florida and be with his family, based on what he told the parole board Thursday. He has assiduously avoided the media in his nine years in Lovelock, and if his family is providing the support it pledges, it will do its utmost to keep him from our prying eyes as he enters his dotage.

There is nothing we have that can do him any good. We have eaten all the forms of O.J. there are, culminating in the Emmy-award winning documentary on him, and finally, his release from prison. If he is wise as well as smart, here’s nothing left of his life but re-airs.

So the question becomes not so much whether he can leave fame alone, or whether fame can leave him alone. Our national appetite is poor on the topic of leaving people be, let alone deciding enough is enough. The fame we make for people gorges, purges and gorges again, in a hideous cycle that demeans all involved.

In sum, O.J. Simpson can, if he is paying attention to the value of normalcy, end his addiction to fame. I have far more serious doubts about fame and its addiction to him.

Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations


Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations

Some time not that very long ago, someone in sports management who will almost certainly spend all of eternity bobbing for razor-studded apples in a pool of lava saw an opportunity in the phrase, “The quietest time in sports.” And decided to fill it with filth.
It is believed to begin right after the end of the NBA Finals, although that artificial start date has been extended through free agency now that the NBA’s principal entertainment vehicle is the burning of money. It used to be right after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, though now it has been extended backward. And it ends roughly at the beginning of NFL and/or college training camps, depending on where you live and which of those two beasts you profess your God to be.
But let’s get back to the management succubus who has set us on the path that has led inexcusably to the current point. The idea that baseball no longer holds the interest or attention spans of the young, cool and inadequately trained in the value of money is now accepted as fact, and as any marketing nitwit will tell you, nature abhors a vacuum.
So here’s what we’ve got. Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in what is very simply a lazy-stereotype-laden comedy tour that isn’t funny let alone even mildly convincing. They have both been on the stage too long, with a month still to go before the final shame-off August 26, where they simply enter the arena, stand with their backs to each other at the ring rope and spend 45 minutes trying to target-spit into the eyes of the high-rollers. Why the promoters didn’t just muzzle Mayweather and McGregor and use actual professionals like Key and Peele and Aisling Bea and Ed Byrne to work the crowds for a million per is simply a lack of imagination at work.
Here’s what else we have. Our idiotic fascination for Lonzo Ball’s two best Summer League games being achieved wearing shoes other than those promoted by his father/huckster as though his skills and intelligence are all in his feet.
What this actually is, of course, is people using Lonzo’s momentary and mostly microscopic achievement to call LaVar a tedious swine without ever using his name or his product catalog because he, like McGregor and Mayweather, beats down crowds and calls it entertainment, and people have signed on in a weird backdoor way – by finding reasons to like the son as a weapon against the father.
Thus, Lonzo Ball gets to learn how to be a professional athlete of note while carrying the load of his father’s impression upon the nation as well as the loads of those who believe that sins of the father must revert to the son. Popularity’s dominant property is its corrosion, and Ball will have to have very fast feet and well-constructed shoes indeed to dance away from the rising tide of a bored fan base with an ax to grind.
It isn’t as instantly gratifying a train wreck as Mayweather-McGregor, but it is a triumph of the new marketing strategy of wholesale idiocy that diminishes the watcher as well as the watched.
Neither of these events are in and of themselves interesting. Mayweather-McGregor is simply a kangaroo boxing a bear because circus entertainment no longer has circuses as venues, and Ball’s summer bears almost no relationship to the true test of his career – how to be the best player on a terrible team and then make the adjustment to being the third best player on a rebuilding team.
Ball has a longer shelf life because of that single useful component, but it is made less rather than more interesting by the presence of his father, who is now indelibly part of the tale at a time when most parents leave their children to find their fortunes by the virtues of their skills and wits.
McGregor-Mayweather has the sole benefit of being cringeworthy both before, during and after the event, a month-long smear of degradation that reduces all involved, including those who buy the fight, into penitents, into rolling apologies. It is an event in which nobody gets out with any shred of dignity, with the single revolting example of the grisly accountant-beasts who will take the Internal Revenue’s cut immediately after the fight.
And if that isn’t Satan winning, then you don’t know how to score a game in which Satan plays on all the teams at once and sees to it that the game is scheduled in the middle of July because some client of his told him it was the best time of year for personal and professional disgrace with a scoreboard on the end of it.