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.

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.

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.