Ratto: Who are best, worst owners in California?


Ratto: Who are best, worst owners in California?

June 30, 2011


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We have long taken pride in our ability to match other cities sports owner for sports owner and claim, We Are The Absolute Worst. And for years, we were.No more. Weve been passed, and worse, weve been passed by our friends in Los Angeles, and now we are a distant second, and fading from view.The reason: Frank McCourt. He kills everyone. If there has been an owner who used his sports franchise as a poison pill against hostile takeover by his wife or the home office, we havent met one. There have been tax evaders and philanderers and slumlords and racists and weasels and creeps and criminals and brigands of all kinds but not this.Thus, he is now the leader in any clubhouse, beating even the old leader in the clubhouse, Clippers owner Donald Sterling. How can we, a large mid-market, compete with that kind of depth?The answer is, we cant. Thus, the new world order shifts south, and were just going to have to live with it. From best to worst:1. LAKERS
Jerry Buss body of work remains impressive, as he has parlayed the advantages of being the big dog in a metro area of 10 million and turned it into the biggest dog. He is not mega-wealthy in and of himself, , but he does have power, influence and Kobe Bryant, the latest in a long line of extraordinary playing icons that stretches back to Magic Johnson (for him) and Elgin Baylor and Jerry West (pre-him). Building always filled, and in prime real estate. Hes a lock.2. GIANTS
Its easy to say this coming off a World Series, but they have their own building (more or less; the city still chunks in upkeep every year), its always filled, and people dont seem to mind paying big money for the same old view of Cody Ross beard, and the 12 drinks that make it palatable. How they have managed to extend the honeymoon for a new stadium into 12 years is easy to understand they won, and the baseball has clearly been the draw for all but the first couple of years and the brief fallow period of post-Bonds. They still have problems telling the truth about their history in the post-Lurie era, but owners do tend to spend as lot of time polishing their own trophy cases.3. SHARKS
Full building they havent started bitching about yet,a team that contends, a fan base that goes in happy and goes out relatively content (hey, the season always ends in a loss, so what do you expect?). They lose a tolerable amount of money (or make a non-obnoxious amount of money, depending on which accountancy firm you use), and have done nothing particularly annoying. Yet.4. HOCKEY KINGS
Philip Anschutz has money he hasnt even hired people to count yet, seems to stay out of the way of the hockey operation, and has spare change to own half of MLS. Also, you can never find the guy, so its not the fame that drives him. Points off for no titles, and his interest in a football team waxes and wanes, but he has no extraordinarily public evil impulses.5. DUCKS
Henry Samueli is a billionaire who has supervised one Stanley Cup. He is a philanthropist of some note. He seems like he should be higher on this list, but he also pleaded guilty to U.S. securities regulators in an investigation about backdating stock options. The result: he was suspended by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and being suspended from owning a National Hockey League team is really hard to do.6. USC
Not a pro team? Please. They are a major driver in college football, the majorest driver west of Austin, and the most important cog in Larry Scotts Empire Of The Air. They do fly a bit wide of the NCAA rulebook, but apparently thats all the rage in college athletics now, and athletic director Pat Haden has a long fight with history in front of him. Trendsetters, or brigands? You make the call.7. ANGELS
Arte Moreno came in as a hero, couldnt sustain his hero-dom (its been nine years since that World Series, after all) and has now settled in as an owner who has learned the pitfalls of both wacky spending and backhanded fame. Sort of a split decision here.8. WARRIORS
A huge advance for this historically ridiculous operation, but the absence of stupidity in failure is not the same as the evidence of wisdom in success. We know Joe Lacob likes to do things, but we dont know if those things are good. We also know he likes to tell people about the things he does, and we know how that usually ends.9. 49ERS
Same as the Warriors. Theyve done some mildly sensible things, but not enough of them to make you think a corner has actually been turned. The Yorks are in the process of being paralyzed by their stadium problem in Santa Clara, and they still havent streamlined their football operation with an expert NFL hand, which is just stubbornness, but they havent done anything really absurd lately.10. ATHLETICS
Were probably entering the beginning of the end game for the Fisher-Wolff ownership, because San Jose looks about as dead as dead can be, and the scorched-earth plan in Oakland has been a predictable failure. But our irritations are mild compared to those in . . . well, you know.11. BASKETBALL KINGS
Going broke is never a good plan for an ownership, especially a family ownership. I mean, you cant sell off relatives to make the nut, if you know what I mean. The Maloofs arent evil theyre just, well, poor. Still, poor is its own punishment, and poor and wanting to leave town is an even less admirable business plan.12. RAIDERS
Al Davis has skins on the wall like few entrepreneurs in the history of sports, but hes been pelt-less for nigh on three decades now, and those decades (well, 28 years) have featured only eight playoff appearances, and none in the last eight. Points for being one of the few men to start in the sport before becoming an owner. Points off for the coaches he has hired and for becoming unfashionable in a cruel Internet world.13. CLIPPERS
Donald Sterling could be the worst ever, but it wasnt like he took a great idea and crushed it. It was bad when he got it, and hes kept it there with an iron will and a defiance for even the laws of bouncing objects, with a side of racist and slumlord to spice up the meal. But in a contrived contest in which we want McCourt to finish last, the silver medal is all we can offer.14. DODGERS
Taking a team from a jewel in the crown to a knob on the porta-potty is a remarkable skill in any amount of time, but McCourt did this at warp speed, and did it mostly to keep money from his wife in a divorce so ugly that it ranks somewhere on a list the starts with Hitler v. Stalin in World War II. Cant be worse, because his greed has a particularly vindictive quality to it, and he trashed a valuable American icon without a moments hesitation.In short, the Southland does well near the top of the list, but their worst is also the worst in America, and that counts for plenty. We may be gilding the Sterling lily a bit by not making him dead last, but McCourt is an inspiration to the conscience-free everywhere. And well done to him for actually offending a guy (Bud Selig) whose salary he is actually helping to pay. Beat that with a stick, we dare you.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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.