Ray Ratto

Ratto's AP Top 25 Poll (1127)

549738.jpg

Ratto's AP Top 25 Poll (1127)

RANK TEAM LAST WEEK THIS WEEK COMMENT 1 LSU BEAT ARKANSAS, 41-17 GEORGIA in SEC Championship The title game is theirs, and probably the title too 2 ALABAMA Won at Auburn, 42-14 Scouting LSU Expecting a more defensive struggle with Tigers this time 3 OKLAHOMA STATE Got the grill cleaned OKLAHOMA The last of the big showndown games before the Music City Bowl 4 OREGON BEAT OREGON STATE, 49-21 UCLA in Pac-12 Championship Friday Early line is Oregon by a googolplex 5 STANFORD BEAT NOTRE DAME, 21-7 Ultimate Frisbee Looks like the Fiesta Bowl 6 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BEAT UCLA, 50-0 Sitting in the corner Breaking down film for the spring game 7 ARKANSAS Lost at LSU, 41-17 Probably Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl Nebraska in the Capital One 8 OKLAHOMA BEAT IOWA STATE, 26-6 At Oklahoma State How about the Alamo Bowl against (gasp!) Utah? 9 HOUSTON WON AT TULSA, 48-16 Southern Mississippi in C-USA Championship With a win, probably Michigan in the Sugar Bowl 10 BOISE STATE BEAT WYOMING, 36-14 NEW MEXICO Wake Forest in the IndependenceWe Need A Placeckicker 11 VIRGINIA TECH WON AT VIRGINIA, 38-0 Clemson in ACC Championship Winner gets Louisville in the Orange Bowl 12 SOUTH CAROLINA BEAT CLEMSON, 34-13 Rooting for Georgia Michigan State in the Outback, where they will score four points 13 MICHIGAN STATE BEAT NORTHWESTERN, 31-17 Wisconsin in Big 10 Championship A guess: South Carolina in the Outback 14 MICHIGAN BEAT OHIO STATE, 40-34 Sending flowers to Rich Rodriguez in Tucson Houston in the Sugar 15 KANSAS STATE Put up those storm windows IOWA STATE Georgia in the Cotton? 16 WISCONSIN BEAT PENN STATE, 45-7 Michigan State in Big 10 Champiosnhip Winner gets Oregon in the Rose 17 GEORGIA WON AT GEORGIA TECH, 31-17 LSU in SEC Championship Kansas State in the Cotton, 91-88 final 18 TEXAS CHRISTIAN Shopped on Black Friday Deserves way better than . . . UCLA (bleargh) in the Las Vegas 19 BAYLOR BEAT TEXAS TECH, 66-42 Robert Griffin III in New York City Arizona State in the Holiday? 20 CLEMSON Lost at South Carolina, 34-13 Virginia Tech in ACC Championship Fl;orida in the Chick-Fil-A 21 NEBRASKA BEAT IOWA, 20-7 Waving their underwear at the Big 12 Arkansas in the Capital One 22 WEST VIRGINIA BEAT PITTSBURGH, 21-20 At South Florida North Carolina State in the Belk (no idea whatsoever) 23 SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI BEAT MEMPHIS, 44-7 Houston in C-USA Championship Pitt in the (oh for Christ's sake) Beef O'Brady's 24 CINCINNATI WON AT SYRACUSE, 30-13 CONNECTICUT Florida International in the BBVA Compass 25 ARKANSAS STATE Posed with Sun Belt's version of the Stanley Cup TROY Northern Illinois in the Go-Daddy, probably

National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together

kap-ap.jpg
AP

National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together

So after one day, the NSOBL (the National Son-Of-A-Bitch League, as if you couldn’t guess) has survived the contemptible brain-burps of the Panderer-In-Chief. Now we’ll see if the players’ fury has true staying power.
 
And by staying power, we don’t mean whether they will continue to defy the call of the National Anthem (an easy enough task), but whether they view their newfound solidarity as something that needs to be nurtured to truly endure.
 
After all, it’s easy to be galvanized by the noisy neighbor who spends his day on the porch shouting irrational obscenities at the neighbors. But Donald Trump isn’t the issue; he never was. All he did was put a face to the idiocies that prevent us from being the country we should be.
 
But this started a year ago with a single knee, a single person, and a broader cause than a President who needs to pick fights the way a vampire needs naked necks. Colin Kaepernick, whose career as a football player is essentially over because he caused the NFL a headache by honoring his conscience, took his knee to protest police excesses, and didn’t need to be called a son of a bitch to do so. He was later, of course, part of the medley of all the other insults that followed, but he didn’t kneel because he was insulted. He knelt because other were, and worse.
 
But the beauty of these days is that we take any idea or action and immediately change its meaning to fit our own prejudices. Kaepernick’s message was too nuanced for a lot of people’s facilities because they value symbols more than people, but nobody doesn’t understand being called a son of a bitch by a boss you hate.
 
So the new NSOBL is just starting to coalesce. There will not be a shortage of reasons for players to find their voice and conscience, and to break the bonds that required them to ask permission before speaking or thinking. If they are as they purport to be, they will remember that change happens with a single son of a bitch.

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

ward-andre-knees.jpg
AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.