Ray Ratto

Ray's Top 25: Luck of the Irish

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Ray's Top 25: Luck of the Irish

Every week, our Senior Decider votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, which of course makes all other opinions both superfluous and valueless (hey, dont say you never get your moneys worth here).

So here, after Week 11, is the world of college football, whether you like it or not. And if you dont, theres a new one next week you might like better.

RELATED: Ratto's Week 11 rankings

1 NOTRE DAME They cut it fine, even against a mopey team like USC, but 0 losses are 0 losses. 2 OHIO STATE Jim Tressel decided to take the last few years off so they've been invisible, but 0 losses, etc. 3 ALABAMA Beat Georgia, and they are a double-digit favorite in the title game. 4 GEORGIA Beat Alabama, and all hell breaks loose. 5 OREGON They spent awhile trying to decide what to do with Oregon State. 6 FLORIDA The BCS likes these guys more than Georgia, which beat them. Ahh, BCS. 7 STANFORD If they play their cards right, they can envy Notre Dame from Pasadena. 8 KANSAS STATE No, we still don't know how Baylor did it. 9 LOUISIANA STATE No speech from Les Miles equals no fun for America. 10 TEXAS A&M As it turns out, they may have beaten Alabama for nothing. 11 SOUTH CAROLINA I wish they played Clemson twice in two weeks like Stanford and UCLA. 12 OKLAHOMA No, still have no idea what they do or how they do it. 13 FLORIDA STATE Couldn't hang with Gators late, which is its own punishment. 14 KENT STATE The MAC title game ought to be quite the drunken piefight. 15 NORTHERN ILLINOIS What we said about the MAC title game? We mean it. 16 BOISE STATE Ultimately, they should be a BCS wildcard team for overcoming a tough early loss. 17 CLEMSON Somehow, this school must survive the conference bloodletting of the next few years. 18 NEBRASKA Beat Iowa in a game that made both states wish they were basketball powers. 19 OREGON STATE Waxed twice by the two Pac-12 teams better than them. 20 UTAH STATE Gary Anderson made himself a lot of money this year, which as we all know is the reason college football exists 21 NORTHWESTERN All the teams look alike at the end of the poll. That said, they lost 3 games and not 4, so they're in. 22 TEXAS Looked wildly uninspiring and uninspired against TCU. 23 UCLA Having lost to Stanford, they travel to Stanford. All at once, yippee! 24 SAN JOSE STATE They lost to Stanford and Utah State. Now that's worth a 24th. 25 RUTGERS Falling fast at the end.

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

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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

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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.