Ray Ratto

Season begins anew for Raiders


Season begins anew for Raiders

The great thing about the NFL -- if there is one -- is that your highs and lows come hard and fast and dont linger long. There are too few games and too much time between to chew on them.

Enter the Raiders, the leagues most pronounced case of short attention span.

Three weeks ago, Al Davis died, and the team rose up and slapped Houston a good one the next day to go to 3-2. Then Hue Jackson promoted himself from living on the edge to being the guy holding the razor by trading for Carson Palmer, and the people who have endured the Raiders in all their madness suddenly were freed of their burdens.

And then it went to hell again. Hey, what did you expect?

RELATED: Midseason review: Offense

Well, you expected better, is what. You liked the new car in the garage, and you laughed at the competition and your lungs were filled with the incense from the Flame of Al behind the center field stands.

You did not expect them to get crushed by Kansas City, or rush Palmer into action before he was prepared. You did not expect them to fail High School Defense 101 by declining to tackle either Tim Tebow or Willis McGahee. You didnt expect them to retreat back to their old penalty-sodden ways.

And you didnt expect Jackson to go from charming chatterbox to hyperactive gabbler. Which is how it works when you talk and lose rather than talk and win.

Thus, we can now say that the Raiders season has started anew. And not for the better.

RELATED: Midseason review: Defense

Five of their next seven games are on the road, and of the final eight, six are against teams that either have winning records or are breaking even; only Minnesota and Miami, both on the road, are even considering the We Blew For Andrew Sweepstakes.

Next is the matter of Darren McFadden, whose troublesome foot has cost him the last two games and may in fact cost him the next two as well. McFadden is -- with all due acknowledgement of Palmers arrival and his immediate linkage with Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore -- the reason to fear the Raiders' offense. He and he alone changes defenses, and without him, the Raiders are pretty one-dimensional.

Palmer is next, and he has shown signs of having all the arm he had in his best days. He also has shown signs of being erratic, although some of that can be blamed on his unfamiliarity with his targets. One can safely assume he will improve, though without McFadden it is hard to tell how much better the offense will be.

RELATED: Midseason review: Special teams

There is also the defense, which is suddenly a great vulnerability again -- tackle-deficient, penalty-laden, blown-coverage-festooned. So profound were the failures against Denver that it has all come back into question again, and defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan has to repair what seemed to have already been fixed with tougher opponents looming on the horizon.

And finally, there is Jackson himself. His impetuousness was once charming, but now it seems quirky to the point of guesswork. Thats what happens when you fill a vacuum of leadership with yourself -- at least thats what we can say based on this unique situation in modern sports history. An owner who is completely invested in his team dies, leaves neither a plan for football succession or anyone to take it on -- happens all the time, right?

In any event, he lost and gained a quarterback, who in turn brought in a slot receiver, and then lost his best offensive player. He became a general manager on the fly, and acted on it with the same impetuousness that marked his coaching. Someone, maybe Jackson himself, will have to become the good angel on his right shoulder just as a check and balance.

All the good vibes the Raiders carried through Week 6 are now a convoluted mess, and nobody can predict with any certainty what lies ahead. In short, its the good old days, just in a different set of clothes.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.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.