Ray Ratto

Sports leagues, New Jersey battling for your pockets


Sports leagues, New Jersey battling for your pockets

The best thing about business in the 21st century is the way it doesnt even try to hide what it is doing any more. It sees you have pockets and it wants to get its hand in them before you do. And it doesnt care all that much that you know that.And so it is with the new legal action brought in New Jersey by the NCAA and the four major team sports seeking to enjoin state officials from establishing legalized gambling on pro and college sports.Yes, because illegal gambling has kept the sports pristeen and virginal all these many decades.Now were not the moralizers corner, but we know this much: if youre looking for the moral component here, you wont find it in either the plaintiffs or defendants. The sports franchises are upset that the gambling industry wants to make money off its business money it wouldnt ever see anyway. And the gambling folks are upset that the sports operations want to demonize them while living off the ancillary benefits the wagering produces.In short, two groups see the other guys pockets and make a play. Pretty damned uplifting stuff, that.Of course, maybe the leagues wouldnt look so bad if they also hadnt gone to court in the past to ban fantasy sports by claiming they owned the numbers their players produced. It takes some serious stones to sue for the right to control the number 4, just to use one example.But they did it. And they lost. And they still watched profits sour, and the stock market didnt tank, and the Russians didnt invade, and the Dodgers still sold for 2.15 billion. In other words, the operative legal phrase here is, Shut the hell up.So with that as our guiding principle here that the sports leagues cannot claim that they own the rights to everything they can touch, which presumably means television, which presumably then means everyone who watches television, which presumably then means everything there is outside the Amazon lets cut to the chase here.The leagues and the gambling halls are in the same business staking out your pockets. What they are really arguing about is each others pockets. If you tied Mark Emmert, Roger Goodell, Bud Selig, David Stern and Gary Bettman to chairs . . . youd be tempted to walk away and never tell anyone, knowing in your heart that you had done something for the good of all mankind.But we digress.If you did tie them to chairs and say, Well see you get a skim off the top, the lawsuit would disappear yesterday. This is stone cold fact because of these great truths: The leagues have symbiotic relationships with gambling. Games get bet on, which creates interest in games.
The leagues use the casinos to help spot trends that might lead to game-fixing.
One hand washes the hell out of the other in huge piles of lilac-scented hundreds.But in the new business paradigm, symbiosis is merely a prelude to cannibalism. The leagues dont want to eradicate gambling they want the action themselves, and when they say otherwise, as they doubtless will in Trenton, they are lying through their faceplates.Which is something else they are good at.So lets fast-forward to the end of this little charade. The leagues will lose in court. They will watch people gamble on their games with the same people with whom they currently gamble. And everyone will stop focusing on each others pockets and return to the thing that made them all great and powerful in the first place.Your pockets.Thus, the quo remains static, and everyone gets their piece except of course you, because you thought Saints minus-10 was a smart play when you had that face full of Pliny The Elder IPA. Its so much the American Way that it makes Gabby Douglas look French by comparison.Which reminds me Ive got to double down on that Ramirez Carranza-Selby mens flyweight quarterfinal. Hey, Im doing it for the good of the economy, all right?Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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


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


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.