Stanford must go on, knowing Oregon is better


Stanford must go on, knowing Oregon is better

Andrew Luck in the Fiesta Bowl sounds a little anticlimactic, given the fantasies of those who worked so hard to contrive scenarii by which the Stanfords could play in the BCS championship game.

But based on what Oregon did to the Cardinal in its 53-30 kneecapping, the Fiesta Bowl is just and fair and . . . well, theres nobody to complain about it, anyway.

The Ducks did what they do, the way they do it, and in doing it just that way against the Cardinal in the verdant pasturelands of Stanford Stadium Saturday night, they showed the difference between aspirations and destinations.

Thats the thing about Oregon, head coach David Shaw said with the first sick smile of his head coaching career. You beat them when you make them do things they dont want to do, and to do that, you have to get up on them early, and you cant make mistakes.

They scored early, we made some mistakes tackling them on a couple of our long runs, and then after halftime, well, Chip (Kelly) is probably the best coach in the country at making a lot of subtle little halftime adjustments, and if youre behind, it just makes that much harder.

Put in more mathematical terms, Oregon won the first half, 22-16, and the second, 31-14. In short, the Ducks did what they do they got better. Their speed exposed Stanfords comparative deficiencies on the flanks, their power rush showed itself as Stanford was forced out of its running game, and Luck was belted and bounced as his receivers flailed against Oregons coverages.

This was, put simply, last years game. Oregon trailed, 31-24, at the half, made the Kelly adjustments, and scored four unanswered scores after the bands cleared to win by a strikingly similar score, 52-31. In short, Oregon was a point better this year, and Stanford was a point worse.

The damage to Lucks Heisman Trophy candidacy can not be measured, except by people who have no idea how much damage was actually done. It isnt like the field has raced up to meet him, and his inability to beat Oregon singlehanded should not be held unduly against him. True, he had only one tackle and no pass receptions, but theres only so many positions a man can play.

And thats the lesson that arches over this game. There is only so much anyone can do when someone else is faster, does better halftimes, and never trails. You sometimes have to take your beating with a grimace and dream of that parallel universe where those things are not necessarily true.

There were slight variables between the 2010 and 2011 games, of course, but the central theme was the same. Oregon may be the best second-half team in the country, and proved it against Jim Harbaugh a year ago and again against Shaw Saturday night.

Not even Luck, who threw for three scores but also threw two picks, one for Oregons last touchdown, could do what-ifs very convincingly. Or really, much of any remarks. Even when he said, It was obviously my worst game of the year, he was speaking accurately but also taking on a level of blame that wasnt his.

Luck was not going to beat Oregon by himself; for that, he would need running back Stepfan Taylor at his very best, but after 20 carries for 87 yards in the first half, he got the ball three times in the second because the game situations removed him from relevance. In the battle of tactical wills between the two teams, the Ducks had all the best of it, because they never trailed at any point, and forced Stanford to become the one-dimensional team Shaw was trying to make the Ducks.

Of such basic calculations are games won and lost, and with two full games of evidence in the books, we can say that this would be the outcome seven of 10 times, maybe even eight. Even with full health on both sides, Oregons gifts are more comprehensive, and it isnt just Kellys brain, but the arms, legs and torsos of his players.

So Stanfords season of dreams is now over. They cannot reasonably expect to win the Pac-12 North, are not likely to make the Rose Bowl, and will have find their bliss against California next week and Notre Dame the week after. Then maybe they get to play for, with all due deference to Brent Musburger, all the Tostitos.

Well, all the kind of old, crumbly, bottom-of-the-bag Tostitos. There will be no national championship game for the Cardinal, and that is the just result. Oregon proved it is better, twice, and under eerily similar circumstances. To be the king, you have to beat the king, and Stanford is not yet ready to be the king. The Cardinal can throw a hell of a party, but they will go from here to the end of their season knowing someone else will throw a better one.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.