Ray Ratto

Stanford PA fails fanbase in blowout


Stanford PA fails fanbase in blowout

On nights like Saturday, when Stanfords duties had largely ended by halftime, the real fun began in watching how much head coach David Shaw weighed his teams needs, Andrew Lucks numbers and Heisman candidacy, and the poll and entertainment value of a lopsided win at home against a highly regarded foe.

In, he had to decide, for the seventh time this year, how much to press his luck.

Pun intended, I suppose.

More importantly, though, this 65-21 win over 22nd-ranked (at least for a few more hours) Washington marked the game in which the crowd got fully engaged in the national popularity poll that is the BCS for perhaps the first time ever.

Well get to that momentarily, though. First, the local concern.

In a surprisingly desultory win that gave Stanford its 10th consecutive win of 25 or more points, a college football record, and its best start in 60 years, the Cardinal offense did what it wanted only when it felt like doing it, and Luck did remarkably little statistically.

What he did was fine, dont get us wrong in the half that mattered, he was 11 for 13 for 109 yards with touchdown passes to The Coby Fleener and Drew Terrell for a quarterback rating of 2.5 billion, give or take a decimal point. He finished 16 for 21 for 169 and those two touchdowns before leaving with 9:14 left and with six more scoring drives on his resume.

He was, in short, as he always is lab-coat efficient, and cadaver bloodless. In all, a perfect adjunct to the 100-yard games from Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney.

But the game didnt really rivet the way one thinks a home rout against a good team would. It ended too quickly, and while it reinforced the notion that Taylor is a superb running back and Gaffney a fascinating alternative, it didnt bring a lot of drama to the sellout crowd.

And it didnt advance Lucks Heismanosity, at least not as much as Wisconsins Russell Wilson losing at Michigan State did.

Saturday was therefore something of a missed opportunity for the Pad-His-Stats brigade, but an important one for thinning out the Heisman herd. It was a night for Taylor and Gaffney and Michael Thomas (62-yard pick-six) and of course, The Fleener of Coby, who caught yet another touchdown to enhance his place as the best Fleener in college football.

It was, though, a great night for watching other scores to see if the Cardinal could insert themselves into a more advantageous BCS position.

And thats where the crowd could have been helped by the public address announcer helped, even to stay in the stadium until the game was over to see how the rest of the Top Seven was doing, and how much it would benefit Stanford.

The fans repeatedly expressed no interest in the USC-Notre Dame game, which normally gets some booing from everyone given the relative popularities of the two schools in these parts. But when Wisconsins struggles at East Lansing were intermittently announced, the crowd behaved like it had been transplanted from Tuscaloosa.

In fact, after Stanfords game had ended and most of the players and civilians had left the field fore their cars and locker rooms, the PA blurted out the news that Michigan State had won, 37-31. Those who stayed roared their best. Hey, it will take time, this national profile thing.

If the crowd had also been told that Badger quarterbackHeisman candidate Russell Wilson had an awful time of it in that game (14222232 TDs2 picks) and did more for Luck than Luck did for himself, it would have broke into paroxysms of uncontrolled golf clapping.

There was never, however, any mention of Oklahomas brutal start against Texas Tech. And since Stanford is no longer a boutique football operation but part of a greater whole at the top end of the food chain, such oversights in this rarefied air are frankly inexcusable.

Oh, theyll have a chance to get it right in two weeks when Oregon comes to town, but by then, the only game that matters will be the one in front of them. Scoreboard watching will be the least of their pastimes, and thats a bit of bad news, because when youre this good, watching your few peers is a lot of the fun.
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.