Ray Ratto

Stepfan Taylor key for Stanford

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Stepfan Taylor key for Stanford

Andrew Luck vs. LaMichael James is too delicious a story not to be told and retold and reframed ad nauseam, what with last years Heisman Trophy and this years game of the year west of the Mississippi.

But given the Law Of Unforeseen Consequences that we just made up, the key to Saturdays Stanford-Oregon game will not be James v. Luck, but James v. Taylor.

Stepfan Taylor. The Stanford running back. The one who never gets mentioned. The one who is seen -- typically 10 yards ahead of his pursuers -- more often than heard.

His is the non-sexy name, the one that is always conveniently omitted when inventory is taken on why Stanford is Stanford. Luck is the quarterback of the era, and Fleeners Army -- the assembly line of tight ends we have chosen to name after Coby Fleener, whose parents blessed him with a name for the ages -- is a wild card for defensive scheming. And the defense, even without linebacker Shayne Skov, is as good as any in the conference.

TOMPKINS: Oregon-Stanford promises a shootout

But Taylor doesnt get mentioned because, well, because there is only so much RAM in our heads for crediting the No. 3 Cardinal for its inspired run, and we have spent so much of it in other areas that we tend to forget the following facts:

They run the ball 55 percent of the time, hardly the sign of a Mike Leach Texas Tech team.
Taylor is the prime running back, as well as an excellent tertiary threat out of the backfield.
His only blah games were in blowouts in which he was removed early (San Jose State, Duke Colorado), and even the other game in which he didnt average five yards per carry (USC) he was still 23 for 99 with two touchdowns.

In short, without Luck, Stanford may be in a world of hurt. But without Taylor, Stanford would be in at least a planetoid of hurt.

And with No. 6 Oregons offense being dictated so much by James, it seems the easiest thing in the world to link them rather than Luck and James. But narratives will be shoehorned where they do not fit easily, and while Luck has a Heisman Trophy candidacy to work on (well, a candidacy that others will be grading while he is tending to the more mundane issue of beating Oregon), Taylor may well have the most say of all.

KILLION: Shaw succeeds in shadows

Without him, Luck would find more tackles and linebackers approaching him with malice aforethought. Without him, no defense would pay any attention the Stanford running game, and we say that will all due respect to Tyler Gaffney, Taylors backfield adjunct. Without Taylor, as much as Luck, or James, or Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, this would not be a game between 4 and 6 for the right to contend for 2.

And because of that, we sense that because nobody is thinking this way, Stepfan Taylor will be the engine around which the rest of the game will churn.

If he has the game he routinely has, Stanford wins. If he doesnt, either because Oregons defense stops him, or the pace of the game keeps the ball out of Stanfords hands, or the score makes this a passers game, the argument is a much different one.

Either way, this will be Stepfan Taylors day. And nobody will see it coming because the stories all point in different directions.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
 
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
 
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
 
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
 
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
 
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
 
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
 
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
 
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

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AP

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

There is no inherent reason why you should care about Miami FC or Kingston Stockade FC, two lower level professional soccer leagues in the lower right quadrant of the nation.

But when they joined together to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the international governing body for any sport not run by Americans for Americans, to demand that all American teams submit to the concept of promotion and relegation, from MLS to, presumably, your kid’s under-8 team, they became interesting.

And the best part about soccer, except for Neymar being worth twice as much as all other humans in the history of the sport, is promotion and relegation.

In fact, it would be a great idea in all sports – although the idea of the Giants and A’s in the Pacific Coast League might scare the bejeezus out of Larry Baer and John Fisher.

Now we are not optimistic that the CAS will see this Kingston and Miami’s way. Americans like their sports top-heavy, where only a few megaclubs get most of the money and attention while the rest sort of muddle along, safe but unremarkable. And to be frank, promotion and relegation is most a fun media construct for making fun of bad teams – say, like the A’s and Giants.

But we can agree, I think, that having Jed York pay Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to keep his football team out of the Canadian Football League, or better still, the Mountain West Conference, would add to healthy dose of spice to what promises otherwise to be a pretty humdrum year.

And promotion/relegation would certainly reduce all that troublesome tanking in the NBA people endlessly whinge about.

So here’s to Kingston Stockade and Miami FC. Your cause is just. Persevere. After all, in this rancid period for American sporting culture, someone's got to stand for the quixotic yet indisputably correct thing.

And when it fails, and it probably will, just know you sleep with the angels -- if that’s what passes for fun at your house.