Warriors heighten expectations

curry_stephen_warriors_smiling_after_heat_win.jpg

Warriors heighten expectations

Once again Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors blew a golden opportunity to bring some calm, rational, sane perspective to their season.

They won in Miami. They won a close game in Miami. They won because a rookie saw a veteran overplay the wrong guy and another veteran not cover his overplay and broke to the basket wide open for the winning layup with .9 seconds to play.

[HIGHLIGHTS: Green's last-second layup gives Warriors win in Miami]

In other words, they continue to get people heated up about a season that would make We Believe look like We Feel Like Our Cough May Be Abating A Bit.

(It is at this point that we should warn those of you who are sarcasm-impaired that the rest of this story will continue along this vein. If you find that off-putting, confusing, or excessively left-handed, you should go somewhere else. Or grit your teeth and misunderstand it with all your might. The choice if yours. For the rest of you, we will continue).

In beating the defending NBA champions on their own floor for only the fourth time in 31 tries going back 20 years, the Warriors have done the unconscionable – they have forced a fan base accustomed to temper its hopes and expectations to ratchet them wildly upward.

And that means what, children? Demands, more expectations, more demands. Suddenly folks on the street are going to remember that they know more about basketball than the coaches and players, and that if they were only coaching or playing the team would be much better than the one which is currently on a pace to win 56 games.

(And yes, we know that “on a pace to” is the lousiest phrase in sports. Go with us here a bit, will ya?)

It means angst and arguing about what will happen when Andrew Bogut returns, and how Andris Biedrins should be in the rotation more, and when Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes are going to hit the rookie wall, and whether Carl Landry or Jarrett Jack should win Comeback Player of the Year.

[RELATED: Ratto -- What will Andrew Bogut's return mean to the Warriors?

It means bullying their way into conversations about the NBA that Laker and Heat and Celtic and Maverick and Spur and Thunder fans have been holding behind their backs for . . . well, 35 years now.

It means tavern fights.

All because the Warriors don’t know how to gradually escape earth orbit. They are 5-0 on a seven-game road trip, entering Orlando Friday night – the same Orlando that so thoughtfully reminded them that the NBA is no place for children by slapping them on their own floor a week and change ago.

And all because they couldn’t turn down the thermostat a bit by losing at Washington the night after winning at Brooklyn.

And all because they are doing this while the Lakers are aggressively stinking out the division. They’ve suddenly become some sort of ESPN charity case, as though the Staples Center was damaged in Superstorm Sandy and desperately needs not only Steve Nash’s return but a relief concert with Billy Joel and Paul McCartney as the septuagenarian headliners.

Now how do the Warriors expect the customers to hold their pants on with all that happening?

It is this level of wasteful emotion that imperils what we have all safely and comfortably predicted for them – a nice 38- to 42-win season in which improvement is evident yet not overwhelming. It is a classic example of getting out over one’s skis, as the tragically hip like to say. They are Peaking Too Early.

Not for themselves, of course. They presumably have been told that every win now is a game that cannot be a loss later, and that playing defense and rebounding are not just a jocular repudiation of the failed basketball of the last two decades, but a way of life. They’re doing fine.

But in doing fine, they imperil the rest of us. The bandwagon hasn’t even been fitted for the second axle yet and already it looks like a refugee ship. The carefully crafted plan for slow, solid growth that can last more than a few years is being abandoned for the more fashionable win-two-out-of-every-three-games nonsense that has attracted the Heat and Mavs and Lakers and Spurs and Celtics.

We are faced with a choice far too early in our development – buy in now, buy in later, or don’t buy in at all. The third choice seems increasingly foolish, the second seems prudent but a bit Elmer Fudd-like, and the first just seems throw-the-empties-out-the-sun-roof reckless.

Warrior fans are not used to this level of agony before Christmas. This is plainly wrong and unfair, and the mass vertigo of the moment cannot be good for anyone’s constitution.

Maybe what the Warriors need, then, is a Great Time Out.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll run out the back door so as not to be struck by any flying beer steins.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

simpson-oj-smiling.jpg
USATI

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

mayweather-mcgregor-ball-weird.jpg

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.