Welts is here for basketball purposes


Welts is here for basketball purposes

The only way this Rick Welts thing works at all is if the one thing that makes his appointment as the Warriors new president newsworthy is the one thing that never gets mentioned after today.

Welts is gay. He came out in May, while still the president and chief operations officer of the Phoenix Suns, and left the job a month ago to be closer to his partner, who has joint custody of two children in Sacramento.

Now hes been hired to replace Robert Rowell with the Warriors. I will leave it to you to decide among yourselves where the bar goes on this clearance attempt.

All I know is this: he was the Suns guy for nine years before his sexuality was an issue, in a state not famous for his openmindedness on the subject. In that time, he did fine by all analyses. As you knew he would based on the years of experience he had as the No. 3 man in the NBA office before that, and before that in Seattle with the SuperSonics.

Thus, it cannot matter now that he is gay now that he is here. It cannot be a triumph or a failure or a matter of public discourse. Hes the new Bobby Rowell, and on that alone he must be judged.

Welts came from one of the leagues most stable franchises, although the Suns have struggled to fill their building more in recent times as the economy and the teams indifferent results have conspired to make it not a great time out.

He has also worked through the end of the Jerry Colangelo era and the last seven years for an owner in Bob Sarver who doesnt mind being noticed. That last part wont be a major change, then. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber were both in attendance for the Welts presser, which would under normal circumstances would have merited a press release alone.

But Welts did come out, and he has been a player on the leagues corporate side, and there is a lockout, and there is much to do to rebuild the Warrior brand. And all but the first are what matters for purposes of this discussion, and what he hopes is most discussions to follow.

After all, he did not come to the Warriors because he is gay, but because he is an NBA guy with NBA tracks all over him.

He was the guy, after all, to land the first corporate account in league history Gatorade. Any other questions about his corporate bonafides?

No, he should and will be defined here only for basketball purposes, and in large part that means being defined by his predecessor.

Rowell was the bad cop to Chris Cohans invisible cop, and as such became a target of ire for fans who hated the entire regime for its incompetence, sloth and generally unwarranted smugness. That Rowell was always doing Cohans bidding was clear; that he relished it was also clear. But that he was the one who was visible made it all the worse for him.

Welts wont have that issue, at least not so we can tell. Lacob is as spectacularly public as Cohan was persistently hologrammatic, so Welts wont feel the full sting of being the public bad cop. In fact, if he wants to slap some charm on the office walls to brighten the job profile, nobody would either prevent or begrudge him.

Well be frank here and admit that a new president and COO isnt a particularly sexy announcement, especially when the owner is the one who will the front man for himself. Even Welts as the highest ranking openly gay person in American professional sport is but a novelty; Corny Littman, president of the German soccer club FC St. Pauli is also openly gay, but his team is as counterculture as a sports franchise can possibly get. The Suns have always been a very buttoned down operation even in the Charles Barkley years, and the Warriors arent exactly bold innovators either.

What they are is a team with little success over the past three and a half decades, a loyal but slowly receding fan base that wishes to see actual results rather than pizza delivery men on rollerblades.

Toward that end, Rick Welts is far less important than, say, David Lee. But he is more important than many others, if in fact he will be given real responsibilities that help impact the day-to-day running of the franchise. Put another way, he will be as important as Lacob allows him to be, and he will be as successful as his personality and the on-floor product will permit.

In short, he isnt Bobby Rowell, for good or ill. What he will be remains to be seen. And the sooner he is viewed in a Warriors context rather than a gay executive context, the better we suspect he will like it.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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.