Welts is here for basketball purposes

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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

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.
 

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.