What to make of 49ers' stadium deal

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What to make of 49ers' stadium deal

The one baffling thing about the folks who run the City of Santa Clara is that it didnt vote to loan the 49ers 850 billion. Or 850 trillion. Or the gross national product of the solar system.

I mean, if youre going to loan out that much money for something like a football stadium, why not just go for a cartoon figure and be done with it? Youre not going to see the one you already promised so why wouldnt you shoot the moon?

For the record, I have not, do not, and will never care where the 49ers play their games. Or for that matter, the Raiders, either. Santa Clara, Fremont, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Madrid. I dont live in San Francisco or Santa Clara, I have no dog in this fight, and I get paid mileage for going to football games and practices. I dont have to care, so you cant hit me with that one.

Moreover, I dont entirely blame the 49ers for spotting electoral marks and working them. Theyre no more rapacious than, say, Jeff Loria, who worked the City of Miami for about half a billion for a new ballpark.

Well, let me say that a different way. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Loria WAS actually more rapacious, so scratch that comparison.

In short, we have no unassailable proof that the York Family did anything other than say, We want you to give us a huge whopping loan, and got the seven members of the Santa Clara Stadium Authority to agree.

Of course, without a stadium, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority has no authority, so theres no kick in being a member of an authority of nothing. Thats the definition of a barfly.

But we digress.

History shows us again and again that publicly built arenas and stadiums do not make back the money for the city that lays it out. The Oakland Coliseum retool that lured the Raiders back from Los Angeles was such an idiotic deal that every politician who signed off on it fled in terror at its very mention six months after signing it.

Now maybe this will be the exception. Maybe the Yorks will find a way to make Santa Clara whole again before all of us are long and safely dead. But -- based on recent history -- thats not the way to bet. And the voters of Santa Clara should have known that, and the people who run Santa Clara should have known that even more.

But they chose not to learn that lesson. Or to be more precise, not enough of them chose to learn it, and now theyve turned over 850 million for a football stadium. This, kids, could end up badly.

Now for you 49er fans who arent that interested in Santa Clara or its financial structure, its a great deal. What do you care who gets squeezed?

Well, you will, when you find out that youre about to pay lots more for seeing your boys than ever before, because thats the way this works, too. You lose your prime seat location, even if its in an upholstered toilet like La Candeliere. You pay more for the seats. You pay more to park, or you walk a mile to your car. You break the 20 beer barrier.

And some of that money will go back to Santa Clara. Some of it. Not nearly enough, of course, but this is Santa Claras reward for convincing its optic nerve to overrule its appetite.

Yet every town gets to decide what it wants to do. If the citizens of Santa Clara are fine with this, then the argument is over. If the citizens think the politicians hosed them, they get to vote them out. If the politicians think they were swindled, they can wait for the SEC or IRS or come after the 49ers down the road.

And if everyones happy, then good on all their fathers. But the moneys still spent, and if the Raiders' deal with Oakland teaches us anything, there's no contractual protection that cant be broken, or ignored, down the road if a team wants to do something else with someone else.

Its the result of being mesmerized by the lure of being a big league city, as defined by the league. We do not hope this for the people of Santa Clara (the politicians, being invertebrates, are not our concern), but the tide of history suggests otherwise. Over and over and over again.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

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AP

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.