Will Raiders tradition survive passing of Al Davis?

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Will Raiders tradition survive passing of Al Davis?

PROGRAMMING ALERT: The press conference to introduce new Raiders head coach Dennis Allen will be streamed live on CSNCalifornia.com and broadcast on Comcast SportsNet California at 12 p.m.

Theres a lot of pressure on Dennis Allen today, more than on any other coach in Oakland Raider history. You may not see it on his face, because he might be really good at the press conference game, but inside, hell be a mass of hyper-firing nerve endings.Allen, you see, is the first Raider coach in history who has to worry about how many times he has to mention Al Davis by name. Before Davis came to Oakland, the answer was obviously zero. When he was the coach, he mentioned his name enough for everyones satisfaction except, of course, for Wayne Valley, the owner who brought him in and learned to hate him, and then got kicked to the curb.And after Davis went to the AFL as commissioner and then returned, the answer to how many times his name needed to be mentioned in a presser was always, As many times as can be reasonably fitted into the conversation.From Rauch to Madden to Flores to Shanahan to Shell to White to Bugel to Gruden to Callahan to Turner to Shell again to Kiffin to Cable to Jackson, Jon 1 was always getting Mr. Davis name up high and sprinkle it liberally throughout any public speaking engagement.It was just what had to be done fealty to the emperor, and all that.But as all emperors eventually do, Davis has died, his son Mark is the new face of the franchise, he has hired an all-powerful general manager in Reggie McKenzie, and McKenzie in turn has hired Allen, the first former Denver Bronco employee since Mike Shanahan.And Allen has a choice he needs to make how much Al is enough.Does he not mention him at all, since the whole idea is to change the franchise into a post-Al footing? Does he mention Al by connecting him to Mark? Does he mention Mark, and if so, how much? How many times can he mention McKenzies name without seeming too obsequious or ignorant of the old Alameda traditions?And after Jackson, who mentioned Amy Trask often enough to make her seem like the teams draft guru, does Allen slip her name into the conversation at all?The obvious answer, of course, is Why does this matter? Its just a press conference. And thats true, as far as it goes. We grade by press conference far too much, because we think it matters more than it does. We think it is a window into a team's soul, when in fact it is usually a window into the next curtain.But Allen has no other track record upon which to rely. He is 39, which is young for an NFL head coach, although he is only the eighth-youngest Raider coach in history an interesting notion for a team that has been so set in its old-fashioned ways for so long.So all we have is the press conference to go on, and this being his first, we have to place more importance in less data. Like how many times he mentions Als name. He may not be in transition from Al to post-Al, but everyone else is, and how he handles the 900-ton elephant will amuse us until we get a better sense of who he is and why hes here.Which, truthfully, is a reasonable set of questions for his boss, and for his boss boss as well.But one thing will help Allen as begins his voyage on the Good Ship Eyepatch: mentioning the Broncos in only the most disparaging of ways, even while acknowledging the debt that must be paid to them. Some traditions survive even the death of the emperor.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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

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

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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.