Lance Armstrong will always be a hero and a villain


Lance Armstrong will always be a hero and a villain

Lance Armstrong has been exposed as the liar we all suspected him to be, and the general sense is that he has been exposed to his great and enduring public detriment.The general sense is, as is usual in this polarized nation, wrong.It doesnt matter that Armstrong has been exposed by 11 of his fellow riders as being the centerpiece of a massive performance enhancing drugs conspiracy that included such sidelights as bullying, threats and general unpleasantness. Armstrong has been painted as a thoroughly detestable creature.And none of that makes any difference, because arguments in America arent about right or wrong. Not any more. Theyre about My side, which is pure and noble and glorious, and Your side, which reveals you as scum.Lance Armstrong will have a legion of supporters, now and forever. Even those who read the damning USADA report will view it in terms not of fact-finding or evidence that could change ones mind, but as a document that will be contorted to support ones already-staked-out position.Period.Because it isnt about Lance Armstrong, and hasnt been for a long time now. Those who thought he doped thought that long ago. Those who thought that he didnt because he never tested positive and because hes too important to some different narrative, they assume conspiracy, or rationalize that he only did what everyone else in sport did.Or, most prevalent, they defend Armstrong because they are already committed to defending him, and admitting wrong is somehow considered worse than holding ones position.Thats why Lance Armstrong will never feel the pain others think he should. His sheer brazenness, and the ability of him and his acolytes to demonize his detractors, will insulate him from the shame that his deeds logically would rain upon him.Thats the mistake all the post-USADA analysis makes that this is the long-awaited smoking gun. It smokes, and its a gun, and it fired bullets. But those who dont want to perceive it simply dont, because it isnt about being right or wrong. Its about picking a side and adhering to it.RELATED: Damning Armstrong report includes 200 pages, 26 witnesses
And the Armstrong side is still the Armstrong side, no matter what.This is not designed to change anyones mind, because minds will not be changed on this. We have covered this ground in the past with other athletes, and every time the argument breaks down at the point where one side says, Well, I dont care. Hes my guy, and thats all I want to know.Its the maddening side of fandom gone tribal, and it is not going to change. There may be some people who peeled off the Armstrong bandwagon Wednesday, but most had already picked a side well before now, and are adhering to it with as much aggression as ever.And thats where the notion that somehow Lance Armstrong is exposed and ruined collapses under its own sanctimony. He isnt. He picked the fallback position of the victim being crushed by a system of conspirators, and those who are committed to him must follow. It may be his last explanation, and it may be thoroughly implausible given what more we learned Wednesday, but he has never given up on a story no matter how absurd it might be.Thats part of what his supporters find so appealing he doesnt take anything for an answer except what he has already provided himself. And giving up on that kind of single-mindedness is, for them, unthinkable.For the rest of us, it seems silly. But to assume that this is the final say on Lance Armstrong is to misread the audience, badly. He wont ever surrender his version more matter the weight of the evidence, and neither will his supporters. Hell, many of them will applaud him for being the best cheater ever, because thats part of his appeal too.So do not think we have heard the last of the Lance Armstrong story. Like the Civil War, some people need the fight more than the resolution, and some people need the hero even when he is shown to be the villain. And that will never change.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent


Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent

If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J.  Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.

Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.

But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
In the meantime, there is beer.

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys


Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 40-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 on Sunday:

1. A major step backward
So much for the 49ers’ somewhat-impressive streak of close losses.

There was nothing encouraging about what transpired in the 49ers' worst loss at Levi’s Stadium. It was also the franchise's worst home loss since Mike Singletary's team absorbed a 45-10 thumping against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 11, 2009.

Was there anything positive to take from this game?

“No, not right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was disappointing. I think all three phases, players and coaches, we’ve got to play better than that, a lot better to give ourselves a chance to win.”

The competitive nature of the 49ers’ past five games was one thing. But with a big home loss on such an emotional day, it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over for Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. The 49ers looked like a team devoid of any leadership, and brings more scrutiny onto the organization’s decision last week to release linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

Now, the 49ers face a crossroads. With another cross-country trip ahead, the 49ers have to regroup in a hurry in order to avoid another embarrassing blowout against the Philadelphia Eagles.

2. Beathard’s first start
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard certainly was not the reason the 49ers got blown out. In his first NFL start, he showed a lot of toughness, which was to be expected. He was sacked five times. But most of those sacks could have been avoided. He has to get rid of the ball quicker, especially on three-step drops.

Beathard also showed some promise, too. He let the ball fly deep for Marquise Goodwin, who caught four passes for 80 yards. Beathard completed 22 of 38 passes for 235 yards.

Beathard accounted for the 49ers’ only touchdown with a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There seems to be little doubt it was in the best interest of the organization to begin evaluating what it has for the future with the permanent switch from Brian Hoyer to Beathard.

3. Dwight Clark’s Day
The 49ers, of course, did nothing to evoke any memories of the great teams on which Dwight Clark played. Well, they did look a lot like Clark’s first team with the 49ers.

The 49ers of 1979 lost their first seven games of the season. This year’s team matched that start for the worst beginning to a season in franchise history.

More than 35 of Clark’s teammates off the 1981 Super Bowl team were in attendance to honor a pay tribute to Clark, who is battling ALS. Now in a wheelchair and considerably lighter, Clark delivered some poignant remarks at halftime.

Clark, 60, told his old teammate, Keena Turner, who works as vice president of football affairs, that all he wanted was to see some of his old teammates.

“And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in, so I could see them one more time,” Clark said.