Ray Ratto

With Del Rio gone, Mark Davis' legacy in Oakland on the line

With Del Rio gone, Mark Davis' legacy in Oakland on the line

Mark Davis went all-in with local names in 2017 on the theory that everything else with the Oakland Raiders was in place for a glorious if limited run. And with a third of that run now officially over, Davis’ patience has been replaced by an open wound.

Hence, Jack Del Rio has been fired as head coach as reward for an imploded season that ended with a dismal 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

But Del Rio's dismissal for doing half as well in his third year as his second doesn’t mean that Davis isn’t going to stay local. If, as has been rumored all of Sunday, he is chasing Jon Gruden to recreate the almost glories of the past, he is still going with a familiar figure whom fans will build into a savior, until such time as he proves not to be.

Whether Del Rio deserved to be sacked after a dreadful 6-10 season that undercut both the team’s reputation and that of most of its players is irrelevant. Heads roll when the blade is available, and his was the largest head at a time when someone (or some folks) needed to be canned. The team spent the entire year seemingly baffled and underinspired as well as injured, and the first two were far less forgivable based on the 12-4 record of a season ago. Even those who thought the team would regress didn’t see a free-fall of this magnitude, and the only unhappy observers now are those who wonder if general manager Reggie McKenzie might not be next to fall.

And that is likely to occur if Gruden returns, because Gruden isn’t returning to football to have a boss. If this is not another of his classic goose chases, he will come to Oakland demanding power and equity as though he were Vince Lombardi coming to Washington 50 years ago, and McKenzie isn’t likely to want to become Gruden’s phone.

In other words, with two years left in the history of the Oakland Raiders, they are starting again, perhaps with Gruden as their Grover Cleveland, the only president to have the job two separate times.

Indeed, a team once fabled for its stability has had only one coach last as long as four seasons since it returned north, and that was Gruden. The subsequent wins commingled with wars with Al Davis, and the result was Gruden being traded to Tampa Bay so that he could jam his index finger in Davis’ eye in Super Bowl The 37th. And whether the coach is Gruden or not, he will be the fifth under Mark Davis and the 13th in 23 years in Oakland 2.0.

The message is clear: Mark Davis is in a hurry to build something enduring that he can take to his new overlords in Nevada, and his impatience has led him to do what his father once did, and then undid. He is working a treadmill here that unless the next coach works the miracle Del Rio (and frankly even Gruden) could not, he will be remembered in Oakland as the guy who couldn’t be better than his father even after his father lost control of the game around him.

It’s a legacy that will haunt him until the day he sells controlling interest in the team – richer, possibly wiser but certainly no more admired for fixing the one thing he was just starting to call his own.

So if the next coach isn’t Jon Gruden, Davis had better have a good reason why not, and a better name than Gruden’s to offer instead. The early betting will not be kind on this proposition.

Taking politics out of sports? Now that’s a more interesting idea


Taking politics out of sports? Now that’s a more interesting idea

In lieu of the famous Invitation That Never Was, the Golden State Warriors decided to hook their annual trip to Washington to a trip to visit area kids. No visits to capital sights, no photo ops with politician/lampreys, no media at all in fact.

And in the immortal words of Poet Laureate Draymond Green, “It’s about something we did great. Why make it about (politics)?” he said.

But by that seemingly impeccable logic, the Warriors’ annual trip to Washington should be the equivalent of the Warriors’ annual trip to Milwaukee – a stop on a road trip.

Washington, you see, IS politics, and always has been. And sports and politics are joined at the forehead, and always have been. To take Washington out of sports would be easy – move the four area franchises (Wizards, Capitals, Nationals and Football Team X) to other cities, and never plan for championship teams to take another White House trip except as ordinary citizens.

But to take politics out of sports – now that’s a more interesting idea. Never mind kneeling for the national anthem; what about not standing for it, or playing it at all? How about taking the flag down entirely? And the Olympics? Without the politics, the Winter Games are just a weekend at Tahoe, and the Summer Games are just a massive company picnic.

And that’s the real depth of the rabbit hole. Nobody advocates for the Olympics to become a giant play date or an extended trip to the lodge. Nobody is advocating reducing the flagpoles to goal frames. Only a few think the anthem shouldn’t played before sporting events.

In other words, people have made their peace with sports and politics being intertwined. Me, I’d be good with giving all these ideas an extended try to see if they don’t make more and better sense than what we have now. But I am but one in a sea of many, and most people are perfectly okay with politics and sports – even the “Stick to sports” parrots. They’re not against sports and politics; they’re just against sports and politics they don’t like.

So with all due respect to Draymond Green, it’s all politics because we all have decided that we’re good with it all being politics. The day we decide otherwise may well be a happier and purer moment in human cultural development, but too few are willing to consider a world without conjoined politicosport, or commingled sportatics.

But if it helps, the Warriors are on the right track when they decided to do their visit without a media intrusion because media is part of this messy confluence as well. Going to see kids with no outsiders just because they’re kids is never a bad thing, and it has the added advantage that nobody can use it for their own nefarious greedfaced ends.

So maybe the Warriors can see some kids in Atlanta too, and Portland, and Minnesota, and Phoenix, all without anyone tagging along for fun and profit. There’s no politics in that, and if politics-free sport is something we actually want as a society, it has to start somewhere, and there’s no better place than a schoolyard to get that started.

Forever in search of an Oakland ballpark, the A's always have Japan


Forever in search of an Oakland ballpark, the A's always have Japan

If this helps the Athletics/Howard Terminal/BART/city government standoff in any way, there’s this:
The A’s open the 2019 season in Japan, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle
How this helps is anyone’s guess, but given the litany of ways that a new privately financed baseball stadium cannot get built in the Nickel-Dime area code, it must surely be a comfort to know that outside the continental United States, the A’s are golden.
Indeed, Oakland ‘s role as the leading exporter of professional sports contests to foreign lands (their series with the Seattle Mariners next year will be the 21st, 22nd and 23rd games played off-continent by Oakland’s three teams) simply grows. Indeed, once the Raiders go to Las Vegas and the Warriors to That Other Place, the A’s will be the only thing that can be exported, and once they get their new ballpa . . .
. . . oops, sorry. Didn’t mean to bring up cruel fictions again.
The A’s aren’t even part of this latest dustup except in receipt of a letter in which BART general manager Grace Crunican said that a station near a Howard Terminal site isn’t going to happen. This is more a grenade rolled under the chair of the Right Hon. Libby (Don’t Mess With Me) Schaaf, who has been flogging the Howard Terminal plan with the aggression one typically finds in an Aaron Judge at-bat.
And in honesty, an elected official who can flip off the National Football League and not feel the electorate’s wrath is not to be underestimated.
That said, the Crunican letter is one reminder that Oakland is as skilled as ever at finding ways to halt stadium plans before they even get started. More stadiums in more sites have been killed pre-shovel in Oakland than anywhere else in the U.S.
There will be horse trading and arm-twisting (not to mention arm trading and horse twisting, if it comes to that) between the current “no” and the series of “nos” to follow, but this does mean that the pot dispensaries need to step up now and speak as one about their own reason why a ballpark cannot happen in Oakland – maybe they can site a lack of arable land to cultivate the smoke for the woke.
And in the meantime, they’ll always have Japan – Oakland’s sister from another mother when it comes to hosting games our towns cannot.