Ray Ratto

Did Giants target Kyle Williams because of concussion history?


Did Giants target Kyle Williams because of concussion history?

Now you understand why the concussion problem in sports is never going away, ever. Or if you havent seen the Newark Star-Ledger piece on the Giants and 49ers, youre about to do so.

To summarize, the Giants apparently targeted Kyle Williams because of his history of concussions. To fill out that story, we turn to columnist Steve Politi:

The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing . . . to take him outta the game, said Jacquian Williams, who forced the overtime fumble.

In addition, Devin Thomas, the reserve wide receiver who recovered both that fumble and the fourth quarter one that set up New Yorks second touchdown, said Kyle Williams was a person of particular interest.

Hes had a lot of concussions, Thomas told Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi. We were just like, We gotta put a hit on that guy. (Safety Tyler) Sash did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up.

While we cant know if the Sash hit discombobulated Williams, or if this is a piece of information that comes from coaches to players (as opposed to player-on-player pregame prep) the fact that the Giants would take satisfaction in the strategy explains much about the way many players regard each other. And almost certainly football isnt the only venue for such headhunting.

Now we can expect denials all around as this story picks up heat, as provided by Deadspins distillation of the New York Magazine distillation of the internet reports from Sundays game. But lets play with the very real possibility that the truth is found in the unvarnished reports.

It means that heads remain fair game in sports, and that cranial issues are just grist for the Darwinian mill. And that all the attempts to clean up head shots in the games we watch are valueless as long as the players who deliver them are proud of having done so and enjoy the competitive advantages that comes from them.

It may also point to the victims reluctance to report head issues, or to coaches disinterest in knowing about them. It certainly puts the injured shoulder story Williams father Ken advanced on Monday in a different light, and makes the death threats Kyle received that much more craven.

Frankly, it changes the entire Kyle Williams story, and presents the NFL with a new and more frightening twist about the game it presents as entertainment, and those who view it as such.

This is, in short, a story that a lot of people will want to move past as quickly as possible as the Super Bowl hype begins to crest, and as Kyle Williams career advances. But it should be placed in memory as a reminder that the depth of the head injury problem is far greater and more frightening than anyone associated with the business should find comfortable.

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy


Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

Dusty Baker’s face tells a lot of different stories, but there is only one it tells in October.

Disappointment. Deflating, soul-crushing, hopeless disappointment.

With Thursday night’s National League Division Series defeat to the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals have reinforced their place in the panoply of the capital’s legacy of failure.

But Baker’s agonies extend far further. His 3,500 games rank him 15th all-time, and only one manager above him, Gene Mauch, is not in the Hall of Fame. His 105 postseason games ranks seventh all-time, and his nine postseason appearances ranks sixth.

But his postseason record of 44-61 and no World Series titles curse him. He has been on the mailed backhand of eight series losses in 11 tries (plus a play-in game loss in 2013), and been marked by the media-ocracy as an old-school players’ manager who doesn’t wrap himself in the comforting embrace of statistical analysis.

He is now Marv Levy and Don Nelson – the good manager who can’t win the big one.

Only Levy and Nelson are in their respective halls of fame, and Baker probably won’t be. Having no World Series titles (his bullpen dying in 2002 being as close as he ever got) dooms him as it has doomed Mauch, although Mauch made his reputation as a brilliant tactician with bad teams.

But even if you take Baker’s worst metric – the postseason record – he still ranks in the 90th percentile of the 699 managers in the game’s history, though even then there’s the caveat of the 200 some-odd interim managers who you may choose not to count.

This is not to claim he should be in the Hall of Fame. This is to claim he should be discussed, if only to determine if reputations in the postseason are the only way managers are allowed to be evaluated. Because if that’s the case, Dusty Baker’s world-weary October face makes that conversation a very short one.


U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance


U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

So Bruce Arena resigned as the U.S. National soccer team coach Friday. Big damned deal.

Oh, it is to him. He probably liked the job, and might have wanted to keep getting paid.

But whether he’s there or isn’t doesn’t matter. In fact, whether the people who hired him are there or not doesn’t matter either. U.S. Soccer is the definition of sporadic interest and patriotism-fueled frontrunning, of imbedded self-interest and general indolence, all born of inexcusable arrogance.

Bruce Arena didn’t bring that to the job, nor does he remove it by leaving. He’s just another head on a spike, like Jurgen Klinsmann was before him, and Bob Bradley before him.

But that would also be true if the head of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, quit or was fired too. Even the people bleating that the U.S. shamed itself by losing to Trinidad and Tobago display the same kind of blinkered ignorance and arrogance that dogs this sport in America.

Being in CONCACAF is a gift from the heavens, and the U.S. has decided as a national collective to replace that with actual achievement. Beating Germany in friendly is proof of long-term worth. The fact is, we don’t know how to evaluate America’s place in the soccer world except as an audience, let alone how much massive structural change is required to change that.

And change must be massive, and can’t be evaluated by the next cheap win or the next galling loss, or television ratings. America is good at watching soccer, good enough to catch on the actual chasm between its national team and development structure.

But that’s where it ends, because knowing what’s bad because you just watched it, or what is actually good (like, say, a UEFA or CONMEBOL qualifier) is light years from knowing how to fix a system built on the flawed concepts of work rate without creativity and money as a solution to crippling organizational problems.

So Bruce Arena does the decent thing given the circumstances, falling on a sword that should actually be a kebab skewer. But it makes no difference. The American soccer structure needs to get what it needs before it can get what it wants, and there are no more shortcuts to take in a short-attention-span world.