Ray Ratto

Enough about Paterno's statue


Enough about Paterno's statue

And now, what I hope without any justification at all will be the last word ever on the Joe Paterno statue.Screw the statue. Screw your interest in the statue. The statue doesnt matter.RELATED: Ratto -- Peterno put the brand ahead of human decency
But in fact, the statue does matter, in one important way. It shows how hideously addicted we still are to symbols and icons and displays, as opposed to less fungible things like people.Weighing the amount of debate over the last 36 hours between the fate of the Paterno statue and how the school intends to make restitution to the victims and become a force in the fight against child violence, we find that the statue won in a rout.In fact, we didnt want to talk about the victims at all. We did want to talk about Paternos legacy, and Penn States misplaced interest in the football team, and why Graham Spanier hasnt been indicted yet. We loved the blame part, and yesterday the blame was the story.But then it morphed into what should be done about the football program still a decent notion for debate, but empty given that there is no indication that such a thing could easily be done, let alone actually done. And then we landed on the statue.The stupid bronze statue. A symbol of an era gone by, and an era gone bad.And we still havent gotten around to talking about how to make the victims whole, or at least as close to whole as possible. We used them as a stick to hit Paterno, and the football program, and the Penn State administrative culture, but weve still skipped right by the most important job, and the most important people.I mean, there is a solution here, or solutions. One way, though not the only one, would be to make the football program a non-profit entity, with all money generated from this most lucrative of operations going to a fund for the victims, or for the ongoing fight against violence against children.RELATED: Ratto -- Time to focus on Penn State's administrators
That way, the football program is doing right by the victims, playing for something bigger than the Beef OBradys Bowl, as well as not punishing those current football players and coaches and staff who had nothing to do with the cover-up. Football as force for actual tangible good and nobility, as opposed to entertainment quite the radical notion.But that debate never took off, because it never started. We wanted to argue about the statue, which is merely a symbol, an image, a brand. And symbolism and image and brand, and our addictions to all three, are what helped bring down the Penn State way to doing business.RELATED: Key findings of the Penn State investigation
The symbolism, image and brand generated money and power at Penn State, as it does in any corporation. That power and money was defended even at the expense of the children ravaged by Jerry Sandusky. But here we are, the enlightened outsiders, the ones with our outrage all in a knot, arguing about the statue, and Paternos legacy (another hilarious sidebar), and spending zero time on how to fix this for those who were damaged, and those who might be in the future.Well, here is one modest proposal. Keep the football program and have it fight for something more noble than the Leaders Division of the Big 10 Conference. Make it a standing advertisement for what went wrong, and how it can be made right. Make the money a tool, rather than its own reward. Make Penn State stand for rebirth rather than degeneration.And then you can worry about the damned statue, and the stupid legacy. After all what needs to be fixed, gets fixed.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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.