Ray Ratto

Even with NFL trade deadline activity, 2017 is still 'The Year of the League Office'


Even with NFL trade deadline activity, 2017 is still 'The Year of the League Office'

The NFL trade deadline could not have come at a better time for commissioner Roger Goodell. Between Jimmy Garoppolo, Jay Ajayi, Jimmy Garoppolo, Duane Brown and Jimmy Garoppolo, the conversation about Goodell’s diminishing viability with Jerry Jones and the rapacious hardliners (as opposed to the rapacious moderates or the rapacious doves) diminished.

But the tempête de merde is never that far away for Goodell. After the Garoppolo trade turned football on its ear, Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension was upheld by district court judge Katherine Polk Failla (who did so by rejecting an NFL Players Association appeal of the suspension that had already been vacated once, or something like that). This reminded Jones that Goodell must die – metaphorically, I mean. It's a Halloween thing, not an actual idea.

Then Colin Kaepernick’s lawyer for his pending collusion suit against the league, Mark Geragos, declared on the Adam Carolla Show that his client would be signed by an nfl team within 10 days based on . . . ohh, I don’t know, werewolf entrails?

This further reminded the 32 wallets that the league is in chaos, and the business of making obscene amounts of money is never not in jeopardy, and that means Jones gets to use that as the stalking horse to continue his principal pastime of hunting gingers in suits.

And therein lies the consistent beauty of the NFL in 2017. While our attention is easy to divert – hell, the Garoppolo trade is the most delightful player move in years if you measure such things by the vats of speculative drooling it inspires – the core business is still Topic A this year, and the core business remains wobblier than at any time since the All-American Football Conference rose up in 1946.

And by wobblier, we mean the future of that core business, which is generating money for people who already have it. The NFL will not die easily, and probably not in our lifetimes, but the league is being surrounded by cultural forces beyond its control and is dealing with them all with the surgical dexterity of a drunken bear in a giant sack.

So Jimmy Garoppolo did his best. He turned the offseason on its ear, may have begun the Great Resuscitation of the corpse impersonation in Santa Clara, and may have forced Tom Brady to finally declare his mutant status as an immortal.

But in the end, 2017 is still The Year Of The League Office, and nothing says “I’m doing something else” to an audience quite like that.

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.