Ray Ratto

Harbaugh-Payton tension is tangible


Harbaugh-Payton tension is tangible

In the summer, people thought New Orleans coach Sean Payton dialed up a bunch of blitz packages for the exhibition game with the 49ers because he had an unpleasant experience with Jim Harbaugh.

Then Payton said that didnt happen at all, that he always does that to get the packages down right. And that he doesnt have a problem with Harbaugh.

Well, let us suggest a third path. That the first two things are equally true -- that he didnt deliberately blitz Alex Smith into a thin gray paste, and that he isnt a big Harbaugh fan.

And one more thing: That it doesnt really matter either way.

Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh are the same guy -- a football coach with an unshakeable belief in his role as the smartest guy in the room. They are not easy to get along with, either as superiors or subordinates, but they deliver a better quality of groceries than most others, so they get a pass.

Except with each other. Coaches are alpha males, and they like each other in the same heart-touching way that firemen enjoy arsonists.

So lets say that Payton and Harbaugh are not chums, or even close to it. Lets even say that if people didnt complain so much about HandshakeGate in Detroit, theyd probably just flip each other off after the game.

In fact all coaches would do that, because all football coaches divide the world into two circles -- people who can help them succeed, and Communists.

So thats a given. And now we can move on to what matters -- the players on the field and how they perform. Or we can continue to fetishize the coaches and their personalities.

We are fascinated with coaches for two reasons for winning a lot, and for losing. And losing is defined by not winning a lot.

But in an ideal world, if you could strap coaches to chairs before a game and give them a drug to remove their inhibitions, they really would try to beat the hell out of each other with whatever iron-based object they could reach -- and thats either Vince Lombardi and Tony Dungy, or Mike Ditka and Todd Haley.

So yes, we can report with great confidence that Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh do not care for each other, and if they could, they would cheat ferociously to subdue each other. And that is true for the other 30 coaches as well.

So what we have here is no big deal; at best, a mild sidebar to kill time before kickoff. Their true value for purposes of our entertainment is as technicians and motivators for their players, and their secondary value is as self-salesmen (to the extent that they bother) to the outside world. Most notably the people who pay them. And you don't care whether they're friendly, correct or sworn enemies. You really don't.

So Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh probably didnt expend a lot of extra energy on their exhibition schedules. They know that nobody gets paid off in August. If it helped get their teams ready, fine. If it didnt, it was wasted energy.

And as for Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh as pals and compatriots in the joint venture that is the National Football League? Well, lets just say that any photo of them sharing beers will either be doctored or staged. Theyre good with that. And so should we all be.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor


Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”