Ray Ratto

Impasse broken -- labor talks see light


Impasse broken -- labor talks see light

And so the circle of life continues on spinning round and round in the same place, and getting most of us nowhere.

The NBA is only the latest example of this, with a German opera of a negotiating session that ended after midnight and left both sides within sight of each other at the midpoint they were destined to arrive at anyway.

And they did it in the time-honored way hardline for a time, then moderate late.

You see, the details here dont matter all that much, because by the time this CBA is about the expire, the owners will scream it was a bad system that cannot endure. Thus, it will continue the streak of deals the owners hate as soon as they have figured out the last way to get around their own deal, and demand that the players agree to a new one that makes the owners even less responsible for their behavior.

And the cycle will begin again. The owners who dont really like basketball that much anyway, and really hate owning businesses in which the workers must be paid, will shriek that enough is enough, and theyd rather shut the game down than go in this vein any longer.

We, of course, will panic, because we do care about the game, dont know many of the owners, but know that if theyre like the guys we work for, theyll do it.

(Except of course the people I work for. They are human exemplars down to the last human).

And the hardliners will carry the day for awhile, convincing the union that this time they mean business. The union, who knows the game too well from having seen it so many times before, then has to make sure their players dont get scared and bolt from the hall.

Then the ugly negotiations start, with the hardliners at the table doing the talking and demeaning the union and players as much as they can get away with. And they know how much they can get away with when the union says, Fine, shut the doors. We hate you more than we like the job now, anyway. Go kill yourselves.

And at that point, the commissioner, who only earns his money at times like this, sees the hardliners have hit the wall and can only do damage now, comes in, rallies the moderates and says, Its our turn. The pre-Industrial Revolution nutjobs have done as much as they can do.

At that point, a miracle happens, as it did Wednesday night. The two sides know its time to stop screwing around and get a deal done.

Nobody ever knows when this point is reached, though the usual tipoff is like this one -- when you hear Derek Fisher call someone from management a liar. When the most rational guy in the room has had a bellyful of condescension, contempt and disgust from the other sides most demeaning members, the flares go off and everyone says, Well, were at that point. Give it three days, call for sandwiches and sodas and order notebooks and Number-2 pencils.

The notebooks and pencils are for doodling, by the way. Fifteen hours doing anything is tedious slogging.

So here we are again. Close to a deal, so close that it cant be undone unless one of the hardliners breaks out of his pen, bolts into the room and starts screaming about the benefits of serfdom, being chained to a table and making tennis shoes for four cents a day and how it builds more character than the union will ever know.

Right now, in short, weve passed the cat-herding stage and are down to the actual useful speaking. A deal will be reached soon, and then we can all go back to what we know best.

Waiting to see if the Warriors get to 32 wins before they get to 51 losses.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament


One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament

College basketball peaked last week, as it typically does. There were 52 games, many of them hilariously delightful, only a few of them viewing slogs, and the sturdiest pillars of the narrative temple as it relates to the remaining 16 teams are:

* A 98-year-old nun who also functions as an unpaid assistant coach.

* A head coach who curses on air, gets soaking wet after wins and confesses that he worries about peeing himself on the sideline.

* A new version of the old debate about whether your view of Syracuse’s zone defense defines you as a basketball fan.

* Your dead bracket.

The nun, the glorious Sister Jean of Loyola Chicago, is new, and so is Eric Musselman (except in northern California, where he’s had pretty much every available pro job). But Jim Boeheim’s murderous zone defense, which he has employed since the Hoover administration, remains the litmus test about how you like your college basketball served.

Think of it as your AARP ID, if you must. It’s old-fashioned, it isn’t easy to watch, but it works.

And all the fun of a bracket that has more teams below the 4-seed than at or above it . . . well, Week Two is when most of that traditionally self-corrects. Even this year, there is the very real possibility that the gutty little underdog in San Antonio could be . . .

. . . wait for it . . .


And no, this is not the proof that the selection committee got it wrong. Not that they got it right – they’re pretty much not qualified based on work experience to do the job anyway, and their ability to ignore logical criteria at will to get a desired team or result is a long-standing tradition of this three-week bacchanal.

But if there is a useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend, it is that it is not yet a sign that the revolution is underway or that the meek are inheriting the earth. If you ignore the seed math and look at the names next to the seeds, you still see the same basketball powers. In other words, the bracket will normalize as it always does, the power in the sport is never far away from the seat of that power, and those of you who root for the meek – well, your hope that charm can beat muscle rests on Eric Musselman and Sister Jean.

And the NCAA Tournament is not the vehicle to bet that prop.


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference

If you’re a progressive thinker, the only thing that can save the Pacific 12 Conference from the grossest form of humiliation is for one of the six schools it sent to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State – to make a deep run. In Stanford’s case, to become the first four-seed to win a title.

If you’re a more desperate type, it is to hope that Oregon, Stanford, USC or Washington wins the NIT. Nobody will know it, but we did say “desperate.” And if you need to get to Utah in the Women’s NIT . . .

Well, you get the point. The Pac 12 is the first conference to bow out of the NCAA Tournament before the first weekend since the Big 12 was first formed in 1996-7. And because nobody remembers this sort of stuff year to year, it wipes out last year, when the conference went 9-4 and sent Oregon to the Final Four.

And when we say “sent,” we mean no such thing. In the NCAA Tournament, and in college sports in general, teams achieve. Conferences just get their cut.

Still, as the college sports industry is still covered based on the rules of tribalism, where the keeping of scores breaks down by laundry first and then by affiliation, the Pac-12 has been historically God-awful, which for things referencing the deity is a considerable stretch. Not only did they send only three teams to the NCAA Tournament and saw them evaporate before Friday dawned, they were 1-8 in bowl games, the worst record of any major conference since forever.

Plus, there’s the FBI, plus there’s the ongoing sense that the Pac-12 is the last of the Power 5 and getting worse, plus there’s the fact that it isn’t in the Southeast or Midwest, where this stuff really matters.

But we noticed it on Thursday because people kept bringing it up, especially after Arizona was owned by Buffalo despite having the putative top draft pick in DeAndre Ayton and specifically because a Sean Miller-coached team was so poor defensively.

And now comes the fun of watching the 12 conference university presidents panic as the other presidents make fun of them in the mahogany playground in which they all play. And don’t think that doesn’t happen. College sports is a big business played by kids for the financial benefit of older kids who keep score on things like this.

So the women start Saturday, and in a just and fair society that would get sufficient attention and play enough games to make the conference members feel better about themselves. We don’t have that society yet, so for the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference, and won’t get a chance to prove otherwise until December.

But hey, at least their task force on the structural future of college basketball was received . . . well, with a tepidness unknown to mankind. So yeah, they're on a hell of a roll.