Ray Ratto

It's too bad Steve Kerr isn't getting the chance to handle LaVar Ball


It's too bad Steve Kerr isn't getting the chance to handle LaVar Ball

It would seem that the Los Angeles Lakers are growing as sick of LaVar Ball as he is of them, and in that way they deserve each other and all the grief they mutually provide.

It makes a fella wonder, though, how this meddlesome dad act would play if Lonzo Ball had been drafted by, say, the Golden State Warriors.

And it’s not an issue of “well, what can he possibly say then?” LaVar Ball speaks whatever version of his mind is on his mind, and the central theme is that nobody is more important than his son, and nobody is more equipped to determine that than he is. He would talk smack about Steve Kerr if Ball wasn’t getting enough time or touches (and trust us, the old man is sure there is no such thing as enough time or touches for him).

And then he would demand a trade to the Lakers, which as we are seeing now is quite possibly the worst possible thing that could have happened for him, his son and the team. And I’m not entirely convinced that Kerr wouldn’t snap back, given that he is more of a redass than he lets on, and this would be a much weirder player issue than his occasional debates with Draymond Green.

This is of course not about Lonzo Ball, who is developing as a typical rookie should develop. He has as near as anyone can see not been disruptive or unhappy, and has gone about the work as anyone would have wanted.

But it has proven to be a naïve hope of Magic Johnson’s that LaVar Ball would remain mum to the matter of the team that employs his son. The only question to be answered is the tipping point when he becomes a fully corrosive element.

And it is equally naïve to think that he won’t be. This is not a generation that is particularly adept at ignoring the noise, as Bill Belichick of the newly noisy New England Patriots likes to say, and even if the other Laker employees don’t listen to LaVar Ball directly, the volume is too great to ignore, in the same way that you don’t have to talk to the guy running the jackhammer to know that the jackhammer is irritating.

Other coaches (well, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle) are now clapping back on LaVar Ball for savaging coach Luke Walton, and ESPN for giving Ball a vehicle. Rightly or wrongly, this will be the talking point of the next few days because news in the 21st century is an ouroboros, chasing its own tail in search of churn rather than truth.

But I’d much rather see Kerr handling this little problem, if only for my own amusement. The immovable force meeting the perpetual larynx would be a delightful diversion in this season of metronomic success.


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.