Ray Ratto

Let Steve Young's brilliant Monday Night Football idea come true


Let Steve Young's brilliant Monday Night Football idea come true

Steve Young recently told KNBR’s Tom Tolbert that he still wasn’t interested in replacing new Raiders coach Jon Gruden in the Monday Night Football analyst’s chair – “still,” as in he’s been approached before and declined, for the only legitimate dodge left on the books -- family reasons.
“I cannot take a job where you disappear for four days a week for five months,” Young said, later adding, “If I could do it from my backyard, sure, I’d do it.”
And therein lies an idea – a brilliant idea, if I do steal and say so myself.
Let Young do the games from his backyard. Put a camera back there and let him work from a lounge chair beside what I imagine is a pool. He should have a beer and snacks at hand, and his kids should be allowed to run in front of him and make noise like they would normally, because that’s how most of us watch the games. Maybe he can bring the neighbors over for a little ‘cue, as long as they don’t F-bomb through his pregame chat with Sean McDonough.
After all, these are not grand secrets he will be imparting. He is not going to be able to articulate the secrets of the bubble screen or the two-deep zone any more cleverly than any other analyst – he will just sound more agreeable and less cartoonish doing it. And if the payment for that sense of informality is him in a Tommy Bahama shirt, cargo shorts, flip-flops and a frothy IPA, well, what’s the harm.
I mean, it’s not like he would be torpedoing ratings momentum. This has been another year of diminishing viewership for the NFL, which continues to struggle with the “F” in its acronym – football. Catches aren’t catches, fumbles aren’t fumbles, holds aren’t holds, first down measurements need office supplies, and nobody can explain why the overseer on the Planet Replay is no better at getting calls right than the guys on the ground.
So why not Young lounging in his backyard? Or his garage? Or the hardware store? Or the local tavern? If McDonough needs company in the booth, there is a vast wildlife preserve of ex-players roaming the hills and flats just waiting to share insipid tales of jet sweeps and momentum shifts while Young sits working the business end of a pina colada and providing the big picture the sport is so weak at providing. Frankly, I'm stupefied that it hasn't been done already.
This has been A Tramp’s View Inside The Television Garbage Fire, and I will happily accept the standard consultants fee when this is universally adapted. 

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.