Ray Ratto

Monday night disaster

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Monday night disaster

Monday night brought one of the greatest moments in television history – well, television sports history, anyway. And Steve Young, of all people, had a hand in it.

Not that Young isn’t good on television, or that that really matters all that much. In many ways, a monkey can be good on television. But Young is not by nature a purveyor of outrage, let alone the dyspeptic spasms of disgust he emitted last night.

And he was the calm one.

He, Trent Dilfer, Stuart Scott, Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and an angry nation was subjected to the New York Jets at their worst – which is sort of like saying being subjected to the North Koreans at their least jocular.

The Jets were ghastly even by their miserable standards in a 14-10 loss to Tennessee, itself a bit of a misery farm. They were so horrible that Dilfer and Young got into a seeming argument over who could be more contemptuous of what they’d seen, who they’d seen do it, and the prospects for a post-apocalyptic future.

Frankly, Dilfer won for sheer throw-weight. That he didn’t actually vomit on Scott in apoplexy was a triumph of self-control. And Tirico basically laughed the game off the air at the end.

But Young worked the scalpel while everyone else used the Gallagher Fruit Mallet. He said the Jets quit, which they had. He said the coaching offices need to be remodeled starting with the users. He supported Mark Sanchez but thought he was no longer of use to the franchise.

And if he could have, he would have grabbed Woody Johnson and slapped him. Over and over again.

They did what British announcers do often when confronted by miserable entertainment. They said it was miserable entertainment. They broke network programming to do, because network programming requires a level of denial, promotion and hope-selling that is simply out of place in our modern somebody-tell-me-something-that-isn’t-a-total-and-complete-lie world of ours.

Indeed, most game announcers are required to do just that, in just those words. They are selling a program, and nobody will watch a program that promises to make people violently ill, as Jets-Titans surely would.

But Jets-Titans exceeded all lack of hopes in this regard. It was the zenith of spastic athletic performance. It made a mockery of all the mythmaking nonsense the National Football League pitches on a weekly basis. It was aesthetic filth with a ball – a ball that neither team seemed to want much.

It was a night where lefthanded euphemisms like “not the start they wanted,” and “they could have done that better,” and “That will hurt them later in the game” would be the order of the day.

Instead, it went slowly but surely toward what became a festival of fury from the entire broadcast crew as each tried to find a new way to call a spade of animal waste a dump truck of toxic landfill.

And it ended with Young, the professional nicest guy in the room, firing with them all. He seemed more sad than angry at first, but he could not suppress his disgust as he eventually piled on with his partners.

A rightsholder telling the truth about three bad hours of programming – finally, a moment of clarity from a planet’s worth of nonsense. Jets-Titans was awful in concept, foisted upon us only because of ESPN’s obsessive need to Tebow the night away one more time, and it deteriorated from there.

And for once, the broadcasters acknowledged it – a lesson for the young larynxes and talking heads of tomorrow. Sometimes the game overwhelms even the happiest of talk.
 
And to their credit, the ESPN crew for once didn’t shun their responsibilities. Though it might have been a nice touch if they’d risen from the set, turned around and flipped off the field while the graphics people put up a legend that read simply, “Good Night, And We Apologize.”

But that’s a truth for another day, apparently.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

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USATI

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

Dusty Baker’s face tells a lot of different stories, but there is only one it tells in October.

Disappointment. Deflating, soul-crushing, hopeless disappointment.

With Thursday night’s National League Division Series defeat to the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals have reinforced their place in the panoply of the capital’s legacy of failure.

But Baker’s agonies extend far further. His 3,500 games rank him 15th all-time, and only one manager above him, Gene Mauch, is not in the Hall of Fame. His 105 postseason games ranks seventh all-time, and his nine postseason appearances ranks sixth.

But his postseason record of 44-61 and no World Series titles curse him. He has been on the mailed backhand of eight series losses in 11 tries (plus a play-in game loss in 2013), and been marked by the media-ocracy as an old-school players’ manager who doesn’t wrap himself in the comforting embrace of statistical analysis.

He is now Marv Levy and Don Nelson – the good manager who can’t win the big one.

Only Levy and Nelson are in their respective halls of fame, and Baker probably won’t be. Having no World Series titles (his bullpen dying in 2002 being as close as he ever got) dooms him as it has doomed Mauch, although Mauch made his reputation as a brilliant tactician with bad teams.

But even if you take Baker’s worst metric – the postseason record – he still ranks in the 90th percentile of the 699 managers in the game’s history, though even then there’s the caveat of the 200 some-odd interim managers who you may choose not to count.

This is not to claim he should be in the Hall of Fame. This is to claim he should be discussed, if only to determine if reputations in the postseason are the only way managers are allowed to be evaluated. Because if that’s the case, Dusty Baker’s world-weary October face makes that conversation a very short one.

 

U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

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AP

U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

So Bruce Arena resigned as the U.S. National soccer team coach Friday. Big damned deal.

Oh, it is to him. He probably liked the job, and might have wanted to keep getting paid.

But whether he’s there or isn’t doesn’t matter. In fact, whether the people who hired him are there or not doesn’t matter either. U.S. Soccer is the definition of sporadic interest and patriotism-fueled frontrunning, of imbedded self-interest and general indolence, all born of inexcusable arrogance.

Bruce Arena didn’t bring that to the job, nor does he remove it by leaving. He’s just another head on a spike, like Jurgen Klinsmann was before him, and Bob Bradley before him.

But that would also be true if the head of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, quit or was fired too. Even the people bleating that the U.S. shamed itself by losing to Trinidad and Tobago display the same kind of blinkered ignorance and arrogance that dogs this sport in America.

Being in CONCACAF is a gift from the heavens, and the U.S. has decided as a national collective to replace that with actual achievement. Beating Germany in friendly is proof of long-term worth. The fact is, we don’t know how to evaluate America’s place in the soccer world except as an audience, let alone how much massive structural change is required to change that.

And change must be massive, and can’t be evaluated by the next cheap win or the next galling loss, or television ratings. America is good at watching soccer, good enough to catch on the actual chasm between its national team and development structure.

But that’s where it ends, because knowing what’s bad because you just watched it, or what is actually good (like, say, a UEFA or CONMEBOL qualifier) is light years from knowing how to fix a system built on the flawed concepts of work rate without creativity and money as a solution to crippling organizational problems.

So Bruce Arena does the decent thing given the circumstances, falling on a sword that should actually be a kebab skewer. But it makes no difference. The American soccer structure needs to get what it needs before it can get what it wants, and there are no more shortcuts to take in a short-attention-span world.