Ray Ratto

New XFL? Bring in these two NFL teams and see if you can fix them


New XFL? Bring in these two NFL teams and see if you can fix them

It’s easy to mock Vince McMahon’s proposed new football league, because it is so monumentally counter-intuitive to everything the universe knows about the  supply v. demand issues confronting the business.

In short, we have more football than ever, we seem to want less football than ever, so why not give us even more than too much? I imagine economics professors across the globe cramming their faces into their office shredders just contemplating it.
But we’re not anti-innovation, even if it is from a guy whose single contribution to mankind was to advance the monetization of professional wrestling. We are willing to consider this new venture from McMahon – the X Times 2 FL, if you must – if he starts small and shows us he has something to contribute.
In short, we let him start his league with the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and see if he can fix them.
The Browns are obvious, because their 88-216 (.289) record since being constituted as an expansion team in 1999 is the worst in all sports, and the Bucs are second worst at 255-404-1 (.389). The Browns have missed the playoffs all but once and have won more than five games only five times in 19 years, and the Bucs have played in two playoff games since winning the 2003 Super Bowl, lost them both, and haven’t played an extra game in a decade.
In other words, they both consistently stink, and even their most rabid fans have no argument to offer. They are safe choices to use as guinea pigs for McMahon’s apparently megadaft idea.
I mean, we could have asked for a position paper on how he would deal with the brain injury problem, though his history suggests his solution is to not care. We could have asked him to get young people more involved in watching the sport (let alone playing it, which is a parent issue), but he’s at the stage of his life where playing for the short money is all the playing he can do. We could suggest he define what a catch is, which seems to be beyond the skills of the NFL’s finest minds.
But no, let’s make him start slow. Give him the Browns and Bucs and say, “Here’s the ground floor, Skippy. Start stacking bricks.” And if he does that, he can have a few more fixer-uppers, like Detroit, Cincinnati, Houston and the New York Jets. This way, he can demonstrate his business and showmanship acumen while not giving America more teams it doesn’t care about in a sport that more and more people find less and less appealing.

And you're welcome. We do this stuff all the time, and it costs you nothing. You can't ask for a fairer deal than that.

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.