Ray Ratto

The NFL has clearly lost control of its world

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AP

The NFL has clearly lost control of its world

The Oakland Raiders are 2-3. The San Francisco 49ers are 0-5. J.J. Watt and Odell Beckham are hurt. Los Angeles hates football – still.

Fortunately, you don’t have to care about that. The NFL never stops entertaining you with more and more stares into the abyss.

The Vice President of the United States, such as he is, spent government money to make a disdainful and fraudulent show about players at the San Francisco-Indianapolis game, and then put out a three-year-old tweet to back his appearance.

Reports from several cities indicate that owners have essentially threatened their players to no longer kneel for the anthem, though in true ownership fashion didn’t say what would happen to those who disobeyed. Except of course Jerry Jones, who can’t keep his mouth shut for a living.

And now a Nevada model has released video of Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Chris Foerster doing lines of cocaine, resulting in his resignation. The model, Kijuana Nige, a.k.a. Starr Sherrod, has said she will do more as a reaction to players being punished by the league. “This s--- easy for me,” she said.

Now that’s the sport we know and love.

How the NFL lost control of its world is worth a book or two, but it has clearly happened. Every fresh story is a new tire fire, and the league doesn’t have enough fingers and toes to plug all the holes. Not even actual football is distracting enough.

But there we go with real life again. These are bizarre times in America, and the most popular sport is now a magnet for the weird. It is an unintended consequence of the famous Mark Cuban quote about pigs getting fed and hogs getting slaughtered.

But the hog is a thousand feet high and miles wide, so it can take on lots more weird. Knowing as we do our new fascination with shameless opportunism (right, Mikey?), the league is going to have to do just that.

Ed Lee's favorite team was The City itself

Ed Lee's favorite team was The City itself

Ed Lee was an activist for San Francisco his entire life, before and while he was its mayor. He fought aggressively for the city both conceptually and in practice from the time he entered public life as a defender of immigrants rights in the 1980s until he was elected mayor in 2011.

Thus, his passing of a heart attack early Tuesday morning left a hole in the city and its view of itself that will not be easy to fill. This includes his city-centric sports view, which was always “What’s good for the city is good by me.”

Like most mayors, he was there for the grand times, like the last two Giants World Series parades and the two Warriors arena ribbon cuttings. He was an unabashed facilitator for the Warrior projects in particular, even though the Pier 30/32 project had to be relocated to the south when public opposition to the project overwhelmed his ability to move opinions.

He also was the mayor on duty when the 49ers left for Santa Clara in 2014, though that move was already well in the works before he took office, which is why it is typically misleading to credit or blame a mayor for an owner’s whims.

Lee, though, was an unambiguously pro-business mayor, and insofar as sports franchises are actually businesses with games attached, he was all-in on the Giants and, later, the Warriors. Both teams sent statements of condolence, acknowledging that he was more than willing to be at their sides when his political or persuasive skills were required.

His replacement for the moment, acting mayor London Breed, will likely not have as visible a presence on the sporting landscape, as the Warriors arena project is already well underway and the Giants are safely ensconced at Third and King.

Lee’s measure as mayor, though, was not his sporting profile, as it has been for other mayors across the country. His favorite team was The City itself, and he fought for it passionately until his death. In that way, he was as important to his constituency as Buster Posey or Stephen Curry is to theirs, so in the end he seems less like an interloper on the sporting landscape and more a passionate advocate for the city in which they played, or will play in the future.

The Cult of Jimmy is already in full swing

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The Cult of Jimmy is already in full swing

It’s been two games and one series. It’s been 74:43 of playing time, 143 plays, 822 total yards, 643 passing yards, 48 points, three touchdowns, nine field goals, seven punts, 43 first downs and a rating of 92.7. Mostly, it’s been two wins in two weeks after two wins in the previous 64.

So yes, the Cult Of Jimmy is already in full swing.

San Francisco 49er fans have always been thus, going back four generations. They have wanted to love their quarterbacks instantly and fervently, until they decide to hate them. Frankly, it has a bit of creepy about it.

And now, based on those numbers over those two games and that one series, it is the Cult of Jimmy.

Yes, Garoppolo. As though you needed to ask.

People who are late to the Bay Area think this is logical fandom, applying simplistic notions like “Well, he’s better than the guy he replaced,” or “they haven’t been very good, and he represents hope.”

But that’s not it. It’s airborne, passed by dreamy-eyed ravings in taverns and at the office and the loading dock and the store floor. It’s pathological. It cannot be resisted. It’s aggressively peculiar to 49er fans in ways that no other fan base endures.

And the thing that makes it worse is the notion that Garoppolo is also considered by some of our more adamantly superficial citizens as handsome/pretty/borderline hot. That adds romanticism to the cult, which really does veer the whole movement toward the outskirts of Creepytown.

And yeah, it is exactly that, so don’t deny it. People did this with Colin Kaepernick, and Jeff Garcia, and Steve Young, and Joe Montana, and John Brodie and Frankie Albert too. It is a rite of passage for 49er fans, and the people in the middle of it don’t think it’s happening when it is in full bloom.

But here’s what changes it, when it can be changed at all: So-so performances in the next three weeks against Tennessee, Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Rams. Three clearly superior teams (though Tennessee doesn’t exactly fill the heart with the same dread as the other two) that can test the 49ers in ways that neither the Chicago Bears nor Houston Texans could.

If Garoppolo reverts to the NFL quarterbacking mean in those three games, then he will move from cult object to argument starter, the way Kaepernick and Alex Smith did. But if they win two of the three, and especially if one of the two wins comes against the Rams, the Cult of Jimmy will become a full-on Montana-level religion. It will take on its own life with its own costumery (49er jerseys with the number 10 will challenge Kaepernick and even Montana jerseys), and woe to anyone who argues against it by pointing out that just as two games is too small a sample size, so is five.

In short, the next three weeks may or may explain the 49ers to you, but they will certainly explain the full effects of the Cult of Jimmy. It is the 49er Way that no slogan or marketing campaign can ever capture.