Ray Ratto

No reason whatsoever for Newton to be too clever by half, too contemptuous by double

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USATSI

No reason whatsoever for Newton to be too clever by half, too contemptuous by double

The Cam Newton/Jourdan Rodrigue story did what these stories are supposed to do -- go supernova, explode, and then leave a quiet dead spot in the universe.

And did so in less than a day.

You know the particulars -- Rodrigue, the Charlotte Observer writer and Carolina Panthers beat writer, asked Newton a fairly innocuous question about receiver Devin Funchess which Newton turned into a snippy pejorative of women, sportswriters and women sportswriters. Since then, someone deep-dove Rodrigue’s Twitter account and found her laughing at racist references (she apologized) and Dannon Yogurt dropped Newton as a spokesman in part because he didn’t (apologize, that is).

The clear takeaways are that Newton’s retrograde position on women in the business of sports was and is a public relations disaster, that Rodrigue’s weakness (her Twitter game) will become the secondary reasoning for Newton’s defenders, and that apologies remain the major way we as a culture measure someone’s ability to overcome an error in judgment (at best) and/or a sexism-racism debate (at worst).

And here’s the weirdest part of this very weird story. It was all over a simple question about Funchess that required only -- and I do mean ONLY -- that Newton pay compliment to one of his wide receivers.

The question was not accusatory in nature, or suggested some sort of shortcoming in either player. It wasn’t delving into team secrets or putting the Panthers in some sort of competitive disadvantage. Even if it was, the response Newton gave would be wrong, but in this case it was wrong for no good reason.

This will bear repeating as he eventually delivers the team-written apology, and when his agent scares up his next endorsement after the heat from the Dannon folks dissipates. Newton lost much by giving an answer to a question that had no risk at all and was even providing praise for a teammate.

And whether Funchess needs that or not is not relevant. Maybe his parents or friends or partner would have enjoyed it. Maybe he becomes a quick five-minute throwaway on one of the endlessly tedious and tediously endless midweek shows that gets him a bit of notice.

But Newton needed to be too clever by half and too contemptuous by double – FOR NO GAIN WHATSOEVER. NONE.

So while his views of women in sports are clearly problematic (and that’s giving him all the best of it, let’s be honest), it is the time and place and circumstances here that actually make this worse than he’s already been called. He became a talking point (which is about as bad as things get these days) because he couldn’t form the phrase, “Yes, Devin Funchess is a quite a help to me and all of us.”

Unbelievable. And yet completely believable.

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.