Ray Ratto

Only answer to what we learned from NFL's preseason: Ask in 22 weeks


Only answer to what we learned from NFL's preseason: Ask in 22 weeks

Now that the NFL’s practice games are over and we are done enduring the “What did we learn from . . . ?” pieces in which we learn that we didn’t learn anything at all except that injuries are still bad, what will football fans do with the next 10 days?
Well, 49er fans, just to name a group at random, will muscle up their love for Kyle Shanahan because he’s really all they have for the moment. They can’t fully trust Brian Hoyer, they don’t know what to make of a draft class people like only on conjecture, and 2-14 is a deep ditch from which to climb. Shanahan has been praised as one of the superior offensive minds of the day, which reminds us that Lane Kiffin has also been praised as one of the superior offensive minds of the day. Correlation is not causation, though, and Shanahan might indeed be the face of a franchise that has only Jed York’s, and we see from the Levi’s Air Force how well that plays.
Raider fans, on the other hand, are watching their window of opportunity rise while wondering if they are destined to sneak in one last Lombardi Trophy in the last three years of their existence or forever be known as the Quebec Nordiques of the NFL – building a champion just in time for it to be crowned in another city.
Derek Carr is playing just the way you would expect the second highest-paid quarterback in the NFL would, and the offense is tasked with averaging 34 points a game just to stay ahead of its still too-generous defense, thus reaching the old AFL nostalgia freaks who are entering their dotage.
But we knew all this going into the practice season, and given that Roger Goodell keeps trying to shorten the practice season to add more games that count (because CTE is good for you, damn it!), the real thing we’re learning is that we are choosing as media conglomerates to lavish more attention on less important things based solely on the fact that people need their needles.
So enjoy the holiday weekend and strap in for the next 21 weeks of Armageddon rehearsals in which we will learn how quickly Kyle Shanahan’s image ages and how close to the New England Patriots the Raiders really are, because those are the questions that will be asked most often because they are ones that most completely will define their years.
And only then, 22 weeks from now, when we are asked what we learned, we can answer with a straight face, “Only 81 days until the draft!” because we like it on the hamster wheel and have no intention of ever getting off.

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.