Ray Ratto

Ratto: America, we have a 'They' problem

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Ratto: America, we have a 'They' problem

Aug. 21, 2011

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You know what we have here in the wake of the Candlestick shooting, brawls, simple assaults and other entertainments Saturday night?

Another bad case of They.

As in, They did it. As in, Theyre the ones. As in, You know about them. As in, You know how They are. As in, Theyre the reason I dont do that any more.

One person was shot and fighting for life after the 49ers-Raiders game. Another was shot and hospitalized but is not believed to be in danger. People were beaten and beat others throughout the stadium and outside it. One fight lasted several minutes because cops were engaged breaking up another one in another part of the stadium.

RELATED: Two men shot outside Candlestick Park

And the immediate responses went right to They.

It doesnt matter who the They are. Everyone makes up their own They. They is the handiest pronoun of all because it means anything the user wants it to mean. Its the racistsexisttribalist battle cry. They.

And it dovetails with the other clich for the moment didnt anyone learn from the Bryan Stow Incident?

And the answer to that is, Of course not. Learning doesnt work when people think bad things are done only by Them.

We like to talk about cautionary tales all the time, and I think the main reason we do is because we like the sound of the phrase cautionary tale. It makes us sound smart. It makes us seem less like They. Whoever they is. People who use cautionary tale are good at lecturing Them.

But nobody takes caution from these tales, because affiliations and alcohol trump everything else. The football experience is a shared one for fans, and the tailgates prove that. Theres a lot of time to get fed, and drunk and, when things go badly for the people who sold your T-shirt, mean.

And we who have no hangovers or bulletholes or remorse can click our tongues and go tut-tut-tut and play the They card. Its a volatile world out there, these are two fan bases which have their shares of people looking for trouble, as well as people who just want to avoid it, and people who dont look for it but dont decline it when it arrives.

Thats not a They problem. Thats an Us problem. An All Of Us problem.

But as we can see in most other endeavors these days, we dont like to do All Of Us problems. Its too easy to go Them, and make it Their problem.

Which is where we are this morning. 49er fans blaming Raider fans, Raider fans blaming 49er fans, everyone blaming the stadium (as though concrete makes you drink and curse and ball your fists), and the Theys flying around like shrapnel.

This would have happened at the Coliseum, too. Or in Santa Clara too, by the way. Or in a new plant in Oakland. Its not location but proximity, and at least once every year the two teams and their supporters commingle. Thousands and thousands of Theys. The two teams will not stop playing each other. Its too convenient and expense-friendly for them. And they have their Theys too.

So dont be surprised that this episode of fan violence ends up like the others, with nothing being resolved, fingers being pointed, blame averted, and us all killing time jawing endlessly about why They must be held accountable -- until the next horrifying incident. And the reason will be the same every time.

Pronoun trouble.

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.