Ray Ratto

Ratto: Bay Area coaches must walk a fine line

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Ratto: Bay Area coaches must walk a fine line

June 7, 2011RATTO ARCHIVE
Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Jeff Tedford is coming off his first losing season at Cal, and the Ursines are playing every game away from home this year. Mike MacIntyre is coming off a 1-11 season at San Jose State in which he lost a lot of starters. And David Shaw is entering his first year on the job at a national power -- well, Stanford -- so the pressure there is dancing on his windpipe like you wouldnt believe.

But be happy, kids. None of them are Bill Stewart. Or Jim Tressel. Or the SEC coaches who defended gray-shirting last week. Theyre just three guys trying to get by.

At least we hope they are. At this point, the college football business makes the monument to brazen venality it is, and anything is possible about anyone.

Yeah, we said it. Anyone. You dont know your coach. You dont know him at all. You dont know what he does, or how he does it. This isnt the old line about making sausage. This is not knowing whether theres even pork in the stuff.

So how does this affect our three poster children? Easy. College football doesnt mean that much to most of us. Oh, well kvetch about Tedfords inability to find a successor to Aaron Rodgers, and well look at SJSU and wonder how much longer it can go on as a program, and well fantasize about the good old days under Jim Harbaugh (two of them, mostly with Andrew Luck), but we dont have them hiding players who barter memorabilia for tats, or trying to set up their assistants for firing, or oversign their rosters without a thought for those who get strung along.

Or if we do, there arent enough of us to get our delicates in a knot over it.

Oh, we could be smug and say, These three noble and honorable men would never consider doing such things. And that might be so. They all seem like guys who would drink a beer with you without spitting in your ear.

And we might take the even more elitist road and say, These three magnificent institutions would never allow such things to occur, and that might be so, too. Funny the way when Cal is an exemplar, Stanford is a cesspool and vice versa, but thats just middle-aged fans arguing over the pate.

But this has nothing to do with elitism, or the basic rectitudes of MacIntyre, Shaw and Tedford. This has everything to do with a more basic truth, namely this:

Where there is attention, there is money. Where there is money, there is corruption. Where there is corruption, there is more money. Where there is more money, there is a need to defend the money by considering more corruption. Its the circle of life, and it leads either to shame, a statue, or an NFL job.

And we don't plow enough money or attention into any of these schools to consider the things that happen with such magnificent frequency in other parts of the country parts of the country where college football is king.

And keep your noses down, smugmeisters. We love the fact that the Raiders at their best wiped their feet on the ethics and morays of the NFL. We applauded with great vigor when Eddie DeBartolo spent his way to the top of the heap, and didnt care when they got caught cheating the salary cap. We dont mind our NFL teams weaseling their way to advantages, because thats what we care about. Thats where our money is. Or where it used to be before quality stopped being Job 1 at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway and 4949 Centennial.

So maybe its just about resources. Weve allotted our abilities to look the other way toward our pro teams, and our college teams . . . well, we dont have Bill Stewart or Jim Tressel. We dont have a national championship being lifted, and we dont sign more athletes than we can use. We cant afford it. Or we choose not to.

The point here is this: Virtue is nice to have, but it is often a sign of the meek and their relationship to the earth. Shaw, Tedford and MacIntyre seem like fine fellows; we have no compelling reason to think otherwise.

But when we start getting snotty about it, we should remember that there but for the grace of the Continental Divide and the Mason Dixon Line go us. Wed probably want them to cheat if we cared enough. This way just seems saner.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

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USATSI

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

The Monday after the conference championships is devoted to replaying the games we already saw, but Tuesday is devoted to the assembling of the narratives that we will weary of no later than Friday.

And while football purists and gamblers, two demographics on the opposite ends of the Moebius strip of degeneracy, will cheerily break the game down to its molecular level, the rest of us will resort to a few tired carthorses to get us to the start of our individual Super Bowl parties.

Starting with THE INEVITABILITY OF THE PATRIOTS

This will be an argument with no resolution, as those who see history as preordination will see New England as invulnerable, pointing to their record, Philadelphia’s record, and the comfort of the mortal lock. But if it helps you maintain suspense, the Patriots have never won, or even played in, a Super Bowl with a margin as high as a touchdown – the margins have been 3, 3, 3, 4, 4 and 6 in overtime. In short, Bill Belichick’s brain, while always impressive, has never been an overwhelming presence against John Fox, Andy Reid, Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll or Dan Quinn.

In other words, luck matters, and luck is good.

Next is THE LEGACY

This is ridiculous because the Patriots are in painting-the-gold-bar-gold territory. People long ago made up their minds on Belichick, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and the rest of the shifting cast of characters – they are either brilliant exemplars, or nefarious cheaters, or both. That’s the great thing about the Patriots – they can be heroes, villains and metaphors for 21st Century America, depending on what you decide. But their place as football figures has long ago been decided, this game will change none of that, and the only thing left is what to carve on the statues.

Third is AMERICA HATES THE PATRIOTS AND WANTS THE EAGLES TO WIN

There are lots of Americas out there, as we are learning every day, and more people probably are rooting for the Eagles just to see something different. That’s not the way to bet, I grant you, but the best way to handle these next two weeks if you do not wear either New England or Philadelphia jerseys is to say nothing. These are two fan bases with reputations, if you know what we mean, and even if you come across gentle souls with a rooting interest, play the percentages. Even the nice ones can turn at any moment.

And finally, JIMMY GAROPPOLO. This discussion only matters of Bob Kraft cops to telling Belichick he ordered him to be moved. Which he won't, damn his eyes. And if Brady looks good next Sunday, they'll take credit for a brilliant move that saved the franchise because history always works best in the rear-view mirror.

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

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AP

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

The voting for the NBA All-Star starters was properly instructive to both Adam Silver and the public at large about exactly what the game is meant to be – which is why I totally get their decision not to televise the All-Star draft.

It’s really a personality test for everyone involved, for good and ill.

I think having a draft nobody can see is idiotic, stealing an idea the NHL used and then discarded years ago and then not employing the reason why they did it to begin with, but if the All-Star Game is really an expression of ego, then the next best thing to having no draft is having one nobody can see.

The All-Star Game really only functions as a coronation of the elite by the elite, a festival of mutual backslapping friend-rewarding that has nothing to do with the playing of the game, or the moving of the T-shirts or jerseys or expensive hotel rooms. This is about stratifying the player pool so that everyone knows who’s who and what’s what.

Everything else is irrelevant, and the draft reinforces that. Kevin Durant not wanting to be a captain is strategic thinking by a future industrialist. Stephen Curry not minding being a captain is the perfect who-cares statement for someone who doesn’t mind playing the game because objecting to it takes too much work. LeBron James being a captain is the perfect political muscle-flexing that fits his personality.

Damian Lillard already assuming that he won’t be named to the team is a statement about his being considered the perpetual one-level-down guard. Russell Westbrook being named and then controlling the ball as he would in a regular season game is a statement about how he views his place as a disruptor. And on and on and on – the All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills.

Does televising the draft help us understand the actual meaning of the event? Maybe, but the NBA would prefer you consider it a festival of the game itself, which it plainly isn’t. Proof, you say? 192-182 in 2017. 196-173 in 2016. 163-158 in 2015. 163-155 in 2014. There hasn’t been a normal-looking score in 15 years, which means it’s not a game at all.

That isn’t the news, though. It’s that the NBA has made this is a three-day event – the day the captains and starters are named, the day the reserves are picked, and the day that teams are chosen. And every bit of it is about the reaction to that. There is no show thereafter, and the players know it. They care about the selections, because that’s how they’re keeping score.

So go team. Whatever the hell that means.