When Stanford didnt do a Heisman Trophy campaign for Toby Gerhart two years ago, it was a very cool notion. Put the man on the field and let his feet do the talking. It was right, and it worked he got more votes not preening than he would have if the school had preened on his behalf. He didnt win, of course he wasnt meant to. He went to the wrong school on the wrong side of the country, in a sport that is dominated in all ways by the southeastern and Midwestern chunk of the nation.So it is again, this time with Andrew Luck. David Shaw, his coach and a man so earnest you can do laser surgery with his sincerity, even went to the length of doing a power point presentation on Lucks behalf, showing how smart and clever and wonderful he is. How he missed the part about pulling the people out of the convalescent hospital while it was burning to the ground, well never know.But for all the 96 Sway Tango Edge Kill Spider 2 Y Banana Z Reno Alert 6 Zeus talk Shaw offered on his mans behalf, his argument suffered from one killing flaw.His guy apparently didnt want it.Even Shaw admitted that when he told his audience, I told him, Andrew, over the next week, were going to talk about you a lot, and youre going to hate every minute. Dont pay attention.Shaw then went on to say, But this is necessary. And the best thing is, none of it is fabricated.In fact, it was only necessary if Shaw was lying about how much Luck didnt want it. If he secretly enjoyed his coach defending his honor even though it hasnt really been besmirched, and if Shaw had deduced that, well, no harm in giving the kid a warm and fuzzy feeling on an otherwise drab Tuesday afternoon.But if he really didnt want a campaign, if it really made his spinal cord accordion up into the base of his neck, well, thats good enough for me. Lucks done plenty for Stanford, and if he wants something other than this in return, thats what he gets.I mean, if your kids been good this year and has a nice prezzie coming for Christmas, if he says he wants an iPhone 4, you dont get him Rosetta Stone.Besides, Shaw seems to have missed the one essential fact about the Heisman its not really a very useful tool for what Luck did, and if it mattered that much, he should have given him a couple of Go ahead, run up some numbers for the audience games.Of course, that would be cynical and neither Shaw nor Luck would feel good about it, so thats off the list. He played as he was meant to play, and thats either good enough or it isnt.But the Heisman is about numbers big, fat, wobbly numbers. And its about locale this matters more in SEC and Big XII and Big 10 and ACC country than it does out here except at USC, of course.And its absolutely not a character study, though some winners have plenty of character.Its about impressing voters, some of whom watch very little football, or have inbred local biases, or prefer running backs to all other creatures, or are prone to loud noisy campaigns. Not all of them, to be sure maybe the Heisman folks have winnowed out the herd to get rid of voters who just mail it in, and as someone whos never been offered a vote or particularly cared to have one, I can only say if theyre happy, Im happy.That said, if Luck didnt want a campaign, that should have been the end of it. Shaw could say, I can scream Andrews name every day between now and next Saturday, but it makes him uncomfortable because hes not about him, and if that doesnt move voters, then it doesnt move voters. Hes going to be bigger than all of us soon enough, anyway.The real point here is, each player should get to choose the campaign he wants anyway, rather than have it done by adults. Adults tend to do things on behalf of the young that make themselves feel good, and if that were such a grand idea, why dont more parents get invited to proms?Since Lucks Amish beard seems to reveal more about his view of fame than a chin ornament normally would, the Gerhart campaign strategy would have been ideal. Or maybe Shaw, in an attempt to right the wrongs of a balanced offense that involved a lot of people and got the Cardinal 11 more wins, should have done his powerpoint with a single legend:If You Really Have To Ask Why, You Wont Understand The Reason.It might have seemed a little snotty to some, but Luck wouldnt have spent Tuesday in full cringe. And isnt that reason enough to do it?Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com
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.
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.