Ray Ratto

Snow is the only thing making 2017 football bearable


Snow is the only thing making 2017 football bearable

Of all the criticisms about football in 2017, the one that has been least covered is the scandalous lack of snow games.

The two best games of the weekend, and this is not disputable, were Army-Navy and Indianapolis-Buffalo, a week after a glorious Grey Cup. Those were quality games playing in gloriously awful weather, and every city with a domed stadium wept knowing it will never know that level of joy.

Then again, both the Raiders and 49ers will be home this weekend, and the weather will be disgustingly clear here as well. In fact, other than Sault Ste. Marie, MI, and Caribou, ME, there isn’t supposed to be any snow at all in the 48 this weekend.

So the question we take into Week 15, and the start of the bowl season Saturday, is “Why bother?”

Sure there are big games – the Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City, New England at Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Rams at Seattle and Green Bay at Carolina, not to mention the five bowl games on Saturday (Boise State-Oregon at the Vegas Bowl is the best) – but the average temperature for the 15 non-domed cities is a barely brisk 48 degrees, with some possibly rain in Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and (big surprise here) Seattle.

And that’s not good enough. Not nearly. Snow is, frankly, the only thing making 2017 football bearable at all, and if Roger Goodell wanted to earn his newfound money, he'd be up seeding clouds this weekend and through the end of the season.

The Indy-Buffalo game was the best snow game of the century, easily beating the Tuck Game in 2002 and barely edging Lions-Eagles in 2013. The metric: inches of snow above shoe tops. LeSean McCoy, who also starred in the 2013 game (219 and two scores), won Sunday’s with 156 and the game-winner in overtime, and the snow Sunday was high-ankle-sprain/lower calves deep. McCoy had more trouble lifting his legs out of the snowbanks than he did evading Colts.

Now that’s quality entertainment, the kind which we need more of between now and the start of what we suspect will be a dismally clement postseason, meteorologically speaking.

So yes, in case you were wondering, this is just more proof that there is actually global warming. It is almost certainly the only good thing about global warming. But there still aren’t enough great snow games, unless we get better forecasts from The Weather Channel. And by better, we mean worse.

You know, like damned near everything else these days.

For next year's All-Star game, NBA should focus on what really matters


For next year's All-Star game, NBA should focus on what really matters

The National Basketball Association got only one real lift from All-Star Weekend, and that is that LeBron James got to summarily dismiss Laura Ingraham.
Other than that, the big announcement after a largely uninspiring weekend was that Commissioner Adam Silver is going to televise more of the only thing the All-Star Game is actually good for – the assembling of the teams.
I suppose that isn’t exactly the bounce the league was hoping for from its first experiment in a format the National Hockey League abandoned as dated and the National Football League couldn’t make people care about their Pro Bowl, but the league’s bounce is the league’s problem.
So are the introductions, which one supposes will be sped up next year in Charlotte so as not to allow folks to remember why the game was in Charlotte two years after it was supposed to be in Charlotte.
But the only real production values the league ought to care about are the identities of the players on the two teams, if only because of our obsession with what we erroneously call “snubs.” If the idea is to see players irked by not being named, or elated by being named, then that is where the league’s focus ought to be.
That point was made fairly clear when Chris Haynes of ESPN was given the identities of the last two players drafted on this year’s teams – Boston’s Al Horford and San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge. That was supposed to be a closely guarded secret apparently at the behest of Stephen Curry (who had a tough weekend himself), and yet it tumbled out like so many others – because it was one of the few curiosities about this event.
So if the idea is that the selection of the teams is the only real value other than the weekend price-gouging, then Silver’s job is to finish the job that begins by televising the draft – specifically, to televise the selections of the backups from which the draft emanates.
I mean, why do the players have to show their work while the coaches do not? Why is secrecy allowed for the suits but not for the sweats? What sort of anti-egalitarian message is being sent here? Fight the power! Rage against the machine!
And then when that’s done, the league should cozy up to Las Vegas again to undo some of the damage caused by its ridiculous “integrity fee” fiasco. After all, one of the undertold stories of the weekend was the way the betting line for the total plummeted once the smart guys figured out the two teams would not try to break 200, and everyone loves a betting coup. Thus, keeping up to date on betting trends, one of Silver’s ongoing initiatives, would seem to be an imperative in the years to come.
Well, that, and coaxing some fringe political yammerhead to insult one of the players for no decipherable reason. That one never fails to stick the landing.

Sabean's return: Giants want team's dominant mind to be dominant again


Sabean's return: Giants want team's dominant mind to be dominant again

Brian Sabean’s return to the con in San Francisco, as first reported by noted troublemaker and barista A. Baggarly in The Athletic, is not a turn back to the past as much as it is a demand for a better future.

That is, unless the Giants sign Tim Lincecum, in which case you never read Paragraph One.

But Sabean’s return means that Giants ownership (presumably president Larry Baer and major stockholder Charlie Johnson) wants the team’s dominant baseball mind to be dominant again.

This of course generates rich speculation about current general manager Bobby Evans’ future, but that probably is beside the point . . . at least through the current calendar year. This isn’t really about Evans specifically anyway – it’s about ownewrship’s impatience, fear of a worrisome unknown and need for the comfort of the man who succeeded.

The Giants are at a similar fork in the highway as they were when Sabean first took the job in 1997. The 1996 Giants were 68-94, older chronologically against the league average, offensively substandard and horrific as a pitching staff. A year later, they won 90, got younger, improved in both areas, and then did it again in 1998. From that turnaround, they began what can fairly be described as the franchise’s renaissance, which finally ended last year with what in the eyes of most baseball experts and all meaningful metrics was the fourth worst year in the franchise’s 136-year history.

And because Sabean actually never left daily contact with the team and its decision-makers, this isn’t your standard chase for past glories fixation. It is, however, a measure of how little patience the Giants are willing to be with their present predicament.

But mostly, this is the team understanding that its ability to identify, develop and lure young talents is what saved it at the turn of the century and will have to do so again at the turn of the decade if they intend to make 2017 a blip rather than a harbinger.

The Giants could conceivably spend their way back into relevance, but their money wasn’t good enough for Giancarlo Stanton when every other suitor would be paying exactly the same number, and for that matter neither was their reliance on “We won three rings and we have a full stadium.” That they thought their past could work more than their present with a player who is looking for a future is a sign that they have over-relied on the lure of the good old days.

So they want that changed . . . with the guy who built those good old days. If that seems inconsistent, well, it is. But impatience and fear are going to do what they do, and Brian Sabean is as good an answer as they are likely to find. Which is why they found it.