Ray Ratto

Soccer NIT is the most American idea of them all

usmnt-ap.jpg
AP

Soccer NIT is the most American idea of them all

Either Peru or New Zealand will be the 32nd country to qualify for the 2018 World Cup (and depending on how late you read this today, one already will). This matters to you almost not at all because you are way too hot for the Soccer NIT.
 
Yes, there is a move afoot by some U.S, entrepreneurs to organize an ad hoc tournament of big-name countries that didn’t qualify for the World Cup (your Americans, you Italians, your Dutch, your Chileans, your Ivorians, et. al.), and it almost surely the most American idea of them all.
 
Greed-based, and stupid.
 
The teams that failed to qualify failed on the merits, as is always the case. The despair and tears and anger in the countries of the expelled were real, and will serve as the fuel for the next quadrennial chase for a berth in Qatar (or anywhere else on earth, if someone powerful comes to his or her senses).
 
But Americans have decided that if they can’t play with the big kids, they’ll set up their own game, as though there aren’t enough soccer competitions already, as though the idea of World Cup For Losers is something people have been craving, as though this wasn’t what it actually is.
 
Someone trying to force-feed us soccer we don’t care about because the soccer we do care about doesn’t include us. It’s the epitome of sore-loser-dom in search of a quick payday, a tantrum with ticket prices, and a trophy that reminds the winner that being name the 33rd-best team in the world is more insult than praise – just like the NIT’s search for the 69th best college basketball team in the country, the CBI’s search for the 85th best, and the CIT’s search for the 111th best.
 
Frankly, nobody should make a profit off the US Men’s National Team’s collapse. It should be a time for everyone to sit in the corner and reflect on all the advantages it barfed up in failing to qualify this time, not inflate some nonsense competition with other countries who should be bathing in equivalent bitterness.
 
After all, the United States of all places knows more about the value of an NIT than anywhere else, and that value is the answer to this question:
 
Without looking it up, name the last five NIT winners.
 
You can’t, and if you can, you should still be ashamed. I rest my case.

Taking politics out of sports? Now that’s a more interesting idea

draymond-obama-steph.jpg
AP

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

melvin-us.jpg
USATSI

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.