Ray Ratto

Even with NFL trade deadline activity, 2017 is still 'The Year of the League Office'


Even with NFL trade deadline activity, 2017 is still 'The Year of the League Office'

The NFL trade deadline could not have come at a better time for commissioner Roger Goodell. Between Jimmy Garoppolo, Jay Ajayi, Jimmy Garoppolo, Duane Brown and Jimmy Garoppolo, the conversation about Goodell’s diminishing viability with Jerry Jones and the rapacious hardliners (as opposed to the rapacious moderates or the rapacious doves) diminished.

But the tempête de merde is never that far away for Goodell. After the Garoppolo trade turned football on its ear, Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension was upheld by district court judge Katherine Polk Failla (who did so by rejecting an NFL Players Association appeal of the suspension that had already been vacated once, or something like that). This reminded Jones that Goodell must die – metaphorically, I mean. It's a Halloween thing, not an actual idea.

Then Colin Kaepernick’s lawyer for his pending collusion suit against the league, Mark Geragos, declared on the Adam Carolla Show that his client would be signed by an nfl team within 10 days based on . . . ohh, I don’t know, werewolf entrails?

This further reminded the 32 wallets that the league is in chaos, and the business of making obscene amounts of money is never not in jeopardy, and that means Jones gets to use that as the stalking horse to continue his principal pastime of hunting gingers in suits.

And therein lies the consistent beauty of the NFL in 2017. While our attention is easy to divert – hell, the Garoppolo trade is the most delightful player move in years if you measure such things by the vats of speculative drooling it inspires – the core business is still Topic A this year, and the core business remains wobblier than at any time since the All-American Football Conference rose up in 1946.

And by wobblier, we mean the future of that core business, which is generating money for people who already have it. The NFL will not die easily, and probably not in our lifetimes, but the league is being surrounded by cultural forces beyond its control and is dealing with them all with the surgical dexterity of a drunken bear in a giant sack.

So Jimmy Garoppolo did his best. He turned the offseason on its ear, may have begun the Great Resuscitation of the corpse impersonation in Santa Clara, and may have forced Tom Brady to finally declare his mutant status as an immortal.

But in the end, 2017 is still The Year Of The League Office, and nothing says “I’m doing something else” to an audience quite like that.

For NFL owners, there's tons of cash in self-embarrassment


For NFL owners, there's tons of cash in self-embarrassment

The National Football League’s monumental inability to do anything but make money for its 32 owners has been discussed for, well, years, and as a shark-jumping exercise, it has finally reached landfall.  

Thus, the Miami Dolphins’ decision to first issue a nine-page discipline doctrine to its players that included a four-game suspension for protesting social issues during the National Anthem, and then walk it back within hours of the predictable outrage reminded us again of that first paragraph:  

That the NFL is only succeeding despite itself because America isn’t yet ready to abandon its football habit.  

But that’s not today epistle. The real question here is what the league’s owners perceive as the benefit they derive from never getting this right – as to give it its proper name, always looking foolish whatever side of the social protest discussion they hold at any point.  

There must be an up-side for the owners here because they are either smart people or have hired smart people, and they have met incessantly about this issue. There must be some profit in looking like dithering cowards and cowardly ditherers all at the same time.  

I’m just damned if I know how they’re doing it.  

The 32 owners, from Mark Davis and Jed York to Jerry Jones and Bob Kraft, are magnificent at making money where none could be found. It’s how billionaires become multibillionaires – having a seventh sense that allows them to divine massive piles of cash where everyone else finds sand.    

So there must be cash in self-embarrassment, and if there is, these 32 folks are the best ever at rooting it out and seizing it.  

Typically this level of persistent failure is accompanied by loss of money, and in some cases the end of the business itself. Football, though, is still in its too-big-to-fail stage, so there is no chance of imminent collapse.  

But dealing with issues this poorly for this long seems to come without punishment other than ridicule, and ridicule is still free. The owners must see some financial advantage in not only refusing to deal with something this simple, but dealing with it by deliberately misunderstanding the nature of social protest, allowing politicians to hijack the topic, punishing players while allegedly supporting them, and ultimately looking like that rarest of nature’s beasts, the cynical spineless bully.  

There’s cash in this stance somewhere, and it is up to a bold forensic accountant to figure out how they do it. My guess is, some yammering owner (my money’s on Jones, because he can’t shut up on any subject) will blow the whole gaff. Owners who used to be religious in their devotion to omerta, the Mafia’s vow of silence, now leak and preen and brag and strut their stuff as though they were the athletes they pay, and Jones is usually the worst at it.  

So I guess we’ll just have to wait until he cozies up to one of his favorite medioids and spills the story of how this seeming failure was actually a success, and how the owners knew what we mere humans could never comprehend:  

That there is money in seeming eternally dumbfounded by something so simple, and wearing that persistent bafflement like a highway worker’s vest and a light-up fez.

They do that, and we will take a knee in honor of their brilliance. Until then, we’ll just continue to assume their bumbling fecklessness is purely accidental.


Raiders' exit feels much more imminent after reported broadcaster swap


Raiders' exit feels much more imminent after reported broadcaster swap

If Mark Davis really has decided to end Greg Papa’s tenure as the radio voice of the Oakland Raiders, then one of the last links between Oakland and the Raiders now is broken.
Rumors have spun for the better part of a month that Davis was looking to plant another flag in Las Vegas soil, and within the past few days, veteran network broadcaster Brent Musburger’s name has been linked to the job. Musburger is the main voice at gambling radio station VSiN and lives in Las Vegas, and as such is as recognizable a voice for the town as there is. The news of Musberger's hire by the Raiders was reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal late Tuesday.
The news picked up speed earlier Tuesday, first when tweeted out by “FakeRudyMartzke,” a largely credible voice on broadcasting gossip, and then picked up by AwfulAnnouncing.com and The Athletic. 
This would just be another inside-broadcasting story, though, if not for the fact that Papa, who's also a host for NBC Sports Bay Area, represents the second incarnation of the Oakland Raiders as Bill King represented the first, and breaking with that two years before the team’s actual departure from the Bay is another stark reminder of that departure.
The Raiders have not yet faced a real fan backlash over the decision to leave for Las Vegas, in large part because the process has gone so slowly and involved so many other cities. People have not only had a chance to face the fact that their team is leaving again, but the departure is not yet imminent.
Imminent arrives soon enough, though, and with it all the substantive and peripheral changes that will make the Raiders Nevada’s team. That Davis’ decision involves one of his father Al’s most trusted confidants also makes this another break with the old days, thus reinforcing Mark’s control of how the Raiders present themselves to the outside world.
The details on why Musburger has signed on for 2018 rather than 2020, when the Raiders are scheduled to relocate, still are to be ferreted out, but a team’s broadcaster, especially one with Papa’s tenure (21 years), is among the most enduring links between that team and its fan base, and change is jarring, especially as a harbinger of even bigger changes.
It is a change, though, that Davis is willing to undertake pre-emptively, either out of eagerness to begin the Las Vegas portion of his ownership or some professional/personal dissatisfaction with Papa. It breaks one of the last enduring bonds of this quarter-century of Oakland Raiders football, and with the minimal likelihood that there will ever be a third, this decision borders on the epochal.
In other words, Mark Davis now is making the Raiders' departure that much more real, and he's apparently ready to begin facing the belated reaction of a city scorned.