Ray Ratto

Let Steve Young's brilliant Monday Night Football idea come true

steve-young-ap.jpg
AP

Let Steve Young's brilliant Monday Night Football idea come true

Steve Young recently told KNBR’s Tom Tolbert that he still wasn’t interested in replacing new Raiders coach Jon Gruden in the Monday Night Football analyst’s chair – “still,” as in he’s been approached before and declined, for the only legitimate dodge left on the books -- family reasons.
 
“I cannot take a job where you disappear for four days a week for five months,” Young said, later adding, “If I could do it from my backyard, sure, I’d do it.”
 
And therein lies an idea – a brilliant idea, if I do steal and say so myself.
 
Let Young do the games from his backyard. Put a camera back there and let him work from a lounge chair beside what I imagine is a pool. He should have a beer and snacks at hand, and his kids should be allowed to run in front of him and make noise like they would normally, because that’s how most of us watch the games. Maybe he can bring the neighbors over for a little ‘cue, as long as they don’t F-bomb through his pregame chat with Sean McDonough.
 
After all, these are not grand secrets he will be imparting. He is not going to be able to articulate the secrets of the bubble screen or the two-deep zone any more cleverly than any other analyst – he will just sound more agreeable and less cartoonish doing it. And if the payment for that sense of informality is him in a Tommy Bahama shirt, cargo shorts, flip-flops and a frothy IPA, well, what’s the harm.
 
I mean, it’s not like he would be torpedoing ratings momentum. This has been another year of diminishing viewership for the NFL, which continues to struggle with the “F” in its acronym – football. Catches aren’t catches, fumbles aren’t fumbles, holds aren’t holds, first down measurements need office supplies, and nobody can explain why the overseer on the Planet Replay is no better at getting calls right than the guys on the ground.
 
So why not Young lounging in his backyard? Or his garage? Or the hardware store? Or the local tavern? If McDonough needs company in the booth, there is a vast wildlife preserve of ex-players roaming the hills and flats just waiting to share insipid tales of jet sweeps and momentum shifts while Young sits working the business end of a pina colada and providing the big picture the sport is so weak at providing. Frankly, I'm stupefied that it hasn't been done already.
 
This has been A Tramp’s View Inside The Television Garbage Fire, and I will happily accept the standard consultants fee when this is universally adapted. 

Why it's better to be an Athletic than a Giant at this All-Star break

asgreenhappy.jpg
USATSI

Why it's better to be an Athletic than a Giant at this All-Star break

As we have reached the point in our sporting experience at which we often prefer the imaginary world to the real one (see gambling, futures odds, daily fantasy, draft and combine obsessions, just to name an obnoxious few), let’s check in on Major League Baseball at the All-Star break.
 
But not as it is, but how it would be if wins and losses corresponded to what they should be based on our great, noble and very dead friend Pythagoras.
 
Now there are many forms of the expected wins theorem because the formulas used to calculate how to metricize run differential are different, but we’ll just pick a few to annoy and amaze you. First, your American League, ranked by how they would be seeded in the postseason:
 
BOSTON (actual 68-30, 65-33 by baseballreference.com and MLB.com, 106-56 projected by Fangraphs)
HOUSTON                          64-35/70-29/104-58 
CLEVELAND                    52-43/55-40/92-70
NEW YORK YANKEES     62-33/61-34/103-59
SEATTLE                            58-39/48-49/90-72
 
By this, the Red Sox lead the Astros and Yankees by 4 ½ games but trails in expected wins by 4 ½. Houston leads Seattle by five games but should lead by 21. The Yankees would have the third-best record, and the Indians barely would make it, only because they're in the worst division ever divided.
 
But Seattle is the funny team because of this:
 
OAKLAND                          55-42/51-46/87-75
TAMPA BAY                      49-47/50-45/80-82
L.A. ANGELS                    49-48/51-46/81-81
 
Based on run differential, the Mariners are three games worse than all three, and being swept in Colorado was unhelpful. Thus, what we have here is four sure things and the Mariners trying to hold off the A’s, Rays, and Angels. In short, here is the future of the American League:
 
July 27-29: Mariners at Angels
July 31-August 2: Rays at Angels
August 10-12: A’s at Angels
August 30-September 2: Mariners at A’s
September 13-16: Mariners at Angels
September 14-16; A’s at Rays
September 18-20: Angels at A’s
September 24-26: A’s at Mariners
September 28-30: A’s at Mariners.
 
The National League is a much bigger mess, and the Giants are looking up at most of it:
 
CHICAGO CUBS                   55-38/58-35/94-58
PHILADELPHIA                    53-42/49-46/85-77
L.A. DODGERS                      53-43/57-39/91-71
MILWAUKEE                          55-43/54-44/86-76
ATLANTA                                 52-42/54-40/84-78
ARIZONA                                  53-44/53-44/86-76
COLORADO                             51-45/48-48/83-79
ST. LOUIS                           48-46/48-46/83-79
SAN FRANCISCO                 50-48/46-52/82-80
WASHINGTON                       48-48/51-45/86-76
PITTSBURGH                          48-49/46-51/80-82
 
By this analysis, the Cubs and Dodgers would win their divisions comfortably, and the Nationals, Phillies, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Braves, Rockies and Cardinals would play about 150 games against each other to fill the other three spots. Now that would be the kind of baffling months-long madness we find great fun.
 
But the two teams that aren’t in that group, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, won’t share said fun by these numbers. They are .500 teams who are overachieving to get there, and the Pirates already figure to be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline.
 
The Giants probably won’t be either buyers or sellers, and are in any event positioning themselves for 2019, hoping to figure out what to do about the 46 percent of the payroll taken up by Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon this year, next year and 2020 (hint: contracts will be eaten).
 
In short, based on enjoyment, value and general optimism, it is better to be an Athletic at this All-Star break than a Giant. Plus, it's still easier to mind one team ahead of you and two potentially behind you than seven ahead of you.
 
But it’s good to have dreams. Beer, and dreams.

Distance between the U.S. and SoccerWorld is more vast than ever

soccerteens.jpg
AP

Distance between the U.S. and SoccerWorld is more vast than ever

The World Cup was over for about eight seconds when the good people at Bovada.com whirled into action and made up a futures book for the 2022 World Cup – mostly because degeneracy never sleeps.
 
But also because the run-up to the World Cup In Hell, as the Qatar competition will come to be known, is a good way to establish just how hungry American soccer believers are in getting back into the anticipation game. The U.S. national team, as shambolic as it has been in nearly three decades, is listed as a cool 80-1, the 16th-highest rated team on the planet, generously tied with Denmark, mostly because there will be betting action on the USNMT just so people who want to bet the Yanks can manufacture excitement after a year of utterly mockable inertia.
 
And that’s the key here – this isn’t a measure of the nation’s place in the international game that just captivated us for a month, not at all. The U.S. couldn’t even be 32nd this year and suddenly, with nothing more to bank upon than four more birthdays for Christian Pulisic, they have improved 16 places merely because they are probably more bettable now than they will be for years.
 
We just established that as a nation we can be thrilled by the World Cup without even a hint of America, but that’s not the lesson that will be learned here. The lesson is that teeny little Croatia could get to the final game, and that this was the World Cup in which the chalk mostly failed. France was considered a lively underdog but hardly the equal of Brazil or Spain or Argentina or Germany, and the final four included an improbably happy and agenda-free England side and Belgium’s latest golden generation.
 
And individually, the tournament was not dominated by any single player, no matter how much Fox wanted to cram Ronaldo and Messi and Kane down our constricted yaps. The standouts were Mbappe and Modric and Pogba and Kante and Hazard and Griezmann and Perisic and Pickford – all well known to soccer aficionados, but very much against the run of narrative play.
 
In short, for casual fans it helped to know the players, but mostly the fans came anyway because Americans love to label-shop if their own team isn’t involved, and the World Cup has a great label even despite the continued involvement of FIFA.
 
But as for the Americans, being 80-1 with only 1,590 days left to get themselves together and put up not only a coherent side but a coherent plan installed by coherent men and women seems, well, low. The distance between the U.S. and SoccerWorld is more vast than ever, and now that casual fans have figured out that the flag is less important than the field, the U.S. will not just be able to toss out a few strips of bunting and call itself America’s team. It will have to earn it with actual play.
 
This flies in the face of what America does best – throwing the party. The 2026 World Cup will be America at its most competent and organized, and maybe with 3,000 days of prep time it can deliver even better goods than it did in 1994.
 
But the team itself . . . well, even if you accept the very generous 80-1 line as even minimally valid, it has light years to travel. The U.S. stepped back while the rest of the world stepped forward, and a World Cup as entertainingly unpredictable as this will make it harder, not easier, for the Americans to claim the place it insists for itself by virtue of . . . well, saying it should have a place.
 
If they’re to be one of the 32 again, they will have to re-learn what it is like to be and act like the outsider. Other than Pulisic, feeling ostracized as not good enough is probably the best tool in their shed.

In the meantime, "go you degenerates!" or as the French say, "allez vous dégénérés!" You can show the country the way by betting the Yanks down to, oh, say 75-1.