Ray Ratto

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

The Super Bowl is today, which means the best day of the year is fast approaching.

Namely, the day after the Super Bowl.

At that point, we as a nation can complete the inventory of gastric damage we did to ourselves on what shall be known to future generations as Fried Festivus.

At that point, the people who bombard us daily with news of the game – the least important part of the week-long trade show, as we have come to learn it – will all be on planes and too tired to re-explain what we already saw 37 times on game day.

At that point, nobody will care that Terrell Owens was apparently one of the first of the 15 Hall of Fame finalists to be rejected for induction because of crimes against the NFL state. The Hall of Fame is one of the sneaky ways in which the NFL never lets us escape its obnoxiously shouty profile, and the fact that Owens is right about the flawed process doesn’t change the fact that he’ll be just fine with the process when it allows him passage.

At that point, we’ll know whether Tom Brady is to be deemed a god, or merely maintain his demigod status. At least we’ll hear more about it, because it is easily the most tiresome debate in the football diaspora, engaged in by idiots with no better idea about how to kill time. A note: If you think Tom Brady is a greater quarterback because his team won a fifth ring, or a lesser one because he didn’t, your head is now officially empty enough to be reclassified a dance hall, and you are of no more value to normal society than a papier-mache goose.

And at that point, we can return to the two things we in these parts care to know – where the Raiders are going, and how the 49ers are going to present their new football brain trust.

We needn’t explain the Raiders again to you, first because you’ve heard it all if you’re paying any attention at all. Mark Davis has been trying to cobble deals at a frantic pace in hopes that one will stick, and his 31 fellow owners still have to decide how much longer they want to endure him, while faced with the painful fact that the East Bay is getting out of the exploitative license-to-be-stolen-from stadium business. They also get to know as they go to the meeting in Houston that will ostensibly decide Davis’ fate that they have ruined California as a market by their excessive greed-laced stupidity and deserve every lousy market the state can give them.

Which brings us to the 49ers, and the latest round of Judge Them By Their Press Conferences.

If there is anything worse than this team’s on-field profile, which is why Jed York hired Kyle Shanahan, it is the way it explains itself to the outside world, which is why Jed York hired John Lynch. Both Shanahan and Lynch will be paraded before a braying mobs, probably Tuesday, and York will be there as well for the cheesy photo array and a few unconvincing words of praise about each of them (as a note, Paraag Marathe will be present but only in hologrammatic form).

They will then promise – well, something or other – and Lynch will be hailed as the face of the glorious future because the man he replaced, Trent Baalke, had the public persona of a meth-tweaked hyena. Hard to find, and not worth it when you did.

Then we’ll all remember that the job Shanalynch (or Lynchahan, depending on what part of Ireland you’re from) are being asked to do is a three-year reclamation at the very least, and that the only useful question either can be asked is “Can you fix this before Jed gets embarrassed and angry and cans you both?”

And on Wednesday, there’s the start of pre-draft prep (in order words, The Eighty-Day Slave Market), and the hamster wheel to hell gears up again toward Super Bowl LII.

Only next year, the chances of relocation hysteria and a front office upheaval are that much less, and we haven’t sufficient distractions to make the year go faster.

But enjoy Fried Festivus. We can always look forward to that, even if we change the name back in December to the more traditional "Christmas."

Why Condoleezza Rice to the Browns really isn't all that crazy

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AP

Why Condoleezza Rice to the Browns really isn't all that crazy

The immediate reaction to the Cleveland Browns’ reported interest in interviewing Condoleezza Rice for its head coaching job is, “Well, that’s nuts, so it must be the Browns.”

That would explain why the Browns denied the story within a couple of hours of its appearance via ESPN. Rice herself also downplayed the report.
 
But one of the best tests for an idea always has been, “What’s the idea here, and what’s the harm?” And that’s where the idea stops being all that crazy.
 
If one considers what Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State, can provide -- ideas, concepts, ways of thinking and problem solving -- the idea is clear. And if one then thinks about the harm -- there is none, except to the old world order.
 
But the dismissive nature of the denial indicates the Browns either weren’t interested in Rice as a coaching candidate or didn’t want the traditionalist backlash. In short, there’s nothing to see here ... except maybe this.
 
Maybe you could think of it as an interview for a different job, a better and more influential job than head coach, a job unlike any other in the sport. Think of it as Consultant Without Portfolio.
 
Owner Jimmy Haslam, who seems to have left the footballing to general manager John Dorsey, is trying to make the Browns less, well, Brown-y, even though he is part of the reason for their Brownsiness, and without a firm idea of how to do it himself is opening the organization to the waft of different ideas. If a Rice interview happens, no matter how you term it, it would be evidence that Haslam and therefore Dorsey are willing to cast a wide search for those ideas.
 
Then the hard part would begin, namely, deciding what ideas are worth considering and to what extent. And there, the Browns’ track record has been almost uniformly poor. You don’t get to be this anti-functional without a series of errors in judgment that seemed like good ideas at the time.
 
Rice has been offered up by the rumor mill for other jobs in her time, including NFL commissioner, which is a phenomenally well-compensated lousy job in that the 32 bosses never can be made happy, no matter what. To be interviewed by the Browns is not much of a stretch.
 
But being interviewed specifically for the head coaching job currently held on an interim basis by Gregg Williams is what made heads snap, because by traditional standards, she has remarkably thin qualifications. As in, she’s never coached football at any level for even a moment.
 
So let’s calm everyone’s fevered brains and just say she might be interviewed by the Browns for a position of influence with the club. And to be honest, the way power is devolving away from the coach and toward the front office in all sports, being the head coach of the Cleveland Browns might in fact be beneath her skill set.
 
So while the headline is “Rice May Interview For Browns Coaching Job,” maybe it’s better that the Browns backed away from the idea before it got real traction. Maybe the headline is “Rice May Be Interviewed For Big-Deal Browns Job.” That way, we don’t have to distract ourselves with the tiresome and diversionary arguments about qualifications and gender roles. Maybe it’s interesting enough that she’s in line for an interview that might help reverse the Browns’ ongoing comedic turn.
 
That beats being the head coach every time.

The biggest problem with what Bill James said about baseball players

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AP

The biggest problem with what Bill James said about baseball players

Bill James, one of the founding fathers of baseball analytics, is not an idiot, despite what he said about Major League Baseball players being replaceable. Technically, after all, he is correct, because all baseball players except those current active have in fact been replaced.
 
But of course, that isn’t what he’s saying at all, and not what he said in a Twitter discussion. Here, indeed, is what he did say:
 
“If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are.”
 
Now THIS is idiotic, and given that he is a consultant for the Boston Red Sox, who just won the World Series with 25 particularly gifted beer vendors, a source of great embarrassment to his employers (they pay for his consultation time, after all). It was at least embarrassing enough to him that he deleted it later, and has been doing the Twitter perp walk today to clarify, expand and, in some cases, limit his remarks.
 
In short, he replaced his remarks.
 
The Red Sox fled his first bit of typing immediately, of course, given that they have built a team they wish to maintain with people one of their contributing brains regarded, at least in one context, as “replaceable” by commingling them with anyone who can yell, “BEER!” repeatedly while walking up and down stairs.
 
And don’t get me wrong here. Beer vendors are fine and contributing members of society, and part of the entertainment that surrounds baseball. We hail them, their throats, and their arches.
 
But James dismissed them as replaceable, too, even though which is exactly the kind of logic one would expect to hear when collective bargaining negotiations begin, either with the Major League Baseball Players Association or with the concessions unions.
 
The problem, of course, is not that James said something silly/stupid, or that he retreated from it. That happens all the time.
 
It is that baseball is in a particularly fragile state culturally, and the idea that players are interchangeable is diametrically opposed to where the market of professional sports consumption is heading. 
 
In other words, baseball is not in a place to want to get smarmy about its product, even if the smarmer in question is “only a consultant” rather than an employee, a distinction the Red Sox took great care to make in its statement of repudiation of James’ analysis of players’ market value.
 
But even more than that, James’ gift to baseball is analytical, and measuring players and their deeds and making projections from those measurements is what made him worth hearing in a baseball context. All that work flies in the face of a statement that can and has been construed to lump them all into a congealed heap of disposableness.
 
Willie McCovey was by no means replaceable in any context, which is why the Giants held a memorial service for him before thousands at the ballpark Thursday. Mookie Betts is by no means replaceable because the city of Boston feted him and his teammates in a gigantic parade through its streets.
 
And baseball is popular entertainment, and entertainment is built on the basic notion that some people are exceptional at a thing other people wish to enjoy and perhaps even pay for the ability to see or hear. Those exceptional people may be replaceable in the biological sense, but not in any rational cultural sense.
 
Thus, James’ walk-back recognizes both the wasp hive he disturbed and the flaws in his expression. But the original words will linger far longer than his mea culpae, and will be referenced when the fun and games of collective bargaining negotiations begin. In short, he said something which ignored nuance and created an unintended and emotional backlash.
 
In short, not very analytical at all.