Ray Ratto

Snow is the only thing making 2017 football bearable

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AP

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.

Winning bid for 2026 World Cup highlights America’s ability to throw massive party, not grow the sport

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AP

Winning bid for 2026 World Cup highlights America’s ability to throw massive party, not grow the sport

The United States’ pre-eminent role in world soccer was reaffirmed Wednesday when the 2026 World Cup bid it shared with Canada and Mexico was approved by FIFA.

And when we say “pre-eminent role,” yes, we mean money – the official language of FIFA. I mean, the United bid threw so much promised money at FIFA that it didn’t even have to spend a lot of time apologizing for the current U.S. administration, which is a great deal of money indeed.

But the bid, which crushed one from Morocco, was also described by U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro as a likely catalyst for greater expansion of the sport in the U.S., to perhaps as many as 10 million registered soccer players from a current level of four million.

But we had been led to believe by soccer people that the expansion fight had already been won. And which, we were assured, was the reason for the 1994 World Cup, the last one held in the U.S.

In fact, linking the World Cup to soccer growth in America has always been a tenuous one. The sport grows at its own pace, and even after that World Cup and the creation and multiple expansions of Major League Soccer, the game’s hold in America is still fungible. Those four million registered players in America are out of 330 million, 1.2 percent, a similar percentage to 1994, and the 2026 World Cup is somehow supposed to fix that.

Well, that isn’t how these things work. The World Cup will generate billions in revenue (though the bid’s estimate of $14 billion seems wildly high), and rich folks will get richer. But this is more an acknowledgement of America’s ability to throw a massive party than its ability to grow the sport.

You see, the spectacle, and the money it churns, is still America’s most enduring link to the sport. Winning the 2026 bid is largely being framed as a grand consolation prize for the U.S. team throwing up all over itself and failing to qualify for the 2018 Mundial, which begins Thursday morning.

But it doesn’t truly affect “the growth of the game” because most of the money that will come in, estimate or no, will be great for the business of the sport. That’s where it traditionally stops. It will not create, and is not designed to create, the kind of fundamental changes that will make the U.S. more than a third-tier nation in terms of talent spotted and developed.

That will take more and more purposeful work, and the financial windfall of a World Cup is not the same as growing the sport. Period.

So yes, by all means hail the United bid (as it is called) is a triumph for North American soccer. But it’s mostly a triumph for money . . . as these things typically are.

Where does Golden State's Game 4 clincher rank among Warriors-Cavs Finals matchups?

Where does Golden State's Game 4 clincher rank among Warriors-Cavs Finals matchups?

Warriors-Cavaliers is almost certainly a closed book now, an episodic drama that has finally reached end-of-show status. There is nothing left to tell, no secrets left to unearth. The braids have been undone, and this part of NBA history is now, well, history.

That is, unless LeBron James either falls back in love with owner Dan Gilbert or can be convinced (or convince himself) that the job he is going to is worse than the job he wants to leave.

With that as the apocalyptic backdrop, we now present The All-22 View, the list of the 22 Finals games between these two teams in rough order of impact.

SERIES ONE, GAME SIX, WARRIORS, 105-97

The Warriors’ first clincher in 40 years, a changing of the guard led by Stephen Curry’s 25, Andre Iguodala’s 25 and Draymond Green’s first triple-double. Also LeBron James’ final concession to the weariness of overuse (35-of-89 in the final three games, 6-of-22 from three on an average of 44 minutes per game).

SERIES ONE, GAME FOUR: WARRIORS, 103-82

The game in which Iguodala was inserted into the starting lineup to clamp down on James, break Cleveland’s momentum, and he did it so well (see above) that he won Finals MVP and became a national name and jump-started the Warrior Decade.

SERIES TWO, GAME FOUR: WARRIORS, 108-97

James baited Green into the suspension avoided in the Western Conference Finals when his foot took over his brain and found Stephen Adams’ goolies. It helped reverse a series clearly in Golden State’s favor and made “Blown 3-1 Lead” a meme.

SERIES TWO, GAME SEVEN: CAVALIDERS, 93-89

The Cavaliers break up the Warrior dynasty before it starts because Kyrie Irving hits the only shot by either team in the last 4:48, and because both Curry and Klay Thompson shoot dreadfully throughout the game. This provides the Warriors daily motivation for the Hamptons vacation that changed basketball.

SERIES FOUR, GAME FOUR: WARRIORS, 108-85

The most ruthless game against a good team the Warriors have ever played. Curry went for 37, Durant had a triple-double, JaVale McGee was glorious, but most of all they finished LeBron James’ time in Cleveland with the most comprehensive beating in all areas. It was an unfair fight from the anthem on.

SERIES THREE, GAME FIVE: WARRIORS, 129-120

The second clinch, and the night Kevin Durant outgunned James and cemented the idea in the old and narrow-minded that free agency comes with an asterisk that punishes players for entering into a contract with someone who wants them. James has the best numbers (41/13/8) but the Warriors have the most best numbers (Durant 39/6/5, Curry 34/6/10, Green 10/12/5, Iguodala 20/4/3).

SERIES TWO, GAME FIVE: CAVALIERS, 112-97

The Green suspension, when added to the injury to Andrew Bogut that left the Warriors too small and insufficiently bulky to prevent a 15-point Cleveland win in Oakland, and worse to come.

SERIES ONE, GAME TWO: CAVALIERS, 95-93

Curry’s worst night in any Finals (5-for-23, 2-for-15 from three), while James evened the series with a 39/16/11 triple-double in a 95-93 win.

SERIES FOUR, GAME ONE: WARRIORS, 124-114

J.R. Smith overcame James’ 51-point night with the kind of thing J.R. Smith makes famous, and the overtime rout by Goplden State guaranteed the first series of the modern era to be clinched in Game 1.

SERIES FOUR, GAME THREE: WARRIORS, 110-92

Durant’s 43 points and unadulterated brashness provide more than sufficient cover for brutal shooting nights from Curry and Thompson, and becomes the sure-thing MVP...until Game 4, when he still ended up MVP, but by a narrower margin.

SERIES THREE, GAME FOUR: CAVALIERS, 137-116

The Warriors lose their chance to out-Moses Malone and go fo’-fo’-fo’-fo’. In fairness, Irving’s 40 and James’ 31 had something to do with it, too.

SERIES ONE, GAME ONE: WARRIORS, 108-100

James had 41, but the Warriors showed the moment was not too big for them. A confidence-booster for a first-timer that allowed them to overcome Cleveland’s next two wins despite the loss of Kyrie Irving.

SERIES THREE, GAME ONE: WARRIORS, 113-91

Durant put down an initial deposit on the best years of his career by going 38/9/8 in a lopsided opener.

SERIES FOUR, GAME TWO: WARRIORS, 122-103

Hot off the mess that was Game 1, Curry broke the playoff record for threes, including five in the fourth, showing a fresh glimpse of why he is James’ truest rival for the nation’s heart attention.

SERIES TWO, GAME SIX: CAVALIERS, 115-101

James had 41 despite the return of Green, and forced the Warriors to contemplate their mortality in a series they surely had mentally celebrated.

SERIES THREE, GAME TWO: WARRIORS, 132-113

James doesn’t even play 40 minutes (one of three times that occurred in these games) as Durant had the second of his five consecutive 30-point games.

SERIES ONE, GAME FIVE: WARRIORS, 104-91

Curry’s 37 turns the series back in Golden State’s favor enough that nobody expects Cleveland to rally, and it didn’t. James’ 40 was marked by exhaustion as the toll of having no Irving finally weighed him down for good.

SERIES THREE, GAME THREE: WARRIORS, 118-113

The closest game of the series, won only because Durant (31/9/4) was joined by Thompson’s 30 and Curry’s 26 to trump James and Irving combining for 77.

SERIES ONE, GAME THREE: CAVALIERS, 96-91

James goes for 40, 12 and 8 without Irving, but the spectre of the Iggy Colossus awaits.

SERIES TWO, GAME THREE: CAVALIERS, 120-90

Cleveland responds to losses in the first two games by smashing the Warriors by the widest margin in the rivalry. Seems innocuous now, but at the time it gave the Cavs a life they seized upon later in the series.

SERIES TWO, GAME TWO: WARRIORS, 110-77

The least explicable game of the 22, because of what came afterward. It may have lulled the Warriors into a false sense of superiority, but they were young, and had much to learn, mostly at the back of LeBron’s hand.

SERIES TWO, GAME ONE: WARRIORS, 104-89

Given what happened next in the series and in the rivalry, the least memorable of all. I mean, a 15-point Warrior win seemed so normal at this point. Little did we know.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
Game 2 Warriors 122, Cavs 103
Game 3 Warriors 110, Cavs 102
Game 4 Warriors 108, Cavs 85