Ray Ratto

Super Bowl Week already has us asking how much too much is too much too much?


Super Bowl Week already has us asking how much too much is too much too much?

Super Bowl Week has kicked off, and we already know two things: It’s cold in Minneapolis and becomes colder with every media member who bitches about it, and Tom Brady’s five-year-old daughter is not suitable fare for swinish radio commentary, especially when delivered by someone at the station that pays Brady money to do a show for them.

The football stuff comes way later.

By now, Super Bowl Week has become a predictable hash of early narrative setting (expect a lot of Brady v. Belichick), staged and unfunny silliness (Media Night, which used to be Media Day before the NFL embarked on its wildly successful Programming ‘Til You Puke strategy), old stories retold for minimum effect (Radio Row at any given moment) and staggering pomposity based on over-rehearsed misdirection (the Commissioner’s Friday speech). And it ends with two days of game recap and armies of media saying the NFL will never come back to a place so cold, because this event should always end with media bitching.

It’s all part of the always-leave-them-wanting-less concept that makes you double down on the football-is-dying concept that has helped hasten football’s eventual death – which will come sometime all of us have reached the same frontier.

But the Brady Child narrative is the first real unscheduled moment, because beyond being thoroughly mean-spirited and gratuitous, it brings us to the Super Bowl’s great and rarely examined issue – how much too much is too much too much?

Put simply, the Super Bowl is the worst possible place to extol the virtues of excess, including (now) the character and behavior of preschoolers. It is all about entertainment gluttony no matter what taste level and both ends of the supply line, and the idea of fair comment rarely enters into the heads of anyone on the firing line. The beast must be fed, and if it means describing a five-year-old as “an annoying little pissant” as shown on the Brady family television series, well, that’s the danger of winning the conference championship, I guess.

This story will die, of course, and the perpetrator, WEEI’s Alex Reimer, will likely be underemployed for awhile, but it is one more reminder that the best way to approach Super Bowl Week, as a player, a coach, a fan and yes, even a media member, is to try and keep it as close to arm’s length away as possible. Nothing good ever comes of getting attention, or for that matter, seeing – and yet it is the Bitcoin of Super Bowl Week.

That, and it being cold. Which I thought we already knew.

Stephen Burbank, the real opinion that matters on Colin Kaepernick and the NFL


Stephen Burbank, the real opinion that matters on Colin Kaepernick and the NFL

John Elway explaining Colin Kaepernick is basically where outrage goes to die. It's just another move before checkmate, is all.
By now, people know how Elway dismissed the notion of Kaepernick as a Bronco by saying, “He had his chance. We made him an offer.” People know it was a lowball offer that Kaepernick, in the early stages of monitoring the market while still technically under contract to the San Francisco 49ers, quite reasonably declined. Elway knows that. He knows that you know that.
And he couldn’t be less interested in whether you think he might be engaging in a form of hypocrisy or disingenuousness – which, by the way, he pretty clearly is. Think what you like, he said. I’m not going to tell you all the owners are colluding to keep him out of the game, and if you don’t like the answer he gives you, he couldn’t care less.
It’s life in 21st century America, when we no longer shrink from the lies we tell, and when caught we simply shout them louder without any regard for reaction.
But even asking the Kaepernick question is an exercise in disingenuousness at this point. Nobody believes any team will ever consider him because the 32 owners are already in too deep on the "he's not good enough" cover story. We’re just waiting on the judgment by arbitrator Stephen Burbank on Kaepeernick's collusion claim.
That’s it. There’s your end game. Not John Elway’s contemptuous swat or any of the back stories from the other teams. Kaepernick is seeking to be paid by people who may have agreed in concert not to pay or play him, and the question is a legal one now rather than a football one.
It’s been a legal question for some time, in fact, because the owners made their stand to kneel before the current president and kneel on Kaepernick. They did math. They counted numbers. They considered money and ratings points and bought the whole “the anthem is killing us” narrative because they wanted to. Kaepernick gave the owners grief for doing something his own team and teammates did not at any point object to, and he is being made to pay for that.
It’s that simple, save Burbank’s judgment. Colin Kaepernick is not going to be a football player ever again, which is a risk he probably never thought would be an option when this all began but knows very well now. He hasn’t played in a year, isn’t going to play in this one or ever again. This is now an argument about damages.
Thus, asking John Elway about Colin Kaepernick was, in a certain way, a wasted exercise if the goal was to find out if there was any interest in Kaepernick as a Bronco. It was instructive, though, to see how dismissively Elway rid himself of the notion, and how willing he was to bend the fact to fit the answer. It was a short but very clear master class in crisis management – “You asked for an answer, you got an answer. It has little to do with the thrust of your question or the circumstances at the time, but that’s not the deal. I gave you words and you wrote them down, now go away.”
Life is so much easier when you don’t have to worry about the disapproval of others. That is, unless and until Stephen Burbank decides to make his own disapproval legally binding.

Golf is Tiger Woods, and the PGA Championship on Sunday confirmed that


Golf is Tiger Woods, and the PGA Championship on Sunday confirmed that

There are only 241 days of MegaTigerHype left until the 2019 Masters, which means 241 days for everyone on the PGA Tour to understand just how fully the sport they play.
They don’t play golf. They play Tiger. Put another way, America’s chosen prism reads Sunday’s PGA Championship as the day Brooks Koepka did well to almost match Woods, even though by the mathematics he actually beat him.
But you can’t hype Brooks Koepka, not yet. He is the younger Mike Trout still building his stage. Tiger is his own concert tour, and his own massive audience of golf fans, psychoanalysts and self-satisfied scolds.
And there is still big money in all those things.
It’s one thing to know something intellectually, of course – the old stove-is-hot lesson – but to see it and hear it is another thing. Golf is Tiger Woods, and the noise from Sunday confirmed that. Brooks Koepka is the new, young, not quite beloved Tiger, while Tiger is the avuncular, easier-mannered Nicklausian Tiger, and most of golfing America prefers what it’s used to seeing back in the good old days.
Tiger essentially did a medley of Tiger’s greatest hits on Sunday, and the album will sell millions. And after all, nobody breaks wallet locks quite like Tiger Woods.
Golf may be for the young athletically, but the audience is old and the audience wants to be told that what it believed 15 years ago is still true, no matter how youthfully the culture actually swings.
In that way, The Eldrick’s performance at the PGA Championship allows 40-Plus America to say, “See? See what I’ve been telling you?” And it also allows 20-Plus America to respond as it always does, by being in its room watching something else.
This, then, the real Tiger-ssance – the great instrument of change in golf getting his next star turn as the beating, money-churning heart of the establishment. He was the face of the next generation, but the next generation has been replaced by a new next generation, and that next generation has not yet decided what it feels about golf, let alone Brooks Koepka.
And let’s not forget that Tiger Woods was once a mightily polarizing figure himself, and that it took a decade of physical and emotional humbling for him to become the face of the good old days. Thus, at age 42, he has become not only a familiar face in new bloom, but an old and very familiar narrative point at the same time. He makes middle-aged people feel comfortable, which is the direct opposite of what he once did.
In short, Tiger Woods now understands the world’s infatuation with Jack Nicklaus when Woods was chasing his ghost. Not I-know-the-stove-is-hot intellectually, but in the most real way there is. Tiger Woods IS Jack Nicklaus, and that’s the weirdest sentence you will ever read 15 years ago.