Ray Ratto

Warriors cap off weirdest, hardest run with fitting ending

Warriors cap off weirdest, hardest run with fitting ending

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Coverage of the Warriors 2018 Championship Parade begins Tuesday at 9:30am on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming on NBCSportsBayArea.com.

In some ways this was the perfect way to end the Warriors’ weirdest championship run – clinically, purposefully, almost cruelly.

Their 108-85 victory over the soon-to-be-freeze-dried Cleveland Cavaliers had none of the incandescent moments typically associated with Golden State at its best, no bursts of jaw-slackening brilliance or stretches of amazement, but it showed them at their remorseless best. They stole Cleveland’s heart, held it up for a gobsmacked arena crowd and the nation as a whole to see, and in a silent arena, they crushed it with one ruthless squeeze.

They showed anyone who needed further evidence that they have no peers, or even challengers. They sent the NBA into the offseason no better off than it was a year ago, and maybe a bit worse.

And though there were numbers to behold (Stephen Curry finished with 37 points and Kevin Durant triple-doubled his way to his second consecutive Finals MVP), this 103rd game, this 74th win, was the basketball version of watching a snake eat.

The Warriors defended LeBron James into the role of a passer with nobody to pass to, and rendered Kevin Love inert as a second option. They intercepted passes, slapped the ball out of careless Cavalier hands, took care of the ball and distributed it with the sureness usually found in scrimmages.

In all, the Warriors gave Steve Kerr and themselves exactly the game he enjoys most – a suffocating beatdown that denied their most serious rival even the barest illusion of hope.

They left no doubt and destroyed all doubters. They engaged the rivalry with Cleveland, they won the rivalry, and they killed the rivalry so surely that they and they made the LeBron James Era in Cleveland mostly bittersweet.

Not that is what James should be noted for, mind you. He is far more than the results of these four series, he was brilliant even as the futility of that brilliance became evident, and he did keep his word about winning one for Ohio. But when he left the game with 4:03 to play to a sustained ovation, he made sure to congratulate all the Warriors on the floor as an acknowledgement of what they did to his homecoming.

They ended it. With a concussive thud.

This was the hardest year for the Warriors, between the injuries and the ennui, and there was a sense that they viewed this victory with a mixture of joy and relief. But that might have been simply the fact that they started celebrating well before the actual game ended, because they assembled a game so complete and unyielding that it never actually reached the level of fun most associated with this team.

This was about business, and this was delivered with a businessman’s ruthlessness. This was the Warriors telling a skeptical world they have all the ways to win the league at their command, including denial of the opponent’s right to function. This was them not apologizing for ruining the league. This was them striding across the sport as the first team of this century, truly turning the switch at will and replacing the bulbs with floodlights once the postseason began.

This may not be a dynasty in the classic sense because it still lacks the third consecutive title that the Lakers of the ‘50s and ‘Oughts, the Celtics of the ‘60s and the Bulls of the ’90s, but it feels like one, and it looks like one that still has plenty of sting in its tail.

And there is no sign anywhere that there is a team even remotely close to challenging their claim that they are still years away from completing their run. They were once charming and fun and giddy and bubbly, but they have matured as champions. They are now clearly far too good for the field in all the ways good can be measured.

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

The biggest problem with what Bill James said about baseball players

billjamesap.jpg
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. 

Time for 49ers, Raiders fans to turn to Gandhi on Thursday Night Football

Time for 49ers, Raiders fans to turn to Gandhi on Thursday Night Football

OK, no more whining. You’re all done. We’re all done. Thursday night is coming, and unless you’re planning to leave the planet either physically or ethereally, there is no point going on about it all week.
 
The Oakland Raiders will play the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, and it will be horrific. Two of the three worst records in the NFL (2-13), the two worst records against the spread in the NFL or CFL, and all but three teams in college football, and two teams going nowhere at Warp 2 will face each other in what will NOT be for Bay Area bragging rights. Nobody is bragging about this, trust me.
 
That’s the set-up, kids. Nothing good comes out of this whatsoever, and not even the notion that the teams will never play each other again while sharing the same geographical area saves it. It is the very essence of athletic toxicity.
 
And now we’re done. These are the conditions that prevail, and since you well might be fans of either team (or both, if you’ve been raised poorly), your choice is clear.
 
You have to Gandhi the week, accept the scorn, and move on.
 
You have no arguments to “Your team sucks” to offer even each other, so why raise your blood pressure? You cannot even dog New York Giants fans; at least they have a tougher schedule and the inside track for the Justin Herbert sweepstakes, so why agitate yourself needlessly? You don’t even get the satisfaction of firing your coach like Cleveland did Monday morning after Cleveland fired its NBA coach on Sunday morning, thereby doubling its civic pleasure, so the road from Hell has not yet been graded, let alone paved.
 
Your game -- sorry, this game -- is the worst prime-time game BY STATISTICAL FACT after Halloween in the history of television, so just deal with it as Gandhi did -- with non-violent resistance in the form of enduring what you must now and gathering the strength in time to refuse what cannot be accepted.
 
And by “deal with it,” we mean agree with every taunt, every snide remark, every chunk of ill-intended smack. Nod knowingly and say, “Yep, you got me there, champ. My team sucks the concrete off the sidewalk, no question. You’re very smart to point that out to me. I wouldn’t have realized it without your generous help. Thank you.”
 
And then walk away. Sticks and stones might hurt you, but your only response can be abject agreement followed by tactical retreat. Verbal abuse needs something flammable to keep it lit, and whether you’ve moved to the other end of the bar, the other end of the street or the other end of the galaxy, they can’t hit what they can’t reach.
 
Plus, smack without response really is just bullying, and if your bullying needs someone else’s team allegiance as tinder, then your skill is not a quality skill. Anyone can punch down; the best punch up.
 
And you, who cannot punch at all, can only get through the week by accepting your fate: “Yes, your team is better. Yes, your team’s record is a direct result of your superior character. Yes, you are a genius by wearing the correct piece of laundry. I can only apologize for stealing air that rightfully belongs to you.”
 
And then absent yourself, silently plotting your revenge.
 
Now that last part isn’t what Gandhi would do. He did resist the injustices of colonial rule and repression over decades, but he knew in the end that he would get his back. And the Raiders and 49ers cannot be bad forever – that job is apparently reserved for the Browns.
 
That’s when you get yours back, and double. All you need is patience, and for your team to stop decomposing.
 
Oh, you Raiders fans might give in to the temptation of badmouthing the 49ers in the months you have left to bother before they leave for Las Vegas, but it won’t be a satisfying experience. Beating the 49ers when they’re good is better, because beating the mighty is always better than beating the equally lame.
 
And the same is true of 49ers fans. If your team has beaten the Raiders, what exactly are you winning? A slightly lower draft choice? Hardly seems worth it.
 
So, as you are inundated this week by the well-earned negativity your teams have presented you, escape quietly to a more peaceful place. Watch the game if you must, pass on it if you can, and spend your time in more fruitful pursuits.
 
Say, alphabetizing your children’s candy and take out the good stuff when they’re not looking. Sure, it’s punching down, but when the reward is a Three Musketeers that you didn’t work for -- well, every bit of sound advice comes with an asterisk.