Ray Ratto

Warriors still one win away, but they are already jump-starting the next era of NBA basketball

Warriors still one win away, but they are already jump-starting the next era of NBA basketball

There is no more NBA basketball this year – just securing the final parade permits and the same idiot-driven offseason legacy arguments and hare-brained contract-and-free-agency specuguesses that fueled the last two summers.

Two great summers, by the way, because the smell of burning money beats every perfume ever made.

Oh, there’s another game contractually required of them, and maybe even two – 2017, after all, taught us the punishment for pre-counting hens while they are still in their ovoid state. In other words, Cleveland isn’t officially dead until the coroner’s clock reads 00:00.

But in real terms, Kevin Durant put the hammer to 2017-18 Wednesday night, and though it would have happened eventually anyway at the hand of someone else, in this dimension, on this planet, Durant is the designated steel-drivin’ man.

[LISTEN: Warriors Outsiders Podcast: 15 down, one to go -- Kevin Durant was epic in Game 3]

You can already sense the rest of the nation edging away from the wreckage at Ontario and Huron. This series was declared over before the SEASON began, and the Warriors have overcome their own 85- and 90-percent nights to proving that very thing. Even LeBron James, a competitor of singular ferocity, has done two extended public service announcements for the Warrior Way. This is done, in thought, word and deed.

None of which matters to the Warriors themselves, of course. Winners get to dismiss the proles because that’s the culture we have made, and in the NBA, where royal families are defined by the uniform rather than the bloodline (well, except for the Colangelos), the Warriors have found that it’s still damned good to be the king.

But fame is a total whackjob sometimes, and Golden State validating every year-old opinion is its own crime, because the committed basketball viewer wants the bizarre plot twist and the adrenalized surprise ending, even if the raw ratings numbers say that casual fans will watch anyway.

In fact, it gets better and worse at the same time. There is a totally crackpot-driven notion that James might want to talk with the Warriors sours more people than it intrigues, including most Warrior fans. Indeed, the recasting of the Warriors for 2018-19 has begun, because the death of one narrative only causes the blooming of three others, even if the old narrative doesn’t have video to go with the script quite yet.

In other words, it’s never too soon to build a new bar for the Warriors to clear. Having comprehensively finished LeBron’s Cleveland days, they are now jump-starting the next era of NBA basketball, with them as ground zero.

And their new great white whales are not necessarily Boston or Philadelphia or LeBron James’ next team, but less substantial things – like history, like time, like the lure of greener pastures . . .

. . . like what they want to be AFTER they’ve all grown up. If this is their zenith, how do they prolong the decade they dominated into the next one? They need a new mountain to build as well as climb because they are their best when they have something that needs scaling, and the rigors of this season were made more obvious by that absence.

Or maybe they just learn to beat LeBron by taking him on as part of the “new” Warriors. It has zero chance of happening, it could kill the game for good and it will make the Warriors’ next luxury tax bill as high as the franchise valuation, but it will have the lava tsunami of narrative building the chattering classes seem to love so much.

In other words, we have gone with them through the magic year, the dominant year with the bitter ending, the dominant year with the dominant ending, and the year in which they beat boredom by compartmentalizing it. The only things left are legacy chases, cash-ins and history. And it all starts as soon as they can tidy what they are doing to these Finals.

The biggest problem with what Bill James said about baseball players


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.