Aug 17, 2011

As the great Ray Ratto said,

Re baseball, "It is all foreplay until September."  I miss Ray Ratto a lot.  He used to write for the SF Examiner, back when The City had two Big Newspapers.  (I remember in 1992 when I moved here that the fairly Liberal SFChronicle- still kicking today, barely- actually had a living Hearst on the Editorial Board.  He wrote the (minority opinion) Presidential Endorsement.  Hearst picked Daddy Bush.  What a maroon.)  The Examiner, which was even a little more Liberal than the Chron, and was an Afternoon City Daily, back in the olden daies, when Afternoon Dailies still existed, tanked, natch, and many of the Examiner folks came to work for the Hearst outfit.  Ray Ratto joined the Chron and carried on with his twice weekly column and even wrote game stories on the frickin' Sharks.

Then, the internet happened, of course.  Publishers started worrying more about their stockholders and their profit margins, almost completely forgetting about the folks and the communities that read the damn thing and suddenly many of the Chron's best writers (and probably editors) left or were "let go".  (Luckily, we still have Jon Carroll.  I do not know how that happened.)

In terms of The Sporting Green (Sports) section the first I was sad to see go was Tim Keown.  He went on to become a freelancer, oftentimes writing for ESPN, The Magazine.  Or, maybe now their Website, whatever.  He is much better in smudgy print.  He wrote the game story for the Giants' infamous 1993, Dusty Baker starting fricking Salamon Torres on the last day of the season to make the playoffs after the team had just about fucking moved to Florida the year before but got bought by the Safeway folks and acquired frickin Barry Bonds and went through this miraculous season where they won over a hundred games but did not make the playoffs cause the Braves won one more game back in the great old daies before stupid interleague play and wild cards and because Dusty Baker started fricking Salamon Torres on the last day of the season.  (Whew!) The Dodgers and Lasorda, who had none playoff aspirations, at all, started Orel Hershiser, just to piss the Giants off, probably.  Torres did not last but a few innings and the Giants lost, like ten to one (or none), or something.  Anyhoo, Tim Keown wrote the greatest game story I have ever read that day.

(Writing game stories is a piece of piss, by the way.  Anyone can do it, just about.  But writing good or great game stories (especially today) is very very hard.  When you read them in the papers these days, you really remember and treasure them.  Back a billion years ago in the glory days of Ring Lardner it was different.  Back then Lardner misspelled words on purpose, put songs or poetry straight in to the copy and did whatever the fuck he pleased, and he was amazing.  His fiction is to die for, too.  John Sayles played a dead-ringer Lardner in his movie, Eight Men Out.  And Lardner is Holden Caulfield's favorite author, too.  Plus, Lardner's son, Lardner Jr, wrote the screenplay for Altman's excellent, groundbreaking M*A*S*H.)

Then Ira Miller left.  Miller covers the NFL better than anyone alive.  He is way better than ESPN's John Clayton, and Miller has to do most of his work in print.  Clayton is a meat puppet pundit.  Miller was, of course, very fortunate to be working here when the 'Niners were the shit.  My favorite Miller moment was when he alone saw the coming of the new AFC dominated NFL (the Superbowl works like the MLB All-Star Game and the Texas/OU game, in that it works in long cycles of dominance for one side over the other) and picked Elway's (really Terrell Davis') Broncos over Brett Favre and the Packers.  I do not know if you remember just how little chance the Broncos were given in that most excellent of Superbowls?

Finally, Ratto was gone, too.  I was crushed.  Ratto worked Johnny Rotten's immortal, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" line in to a column once.  (And, do not forget, Rotten uttered that in San Francisco, in Jan 1978.)  I cannot remember if it was a Monday column or a game story (prob a column) but Ratto's article about the famous USFL rematch between Kelly's Bills and Young's 'Niners (a game the Bills won up here, in Candlestick; a game which ended like, 45-41, or something, and neither team punted) was some of the best sportswriting I have ever read.  (And I grew up in Dallas with Dan Jenkins, Blackie Sherrod and Skip Bayliss [before he turned in to a twat.])  Ratto was the only guy up here who gave a tinker's damn about the Sharks and was a v quick read on hockey.  His columns on the seven game Sharks playoff upset of the Blues back in the late 90s were great.

Now, the Sporting Green's shining stars are Bruce Jenkins and Henry Schulman.  Schulman is the beat reporter for the Giants and is v old and has been covering baseball and the Giants  since the Stretch McCovey days, I suppose.  Jenkins is always raving about Schulman.  To me, though, Schulman seems past his prime.  He is not much of a writer and John Shea, who is marginally better, is being blocked at the position like an shortstop stuck at AAA behind Cal Ripken, or whatnot.

Bruce Jenkins, on the other hand, who is the serious  Major Domo in the Sports Room, and can cover whatever the fuck he pleases (which is the Giants, the Warriors [ugh], tennis [he looooves himself some Serena], golf, Cal football [double triple ugh]) is a man I have serious issues with.

Albeit, he does have his good points.  Jenkins is a v good writer.  Why, just last week, he wrote a tender, hopefu,l beautiful column about the Giants' win on Grateful Dead day at the ballpark.  (ESPN did a neat thing, too, that day, showing the highlights through a lava lamp filter.)  And, Jenkins is old school.  He loved hanging out at the Pink Pony and he is not PC, at all.  He does not find anything wrong with drinkin' or smoking.  And he is the only writer, pundit, whathaveyou, who thinks that Tiger manager, Jim Leyland, having to sneak off to the hallway to smoke his cigarettes is absolutely ludicrous.  He's the fucking manager, one of the best of our generation.  If Leyland wants to smoke and the players do not give a shit, let him smoke.  Lately, he has also been spot-on re Tiger Woods, as well.  i.e.  That it is fucking time that we move on and stop covering every single thing Tiger does.  Who cares anymore?

Like Pee-Wee sed, though, everyone has got a big but.  My big but with Jenkins centers around baseball.  Jenkins rarely writes columns.  His showpiece is a proto-blog called Three Dot Lounge which appears every Saturday morning, unless he is on vacay, natch.  This, itself, is a flat-out rip-off off of Blackie Sherrod's groundbreaking (and prob the first ever Sports Blog) Hither and Yon columns back in Dallas, which ran from Bud Wilkinson up until Phi Slamma Jamma.  Look, I understand how desperate the situation was in 1992, trying to keep an Original NL franchise in one of the greatest cities of the world, San Francisco.  And I know how important Barry Bonds was to that, to keep Jenkins' beloved Giants here.  But to ignore the obvious cheating, and pardon Bonds' insane, assholish, arrogant behavior to his own teammates, for crying out loud, and then claim a false equivalency, that Hank Aaron (not Mays, mind you) used "greenies" (speed) back in his day, is repulsive to me.  I know it is sports, not the Washington beat, but Jenkins is still supposedly a journalist, right? To be a Barry Bonds apologist two or three times a week in the paper is so unseemly, to me.  Especially when it was the hard hard working news guys at the Chron (his co-workers, for crying out loud) who busted the story wide-open! (Like you could not tell just looking at Bonds, anyway.)

Naturally, since Bonds' "retirement" (which, still, has not officially happened) and the Giants' World Title, Jenkins has "toughened" up a bit on Bonds but still rails at any sportswriter that would not put Bonds in the Hall of Fame, first ballot.

Jenkins is also hopelessly aghast at sabermetrics, Moneyball, whathaveyou.  Just a couple of weeks ago he lashed out at the A's organization for "working the count."  His plum source for this amazing insight? The Dad of a former Major League A's player who was traded away.  He then backed up this Major Revelation in another column, less than a week later, QED, because the Giants got two big hits in a game, swinging at the first pitch.

First off, a game, (four or five plate appearances) is what we like to call an SSSS, a Super Small Sample Size, and no matter how important that game is (this one was not, by the way) it is not in any single frickin way indicative of a batter's skill or a franchise's batting philosophy.  Second, the "free-swingin'" World Champion Giants are one of the worst offenses in baseball today, even at full-strength!

Jenkins is also a gawd-awful National League snob.  I never met these folks til I moved up here and they are extremely annoying.  And it is silly, besides, thinking one league is vastly superior to the other, especially, mainly because in one league the pitcher bats and in the other, he does not.  So childish.

I have got to go.  Renee is on her way home and the Rangers have a huge showdown against the hottest pitcher in baseball right now, Ervin Santana.

I love you all.  I hope you enjoyed my post about sportswriting and Ray Ratto and the SF Chron and I would urge all of you to please please please buy a newspaper a few times a week.  Pretty soon they will all be gone and that will be a v sad day, indeed.

xxx ooo


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