Ratto: Don't hang Sharks' Gm. 2 crash on Eager


Ratto: Don't hang Sharks' Gm. 2 crash on Eager

May 18, 2011


Ray Ratto

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The San Jose Sharks have been here before -- asking themselves, at least to themselves, if they really are prepared to pay full retail for being in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.Wednesday, though, the questions came with a surprising answer: Well, Ben Eager did -- sort of.This wont be a salute to Eagers game, which was a one-goal, four-penalty-plus-a-misconduct mess of hyperactivity. He gave some, and gave up more. He was Ben Eager, period.But he wasnt what turned Game 2 of the Western Conference Final with the Vancouver Canucks into the 7-3 failure-ama it became. He did not act out of character. Which may be the problem with too many of his mates.
Without a doubt, head coach Todd McLellan said when asked if this was another classic Sharks system failure. I'm not going to sit here and try to protect them. We lost composure, we were frustrated. As I said earlier, when you're second, you tend to be frustrated. We've got some work to do. We've got some guys that need to ask themselves some questions, answer them, and pull the skates a little tighter.What, again?Yes, apparently. Again. Too many simple one-on-one battles lost to the Canucks. Too many mistakes that come from those lost battles. And in the third period, a festival of venting that made a 3-2 game that they might have tied against the run of play into a game they let deteriorate into one of their worst postseason performances ever.Be not fooled. San Jos did not lose this game; Vancouver won it by being better across the board. Sure, the winning goal by defenseman Kevin Bieksa, on a breakaway started while the Sharks were all up ice even though Vancouvers Chris Higgins had the puck was a killer -- he broke in clear and without making much of a move wristed a 24-footer low to Antti Niemis glove side.I thought one of the turning points, in my opinion, was their third goal, McLellan said. We have a set forecheck. We've practiced that since September. A player gets skated, all of a sudden it's in your net. You can't chase this team. They're too good. You have to play with them or ahead of them. From there it started to unravel.And it did. Thats where Eagers contributions turned sour. Boarding Daniel Sedin . . . tripping Mason Raymond in front of the Vancouver bench to set up Higgins goal, Vancouvers fourth . . . a roughing call on Roberto Luongo that happened while he was scoring San Joses final goal . . . then a cross-checking and a misconduct penalty nine second from games end.But the game was lost earlier than the box scores indicates. Vancouver is the superior side, and there can be no more doubt about that. Whatever the Sharks get from this series will have to come in defiance of the odds, the skill level and the competition.But this is exactly how they got the reputation for hitting E too early.
Yes, Vancouver is better, but not four goals better, not dominating possession and zone time better, and certainly not composure better. Even Bieksas fight with Patrick Marleau late in the second period, which had some Sharks grousing about Bieksas reputation as a guy who fights selectively against non-heavyweights, produced no useful response from the Sharks.And heres the killer, again from McLellan.We had some guys that really showed up and committed themselves to the team. Then we had some guys that weren't sure.That is the most damning sentence of all. And heres the second worst.We've got to regroup," he said. "We've got to find some composure, take our battle level up. With that being said, as I mentioned, there's a few people in our group, and I'm not going to hide them anymore, they have to ask themselves whether or not they want to keep on competing.And the ones to whom McLellan referred?I'll hide that part. You guys get to decide.Thats the worst sign of all -- when a coach lets the media pick out the players who worked hard enough from the ones who didnt. Thats the international sign of, OK, you guys did it to yourselves again. Now youre going to undo it, or live with the consequences.This is a tactic that sometimes works. It is also the last card in the deck. There is nothing more after this except the players themselves -- raw and naked against a buffeting wind of derision and disrespect. They either make this a series now, or they slink off worse off than they were when they began -- and back on the list of the games great underachievers.And Ben Eager? He was Ben Eager to the end, which is more than can be said of too many of his mates.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

The neck-breaking rise and fall of daily fantasy sports


The neck-breaking rise and fall of daily fantasy sports

The apparent cratering of the Draft Kings/Fan Duel phenomenon is largely a tale of greed gone wild, with coatings of arrogance and bullying through advertising, not to mention naked avarice, raw cupidity and what the Greeks used to call “pleonexia,” which is Greek for greed, avarice and cupidity.

It is a tale of what happens when you try to game a system that’s bigger than your own without cutting the people who run the bigger system in on the goods. It’s alleged wise guys finding out that it’s easier to skirt the law when you make the law. And it’s very definitely guys who got out over their skis trying to dominate a market that was doing fine on its own.

And hey, what’s better than smart guys getting theirs?

But there is actually a greater lesson in this for all of us, and it is this: Fantasy sports leagues are best left as small, interactive tribes whose competitors see each other, talk with each other, exchange money with each other and socialize (re: drink beer) with each other. The phenomenon began as an entirely holistic and communal idea in the 1960s in Oakland surrounding the still-larval American Football League, and grew on the ground level in other sports, in bars, rec rooms, bars, office break rooms, bars, vacations, bars, taverns, and ultimately, bars.

It was a way for friends to gather and ignore the bigger issues of living (like, say, families, which are far too time consuming, expensive and always end up with the parents battling desperately for a tie in a game once it becomes clear that they cannot win).

It was not meant to be mass-produced, let alone dominated by the guy with the best algorithms. That’s not sports, that’s math, and when was the last time you said, “Honey, I’m going out. Some math teachers are getting together to raise a little hell, and I don’t want to miss it”?

So never mind the “The DraftDuelers and FanKings tried to pull a fast one” angle, even though they did. Ignore the “They got too big and too grabby too fast” narrative, even though they did that, too.

What happened here was a perverse monetization of something that didn’t actually need improving or enlarging, because it was perfectly good the way it was. And perverse monetization is the path to perdition, I think we can all agree.

The fantasy industry also made a fatal error by trying to say for legal reasons that it wasn’t gambling, which it clearly was – except in one very granular way that nobody ever addresses.

Gambling, as in finding a bookie who will let you bet on games in any manner of exotic fashions, is meant to be a solitary pursuit left best for quiet brooders. If you have Seattle plus the 1½ when everyone else is bitching about the evils of a 6-6 overtime tie, you quietly accept your incredible good fortune and start to handicap Broncos-Texans, which you probably lost.

Fantasy sports, on the other hand, are meant to be shared, but only with those in your particular fantasy league as opposed to all other people, who do not give a steaming chalky damn about your made-up aggregation of athletes and actively hate you for breaching their worlds with your relentless yammering about your alternate-universe imaginings.

Put another way, people who tell you about their fantasy teams are people who need to be taken into the desert and abandoned. And people who commit these crimes should be allowed to avoid hypothermia, dehydration and coyote dinner only by making regular offerings of alcohol and foodstuffs to those whose peace and quiet they have thoughtlessly breached.

And the industrialization of fantasy sports was the last frontier of that obnoxio-hateful social development. It used commercial television to beat us all to death with something only a few of us cared about, and it reminded us that our culture loathes two things above all others – people trying to pull a fast one, and people telling us repeatedly about things we’re not remotely interested in hearing.

In other words, even if you were planning to be saddened by the collapse of the first wave of industrialized fantasy sports, don’t. They were people trying to cut themselves in on action that wasn’t theirs, and make a national phenomenon out of a social development best confined to a single room with six-to-20 people, all of whom had the good sense to bring wine and snacks.

I mean, seriously. Why would you want to screw with that setup?

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

You can almost hear the sound whistling between the 49ers’ teeth at this point, beneath the droned platitudes and vague responses to what is a fully lost season:

“Look, what do you want from us? This is who we are.”

You can almost hear it, that is. They wouldn’t dare express such rampant defeatism – I mean, if they didn’t after Sunday’s 34-17 muzzling at the hands, arms, torsos and feet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unlikely you would hear it at any point.

But they must surely know by now that this is a season already in the rear-view mirror. There are no secret plans, or stashed players, or untried ideas left to unearth, sign or try. The coming bye week will not clear their heads and give them new inspiration, save that of having a week off from the steady beatings. They are 1-6 on merit, and proved it again yesterday before another dispirited two-thirds-of-a-sellout crowd which is coming to realize that their hope is a mile wide and an inch deep.

[MAIOCCO: Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss]

Sunday, for example, Colin Kaepernick was their best running back, Shaun Draughn was their best receiver, the downed kickoff was their best special teams play, and their best strategic decision – well, they lost the coin flip so they didn’t even get a chance to defer the opening kickoff.

And their defense? It only allowed whatever Tampa Bay wanted, and only on demand. Jacquizz Rodgers became the sixth running back to gain 100 yards against them (and the first to do it in one half), which is noteworthy only because they allowed five all last year in a bad season, and nine in the four seasons before that, four of those by Marshawn Lynch.

And quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball to wide-open receivers and into coverage with the same sense of well-placed bravado. Though his numbers didn’t exactly aurora the borealis (21-of-30, 269, 3/1, 117.2), he never emitted a sense that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted – save get the officials to give him a better spot when he snapped and cost his team a potential touchdown with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for headless-chickening.

In other words, this was not materially different than the Buffalo game, or the Seattle game, or the Carolina game. The only game that has been different is the opener against Los Angeles, when everything worked and made sense and life was happy and Jed York hummed “I Am 16 Going On 17” all through the suite all night long.

That game was 50,000 years ago. These are who the 49ers are now, and who they are going to be for awhile to come.

They speak of consistency, and yet they are the very model of it – leading the league in punts, and ranking second in three-and-outs, 27th in first downs and 31st in plays per drive. They don’t stay on the field, in other words, and when on defense, they allow 118 more yards per game than their offense gets them.

And they swear with unanimity that they are together as a team, and work hard each week to achieve the acme of their talents and learning. So this, if that is so, must be at or near the top of their game – which, as head coach for now and the future Chip Kelly (stop thinking this is just a coaching problem, please) put it, “We’re not doing what it takes to be successful right now.”

That was in response to a question about whether the 49ers were going backwards. He ducked the issue by saying, “I don’t think forwards or backwards,” which is probably a lie, but we can help anyway.

They have gone dramatically backwards since Game 1, and essentially stagnated since Game 2. It’s how they have gotten to where they are right now, and how they have become who they are right now.

It may be that stranger things have happened in the NFL than a team starting 1-6 and rallying to win eight, nine or 10 in a row, but on this team, based all the available evidence, this team won’t be that strange. They have revealed themselves for what they actually are, which is not good enough to change what they actually are.

And if that is too tough a sentence for you to swallow, well, go out and write some of your own. You can tell any tale you want, but this is the tale of the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, a team awash in unpleasant self-realization and the knowledge that there is nothing to be done but to go out each week and do it again.

Except next week, of course. Bye may be a favorite, but Bye must be played, just like all the others.