Ratto: Marleau's goal changes all ... for 17 days


Ratto: Marleau's goal changes all ... for 17 days


SAN JOSE -- The loudest roar of the night at Le Pavillon du HP was reserved for Patrick Marleaus goal with 7:47 to play.Yeah. That Patrick Marleau.His game-winning, series-clinching, death-robbing, reputation-saving and all-around memorable goal in San Joses 3-2 victory over Detroit in Game 7 of this Western Conference semifinal will be the new standard for artery-searing fun on ice.After all, Marleau was the metaphor for this series, the most relentlessly available blame repository for all San Joses ills in a series that took three games too long for them, and delayed their entry into the conference final against the other team from the Playoff Bizarro World, the Vancouver Canucks.You could sort of see it coming, defenseman Dan Boyle said after the game and series that took three years off each combatants lives. With all the grief hes taken, and the way this game is, honestly, I figured it would end this way.
RECAP: Sharks survive, clip Red Wings in Game 7
Yes, with Marleau, The Goat For All Scapes, ending a great series with a goal that changed Bay Area hockey history. For 17 days, anyway.I was really happy for him, Boyle said, repeating the sentiment of all the Sharks in a very relieved dressing room. Hed been keeping to himself pretty much, just getting ready for the moment, I guess.And it came, the follow to an eight-foot wrist shot from Devin Setoguchi that sought out Marleau, who let instinct do the talking into an open net to Detroit goalie Jimmy Howards left.Pattys been through an awful lot, head coach Todd McLellan said. Patty and Jumbo (Joe Thornton) have been lightning rods around here for a long time, but when you see the number of minutes we played him, the number of shifts he gets, its clear we need him a great deal.And now, with Vancouver the new 50-foot hurdle, the Sharks will need him, and all his mates, even more.But for the moment, the rear-view mirror was where the Sharks were actually looking, because they had endured a truly weird -- yes, weird, even for them -- fortnight and a nearly psychotic final day with the Red Wings.First, Ryane Clowe, who missed Game 6 with what most people believe to be a concussion, was green-lighted to play, and played well.Second, the Sharks started quickly, but very nearly relived the nightmares of Game 5 -- because thats what they do, and because thats who they are.McLellan likes to talk about lessons learned, and the Sharks finally deduced that all that screaming about their lousy first periods might have had some merit, which is why they played their best period of the series right away. San Jose scored twice in the first to re-win their customers love . . . at least until the next time they do something obnoxious. In doing so, they showed what they are when they are at their best, which they hadnt been for a good week.The first score, at 12:20 came after Jonathan Ericsson went off for a hook on Torrey Mitchell. Boyle, at the right point, slid a pass along the wall to Thornton, who spotted Setoguchi with space and time to Howards right, and beat him with a wicked one-timer at 12:20. It also broke an 0-for-10 power play streak by the Sharks, for those of you who are statistically invigorated.After two excellent penalty kills, on the rambunctious Clowe for roughing Howard and Marc-Edouard Vlasic for tripping Darren Helm, the Sharks put in what looked to be the dagger. Henrik Zetterberg brought the puck out from behind the Detroit net but put it right onto Coutures stick at the right dot. Couture promised to thank Zetterberg later, but in the half-second he had available to him, he beat Howard over his left shoulder to make it 2-0.Just like Game 5.If that were enough, the Sharks would have been home free. As it was, Detroit doesnt just leave when it looks like it should, and proved it at 13:10 when Zetterberg beat Niemi with a nifty backhand to finish a 3-on-2 break. The Sharks held on to the rest of the period by the tape of their sticks, but Detroit had shifted the initiative so much that they outshot San Jose 17-6 in the period, won 16 of the 25 draws and in general worried Niemi as much as the Sharks had worried Howard in the first. The outcome would hinge on what came after, because two lopsided periods had made a nearly even game.Just like Game 5.Thats the lesson we have to learn from this game, Boyle said. We lost our composure and we started running around, and they did what they do when you start running around.But Marleau, who had been livelier than he had been in any other game, was presented with his cant-miss-this--one goal with the work of Thornton at the other end and Setoguchis intrepid work at the goal front. The Sharks regained their two-goal lead.Also like Game 5. Only unlike Game 5, the Wings had only seven minutes and change, not 19 and change, to steal the game, and though Pavel Datsyuk did pull them back to within one with a backhand that goalie Antti Niemi could not shoulder out 1:46 later, and though the Sharks had to kill one final penalty, from Mitchell for slashing Ruslan Salei, they did the one thing they hadnt done for nearly a week.They survived.Now they face another team that spun gold into straw and back into gold in Vancouver. A different team, with different modus operandi, the deepest and best talent coupled with the crushing weight of a citys demanding and unfulfilled expectations.The breathing, in short, will be difficult. Ask Todd McLellan.Are you kidding? he said when asked how he felt. Look at me.He looked, well, exhausted. And hell be exhausted awhile longer. Patrick Marleau can do that to you -- both ways.Ray Ratto is a columnist with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time


A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

As rumored over the past two months, Major League Baseball just lowered the Oakland Athletics’ revenue by $34 million, and now all the other developments of the past few weeks have finally become a call to arms by an organization that has always been strident pacifists when it comes to money.

In other words, The Little Engine That Occasionally Could has now been stripped of its little-engine classification, and the conditions that allowed them to play the cute little underdog are gone. No more waiting for more clement economic circumstances, or a more favorable political climate, or for the ever-nebulous “future” which the A’s always dangled before its dwindling fan base.

That was the news of Wednesday. Thursday, reports from ESPN’s Jim Trotter indicated that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos is going to swallow his pride to exercise his option to join Stan Kroenke in Los Angeles, thus reducing Mark Davis’ viable options to Las Vegas and the tender mercies of the NFL, or Oakland and the tender mercies of whoever decides to tackle the problem of a new football-atorium.

In other words, push and shove are now jockeying for position in what is expected to be a crash.

First, the A’s.

With the news that Major League Baseball is going to hack the team’s revenue sharing check by 25, 50, 75 and then 100 percent over the next four years, the margin of error for new front man Dave Kaval to get a stadium built has been reduced to those four years. He is following the dictates of his boss, the persistently hologrammatic John Fisher, who essentially shoved Lew Wolff out the door for preaching San Jose and then caution.

The A’s don’t want to share anything with the Raiders, which rules out a Coliseum site. They have investigated Howard Terminal, which is not without its issues. And there is a new darkhorse site, the land around Laney College which, in a tart bit of irony, is the site of the Raiders’ first Oakland home, Frank Youell Field.

The city and county are in the early stages of a deal to sell the Coliseum land to a group faced by Ronnie Lott and the money-moving Fortress group, and get out of the landlord business entirely. It has pledged somewhere between $190 and $200 million in infrastructure improvements, though in the case of two stadia, the question of whether that amount is split remains to be politicized.

But the real point here is that the Gordian knot that is Oakland’s weird hold on its franchises remains tightly raveled. The Fortress announcement was supposed to be a point of clarity, but the revenue sharing news and now the Chargers-to-L.A. rumors have returned chaos to its usual position at the tip of the food chain.

And chaos makes for hasty decisions, and hasty decisions are often regretted. But hey, what’s life without rich people awash in regrets?

The new developments ratchet up the pressure on the City of Oakland and Alameda County to decide what support – if any – to provide a new A’s stadium, and coincidentally what support – if any – can be provided to the Raiders if they are forced to stay in Oakland by the NFL.

It even ratchets up the pressure on the NFL owners to decide among themselves whether their actual end-game goal – to have the Raiders controlled by someone other than Mark Davis – is better served by allowing him to move his team to Las Vegas or denying him his escape route.

But now for the first time there are time constraints – a few months for Mark Davis, a few years for John Fisher and Dave Kaval. The principles of subsidized Moneyball are now conjoined with the principles of Darwinism, and as the A’s have had innovate-or-die thrust upon them, the Raiders have approached the day of reckoning they’ve been desperately kicking down the road since Al Davis’ death. Plus, the political structures of Oakland and Alameda County will catch the holiest of hells either way, and probably across the board.

But as Paul Weller once wrote, “That’s entertainment.” Find shelter, children. The acrid smell of roasting money is in the wind.

Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman


Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman

Officials are a pet cause of mine, since they are uniquely hired and set up for daily failure as a condition of having the job at all. They are given a supervisory role against a group of mesomorphs running, jumping, colliding and athletick-ing all over the place, only so that they can interpret a rulebook written in Cambodian script in such a way that he or she angers everyone involved, and is supported by none of the people who gave him the rulebook to defend.

But sometimes, despite all this, officials need to be left alone to apply common sense in direct defiance of the dictates of the bloated swine who made the rulebook a tool of the socially ignorant.

And no, I am not talking about Doc Rivers snapping like a stretched bobblehead the other night after Ken Mauer tossed him from the Los Angeles Clippers-Brooklyn Nets game for being geographically inappropriate with fellow official Lauren Holtkamp (he crossed the midcourt line, and curb your dirty minds). Screw him. He had it coming.

No, this is about Frank Schneider, who refereed the otherwise unremarkable Paris Saint Germain-Angers match in Ligue 1, the top division of French soccer, and felt compelled to yellow-card PSG goalscorer Edinson Cavani for doing this.

For you link-averse weenies, Cavani scored a goal and then took off his shirt to reveal an undershirt that read “ACE FUERZA” in support of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, the team involved in the plane wreck that killed 77 of 81 passengers, including all but a few of the team’s players and staff en route to the championship match of the Copa Sudamericana in Colombia against Atletico Nacional.

It was a thoughtful gesture, one we want our athletes to produce to show that they are not just mercenaries with expensively shod feet. It was a credit to Cavani, who is Uruguayan and who knew none of the players involved. He did it to be a human being.

And Schneider knew that. But the rules say he had to give Cavani a yellow card for removing his shirt as an act of celebration or in this case, sympathy, and if Schneider had ignored it, his supervisors would have punished him knowing full well that ignoring it was exactly the correct and decent thing to do.

This right here is one more reason why people hate officials, even more than they used to. They are not allowed to apply their own common sense to a situation that demands it, and if honoring fellow athletes who died in an accident doesn’t demand the common sense of saying, “Heartwarming thought there, Scooter. You’re a good lad. Run and frolic with the other woodland creatures, unconcerned with any notion of punitive action.”

Maybe Schneider walked up to him as he presented the card and said, “Listen, this is crap. You know it and I know it, and I will back your play in the game report, but I have to do this. Please find it in your heart to forgive my bureaucratic obligations.”

That’s not the zenith of understanding as we would wish it, but it would be a way to try and shield Cavani from the withered arm of the law.

Or maybe Schneider said, “I give this card to you in my role as a strident and iron-willed defender of mindless regulations. I spurn you as I would spurn a rabid wolf.”

I don’t know. All I know is, Schneider ends up looking stupid for carding Cavani for supporting his soccer-playing brethren, and officials across the globe cry out as one, “You put him in a ridiculous position, you suit-wearing filth. Where is your compassion? Where is your dignity? Why can’t we line up in an orderly fashion and kick you squarely in the groin 30 to 70 times?”

And a decent human instinct is stamped out as though it were caught stealing office supplies.

You can extend this lesson as far as you wish, including the No Fun League’s old-white-guys fetishistic ban on post-touchdown self-expression, but right here is where that sort of mockable nonsense starts. People died, some of them soccer players. A fellow soccer player honored them on the field of play without disrupting the game itself. He was sanctioned. This is idiocy.

But Doc Rivers getting flipped in Brooklyn? Sorry. There’s only so far we can go with this, and in this case, well, to quote the old philosopher, “Nice tantrum, Glenn.”