Ratto: Sharks' margin of error roughly zero


Ratto: Sharks' margin of error roughly zero

June 14, 2011


Follow @RattoCSNRay Ratto

The question often comes up . . . well, actually, the question almost never comes up, but work with us here . . . What do the Sharks have to do to get to the next level?Ignoring the fact that the next level is a criminally stupid clich valid only if youre on the third floor of a department store looking for the escalator, the Sharks next-level problem is now more profoundly difficult than it was two weeks ago.Two weeks ago, they werent deep enough or quick enough to deal with the Vancouver Canucks. Now, theyre not deep enough or physical enough to deal with the Boston Bruins, either.
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This is the maddening beauty of the Stanley Cup playoffs, one of its most profound yet most subtle gifts -- everything you knew to be true on May 15 is wrong on May 31, and wrong again on June 16, which is the final day of the season, barring an eight-overtime final that takes you past midnight.Which brings us back to the Sharks, who have packed in a hard fortnight of golf, hunting, child-dandling and healing all those injuries they accumulated by negotiating their way through Los Angeles and Detroit.They are unchanged, and will be for some time to come. The calendar prevents it, because the NHL draft has not yet been held, and most general managers are still meeting with their scouts to deal with that. Plus, free agency does not actually bloom until July, and thats if the owners dont start making the usual lockout threats.Not only that, San Joses player contract structure realistically prevents massive changes, no matter how disappointed you might be about specific players. The Sharks are pretty much what you thought they were two months ago, and they are going to stay that way. Even the most dramatic draft choice score doesnt change a team right away.I guess this is a long-winded way of saying, Mario Lemieux isnt walking through that door as the 27th pick, and if he was, hed be 46, and if youre going after a 46-year-old, you may as well just sign Chris Chelios and be done with it.For the second consecutive year, the Sharks lost in the playoffs to a demonstrably superior team, and if they played the Canucks in another 10 series, they would lose eight of them, maybe even nine. But it can also be said that they would have the same problem with this Boston team. They would have great difficulty scoring on Tim Thomas, and they would be relentlessly pounded physically after having been relentlessly pounded physically for the last month.So the first question to be asked of Doug Wilson, and you may rest assured by Doug Wilson, is not What the hell do I do with Dany Heatley? but Who are we and what do we need to be?Well, faster, bigger and deeper. Thats simple. But with minimal cap space, as always, as contracts that restrict the blockbuster trades you so fervently fantasize about, those three things will not be mastered. One, maybe, but not the other two.But if there is something else to be said, it is this: Neither the Canucks nor Bruins were very efficient in their trip through the postseason. Vancouver and Boston both played 18 games for the right to play seven more. The record is 26, by the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers, who lost to Edmonton. This was hard work for both survivors, and if you think otherwise, ask Nathan Horton and Mason Raymond.San Jose has to be more efficient, but that isnt the only way for it to survive next years playoff tower. Its structural in that Todd McLellan cant keep telling us about passengers and coasting and players who need to give more. That has to become the immutable law that no player dare violate, and that means that Joe Thornton -- who will be the first Shark to have his number retired based on last year alone -- will have to become even more strident in word and deed than even last year.The one thing to be said about the Bruins, win or lose Wednesday, is that they had no passengers. The one thing to be said about the Canucks is that they handled the most schizophrenic postseason ever, and I mean ever. The lessons to be learned from this postseason are not easily applied, and the Sharks still need time to sort them out.But this rises above all others -- their margin of error is roughly zero. They are still not the best team in the National Hockey League, they dont have the most talent, and they still have holes that are exploited by teams that see them over and over. They are good, and not good enough at the same time.For the first time in years, they have to know it in their souls and bones, and act accordingly. Every day. Starting in July. Theyre still off until June ends.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.