Ratto: Sharks no longer swimming with NHL's elite


Ratto: Sharks no longer swimming with NHL's elite


Its all numbers for Ron Wilson these days. Two nights ago, Tim Hunter celebrated 1,000 games as Wilsons assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last night, Wilson won his 600th game, as the Leafs beat San Jose, 4-2. Later this week, he will celebrate his 1,300th career game.And by his estimation, the Leafs have to win two of every three games between now and the end of the season to consider being an Eastern Conference playoff team.In the meantime, the Sharks, who are in dramatically better shape than the Leafs, are in worse shape than theyve been in years.Losers of five in a row, they will now try to break that streak Thursday against Edmonton without centerbest player Logan Couture for at least a game and probably not much more after enduring what looked like a deep right leg bruise from the knee of Leaf enforcer Colton Orr.VIDEO: Logan Couture injury update
The good news: Couture went home without crutches but with a brace and a limp that was somewhere between noticeable and pronounced. Barring overnight swelling that provides evidence of structural damage, his time off the ice may be minimal.The bad: The Sharks cant really afford to be without him for even a shift, not the way theyre going.Once again, their offense produced shots without goals Patrick Marleau had both, but 40 other shots were handled in one method or other by rookie goalie James Reimer.But the defense broke down repeatedly in the Leafs four-goal third period, and head coach Todd McLellan might have had more energy to fulminate about the mistakes if he didnt already have one eye and one ear trained for any Couture news.Weve been whining and bitching about our offense lately, but tonight it was our defensive commitment that let us down in the third period, he said. Just a lot of mistakes that we shouldnt be making. The only way were going to get out of this is to keep working, improve our defensive play, remain disciplined and to stick together.This lack of fire, let alone brimstone, is the sound of a coach who knows when ripping the team to the media is worse than not doing it. McLellan doesnt look beaten or desperate, but he knows the longer the slump lasts, the harder it will be to get out of it.Nobody knows that more than Wilson, though, the man who was fired in San Jose to make room for McLellan. Wilson has been pushing the tractor motor uphill in Toronto almost since the day he arrived, and Tuesdays win merely put the Leafs into a tie for 11th, 11 points behind eighth-place Atlanta.RELATED: NHL Standings
Tuesday, though, was a good night without qualification for the veteran coach.Its good that I was able to do it here, he said between deflections of credit. Pretty special. The last time we were here, we ran into a buzzsaw, were down 4-0 in the first period and we had no chance, and the last time up there, I thought we should have won.But we were a little bit fortunate tonight, we ran into a team thats been squeezing the sticks a little hard lately.Squeezing? The Sharks have been leaving trails of fiberglass and tooth enamel through most of the season, and it may be dawning on them that their issues may not be effort- but talent-related.They look slower than the elite teams, they get to the spots they want a tad slower than they need to, they barely break even in the faceoff circle and along the wall, and their shot flurries come from far out and dont produce enough quality rebound attempts.More to the point, though, they are finding out for the first time in years how the other half lives the half that plays golf in April and gets lectures from the teams that are still playing. It is still far too early to make such declarations, but slumps bring out the worst the expectations of others, and right now the Sharks look as close to inert as they have since before Ron Wilson got here.486 games ago.

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.