Ratto: Two-faced Sharks living dangerously

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Ratto: Two-faced Sharks living dangerously

Feb. 1, 2011RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

There are so many easy ways to explain San Joses 5-3mortician-cheating victory over Phoenix Tuesday night that one can takecomfort only in the fact that all of them are wrong.

RELATED: Sharks score five straight to shock Coyotes 5-3
It wasnt Alex Stalocks first game, replacing Antti Niemi after 30minutes and change and saving all nine shots he faced, that did it. Itwasnt Joe Pavelskis power play goal with eight seconds left in thesecond period that did it. It wasnt the booing from a properly annoyedcrowd that did it. It wasnt their sudden reacquaintance with the hardwork required to free them from the morass in the middle of the WesternConference. At best, it was a little bit of all of it, but there was nodominant factor.Frankly, theres no real way to explain it satisfactorily. They wereeye-searingly horrible for 39 straight minutes, falling behind 3-0 andseeming to be unbothered by their predicament, and then they were greatfor 21, smothering the Coyotes and scoring five times a mixed-messageperformance about light-switch hockey that could just as easily destroythem as inspire them.But lets just say that some Sharks felt the lash of their compliantticket base and decided that shame can be a powerful motivator.I think maybe part of (the comeback) was the second period, when wecould hear our fans booing us, said Pavelski, who scored his secondand third goals since November. That wasnt fun to hear that,especially in our building. We do take pride in playing here, and wedont really appreciate it.But . . .Oh, we definitely deserved it for the way we were playing.Logically, this would mean that fan-base hatred is they key to all goodthings Shark-related except that they now go on a seven-game roadtrip and wont get to experience that tough love that Pavelskisuggested was the key to victory.They managed to win despite having only 10 forwards (Logan Couture gothit with a flu bug during warmups) and missing Dany Heatley for severalshifts after a turnover. They managed to win despite giving up 27 shotsin 37 minutes and forcing head coach Todd McLellan to replace thelargely blameless Niemi with the rookie Stalock. They managed to winbecause for 21 minutes they acted as though they were an elite teamagain.
REWIND: Couture scratched from game vs. Coyotes
Those moments, though, come few and far between, and as a thoroughlydisgusted McLellan said, We cant do that 31 more times and expect agood end.By now, he has done everything he (or any other coach) can do hesbenched players, hes changed lines, hes kissed them and kicked themand skated them and nurtured them. Theres nothing left to do, and thebig face-slapping trade that would have to involve one of the Big Four(Marleau, Heatley, Joe Thornton or Dan Boyle) isnt going tohappen because they all have no-move deals.In short, the deadline cant save them, and some new coaching stratagemcant save them. Only they can save themselves, and letting the homefolks see how bad they can be is far worse than demonstrating how goodthey can be is beneficial.They are tied for seventh with Chicago, and three points behindfourth-place Nashville. They are also two points ahead of 11th placeCalgary. And this is where they will reside the rest of the season, inthe enormous clot in the middle of the Western Conference, so far fromVancouver and Detroit that they may as well be Vladivostok andNouakchott.
RELATED: NHL standings
Unless, of course, they have that player-generated epiphany that theyalways seem to say theyve had after a big win. They keep playing asthough they like the heat of the third rail, but they also have a lotof charred edges from playing such a cavalier style.In the meantime, they just stole two points they didnt fully earnuntil it was nearly too late, and the best thing for them is that theydont have enough time to absorb the lessons of the first 39 minutes orthe final 21. They play in Anaheim Wednesday, a team almost exactlylike them except in one important way -- the Ducks have already begunthe rebuild to younger and faster that the Sharks may have to undergothis coming summer.They are a playoff team, kind of. They are a team playing for a highdraft choice, almost. They dont know and neither does anyone else.But if Sharks fans want to contribute to the cause in a meaningful way,a loud and healthy festival of boos at the right time seems to workwonders. At least it did Tuesday. God only knows what if anything willwork when they come back against the Washington Ovechkini in twoweeks.What's on your mind? Email Ray and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

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

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AP

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

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AP

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.”