Ray Ratto

Fan silence motivates late-arriving Sharks

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Fan silence motivates late-arriving Sharks

The San Jose Sharks found three ways to motivate themselves Thursday night after a rancid beginning, and between them they had just barely enough to win a game they really didnt merit.In beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team with the best record in the NHL through the 16th pole, the Sharks gave themselves every known disadvantage. A first night after a long road trip, a 17-minute pregame ceremony for Joe Thorntons 1006th NHL game, and three minutes of truly hideous goaltending from the still-gimpy Antti Niemi all conspired to put them down 2-0 to a team that does not blow 2-0 leads.But then come those motivators, the ones that pushed them from two-down to 4-3 shootout victors.RECAP: Clowe lifts Sharks to shootout win

One, a sharp between-periods lecture from their prickly schoolmarm, Todd McLellan, which resulted in three shuffled lines. You always know hes got the red neck when Torrey Mitchell is on with Thornton, and so he was for much of the last two periods.Two, Ryane Clowe, who scored both the second and game-winning goal in the extra-extra session, engaged Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland in a fight six seconds into the second period, ostensibly as retribution for a clean check on Thornton in the first, but mostly to slap some sense into his comatose teammates.And the third the dead, disapproving atmosphere in the building. Sharks fans do not boo much, though they tried it out a bit in the first period. What they do, is shut up.I think thats they way they boo, McLellan said. You could tell they were having none of what we were giving them tonight. No, they dont boo much here but I think they just withheld their energy tonight until they saw us give some to them.The Clowe fight, which he cheerfully admitted was entirely contrived, helped some, even though Engelland, a promising defenseman with some fistic skills, didnt want to leave the Pens two defensemen short after they lost Ben Lovejoy to an injury.He didnt want to, but I sort of kept at him, and then he obliged, Clowe said with a matter-of-factness that belies the sense of waste he must feel when he has to volunteer to provide team-wide adrenalin by hitting someone who hasnt really merited it.And the line changes? McLellan does that a lot, but he is likely to switch back to the regular complements for Saturdays game against Nashville. We have to give them a chance to fix it, he said drily.And as for Niemi, he will likely start as well, because whether his twice-surgeried knee will allow it or not, he has shown he is better with steady work than with regular rest. He does very little in practices because of the injury, but even allowing for that, he was underinvolved from the opening drop.The fans, though, are an interesting twist, because McLellan is the first to credit their level of discernment with a nuance and sophistication most fans dont deliver.Most fans boo. They curse. They throw beer. They get their moneys worth in dyspepsia when they cant get it in glee.But McLellan is right. We have been waiting for the fans to act like regular fans, when in fact they operate more as disapproving parents. They came, they didnt like what they saw, so they folded their 35,124 arms and decided, Well speak with you when were good and ready.It is, in some ways, a very Canadian response. There is nothing more quiet than a Canadian rink when things are going poorly for the home side, be it in Vancouver, Montreal, or the five points inbetween. They use their voices as currency, and withhold them when they have decided the players dont deserve them.And the Sharks did not deserve them for the first period and a fair chunk of the second. And yet, they have now won six of their last seven games, and stand fifth in the West, tiebreakers ahead of Phoenix, Nashville, Los Angeles and Colorado.McLellan plans a spirited practice Friday with plenty of rub-your-nose-in-it film study for the brutal start, but it wont all be punitive. The Preds are not an easy get, and the Sharks need improvement as well as lectures.But they cant wait for Clowe to pick a fight with Jordin Tootoo to get going, or McLellan to start alphabetizing his line combinations during the National Anthem. They need to begin their work faster if they want to avoid being shunned by their audience.Yes. Fan silence the new profanity.

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

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AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

For the record, and just so you can’t say you weren’t told, these are the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and the 50 backups. Draw your own conclusions.

(Author’s note: We list these only because Joe Webb was just signed by the Buffalo Bills, whose starter and first backup, Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates, are still in the concussion protocol).

AFC WEST

DENVER: Trevor Siemian (Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler)

KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith (Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray)

LOS ANGELES: Philip Rivers (Cardale Jones)

OAKLAND: Derek Carr (E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook)

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE: Joe Flacco (Ryan Mallett)

CINCINNATI: Andy Dalton (AJ McCarron)

CLEVELAND: DeShone Kizer (Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Josh Woodrum)

PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger (Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs)

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON: Tom Savage (DeShaun Watson)

INDIANAPOLIS: Scott Tolzien (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett)

JACKSONVILLE: Chad Henne (Blake Bortles)

TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota (Matt Cassel)

AFC EAST

BUFFALO: Nathan Peterman (Taylor, Yates, Webb)

MIAMI: Jay Cutler (Matt Moore, David Fales)

NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady (Jimmy Garoppolo)

NEW YORK: Josh McCown (Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg)

NFC WEST

ARIZONA: Carson Palmer (Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert)

LOS ANGELES: Jared Goff (Sean Mannion)

SAN FRANCISCO: Brian Hoyer (C.J. Beathard)

SEATTLE: Russell Wilson (Austin Davis)

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO: Mike Glennon (Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez)

DETROIT: Matthews Stafford (Jack Rudock)

GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers (Brett Hundley)

MINNESOTA: Sam Bradford (Case Keenum)

NFL SOUTH

ATLANTA: Matt Ryan (Matt Schaub)

CAROLINA: Cam Newton (Derek Anderson, Brad Kaaya)

NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees (Chase Daniel, Taysom Hill)

TAMPA BAY: Jameis Winston (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin)

NFC EAST

DALLAS: Dak Prescott (Cooper Rush)

NEW YORK: Eli Manning (Geno Smith, Davis Webb)

PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz (Nick Foles)

WASHINGTON: Kirk Cousins (Colt McCoy)

Again, draw your own conclusions. I know I’ve drawn mine.