Ray Ratto

Ratto: Disconnected Sharks


Ratto: Disconnected Sharks

Jan. 14, 2011


Ray Ratto

Five years ago, the San Jose Sharks lost 10 consecutivegames. Three by shutout, seven straight up. And coach Ron Wilson wasnot considered to be in trouble. It was his second year, and DougWilson is not one to fire coaches abruptly.

Thursday, the boys dropped their sixth straight, an embarrassing 5-2diorama to the Edmonton Oilers. They looked as they have looked all toooften this year not quite fully committed, working against each otheras often is concert, and slower than the opponent. Naturally, this has created one of those fire-the-coach moments amongthe fringes of the fan base, one which almost certainly will beresisted by Wilson because he isnt the type to sacrifice Todd McLellanfor expediency.
WATCH: Todd McLellan takes the blame
Unless, of course, Kevin Compton, the teams new capo di tutti capo,wants it done. In which case, well, lets just say that all bets areoff. Not because McLellan should get it, mind you. He has more than provenhis value as a coach, and a kneejerk reaction like a firing, whichhockey people seem to do almost as easily as soccer people do, doesmore damage than it repairs.But there is at least some reason to think that adisconnect between what is and what should be is going on here, onethat isnt merely a matter of We just need to work harder. Indeed,when McLellan threatened to sit a few players (Maybe some of them needto sit and watch for a few games, and Im the coach of this hockeyteam; Im the leader), he made it clear that this is a much biggerdeal than any rogue platitudes.
Nor is it simply a matter of Get rid of Marleau and Vlasic, the twomost common cries from the gallery over beers at (fill in your favoritewatering holes name). Marleau has a no-trade, and Vlasic doesnt havea lot of marketability right now.
NEWS: NHL headlines
In short, the Sharks are stuck, prevented from making any substantivemoves, either through skilled negotiation or mad panic. If they arebeing held back by their attitudes, they have to change that on theirown, based on being tired of being the 11th best team in theconference. If they are being held back by their physical limitations,they have to figure out a way to work around them. To the naked eye, they simply look like a slower team across the board.They cant keep up with Vancouver, the fastestmost skilled team, andeven Edmonton with its parade of younguns flew past them as thoughthey were traffic cones.
REWIND: Hapless Sharks drop sixth straight
This is a problem because players who get slower dont typically getfaster again. Thats what the commitment to players like TorreyMitchell and Jamie McGinn was about, and they havent created enoughhavoc with their speed to make a significant difference. In addition, Dan Boyle as the only defenseman who consistently playsbetter than a No. 5 isnt working at all. Vlasic is maddeninglyinconsistent, and rarely a difference-maker; frankly, the excuse thathe misses Rob Blake on and off the ice has outgrown its value, and heneeds to become one of two things a real No. 2, or someone elsesproblem. Wilson said when last season ended that this teams window ofopportunity would remain open for another three to four years, and hemay yet be correct. But they dont look convinced, and neither doesanyone else. They are now being spoken of in the past tense, and ifthat seems premature, there is only the one way to prove it.

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

O.J. Simpson is free. The system as it is defined by those who run it in the case of the Nevada Parole Board, worked.

But the issue that lingers is whether we can free ourselves of him. That system is far more amorphous, arbitrarty and essentially unfair. And in its own revolting way, it works too.

The O.J. market has always been bullish. The old cliché that people can’t get enough no matter how much you shovel at them is more true for him than for any other sports figure of the last 50 years. More than Tiger Woods. More than LeBron James. More than Michael Jordan. More than all of them.

And now his parole hearing, televised and streamed by every outlet except Home & Garden Television, proved it again. He will never not be O.J.

But he is also 70. He is also planning to go to Florida and be with his family, based on what he told the parole board Thursday. He has assiduously avoided the media in his nine years in Lovelock, and if his family is providing the support it pledges, it will do its utmost to keep him from our prying eyes as he enters his dotage.

There is nothing we have that can do him any good. We have eaten all the forms of O.J. there are, culminating in the Emmy-award winning documentary on him, and finally, his release from prison. If he is wise as well as smart, here’s nothing left of his life but re-airs.

So the question becomes not so much whether he can leave fame alone, or whether fame can leave him alone. Our national appetite is poor on the topic of leaving people be, let alone deciding enough is enough. The fame we make for people gorges, purges and gorges again, in a hideous cycle that demeans all involved.

In sum, O.J. Simpson can, if he is paying attention to the value of normalcy, end his addiction to fame. I have far more serious doubts about fame and its addiction to him.

Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations


Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations

Some time not that very long ago, someone in sports management who will almost certainly spend all of eternity bobbing for razor-studded apples in a pool of lava saw an opportunity in the phrase, “The quietest time in sports.” And decided to fill it with filth.
It is believed to begin right after the end of the NBA Finals, although that artificial start date has been extended through free agency now that the NBA’s principal entertainment vehicle is the burning of money. It used to be right after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, though now it has been extended backward. And it ends roughly at the beginning of NFL and/or college training camps, depending on where you live and which of those two beasts you profess your God to be.
But let’s get back to the management succubus who has set us on the path that has led inexcusably to the current point. The idea that baseball no longer holds the interest or attention spans of the young, cool and inadequately trained in the value of money is now accepted as fact, and as any marketing nitwit will tell you, nature abhors a vacuum.
So here’s what we’ve got. Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in what is very simply a lazy-stereotype-laden comedy tour that isn’t funny let alone even mildly convincing. They have both been on the stage too long, with a month still to go before the final shame-off August 26, where they simply enter the arena, stand with their backs to each other at the ring rope and spend 45 minutes trying to target-spit into the eyes of the high-rollers. Why the promoters didn’t just muzzle Mayweather and McGregor and use actual professionals like Key and Peele and Aisling Bea and Ed Byrne to work the crowds for a million per is simply a lack of imagination at work.
Here’s what else we have. Our idiotic fascination for Lonzo Ball’s two best Summer League games being achieved wearing shoes other than those promoted by his father/huckster as though his skills and intelligence are all in his feet.
What this actually is, of course, is people using Lonzo’s momentary and mostly microscopic achievement to call LaVar a tedious swine without ever using his name or his product catalog because he, like McGregor and Mayweather, beats down crowds and calls it entertainment, and people have signed on in a weird backdoor way – by finding reasons to like the son as a weapon against the father.
Thus, Lonzo Ball gets to learn how to be a professional athlete of note while carrying the load of his father’s impression upon the nation as well as the loads of those who believe that sins of the father must revert to the son. Popularity’s dominant property is its corrosion, and Ball will have to have very fast feet and well-constructed shoes indeed to dance away from the rising tide of a bored fan base with an ax to grind.
It isn’t as instantly gratifying a train wreck as Mayweather-McGregor, but it is a triumph of the new marketing strategy of wholesale idiocy that diminishes the watcher as well as the watched.
Neither of these events are in and of themselves interesting. Mayweather-McGregor is simply a kangaroo boxing a bear because circus entertainment no longer has circuses as venues, and Ball’s summer bears almost no relationship to the true test of his career – how to be the best player on a terrible team and then make the adjustment to being the third best player on a rebuilding team.
Ball has a longer shelf life because of that single useful component, but it is made less rather than more interesting by the presence of his father, who is now indelibly part of the tale at a time when most parents leave their children to find their fortunes by the virtues of their skills and wits.
McGregor-Mayweather has the sole benefit of being cringeworthy both before, during and after the event, a month-long smear of degradation that reduces all involved, including those who buy the fight, into penitents, into rolling apologies. It is an event in which nobody gets out with any shred of dignity, with the single revolting example of the grisly accountant-beasts who will take the Internal Revenue’s cut immediately after the fight.
And if that isn’t Satan winning, then you don’t know how to score a game in which Satan plays on all the teams at once and sees to it that the game is scheduled in the middle of July because some client of his told him it was the best time of year for personal and professional disgrace with a scoreboard on the end of it.