Ray Ratto

Ratto: Five keys for the Sharks as series shifts to S.J.


Ratto: Five keys for the Sharks as series shifts to S.J.

May 19, 2011


Ray Ratto

With the Stanley Cup Western Conference Final perhaps only a weekend away from being over, here are some things you havent thought of mostly because nobody in their right mind would.

1. Ben Eager: Threat or menace?
Eager was good when he wasnt being bad, but the balance was wildly off. So does he play Friday, or does Todd McLellan forgo his energy for a more balanced, cerebral, disciplined approach? A tough call that even a plane ride home wont clear up -- especially given that they need energy which so few of Eager's brethren provided.

RATTO: Don't hang Game 2 crash on Eager

2. Who else sits?
So few to choose from, even though so few competed. There are not a lot of options for McLellan to shake up the roster, and changing lines, which he did often Wednesday night, surely didnt have any effect. Even trying to turn the game into a pie fight at the end didnt work. If this isnt helplessness, its hard to know what is.

3. Is home so sweet?
Not really. San Jose is 0-5 in conference final games at home all-time, and a modest 4-3 at home in this postseason. Its hard to know whether fan love really reaches them at their core, as its hard to know what does. This may be a simple matter of the better team doing the better work, but surely the Sharks have more competitive orneriness than this. Surely they do. Surely . . . maybe.
4. Those are prime seats - use them
Without the Green Men, a fan at Rogers Arena took it upon herself to distract Ben Eager in the penalty box as best she could by lifting her top. Eager seems to have noticed, but had the good sense given the tenor of the game not to do anything about it like elope. In short, the penalty box seat gap between the Sharks and Canucks seems as pronounced as the one on the ice. Thats a lot of pressure for the folks in Section 115.

RELATED: Have Sharks, McLellan run out of options?

5. How many more times can a person wake up?
Logan Couture on Wednesdays grande debacle: You look at the last six to seven games we've played, we're just not playing well. We're not playing the way we should be in the playoffs. Tonight was just embarrassing. Hopefully, it wakes us up a little bit. A little bit? At this point? A knee in the groin is probably insufficient for this job, as many times as its had to be invoked.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together


National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together

So after one day, the NSOBL (the National Son-Of-A-Bitch League, as if you couldn’t guess) has survived the contemptible brain-burps of the Panderer-In-Chief. Now we’ll see if the players’ fury has true staying power.
And by staying power, we don’t mean whether they will continue to defy the call of the National Anthem (an easy enough task), but whether they view their newfound solidarity as something that needs to be nurtured to truly endure.
After all, it’s easy to be galvanized by the noisy neighbor who spends his day on the porch shouting irrational obscenities at the neighbors. But Donald Trump isn’t the issue; he never was. All he did was put a face to the idiocies that prevent us from being the country we should be.
But this started a year ago with a single knee, a single person, and a broader cause than a President who needs to pick fights the way a vampire needs naked necks. Colin Kaepernick, whose career as a football player is essentially over because he caused the NFL a headache by honoring his conscience, took his knee to protest police excesses, and didn’t need to be called a son of a bitch to do so. He was later, of course, part of the medley of all the other insults that followed, but he didn’t kneel because he was insulted. He knelt because other were, and worse.
But the beauty of these days is that we take any idea or action and immediately change its meaning to fit our own prejudices. Kaepernick’s message was too nuanced for a lot of people’s facilities because they value symbols more than people, but nobody doesn’t understand being called a son of a bitch by a boss you hate.
So the new NSOBL is just starting to coalesce. There will not be a shortage of reasons for players to find their voice and conscience, and to break the bonds that required them to ask permission before speaking or thinking. If they are as they purport to be, they will remember that change happens with a single son of a bitch.

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


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.