Ray Ratto

Ratto: Marleau's goal changes all ... for 17 days


Ratto: Marleau's goal changes all ... for 17 days


SAN JOSE -- The loudest roar of the night at Le Pavillon du HP was reserved for Patrick Marleaus goal with 7:47 to play.Yeah. That Patrick Marleau.His game-winning, series-clinching, death-robbing, reputation-saving and all-around memorable goal in San Joses 3-2 victory over Detroit in Game 7 of this Western Conference semifinal will be the new standard for artery-searing fun on ice.After all, Marleau was the metaphor for this series, the most relentlessly available blame repository for all San Joses ills in a series that took three games too long for them, and delayed their entry into the conference final against the other team from the Playoff Bizarro World, the Vancouver Canucks.You could sort of see it coming, defenseman Dan Boyle said after the game and series that took three years off each combatants lives. With all the grief hes taken, and the way this game is, honestly, I figured it would end this way.
RECAP: Sharks survive, clip Red Wings in Game 7
Yes, with Marleau, The Goat For All Scapes, ending a great series with a goal that changed Bay Area hockey history. For 17 days, anyway.I was really happy for him, Boyle said, repeating the sentiment of all the Sharks in a very relieved dressing room. Hed been keeping to himself pretty much, just getting ready for the moment, I guess.And it came, the follow to an eight-foot wrist shot from Devin Setoguchi that sought out Marleau, who let instinct do the talking into an open net to Detroit goalie Jimmy Howards left.Pattys been through an awful lot, head coach Todd McLellan said. Patty and Jumbo (Joe Thornton) have been lightning rods around here for a long time, but when you see the number of minutes we played him, the number of shifts he gets, its clear we need him a great deal.And now, with Vancouver the new 50-foot hurdle, the Sharks will need him, and all his mates, even more.But for the moment, the rear-view mirror was where the Sharks were actually looking, because they had endured a truly weird -- yes, weird, even for them -- fortnight and a nearly psychotic final day with the Red Wings.First, Ryane Clowe, who missed Game 6 with what most people believe to be a concussion, was green-lighted to play, and played well.Second, the Sharks started quickly, but very nearly relived the nightmares of Game 5 -- because thats what they do, and because thats who they are.McLellan likes to talk about lessons learned, and the Sharks finally deduced that all that screaming about their lousy first periods might have had some merit, which is why they played their best period of the series right away. San Jose scored twice in the first to re-win their customers love . . . at least until the next time they do something obnoxious. In doing so, they showed what they are when they are at their best, which they hadnt been for a good week.The first score, at 12:20 came after Jonathan Ericsson went off for a hook on Torrey Mitchell. Boyle, at the right point, slid a pass along the wall to Thornton, who spotted Setoguchi with space and time to Howards right, and beat him with a wicked one-timer at 12:20. It also broke an 0-for-10 power play streak by the Sharks, for those of you who are statistically invigorated.After two excellent penalty kills, on the rambunctious Clowe for roughing Howard and Marc-Edouard Vlasic for tripping Darren Helm, the Sharks put in what looked to be the dagger. Henrik Zetterberg brought the puck out from behind the Detroit net but put it right onto Coutures stick at the right dot. Couture promised to thank Zetterberg later, but in the half-second he had available to him, he beat Howard over his left shoulder to make it 2-0.Just like Game 5.If that were enough, the Sharks would have been home free. As it was, Detroit doesnt just leave when it looks like it should, and proved it at 13:10 when Zetterberg beat Niemi with a nifty backhand to finish a 3-on-2 break. The Sharks held on to the rest of the period by the tape of their sticks, but Detroit had shifted the initiative so much that they outshot San Jose 17-6 in the period, won 16 of the 25 draws and in general worried Niemi as much as the Sharks had worried Howard in the first. The outcome would hinge on what came after, because two lopsided periods had made a nearly even game.Just like Game 5.Thats the lesson we have to learn from this game, Boyle said. We lost our composure and we started running around, and they did what they do when you start running around.But Marleau, who had been livelier than he had been in any other game, was presented with his cant-miss-this--one goal with the work of Thornton at the other end and Setoguchis intrepid work at the goal front. The Sharks regained their two-goal lead.Also like Game 5. Only unlike Game 5, the Wings had only seven minutes and change, not 19 and change, to steal the game, and though Pavel Datsyuk did pull them back to within one with a backhand that goalie Antti Niemi could not shoulder out 1:46 later, and though the Sharks had to kill one final penalty, from Mitchell for slashing Ruslan Salei, they did the one thing they hadnt done for nearly a week.They survived.Now they face another team that spun gold into straw and back into gold in Vancouver. A different team, with different modus operandi, the deepest and best talent coupled with the crushing weight of a citys demanding and unfulfilled expectations.The breathing, in short, will be difficult. Ask Todd McLellan.Are you kidding? he said when asked how he felt. Look at me.He looked, well, exhausted. And hell be exhausted awhile longer. Patrick Marleau can do that to you -- both ways.Ray Ratto is a columnist with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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.