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.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.