Ray Ratto

Ratto: New low in hockey's offseason of tragedy


Ratto: New low in hockey's offseason of tragedy

Sept. 6, 2011


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Ray Ratto

The members of the international hockey village will rise as one tomorrow to send an angry middle finger to the summer of 2011.Today, though, its just blank looks and full eyes and a sense of bewilderment.The crash of the Russian jet carrying a KHL hockey team and killing at least 43 people has the same crushing effect on those who live within and beside this sport that the other great sporting tragedies of the era have. It just leaves a person slack-jawed and silent, without meaningful words to say even in condolence. There is just an overwhelming stupefaction at the enormity of the tragedy.According to CSN Bay Areas Brodie Brazil, who spoke with aviation experts conversant with the accident, it appears the plane lost its No. 1 (left) engine on takeoff, either to mechanical issue or birdstrike. With only two engines and full fuel on takeoff, the plane could not climb, rolled and apparently struck a radar antenna, probably lost parts of a wing and crashed in the Volga River approximately 1,500 to 3,000 from the airport boundary.One Sharks draft choice, Daniil Sobchenko, has been confirmed as one of the dead, but this isnt about which players who played for what teams have been killed. The tragedy is in its vastness because this transcends team affiliations.That is because hockey is a double-knit community in which everyone knows everyone else, and seemingly nobody slips through the cracks. Everyone has a story, and there is always someone about to tell it. It isnt quite the factory of the nameless and faceless that other sports in their greater size can claim. It is, for good and ill, an immense and interconnected industryfamily.RELATED: Russian plane crash claims 43, many former NHL players
Thus, Sobchenkos fate has the same effect in the Sharks offices as Brad McCrimmons, or Ruslan Saleis, or Pavol Demitras. Just as Wade Belaks death and Rick Rypiens and Derek Boogaards deaths for different reasons did earlier this summer, these deaths hit everyone in toto, not piecemeal.This isnt a blow to the emblem on the front of the jersey, then. It hits at the very heart of every player and every front-office person who has been around for more than a few months. How many people did McCrimmon touch in his 30 years more or less in the game, or Demitra in his 20-some-odd, or Salei, or Josef Vasicek or Karlis Skrastins?Eventually, all of them, is the correct answer. Which is why today is such a knee to the stomach for the entire industryfamily because everyone was hit by the news, a one-in-all-in experience that makes it worse, and better, because nobody evades the pain, and everyone needs a post upon which to lean.Tomorrow, there will be the anger, the rage that comes of a nightmarish summer without context or explanation. People were still trying to sort out the details of the Boogaard, Rypien and Belak deaths, even trying to lump in the death of a fourth, former Shark Tom Cavanagh, back in January.The crash, though, makes it something else entirely, something far larger, and sorrow can only last so long. Eventually, rage takes over, and the sport rises to shake its fist as a prelude to more profane expressions at a summer made in hell that cannot end soon enough.Ray Ratto is a columnist at CSNBayArea.com.

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.

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).


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)


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)


HOUSTON: Tom Savage (DeShaun Watson)

INDIANAPOLIS: Scott Tolzien (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett)

JACKSONVILLE: Chad Henne (Blake Bortles)

TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota (Matt Cassel)


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)


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)


CHICAGO: Mike Glennon (Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez)

DETROIT: Matthews Stafford (Jack Rudock)

GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers (Brett Hundley)

MINNESOTA: Sam Bradford (Case Keenum)


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)


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.