Ratto: Sharks face Game 7 in sea of doubters


Ratto: Sharks face Game 7 in sea of doubters

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

The last thing the San Jose Sharks want right now is advice from Jimmy Howard. In fact, all they really want from the Detroit Red Wings goaltender right now is a torn groin muscle.But for the moment, theyll take what they can get. Its not like what they have is helping them."These are moments we dream out," Howard said after Detroit won Game 6 to tie this series at three-all and to all but complete the Wings comeback from the coroners slab. "How can you not? Of course we've been thinking about it. I've been thinking about it since we were down 3-0. But it's down to one game. Game 7's going to be a lot of fun."I stole that from the Red Sox."NEWS: Injured Clowe a game-time decision for SharksIts easy for him to be blithe about it now, because the Wings looked a week ago the way the Sharks do now, backed into a corner and sweating like a full malaria clinic. But it is San Joses only way out of cementing their legacy as the Windpipe Kids, so they may as well find their inner the-hell-with-it, because the alternative is choking their sticks until sawdust is their trail.RELATED: McLellan stays the course for San Jose
"I don't think you would've believed it if you came here and saw it after it was 3-0," Howard said. "It was loose, joking around, people laughing and being themselves. I think that's key when you dig yourself into that sort of hole. You don't hang your head. You pull up yourself and get to work.""You'd be lying if you didn't think about (the history)," winger Dan Cleary said. "We believed that we can and that's the one thing. If you believe you really, really can, and you're just not kidding yourself, then you've got a chance."I didn't think we should have been down 0-3, Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. We could have won them all, so could have they. That's how tight this has been. Not much to pick between the teams.''Yes there is. Detroit overwhelmed San Jose in Game 6 when San Jose had at bare minimum to play the Wings even and hope for a bounce to go their way. The Sharks, though, never gave themselves a chance for luck, because they decided to waste the largest part of an entire evening instead.They did have a brief flurry early in the third period, when Logan Couture scored the teams only goal, but it faded quickly as the Red Wings reasserted the dominance it held through two periods, and the goals from Valteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg merely reminded everyone involved who did the dictating, and who has the upper hand come Thursday night.And therein lies San Joses best shot. The knowledge that, well, nobody really knows who has the upper hand.Hockey does not use momentum as a guide. If it did, Vancouver would never have beaten Chicago after blowing a similar 3-0 lead in the first round.Secondly, the Sharks secondary M.O. is that they do their best work when freshly kicked in the nethers. They got run out of their own building by Edmonton, the worst team in the league by record, in mid-January, and got and stayed hot immediately thereafter.And third, the notion that they would guarantee their legacy as the least achieving good team in modern hockey history is too at an angle. Three weeks ago, they were the winners of this dubious honor. Two weeks ago, they had lost the title to Washington, and even fell behind Vancouver in the race. Suddenly, they are back atop the never-there-when-you-expect-them race, and only surviving and advancing Thursday night can forestall that.After all, nobody is harping about Vancouver nearly losing to Chicago any more. It will be brought up again if the Canucks dont get to the Cup final, because Vancouver is like that, and always has been. But lets be honest you dont remember the previous team to go up 3-0, fall to 3-3 and then win, do you? Heres a hint, though, its the same team that was the last one to come back from 3-0 down to win a series before last year.The 1975 New York Islanders. They came back from deaths lobby to beat Pittsburgh, then did so again against Philadelphia in the next round, but lost Game 7, 4-1.Point is, nobody brings that one up, and the Sharks may find themselves in the same happy sea if they can rally Thursday and beat Detroit.It will require a re-re-adjustment of the forward lines, as the Logan Couture-to-wing, Patrick Marleau-to-center plan didnt work, and Marleau went back to being the left wing on Joe Thorntons line by games end. It will also require the return of Ryane Clowe from Dream Street, where he was apparently planted by Niklas Kronwall in Game 5. Head coach Todd McLellan offered little new insight on that subject Wednesday, even though we suspect he already has all the input he will need to make a call. Clowe was not on the ice for Wednesdays afternoon skate, but got treatment in the morning is a game time decision based on the Thursday morning skate.But Clowe or no, the Sharks are on their own amidst a sea of doubters. Which, weirdly, is often how they like it. Its a Red Sox thing, apparently.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.

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.