Ratto: Sharks inert on deadline day -- does it matter?


Ratto: Sharks inert on deadline day -- does it matter?


As expected, the Sharks enjoyed the NHL trade deadline in the same way that the rest of you did -- from afar.

But the expected panic that will come from the Los Angeles Kings trading for Dustin Penner will stop at the feet of general manager Doug Wilsons desk. In short, he was unmoved.

The Kings deal was the most compelling deal of an otherwise quiet day, and the tradition of overreacting to a move and declaring the active teams brilliant was well in evidence as the trade was chewed over on CBC, TSN and Rogers SportsNet.

Typically, though, big deadline day moves do not translate into a huge improvement for the teams that invest in them. Big trades are big trades whenever they happen, and the Penner deal, for L.A.s first and a conditional third-round pick and former first-rounder Colten Teubert, is a kind of big deal.

NEWS: Sharks stand pat at trade deadline

I guess.

It seems much bigger, though, because it happened on a nearly inert deadline day. And the Kings were in a more vulnerable state than, say, the Canucks, Red Wings or Sharks.

San Jose will claim that Antero Niittymakis health and the trade for defenseman Ian White serve as the Sharks deadline improvements, and in a semantic way thats probably true.

But the Sharks made their real move when they finally convinced the student-athletes already on campus to play a different way. That occurred six weeks ago, and they are now a much tougher out than they have been, or that they would have been if they had been the ones to trade for Penner.

Unlike the NBA deadline, which was really about Carmelo Anthony, the NHL had no Anthony to move. Dustin Penner is more a Josh Smith type, if you want to strain the analogy.

NEWS: Penner moves from Edmonton to L.A.

But does he change the balance the power in the West? No more than, say, the Blackhawks did with the Chris Campoli deal if they can figure out how to make Campoli actually access his skills as he has not in Long Island or Ottawa. Or maybe even the Phoenix deal for defenseman Rostislav Klesla.

The Penner deal actually enhances Los Angeles ability to make the playoffs, but it is hard to project the Kings as superior to Vancouver or Detroit, or even San Jose. It is harder for the Sharks to unlearn how to play their new style than it is for Penner to integrate himself onto a team with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

Put another way, if the Sharks lapse into their old silly ways, they deserve all the scorn they will get. If they do not, the Kings are not good enough to beat them four times, and in any event probably wouldnt meet them anyway.

The Kings are better with Penner next year, and by then the Sharks will have to address their cap squeeze and their weaknesses, but the turnaround here is too short. The Kings wont have the time to transform themselves into a conference power without a full camp, and the one thing nobody has now is time.

As to the Sharks, they will stand or fall on their own -- not because of Dustin Penner, but because what they did to straighten themselves out wasnt enough to elevate them past teams that remain their superiors.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for 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.