Ratto: Sharks' McLellan takes aim at former mentor


Ratto: Sharks' McLellan takes aim at former mentor


Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

DETROIT -- Todd McLellan is unusually respectful when speaking of the Detroit Red Wings, and particularly their head coach, Mike Babcock. And McLellan ought to be, because they got him his current job.But that was 10 meetings ago, and since eight of those 10 meetings have been won by the San Jose Sharks and McLellan, one cannot help but wonder if the two men are going to notice their paths beginning to diverge.RELATED: Sharks, Wings shuffle lines at Tuesday skate
Before your shorts start riding up, this is not one of those McLellan is outcoaching Babcock nonsensithons which are normally posited by people who not only dont understand hockey, but dont understand sports. Coaching is almost entirely a function of the players one has and their performances within games. Todd McLellan did not get smarter, and Mike Babcock did not get stupider.

But Babcock and McLellan are also highly competitive beings, and they have both noticed who has gotten the better end of whom in the last year or so. Babcocks body of work is deeper and richer, but McLellan has won eight of the last 10 games between the two sides, including Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.And the reason for that is probably no more involved than the Sharks having been built, adjusted and re-adjusted to play Detroit at its best. McLellan didnt initiate or sanction the snow showers on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, but dont think he disapproves as much as he says he does. He believes Detroit can be knocked off its feet, and he has ratcheted up the body work from his forwards to see what Detroit wants to send back.RELATED: Game 2 notes: Sparks over Pavelski 'snow showers'
Its not an unusual notion; the Wings have seen this before. But McLellans approach is working because he has the personnel to carry out his instructions, and having broken them down in January after three and a half months of bad hockey, it has been easier for him to get the Sharks to do as they are told.Not consistently, mind you. The Sharks still have a bad player on their shoulders who likes to whisper, Fore-checking is for weenies; let the defensemen play defense. Its in the name, for Gods sake. Go on, take another neutral zone circle. Gliding is fun.But they do best with scares, and McLellan knows that. They got scared unnecessarily against Los Angeles, and they have decided that for Detroit, greater adherence to a harder-edged more physically engaged game is the only way to go.Again, a coaching decision that both coaches saw coming up Broadway.But this is where it gets interesting. Babcock has owned the Western Conference for years now, and having lost to those relentless underachievers from San Jose a year ago and now halfway to doing the same thing again, he is going to find the differences that separate him from McLellan when it comes time to finding summer fishing partners.There is plenty to draw from here, most notably when Bo Schembechler left Woody Hayes to seek his own fortune at Michigan, just up the road from here. Or Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight. They were close, then they let competition intrude, and then they werent for a long time.Ultimately, they are bound for the long term by the shared experiences, and they know that whatever enmity they will learn to deal with in the next few years while they fight for the same thing year after year, and more likely than not they will have to go through each other to get it.In short, their heartfelt howdies are going to get less frequent, and their gamesmanship will be more involved the odd snow shower or between-games line changes. If this was once mentor v. pupil, it is now near equals having at each other.We say near equals because McLellans Stanley Cup ring came from Babcock. Ifwhen he gets one of his own, this will get fun.

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.