Ratto: Sharks need to sharpen game for run at Cup


Ratto: Sharks need to sharpen game for run at Cup

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Hockey people hate the concept of style points. Always have, always will. They prefer the starker and more basic view -- Survive and advance. Fall and play golf.Well, tough. They can be correct with that as far as it goes, but there are different standards for different teams in different years. That is every bit as true as Survive and advance.RECAP: Sharks survive, oust Kings on Thornton's OT goal
So it is with the Sharks, triumphant in a manner of speaking over the Los Angeles Kings in a series that, for the Sharks liking, took too long, demanded too much exertions and exposed too many flaws to be an unqualified triumph.

I mean, the whole idea wasnt to stand glorious over a fallen seven-seed and howl, Hurray! Look what we did! The idea was, and is, to nuzzle up to the Stanley Cup, or in the alternative to at least closer than ever before.It was not to show Chicago, or Detroit, a potential goaltending issue, an ongoing defensive problem, or remind us all of the Sharks proud history of making their job more difficult than it needs be.RATTO: Sharks win it their way, the hard way
Indeed, as series victories go, this was among the least satisfying in Sharks history, rivaled only by the seven-gamer over Calgary three years ago when San Jose was also a two-seed, and a more comfortable one than they were this season. That went seven games, and the Sharks had to catch up twice and then get run in Game 6 before surviving and advancing in Jeremy Roenicks last fine moment as an NHL player.But this series, as much as it may have done to temporarily elevate Joe Thorntons reputation as a goal scorer, also took a toll on San Joses position as a Cup contender. Oh, they outshot the Kings, as they always seem to do, and they won the faceoff battles, as they always seem to do, and they showed just enough of what made them good in the second half to make one think they could do it again.But they also needed three overtime wins to advance. They got hammered on a night when the Kings were missing the very important Jarret Stoll. They got choke-slammed with a series clincher staring them in the face. They found cracks in Antti Niemis armor and cement in his leg pads, for all the long-distance rebounds he allowed. The defensive six only performed in fits and starts, and Dan Boyle, the best of them, struggled more than he ever has since arriving here. And their two worst games occurred at home, likely due to being overamped and less attentive to the details that separated them from the pack to begin with.They were, in short, not inspirational in victory. And maybe thats just the way they need to be -- this close to ignominy and rebuke. As comfortable as a fellow lounging on a razor-blade lounger. Always one bad turn away from another summer of finger-pointing and recrimination.Of course, thats what Sharks fans would like to think -- that their favorites are at their best when theyre at their worst. Its a nice fantasy, one that covers a multitude of sins.But logic demands another view -- that they spent too much time with the Kings for their own good, and that they have an awful lot to remedy if they are to stand an even chance against Detroit, or a better than average chance against Chicago. The arrogance of thinking your worst game somehow strengthens you is always dangerous, and the Sharks need humility now more than ever.In short, they did survive, and they did advance, but they didnt do it the way a champion does. They can still be considered one, but they have to be significantly better, dramatically more efficient, and hugely more receptive to the knowledge they fought for three months to obtain.That skill does not come before persistence or discipline, but after it. Learn that and live it, and they can survive and advance again. Ignore it, and live with the harsh consequences.Now those are style points.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

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.