Ratto: Sharks put up stinker for the ages in Game 2


Ratto: Sharks put up stinker for the ages in Game 2

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

When Dan Boyle, who is the Sharks designated scold at times like this, cant muster up sufficient bile to excoriate himself and his teammates for an effort like Saturdays somethings clearly gone off the rails.He is the Sharks disgust-o-meter, and yet the best he could emit after the teams 4-0 face-washing at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings was a tepid, We werent very good at all. We were terrible.Well, they were, of course. To have the Kings down two of their best centermen, keep a full complement of defensemen for all 60 minutes and turn what should have been on paper a 5-1 win into a 4-0 defeat that takes a level of non-competition and non-commitment that one normally finds in your run-of-the-mill Islander, Oiler or Panther.

It was a missed opportunity, no question, he said. We had a chance to go up 2-0, they were missing two of their better guys (the injured Anze Kopitar and the suspended Jarret Stoll), but we came out and we didnt do many things well out there at all.Oh, it was worse than that. They also contributed three ill-advised first period penalties so that they could expose their low-level penalty kill to more national ridicule. They let the Los Angeles defensemen own the evening, from the nonpareil Drew Doughty and his two-goal, two-assist night to Jack Johnson and his one-and-one, to Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell essentially eating the lunches of first-liners Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi, among others.This was a 4-0 defeat on the merits. The Kings dominated down low at both ends of the ice, and even thrived with Trevor Lewis replacing Stoll and centering the Kings most effective line, with Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams. The defense dominated so well that the forwards could own their cycling space without fear of contradiction from the home team. Goalie Jonathan Quick had 34 saves, but wasnt spectacular by any means. He was just very good the entire night. The rebounds he allowed were whisked away by his diligent defenders, and the saves he did make were not goal-robbing ones.This was, in short, exactly the game from Los Angeles that the Sharks should have given, and for some perverse reason, didnt. Were a better team, a more competitive team than we showed tonight, head coach Todd McLellan grumped. If we dont come out tomorrow and have a sense of shame and anger lingering over us . . . Id be very disappointed.Clearly, he wants the team to loathe itself for an evening, but whether they do or not is always an open question. After all, it takes an entire roster to make a game this lopsided, and the Sharks gave their anti-all to do so.Statistics dont often tell the tale in hockey, and the faceoff numbers (Sharks, 42-28) are a particularly egregious lie. But the giveaways, 19-6 for the Sharks, at home, where the giveaway stats tend to be generous toward the team who works there every day, is exceptionally scandalous a measure of how few puck battles they won along the wall and in front of the net, how many passes they were pressured into spoiling, and how much space they ceded to the more aggressive Kings.And theres one more thing, and it is a familiar mantra in these parts. The Kings best players, Doughty and Johnson, were so not only in reputation but in deed, while the Sharks best players were at best invisible.Thats the important part of it, Kings coach Terry Murray said. When you need something big to happen like we did tonight, your key guys have to step up, and ours did. They held nothing back. Doughty and Johnson, the way we cycled the puck with Smyth and his line, they were all exceptional.That is the standard impression when your team has four and the other has nought, and in truth, 4-0 may have been only a modest impression of the difference between the two teams Saturday.The two teams now have two days to become complacent, morose, angry or more determined. The Kings got to show Saturday that no matter how many centers they have, they still have all the defensemen any good team could ever need, and the Sharks got to show that they still are capable of stinking out the joint every now and then.The good thing is, we know how to come back, McLellan said. We lost to Chicago, 6-2, we got beaten pretty good by Anaheim, and we came back and followed those games with good performances.So now, all they have to do is show they still have that gift. Or, in the alternative, can appeal that Stoll suspension to see if they can get it carried over to Game 3, since it clearly didnt help them in Game 2.

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.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.