Ratto: Sharks vs. Kings -- 5 unconventional factors


Ratto: Sharks vs. Kings -- 5 unconventional factors

April 12, 2011

CSNCalifornia.com Conventional wisdom is an insidious evil. It provides comfort and contentment while gnawing at your very soul. It lengthens reaction times and dulls the senses. It is the road to hell.Or its the smart play, made by smart people. One or the other.Thus, while everyone who pays attention to the National Hockey League is quite sure that the San Jose Sharks will handle the Los Angeles Kings in good order starting Thursday, the wise person covers both ends.

With that in mind, here are five perfectly good reasons why the conventional wisdom about this series could be conventional, but not wisdom.1. JONATHAN QUICK
The Kings goalie is not yet fully battle-tested in the postseason six games in a lost series to Vancouver last year but next to Nashvilles Pekka Rinne, he may be the Western Conference goaltender best positioned to stand on his head multiple times against a superior team. And since everyone the Kings might face is a superior team, hed have to. The advantage he has is that under coach Terry Murray, the Kings have become a defensive team first, last and always, making the job of headstands all the easier.RELATED: Sharks depth chart Kings depth chart
This is Los Angeles most dramatic advantage. Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, you know about, but the depth is what separates the Kings. Murray, a former defenseman himself (you may remember him as a proud Oakland Seal), attracted former Penguin Rob Scuderi, former Wild and Canuck Willie Mitchell, and got dramatic improvement from Alec Martinez to form a five-man core that stands with any in the game. Johnson is minus-21, but the Sharks would take him in a heartbeat, and he and Doughty are among the games best puck-control defensemen. If they get their freedom of action, the Sharks jobs gets dramatically harder.
The Kings use their size to dominate along the boards, both with body work and persistence when it comes to digging pucks away from opponents. Part of this is Murrays upbringing, but the additional influence of assistant coach John Stevens, the former Philadelphia coach makes them particularly adept. It may, in fact, be the one thing that makes the Kings unique among the morass of Western Conference teams between seeds four and eight, and it may also be the one thing that the Sharks may not handle well. This is why Ryane Clowe may be the most important Shark in this series he is the teams best pure grinder, and much will be required of him.
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The Sharks may have gotten to the conference final last year, but one of the reasons they have been so adept at flying under the radar is their years of underachievement in the spring. Nobody trusts the bandwagons they have built in the past, so they have taken comfort in the fact that there is no bandwagon at all this time. This, though, is true: You dont change your history until youve actually changed it, and while everyone who pays attention is focused on Vancouver as the capo di tutti capos of the West, the Sharks have been the hottest team in hockey for three months now. There are expectations, and then there are stealth expectations. And expectations are bad. 5. THE STUFF HAPPENS CLAUSE
There is something suspicious about these playoffs other than the delicious Chicago-Vancouver series, there arent a lot of upset possibilities revealing themselves. Nobody buys the Rangers against Washington, there is considerable skepticism about Phoenix over Detroit, Montreal over Boston, Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh and Buffalo over Philadelphia. Someone is going to break ranks here, and the fact that there is such unanimity of feeling about Sharks-Kings makes a body wonder what were missing. The answer is, Probably nothing, but it isnt so probable that it becomes a mortal lock. The Sharks look like a safe play, but theyve looked like a safe play before. In short, be careful what you assume, lest you end up hating the other Southern California team as much as you hate Anaheim.

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.