Ratto: Two-faced Sharks living dangerously

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Ratto: Two-faced Sharks living dangerously

Feb. 1, 2011RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEORay RattoCSNBayArea.com

There are so many easy ways to explain San Joses 5-3mortician-cheating victory over Phoenix Tuesday night that one can takecomfort only in the fact that all of them are wrong.

RELATED: Sharks score five straight to shock Coyotes 5-3
It wasnt Alex Stalocks first game, replacing Antti Niemi after 30minutes and change and saving all nine shots he faced, that did it. Itwasnt Joe Pavelskis power play goal with eight seconds left in thesecond period that did it. It wasnt the booing from a properly annoyedcrowd that did it. It wasnt their sudden reacquaintance with the hardwork required to free them from the morass in the middle of the WesternConference. At best, it was a little bit of all of it, but there was nodominant factor.Frankly, theres no real way to explain it satisfactorily. They wereeye-searingly horrible for 39 straight minutes, falling behind 3-0 andseeming to be unbothered by their predicament, and then they were greatfor 21, smothering the Coyotes and scoring five times a mixed-messageperformance about light-switch hockey that could just as easily destroythem as inspire them.But lets just say that some Sharks felt the lash of their compliantticket base and decided that shame can be a powerful motivator.I think maybe part of (the comeback) was the second period, when wecould hear our fans booing us, said Pavelski, who scored his secondand third goals since November. That wasnt fun to hear that,especially in our building. We do take pride in playing here, and wedont really appreciate it.But . . .Oh, we definitely deserved it for the way we were playing.Logically, this would mean that fan-base hatred is they key to all goodthings Shark-related except that they now go on a seven-game roadtrip and wont get to experience that tough love that Pavelskisuggested was the key to victory.They managed to win despite having only 10 forwards (Logan Couture gothit with a flu bug during warmups) and missing Dany Heatley for severalshifts after a turnover. They managed to win despite giving up 27 shotsin 37 minutes and forcing head coach Todd McLellan to replace thelargely blameless Niemi with the rookie Stalock. They managed to winbecause for 21 minutes they acted as though they were an elite teamagain.
REWIND: Couture scratched from game vs. Coyotes
Those moments, though, come few and far between, and as a thoroughlydisgusted McLellan said, We cant do that 31 more times and expect agood end.By now, he has done everything he (or any other coach) can do hesbenched players, hes changed lines, hes kissed them and kicked themand skated them and nurtured them. Theres nothing left to do, and thebig face-slapping trade that would have to involve one of the Big Four(Marleau, Heatley, Joe Thornton or Dan Boyle) isnt going tohappen because they all have no-move deals.In short, the deadline cant save them, and some new coaching stratagemcant save them. Only they can save themselves, and letting the homefolks see how bad they can be is far worse than demonstrating how goodthey can be is beneficial.They are tied for seventh with Chicago, and three points behindfourth-place Nashville. They are also two points ahead of 11th placeCalgary. And this is where they will reside the rest of the season, inthe enormous clot in the middle of the Western Conference, so far fromVancouver and Detroit that they may as well be Vladivostok andNouakchott.
RELATED: NHL standings
Unless, of course, they have that player-generated epiphany that theyalways seem to say theyve had after a big win. They keep playing asthough they like the heat of the third rail, but they also have a lotof charred edges from playing such a cavalier style.In the meantime, they just stole two points they didnt fully earnuntil it was nearly too late, and the best thing for them is that theydont have enough time to absorb the lessons of the first 39 minutes orthe final 21. They play in Anaheim Wednesday, a team almost exactlylike them except in one important way -- the Ducks have already begunthe rebuild to younger and faster that the Sharks may have to undergothis coming summer.They are a playoff team, kind of. They are a team playing for a highdraft choice, almost. They dont know and neither does anyone else.But if Sharks fans want to contribute to the cause in a meaningful way,a loud and healthy festival of boos at the right time seems to workwonders. At least it did Tuesday. God only knows what if anything willwork when they come back against the Washington Ovechkini in twoweeks.What's on your mind? Email Ray and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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AP

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.