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.

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

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AP

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.