Ray Ratto

Sharks' character to be revealed

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Sharks' character to be revealed

It is clear, as Comrade Kurz pointed out in his game story from Wednesdays 4-3 loss to Calgary, that the Sharks work with a much thinner margin than either they or their supporters believe. And when they forget how thin the prosciutto is, the trepidation surrounding their upcoming road trip becomes a potential season-spoiler.

Thus, when Todd McLellan fulminated in that gravelly practice-tomorrow-is-so-going-to-suck-for-those-guys baritone that the Flames outworked and outcompeted his team, he was doing what he always does speak not to the game that just ended but the immediate future.And this is the Sharks immediate future:Chicago, Friday at Le Pavillon.At St. Louis.At Washington.At Tampa Bay.At Carolina.At Detroit.At Columbus.At Toronto.At Nashville.At Minnesota.In 17 days. The season, in 17 days. Nine road games, three of them back-to-back. It is a trip that can kill a team Chicago is in the middle on its own nine-gamer, and has lost the first four, and five of six to fall from first to sixth in the West.RELATED: NHL Conference standings
In short, here is where the blade meets the rut, and where we find out not about San Joses character, but about its mental and physical stamina. The playoffs, only with gamier suitcases.San Jose does not normally consider the road a daunting burden. Since the 04-05 lockout, the Sharks have the third best road record in the NHL, 142-90-27. To simplify that number, it averages out to a 98-point season, meaning that the Sharks would be a playoff team if they never came home at all.But this is the first year since 2003 in which they have not been among the top 10 road teams, so the assumption that they will find their zen and camaraderie from 16 days of housekeeping service is not such an automatic.The truith is, the Sharks are entirely dependent upon keeping the other teams goals down. McLellan made a particular point Wednesday night of pointing out that the Sharks have allowed four goals 12 times this year, and have lost 11 of them. An even split would put them in a tie with Detroit atop the league.Then again, an even split is an unrealistic notion, and McLellan knows that. A year ago, they were 1-17 in those games. Three years ago, in their best-ever season of 2009, they were 7-16. You allow four, youre supposed to lose.Which brings us back to the road trip. They will face, in order, the 26th-best scoring team in the league, then the 11th, the 13th, the 16th, the 2nd, the 28th, the 6th, the 9th and the 29th. It will be a cross-section of the resurgent and the doomed, the playoff-bound and the hopelessly out-of-it.And it is a lousy time for the Sharks to separate themselves from the one thing that has brought them here this year a grinding, defensively-tilted game that takes all of the 60 minutes to play, night in and night out.That is taxing business, but the alternative is being well-rested and having most of your April free. They are, after all, six points out of ninth as day dawns, and they dont have that many defensive soft touches left.So they should plan on splitting the road trip as a bare minimum, because there are more nights like the one Calgary handed them Wednesday night, and their inability to recognize and react to the challenge quickly enough kept them from having the four and allowing the three.Thats how thin the margin is. Yes, they are on pace to finish with 103 points, but to maintain that, they have to go the equivalent of 5-3-1 on the road trip. That too seems like a heavy lift.But they know what they must do to manage it. Dont allow the fourth goal, and win more than their share of the one-goal games, where they are currently 22nd in the league.In other words, this isnt going to be easy. It shouldnt be easy. When it is easy, and especially when they think it's easy, it ends badly.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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

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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.