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Back in the Day: Having a Head for Football

June 1st, 2020 · No Comments · Back in the Day, Football, Journalism, Newspapers, Sports Journalism, The Sun

First printed in the San Bernardino Sun, November 3, 2002.

Twice in my life I have gone to a hospital emergency room as a patient.

On both occasions it was after suffering a head injury on a kickoff at a high-school football game.

And you thought freeway driving was dangerous.

From where we sit, it’s kickoffs that can ruin your Friday night.

In the last game I played in, in 1970, I fielded an onside kickoff and was knocked cold by a teammate who was trying to jump over me — to block — and instead kicked me in the back of the head. Whiplash.

It was a severe concussion; I had headaches and near-blackouts for months.

In the most recent game I covered, Redlands East Valley versus Redlands, I had just gone down to field level and was 3-5 yards out of bounds … when I was “trucked,” as the kids say.

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Our Brainless Brush with Covid-19

May 24th, 2020 · No Comments · coronavirus, France, Quarantine, Wine

At the time, we thought we were going to be fine. It was March 5, and the Covid-19 coronavirus was spreading in France, but it wasn’t where it was going to be in a few weeks. No reports of cases in the neighborhood.

So we did something Just Plain Stupid. We attended a catered dinner inside a local wine shop.

Looking back, we were very fortunate to get out of a small room packed with 60-70 diners, most of them expat retirees, without contracting the virus.

As far as we can tell, no cases were traced back to the dinner we attended.

It was exactly the kind of gathering we have since been warned about dozens of times. And even then we knew it was a sketchy idea. We were not as informed as we should have been, and there was the irrelevant reality of having pre-paid.

Within a few days, we would hear of at least three cases of the virus apparently emerging from the same shop after a music event, a week earlier. Eventually, we heard of two more, in the area’s expat community, taking the total infections to at least five, two of which ended in death.

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The Demise of the Handshake? I Hope So

May 21st, 2020 · 1 Comment · coronavirus

I have dreaded shaking hands for a long time. Maybe 40 years, going back to the first time I heard the science-backed horror narrative of what sort of pathogens/germs/viruses can be easily passed along in the course of a handshake.

If you are out there pressing the flesh, well, you may as well plunge your right hand into a toilet, while you’re at it. (I don’t know how politicians can stand it.)

It is possible that one of the few long-term global improvements, following the Covid-19 pandemic, could be the end of the handshake among a now-virus-savvy global population.

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France, and 55 Days and Nights of Confinement

May 16th, 2020 · No Comments · France, Quarantine, soccer, Sports

Maybe it’s me.

But I didn’t find 55 days of government-ordered Covid-19 quarantine, in our home in France, to be all that bad.

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Rewriting Prep Baseball History

May 11th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Lutherans

Let us take a moment and indulge in some alternative prep sports history.

I have been thinking about a particular high school baseball game since May 11 of 1971, when it was played. It was the final game of the season, and of my organized baseball career.

Had we won, on our home field at Centinela Park, in Inglewood, we would have shared the Olympic League championship and advanced to the playoffs in our division.

I am going to tweak it slightly so that it comes out in a way we hoped. It’s not like we will tear up the whole game. No. Just focus on one moment that might have led to several memorable and happier moments.

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Spitting Image: Soccer to Face Up to Phlegm?

May 2nd, 2020 · No Comments · English Premier League, Fifa, Football, soccer

At the highest levels — say, in the English Premier League — soccer is played on immaculately groomed fields of vibrant green.

The reality is that you should not study the grass too closely unless you are a connoisseur of the dark art of spitting.

Throughout the history of the game, players have been spewing sputum with reckless abandon.

And “reckless abandon” doesn’t cut it in the era of Covid-19 — which is often transmitted through the mouth.

The top medical man at Fifa, the world soccer organizing body, wants to see spitting sanctioned with a yellow “caution” card shown for each salivary eruption.

An interesting and pressing topic, to be sure, but spitting and soccer go together like “corona” and “virus”.

Can we have one without the other?

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Pandemics and the Grandfather I Never Knew

April 27th, 2020 · 11 Comments · Uncategorized

Alfred Oberjuerge contracted the Spanish flu in 1918 while waiting to ship out from Bremerton, WA

I have been away from this blog for more than a month, and before that I was posting infrequently. What I was doing, in retrospect, was waiting for a moment of relevance. 

I found it with a man who died nearly 80 years ago.

Meet Alfred F. Oberjuerge, the grandfather I never knew.

He and I share something significant beyond DNA: Living through a time of pandemic.

A global virus, the Spanish flu of 1917-1919, nearly killed Alfred at the age of 28, shortly after he had joined the U.S. Navy. He narrowly avoided becoming one of the estimated 650,000 Americans to die from the flu — 10 times the U.S. combat death toll in World War I, which ended in November, 2018.

Alfred survived the flu pandemic, but he was not the same man, afterward. The flu had taken an unseen toll and he fell ill nearly every year for the final two decades of his life.

He was born in St. Louis in 1890, the fourth of six children (and third son) of Charles and Wilhelmina Oberjuerge.

The family was part of the second or third generation of ethnic Germans whose predecessors flocked to America in the second half of the 19th century. Many headed up the Mississippi River, settling in and around St. Louis.

“Farmer” was the most common job description in St. Louis, and the Oberjuerge family was no exception. Alfred’s father, Charles, was a truck farmer, who grew fruits and vegetables on his own land, then distributed them to nearby consumers. We can imagine young Alfred as a helping hand, in the first decade of the 20th century; he is not known to have attended high school.

Then came 1917, when Alfred was overtaken by life-changing events.

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Our Priorities Were Misplaced

March 17th, 2020 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Basketball, English Premier League, Football, Olympics, soccer

Sports may not be the be-all and end-all we came to count on.

Many of us have only recently grasped that, as sports content disappeared from our TV diets, shoved aside by a microscopic but deadly bug known as Covid-19, or the Coronavirus.

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Languedoc Wines: Big Values at Small Cost

March 9th, 2020 · 2 Comments · France, Languedoc, Wine

A reader asked for information about the experience of finding and consuming the often-quite economical wines of the Languedoc region of southern France.

In theory, I should be an expert, after four-plus years based among the rolling hills and vineyards in this part of Occitanie, but that would be an error. I like wine well enough but I am no expert.

So, we turn over the following entry to the house wine expert, Leah. Cheers! Paul

Leah writes …

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Shaquille O’Neal and a False Dawn in Sunny Phoenix

March 3rd, 2020 · No Comments · Back in the Day, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

This is another entry in the “Back in the Day” series, where we look back at a sports event I wrote about for the newspaper. In this case, the nearly forgotten 2008 mid-season trade of Shaquille O’Neal from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns.

The idea in Phoenix was that Shaq would be the presence in the paint that would allow the Steve Nash-led, Mike D’Antoni-coached Suns — to win a first NBA championship.

As it turned out, in 33 games that season in Phoenix, Shaq put up the sort of numbers one would associate with a big man on the back side of his career, scoring 12.9 points and taking 10.9 rebounds per game for a high-speed team that went out in the first round of the loaded Western Conference playoffs.

However, when I saw him in Phoenix in his Suns debut, February 20, 2008, versus the visiting Lakers, he looked like a man on a mission — despite the Lakers winning 130-124.

Now, let’s go back to that winter night from 12 years ago.

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