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The Rams and Getting Their Signals Straight

December 10th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

Think back to the Los Angeles Rams’ 2016 NFL season.

Prize draft pick Jared Goff was a mess. When he finally got a chance to play, in the final seven games of the season, the rookie quarterback looked clueless and panicked, conditions that rule out competence. And, yes, he was 0-7 as a starter.

The Goff we saw from Week 1 this season, under the guidance of 31-year-old coach/guru Sean McVay, has seemed methodical, cool and confident, with a nice touch on the ball and a fairly high level of accuracy.

It has been a startling makeover and, of course, a welcome one to anyone who remembered the price the Rams paid to move up in the 2016 college draft and take Goff with the first pick. Turns out Goff can be competent. (Sigh of relief.)

But we should not consider Goff as having completed the caterpillar-to-butterfly process, and we offer the final half of the fourth quarter today of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 43-35 over the Rams at the Coliseum.

We saw there a Goff and McVay system that leaves the Rams at risk in high-tension situations.

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The Angels (!) and Signing the Japanese Babe Ruth

December 9th, 2017 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball

The story of Shohei Ohtani just got a bit more fantastical.

The 23-year-old Japanese star who seems to be channeling the spirit of Babe Ruth with his demonstrated star quality as both a pitcher and hitter, has signed with a Major League Baseball team.

And it is not the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox that Ohtani has chosen to join. Not the Los Angeles Dodgers or Chicago Cubs.

It is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who in recent seasons had been fading into anonymity among the L.A. market’s glut of major sports franchises, and their coup suggests they may be ready to aspire to be the competitive club they were in the first decade of this century.

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Our Close-Up with the Goats

December 8th, 2017 · No Comments · France

We have watched the mixed herds of sheep and goats in our little town over the past year and a half. Usually from our balcony while they are cropping the grass or leaves in the open land behind the house.

Never was I close enough to them to at least consider how I might evade them if they came running in my direction.

That changed this week.

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LaVar Ball and Driving His Kids into a Ditch

December 7th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA, UCLA

Yeah, more LaVar. I don’t plan to do that. But we have so many teachable moments involved here that we feel the gravitational pull … of the worst Basketball Dad in the history of the game.

A Bleacher Report story, by a reporter based in Israel, where European basketball is a big thing, offers little hope for LaVar in his latest plan — to get his two younger sons onto the same European professional team.

In short?

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The Death of the ‘French Elvis’

December 6th, 2017 · No Comments · France

French music is strange.

France is a large country, with lots and lots of history, including a fair share of celebrated composers of classical music, especially over the past 150 years — Debussy, Ravel, Bizet, Delibes, Offenbach, etc.

But French pop music, at least to the expat’s ear, seems to have ended with Charles Trenet in the post-War years, if not with Edith Piaf, who died in 1963.

When rock and roll appeared on the scene it almost instantly eclipsed the “chanson” stuff of the 1950s and France mostly just waited for foreigners, American and British, in particular, to let them know who was writing and/or recording good music.

That has been the situation for half a century now, with French radio giving lots and lots of air time to imports from the anglophone countries … or to French singers who interpret those songs.

Which is where Johnny Hallyday, the French Elvis, comes in.

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‘Kiddie Reporter’ May Find a Career

December 5th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Journalism, Newspapers, Sports Journalism, Tennis, UAE

In conversations with journalists, over the years, I have found a common denominator:

A significant percentage of them were thinking about journalism — and even practicing it — at a young age.

This comes to mind after seeing a call from officials of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, later this month in Abu Dhabi, for a Kiddie Reporter, ages 6 to 14, to cover the tournament.

And, really, that age group is when a lot of us already were journalists in the making.

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No More Sympathy for LaVar Ball

December 4th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA, UCLA

For a time, I could not help but feel some sympathy, and a little admiration, for LaVar Bell and his big plans for his sons and for himself.

Here was a father deeply (very, very deeply) involved with his sons’ lives, overseeing their training and practice in an effort to see all three of them as college basketball stars and then NBA players.

He seemed to be fighting, successfully, against the the long, sad history of American basketball development, which is riddled with cases of kids used and abandoned by amateur coaches and skeezy agents in the long and perilous journey from mini-stars up to the NBA.

Here was a father who decided he knew what was best for his sons, and had a plan for them — and, for a time, seemed to be pulling it off.

But LaVar has lost me since the mess involving his second son, who was arrested for shoplifting in China (pretty much the definition of “international incident”), which was amplified today when the elder Ball revealed he is pulling that son, LiAngelo, out of UCLA.

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Messi and Barca: Must-See … Once

December 2nd, 2017 · No Comments · Barcelona, Football, soccer, Spain

Twice, I have seen Lionel Messi play at Camp Nou. In 180 minutes of La Liga play witnessed by moi, he has scored three goals (and Luis Suarez has another) … but FC Barcelona did not win on either occasion.

The first Camp Nou match for me was a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in 2012. Messi had two goals, Cristiano Ronaldo had two goals and that was that.

This time?

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How the Draw Might Have Gone for the U.S.

December 1st, 2017 · 2 Comments · Fifa, Football, Landon Donovan, World Cup

The World Cup without the U.S. national team?

Those who consider it a disastrous setback for soccer in America are badly mistaken.

It’s 2017, not 1998! Soccer in the U.S., at the club level, is in fine shape and trending upward.

If anything, sitting out Russia 2018 can serve as a wake-up call for the national team, which has been stuck in a sort of rut for a decade,

But, if you just can’t look at the World Cup draw without a red-white-and-blue flag on it (for the first time since 1990) …

Let’s look at how the Yanks might have fared, in the draw, had they qualified by 1) finishing third (sted Panama) in the Concacaf hexagonal or 2) made the tournament by defeating Australia in the inter-confederation playoffs.

How excited or daunted would U.S. fans be?

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Thank Goodness for Toothpaste Tube Instructions!

November 30th, 2017 · No Comments · Uncategorized

We live in a silly world. We shrug as the list of countries with nuclear weapons grows but we have printed warnings that coffee may be hot, plastic bags should not be placed over your head and, now, we have instructions for getting toothpaste out of a tube.

I noticed the other day, on a tube of “regular paste” Crest, the instructions for use are printed on the tube in bright red letters, all caps. (As can be seen above.)

Actually, I am thankful that Procter & Gamble, makers of the paste, were thoughtful enough to include instructions because I confess to sometimes being a bit unsure of the process. It can be tricky, no?

For example:

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