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When the Restaurante Mariscos Turned into an NBA Viewing Party

May 23rd, 2016 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

We went for the burritos. We stayed for the NBA.

We had been in California for a week without visiting a restaurant serving Mexican food, and that was remedied by a visit to a little place named La Costa, in the Inland Empire city of Redlands.

We sat so that we had a good view of one of the two TVs hanging from the ceiling because a couple of us, anyway, were interested in the outcome of Game 4 of the Cleveland-Toronto series.

By the end of our meal, we were just two of several people watching the game, perhaps another indication of the rise of the NBA as one of America’s favorite sports.

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Golden State Warriors: What’s All the Excitement About?

May 22nd, 2016 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

For nearly two full NBA seasons, I read a lot about the Golden State Warriors. I saw the occasional clip.

But not once in the two seasons in which the Warriors upended the NBA with a rain of three-pointers … did I see as many as five consecutive minutes of any game live. That can happen, when you live in Abu Dhabi or France.

That changed today, during Game 3 of the Western Conference championship series, which I watched, and I have to ask: What’s all the fuss about?”

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Crystal Palace and the Coach Who Danced Too Soon

May 21st, 2016 · No Comments · English Premier League, Football, soccer

It was jarring from the moment it was cued up for television viewers:

Alan Pardewcoach Alan Pardew … dancing on the sideline moments after his Crystal Palace team took a 1-0 lead in the FA Cup final, the world’s longest-running competition in team sports.

The goal came late … ish … in the match against heavily favored Manchester United, in the 78th minute, and in theory an English Premier League team ought to be able to nurse a goal advantage from there to the final whistle.

But then Pardew busted a move, and the wrath of the soccer gods was incurred.

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Weddings as a Celebration for Old Folks

May 20th, 2016 · No Comments · Uncategorized

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When I was married, several decades ago, I remember my parents producing a lengthy list of their friends and associates who they thought ought to be invited to the ceremony and reception.

I also remember thinking, “Hey, this is for the people getting married and our friends and relatives. … and why do we have your pals from the club/church/workplace on the guest list? I don’t know those people!”

Some of us are slow on the uptake.

A major subplot at most weddings is this one: It is a formal opportunity for people in the latter half of life to get together and see former colleague and associates and maybe even high school and college buddies — and to share perhaps decades-old news and photos.

Sure, the kids are in the expensive dresses and the rented tuxedos, and they will do about 90 percent of the dancing, but the oldsters are having almost as much fun — in an oldster sort of way.

As we saw again tonight.

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Your 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers: The Most Ordinary Team $245 Million Could Buy

May 19th, 2016 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

First thought: This is no kind of team to give 88-year-old Vin Scully in his last season as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. These are not The Boys of Summer. They are not The Big Blue Wrecking Crew.

The Dodgers not quite awful but they certainly are not good — which you might reasonably have expected when ownership committed to spending $245 million on salaries this season for the fattest payroll in the bigs.

In the won-loss column, they are the epitome of mediocrity — 21 victories, 21 defeats — after tonight’s loss to the Angels.

But it’s scarier than that.

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Speaking of John Harkes …

May 18th, 2016 · No Comments · Arsenal, English Premier League, Football, soccer, World Cup

Yesterday, we linked to a podcast reexamining what happened to the U.S. national team at the 1998 World Cup … and if we boiled it down one of the primary factors for the U.S. face-plant at France ’98 was the bad behavior of John Harkes, the team’s captain.

So, it was a bit of a surprise to bump into “Harkesy” in a news story today, while visiting The Guardian website.

He apparently is not suffering from lingering bad feelings from the 1998 episodes because Harkes now is the coach of FC Cincinnati, a new United Soccer League club in Ohio’s biggest southern city.

And Cincinnati seems to be revealing itself as a fine soccer city, perhaps one deserving of a place in Major League Soccer.

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Sampson, Lalas Look Back at U.S. Soccer’s 1998 World Cup Train Wreck

May 17th, 2016 · 1 Comment · Football, France, soccer, Sports Journalism, World Cup

It would seem a bit late, as well as irrelevant, to conduct a post mortem of the U.S. failure to win a point from the 1998 World Cup.

But Alexi Lalas, one of the best-known players on that U.S. team, and Steve Sampson, the U.S. coach, spend 40-plus fascinating minutes on The Mutant Gene Podcast going over what happened to their team at France 1998 — the most miserable World Cup experience for the Yanks in the modern history of the team.

It is fascinating stuff, especially for those who have some memory of what went on in that tournament, four years after the U.S. had reached the final 16 when hosting the 1994 World Cup.

The 1998 U.S. performance had all sorts of subplots, and one of the biggest came to light 12 years later.

I covered that World Cup from beginning to end, focusing on the Yanks till they went down in flames, and to hear Lalas and Sampson talk about it made me almost queasy, even now.

Some key points:

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A Pastoral View of France

May 16th, 2016 · No Comments · France

 

This is a little odd.

City people, like us … who find it fascinating and even a bit soothing when the neighborhood’s flock of sheep come ambling and baa-ing along.

Check the video!

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Quique! A Classy Coach Jettisoned by Delusional English Club

May 15th, 2016 · No Comments · Arabian Gulf League, Arsenal, Dubai, English Premier League, Football, soccer, Spain, The National, UAE

Ah, Quique Sanchez Flores.

Here we are on Day 2 of My Favorite Soccer Coaches Roundup, which includes a certain Spanish player and coach who grew up wanting to be a sports writer. But more about that in a bit.

I have been a fan of Quique Sanchez Flores from the moment he was named as coach of the Al Ahli club in Dubai.

He looked cool, in that studiously “informal” Spanish/Madrileno way. One shirt tail hanging over his jeans. Old sneakers. A sweater worn over a collared shirt, not quite lined up.

And if anyone in the Arabian Gulf League had the right to cultivate cool, it was him — former Valencia and Real Madrid right back, former Atletico Madrid coach who won the Europa League and the Uefa Super Cup in 2010. Arguably, the most-qualified coach in the history of the UAE.

This season, Quique (pronounced KEY-kay) took charge of Watford, one of the three English clubs promoted into the Premier League, and then he went out and secured their place in the top division.

Watford finished 13th, with 45 points, and were never at real risk of relegation.

But that did not keep Watford’s owners, the Pozzo family of Italy, from deciding this week that they and Quique had differing visions for the club — meaning he will not be back for a second season leading the club.

Which is crazy.

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Bob Bradley and a Narrow Miss at a Major ‘First’ for a U.S. Soccer Coach

May 14th, 2016 · No Comments · Football, France, soccer, World Cup

Bob Bradley is my favorite former U.S. Soccer national team coach.

He is a square-jawed, straight-shooter kind of guy who radiates quiet passion for his work but is a model of steely decorum — and gets results. Whether it is leading the American team to the final 16 of the World Cup (South Africa 2010) or beating Spain to reach the final of the Confederations Cup (in 2009).

It was early in his tenure as national team coach that he calmly responded to what was, really, a second-guessing kind of question when I asked him, as he was leaving the practice field, why he was moving Landon Donovan from forward to the wing.

(His predecessor, Bruce Arena, a guy I like for other reasons, would have blistered me for my impertinence.)

Bradley calmly outlined his reasons, which included his contention that Donovan would see the ball nearly as often without having to exhaust himself in target-man duties. He talked me around on it, and I later conceded he had been right — Donovan was better on the wing, and so was the U.S. team.

Bradley on Friday night had the narrowest of misses in what would have been a historical moment for U.S.-born soccer coaches — leading a club to promotion in one of Europe’s big-five leagues.

His Le Havre team won 5-0 while Metz lost 1-0 to create a tie for third place in France’s Ligue 2, each on a plus-15 goal differential … but Metz goes up to Ligue 1 on the basis of having scored more goals, 54, to Le Havre’s 52.

It was that close.

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