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One Giant Leap for Mankind

July 21st, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The moon landing of July 1969 somehow has always seemed fresh, in my mind. Even when we view it in black and white. (It was 1969, after all.)

That sense of recall seems a blessing for the aged of the world, given that no one under the age of 55 can hope to recall much of anything, as we saw it then.

It was a huge story, of course. Two men walking on another piece of our solar system, our galaxy.

I was 15 at the time, and I was sitting in the den with my parents, waiting and watching for the time when Neil Armstrong, and then Buzz Aldrin, descended the ladder from the lunar module, which had successfully touched down on our white and seemingly chalky satellite.

One of the first things that comes to mind, when reflecting back on July 20, 1969?

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I Get That

July 20th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Interesting, how the usage of phrases ebbs and flows. Especially when it is in the guise of false respect — a common point of view when arguing about sports.

For decades, and maybe even before that, the expression “with all due respect” ruled the false-respect roost.

It worked like this: Person A made a statement taking a stand on an issue. Person B then got his turn to speak, and we came to recognize, immediately, when he was about to go all contemptuous on Person A.

By using “with all due respect”.

To the point that “with all due respect” came to mean the polar opposite of what the words originally conveyed. No respect was ever due.

It was merely a social convention that came to mean “I ought to call you a blithering idiot from the jump except that I am fake-polite to idiots and animals, and while my grandfather might actually have had a tiny bit of pity for fools, I do not — but I lay the thinnest of veneers over that by not laughing aloud and by using the old expression.

“With all due respect …”

With all due respect, that phrase is on the way out because of another phrase just as sarcastic and dismissive is taking its place and is particularly common in the sports world.

“I get that.”

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The Secret to Watching the Wimbledon Finals

July 15th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

One of the quirks of this blog is that I have been doing it long enough that I often don’t remember when I have previously addressed a topic.

Sometimes that stops me in my tracks. Most of the time it leaves me convinced some new look at a previously touched-upon sports event from my professional career will not lead to the collapse of Western Civilization.

Like, for example, the Wimbledon tennis championships. The slammiest of the four tennis grand-slam events.

Do a search on this blog for “Wimbledon 1985” and a half-dozen entries will pop up, most of them noting how tedious it is covering the big, two-week event at the All-England Club in the London suburbs.

At which point I will remind the reader that I covered the whole of Wimbledon twice, just a year or two ago — in 1985 and 1986.

Boris Becker and Martina Navratilova each won both years … and that much of the run-up to the title matches is watching people wearing white banging a ball around a grass court, and then repeating that about a million times over the course of 15 days, which can last about 10 hours daily in the first week.

Today, however, I believe I may have stumbled upon the secret to consuming Wimbledon, from the perspective of someone who does not care particularly much about the day-by-day machinations of 256 players getting winnowed down to two — a men’s and women’s champion.

And the answer?

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Seeing a Bit of France

July 12th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

We have been based in the country since January 1, 2016, aside from time spent traveling — and not all that much of it has been inside the country we currently call home.

France is a big country, at 248,572 square miles, second only to Texas in area among states in the United States’s Lower 48, and well ahead of California (163,694 square miles).

But much of France is a blank canvas to me, including nearly all the chill and wet area north and northwest of Paris, rugged Britanny and nearly all of the southwest, vast tracts of underpopulated areas from south of Nantes south to nearly the border with Spain.

With a chance to take a drive towards the Atlantic, and then up to the Ile de Re, in the Charent-Maritime … well, it seemed a good way to have a look at some of the expansive tracts of the largest country in Western Europe.

And what have we found, so far?

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U.S. Women Win World Cup. What Now?

July 8th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Demonstrating global superiority has been the straight-forward bit for the U.S. women’s national team.

The Fifa Women’s World Cup has been contested eight times since its founding in 1991, and the Yanks have won four of those tournaments, including the past two, now that a 2-0 conquest of The Netherlands can be added to the list.

The difficult part still lies ahead, and that will be turning proven interest in the women’s national team into a set of stable and profitable clubs. Each club will confront the reality that if will have only a few of the 2019 World Cup players.

Will people pay to see women’s club teams in the U.S.? The answer has not been encouraging so far.

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Kawhi Leonard and the Players Seize Control of the NBA

July 6th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

When I was working as sports editor for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, our No. 1 topic was soccer. Football. I expected that; soccer clearly is the preferred sport of the citizens of the United Arab Emirates, as well as the preferred sport of many expatriates who live and work in the UAE.

That, I could understand.

What it took quite some time to figure out was how the relationship between stars and clubs was different in international club soccer than it was in American team sports.

Eventually, I grasped that players had much more say over their situations, regardless of contract status, than I was conditioned to seeing.

A player with a suitor could simply inform his current club that he wanted to leave, and in nearly all occasions that player was allowed to join a new team. That puzzled me. Why didn’t clubs tell players they had to play out the contract they had agreed to?

Why? Because they feared the player would not give his full attention to the team he wanted to leave, to the on-field detriment of that club. So, yes, the players held the upper hand.

What we saw in the past few days was stars seizing control of another sport, this one the National Basketball Association.

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At the Moment, the World’s Preferred World Cup

July 5th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

And which World Cup is that?

Why, the Cricket World Cup, of course.

The Fifa Women’s World Cup, a global soccer event, surely is attracting viewers from more countries, but when it comes to “eyeballs on TV screens”, I am pretty confident the Cricket World Cup is ahead. By millions.

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Yanks Renew Rivalry 1.0 with England

July 2nd, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

For a century, it’s been “the special relationship” pretty much nonstop. Great Britain and the United States, the Two Great English-Speaking Allies on opposite shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

We helped the Brits avoid German domination in the 20th century. Twice. In return, they threw in with the Yanks on the succession of small wars that darkened the past 30 years. Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again, the Islamic State …

BFFs!

It got so that most Americans forgot the early years. The years from about 1774 till 1815. A couple of generations, actually. Back when Britain (which currently includes England as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) spent a lot of time and treasure trying keep their American colonies from breaking away to form a new nation. And made a point of burning down Washington D.C. during the War of 1812, when the Brits became the first and (still only) foreign power to invade the continental U.S.

(The lyrics to the U.S. national anthem recall an incident when a British fleet shelled Fort McHenry, outside Baltimore, leading Francis Scott Key to was eloquent over “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”.)

But, hey, that was a long time ago, and rare have been the times when these two countries find themselves on opposite sides of a competition. Or a war.

Which brings us to a semifinal match of the Fifa Women’s World Cup tonight in France.

The US versus the UK for world domination of … women’s soccer.

Someone will be gloating and someone else will be glowering when this one is over, at about 11 p.m. here in France, about 2 p.m. in California.

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Hottest Day in France, Ever

June 28th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

And we are living it. Not in the epicenter of “scary hot” but uncomfortably close to it.

“Friday will be the worst” was what we had heard for the whole of this preposterously hot week, and leave it to the weather guys to be right about bad news.

Heat records have been tumbling this afternoon and who is to say we won’t have one or two more checking in from a remote village here, an hour’s drive north of the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France?

The country’s latest unprecedented recording came via TV news station BFM, about an hour ago. That would be the 45.1 Celsius (113.2 Fahrenheit) at a little place named Villevieille about 70 miles from where we are hunkered down, with the windows shut and the fans running.

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Back to the World Cup

June 25th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

So this is what it looks like to arrive 90 minutes before kickoff.

I like the Fifa Women’s World Cup. It’s global. It can be exotic. The women attract a more PG-rated crowd than do the men. It provides three weeks or more of running narrative and it fills a bit of a void during the potentially slow soccer summer season.

I covered four men’s World Cups, and one women’s. The last time I saw the men play, in the World Cup, was the Japan/Korea World Cup of 2002. I covered the U.S. national team and its stunning 3-2 victory over highly regarded Portugal, its crucial 2-2 draw with South Korea and then the “what was that about?” 3-1 defeat to Poland, which finished last in the group.

Which leads to a silly anecdote I will get back to before I finish.

More pertinently, I now have seen a Fifa Women’s World Cup match live and in-person, tonight, for the first time since the 1999 championship match. Yes, the Brandi Chastain Sports Bra game at the Rose Bowl.

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