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Donovan Goes Indoors in Latest Return to Soccer

February 19th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Landon Donovan is back! Again!

If it seems as if he retired quite some time ago, well, he did, in the first instance — from the LA Galaxy in 2014.

A year and change later, he returned to the Galaxy active roster during an end-of-season run, and he played just enough to suggest he was easily past his prime.

OK. Now done.

Or not.

In January of 2018 he signed with Club Leon of LigaMX, on a salary of $185,000 a month, according to espn.com.

That ill-considered move came to an early end, which was good, because Landon had trouble getting on the pitch, never mind returning as an elite scorer — which characterized the first 15 years of his career. (Top scorer in Major League Soccer history; co-top scorer in U.S. National Team history.)

He failed to score a goal in six appearances; he and Leon, which plays in a league pretty clearly better than MLS, agreed to end the deal early.

And that was that? Now he can move on with the next bit of his life?

Well, no. Still.

Last month, he signed with the San Diego Sockers of the Major Arena Soccer League. Yes, the indoor game, which some have suggested looks like human pinball.

But if it makes Landon happy … and it apparently does, and if it makes teams happy, and they continue to pay him … and fans turn out to see him …

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Stuff Kids Did Then … That Could Get Them Arrested Now

February 16th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

The world has changed in 50 years. Of course it has. But in ways that we, sometimes, don’t immediately recognize and never anticipated.

A few months ago, we were driving past the elementary school near the house where I grew up, and I pointed out the spot where we kids were able to scramble onto the roof of the sprawling campus, on weekends, and run around up there for hours.

Which prompted me to consider “all the stuff we did”, back in the late 60s, early 70, “boyish antics” that were mostly ignored by parents and authorities — but could land us in big trouble, in the anxious year 2019.

Like playing “war” with realistic-looking toy guns and contriving “contact explosives” from chemicals found in the chemistry lab at high school.

And, note: I would recommend against trying any of this, in the second decade of the 21st century.

The rundown:

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Bill James and Calling ‘Trump’ 15 Years Early

February 9th, 2019 · No Comments · Baseball, Sports Journalism

I make a habit of having a copy of The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in my home.

Never know when you might have a few minutes for reading about “baseball in the 1890s” and I can consume James’s treatment of it, at length (the book runs 998 pages) — or in short bites.

So it was the other day. A nibble. I let the book fall open about halfway through and it landed on James’s rankings of the 100 best first basemen in the history of the game.

The book was published in 2001, and at the time James had Will Clark at No. 14 among all first basemen and his close contemporary Rafael Palmeiro at No. 19.

And while explaining why Palmeiro was behind Clark, in his rankings, James focused on the Gold Glove, and how Palmeiro tended to win said gloves (buffering his reputation) even though he did not always deserve them — such as in 1999, when he was the gold-glover at 1B despite playing only 28 games there.

The voting structure for the award was flawed, James wrote on page 439, because the winner was the player who gained the most votes in a one-round election, and in 1999 Rafael Palmeiro led all American League first baseman — with only 15 percent of the vote. Congrats, Raffy.

James then, to further illuminate how the Palmeiro glove was a function of the voting system, and not widespread stupidity among managers and coaches, suggested that if the U.S. voting system took on the Gold Glove rules for picking the award, it would would fairly quickly produce a situation allowing someoneĀ  named, say, Donald, to become president of the United States.

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A Day of Infamy for the Rams

February 4th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, Los Angeles Rams, NFL, Uncategorized

St. Louis, you can have them back.

What’s that? You don’t want them? You don’t traffic in stolen franchises anymore?

Good call.

That was Super Bowl 53 we watched yesterday, and Rams fans (such as they are) can’t un-see it.

I’m old enough to have watched every Super Bowl ever played, and your Los Angeles Rams just secured a piece of onerous Big Game history:

Fewest points scored: 3.

In a tie with the Miami Dolphins, who lost 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys in 1972, which may have been before the forward pass was invented.

The Rams fell 13-3 to the New England Patriots in a game that prompted one of my brothers to say: “I feel pain.”

Fair enough.

I feel vindicated, unfortunately, after several warnings that this Rams team, despite the 13-3 record, was ready to be had.

Or, in the case of a championship matchup with New England, ready to be humiliated.

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The Super Bowl Worst-Case Scenario

February 2nd, 2019 · 1 Comment · Football, NFL, Rams

That was my feeling, moments after the New England Patriots completed their 37-31 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the American Football Conference championship game 14 days ago.

“This is a worst-case scenario.”

“This” being the Los Angeles Rams playing the Patriots for the Super Bowl trophy.

And why, pray tell?

Because the most painful outcome involving the four teams that got to the Super semis … is also now the most likely.

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Remembering Super XIV: Steelers 31, Rams 19

February 1st, 2019 · No Comments · Football, Los Angeles Rams, NFL

For those of you who have little or no recollection of this game, which was played in January of 1980, there is something you need to know:

Despite the final score, this was one of the two best Super Bowls of the first 15 played. (Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17, in 1976, was the other.)

It remained one of three best Super Bowls, in my opinion, of the first 25 played.

Here’s why:

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Memories of Super Bowl Week

January 28th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

I’m not sure how many Super Bowls I covered. I could search it out, but let’s just say it probably was 12, over a three-decade period.

From the time I was trusted to cover a major event, which commenced around 1980, I did any Super Bowl that was within driving distance from the office (250 miles or less) … with a few others mixed in while on duty for Gannett News Service.

So, I saw four SBs at the Rose Bowl, three in San Diego, two in Arizona … and then random games in Miami and New Orleans and the I-10 roadtrip Super Bowl game in Jacksonville, in 2005. The best game to cover? New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14, in 2008. I hate the Patriots, and The Helmet Catch kept them from becoming the only team to have a 19-0 season. Ha. Ha-ha-ha.

But I digress.

What I am thinking about, on this Monday of Super Bowl week, is that this is a particularly silly, over-long process, but pretty much everyone who can get there feels obliged to do so … even when the expense of housing and flights almost certainly will be out-weighed by the banality of what happens right up till kickoff — and sometimes right through to 00:00 on the clock.

The Super Bowl is … or certainly was, during my career, the best worst event to cover in sports journalism. Marvelous in concept; too often dreary in reality.

Let me reconstruct the shtick, which I believe remains pretty much unchanged since my last SB — in 2008.

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My School and Winning an NCAA Championship

January 25th, 2019 · No Comments · Long Beach, Olympics

I graduated from Long Beach State.

There. I said it.

Not everyone is keen to let the world know they attended Long Beach State.

It is a real school, for sure, with more than 31,000 undergrads. But it is not known for academic excellence. It is ranked 26th among “regional universities West” by U.S. News. Just ahead of Cal Poly Pomona.

Generally, Long Beach State is not known for excellence, at all.

How does the saying go? “A Trojan for life, a Bruin for four years, a 49er until you finally get that diploma — or find a decent-paying job, first.”

Which is how it worked for me; I had a newspaper job before I had a Long Beach State diploma; that came some months later. Some of the most famous Long Beach State “alumni” didn’t actually graduate. Nearly all the athletes. The comedian Steve Martin; the singers Karen and Richard Carpenter. Lots of show-biz people. Steven Spielberg started at Long Beach State in 1965 and finished there in 2002. (He did a few things in between.) So he actually got a diploma. Go, Home Boy! The director Chris Carter. (Another guy who walked!)

So, this is a long way around to getting to some events that tempered a sort of built-in LBSU inferiority complex:

Long Beach State’s men’s volleyball team. Defending NCAA champions after defeating UCLA in five sets last year. Currently ranked No. 1 in the country, including a four-set (25-16, 26-24, 19-25, 25-17) victory tonight over USC.

And what you have done against those two heavyweights is important, among the ranks of southern California schools.

We took advantage of an attractive home match to be there on the night Long Beach State raise the 2018 championship banner to the ceiling of the Walter Pyramid, the home arena.

How big a deal is that?

Long Beach State has won only two NCAA titles in men’s team sports: The volleyball title last year, and the one in 1991.

So celebrating was a certainty, at LBSU.

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Goff vs. Brees Will Determine Super Bowl Berth — Unfortunately for the Rams

January 19th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams are one victory from playing in the Super Bowl.

If they defeat the New Orleans Saints tomorrow … they go to American football’s biggest game.

However, I do not believe we will see that happen. Not this year. Because of one match-up where the Saints have a distinct advantage.

At quarterback, where Jared Goff of the Rams is pitted against Drew Brees of the Saints.

Or, to put it another way, a pretty good third-year quarterback … against one of the elite quarterbacks in the history of the game.

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A Jeopardy! Update

January 16th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

While in Southern California for these months now, we have been fortunate enough, on several nights, to be staying in a household that watches the game show Jeopardy!, as we do.

We recently saw most of the five-day run of the semi-notorious Jackie Fuchs, former bass player for the Runaways, a 1970s girl group, which was televised a few weeks ago. She then wrote about it for L.A. Magazine.

Her reflections on her appearances on the popular game show prompted me to recall my own, which aired in 1988 — or more than 30 years (!) ago.

This blog post from 2015 takes us through my Jeopardy! appearance, during which I came within a fraction of a second from winning the game.

But seeing Fuchs’s story makes me think about one even bigger void in my Jeopardy! experience.

I do not have videotape of the episode on which I appeared, and I would love to see it.

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