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Headline News: ‘Arrivederci Aroma’

December 30th, 2019 · No Comments · Back in the Day, Football, Italy, Journalism, Los Angeles Rams, NFL, Rome

A clever headline tells a story … with a twist.

I prefer to think everyone likes a clever headline, but I fear only people in the publishing business really appreciate a good “hed”.

Like this one, from the Los Angeles Times 40 years ago.

“Arrivederci Aroma: Rams Stink Up the Coliseum”

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Back in the Day: Joe Namath, Rams, Mystery Woman,Wrong Room

December 26th, 2019 · No Comments · Back in the Day, Football, NFL, Rams, Sports Journalism

Joe Namath has a new biography out, and in it the former New York Jets hero and leader of the great upset victory in Super Bowl III relates his spending Christmas alone, in December of 1979.

The episode is outlined in this excerpt from “All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters.”

And nearly any time I read about “Broadway Joe” I am reminded of some odd events the evening before the last football game the quarterback played in — as the Rams starter in a Monday night game in Chicago.

I was in the ancient Soldier Field press box, which I recall as having weather-beaten, splinter-throwing tables and no heating.

I also recall a queer event the night before, when a well-dressed woman knocked at my hotel-room door — and I always wonder if lady-magnet Namath might have been involved in the confusing (for me) episode.

It was the fourth game of the Rams’ season, and the team was struggling. Namath had been signed and handed the starter’s job, but he clearly was near the end of his career — he was immobile and his accuracy was gone.

Back then, I was the home-and-road Rams writer for The San Bernardino Sun, so I had traveled to Chicago and was put up in the same five-star, downtown hotel the team was staying in.

It was the middle of the evening, the night before the game, and I was writing a preview for the next day’s paper, when I heard a knock at the door. I had no idea whom it might be. I wouldn’t be spending the night in the bar, as some of my colleagues did, and there is no access to players, the night before the game. In theory.

So, I open the door … and there standing in the hall was a very attractive, well-dressed woman, perhaps 30 years old.

I was flummoxed. I would guess I just looked at her for a moment and wondered where she intended to be … which most certainly was not my room.

She may have said something like, “You called?” And I said, finally able to speak, “No, that wasn’t me.”

I have a vague recollection of the “conversation” going on another question or two, but I was relieved when she said, “There must be some mistake” and I closed my door.

I may have thought this within the first few minutes … or perhaps it came an hour later … but Joe Namath was in that hotel on that Sunday night, and maybe my visitor had arranged a date with him. Or vice versa. Maybe Joe was a floor above me, or down the hall. And, of course, he might not have been the only Rams player looking for companionship the night before a game.

The next day, Namath got his fourth — and final — start with the Chuck Knox-coached Rams.

Joe was terrible. He threw four interceptions on 16-for-40 passing, 203 yards and two sacks. The Rams were losing a game they had been expected to win, and in the fourth quarter Knox called for backup quarterback Pat Haden, who threw for a late touchdown that made the final score: Chicago 24, Rams 23.

The story of the game was Namath being yanked and replaced by a quicker, faster kid.

As mentioned, Namath never played again. He suited up a few times, but his knees were shot and everyone could see it. Adding him to the team was not the answer.

Haden was the QB choice the rest of the season, and after the club had started 2-2 with Namath at quarterback, the Rams went 8-2 with Haden and reached the playoffs.

It was at the end of that season that Namath was sitting in his duplex in the trendy Belmont Shore area of Long Beach and found himself alone. The excerpt of his book (linked above) describes him walking on the beach and thinking deep thoughts.

I grew up in Belmont Shore, and as a kid had played in the water on the Peninsula, only a few blocks from where Namath would spend his last season.

It seems a weird confluence of events. Joe Namath, the Rams, Long Beach, Belmont Shore, Chicago, the mystery woman (a fan, a pro, just someone lost?) … a befuddled 24-year-old sportswriter.

I have no idea what went on in that hotel, the night before the Chicago game, but I think about it from time to time when the subject of Joe Willie Namath comes up.

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Back in the Day

December 25th, 2019 · No Comments · Back in the Day

It may be time to change the name of this blog.

To … Back in the Day.

Maybe it’s just 60 years of Christmas Memories banging around in my head that puts me in mind of days gone by.

But … I saw a lot of stuff. Not so much lately, in retirement, but while wearing a game credential.

You want an opinion on a sports-related topic that happened 25 or 35 or 40 years ago? … I’m your guy.

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What I Said a Month Ago

December 17th, 2019 · No Comments · NFL, Rams

I buried the Rams on November 10, five weeks ago, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-12 and saw their record fall to 5-4.

Over the weekend, the Rams were thrashed 44-21 in Dallas, to fall to 8-6.

And rather than tell you about that particular game, how about going back in time, to a post on the Pittsburgh game?

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The NFL’s Answer to ‘Frozen’

December 15th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, NFL

Perhaps you have heard about the successful Disney movie entitled “Frozen II” — a thing with princesses of a northern kingdom, spirits, trolls, a magic salamander and lots of ice.

The National Football League, which appeals to a slightly different demographic, has a similarly successful sub-zero event.

It’s called Chicago at Green Bay.

It is the oldest rivalry in the NFL — renewed today for the 200th time — and holds a variety of records. Definitely including lots and lots of games played out of doors in two of the league’s coldest cities.

Generic football fans tend to be interested in this match-up no matter how the two teams are doing in the standings. Because it has a plot line that fans like to follow.

The weather.

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Will the Jeopardy! ‘Greatest of All Time’ Tournament Really Tell Us Anything?

December 10th, 2019 · No Comments · Jeopardy!

This week, competition began taping among the three men playing in what will be a prime-time event for the game show “Jeopardy!

Astonishingly, the show seems more popular now than at any time in its 36-season run — in part because of James Holzhauer, who won 32 games last spring and and racked up unheard of totals in prize money — $2.7 million in 33 games.

The tournament likely will take advantage of Holzhauer’s cash successes, which figure to drive viewers to the tournament meant to identify the greatest player of all time (often abbreviated as “GOAT”).

The format is simple: The three players with the highest cash-winning totals in the history of the “answer and question” game are competing for a $1 million first prize, with the laurels (and bragging rights) going to the man who first wins three games.

Thus, the competition could last three days, or it could go seven, if each of the three wins twice.

Setting up what would be an all-the-marbles Game 7.

It is a capital idea, to bring in the three highest money winners in the game’s history, with the results to be broadcast on ABC beginning January 7.

But … is it fair? Will it really tell us what we want to know — who is Best All Time? Or will it be more like “Who Is Best in December of 2019?”

Consider the contestants:

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In Full Flight: Escaping France as Population Takes to the Streets

December 5th, 2019 · No Comments · France, Paris

Of all the dreamy ideals France and Paris elicit among visitors or expatriates, one joker in the deck often goes overlooked:

The French predilection for taking to the streets in protest whenever they are unhappy with their government.

And, just now, they are plenty unhappy with the regime of Emmanuel Macron, the country’s president.

To the point that unions called for a general strike — asking all of the country’s unions to “down tools” beginning today, Thursday, December 5 — to remind the government that French workers are in charge when it comes to policy.

As the strikers were gearing up for action on Wednesday, we were on an Air France A-380 jumbo jet traversing the North Atlantic. Getting out of Dodge, you might call it.

(Though it was simple dumb luck and slightly cheaper prices that put us in the air one day ahead of the storm.)

Visitors and expats tend to overlook one major aspect of the French experience:

The country at many times seems nearly ungovernable.

Before addressing the big issues of the general strike, let me describe one “small” incident that played out on a narrow country road in the south of France.

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Failing at a Signature Move

December 2nd, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Signatures are important. They attach a person to a document. They can seal important transactions. They can be legally binding. They also can be seen as a collector’s item.

I tend to take note of a person’s signature. I make evaluations on signatures. Or their less formal friends, autographs.

How people sign their names: Doesn’t it tell us something about them?

Signatures can be things of significance but also things of beauty. They can display a practiced, well-trained hand with respect for the name and the letters therein.

Or they can be ugly, unintelligible scrawls.

Me and my signature? A train wreck. A nervous scribble that cannot decide if it wants to be bold … or legible … or stylish … and ends up being a sloppy and unreadable and even childlike.

It was watching Donald Trump, current president of the United States, sign his name that brought this up again, for me.

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Holiday Turkey and Some Brazen Breast Augmentation

November 28th, 2019 · No Comments · France

For the fourth year running we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in our little town in the south of France.

We expanded the invitation list by two people to take it to 10, counting the hosts, and it went off pretty well.

Well, it kinda had to be memorable, given that we had a turkey with augmented breasts.

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Newspaper Wars: In Retrospect, Few Winners, Many Losers

November 26th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Journalism, Newspapers, Sports Journalism, The Sun

It seems a bit ludicrous now, given the carnage in print journalism, how important “beating” the local opposition was for us.

When I wrote a long blog entry, in 2008, I declared an end to what was nearly a 100 Years War between two suburban newspapers in the Inland Empire of Southern California.

I worked 31 years for one of those newspapers, and being better and faster than the other guys was something everyone in the newsroom cared about.

First, let’s link to the post of May 19, 2008, in which I declared the war over — with us at The San Bernardino Sun, being defeated by our arch-rivals at The Riverside Press-Enterprise.

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