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India’s Jet Airways and an Empty Cockpit

January 21st, 2018 · No Comments · tourism, Travel

Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer the pilots of my commercial flight to be friendly. With each other.

They do not have to be pals swapping gossip, but they should be able to sit in the same cockpit without fighting.

India’s Jet Airways was unable to clear that low bar on New Year’s Day.

Not long after takeoff, on a nine-hour flight from London to Mumbai, the pilots had an argument and the male co-pilot slapped the female pilot, eventually leading to a stretch of time when neither of the pilots was in the cockpit of a Boeing 777.

With 338 passengers and crew on board.

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PST: The Perfect Time for Watching Sports

January 20th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Basketball, College football, Football, France, NBA, NFL, The Sun, UAE

Here are the kickoffs for the NFL’s conference championship games tomorrow. That is, if you live under the umbrella of Pacific Standard Time.

New England at Jacksonville, 12:05 p.m.

Philadelphia at Minnesota, 3:40 p.m.

Convenient, as a viewer, no? Well, yes, and you should know it is not like that everywhere. If you have lived and worked on PST/PDT hours all your life … you may have no idea how good things are for you.

Because no live event you really care about begins play after 9 p.m., and many begin around noon on weekends. You can go to bed, then, and before midnight, and already know how everything turned out, in the world of sports, and still manage to not mess with your body clock.

Take it from me, as I sorta plan/hope to watch those two NFL games from my couch in France: It can be a test of patience as well as an overt assault on your nervous system when you live nine hours ahead of PST and six ahead of EST.

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A Fond Farewell to the Boeing 747

January 19th, 2018 · No Comments · The Sun, tourism, Travel

The Boeing 747 was the first jumbo jet, and it forever changed the experience of flying. For the better.

No one under the age of 50 can have a personal recollection of this, given that the first commercial flight of a 747 was made on January 22, 1970 — from New York to London.

It was a big, glorious thing, the 747.

It seated more than 300 passengers and its four jet engines powered the plane at upwards of 570 miles per hour, faster than previous commercial jets. The 747 also had an unprecedented range, in excess of 8,300 miles.

Not only was a 747 enormous, fast and rangy, it was stylish, what with the upstairs mini-cabin, reached by means of a circular staircase.

It also was a breakthrough for anyone who felt too cramped in previous editions of planes.

The 747 had two aisles, and the ability to get out of a seat and walk around the plane, which was more that 200 feet long, was marvelous.

Its seats were arranged in a 2-5-2 layout, if I correctly recall the early versions of the layout, and it seemed quite spacious. (Later, models were shifted to a 3-4-3, which was less comfortable but reflected the modern demand for maximum passengers with minimal comfort.)

I loved that plane (though not as much as the Boeing 767, which has a shockingly pleasant 2-3-2 seating plan; airline executives must recoil in horror whenever they see a 767).

The 747 got me where I wanted to go, nonstop from Los Angeles, even if the destination was somewhere in Europe, or even Asia.

And why am I referring to the 747 in the past tense? Because today the last commercial flight of a 747 by a U.S. airline was made, and the New York Times has posted a story/photo gallery of that final flight.

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NFL Conference Title Games: Who Ya Got?

January 18th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, NFL

I am, at turns, amused and exasperated by sports gamblers.

How can they participate in a system in which the “house” never loses? How do they convince themselves that they are smarter than most other gamblers?

How can they witness how totally random NFL games (well, just about any game ever played) can be?

Take, for example, the Minnesota-New Orleans playoffs game last week when nearly every point-spread bet was influenced by the bizarre ending of the game?

If you do not recall …

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Report: Landon to Get $180,000 per Month at Leon

January 17th, 2018 · No Comments · English Premier League, Galaxy, Landon Donovan, soccer

Ah, so it wasn’t just his missing the game. Not all about “don’t know what to do with myself.”

It also was about getting paid.

According to a newspaper report in Mexico, Landon Donovan will be paid $180,000 per month by the Liga MX club that has brought him out of retirement.

In North American soccer, $180,000 per month is serious money. That alone might have been enough to end, for the moment, Donovan’s search for his role in soccer, away from the pitch.

The average season salary in Major League Soccer is $317,000, and the median seasonal salary is a modest $117,000. (Doesn’t seem particularly “Major League”, does it.)

Landon’s reported salary blows those numbers out of the water, and who among us would pass that up when the options mostly are “working for free … volunteering my time.”

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Donovan, Dempsey: Deadlocked at 57 Forever?

January 16th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Football, Landon Donovan, Russia 2018, soccer

When Landon Donovan first retired, in December of 2014, his U.S. National Soccer Team record for international goals seemed unassailable, at least in the short-to-mid term. And I wrote that.

His closest pursuer was Clint Dempsey, and the Texan was on 38 goals, 19 behind Donovan’s total.

Then, Dempsey went on a scoring spree, banging home 10 goals in 2015 to get himself back into the record conversation, adding four in 2016 and five more last year, including three against Honduras in a 6-0 World Cup qualifier.

Dempsey caught Donovan at 57 with a goal against Costa Rica in a Gold Cup match on July 22, and that may have been the night that Donovan, working as a broadcaster, said on the air that Dempsey could “stop now” so they could “share” the record. He was joking. A little.

Dempsey seemed highly likely to pass Donovan, with 2017 only halfway gone, but he failed to score in five appearances, during which he played 214 minutes, including the final 45 of the crushing defeat at Trinidad & Tobago that sent the Americans out of the World Cup.

And now?

The two of them may have to share, after all.

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A Fanciful View of Football, Starring Andres Iniesta

January 15th, 2018 · No Comments · Barcelona, College football, Football, monkey, NFL, soccer

I was made aware today of this video, which is based on the Barcelona midfield standout Andres Iniesta showing “There is a first time for everything” by trying something new — American football.

It is an advertisement for an online foreign-exchange trader known as UFX, and the notion of the elfin Iniesta (5-foot-7, maybe 130 pounds) on the gridiron with larger men … well, it has some value.

The trouble with the ad, to those of us for whom American football is not a new experience … are the dozens (it seems) of mistaken impressions it leaves behind.

Whoever made this video doesn’t know the game and builds in so many errors in to the video that it almost feels like a game: “How many mistakes can you find?!”

Have a look, perhaps — it’s only 55 seconds — and see what is patently wrong, and see if we agree on many of them.

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NFL Misery: Patriots a Lock in Super Bowl

January 14th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, NFL

I was sick and bloody tired of the spying, football-deflating New England Patriots 10 years ago, when the Helmet Catch and Eli Manning saved us from a 19-0 season by Dark Lord Belichick’s minions.

I danced a jig when that one ended 17-14 to the Giants, in Glendale, Ariz., and everyone in the working press room laughed. (I made that up. I maybe did a first pump, then got back to work, in a fine frame of mind.)

Since that close call? The New England Patriots have won two more Super Bowls, taking their total to five, all in this century, leaving them one in arrears only of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and their six championships, at the top of the Super Bowl roll call.

And now? The Patriots seem to me an easy call to win Super Bowl 52 on February 5 — even if they do have a game to win before they get there.

I have no hope for the other three teams still competing; the last glimmers of that were extinguished this weekend.

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Keith Jackson: 1928-2018

January 13th, 2018 · No Comments · College football

Keith Jackson, too?

We are losing the great sports broadcasters from the 20th century and I don’t like it.

Yes, for my own selfish reasons. I know the legends are retired but I can be comforted by the idea that they could, in theory, come back for One More Game. One more chance to hear a great voice providing the lyrics to a great sports experience. Unless, of course, they have gone to their great reward.

Keith Jackson, another enormous figure in sports television, died today in Los Angeles at the age of 89, and there went another man who made sports — and college football, in particular — seem even more dramatic than we knew.

A month ago, we lost Dick Enberg, one of the most versatile and informed of broadcasters, at age 82. A few years before, as my former colleague Chuck Culpepper pointed out, it was Pat Summerall, 82, who departed, and the laconic Summerall did as much as any man in “speaking” the NFL into its position as the nation’s No. 1 sport.

Keith Jackson was the folksy uncle from Down South to a nation’s sports fans. He seemed to know every coach in America and the name of every college football player in America. And he somehow seemed to be rooting for both sides to win.

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Landon’s Second Comeback: Cuz He Can

January 12th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Galaxy, Landon Donovan

What is Landon Donovan doing?

In short, he has decided, for a second time, to resume his soccer career.

He first retired at the end of the 2014 Major League Soccer season, when he was only 32. He went out with a bang — with his sixth MLS Cup championship, the Galaxy’s fourth during his time with the club.

He retired a second time after returning for nine matches at the end of the Galaxy’s 2016 season, when he was 34.

Today, he revealed he will play again, this time with Club Leon of Mexico’s top-flight Liga MX. Landon will be 36 in seven weeks and has played nine matches since December of 2014.

Why might he have made this semi-curious decision?

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