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U.S. Soccer Hires Berhalter, the Anti-Klinsmann

December 4th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Galaxy, Landon Donovan, soccer, Sports Journalism

That wasn’t such a chore, was it?

A mere 421 days after the U.S. national team lost in Trinidad and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup … and the Yanks have a coach!

That would be Gregg Berhalter, recently head man of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew.

Not a glamor hire, certainly. Berhalter was part of the U.S. World Cup teams in both 2002 and 2006, and he started two matches in the former tournament … and I have absolutely zero memory of anything he ever did. Maybe because he never scored a goal?

His arrival on the scene follows, at a remove, the ultimately disastrous Jurgen Klinsmann regime.

For most of this decade, the U.S. coach was an impresario. A celebrity. A global name.

Now, the Yanks have a coach.

All rational U.S. fans should prefer the latter.

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A Collision with Football Sidelines Violence

December 3rd, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Sports Journalism

We were watching an NFL game a week or so ago, when a running back was violently pushed out of bounds, stumbling several steps and into the motley clot of people who have permission to be on the edge of the action.

When the play was over, a large person in street clothes had been run over by the hefty ball-carrier, and was lying flat on the ground, face-down, as the cameras pulled away.

The TV director never went back to the play, and viewers were left to guess how it turned out for that anonymous civilian who had been run over. We were thinking “not well”.

This sort of incident is all too common. Watch nearly any football game closely, and you will see one or two instances per game of a armored player, often a big and fast man, scattering sidelines personnel like so many bowling pins.

The situation is particularly dangerous when civilians are thick along the sideline — team officials, former players, guests with sideline passes. In those cases, nearly any out-of-bounds play is going to put non-players at risk.

I had an up-close experience with the intersection of “player” and “civilian” at a high school game more than a decade ago.

I was run over at the end of a kickoff return in the final seconds of a lopsided game. Leaving me to receive stitches in my forehead — and to become particularly aware of non-combatants finding themselves in the midst of football collisions.

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You Can Attend Symphony Rehearsals?

November 30th, 2018 · No Comments · Los Angeles

The next-best thing to hearing/seeing a symphony orchestra perform … is to see/hear one rehearse.

An experience I didn’t know was a “thing” until an in-law offered us two tickets to a practice session today by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles. And we said, “Sure!”

Oh, and a key reason why I didn’t know rehearsals were open to the public? I am not a member of the orchestra support group known as “Friends of the LA Phil” — who are the people who get tickets to rehearsals and can pass them on, if they like.

Thus, we were among the 200 or so people lined up in the lobby of the Disney Hall at 9:40 a.m. to get an up-close seat in the “lower terrace west”.

And how did it go?

It was glorious.

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You Don’t Have Time to Read This

November 27th, 2018 · No Comments · Journalism, Newspapers

This goes back to the 1980s. Maybe a vacation in 1982. Certainly no later than 1985, when I know I was in London for two-plus weeks — because I covered the first Wimbledon championship that Boris Becker won.

And, in short, it was this:

Too much good stuff to read.

And this was just the Sunday newspapers.

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A Delayed Glimpse of Friday Night Lights

November 23rd, 2018 · 2 Comments · Abu Dhabi, Football, France, Sports Journalism

In 30 prep football seasons, through 2007, I reported on … I’m going to make an educated guess and say … 300 games.

In the 11 seasons that followed, I reported on … zero prep football games.

Not because I lost interest in the high school games, but because I was out of the business for most of a year, then worked four months in Hong Kong and six-plus years in Abu Dhabi, and then moved to France.

We are spending some time in California this winter, and while channel-surfing on the TV we came across what clearly was a prep football game. And then it got better.

Not only was the game for a divisional championship … it involved Cajon High School of San Bernardino, a team I covered dozens of times, in a previous life. And then we settled in to watch the second half of the game.

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Los Angeles Rams: Defense First? Not Any More

November 17th, 2018 · No Comments · NFL, Rams

Those of us who grew up as fans of the Los Angeles Rams, over three decades, from 1960 to 1989 … we expected that if they won — and they tended to — it mostly would be about the team’s defense.

The Rams offense tended to be vanilla, and not a quality vanilla.

No, it generally was up to the 11 guys on defense to move the Rams along, and into the playoffs, thanks to colorful and elite players.

That notion has been turned on its head, here in 2018. The Rams are one of the most potent and aggressive teams on offense but, to our surprise, a bit, they are sub-average across the board on defense.

This is of interest as the Rams prepare for their Monday night home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are 9-1 — just like the Rams. In a game some suggest could be a Super Bowl preview.

Which is just weird, for us old-timers, who counted on the Rams defense to help out the often hapless offense.

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Confessions of a Shouting Youth Soccer Coach

November 15th, 2018 · No Comments · soccer

A soccer-related item popped into my email in-box the other day, and in it a Spanish coach with lots of history with youth players made a fairly simple and probably undeniable statement:

It is a waste of time for a coach to shout instructions at kiddie soccer players.

I knew that because I saw the futility of it, week after week.

But I never quite stopped shouting.

The advice I most often relayed to my players, via my big mouth?

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Tyson Chandler, Home at Last

November 12th, 2018 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, Sports Journalism

I saw the high school basketball debut of California native Tyson Chandler. Not many people can say that, because among the material I filed on deadline that night, December 2, 1997, is a note about how the Compton College gym was pretty much empty.

Chandler was a 15-year-old freshman and, more importantly, already 6-foot-11. But he did not dominate his first game. He didn’t even start. He came off the Compton Dominguez bench to score five points, two on a “sorta dunk” (as he put it), take three rebounds and block three shots in 13 minutes of a 53-42 victory over Perris.

I was there because the previous season Chandler had played for Arrowview Middle School, in San Bernardino, where I was sports editor, and if he had moved on with his Arrowview teammates he would have been The Biggest Man on Campus in the city, and our newspaper had suggested, as did many officials in the local school district there, that Chandler would be better off going to high school in San Bernardino.

But, one thing we can say without hesitation: Prospective professional athletes should not take career advice from journalists. Or, as it turns out, school officials.

Had Chandler stuck around at, say, San Bernardino High School, he would not have seen the caliber of opposition he typically encountered as a player for Dominguez, at the time one of the leading (and best-supported, by Nike) prep basketball programs in the nation.

After four years at Dominguez, Chandler went directly to the NBA (no one-and-done required, back then), the No. 2 pick in the 2001 draft, behind only the epic underachiever Kwame Brown, and a few weeks later began earning what has, over 18 seasons, amounted to something north of $180 million.

At 36, he is nearing the end of his career, but the Lakers (or LeBron James) decided the team needed another rim protector, to ease the load on the surprisingly effective JaVale McGee, and signed Chandler after the Phoenix Suns released him.

(Conspiracy alert: The general manager of the Suns is James Jones, who won three NBA titles playing with LeBron and, lookie here, the Suns gave up the the veteran channeling Yoda to the club’s rookie center Deandre Ayton, also the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. And the Lakers snapped up Chandler the next day. Hmm.)

And, so far, after three games, all of them Lakers victories with Chandler’s fingerprints on them, he has come “home”, after all.

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A Celebration 100 Years in the Making

November 11th, 2018 · No Comments · France, Languedoc

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, World War I came to an end.

That is, the long and bloody war ended at 11 a.m. on November 11.

One hundred years later, France celebrated its century-old victory over Germany by instructing all churches to ring their bells for 11 minutes, beginning at 11 a.m.

It was the centieme anniversaire de l’armistice. (The 100th anniversary of the Armistice.)

That marked the start of festivities and remembrances throughout France, including in our village in the south of the country — where a significant fraction of the population gathered in the town square.

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The Great War: France Will Not Forget

November 10th, 2018 · No Comments · France, Germany

In the photo on the left, a young mustachioed French soldier from a century ago is dressed in his parade best as he stares coolly at the camera. His left hand is behind his back and his right rests on a table, near his red kepi and what might be a bayonet. It is the kind of photo young men posed for, ahead of going to war, in 1914.

The photo on the right shows the same soldier, with the same mustache and the same cool regard for the camera, apparently sitting on a bed … a hospital bed, it would seem … and he holds his bare left arm across his chest. The observer cannot help but notice that his arm is horribly swollen.

The soldier’s name is Marcel Poujol, and he would lose his burned arm to amputation. But he may have considered himself lucky, three times over.

He survived a shell that killed most of his comrades. He would not be going back to the trenches of what the French call La Grande Guerrethe Great War — to become one of the 1.4 million French war dead. And he would be able to live and work in his hometown of Nizas, in the Languedoc region of southern France, raising a family that includes his living granddaughter, our friend Marie-Claire.

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