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Rams Left Out in the Cold?

January 16th, 2021 · No Comments · Football, Los Angeles Rams, Rams

I wish I had the time and energy to look this up, or call some agency that would look it up for me, and pay them to do it, but …

… I don’t and I don’t.

So, I will own up to cherry-picking these NFL stats from The Athletic pertaining to the Rams playoff game in Green Bay tonight.

(Warning: You may not want to see these. One of those “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” kinda things.

Does cold weather give the Rams troubles, especially in the playoffs?

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L.A. Still Alive in Tri-Championship Chase

January 12th, 2021 · No Comments · Baseball, Basketball, Dodgers, Football, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Rams, NBA, NFL, Rams

The Lakers, kingpins of the National Basketball Association.

The Dodgers, top of the heap in Major League baseball.

The Rams, still in competition for the Super Bowl.

Thus, it is possible, if still improbable, that the champs of the three most popular American professional sports leagues could all be found in Los Angeles.

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Tommy Lasorda: 1927-2021

January 8th, 2021 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers, Olympics

Everyone who covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for any amount of time during Tommy Lasorda’s 20 years as the club’s manager has a Lasorda story. Probably dozens and dozens of them.

My Lasorda moment happens to rank as one of the best-known.

I was one of a couple of dozen people in his office, post-game, for the “Kingman’s performance” rant in 1978. I was not the Dodgers reporter for my newspaper, but I was in Chavez Ravine that day, giving a colleague a day off. Dumb luck.

Dave Kingman, the Chicago Cubs slugger, had hit three monstrous, towering homers and driven in eight runs as the Cubs beat the Dodgers in extra innings.

Tommy was sitting at his desk when a radio reporter named Paul Olden asked Lasorda for “a few words” about “Kingman’s performance.”

What followed was several minutes of obscenity-laced response, with Lasorda getting louder and seemingly more angry, as he considered Kingman’s performance.

Which, happily, was tape-recorded for posterity, and is now posted online and should be easy to find. (If you don’t mind the &*#$@% language, that is.)

Lasorda died Thursday night, at the age of 93. He was the oldest living Hall of Famer.

Tommy Lasorda did many things well. He was a savvy manager who won two World Series, a man who had the pulse of the clubhouse and a colorful figure who loved the attention he received for the club — and himself. He was a man who “bled Dodger blue.” He told us so with regularity.

He also was one of the most profane men I encountered during 40 years in journalism. He was an artist, really. Inflection, variety, anger, all calculated to end with a foaming-at-the-mouth crescendo. Sailors couldn’t keep up with him.

Most of the time it was for show. Sometimes it was meant to bruise. Whichever worked better for the Dodgers.

One other moment with Tommy. Sydney 2000, the Summer Olympics.

Lasorda by now had been moved to the Dodgers front office, and he was not the same overpowering presence he had been while Dodgers manager.

Then he was named manager of the U.S. Olympic team, which was not allowed to use big-league players, and Tommy was back, at age 73.

Tommy and his staff rounded up some pretty sharp minor-league players, and their Olympics ended with Tommy’s team winning gold by defeating the powerful Cuban team. He was so happy and so proud, and he was the perfect man to make it all possible.

I watched the end of the game, after covering the track meet, and Tommy talked about American spirit and pride, and he was as serious as he could ever be. I wrote a comment piece on it.

If readers want to be reminded about Tommy Lasorda, and what he meant to baseball, and vice versa … just check the usual sports sites. There ought to be some fine obituaries.

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More Wolford, Please

January 5th, 2021 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

I might have suggested the Los Angeles Rams would take a page from the “psyching ourselves up” playbook and lecture fans and the media about “how nobody believes in us,” ahead of their game against Arizona on Sunday.

But we couldn’t go there because Rams fans, perhaps more enthusiastic than informed, apparently helped bet a team without its leading passer or receiver … into the role of 4.5-point favorites over the Cardinals of Kyler Murray — though Murray hardly played, after tweaking an ankle.

I did not see how the Rams could score enough points to beat a middling opponent, given that QB Jared Goff was out with a broken thumb and Cooper Kupp, the team’s top receiver, was sidelined by Covid-19 protocols.

But they pulled off an 18-7 victory, thanks to their league-leading defense, which scored nine points, and an unknown quarterback named John Wolford; a guy making his first appearance in an NFL game turned in an unexpectedly competent performance.

Competent to the point that I would like to see Rams coach Sean McVay have Wolford taking snaps against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL wild-card playoffs round Saturday.

To explain:

–Goff has struggled for a month, and his performance is unlikely to improve with that broken thumb — on which surgery was performed a week ago Monday. (Take a moment and consider what sort of jury-rigged cast he would have on his thumb. And he would throw accurately with that?)

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2020: Don’t Give Up Yet

December 31st, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Basketball, Dodgers, Lakers, NBA

In late December of last year — 2019, that is; so long ago — a columnist for The New York Times made a compelling case that 2019 was the “best year” in the history of the human race.

Longer lifespans, fewer neonatal deaths, less starvation, more money trickling down to the poorest, more internet access, more clean water … and so on.

And here we are one year later, trying to wrap our minds around the disaster that was 2020, at times nearly swallowed up (or so it seemed) by a pandemic that has taken 1.8 million lives from grieving families and battered the global economy.

It has been rough, emotionally. Many of us have shared the feelings of dread that hover over the so-far healthy, this sense of doom, that it is only a matter of time before the Covid-19 virus catches up to us. Others pine after friends and family, stranded by curfews and lock-downs.

But that is not all the time, thank goodness. And when we are able to disconnect fear from reality, we come back with an appreciation of nature’s power and how it can strike us down — something perhaps we need to reflect upon, given that several generations of people now living seem to believe they will go on forever. A mindset nearly unthinkable only 100 years ago, when another pandemic (the Spanish Flu) circled the globe and killed far more people then (perhaps 50 million) than Covid is killing now.

Covid reminded us that life is precious, and sometimes foolishly spent. It takes something like a rogue virus to accomplish that.

Many of us have hit upon coping strategies as the pandemic rages on. One approach is to follow the science and wear masks, to be mindful of social distancing, to stay indoors. Another is to read or listen to music, or catch up on that correspondence you hadn’t gotten around to, or to plant a garden or learn how to knit. Another? Take advantage of extra time to watch your favorite team play. In our case, we saw two of our favorite teams (basketball’s Lakers and baseball’s Dodgers, win championships.

Now, vaccines are here, or on the horizon, and it seems prudent that we take advantage of those, when given the chance.

It sometimes feels like we have been put through a stress test, and we know more about ourselves than we did 10 months ago, when this all started.

We might do well to look back at less challenging times than these, and to recall that a year ago we lived through the “best year” ever.

It may take another year, or five, but we can aim for a re-run of 2019. We got there once. Why can’t we, with diligence and patience, do it again? And even better.

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Goff Catches a Break

December 29th, 2020 · No Comments · Football, Los Angeles Rams, NFL

If ever the timing of an NFL injury could seem propitious, Jared Goff and his broken right thumb would be in the discussion.

Until he sustained the injury, late in a 20-9 loss at Seattle on Sunday, the leading post-game topics were going to be about the Rams quarterback, who had another lousy performance, and what Rams coach Sean McVay might do about it.

Yesterday, however, we learned from the Rams that Goff had surgery on his wounded thumb and would not play in the final regular-season game — but could be available for a wild-card playoffs game the following weekend.

Suddenly, we like Jared Goff a whole lot more than we did in the latter stages of that meltdown (on the offensive side of the ball), in Seattle.

Why does that make such a difference?

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Rams Over Shock Loss to Jets?

December 26th, 2020 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

Has Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay gotten over that 23-20 home defeat inflicted last week by the previously winless New York Jets?

I haven’t.

Last Sunday, kickoff was a bit after 1 p.m. The Rams, however, didn’t show up until about 2, when a field goal got them to 13-3. (That score again!)

What was really irksome about this defeat?

Anyone paying attention … could see this coming.

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The Endearing Intellectual Challenges of ‘Master and Commander’ Author

December 14th, 2020 · 1 Comment · Books, Movies

One of my favorite writers is the late Patrick O’Brian, author of the 20-plus-volume Aubrey-Matarin series — set mostly on the high seas during the Napoleonic wars, circa 1790-1815.

It is a great work of historical fiction, centered on the title characters — the English navy captain Jack Aubrey and his “particular friend”, Stephen Maturin, an Irish-Catalan medical doctor who sails with Aubrey while also spending much of his time working as an agent for a British intelligence service.

(You may have seen the excellent 2005 movie based on O’Brian’s books: “Master and Commander: Far Side of the World“. Russell Crowe plays Aubrey; Paul Bettany is Matarin.)

One of the challenges and rewards of reading O’Brian, who died at age 85 in 2000 — is dealing with his enormous vocabulary. He seems to be convinced that a more specific word was always to be chosen over the more common.

One of his early editors tried to convince him to tone down what the British might call “showing away”. The books , perhaps make it a bit more accessible for those who do not understand Latin or French or 19th-century medical terms. The editor wrote: “Like many who have struggled themselves, he thought others should struggle, too.”

Usually, context can lead to understanding, even without ready and oft-repeated forays to a dictionary.

I am on what is at least my third trip through those 20-plus books, and it struck me the other day that it might be fun to bring paper and pen to my Kindle and take down some of the more obscure references, as I bump into them, for the amusement of readers of this site.

And yes, these are real words. Have fun.

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McVay, Rams Confront ‘Belichick Test’

December 10th, 2020 · No Comments · Los Angeles Rams, NFL, Rams

How good are these Los Angeles Rams?

Check back at about 8:30 (PST) tonight.

By then, we should have the results of the Rams versus the New England Patriots in the NFL’s Thursday night game.

This is a big game for both teams. The Rams are 8-4, atop the NFC West, and are pursuing a third playoffs berth in Sean McVay’s fourth season as their coach.

Which, however, is a very slim resume when compared to the Patriots of Bill Belichick.

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Forgetting Pearl Harbor?

December 7th, 2020 · 2 Comments · coronavirus

One advantage for senior citizens and their notions of history, is having already lived through a fair-size chunk of it.

I can tell you where I was when I heard President Kennedy had been shot. (Having lunch at the picnic tables at school. A kid named Curtis Taplin came outside, after a phone call with his mother, and announced it to everyone. Our teacher went inside and confirmed it.)

A disadvantage? Not always knowing what history is going to become important, going forward — and remain so.

Take, for instance, the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941.

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