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Keeping Watch Over Their Flocks

February 9th, 2016 · No Comments · France, tourism, Travel


It is an unmistakable sound, though it may take a city boy a minute or two to place it.

The steady “tinkle ” or “clank” of domesticated animals wearing bells, maybe just the other side of a rise of land, and on the move.

A combined herd of sheep and goats is being raised somewhere near where we are staying, on the edge of a small town in the Languedoc, and while walking today we saw the group of 40 to 50 individuals — crossing the busiest highway coming out of the center of the town.

It was fascinating to watch from 30 yards or so away, and quite the operation, one that required four or five shepherds to pull off.

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Super Bowl 50: So Bad It Was Good

February 8th, 2016 · No Comments · Football, France, NFL

During much of the Super Bowl, early this morning in France, I was complaining how awful it was.

It reminded me of the sort of game I associate with the first 20-or-so editions of the NFL’s championship game, which often were wretched spectacles — uncompetitive or poorly played, or both.

With turnovers, dropped balls, penalties and elite players playing like rank amateurs.

And we got those mistakes from the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, during the latter’s 24-10 victory, and early in the game it annoyed me.

But then the a switch toggled inside my head, and I realized I was enjoying what I saw.



Because it was a rare instance when a half-century of steady movement toward dominance by the offense, characterized by the overwhelming importance of one man, the quarterback, was put on hold. On the biggest of stages.

This was a day for defense and special teams — and helpless quarterbacks. Which I realized I miss.

And I am reminded that I covered the most dominant defensive performance in NFL history.

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The Value of the Super Bowl to French TV

February 7th, 2016 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Football, France, NFL

Luckily for me, a French music TV station has the free-to-air rights to Super Bowl 50 and will be showing the game live at 12:30 local time tonight/tomorrow morning.

Why does station W9 bother with the championship of American football?

The French sports newspaper L’Equipe asked that question, and others, of the director general of the station.

The short answer?

W9 has nothing else that can pull as many as 500,000 viewers in the middle of the night.

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Newspaper Explains the Super Bowl to the French ‘Neophyte’

February 6th, 2016 · No Comments · Football, France, NFL

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The newspaper Le Monde is probably the most important (and august) daily publication in France. It is known for the density of its prose and the nuances of opinions expressed, but the newspaper is not so stuffy as to overlook the Super Bowl.

Perhaps it was 50 years of history or the game’s status as the biggest day in sports in the United States, but Le Monde no longer ignores it — as this well-done and comprehensive guide to tomorrow’s game would demonstrate.

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A Day at the Beach

February 5th, 2016 · No Comments · France, tourism, Travel, UAE


Winter weather in this part of France can be fluky, we are learning.

Yesterday, we were bundled up (well, by SoCal standards) during a walk to a nearby town — but were quite cold throughout because of powerful winds that took the wind-chill factor to 47 Fahrenheit.

Today? Bright sun. Very little wind. Temps cracking 70.

A beach day.

And we saw to it that it was just that.

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Galaxy Adds a Bad Attitude Named Ashley Cole

February 4th, 2016 · 1 Comment · Abu Dhabi, Arsenal, English Premier League, Football, Galaxy, Rome, soccer

For 2.5 years I sat across from an Englishman who detested Ashley Cole, who at the time was a left back with Chelsea.

My coworker inevitably would get around to paraphrasing the quotes from Cole’s biography, My Defence, in which the player said he was “trembling with anger” in the summer of 2006 when his English club, Arsenal, offered him 55,000 pounds per week (about $80,000, at today’s exchange rates) instead of the 60,000 pounds per week he wanted.

Cole from that moment on became the English Premier League poster boy for greed, especially after he jumped from the only club he had known, Arsenal, to crosstown rivals Chelsea — which is egregious even by European soccer standards.

And that is the guy the Galaxy is bringing in to play left back, leaving onlookers to wonder if the club believes a 35-year-old player can change his spots and become a good teammate — and not one overwhelmed by a sense of entitlement.

Especially if $80,000 a week in 2006 left him so angry.

Because the Galaxy apparently is going to be giving him $5,800 a week.

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A Little Languedoc Club and Two French Soccer Championships

February 3rd, 2016 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Football, soccer, The National


I must first have noticed the city of Sete on the map, where the Languedoc region of southern France creeps down to the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.

Sete is near the southern end of a confused stretch of French coastline, where land gives way to water and back again from west of Marseille almost to Narbonne.

Sete is possible because of a 400-foot hill that juts out of the sea, with a huge bay on one side and the Mediterranean on the other, allowing the population of 42,000 or so to cluster on the mountain’s slopes and take its living from the water below.

Sete was to come up again in Abu Dhabi, when The National was referring to an interesting midfielder/forward named Gregory Dufrennes, who scored lots of goals for two second-tier teams, Dubai Club and Ittihad Kalba.

Dufrennes is French, and his previous professional stop, before making the leap over to the UAE, was FC Sete 34 — which wikipedia later informed me was twice champion of France. Which is astonishing, considering how small the city is.

And we drove over there today to have a look around and to try to get a sense of a city that must be the smallest to win a French top-flight soccer championship, let alone two of them.

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Google Maps and the Imaginary Path

February 2nd, 2016 · No Comments · France, tourism, Travel

A great thing about staying in the greater Pezenas area, north of Beziers and southwest of Montpellier … are the walks from one little town to another.

The town we are in (year-round population of less than 600), is about 45 minutes from another little town in a variety of directions.

I have done two of the walks, with the help of Google Maps for the latter — which showed how a dirt path behind the home where we are staying led almost directly to a town north of us. Thanks, GM!

The same website seems to suggest I could walk over a ridge and to the town to the west of us, but I am beginning to think the Google Maps people are promulgating a fictional path.

So far?

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Is Pursuing a Record a Valid Cause of Death?

February 1st, 2016 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I have been fascinated/haunted by the death last week of an Englishman named Henry Worsley, who succumbed to an infection the day after he was air-lifted by a rescue team after giving up his attempt — 30 miles from success — to cross Antarctica alone.

He had begun his quest back on November 14, dragging a sledge that weighed 148 kilograms (325.6) — almost twice the body weight of the 55-year-old military veteran — that carried all the supplies he believed he would need to make the solo crossing, by way of the South Pole.

That included two satellite phones so that he could call in a report each day during the brutal trip in sub-freezing temperatures across the coldest, highest and driest continent.

Those phones produced daily podcasts posted on the website, which chronicled the attempt, as well as the photos posted daily.

The audio from Day 70, when he concedes he does not have the strength to cover the final 30 miles and will call to be picked up, is like listening to the final words of someone who has nothing left to give.

Two lines of thought on this:

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It’s a Shark-Eat-Shark World

January 31st, 2016 · No Comments · Uncategorized

This entry has nothing to do with sports, journalism or sports journalism. Not that it has been, daily, since 2008.

It’s just plain astonishment at the natural world, and sharks in particular, and a piece of video that perhaps you have not yet seen.

A shark eating a shark.

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