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NFL Looks for Growth Outside U.S.

September 29th, 2016 · No Comments · Football, Los Angeles Rams, NFL

Americans sometimes are surprised that few other people in the world are interested in the NFL. They have heard of something called the Super Bowl, but they overwhelmingly do not follow the game nor know very much about it.

It isn’t as puzzling as it was 20 years ago because the NFL launched the Europe-based World League of American Football and now is sending several real, live regular-season games (three, again this year) to London annually as part of the NFL International Series.

And this year, Mexico City is on the schedule, with a Monday Night Football game to be played there on November 21 — the first MNF on foreign soil.

The thinking in the league office apparently is that the low-hanging fruit, in terms of stateside consumers, was plucked long ago, and to find some new customers the NFL needs to cross some international borders.

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The Grape-Harvest Driving Hazard

September 28th, 2016 · No Comments · France, Travel

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We saw an odd road sign the other day at one of the entrances entering a nearby town.

“! Chausee Glissant Vendange”.

An exclamation point on any sign in France means “attention”! or “watch out”!

And the three-word message below the exclamation?

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‘Big Sam’ and a Bigger Fall

September 27th, 2016 · No Comments · English Premier League, Football, soccer, Sports Journalism

Wow. Hard to remember the last time a guy screwed up the greatest opportunity in his professional life as quickly as did Sam Allardyce.

A year ago, he was an unemployed English soccer coach of middling reputation whose claim to celebrity, as far as it went, was “never being relegated” — a reputation he burnished last season by taking over the Sunderland club in October and steering a bad team out of relegation.

That rescue job, as well as England’s disastrous Euro 2016 tournament, which led to the resignation of coach Roy Hodgson, left a door open for the England job, generally considered to be the pinnacle of coaching, for Englishmen.

“Big Sam” got the job after a groundswell of support, much of it from journalists who liked his distinctly English style (direct and physical). Through the 2018 World Cup at 3 million pounds ($3.9 million) per year.

And only 67 days and one match after he was appointed he has resigned under pressure from the English Football Association after several compromising comments were caught on camera by investigative journalists working for the English newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

The newspaper was doing work on rumors of corruption in English soccer and published the story under the headline: “England manager Sam Allardyce for sale”.

Oh, Big Sam!

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Arnold Palmer: 1929-2016

September 26th, 2016 · No Comments · Golf

Arnold Palmer was the most remote-in-plain-sight great sports figure of the 20th century. Not in a bad way. He was accessible and friendly and eternally polite, but I never felt as I had any real idea what he was about.

Palmer died on Sunday at the age of 87. Which means he was younger than Vin Scully, which seems astonishing, given that Vinny remains a public figure of great daily significance — and was throughout the 30 years during which Palmer seemed like a figure from a distant era.

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Jose Fernandez: A Major-Leaguer Who Died during a Season

September 25th, 2016 · 1 Comment · Angels, Baseball

We usually encounter some sense of shock when a Major League Baseball player dies during his active career.

Or, at least, we certainly do in the more modern history of the game, when players stopped dying from influenza, typhoid fever and tuberculosis.

And when the player dies during the MLB season. A guy who was in the clubhouse last night … and now is dead.

Such was the case with Jose Fernandez, ace pitcher for the Miami Marlins, who was at the ballpark on Saturday night but died early this morning in a boat crash.

I learned of it first on the ESPN.com home page, and it was like my mind couldn’t process it, at first. The site had put up a box, with Fernandez’s photo in it, with the information: “1992 – 2016”.

It went something like this. What is this? Jose Fernandez? Is … dead? People use “years” like that when people die, but that’s crazy; he pitched just the other day!”

Which then led to me pondering the comparative rarity of players dying during their careers, during their MLB careers and during the regular season.

Jose Fernandez, unfortunately, falls into a not-large category of baseball players who died during a regular season while on the roster of a big-league team.

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Vin Scully Anecdote, Day 4

September 24th, 2016 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Dodgers

Final day of Vin Scully anecdotes.

A few years back, a former colleague — and Dodgers writer — brought a batch of his wife’s molasses cookies to the ballpark and presented them to Vin.

Just a way to say “thinking of you” to Vin, apparently.

Maybe the best part of it, for my friend, was having a photo taken of himself with Vin — inside the broadcast booth. It’s a nice portrait of the two of them, with the grass of Dodger Stadium in the background.

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Vin Scully Anecdote, Day 3

September 23rd, 2016 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

I was going to note other interactions in the press box with Vin Scully — a recent meme seems to be about reporters and bumping into Vin in the washroom and making small talk, and I’ve done that.

Instead, I’m going to offer him an anecdote pertaining to an event to which he is deeply tied.

Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The Kirk Gibson Game.

I wish I had thought of this sooner. Vinny has only a week to work it into a broadcast.

It is about a father, two sons, only two tickets and one of the great moments in baseball history.

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Vin Scully Anecdote, Day 2

September 22nd, 2016 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

A couple of decades ago, maybe a month after having published a comment piece on Vin Scully (spoiler alert: I liked him), I was going through the letters to the sports editor at the San Bernardino Sun.

It didn’t take long, I’m sure. We never got many letters … and that was back when some humans actually did sit down with paper and pen, and put down handwritten words … then fold the paper and place it inside an envelope, apply a stamp on the upper-right corner of the side with the address on it … and drop it in a mailbox.

Then I got to a letter that sent a bolt of fear through my brain.

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Vin Scully Anecdote, Day 1

September 21st, 2016 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

I was looking at the Dodgers media release tonight, pertaining to the upcoming Vin Scully weekend at Dodger Stadium.

And for a moment I was thinking, “What is there left to say or do? Are we pushing this too far? Are the Dodgers taking it too far? Are we going to ruin the health of this 88-year-old man by making him acknowledge every one of his 10 million fans over the next week?”

And then I read the excellent ESPN.com piece on Vin and his career and his final days in the broadcast booth … and I’ve swung the other way.

At least to this point:

I will convey a few anecdotes involving Vin and me. It will not involve any bother at all for Vin. These things already happened.

Here is No. 1.

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The Premier League’s 100-Million French Connection

September 20th, 2016 · No Comments · English Premier League, Football, soccer

How big is the English Premier League?

So big that a French telecom is paying the world’s most popular soccer league 100-million euros per season, for this season and the next two, to show all of the Premier League’ games.

In France. Did we make that clear? In France, which has its own soccer league, one generally considered one of the top five or six leagues in Europe.

So, a French telecom, known as SFR, is giving the Premier League about $120 million per year to show, in France and Monaco, games from the Premier League this season and the next two.

Personally, I think it’s a fine business decision.

Why?

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