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The Best NFL Team No One Cares About

December 13th, 2018 · No Comments · Chargers, Football, NFL, Rams

That would be the San Diego … uh, Los Angeles … Chargers.

Are they good? Turns out, yes. Yes they are.

The Chargers are 11-3 good, and only two teams in the NFL have a better record — the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams, each 11-2.

The Chiefs are 11-3, as are the Chargers, but the Chiefs are leaders of the AFC West thanks to the divisional-games tiebreaker.

The Chargers defeated the Chiefs in dramatic fashion tonight, scoring a touchdown with :04 on the clock to draw to 28-27, then adding a two-point conversion to win 29-28 — ending the Chargers’ 13-game losing streak against K.C.

And reinforcing their status as the best team in perhaps any North American sports league that no one (well, hardly anyone) cares about. (Yes, including the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes.)


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Curry Joins NBA’s Flat Earth Society?

December 12th, 2018 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors standout, on Monday declared that no one has stepped on the moon, setting off a bit of agitation that one of the most prominent and successful players in the NBA would actually espouse that belief.

Curry’s ridiculous notion is just this side of the bat-sh*t-crazy position Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics took last year when he insisted that the Earth is flat — a notion found to be fiction oh, five centuries ago. Even if the proposition is still put forward by goofy people and groups like the International Flat Earth Research Society.

It makes a person almost cringe to think what a sadly misinformed athlete might come up with next week.

So, back to Curry.

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Rams Lose Their Focus and Their Game

December 9th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Los Angeles Rams, NFL

That was ugly.

Chicago Bears 15, Los Angeles Rams 6, and can anyone remember when, two weeks ago, seemingly rational NFL fans thought the Rams were headed for the Super Bowl?

That was after the 54-51 touchdown-a-thon victory by the Rams over the Kansas City Chiefs in a collision of the league’s only 9-1 teams. That shoot-out precipitated a sort of mindless enthusiasm not seen around the Los Angeles edition of this franchise since Super Bowl 14 in 1980.

In that K.C. game, Rams quarterback Jared Goff passed for 379 and and four touchdowns.

And two games later … Goff threw four interceptions and the Rams failed to score a touchdown.

What happened?

–The Rams started fast and clinched the NFC West division after 12 games, and we could predict a sag in their performance with that preliminary goal accomplished. Well, there it was.

–The Rams played a cold-weather game out of doors, in Chicago, and they brought back memories of the 1970s L.A. Rams teams that couldn’t nail down home-field advantage and lost in frigid weather in the playoffs.That is, they have a long history of failing out of doors in December.

–Goff has lost his edge. The guy who threw 27 touchdown passes and seven interceptions through Game 11, chucked four interceptions tonight, alone.

–The QB demonstrated, again, he doesn’t like pressure, doesn’t always feel it coming and stands in the pocket too long.

–The Rams seem to have abandoned a significant fraction of their offense the past season-plus — the “jet” sweep running plays by receivers and/or fakes off that motion.

–Todd Gurley barely looks like a competent running back after being the league’s offensive MVP a year ago. Is he hurt? Maybe so. But he is not making big plays as a carrier or as a catcher.

The Rams have three games left — home to Philadelphia, who beat them in the Coliseum a year ago, away to the Arizona Cardinals, home to the San Francisco 49ers.

Certainly, 32-year-old Rams coach Sean McVay has time to install some new wrinkles into the game plan, because the Bears (and the Detroit Lions, last week) seemed to be a step ahead of him all along. But has McVay already shown all his best moves? Has the league caught on to the team that was 4-12 in 2016?

Some slippage can be expected after a club clinches a playoffs berth early. The tricky part is regaining the initiative. The Rams have three weeks to do so.



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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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