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Our Priorities Were Misplaced

March 17th, 2020 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Basketball, English Premier League, Football, Olympics, soccer

Sports may not be the be-all and end-all we came to count on.

Many of us have only recently grasped that, as sports content disappeared from our TV diets, shoved aside by a microscopic but deadly bug known as Covid-19, or the Coronavirus.

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Languedoc Wines: Big Values at Small Cost

March 9th, 2020 · 1 Comment · France, Languedoc, Wine

A reader asked for information about the experience of finding and consuming the often-quite economical wines of the Languedoc region of southern France.

In theory, I should be an expert, after four-plus years based among the rolling hills and vineyards in this part of Occitanie, but that would be an error. I like wine well enough but I am no expert.

So, we turn over the following entry to the house wine expert, Leah. Cheers! Paul

Leah writes …

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Shaquille O’Neal and a False Dawn in Sunny Phoenix

March 3rd, 2020 · No Comments · Back in the Day, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

This is another entry in the “Back in the Day” series, where we look back at a sports event I wrote about for the newspaper. In this case, the nearly forgotten 2008 mid-season trade of Shaquille O’Neal from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns.

The idea in Phoenix was that Shaq would be the presence in the paint that would allow the Steve Nash-led, Mike D’Antoni-coached Suns — to win a first NBA championship.

As it turned out, in 33 games that season in Phoenix, Shaq put up the sort of numbers one would associate with a big man on the back side of his career, scoring 12.9 points and taking 10.9 rebounds per game for a high-speed team that went out in the first round of the loaded Western Conference playoffs.

However, when I saw him in Phoenix in his Suns debut, February 20, 2008, versus the visiting Lakers, he looked like a man on a mission — despite the Lakers winning 130-124.

Now, let’s go back to that winter night from 12 years ago.

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Shocking and Delightful End to Liverpool streak

March 1st, 2020 · No Comments · Arsenal, Champions League, English Premier League, Football, soccer

The biggest story in world football since the most recent Champions League final (May, 2019) … was Liverpool’s dominance of European soccer.

Before their game at Watford last night, Liverpool not only was being called “the best club football team in the world”, and they had some staggering numbers to back up that assessment.

Unbeaten in 44 Premier League matches reaching back to the first week of January. Last January.

Victors in 18 consecutive Premier League matches, leaving them tied with last year’s Manchester City side for the longest streak in a century-plus of top-flight history.

And, of course, the Champions League victory over Tottenham last May, with Barcelona and Messi having been beaten, en route.

Liverpool matches became must-see TV all over the world. How far would the Reds take this.

The notion that they would have any trouble last night was really hard to get behind, given their opponent:

Struggling Watford, 19th in the 20-team PL standings, at dire risk for demotion to the second tier.

All of which led to a shocking result:

Watford 3, Liverpool 0 — the first Premier League defeat for Liverpool since January 3 — 423 days previous.

You could knock over the world football cognoscenti with a feather, and it wouldn’t need to be a big one.

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When ‘M-V-P’ Chants Went from Hope to Prediction

February 22nd, 2020 · No Comments · Back in the Day, Basketball, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

“Blasts from the Past” is the idea. On days when I feel like writing but don’t feel like doing much research, I am going to revisit topics from my 40 years in journalism.

This will be one of those. It is my take, from January of 2008, on Kobe Bryant’s chances of winning his first MVP award.

Kobe’s memorial/celebration of life is in two days, on Monday. It certainly will generate a lot of emotion as the league and his fans say goodbye to Bryant, who died at age 41 last month, when a helicopter crash killed him and eight others, including his daughter Gianna, 13.

A spoiler: I could only speculate, in 2008, if Bryant could win an MVP trophy. Turns out, yes, he could, and 2007-08 was the one time he did it.

So, here is a column that appeared on January 23, 2008.

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Cheating Bastards

February 17th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

I have been off the air most of this month, and have not weighed in on how the Houston Astros stole the 2017 World Series* from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Though the headline and first paragraph can be considered a spoiler alert on where this is going. That, and the asterisk (forever) after any reference to the 2017 World Series*

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Super Bowl 29, the 49ers, Chargers and Mark Seay

February 1st, 2020 · No Comments · Back in the Day, Chargers, Football, NFL

When the San Francisco 49ers secured a place in Super Bowl 54, to be played tomorrow in Miami, my brain banged out several memories of my two visits to Joe Robbie Stadium.

The most recent was to see USC and Oklahoma in the college football national championship game in 2007. (USC 55, Oklahoma 10; later forfeited because of NCAA rules-breaking). Away from the game, I remember running into the side of a moving bus while jogging in the streets of downtown Miami. (I miscalculated.)

The first game at Joe Robbie came a decade earlier, when the 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl 29.

And then a couple of images of players and coaches pushed my brain for attention.

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Back in the Day: A Miserable Sunday in January

January 31st, 2020 · No Comments · Football, Journalism, NFL, Sports Journalism

The last time the Kansas City Chiefs appeared in the Super Bowl?

It was 50 years ago, on January 11, 1970. And I saw that game — because I have never missed a Super Bowl. Seen ’em all, if not in person (about a dozen of those as a sports journalist), then on TV.

So, the Chiefs. They had reached the first Super Bowl and got rolled by the Green Bay Packers, and they got back to the big game three years later.

It seems like the Chiefs have had a lot of pretty good teams in the half-century since Hank Stram’s men defeated the Minnesota Vikings, but they have never gotten back to the Big Game. Till now.

I remember their 23-7 victory over the Vikings fairly well, in part because I was an NFL fan (and the Chiefs were an AFL team) … and in greater part because I was miserably sick that day.

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Kobe Bryant: 1978-2020

January 26th, 2020 · 1 Comment · Basketball, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

I heard about Kobe Bryant while leaving church, around 11:15 a.m. today. “Killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas,” someone said.

It took me a few seconds to process. “Kobe, dead? That can’t be right.” Pause. “A helicopter? That’s possible; how many celebrities have died in private planes and copters?” Pause. “Wow. Kobe dead.” At 41.

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Going Out with a Bang: Thanks, Eli!

January 24th, 2020 · No Comments · Back in the Day, NFL, Sports Journalism

February 3, 2008. Super Bowl 42.

New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14.

That would be the 12-point underdog Giants taking down the 18-0 Patriots, who were out to become the first 19-0 champs in NFL history.

And I was there.

How lucky was I? I covered what still is the most dramatic and memorable Super Bowl ever played.

Four days later, I was laid off by the L.A. News Group, after 32 years.

Cut it pretty close, for sure, but no one could take that Super Bowl from me. I have the online version of the column I wrote on deadline to prove it.

And I have Eli Manning to thank for it.

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