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Arsene and Arsenal: Time for a Breakup

May 22nd, 2017 · No Comments · Arsenal, English Premier League, Football, France, soccer

For as long as I have been a quasi-fan of Arsenal FC, which is about seven years now, the debate has raged, fomented by placard-waving fans or banners pulled along in the sky by small airplanes.

Sometimes the argument is loud. Sometimes louder.

Is it time for Arsene Wenger, the coach since 1996 of English Premier League side Arsenal, to step aside?

The discussion’s decibel level seems to have reached new heights this season, particularly during a midseason slide of four defeats (including to Watford and West Brom and a draw in six matches.

But the debate continued right through a seven-victories-in-eight-matches-in-34-days finish — which left Arsenal one point shy of Liverpool in fourth place and qualifying for the Champions League for a 20th consecutive season.

Some of the struggle to make a point — Wenger out or Wenger stay — has been waged inside my own head. I have made the case, to myself, both ways.

But I think I finally have some sense of how this should go.

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The Longest Season in Team Sports

May 21st, 2017 · No Comments · English Premier League, Fifa, Football, soccer

The English Premier League.

Has to be the longest competitive schedule in team sports.

The 2016-17 season, which ended over the weekend with 10 matches … began on August 13 and concluded on May 21.

Yes, that is a season that lasted nine months and one week. Or, if you prefer, 40 weeks and one day.

Or 288 days. Of 365.

No wonder if always feels like the Premier League season almost never stops. And fans feel almost bereft to reach this short interim in the summer … when the Premier League IS NOT PLAYING.

Those numbers, above? They do not include preseason training, which can run to several weeks and includes exhibition matches, “friendlies” — often in some distant country.

Which makes a player’s commitment to his club team — or the English Premier League, anyway, a solid 10 months.

And we say “solid” because of this:

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When a Storeroom Became a Garage

May 20th, 2017 · No Comments · France

The place where we live, in the south of France, has a large room on the ground level.

However, it was not necessarily a garage.

Until the other day, when we slowly backed a dinky Toyota into a space that offers no more than 10 inches of extra room.

Ta-da! Our place has a garage, after all!

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NBA: Cavaliers, Warriors and 28 Also-Rans

May 19th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

The NBA has become a bit unbalanced.

Twenty-eight teams can do all the coaching, scouting, planning and plotting, building and rebuilding they want … and it will not change a basic, unalterable reality:

They have no chance against the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Which ought to make for a fascinating championship series, when those two collide, for the third consecutive season, beginning on June 1.

In the meantime, six clubs have been reacquainted in these playoffs with the Cavs-Dubs inferno, a process that should come with the warning: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

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Time to Tear Down and Replace Dodger Stadium?

May 18th, 2017 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball, Dodgers, Lakers, Olympics, World Cup

A few days ago, I watched Tottenham Hotspur’s final match at their ancient stadium at White Hart Lane, where the London club had played its home matches since 1899.

Fans were a bit melancholy but the celebrations before and after the match, won 2-1 by Spurs over Manchester United, seemed to mollify them. Actually, they seemed happy to be in attendance at the final match.

Fans also knew that a new White Hart Lane is going up next to the old Lane, where demolition of the old stadium began the next day.

Which led me to start thinking about some old stadiums I have known, back in the states.

And, in particular, Dodger Stadium.

And how it is time to think seriously about replacing it.

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When Three Soccer Clubs Disappear in a Day

May 17th, 2017 · No Comments · Arabian Gulf League, Dubai, Fifa, Football, soccer, UAE

The most authentic sports experience in the United Arab Emirates is anything pertaining to the domestic soccer league — the Arabian Gulf League.

It is a league overseen by Emiratis, largely staffed by Emiratis, featuring clubs overwhelmingly made up of Emirati footballers, and the whole of the league is largely watched by Emiratis, whether on television or in person.

Any other team sport pursued in the UAE, from cricket to rugby to cycling … it’s a foreign game by and for foreigners and has limited (actually, close-to-zero) Emirati participation or interest. Their three favorite sports are 1) domestic soccer, 2) national-team soccer and 3) international soccer.

So, it was a shock when two government-ordered mergers yesterday wiped out three clubs.

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Nervous Time for Lakers Fans

May 16th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

Tonight is the night.

The night when the ping-pong balls land and it is determined who drafts in the top three of the NBA lottery.

In a matter of minutes the Los Angeles Lakers have a chance to go No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3 in next month’s talent-heavy NBA draft … or to lose the pick entirely.

They can go from a hard decision between UCLA guard Lonzo Ball and other elite talents … to waiting for the 28th pick, which would be the extent of their draft.

By finishing with the third-worst record in the league, this past season, the Lakers have a 46.9 percent chance of landing one of the top three picks.

If that 46.9 percent top-three result does not come in for them, the Lakers send the pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, the long-term penalty for the ill-fated trade for a broken Steve Nash, back in 2012.

Considering the Lakers are desperate for more help, this is something approaching an all-or-nothing moment.

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This Mahler Guy Is Pretty Good

May 15th, 2017 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Until a few years ago, this is what I knew of Gustav Mahler.

He was a famous composer whose work I had never heard.

He was the favorite composer of the eternally snooty television brothers Frasier and Niles Crane, of the long-running show Frasier.

(Whenever the two went out for a night, odds were it was to a concert including some Mahler.)

On the basis of those two facts, I decided to give Mahler a try, 20 years ago. I bought CDs of two of his symphonies and gave them a listen … and then gave up.

His music seemed a bit impenetrable. Or maybe I did not give him a fair hearing; classical music can sometimes require a couple of times through, before appreciation follows.

Twenty years later, I am giving him another shot … and I must concede that he is pretty good.

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Look Who Has a Job! Diego Maradona

May 14th, 2017 · No Comments · Arabian Gulf League, Dubai, Football, soccer, UAE

El Jefe Loco, as I liked to call him while writing my countdown-sa2010 blog, back when Diego Maradona was coaching Argentina ahead of the 2010 World Cup, is off the unemployment rolls.

He has been hired to coach a club in the UAE.

The biggest and best? Al Ain or Al Ahli?

Well, no.

One of the other “big” clubs in the nation, like Al Jazira, Al Nasr or Al Wahda?

Guess again.

A triumphant return to the UAE club he coached in 2010-11, Al Wasl?

Nope.

Maradona, 56, has been named coach of … tiny Fujairah SC, which not only is bitsy and remote … it is in the second division of UAE soccer.

Yeah. Wow.

El Diego has taken a big, big step down in the world of work.

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Where Bullwinkle and Rocky Meet

May 13th, 2017 · No Comments · Uncategorized

A former colleague was driving in Banff, Alberta, looking for a restaurant, when he came to an intersection that spoke to him.

Just as it would to most every Baby Boomer who grew up watching Jay Ward Productions on TV.

The colleague sent the photo to several members of his age cohort, and the cracking wise was pretty much inevitable.

Wrote one:

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