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Porto: Who Knew?

October 22nd, 2017 · No Comments · Portland, tourism, Travel

Portugal seems to be a bit off the grid, among American tourists.

Inexpensive, lots of sun — but not a priority. In practice, it is a country Yanks visit only after seeing the leading sights of Europe, led by those in France and Britain.

It turns out that Portugal’s second city, Porto, is in itself interesting enough to make an initial visit the country. And we have Lisbon and the sun-drenched Algarve ahead of us, still.

Porto is better known and more often seen by Britons for a couple of good reasons.

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Help on the Way? A Good World Cup for U.S. U17 Team

October 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Brazil 2014, Fifa, Football, Landon Donovan, soccer, World Cup

Reaching the quarterfinals of a Fifa tournament is pretty much the definition of success, on the male side of the U.S. national soccer realm, and the Under 17 team just did it, at the U17 World Cup in India.

And what does it mean for the senior side to have the kids get to the last eight of a 24-team tournament?

We would like to be able to say “help is on the way”, but if we have learned anything from watching U17 teams play … it is nearly impossible to project what sort of player a kid will be three years hence. Never mind a decade into the future.

It could be that forwards Josh Sargent and Tim Weah will be with the men’s team sometime soon, or maybe goalkeeper Justin Garces. Or maybe none of them.

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Lonzo Fever Chart: No Diagnosis Yet

October 20th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Clippers, Lakers, NBA

Los Angeles Lakers fans presumably saw the stat line from the NBA debut of savior/point guard Lonzo Ball.

It was scary.

The headline espn.com ran on the Associated Press report began like this: “Deflated Ball”.

Couldn’t argue with that. Lonzo was unable to escape the enthusiastic defense of Clippers guard Patrick Beverley and the rookie from UCLA had three points on 1-for-6 shooting with four assists and two turnovers. He did have nine rebounds. There was that. But the Clippers rolled, 108-92.

Then came Game 2 of the Lonzo Era, and he missed a triple-double by one assist.

Hey, wait! Which one is the real Lonzo Ball?

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Only 29 Years Later …

October 19th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

The Dodgers will play in a World Series.

That was harder than we thought it would be.

From 1941 through 1988, the Dodgers were National League champions 16 times in 48 seasons. On average, they were in the World Series every third year, during that era, when they also won the World Series six times.

From 1989 through 2016, the Dodgers were National League champions zero times in 28 seasons.

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A Dodgers-Yankees World Series?!?

October 18th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

The New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. One of the great rivalries in baseball.

To me, it remains the greatest, and only in part because these teams have met in a World Series 11 times, by far the most championship matchups in baseball history.

With a 12th Fall Classic pitting them now suddenly very possible … well, I would love to see it.

The Dodgers lead the Chicago Cubs 3-1 for the National League championship, and the Yankees have surged to a 3-2 lead over the Houston Astros for the American League title.

If the Dodgers win tomorrow and Yankees follow suit on Friday, their collision would be set — the 12th, as noted, but the first since 1981.

Older fans of the game would love to see this happen. And broadcasters would certainly not mind, given that New York is the biggest TV market and Los Angeles is No. 2, and both clubs are more than a little popular.

A clash of titans!

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Europe: Bigger Than We Think

October 17th, 2017 · No Comments · Spain, tourism, Travel

Americans tend to think of Europe as a small place. Physically small. Especially when compared to North America, let alone Asia.

And Europe is fairly compact. Especially the western half of it. From Ireland to, say, the borders of the former Soviet Union.

But, and it’s big but … Europe is not dinky. If you are thinking of France (four-fifths the size of Texas), Spain (three-fourths the size of Texas), Germany 85 percent the size of California), Poland (three-quarters the size of Cali) … Europe is not to be conquered in a morning’s drive. Unless you’re talking about the Benelux countries, maybe.

Which explains our falling asleep-at-the-wheel fatigue after driving the 530 kilometers from southeast France to southwest France and over the border into Spain’s Basque Country and, specifically, to San Sebastian.

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It’s Here! The Longer, More Tedious NBA Season

October 16th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

Most observers would say the NBA is better than ever.

I would say it is worse. Than ever. Certainly, in terms of competitive balance and number of clubs with a shot at winning a championship.

Because stars are clustering in a half-dozen teams.

Because several NBA teams have little hope of reaching the playoffs and zero hope of winning a title.

Because at most four teams realistically hope to win a championship, and more likely that number is really two — the two that have played in the past three NBA Finals.

Because the mostly meaningless regular season has been extended by two more weeks.

The season begins tomorrow. Yes, on October 17. About when the exhibition season began, a year ago.

What this means is regular-season tedium extended to 25 weeks. An extra 14 or so days to mull how the NBA is a lot of same ol’ same ol’ — regular seasons of stars producing at some reduced level of effort, and a half-dozen hopeless teams tanking.

Consider:

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A Rise from ‘Utility Infielder’ to ‘Kirk Gibson’

October 15th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Dodgers

As recently as the winter of 2013-14, Justin Turner was out of baseball. For the second time.

A seventh-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 2006, out of Lakewood Mayfair High School, Turner had not demonstrated he could hit successfully at the major-league level. At best it looked as if he might be a banjo-hitting utility man handy to have around to plug a hole anywhere in the infield — which was pretty much all he did for the New York Mets during the 2013 season.

So they waived him, as the Baltimore Orioles had done earlier in his career. And for two months Turner, 29, did not have a team and faced the real possibility his big-league career was over, without his leaving much of an impression.

Until the Dodgers signed him as a free agent, and called him up to the big club in May.

It has been onward and upward for Turner ever since, to the point that the waived utility infielder of four years ago is now commonly referred to as the “heart and soul” of the Dodgers — a tired expression, usually overstated, but we know what people are getting at.

Rather like Kirk Gibson was described, back in 1988.

You may recall Gibson hit a memorable home run in the postseason that year.

Tonight, Turner hit one that will not be replayed millions of times in years to come, but his homer also won a game, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, at Dodger Stadium, 29 years to the day of Gibson’s big hit, to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

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Nine Letters: Shrunken Newspaper Feature

October 14th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Journalism

A relative brought us a copy of the New York Times. Like every other U.S. newspaper, The Gray Lady ain’t what she used to be. A downsized format, far fewer pages … well, you know the drill.

But some of the basics are still there. A stripped down news and commentary package. A weather map. A quote of the day.

And one puzzle has survived, although in altered form.

To repeat what is in the headline and, well, in the photo, see if you can deduce an answer from this clue:

“Nine letters: Shrunken newspaper feature”.

The answer?

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Kershaw Key to Dodgers’ World Series Hopes

October 13th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

This is where the general Southern California-oriented blogger writes about the Los Angeles Dodgers, what with the club opening the National League Championship Series at home tomorrow versus the Chicago Cubs.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, and I’ve got only one contribution to make to the discussion:

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