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Catching Up on Super Bowl Commercials and Other American Cultural Touchstones

April 28th, 2017 · No Comments · France

Geez. You spend most of 7.5 years out of the country … and homeland cultural references just blow right past.

Until two days ago, I did not know that Bill Simmons‘s new website, The Ringer, had launched. As of June 2016.

Which means it is not new at all but somehow had gone unnoticed by moi. (Or perhaps rarely noted by my go-to websites.) I didn’t tumble to this till The Ringer was mentioned in an ESPN layoffs story on Deadspin.

Which took me to The Ringer (which feels exactly like Grantland but looks a little slicker), which took me to a metric ton of TV and movie commentary/analysis, which took me to the staffer who thought it would be fun to rank the five Silicon Valley stars who have made TV commercials, which took me to a spot made for the 2016 Super Bowl and starring T.J. Miller.

Which also introduced me to a variety of beer, Shock Top, of whose existence I was blissfully unaware, over in France/Abu Dhabi.

And it took me to this amusing Super Bowl-only commercial.

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That Clippers Championship?

April 27th, 2017 · No Comments · NBA

Not going to happen.

No championship for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Not this year. Not next year. Not ever.

This is a team that has had most of this decade to figure out how to take advantage of their core four players, who helped them win 50 games for five consecutive seasons … and they have never quite solved it.

Bad execution, bad luck, bad karma … all that and more. But it doesn’t much matter now, because if the Clippers don’t win in Salt Lake City tomorrow night, their season is over — potentially ending their run as a sort-of contender. Or even a winning team.

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Journalism Layoffs and Quickly Reaching ‘Acceptance’

April 26th, 2017 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Journalism, Sports Journalism, The National

It’s called the Five Stages of Grieving, and professional journalists by now know it by heart.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

An interesting development in the grim business of companies firing large numbers of journalists, which has been a primary characteristic of the profession for more than a decade now … is how those being fired in 2017 seem to have vaulted the first four stages of grief and gone right to “acceptance”.

It says something rather brave about the people who were fired, but it also says something about the business.

Those first four stages of grief? A waste of time. May as well jump to the end and get on with it.

I noticed this today, in particular, when ESPN fired the eye-catching total of 100 journalists, and most of them posted their unemployed status on Twitter by using a remarkably calm and formulaic tone.

Here is one that was replicated dozens of times.

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Winter Clothes? Yes, Really

April 25th, 2017 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, France, Long Beach, Olympics, Travel

I’ve never really had winter clothes. Because I always lived in places that either were temperate or Just Plain Hot.

Long Beach, then the Inland Empire, then Abu Dhabi.

But here in Europe, in France, we can go weeks (!) without a single minute in the 60-degree (Fahrenheit) range in December, January, February. Granted, it’s warmer here than in Paris, and the sun tends to shine — even when the air is cool. But it is winter, after all.

And that is when you bring out your winter stuff.

(This is such an exotic concept; I do not think I ever will get used to it.)

You know what bugs me most about winter and clothes?

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Long Beach State: MLB’s No. 1 Feeder Program

April 24th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Long Beach

So says the sports media department at my alma mater, which currently is ranked No. 11 in the nation by the NCAA. That’s a pretty prominent spot for a program which often struggles to separate itself from the NCAA masses. In any sport.

By the calculations of the PR guys there, Long Beach State baseball had 13 of its former players in the Major Leagues at some point during the 2016 season. No other college had as many.

The school also claims to have led in that category since 2010 — seven consecutive seasons.

Which makes me a bit proud, as a former editor and sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Forty-Niner. Long Beach State was known as a basketball school, back then, both for men and women.

Oh, and the baseball team? Officially/unofficially goes by the name “Dirtbags”. Not the 49ers. The Dirtbags. Only Long Beach State sports team (to my knowledge) referred to as something other than 49ers.

Have an admission to make.

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Our Little Marine Le Pen Town

April 23rd, 2017 · No Comments · France

Polls closed at 8 p.m. in France tonight in the vote for the country’s next president.

The results were announced one minute later.

At 8:01 p.m., a polling company that an hour earlier had retrieved results from 200 key voting stations … announced which two candidates were going to get the most votes and advance to the final vote, May 7.

So much for election-night drama.

What in the U.S. might mean seven or eight hours of waiting for results to come in, state by state … was over in 60 seconds.

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Stat King Bill James and Another ‘Baseball Abstract’?

April 22nd, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, France

Let’s get at this the long way ’round.

Most of our possessions arrived in southern France, from southern California, in one big crush of boxes along about mid-October. We had them stacked on a big plastic sheet in the garage, and the boxes made for a pile about three feet high and maybe 10 yards wide and 20 yards deep.

A lot of stuff, and “books” were not a high priority at the moment, considering we did not have any bookshelves.

Not until March did we finally attack the final 15-20 boxes, and I came across my cache of books, a subset of what I had when we left Long Beach for Abu Dhabi, back in 2009. (You can’t travel with a library.)

I was happy to see many of those books, including a half-dozen baseball tomes, led by a book I have cracked open at least 50 times in subsequent weeks:

The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. All 998 pages of it. Still fun as can be. Having it is like rediscovering a long-lost friend.

And as I pick it up and read this section about “baseball in the 1920s” and that section on “ranking the top 100 second basemen” (Joe Morgan, No. 1) … I marvel at how all-encompassing the book is, how amusing, how provocative, how persuasive is Bill James‘s statistics-based writing is …

And then I want a new one. A New New Historical Baseball Abstract, picking up at where he left off, in the one I have in my hands — basically at the end of the 2000 season.

Hey, Bill James! Get busy and update this with another couple of decades! What else do you have to do?

Then I found out … well, the man has lots and lots to do.

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Separated at Birth?

April 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Football, NFL

Maybe it’s just me, but I have trouble differentiating between Tom Brady and Matt Damon.

No, really.

(And the photo, above, in which Damon is wearing Brady’s uniform, makes things worse.)

To me, they are pretty much the same guy. If asked, “Who starred in all those Bourne Identity movies, I might well pause and say, “Tom Brady?”

Which I know makes no sense on several levels, beginning with “one is a 6-foot-4 NFL quarterback and the other is a 5-foot-9 actor”.

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Handsome Name, Unreal Expectations?

April 20th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball

Adonis Garcia is a third baseman/outfielder who plays for the Atlanta Braves.

He also is the first big-leaguer to answer to “Adonis” in more than a century, according to the database at the baseballreference.com site.

The previous Adonis was given the name not at birth, but some time after he became a professional baseball player — in 1884.

Apparently, William H. Terry was considered handsome by other players, or perhaps by journalists, and he was gifted Adonis as a nickname. If we was vain enough, perhaps he appreciated it. He was able to win 197 games, anyway.

Adonis Garcia seems to have had his name all along, which feels like a bit of a burden, given that pretty much none of us live up to the “strong and handsome” reputation of the Greek god Adonis who, as the expression goes, had the body of a Greek god.

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Aaron Hernandez and a Question Left Unanswered

April 19th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, NFL

If I could ask Aaron Hernandez one question, it would be this:

“Why?”

But I will never have that chance, and no one else will, either, going forward …

And I’m not sure he could answer that question. The “why?”

Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end with a $40-million contract, hanged himself in his prison cell early today, according to authorities, and he takes to his grave charges and suspicions — and one life-in-prison murder conviction — involving a variety of shootings going back to 2007, when he was 17.

And we are left to wonder about the whole of it, and what led him to be involved in perhaps the most lethal off-the-field behavior of any star athlete in American sports history.

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