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And Now We Wait

May 25th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

The Cleveland Cavaliers put the Boston Celtics out of their misery tonight.

(And I do so like the idea of the Celtics being stomped into a greasy little green spot on their home floor. Can we do this every year?)

And up next, the Cavs and LeBron James against the Golden State Warriors in the clash-of-the-titans NBA championship series.

I can hardly wait!

Oh, and about that wait …

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The Cattle Egret and Other Freaks of Nature

May 24th, 2017 · No Comments · France

What we do not know about the natural world around us is an extensive body of information. Quite.

In the past decade, for the first time in human history more people live in urban than in rural areas, according to the UN.

And we City Kids often don’t know what to make of our surroundings when we move to a rural zone after, oh, a half century spent in built-up areas where a vacant lot is considered “nature”.

Like in the field behind where we live, in this lightly populated corner of southern France.

If we didn’t know better, we would insist that some white birds with long legs are flying around the local herd of sheep and goats … and sitting on the backs of those mammals.

Oh, wait. That is exactly what they are doing.

And now we know why.

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Omar Abdulrahman: Asia’s No. 1 Soccer Player

May 23rd, 2017 · No Comments · Arabian Gulf League, London Olympics, soccer, UAE, World Cup

In six-plus years based in Abu Dhabi, I saw this kid play dozens of times in person, hundreds of times when we add TV exposure … and it seems to me a highly justified decision by one on the web’s most important soccer sites:

Omar Abdulrahman of Al Ain and the United Arab Emirates, best player in Asia.

Far as I am concerned, he has been the best Asian player for several years already, but it is only the past year or so that the little playmaker with the big hair has been getting recognition the recognition he deserves.

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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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