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Iceland (!) Sees to It That England Exits Europe Again

June 27th, 2016 · No Comments · English Premier League, Football, France, soccer

This is a result widely being described as “England’s second exit from Europe” in five days.

Iceland 2, England 1, in the round of 16 at the Euro 2016 tournament in France.

Yes, Iceland. Previously known for volcanoes, blond people and, yes, ice.

Here in France we watched the match on BBC. And by the end commentators and analysts were struggling for new ways to describe how England lost to a country with a population of 330,000 — about the same as live in a bunch of English cities of which you are not familiar. (Coventry, anyone?)

It was so bad that several talking heads went back to England’s 1-0 defeat versus the amateur side fielded by the United States at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil — still considered the ultimate World Cup upset.

Whether this defeat was worse … opinion seemed divided.

Some of the descriptions of England’s performance?

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Sunday Drivers: East to ‘Deadwater’

June 26th, 2016 · No Comments · France, Sunday drivers, tourism

I have been to Death Valley and to Badwater Basin there. I wouldn’t mind seeing what’s left of Deadwood or the Alaskan city named Deadhorse. Those are pretty foreboding names — which do nothing but further intrigue tourists.

Aigues Mortes is a French entry in the “morbid town” competition. It translates from the Occitan as “dead water” — a name it has been carrying around for about 1,300 years.

Lots of events have happened at Aigues Mortes (pronounced: EH-goo mort) over 13 centuries, which must be a factor in one of the biggest wiki entries for a city of 8,300 people.

First, how did it come up with that morbid name?

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Ricardo Quaresma: From Dubai Rejection to Euro 2016 Hero

June 25th, 2016 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Arabian Gulf League, Barcelona, Dubai, Football, France, soccer, UAE

It was three years ago that I saw Ricardo Quaresma at what must have been his low ebb.

This would have been in Abu Dhabi, in the stands at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, where I watching the final of the President’s Cup — which pitted Al Ahli and Al Shabab on a stultifying May evening.

A decade before, Quaresma had, by some accounts, been the inspiration for a young Portuguese teammate named Cristiano Ronaldo.

But by January of 2013 Quaresma had tumbled into the UAE’s professional league after his most recent European club, Besiktas, had told him to get lost and ate the final six months of his contract just to be rid of him — apparently to the tune of 1.48 million euros (about $1.7 million).

That unpleasant parting followed on disastrous stints with Inter Milan, Chelsea and Barcelona, where Quaresma seemed more interested in demonstrating ball tricks than putting in a dependable shift.

(In 2008, while at Inter, fans of a Italian radio show voted Quaresma the Bidone d’Oro — emblematic of that season’s most disappointing player in Serie A.)

The Quaresma who turned up in Dubai, with Ahli, brought a name and a reputation for moments of inspired play– but not much else.

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Sunday Drivers: To Andorra and Back

June 24th, 2016 · No Comments · France, Sunday drivers


Andorra is one of Europe’s several microstates. Others include Monaco, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Malta and the Vatican.

And if you get within a few hundred miles of a microstate, don’t you pretty much have to go? Just for the novelty of stepping into the country, and then stepping right back out?

So, we packed up the car with some snacks and some caffeinated drinks, in case the drive got boring … and off we went on another Sunday expedition.


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An Election Night Junkie

June 23rd, 2016 · No Comments · Sports Journalism

Could have seen this coming.

Not that the United Kingdom would vote to leave the European Union … but that I would last long into the night watching results come in.

Like, 3:45 a.m. late.

Watching the BBC‘s coverage of Britain’s national referendum on whether to stay in the EU or exit it — the so-called Brexit.

Turns out, I don’t need an American election to stay up all night watching returns come in.

I blame this on my sports background.

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The $5,000 Dodgers Fantasy Camp

June 22nd, 2016 · No Comments · Baseball

It’s the time of year for frustrated ballplayers (21 and older, who have a few thousand dollars in cash lying around) … to sign up for the annual Dodgers Fantasy Camp!

Here is the announcement of the 2017 camp, to be held January 15-21, and formally known as the Dodgers & White Sox Fantasy Camp, since the teams share a spring training site in Glendale, Ariz., and run their camps concurrently.

Basically, it’s for overgrown kids who wonder what it would be like to wear the big-league uniform, play a few games with other civilians at a Major League training facility and hobnob with former players, who in theory will be coaching the amateurs.

And you can live it … for $5,000 or so.

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The Fete de la Musique … in Our Town

June 21st, 2016 · No Comments · France


It is a fine notion: Make live music available, at no charge, on a given night every year. Taking it to the masses, that is.

I first encountered the results of that notion in Paris a decade or so ago, and it was reprised tonight across France, including in our little Languedocienne town.

In France, La Fete de la Musique brings people outside every June 21, and that was how it worked here, too, on what often is the first day of summer.

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I Wish LeBron Hadn’t Done That

June 20th, 2016 · 1 Comment · Basketball, NBA

It’s true that many basketball fans and pundits thought LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers had almost no chance to win the NBA Finals.

It’s true that a prominent ESPN talking head said, before the Finals, that LeBron would surrender the NBA “King” title to Stephen Curry, if Curry and the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cavs.

It’s true that over the past two seasons some journalists suggested LeBron did not really get along with his Cleveland teammates or his former coach, and certainly someone in Miami must have said his departure from the Heat for the cold of Cleveland was a bad idea.

But for the two-plus weeks of the Finals, LeBron was sphinx-like, on the topic of being second-guessed on his decisions and analyzed as a player on the back side of his career.

When it was over, and LeBron was the catalyst for a stirring comeback from a 3-1 deficit to victory in Game 7, the lasting image — or so we thought — was LeBron weeping tears of joy after winning a championship — for Cleveland, for his team, for himself. Which would have been a perfect way to be remembered.

And then he went and screwed it up in an Instagram post today.

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Cleveland Over Golden State, in Hindsight

June 19th, 2016 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

Now that it’s over, with the Cleveland Cavaliers overcoming a 3-1 games deficit to win Game 7 in the NBA Finals, what does our 20-20, after-the-fact vision tell us?

Lots of things we did not believe just a week ago.

To wit:

–Stephen Curry was the unanimous regular-season MVP, but LeBron James remains the league’s best player. That new-sheriff-in-town rep Curry built up in most of two MVP seasons was atomized by LeBron. In the Finals, Curry wasn’t even his team’s best player; that was Draymond Green.

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Battle of Waterloo on Its Way to Being Forgotten?

June 18th, 2016 · No Comments · France, Lists

If you come across one of those 10 most decisive battles in human history lists … the Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815, invariably will be in there.

It was a victory for a coalition of forces, mostly British and Prussian, that marked the end of Napoleon’s bloody attempts to bring the whole of Europe under French control.

A year ago, the 200th anniversary was recognized with a large reenactment of the battle.

But the 201st anniversary? Not so much.

Waterloo still bears remembering, especially by the losers.

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