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Angels, Trout Clinch

September 17th, 2014 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball, UAE

The Angels defeated the Seattle Mariners 5-0 tonight, and when Texas got six in the ninth to defeat Oakland 6-1. the LAAA (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) had clinched the American League West.

Which should also mean that Mike Trout has clinched the AL Most Valuable Player award.

The turning point of their season would appear to have come on July 31, the trade deadline, when the Angels did nothing … while the first-place Oakland Athletics traded outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for pitcher Jon Lester.

The A’s offense subsequently collapsed, and it can be debated how much of that was about losing Cespedes out of the middle of the batting order, while the Angels shifted into overdrive.

The Angels trailed by two games when August 1 dawned, but they are 31-14 since, while the A’s have gone 17-27, and that the LAAA lead got so big they could clinch with 11 games left.

As for Trout? He pretty much has to be MVP, now that he has been the leader of a division-winning, best-record-in-ball team.

One major weirdness:

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Jack Reacher x 19

September 17th, 2014 · No Comments · Books, Paris

Waited all of 10 days or so to buy the 19th Jack Reacher book, entitled Personal, which came out on September 2.

When I got around to reading it … I was done on the second day.

How does this version compare to the others?

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Casey at the Bat: Still a Hit

September 16th, 2014 · No Comments · Baseball

A couple of generations ago, it was considered a mark of a thorough American elementary education to have kids memorize things.

Bible verses, in the King James translation. “… and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”

Writers. In Latin or Greek or Elizabethan English. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers …”

Speeches. “Four score and seven years ago …”

And poets. “Once upon a midnight dreary …”

All these years later, I can still summon up bits of things. Mostly the Bible and a handful of poems, including what probably remains my favorite bit of poetry — or verse.

Casey at the Bat.

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An Arabian Gulf League Fan

September 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Arabian Gulf League, Dubai, Football, Pro League, soccer, The National, UAE

These words came out of my mouth tonight:

“Mahmoud Khamis is with Nasr! That’s where he went!”

Which is revealing, in this sense:

I know way too much about the Arabian Gulf League, which began play in the 2014-15 season tonight.

Good times!

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The Tartan Elephant in the Room

September 14th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, The National

At The National, in Abu Dhabi, we work in a newsroom with at least 30 English and more than a dozen Scots.

At the moment, the English and the Scots live in the same country and carry the same passport.

That could begin to change, come Thursday, when Scotland votes on whether to leave the United Kingdom and become an independent nation.

It is a big story, getting lots of attention on the BBC (of course) but also on CNN and the major surviving print media, like the New York Times.

English print is full of stories about the risks (for Scotland) of independence, an editorial pastiche of (plausible) scare stories leavened by weepy “but we’ve been through so much together” pieces.

Yet, with all that attention, and with so many English and Scots in the room, the newsroom chatter on this story is near zero.

Why?

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Grade School Roster

September 13th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Ever tested your memory … because you could? Some odd collection of something, to see what you recall? Like the starting defense of the 1979 Los Angeles Rams?

Not looking it up: Jack Youngblood and Fred Dryer, ends; Larry Brooks and Mike Fanning (?) at tackle; Jack Reynolds, Bob Brudzinski and Jim Youngblood at linebacker; cornerbacks Pat Thomas and Rod Perry; safeties Nolan Cromwell and Dave Elmendorf. I think.

(OK, now I checked, at football reference, and they are right, even Mike Fanning. I covered that team; I loved those guys, right through their Super Bowl close call.)

Another one I can get close to, but probably not nail — and perhaps can not even check on, without a fair amount of work: The 17 kids I graduated with from grade school. Not that anyone should care. But I find it an interesting exercise.

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Abu Dhabi Fills Up

September 12th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi

Utterly random anecdote.

UCLA was playing DePaul in the NCAA basketball West Regionals in, oh, 1979. The game was being played at BYU, and at halftime BYU sent out a batch of dancers, and the show ran long, and the Bruins came onto the court and started warming up, shooting around … while the hometown dancers were still doing their thing.

Instantly, a neutral crowd turned against UCLA. DePaul became the de facto home team, and Ray Meyer‘s guys, led by Mark Aguirre, went on to knock out the Bruins of David Greenwood, Roy Hamilton and Brad Holland, 95-91.

Afterwards, we were talking to DePaul players, and asking about how the crowd had gotten behind them, and one of DePaul’s guys said: “It was like a bunch of blimps came over at halftime and dropped in a whole new crowd.”

Or something silly and fun like that.

And for reasons not entirely clear to me, either, I thought of that quote in the week since we have returned to Abu Dhabi.

Because it’s like a bunch of blimps came over while we were gone and dropped in thousands of extra people.

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‘The Miracle of Castel di Sangro’

September 11th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Books, Football, Italy, soccer

How I managed to be nearly unaware of this book (and not read it) for 15 years is something of a mystery. I should have heard of it, made note of it, bought it and read it in 1999, when it was published.

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, by Joe McGinniss.

McGinniss died earlier this year, and I remember seeing in his obit that he had written a book about his 1996-97 season “embedded” with a smalltown Italian soccer team, Castel di Sangro, that had managed to work its way up to Serie B — Italy’s second division.

Fifteen years after it was published, I went looking for the book.

It is not available on Kindle, and also is out of print, befitting what appears to be its apparent place in his oeuvre — sports, and thus not serious.

Fortunately, a co-worker purchased a copy of the book (paper, and everything; handy for looking at the map and the roster!) while in the U.S. recently, and loaned it to me, and I now have consumed it.

My take?

It is the best awful soccer book ever written by an American. Or worst great.

It has hundreds of pages of insight into into this oh-so-strange (but perhaps not unique?) club located in a tiny town in the mountains of Abruzzo, one of Italy’s more obscure regions.

We have McGinniss to thank for that.

But he then goes about 95 percent of the way to ruining it by injecting himself into the narrative over and again.

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Dubai, and Metro Etiquette

September 10th, 2014 · No Comments · Dubai, Paris, The National

This week, The National celebrated the five-year anniversary of the Dubai Metro with a package of stories on the history and development of the system.

In retrospect, it is hard to imagine what road traffic in that city would be like, without the rail lines that run parallel to major highways.

Dubai already is nightmarish to drive around. Add in another 500,000 daily commuters — the average number of travelers on the Metro, and the city would be gridlocked.

Dubai previously had been a city even more intimately connected with motor vehicles than anything in California. It was the only way to get around, the city being quite dangerous for bicycle riders and impractical for walkers.

That said, the Dubai Metro has a few issues that can stand to be addressed, and metro etiquette is No. 1.

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Cricket and Bent Bowlers

September 9th, 2014 · No Comments · Cricket, The National, UAE

This has to be one of the most difficult rules in sports to enforce.

Cricket’s 15-degree rule.

The world’s top-ranked one-day international (ODI) bowler (pitcher) was suspended indefinitely today because studies of his bowling “action” find him breaking the 15-degree rule.

Which is … ?

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