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Wait, the Dodgers Are Good?

June 25th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Forgive me if I have been slow to acknowledge this.

Twenty-nine years since the Los Angeles Dodgers’ most recent championship … since the last time the club played in a World Series, actually … well, the club’s history-scarred fans cannot be expected to immediately climb back on the Big Blue bandwagon.

The Dodgers are moving inexorably to the front of the line in the longest since a championship line, now behind only Cleveland (1948), Pittsburgh (1979), Baltimore (1983), Detroit (1984) and the New York Mets (1986), among teams that have been in existence since 1961.

The Dodgers move up another three slots when we make it “longest wait since appearing” in a World Series — with the Indians, Tigers, Mets dropping behind them.

But nine victories in succession, 15 out of 16, and there the Dodgers are at 50 victories on June 24, in only 76 games, on pace to win 107 — which has never happened in the history of the franchise.

(The Dodgers haven’t won 100 since since 1974, when they got to 102. The club record for victories is 105, set in 154 games, in 1953.)

So, is this the year the Dodgers finally get to the World Series? Maybe even win it?

Well …

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Barcelona and Revisiting Main Site of the 1992 Summer Olympics

June 24th, 2017 · No Comments · Barcelona, NBA, Olympics, Spain, Sports Journalism

I first traveled to Barcelona in the summer of 1992 to help cover the Summer Olympics for Gannett News Service.

I was very impressed with the place. It had charm. It had class. It organized a very fine Olympics. It seemed like a city people would want to see, if they knew about it.

And such was the success of the 1992 Olympics — as an event, not necessarily the competition — that Barcelona pushed its way into the ranks of “world’s great cities”, a status the Spanish metropolis has solidified, since then.

Rest assured, it was not the sports that made 1992 a memorable Summer Olympics.

It was the city that hosted them.

I remember exactly one sports event from 1992. And I may be getting soft in the head, but I can usually conjure several big moments when I reflect on any of the 14 Olympics I have seen. Way more than one.

And which one?

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Rocket’s Red Glare, Bombs Bursting in Air … in Catalonia

June 23rd, 2017 · No Comments · Spain, Travel

It always is a bit embarrassing, while traveling, to walk into someone else’s important holiday … and know little or nothing about it.

A pre-Easter parade in San Blas, Mexico, in 2005. Bastille Day, which we didn’t see coming in Normandy three decades ago … and then tried to make amends by marching at the back of the Bayeux town parade.

And, today, getting caught up in the Festival of Saint John the Baptist — a major holiday here in Barcelona, Spain, where tens of thousands of dollars of fireworks are being blasted into the sky, completely unregulated, as we push into the wee hours of the next day.

We had hints, earlier, that something was up.

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Confederations Cup? Ah, Warm Memories of South Africa 2009

June 22nd, 2017 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, soccer, Spain

It was the biggest week in U.S. national soccer history.

The 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

In this order:

(And we are not messing with you here; this actually happened.)

U.S. 3, Egypt 0

U.S. 2, Spain 0 (!)

U.S. 2, Brazil 0 — at halftime of the championship match.

It ended Brazil 3, U.S. 2

I was watching the 2017 Confederations Cup on Fox, this week, and recalling when the U.S. tended to represent North America at this quadrennial tournament … only to watch Mexico take over in 2013 and 2017. (Thanks Jurgen; the gift that keeps on giving.)

And eventually I thought back to the 2009 tournament, when the Americans came as close as they are likely to get (in our lifetimes) to winning a Fifa global championship.

Let’s return to those glory days of yesteryear.

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Ranking North America’s Sports Drafts

June 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Lists, NBA, NFL, soccer

The draft. Whichever you want to talk about … is very much an American thing.

The rest of the world, you collect players in a youth system and watch them develop. You keep a few, loan some others, release the rest. Especially the case in world soccer.

In the U.S. however, talent is typically distributed via a draft — and ordered system in which teams take turns making selections. Often based on “worst drafts first”.

Which makes drafts in North America a huge offseason news story. It has spawned an industry of people who do nothing but speculate over who should go first … and who should go 31st.

I was thinking of this, with the NBA draft coming up tomorrow, and decided to rank the drafts from the perspective of greatest interest to the average fan.

So, here we go, with five leagues on the clock, ranked from fifth to first.

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Juiced Baseballs? Let’s Remove Some Zing

June 20th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball

Major League Baseball hitters are on pace to obliterate the record for home runs in a season, a record set in 2000, during the height of the steroids era.

An analysis done by The Ringer traces this homer binge to the second half of 2015 and suggests the surge is due to a bouncier, slightly smaller ball held together by seams lower than before.

Of course, not everyone would use the word “culprit”.

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Lakers Draft: Lonzo, George or a Surprise?

June 19th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

How hard must it be to be the top brass of the Los Angeles Lakers, at this moment?

They have the No. 2 pick in the draft, but no first-round pick next year, and they have some hard decisions to make — with the very real possibility if they get things wrong, come Thursday, their hopes of becoming relevant in the near term, in Los Angeles and the NBA, will vanish.

Typically, when you spend a lot of time thinking about a particular sports team, you eventually find your way to a plan you are confident is the best.

Not this time. Not for me.

It looks something like this:

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For Baseball, Back to the Future

June 18th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball

We have an interesting and alarming piece of journalism on espn.com today, as one of the site’s baseball writers projects 20 years into the future, and what the game might look like.

For long-time fans of the game, nearly all the changes foreseen by a dozen people closely involved in the game … are appalling.

The way ahead for baseball is not by changing the basics. It is by embracing the game’s deep traditions and tweaking the game around the edges. And by keeping it more human and less data driven.

To wit:

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Taking the Ikea Test

June 17th, 2017 · No Comments · France

Ikea exists to test me.

The Swedish masters of flat-pack furniture seem to have been designated by the universe to ask hard questions of me.

“We know you are not a home-improvement guy. Not mechanical at all. Ignorant of electrical workings. Not to be trusted with anything plumbing-oriented, aside from (perhaps) a plunger.

“But can you follow fairly simple directions and assemble a piece of furniture? Directions so basic that no words are printed in the instructions?

“The only tools needed are a screwdriver and a hex-headed version of same, and a hammer. And an Allen wrench, which is included.

“Can you manage that?”

I can almost hear the contempt in a Swedish voice.

Well, yes, I can do it! (Or so I say until the thing is in front of me.)

And I readily concede … it often is a close-run thing.

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Futbol Diaries, Part 7: Mexico Sends a Message

June 16th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, Road trip, soccer, World Cup

After the road trip came the game, the reason former colleague Damian Secore and I drove a rented Chevrolet Chevy to the Mexican capital for a 2006 World Cup qualifying match.

Anyone who is a soccer fan should see a game in Azteca Stadium, if they get the chance. I have been there three times, and each time it impressed.

The passion in the stadium is intense, and the stadium is special both for its enormous capacity (100,000-plus) as well as its very vertical layout, which seems to put people in the top deck nearly over the field of play.

In the past, when nearly all of Mexico’s players competed in the local league, the stadium also conferred an advantage for the home team, which usually was better prepared than opponents to play at 7,300 feet above sea level.

Both sides eventually qualified for the 2006 World Cup, so we cannot say the result, back in 2005, was decisive, but the event was memorable, again.

A comment piece, out of the match:

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