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Spending a Fun Friday Night with the Local Soccer Club

March 17th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, France, Languedoc, Paris, soccer

Living in western Europe, the assumption by most Americans, including this one, is that professional soccer teams must not be far from any point on the maps of England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France.

That assumption would be wrong.

Where we live, in the Occitanie region (previously known as the Languedoc) of southern France, plenty of rugby (!) teams are knocking heads somewhere nearby, but fully professional soccer clubs are thin on the ground.

In the top flight, there is Marseille, historically competitive, two-plus hours to our east, and Montpellier, surprise Ligue 1 champions in 2010, an hour away, and Nimes a bit further north.

But that is about it with, typically, zero Ligue 2 teams.

Till the promotion this season of relative newcomers AS Beziers from Beziers — the “big” town closest to where we live, barely a half-hour drive away.

We have lived in this area for more than three years without seeing a French club soccer match. But, with Beziers now fielding a Ligue 2 team, and the end of the season coming into focus for French clubs, we thought it our duty as (not actual) citoyens to go see this freshly professional club, even on a brisk and windy night, and after handing over 10 euros each we entered the Stade Mediterranee and took a seat in the lower bowl of the 18,000-capacity stadium.

And we not only immersed ourselves in the Beziers football world, such as it is, we saw the team win its first home match of the season in Ligue 2 — the second division in the French system and the only other, besides Ligue 1, to call itself fully professional.

We picked a game of some significance, it turns out, because the club formed in 2007 is fighting to avoid relegation and was playing host to a struggling Auxerre club.

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Come for the Salad; Stay for the Soft-Serve

March 15th, 2019 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, bacon, France

This will seem crazy, to many readers, but when we get some time back in the States, I inevitably think about having a meal at …

… one of my favorite Mexican outlets … or enjoying dim sum at Capital Seafood in Irvine … or savoring some Lebanese, which we used to eat at least once a week, back in Abu Dhabi … but most of all I was thinking about …

Souplantation!

Turns out, I am not the only 21st century devotee of the all-you-can-eat salad-oriented chain. Other consumers, younger, richer and hipper than moi, are at least as into it as I am, as this recent Los Angeles Magazine story suggests.

While in SoCal, a few months back, I spent a chunk of one of my 15 or so days in/near San Bernardino eating lunch at the Souplantation there. The one down on Hospitality Lane.

That also would be the one near Loma Linda University, which is run by the Seventh-day Adventists, who recommend a vegetarian lifestyle. Lots of students and medical workers, it seems, do the Plantation thing, there in Berdoo.

What I take away from the L.A. Mag story, and my recent experience at a Souplantation store … is that it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

If anything, it is going through a renaissance.

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Going Off the Grid

March 13th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

So, disappearing is not impossible. Not yet!

And thank goodness for that.

Not to say it’s easy to go off the grid. I mean, completely off the grid. Like, no one can find “the you” of this moment. Even with so much of you well known to list-making authorities and rapacious commercial entities who want to sell you something — and then sell your data to other commercial entities.

We have seen two stories this week that demonstrate that, yes, an American can get lost, re-invent himself/herself and stay under the radar.

It is sort of a recurrent fantasy for some of us. One I will never act on, but like to consider.

If I wanted to opt out of the Age of Big Data … if I wanted to disappear … how would I do it?

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Tuesday, Wednesday Nights: Champions League to the Rescue

March 12th, 2019 · No Comments · Champions League, Fifa, Football, France, soccer

The world over, sports action tends to cluster around weekends. Friday-Saturday-Sunday are the heavy days because that is when more people have more time to spend paying close attention to whatever athletic endeavor matters most to them.

Monday-through-Thursday … not nearly as fun or hectic. Usually.

Then there is European soccer, which 12 weeks a year almost single-handedly turns Tuesday and Wednesday nights into Appointment Football, thanks to the European (Uefa) Champions League.

Which is the competition pitting the world’s best club teams in the most important club soccer competition. (And it isn’t close.)

Starting in September, the Champions League takes control of your television set, if you are any sort of soccer fan. And there you are, watching the 32-team group stage play in the middle of six weeks from September to early-ish December … and then the two-leg knockout rounds, which feature six midweeks of high-interest viewing from mid-February through early May.

The whole of it, aside from the final, is played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Tonight? Manchester City and Schalke, Juventus and Atletico Madrid. You may have heard of some of them.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Bayern Munich and Liverpool, Barcelona and Lyon.

All kickoffs at 9 p.m., in the western half of Europe, meaning we all will be staring at the world’s greatest teams and greatest players for two hours, followed by an hour or so of punditry and video highlights of the matches that will keep us up to midnight, easy.

Because what else are we going to watch on Tuesday and Wednesday nights?

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Best Wishes for ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Alex Trebek

March 8th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

What I miss most about television here in France is easy access to the American game show Jeopardy!

I have been watching it since I was a kid, back when the show was hosted in New York by Art Fleming. It ran for a decade, went off the air, then returned in 1984, much to my excitement, and it had a new host:

Alex Trebek, a Canadian and former newsman, took over as the show was reincarnated in Los Angeles and was key in making the show one of modern TV’s most cherished institutions.

The big Jeopardy news this week is about Trebek, who announced a few days ago that he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which is a formidable foe.

Trebek expressed his intent to fight the cancer to the best of his and his doctors’ abilities, and we wish him well in that battle.

In a video released a few days ago, he said: “Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.” [Read more →]

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Time for Lakers to Tank

March 6th, 2019 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

OK, yes. It turns out the Los Angeles Lakers needed more than LeBron James to be relevant in the 2018-19 NBA season.

With 18 games to play, the club is 30-34, having lost seven of its past 10, including a game to the Phoenix Suns, owners of the worst record in the NBA. Before they beat the Lakers, anyway.

You may recall that signing James last summer was supposed to be the catalyst for a return to the playoffs, at the least, for the first time in six seasons.

But James suffered the lengthiest injury of his NBA career, perhaps no surprise given that he is 34, a hamstring issue that cost him 18 games following the Lakers’ Christmas Day victory over Golden State. The Lakers lost 12 of the games James missed, and they have never really recovered, continuing to sink even with LeBron back in the lineup.

They now are 5.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the final playoffs berth in the Western Conference, and they have been further exposed as a horrible defensive team, the worst in the league at free throws and a merely awful three-point shooting team.

So, what can the club do now to help itself?

Start tanking!

It’s not like they don’t know the drill.

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About Time: Getting the Town Bells Aligned

March 5th, 2019 · No Comments · France

 

We had been back in our village, in France, for a few days when one of us accomplished something a bit tricky:

Noticing the absence of something we had grown used to hearing.

To wit: The bells ringing in the city center on the hour and half-hour.

They were not ringing. At all. And had not been … for days. Though nobody else seemed to notice.

Or maybe they were tired of hearing the bells.

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In Case You Didn’t See It: The Galaxy’s Beckham Statue

March 4th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, Galaxy, Landon Donovan, soccer

We made a fuss over the statue of David Beckham unveiled a couple of days ago at the former StubHub Park stadium. The first at a Major League Soccer stadium.

It should have been Landon Donovan; he put in more years, scored far more goals won more championships. For Beckham, the Los Angeles gig always seemed like part of the marketing arm of David Beckham Enterprises, Inc. Landon was all Galaxy all the time.

But there you go.

Here is the video of the event, courtesy of the LA Galaxy and videographer Paul-Michael Ochoa.

The statue shows Beckham about to do what he did best — strike a soccer ball at rest and send it/bend it pretty much wherever he wanted it to go.

And Beckham made some remarks about the honor, noted in the video, above.

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Galaxy Statue, Fine; Beckham Instead of Landon, Not Fine

February 28th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, Galaxy, Journalism, Lakers, Landon Donovan, NBA, soccer, World Cup

The LA Galaxy on Saturday afternoon will unveil what is thought to be the first statue of a former player to be displayed at a Major League Soccer stadium.

The club said it will be No. 1 in “a series of statues” that will stand just outside the stadium in the new Legends Plaza at what is now called Dignity Health Sports Park. (Formerly, StubHub Center.)

This is a high honor. A tribute to the men who played for the club and helped it win those five MLS Cups, most in MLS history.

It is the Galaxy’s take on Star Plaza at Staples Center, which features no fewer than nine statues, including the two originals — of Magic Johnson of the Lakers and Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings.

All well and good; an outdoor space with bigger-than-life statues can be a sort of tourist attraction — and also freeze in bronze a moment that represents what that player brought to the game.

All well and good, aside from this:

The Galaxy are beginning their statue collection with a bronzed David Beckham instead of the man who clearly was the club’s best player over a career, and his country’s greatest player, Landon Donovan.

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Feel Free to Ignore ‘Angels to Long Beach’ Speculation

February 26th, 2019 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball, Dodgers, Long Beach

The Los Angeles Angels play at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Doesn’t mean they really want to.

Also doesn’t mean they will be moving somewhere else anytime soon.

Why are we talking about this? Because the mayor of Long Beach says the seaside city is in talks with the Angels about the club relocating to a seaside parcel about 25 miles west of the Angels’ current home, where they have played since 1965.

The Long Beach Post, an online-only “newspaper”, was the first to move — Monday night — on  a formal statement from the city’s mayor, Robert Garcia, who said: “We are in the early stages of our due diligence and are exploring a variety of options for this property,” referring to a 13-acre parking lot next to the Long Beach Arena. “We have approached the Angels to express our interest and discuss the possibilities of this opportunity.”

The Angels feel as if Anaheim should not give all its governmental love and attention to Disneyland, which is the Dumbo-in-the-room when it comes to city business priorities.

Angels owner Arte Moreno signaled his less-than-pleased feelings towards Anaheim when, late last year, he opted out of a lease that would have tied the Angels to the Orange County city through the 2029 season. Instead, a one-year lease extension through 2020 means the Angels could, in theory, play the 2021 season somewhere else.

Like, perhaps, Long Beach, self-styled International City?

Realistically? No. Not at all. Something that will never happen. But might be fun to muse about.

Let’s run down a list of reasons why Long Beach and the Angels … Just Doesn’t Work.

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