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Back in the Day: My 12 Olympics, Ranked

July 29th, 2021 · No Comments · Back in the Day, Newspapers, Olympics

Note: Originally published here in 2008, after the Beijing Olympics.

Twelve was how many I covered, from start to finish, in my journalism career. So this list includes all of them. I was briefly onsite at London 2012, but covering three UAE soccer matches … we will leave that off this list.

So, “favorite” is a personal thing. It has nothing to do with performances or where the U.S. finished in the medals standings. It’s a sort of amalgam of “interesting, memorable, scenic, decent housing, media center/local hospitality/internal transport.” Once you do one or two of these, the “wonder of it all” is gone and you can look at each of them with a discerning eye.

So, I conjure memories of the Games in my mind. And if I smile or wince … that helps me sort things out.

I’m going to do this backward, from least-favorite to most.

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Bringing the Tour to the People

July 17th, 2021 · 1 Comment · France, Sports, tourism, Uncategorized

We decided last week we would try to catch a bit of the Tour de France, given that we had visitors from SoCal in town.

And, happily, this was one of those random years when the guys who stake out the world’s greatest bike race … drew a line on a map that put the race one village away from ours.

A big part of the Tour de France experience is its Chamber of Commerce/Tourist Board appeal. This event isn’t just for showing who is the hottest racer on two wheels … it’s a three-week paean to La Belle France.

Quaint villages. Cows chewing their cuds. Families setting out picnics in the grass. Bright yellow sunflowers here, there and everywhere. The riot of color and energy that is the peleton, blasting from one picturesque locale to the next, sometimes up the slope of a mountain that seems too steep to climb.

And this time, it was coming a half-hour’s walk from our town.

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So, how was your post-pandemic vacation?

June 26th, 2021 · 1 Comment · Spain, Travel, Uncategorized

Strap yourself in for a wild ride of emotion. One that encompasses the five stages of grief — as well as an almost comedic lack of awareness. 

It would be funny if it were not so damn stupid.

Two weeks ago, we went looking for a place to kick out the jams — senior style. And in this part of France the obvious choice is Barcelona, which is less than 200 miles from here. We invited Leah’s parents to come over from California, and we were ready to roll.

We enjoyed ourselves in those early days, in Spain, and felt a collective sense of “maybe this thing is really over!” as we settled into our first days out of France in a year.

Good food, nice weather. A visit to the Sagrada Familia, checking in on the progress made on Antoni Gaudi’s marvelous basilica during the previous 18 months, the timeframe for the Covid-19 Virus to pummeling most of Europe.

The four of us, Leah and me and her parents, were moving an hour south, to the Cap Salou area of Tarragona and environs, known for stunning, cliffside views of the Mediterranean Sea, inexpensive housing and well-priced seafood.

We didn’t make it. Not that night. 

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Thieves Mar Visit to Barcelona

June 22nd, 2021 · No Comments · Barcelona

I have been off the grid for most of two weeks, but we have an excuse:

We were waylaid by thieves on our way out of Barcelona as Part 2 of travels with Leah’s parents, back on June 12. We lost thousands of dollars worth of technical gear, as well as cash that had been in backpacks, and the only key to the car.

It is a long story, if told correctly, and I am not ready to try that yet. Give me another week and I think it will be done.

Here are the issues, in short.

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Credentialed Media Only

June 9th, 2021 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Every sports writer who had much of a run in the profession had one:

The Credential Drawer!

Where credentials from past events were tossed to prove that he or she actually did attend and write about the sports event named on the badge.

Like, say, the 1980 Masters Tournament held April 10-13 … a golf event that just happened to be my first significant assignment following Super Bowl 14. (Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles Rams 19, at the Rose Bowl.)

In the photo, above, you can see a typical sports credential from the era. Simple. Primitive even. Probably not much help in keeping real newspaper writers separate from the thousands of fans.

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D-Day Plus 77 Years

June 6th, 2021 · No Comments · Uncategorized

On June 6, 1964, I was 9 years old and spending the night with my grandmother in Long Beach, California.

My sleep-over with Grandmother Laura came with control of what appeared on television, which I very much appreciated. My tastes back then ran to roller-derby and wrestling, and even a little basketball.

My grandmother, a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, didn’t complain about the roller-skaters or the rasslers, but at least once every time I picked out the Lakers for her, she wondered aloud how basketball could hold anyone’s interest.

“They all run to one end,” she said, “Then they all run back!”

Luckily, I did not have a laser focus on the TV content that night because I recall being surprised — and then excited — when I saw that the CBS network was airing a long look back at one of the seminal events of World War II — D-Day, the day the Allies successfully returned to Europe, signalling the end of the Third Reich less than a year later.

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Is LeBron Done Winning Rings?

June 5th, 2021 · No Comments · Lakers, NBA

I’m afraid I have to say “yes.”

Yes, he is done winning NBA championships.

That doesn’t mean he won’t lead a team into the playoffs in the next few seasons, and maybe advance a round or two.

But a fifth championship ring, which would be his second with the Los Angeles Lakers?

Nope.

It seems too late for James to add to his championship credentials, and isn’t it funny how quickly that snuck up on us?

A week ago the Lakers led 2-1 over the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference playoffs first round, but three games later the Suns had brushed the Lakers aside, concluding with 125-85 and 113-100 humblings of the defending NBA champions.

And now we think back to that “bubble” series victory in Orlando last October. When the Lakers lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in a nearly empty arena. Ah, the good old days.

So, let’s get down to exploring what is going to keep James from doing that again.

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Protect the Players. Now

June 1st, 2021 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

What is going on in the NBA? Why all the trouble with fans, now that the playoffs are here? What is going on?

A fan spitting on a Atlanta’s Trae Young. Another chucking a water bottle (it missed) at Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving as the Nets player tried to reach the lockerroom. A third who dumped a bag of popcorn on the head of Washington’s Russell Westbrook — while a game was in progress.

Then, last night, a miscreant took it to the next level when he maneuvered his way onto the court, in Philadelphia, before he was taken down by security.

All of these incursions have come in the past few weeks. Most NBA fans are glad the playoffs are back in public view, but a fringe group of idiots is making life difficult.

Here is what should be done immediately.

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The Art of the Chase

May 24th, 2021 · 1 Comment · Football, NFL

One of my favorite plays in football is the “catch from behind/chase-down” — in which what looks like a long touchdown play is thwarted by a gritty player who makes a lung-searing sprint to keep the ball out of the end zone.

I always have had a sort of romantic attachment to this kind of open-field play, with guys who won’t give up saving the day.

I can remember being 10, 11 years old and playing on the grassy playground of the nearby school, and imagining myself making the “last man” tackle.

What made it a little weird was that I was never a fast runner. I couldn’t run down a skill player, and maybe not a Pop Warner player.

But just because I would never be Don Beebe chasing down Leon Lett in Super Bowl 27 — which I saw from the press box at the Rose Bowl, in 1993 — doesn’t dim my fascination with these plays.

I bumped into this video a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t keep myself from pushing “start”.

Feel free to check it out.

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Pujols to Injury-Thrashed Dodgers: Why not?

May 16th, 2021 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball, Dodgers

We are pretty sure Albert Pujols can catch and throw a ball, and sometimes hit it, too … and is ready to take the field, if he gets the chance.

Which suddenly makes him attractive to the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Dodgers.

Pujols was released by the Angels 10 days ago, and most of us figured “that’s that” for a great career, as the week ended with no one apparently interested in signing the future Hall of Famer.

After 10-plus years with the Angels, keeping him on the roster in Anaheim was a luxury they apparently felt they could not afford. Not when Jared Walsh and Shohei Otani are ready to play 1B.

The Dodgers were not an option we entertained, did we? What do the World Series champions need with a guy in the twilight of his career? In a league without the DH?

That’s about as far as our analyses went.

But now? The fact that he can still drag himself up to the batter’s box puts him ahead of a bunch of Dodgers who are too hurt to play.

Inviting Pujols up to Chavez Ravine as a free agent, with the Dodgers paying him the major-league minimum for however long he lasts … what are the down sides?

And maybe there is still a little pop in that big bat, maybe a few more big hits from a veteran addition to a team that suddenly appears to be held together with chewing gum and spit.

Let’s go over the Dodgers’ situation, because aching limbs is the reason Pujols is joining up.

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