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A Year Following Diego Maradona

November 27th, 2020 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Football, Maradona, Pro League, soccer, Sports Journalism, The National, UAE

It was a preposterous bit of “news” in the offices of The National newspaper, based in the United Arab Emirates.

Diego Maradona had signed a two-season contract to coach the Dubai club Al Wasl FC of the UAE Pro League.

(Sure, and Pele was going to come with him as an assistant.)

However, as that May day of 2011 went on, we on the sports staff of The National were forced to concede the preposterous was now the predestined.

Diego Armando Maradona, perhaps the greatest footballer in history, was on his way to Dubai. For two years, they said.

I am fairly convinced zero events in the short history of the UAE attracted more global attention than did the announcement of Maradona on the move there. I can just imagine soccer fans searching for a map of the world, trying to find the UAE.

We assumed he would be news, all along, but we did not anticipate just how thoroughly he was going to move to the first slot on the celebrity watch.

The two-year contract eventually became one, after he was fired by Wasl in the following summer, and it was almost welcome by the sports department — because covering Maradona was a 24/7 job.

Two days after the Argentine great died, here is a recap of his ouster from that season now long ago, and that is followed by a day-by-day summing up, below.

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Where Would Rams Be with Prescott at QB, Instead of Goff?

November 25th, 2020 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

Why aren’t more people talking about this?

Is it just me? “Stuck” over here in France, getting a limited amount of NFL in my TV diet?

The Los Angeles Rams moved heaven and earth (and six high draft picks, to Tennessee) so that they could make Cal quarterback Jared Goff the first pick of the 2016 draft. I well-remember that part of this. Goff, the guy to lead the Rams back to celebrity status in the nation’s No. 2 media market.

How did that turn out?

Four-and-a-half seasons later, we have to concede “not particularly well”. Given what might have been.

The Rams played in a Super Bowl at the end of the 2018 season, and that usually would be considered a coup … but they lost that game 13-3 to the New England Patriots, and Goff had a lousy game.

The one field goal the Rams managed, as Goff was daunted by Patriots defenders, accounted for the fewest points scored by any team in 54 editions of the Super Bowl. The kind of dreadfully dull defeat fans should want to forget.

Maybe that explains why I did not remember, until 10 minutes ago, that Dak Prescott went to the Dallas Cowboys with the 135th pick in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft. That is, 134 picks after the Rams went all in by drafting Jared Goff.

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Can U.S. Soccer Live Up to Its Promise?

November 23rd, 2020 · 2 Comments · Football, soccer

The new (to me) slogan attached to the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team is kinda cute.

“THE FUTURE IS US.”

All caps and a period, see? So “US” can be a pronoun as well as the US in the abbreviation for “United States”.

It is a temptation to blurt out a rejoinder to that:

“AND ALWAYS WILL BE”

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Alex Trebek and ‘Jeopardy!’ Memories from a Three-Time Champion

November 11th, 2020 · No Comments · Jeopardy!

Alex Trebek, the soul of television’s regularly scheduled interaction with eggheads, died a few days ago, on November 8.

He had been the host of ‘Jeopardy!’ since 1984, when the five-day-a-week version of the show returned from a decade off the air.

I love that show, and I was going to revisit my personal experience with it, and Alex, back in 1988, when a split second cost me the game.

However, I have referred to that painful outcome before, so we will instead have a look at a meaty batch of recollections from a former newspaper colleague of mine, Andrew Baggarly, who had a four-day run with Trebek and ‘Jeopardy!’ in 2012.

Baggarly is rightly proud of his run, which netted him more than $60,000.

Andy and I are among those who love the game and I assume, like me, that Andy is thankful we had Alex Trebek as long as we did … but sad that the classy host of the “answer and question” game has left us.

Here is Andy’s take on all things Trebek and ‘Jeopardy!’, from The Athletic website. I heartily recommend giving it a read.

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An Elections Wonk

November 4th, 2020 · No Comments · France, Journalism, Sports Journalism

It was four years ago that I confessed, on this site, to being an elections wonk.

I watch them for fun. For entertainment. For my own edification. For belly laughs. To watch my countrymen at their best, or worst.

Probably the main reason I watch them is that a big election — like, say, the U.S. presidential election yesterday — reminds me a lot of my working career.

Elections are basically simple, like many sports, and are ruthlessly competitive. Whoever has bigger numbers wins. contests are scheduled long in advance, deep planning is required and millions of people watch. Elections are the Super Bowl of democracy. Well, in theory.

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‘The Whole World Is Watching’

November 3rd, 2020 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, France, Hong Kong, UAE

People tend to say that ahead of various big events. Especially the breathless folk who work in media relations or advertising. It also sometimes can be heard, chanted, during a demonstration against the authorities.

The whole world is watching.

It pretty much is never true.

Sober and realistic is the way to approach this. John McKay, the USC football coach in the 1960s and 1970s, put things into perspective for his players, ahead of a key game, when he said, “And remember, no matter what happens out there, 600 million people in China don’t care.”

(Back when China’s population was 600 million.)

Occasionally, however, the “whole world is watching” is not hyperbole, and tonight we can experience one of those examples:

The U.S. presidential election.

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Justin Turner’s Moment of Madness May Shape How 2020 World Series Is Remembered

October 28th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers will long remember the World Series victory of 2020; it ended 32 years of waiting since the club’s previous triumph.

However, the selfish post-game behavior of one of the team leaders may be what sticks in the minds of neutral observers, in years to come. Especially if it leads to dire results.

Justin Turner, the veteran Dodgers infielder, was removed from the game in the seventh inning during the clinching, 3-1, Game 6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, after he learned he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

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Dodgers’ Historic Burden: They Aren’t Very Good at Winning a World Series

October 26th, 2020 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Angels, Baseball, Dodgers, Uncategorized

Honestly, I do not enjoy dwelling on the failures of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They were the first sports team I followed, as a first- or second-grader. I have been watching them ever since, even from my six years in Abu Dhabi and our five years in France.

That devotion may stem from growing up during a seven-year period (1959 through 1965) when the Dodgers experienced much of their success, winning the World Series three times in that seven-year span.

So, in my little brain, back during that stretch, it seemed to me it was fairly easy to win a World Series. The Dodgers had done it three times in my limited experience, so how tricky could it be to project that level of success into the future?

Looked easy, from where we sat in the general admission seats at Chavez Ravine, eating Carnation Frozen Malts and Dodger Dogs.

You get a couple of great pitchers named Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, some productive outfielders in Tommy Davis and Willie Davis, and a solid double-play combination, featuring Maury Wills and Jim Gilliam.

How hard can it be?

This hard: It has been 32 years since the Dodgers won a World Series.

Turns out that, as a franchise, the Dodgers are not so good at this World Series thing.

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Dodgers the World Series Bad Guys?

October 23rd, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

The Dodgers have lost a game in the 2020 World Series so, of course, I’m losing my mind. Not again! Crickey, not again.

Not that watching that 6-4 defeat in Game 2 was bad for me, but I have decided that the Dodgers must win Game 3 or they will lose the best-of-seven series.

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Time for Dodgers to Reward Their Fans

October 20th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

In 2015 it was 3,764,815.

In 2016 it was 3,703,312.

In 2017 it was 3,765,856.

In 2018 it was 3,857,500.

Last year, it was 3,974,309.

Since 1988, it is 103,379,514.

Or 103 million, 379 thousand, 5 hundred and 14.

What are those numbers?

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