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1D in Dubai

March 29th, 2015 · No Comments · Dubai, Journalism, The National

One of the great things about being old is that you need pay no attention to teen culture. Or to anything “the kids” are listening to. Or doing. OrĀ  wearing. That is, you don’t just reject it … you ignore it, blissfully. Until you can’t.

So, a boy band named One Direction, often abbreviated to 1D (research!), is playing (one night only!) in Dubai on Saturday, April 4.

A total of 32,000 tickets were made available, and they were sold in something like minus-10 minutes, and a ticket allows patrons to stand on the grass of the Rugby Sevens Stadium. (Dubai has the world’s tallest building, but it still does not have a stadium of any significance.)

1D visiting apparently is a big deal. Our features section, at The National, more or less has lost its mind over this, even though probably nobody back there has bought boy band music in the 21st century.

(But studies have shown that 14-year-old girls are the greatest consumers of newspapers. Oh, wait …)

What else are we doing for the visit?

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California Chrome Still Shines

March 28th, 2015 · No Comments · Dubai, The National

“The People’s Horse”. Apparently, California Chrome occasionally is known by that sobriquet. The notion being that, in the horse world, Chrome doesn’t have blue blood in his veins. Just a regular nag.

Chrome’s mother, in particular, was very much a commoner among the equine set, yet here is Chrome, winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness for a couple of regular guys (in the context of the Sport of Kings) … and the favorite in the $10 million Dubai World Cup tonight at Meydan Racecourse.

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Middle-earth Holidays

March 27th, 2015 · No Comments · Books

I first read The Lord of the Rings when I was 12 years old. That was quite some time ago. Before J.R.R. Tolkien‘s trilogy was consumed by every teen on the planet.

(Actually, I bought it almost by accident. No one I knew had read it or recommended it. I saw it in the neighborhood bookstore — remember those? — and I liked the cover. When I was 12, I often judged a book by its cover.)

I thought it monstrously long. I remember being astonished that Tolkien, in his forward, said his only regret was “the book is too short”. Now, of course, I agree wholeheartedly.

So, yes, I ingested LOTR with growing avidity, reading after reading. To the point that, in addition to knowing every plot point and far too much about the kings and stewards of Gondor, I could regurgitate at least three important historical dates of the Third Age.

Which I nearly always note to myself, all these decades later.

And we just passed by one of them.

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Finding Point Nemo

March 26th, 2015 · No Comments · Travel, Volvo Ocean Race

I am fascinated by the Volvo Ocean Race. The sailing, certainly, and the people, but also the geography.

What other sports event teaches you about … Point Nemo?

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Dodgers Spend More ‘Stupid’ Money

March 25th, 2015 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers seem to be spending money … for the sake of spending money. It’s almost as if they feel empty if they haven’t offered an enormous contract to someone for a week or two.

Can you come up with a better explanation for the Dodgers giving $62.5 million over the next six years to a second baseman who comes with his own series of red, flashing warning lights?

Consider:

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America’s Self-Absorbed Race Industry and the Dubai World Cup

March 24th, 2015 · No Comments · Dubai, UAE

Sports in North America tend to be pretty self-focused. Baseball is not played in many places, and if I hear one more time about “what a joke it is to call it the World Series” … well, I might cause an international incident.

Hockey, pretty insular, aside from a few cold European countries. American football is known as American football in the rest of the world, because it is so specific to the country. (Not even Canada plays by the same rules.) Basketball is, actually, played in more than a few countries, and it is probably the No. 2 sport in more than a few of them, but it’s not like the rest of the planet knows March Madness from the March Hare.

But the most self-focused of all American sports, I’ve decided?

Horse racing.

Which we are learning anew, this week.

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The New Cafeteria: Vitamin Palace

March 23rd, 2015 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, The National, UAE

IMG_2122

That is the name of the new “refreshment” store in the active neighborhood across the street from the offices of The National.

I walked out late the other night, and was hit in the face by the brilliant lighting of the new place (next to the barber shop), and the remarkable name.

“Vitamin Palace”.

Don’t you have to go in and load up on your vitamins?

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The Misfiring Siege Gun Named Stracqualursi

March 22nd, 2015 · No Comments · Arabian Gulf League, English Premier League, Football, Landon Donovan, soccer, UAE

A professional soccer team usually can handle no more than one big, strong, slow player in its lineup. And he nearly always is a striker known for being good in the air.

He doesn’t have to win the ball. He doesn’t have to carry the ball. He doesn’t have to pass the ball. He doesn’t have to play defense; he hardly is expected to come back into the defensive half of the field.

But when the ball is lobbed into the “mixer” in front of goal, the big guy is expected to do something with it. Usually, he is expected to head it towards the goal.

When he has a spell where he has trouble putting his headers on goal, or, worse, putting his head on the ball at all … the big lug becomes one of the most ridiculous figures on the pitch.

His lack of all other skills seems to become more obvious. As a spectator, you are reminded of the many things the big, strong, slow striker cannot do, and they preoccupy your mind.

That is where Denis Stracqualursi is, right about now.

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Relationship on the Rocks: Jocks and Hacks

March 21st, 2015 · No Comments · Baseball, Basketball, Football, Journalism, NBA, NFL, Sports Journalism

The Grantland sports website has a story that pretty much cuts to the heart of the lockerroom “relationship” between athletes and media.

Deconstructing a rude comment Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder made to a hometown newspaper columnist.

The relationship between jocks and hacks was never good, not when I entered the profession in 1976 and not when I left the U.S. version of it, in 2009.

Now it seems to be getting worse, and perhaps some sort of era-defining fracture may be on the horizon. Which no one may regret aside, perhaps, from the handful of fans who come to grasp that their verbal connection to their sports heroes has just taken a hit.

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California Chrome: ‘The People’s Horse’ in Dubai

March 20th, 2015 · No Comments · Dubai, The National, Travel, UAE

The California colt California Chrome has landed in Dubai ahead of his first race on foreign soil — the $10 million Dubai World Cup next weekend.

It seems possible the decision by Chrome’s owners to run the winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Santa Anita Derby at Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse could translate into more interest in the U.S. in the UAE’s big event, which comes at the end of a nine-race card worth $30 million. (Making it the biggest day in racing.)

The sense in the the Old World is that U.S. racing is inward and a bit arrogant; certainly, most American horse fans pay little attention to racing on other continents.

But some of the best of U.S. horses have made the monster trip over here, starting with “super horse” Cigar, which helped put the Dubai World Cup on the map in its first running, back in 1996, with a glamorous winner.

California Chrome, like Cigar an unusually popular horse, will be hoping to reprise that success of 19 years ago, in Dubai next Saturday.

And it could lead to an enormous payday for the horse’s Regular Guy owners: Running first is worth $6 million.

That’s a lot of oats.

The odd thing about this?

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