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Another Case of the Wrong Guy Winning the Masters

April 9th, 2018 · No Comments · Golf

Not many strong opinions here about the game of golf.

I do wonder why so many people eagerly spend so much time and money playing a soul-crushing game. But some of us are Los Angeles Chargers fans, too.

What I do object to is the Masters tournament — “A tradition like no other” — being won by guys hardly anyone wants to see win.

Such as Patrick Reed, champion at Augusta National yesterday.

Who was the ideal winner — aside from his rampant unpopularity among fans, galleries, fellow players and college teammates.

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Ohtani: Youthful Ambition by the Numbers

April 4th, 2018 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball, Lists

Another benefit of waking up at 4 a.m. in France.

West Coast baseball is just getting started!

And I stumbled on to the start of the Los Angeles Angels home opener, versus the Cleveland Indians — also known as “Shohei Ohtani’s first game in Anaheim Stadium.”

And the Japanese Babe Ruth acquitted himself well, slugging a home run in his first at-bat and adding two more base hits in the Angels’ 13-2 rout of the Indians, a game Ohtani spent as the designated hitter, just a few days after he was the Angels’ starting pitcher in a victory.

It was about halfway through the game that the TV crew produced a copy of what is purported to be Ohtani’s high school hopes/plans for his future, from age 18 through age 42.

It makes for fascinating reading and demonstrates how ambitious is the Angels’ 23-year-old pitcher/hitter.

First, the list:

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Ballpark Food You Can’t Afford and Shouldn’t Eat

March 31st, 2018 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Dodgers

The Guardian, an English newspaper, is amused by the concept of ballpark food. England having nothing quite like it — baseball is just about nonexistent there, so the idea of baseball food … not going to happen in their daily lives.

It doesn’t mean the writers and photographers and editors aren’t fascinated/horrified by some of the more over-the-top creations that ballclubs and their concessionaires (Aramark, often) come up with on an annual basis.

Which leads to photo galleries like this one — which this year carries the headline: “Here comes the meat and cheese Armageddon: MLB stadium foods 2018”.

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Ohtani, Pujols and the Angels’ Death Wish

March 27th, 2018 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball

The Los Angeles Angels have under contract the consensus “best player in baseball”, one Michael Nelson Trout.

For all the won-loss good it has done the club — which has not won a postseason game during Mike Trout’s six full seasons.

It appears that one great player, surrounded by mediocrity (or worse), is unlikely to drag a team to the playoffs, which has been the case in five of Trout’s six seasons.

The Angels are sensitive to the charge that they are “wasting Mike Trout’s prime” by not getting competent players around him, potentially making him the supercharged version of Ernie Banks, a Hall of Famer who played exclusively for the Chicago Cubs and, like Trout, was twice voted league MVP but never participated in a postseason game.

Trout’s chances, and the Angels’, of getting back to the playoffs pivot on two key club decisions, neither of which looks like a winning strategy just now.

1) Continuing to play the once-great Albert Pujols, 38, whose “wins above replacement” (WAR) number last season was minus-1.8, presumably a factor in prompting the stat-wonk website to declare him “the worst player in baseball.”

2) Signing “Japanese Babe Ruth” Shohei Ohtani and embarking on reinventing how baseball in the majors is played to allow the 23-year-old rookie to pitch every sixth game (in a six-man rotation) but also to let him serve as designated hitter for two or three games a week, when he is not pitching. Ohtani’s at-bats push Pujols back onto the field, at first base, where the creaky veteran’s lack of mobility will be on full display.

Those two decisions appear to suggest the Angels have a competitive death wish: They act as if they want to win, talk about it, bring in some solid veterans, make a high-visibility signing — but how is pandering to a rookie and hanging on to a faded veteran making them better?

The problems are straightforward.

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Warning! Zlatan Coming to Major League Soccer

March 25th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Galaxy, soccer

It is part of the original Major League Soccer playbook: When trying to gain attention, sign someone with a big name.

And few names in soccer are bigger than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the towering forward from Sweden and veteran of many of the biggest club sides in the world.

He is a different sort of end-of-career MLS import. David Beckham was about fame and a star actor’s mug. Kaka was Brazil’s best player, there for a time. Thierry Henry retained a quiet dignity.

Zlatan (as he prefers to be known) is about goals, but he is also about self-aggrandizement, dust-ups from time to time with teammates, coaches and referees, and he brings to mind the more theatrical late-career imports of the early and desperate MLS years — the Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos and the Colombian midfielder Carlos Valderrama.

Ibrahimovic is of that ilk, and at least one columnist decries the sudden lurch from MLS clubs trying to build from within and the fallback position of recruiting a global star to jog around for a season or two.

This is what Zlatan said in a short video released by the MLS:

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An Unreadable, Unrepeatable Signature

March 22nd, 2018 · No Comments · France

So many people have elegant signatures. And why not? Even in the Computer Age most of us sign our names often enough to have pretty much perfected a signature.

Know who usually has stylish and perfectly legible signatures? Athletes. Perhaps from giving autographs. (And perhaps from some clubhouse boy with an elegant hand slavishly signing for them, though we prefer not to think about that.)

I admire people who can bang out their signatures time and again, with very little variation.

Because I cannot, for the life of me, produce the same autograph from minute to minute, and it’s embarrassing.

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A Bad Week to Be Defense-First

March 16th, 2018 · No Comments · Basketball, Champions League, Football, soccer

In the U.S., sports fans must be talking about the top-seeded University of Virginia losing tonight to a 16 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament.

A No. 1 seed losing to a 16 had never happened, not in 135 previous encounters, until Virginia succumbed to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMDC) by 20 points tonight.

Which came a few days after famed soccer coach Jose Mourinho, once self-described as “the Special One”, saw his globally famous Manchester United team lose, at home, to Seville, the fifth-best team in Spain, 2-1 — and getting knocked out of the Champions League in the round of 16.

What links those two games?

In each, the team expected to win is known for stressing defense over offense.

It has been a bad week for the notion that “defense wins games”, which suddenly seems in the eclipse across the sports world.

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Recommendations: Top Wines from the Herault

March 11th, 2018 · No Comments · France

A challenge/request was registered on this site this week, and I concede it probably is time to make some recommendations on wines we like that come from this part of France.

One of the difficulties of doing this is making clear what geographical area this is.

It is not the Cote d’Azur; it is not Provence; it is not the Gard. All three of those areas are north and east of here, closer to Italy and the Alps. It is not part of the Aude or the Tarn, which are south and west of here.

So, where is “here”? It can be called Languedoc, in the most capacious old term. Or Occitanie, in the new capacious term.

But to get about as precise as we can, we will call the area Herault which, as can be seen on the map, is a fairly compact piece of land bordering the Mediterranean, from Montpellier in the east to Beziers in the south, and including in the north the first batch of hills that lead to France’s sprawling interior —¬† known as the Massif Central.

Enough geography.

Interest in the Herault area from, say, the English-speaking world, probably has a basis in wine, which is by far the biggest industry of the department — despite (or perhaps because of) its reputation for producing the least expensive wine in France.

We will proceed with two recommendations in each of these categories: white, rose and red, and add one dessert wine. These are local wines we drink that offer great value for money. At least when bought locally.

(Prices listed for each bottle reflect current dollar-euro exchange rates estimates.)

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Ten Years of Blogging at

March 10th, 2018 · 4 Comments · Abu Dhabi, Beijing Olympics, France, Hong Kong, Journalism, LANG, Newspapers, Olympics, Paris, Sports Journalism, The National, The Sun, UAE

It was March 10, 2008, that this blog commenced. Ten years ago today.

It was four days after I had been fired by the Los Angeles News Group, and I wanted to let co-workers and other journalists know what had happened, with as many specifics as I could recall.

It was a Thursday, around lunch, that I got a call …

I went back and read that post, 10 years hence, and I am struck by a few things.

Oh, and before I get to that … I have made a point of publishing at least one blog post per day for those 10 years. I may be one or two days short of 120 months in succession; I took down a post a few months ago that¬† I decided was too harsh, and maybe I missed one or two.

Going forward, however, I will not feel an obligation to file every day. I’m guessing I still will, now and then, but not like the past 10 years — when I was often (often) oppressed by the notion that “I have not blogged yet.” It seemed important to me, forcing myself to write every day, as I had done for the previous three decades.

And it takes a surprising (still, to me) amount of time even to blog not very well — which some of you may have noticed.

So, October 10, 2008, from the perspective of 3,652 days ago:

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The Nasty Caterpillars of Southern France

March 9th, 2018 · No Comments · France

Well, in theory, they could be killers. But they are more likely to make your dog or cat sick.


Processionary caterpillars, they are called.

They are some nasty customers who live here in the south of France, and in southern Europe, in general.

They are destructive to pine trees, where they spend much of their lives eating pine needles, but that is only part of the problem.

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