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American Dream Moves Over for German Version

June 29th, 2020 · No Comments · Germany, Uncategorized

It looks like suburban America. Single-family housing, block after block. Free national health care. Good schools. A chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage.

That is what much of modern Germany looks like, to a visiting American. Pretty much everyone living the good life. The German Dream, which seems to have eclipsed the American version.

Hard to imagine that Germany was in desperate shape at the end of World War II, in 1945, within living memory of thousands of Germans, even now.

Hated, scorned as murderous Nazis who followed Adolf Hitler to disaster. Shattered cities. Millions dead. The blood of civilians, including 6 million Jews, on their hands. Starvation at the front door.

Germany has made a remarkable comeback since then. Instead of trying to rule the world Germans seem to be intent on instructing it. Setting an example … of stability, of economic success … for everyone else. Including America.

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A Bigger Continent Than We Thought

June 28th, 2020 · No Comments · France, Germany, Road trip

It is not unusual for Americans to look at a global map and say, “Gee, Europe isn’t all that big, considering how often we talk about it.”

By U.S. standards, Europe is semi-dinky, especially if you don’t include the European half of Russia in the Euro lineup. The U.S. is a bit shy of 10 million square miles. Europe (minus Russia) is about 6.6 million square miles.

With a little imaginative planning, a person could drive over half a dozen European countries in a day. Thinking Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France. Or Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia.

But, if you look again, and consider a drive that involves covering nearly the length of France, the biggest nation in Europe that isn’t Russia or Ukraine … well, that’s a pretty long ride. Which is what we did today.

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Big League Sports to Return? Ask the Virus

June 25th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Basketball, coronavirus, Football, NBA, NFL, Sports Journalism

Baseball is on the way back, we were told this week. “Spring” training camps will open on July 1, a 60-game mini-regular-season will begin play on or about July 24, and the World Series will finish no later than October 28.

The NBA’s plan for a return-to-play “bubble” in Orlando was made public on June 4, and it will include 22 teams, with 16 of them getting into the playoffs and the latest possible date for a Finals Game 7 on October 12.

With one massive question to be answered:

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So Long, Souplantation

June 20th, 2020 · No Comments · coronavirus

A guilty pleasure of mine, back before Covid-19 changed just about everything … was eating at Souplantation,

And now it is gone.

It was a buffet restaurant with a twist.

It was largely vegetarian, with a wide selection of raw vegetables, and lettuce types, at least three kinds of soup and — this is crucial — soft-serve ice cream on tap.

Little or no meat. OK, a smidge of clam in the chowder and some skinless chicken breast in the soup. Maybe some bacon bits in the Joan’s Broccoli Madness salad.

I probably ate more sit-down meals at Souplantation than anywhere else. I couldn’t hazard a guess at what chain restaurant might be second on my list.

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NBA’s Return Means Title Shots for Lakers and Clippers

June 5th, 2020 · No Comments · Basketball, Clippers, coronavirus, Lakers, NBA

The NBA returning to action this season?

For a while there, it seemed unlikely.

Everyone’s attention was focused on the killer Covid-19 virus, as it should have been, and during the harrowing height of the pandemic it was easy to forget this salient basketball fact:

Los Angeles’s two teams would have lost a chance to win an NBA title.

When the league turned off the lights on March 11, nearly three months ago, the Lakers (49-14) and Clippers (44-20) sat 1-2 atop the Western Conference standings.

And the idea that a once-in-a-century (we hope) pandemic would leave the 2019-20 season unfinished … that was going to be hard for L.A. basketball fanatics to accept.

The Lakers were streaking along with their best team in a decade, led by the ageless LeBron James, 35, and Anthony Davis, and the Clippers seemed to be easing their way toward second place in the Western Conference behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and a great defense.

And the NBA season was going to end with L.A. fans playing “what if?”

Thankfully, it looks like enough progress has been made against the coronavirus/Covid-19 that the NBA plans to finish up things, resuming play on July 31.

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Back in the Day: Having a Head for Football

June 1st, 2020 · 1 Comment · Back in the Day, Football, Journalism, Newspapers, Sports Journalism, The Sun

First printed in the San Bernardino Sun, November 3, 2002.

Twice in my life I have gone to a hospital emergency room as a patient.

On both occasions it was after suffering a head injury on a kickoff at a high-school football game.

And you thought freeway driving was dangerous.

From where we sit, it’s kickoffs that can ruin your Friday night.

In the last game I played in, in 1970, I fielded an onside kickoff and was knocked cold by a teammate who was trying to jump over me — to block — and instead kicked me in the back of the head. Whiplash.

It was a severe concussion; I had headaches and near-blackouts for months.

In the most recent game I covered, Redlands East Valley versus Redlands, I had just gone down to field level and was 3-5 yards out of bounds … when I was “trucked,” as the kids say.

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Our Brainless Brush with Covid-19

May 24th, 2020 · No Comments · coronavirus, France, Quarantine, Wine

At the time, we thought we were going to be fine. It was March 5, and the Covid-19 coronavirus was spreading in France, but it wasn’t where it was going to be in a few weeks. No reports of cases in the neighborhood of our little village.

So we did something Just Plain Stupid. We attended a catered dinner inside a local wine shop.

Looking back, we were very, very fortunate to get out of a small room, packed with 60-70 diners, most of them expat retirees, without contracting the virus.

As far as we know, no cases were traced back to the dinner we attended.

However … it was exactly the kind of event we have been warned about so, so many times.

Even then, we talked about it before going ahead. Bad news was coming out of the north of Italy, and Italy shares a border with France. But we had not heard of any cases on our side of said border, and friends of ours would be at the event, and “Indian” food sounded enticing. And, too, we had pre-paid.

Within a few days, we would hear of at least three cases of the virus apparently emerging from the same shop after a music event, a week before our dinner. Eventually, we heard of two more, in the area’s expat community, taking the total infections to at least five, two of which ended in death.

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The Demise of the Handshake? I Hope So

May 21st, 2020 · 1 Comment · coronavirus

I have dreaded shaking hands for a long time. Maybe 40 years, going back to the first time I heard the science-backed horror narrative of what sort of pathogens/germs/viruses can be easily passed along in the course of a handshake.

If you are out there pressing the flesh, well, you may as well plunge your right hand into a toilet, while you’re at it. (I don’t know how politicians can stand it.)

It is possible that one of the few long-term global improvements, following the Covid-19 pandemic, could be the end of the handshake among a now-virus-savvy global population.

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France, and 55 Days and Nights of Confinement

May 16th, 2020 · No Comments · France, Quarantine, soccer, Sports

Maybe it’s me.

But I didn’t find 55 days of government-ordered Covid-19 quarantine, in our home in France, to be all that bad.

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Rewriting Prep Baseball History

May 11th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Lutherans

Let us take a moment and indulge in some alternative prep sports history.

I have been thinking about a particular high school baseball game since May 11 of 1971, when it was played. It was the final game of the season, and of my organized baseball career.

Had we won, on our home field at Centinela Park, in Inglewood, we would have shared the Olympic League championship and advanced to the playoffs in our division.

I am going to tweak it slightly so that it comes out in a way we hoped. It’s not like we will tear up the whole game. No. Just focus on one moment that might have led to several memorable and happier moments.

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