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Trying Out ‘Good Morning!’ on Californians

January 19th, 2017 · No Comments · France

A key part of French culture, certainly in small towns, is to greet everyone you encounter while walking or jogging with a hearty bonjour!

That is, “Good day!”

At first, it struck me as a sort of empty gesture, a cultural tic, probably conveying “we both know we don’t really mean it but it’s the social standard here.”

After a year in France, I have come around on “bonjour”!

It is a fine way to acknowledge the existence of someone passing by, and a smile and a “howdy do!” pretty much never leaves anyone annoyed or bothered.

In small-town France, to not reply to a “bonjour” is considered rude. To do it repeatedly is to invite exclusion from civil society. Even surly teens in French small towns respond to “bonjour” with one of their own.

So, during a visit to southern California, I decided to do a bit of “bonjouring” with the locals, while out on a morning walk. Using a peppy “good morning!” instead.

And how did it go?

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‘Hall’ Voters Going Soft on Known (or Suspected) PEDs Abusers

January 18th, 2017 · 2 Comments · Baseball

Results of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting were released today, and three players were elected to the Hall:

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

One of those guys … all for it. The other two … a little creepy, leaving me a lot worried about where this is headed.

And here is why.

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’14 and Going on LeBron’ Coaching JV Squad

January 17th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball

Demetrius Walker ranks high among the sad list of “most abused kiddie hoopsters” who were sucked up by the hype of age-group basketball only to be discarded and largely forgotten before they had turned 21.

Much of his early life was exhaustively documented in the 2010 book “Play Their Hearts Out”, which followed the one-dimensional lives of a group of kids playing for an AAU team in Southern California.

Walker had been the subject of an infamous Sports Illustrated cover story in 2005 that suggested he was the next LeBron James — when Walker was 14 years old and hadn’t yet played even one game of high school basketball.

The SI piece certainly contributed to unrealistic expectations for a kid who matured early and dunked at age 12 but then never grew past 6-foot-2 … and the last we knew he was out of basketball after being kicked off the last team he played for, at Grand Canyon University.

It was not Walker’s fault he overpowered kids his own age, when he was 11 and 12, but it was unfair of adults to project dominance, from such an early age, into the “next LeBron”.

I saw him play several times, in high school, and he seemed like a good kid, especially given the volume of attention that attached itself to him.

Now, it appears, Walker is back in basketball. He is now coaching the junior varsity basketball team at JSerra, the San Juan Capistrano parochial school at which Walker spent his junior year in high school.

Here is a link to a slamonline.com post in which it appears Walker is writing in the first person.

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The Embarrassment That Is the LAX Bradley Terminal

January 16th, 2017 · 2 Comments · tourism, Travel

Summer smog?

That’s nothing.

Risk of the Big One earthquake?

No matter.

Thousands of arriving foreign tourists exposed to the chaos of the Tom Bradley Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport?

That’s a daily killer to La-La Land’s reputation.

Take, for example, a Monday afternoon in mid-January.

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Once-Obscure SoCal School Seeks March Madness

January 15th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Basketball

Which of the following U.S. universities compete in NCAA Division I basketball?

Belmont, Binghampton, Bryant, Campbell, Charleston Southern, Detroit Mercy, Elon, Gardner-Webb, High Point, Kennesaw State, Longwood, Mercer, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Oakland, Savannah State, Stony Brook, Towson, Wofford, Cal Baptist.

How many D1 basketball schools there?

It’s a sort of trick question.

Everyone one of those schools, many of them deeply anonymous outside their city limits, are D1 basketball schools.

Except for Cal Baptist, a private school in Riverside, California.

And the Lancers intend to join the D1 ranks, school officials confirmed on Friday, hoping to join the nation’s basketball elite for one of the feel-good, reputation-making forays into the 68-school NCAA D1 tournament — also known as March Madness.

The D1 basketball tournament is enormous, especially for schools that do not play football, and Cal Baptist does not.

When I heard about Cal Baptist’s D1 plans … I chuckled, because the Cal Baptist I knew in 30 years working in the Inland Empire, was good at this and that sport, for a little, NAIA-sanctioned school … but had no more business playing at the NCAA D1 level than Cal State Dominguez Hills has playing in the Ivy League.

But that was before I educated myself on the rather extraordinary rise of Cal Baptist, especially in the past decade, when I was mostly in the UAE and France.

Cal Baptist has a chance to be one of the better D1 programs in the lower half of what has grown to become the 351-school (!) ranks of D1 sports programs — with the main focus inevitably falling on men’s basketball.

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Marcus Smart and the Blight of NBA Flopping

January 14th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

Americans hate floppers in sports.

It’s one reason that it took soccer so long to establish a toehold in the U.S. — all the guys who go down, writhing, grabbing at a knee or an ankle, after little (or no) contact.

Dark forces in the NBA have tried to bring those vile tactics into basketball, and at times it seems like they are succeeding.

Vlade Divac, a center who spent much of his career with the Lakers, was a master at flopping — or dramatically “taking a charge”, as it was known back among his fans, back in the 1990s.

One particular current player is taking NBA diving to a whole ‘nother level, and that man is Marcus Smart, a Boston Celtics guard.

Have a look at the YouTube compilation of five of Smart’s most egregious attempts to win free throws, a foul on the opposition, maybe even an ejection, by faking contact.

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Rams Jump the Gun on Coach

January 13th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

Sean McVay, is it? All of 30 years old, is Sean?

And this is the Rams’ latest great idea? Hiring the youngest head coach in the Super Bowl era?

Will it be seen, in a few years from now, as a club blunder right up there with spending six draft picks for Jared Goff or guaranteeing another year of salary for Jeff Fisher, the sideline zombie who coached the Rams in 2016? Maybe the Rams were impressed Fisher hung around long enough to tie the NFL record for coaching defeats.

McVay may be a good coach some day. Modern NFL history suggests he is not ready to be a head coach right now, despite Rams giddiness after McVay’s great interview with team officials.

And another weird thing about this? The Rams couldn’t wait another 16 hours to announce McVay as their new coach … so as not to battle for attention on the day the Chargers announced they, too, are moving to greater Los Angeles.

The Rams may love their hire and, heck, maybe he’s the next George Halas, but the reality of the situation yesterday was that the Chargers and their move was a bigger story than the Rams hiring a kid to take over their 4-12 team.

McVay’s appointment was the second-biggest NFL story in Los Angeles yesterday, perhaps because the Rams thought it would be cute to welcome the Chargers to town by trying and failing to steal their thunder.

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It’s Official: Chargers Bolt for Los Angeles

January 12th, 2017 · No Comments · Los Angeles Rams, NFL

This nearly happened a year ago, after the NFL’s Rams announced their move from St. Louis back to greater Los Angeles. The Chargers had a chance to leave San Diego then and commit to joining the Rams at their $2.6 billion stadium (and counting) being built in Inglewood … or they could wait a year and then decide.

The Chargers decided to wait a year … and now they have decided.

It is not good for San Diego.

Bright and early this morning the Chargers announced their decision to abandon San Diego after 56 years playing there to move into the L.A. market. They will play the next two seasons at StubHub Center, in Carson, before joining the Rams in opening the posh new yard, in 2019.

Some thoughts on the Chargers and their decision.

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Not Holding a Star Accountable for Disappearance

January 10th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

At 11 a.m. yesterday, Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks joined his teammates for a shoot-around in Westchester, N.Y.

Sometime between 1 and 2 p.m., the onetime MVP flew to Chicago without telling anyone in the Knicks organization. Which was a problem because the Knicks had a home game that night.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters at 6 p.m. that all the team’s players would be available for the game with the New Orleans Pelicans.

But Rose never showed up, and the game went on without their point guard, who is making $21.3 million this year.

Meanwhile, Knicks officials and players called and texted Rose, without a response. The club had someone check his apartment.

For a few hours, they had no idea where Rose was or if he had met with foul play.

As the game went on, with the Knicks looking more foolish by the minute for having no idea where their expensive guard might be … Rose finally called Steve Mills, the team general manager, and told him he was in Chicago attending to a pressing personal/family matter.

One so overwhelming that at no point — at the airport, in the air, from his mom’s house — did he have a moment to let his employers  know that he would miss the game.

So, junior executives, how should the Knicks handle this episode? And, by the way, Rose was back in New York today, in time for a noon practice session?

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World Cup Expansion: Following the Money

January 9th, 2017 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, soccer, World Cup

And you thought it was difficult to keep track of 32 World Cup teams …

Starting with the 2026 tournament, Fifa will give Planet Soccer 48 national teams for its quadrennial event.

If it seems like overkill, it is. Nearly one in four of Fifa’s 209 members will be at the 2026 World Cup, which would suggest it will not be the almost-elite event we had seen since 1998, in a 32-team competition.

From Fifa’s perspective, raising the number of teams by 50 percent makes sense on two levels.

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