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That’s the Spirit

May 14th, 2021 · No Comments · France

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an effect on nearly everyone on planet Earth, one way or another.

One outcome is physical — testing positive, exhibiting symptoms and having to confront a dire, sometimes deadly virus.

And then there are the rest of us, a global majority, who have avoided Covid the Virus for the past 16 or so months but perhaps have experienced some mental strain from being cooped up, mostly, for more than a year, worried about friends and relatives who are sick … and living the “new normal” of face masks and fist bumps, social distancing and generic paranoia.

I like to think we have done pretty well, in our little French village. I haven’t gained 20 pounds, we have lots of TV stations available to numb us and it turns out we didn’t really need a couple of restaurant meals per week to survive. We rarely spend entire days in our jammies.

Things have been pretty sedate, actually. Except for those occasional visits, here in the house, of that certain someone I sometimes can see out of the corner of my eye.

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Sorry, No: This Is Not the New York Giants Calling

May 1st, 2021 · No Comments · College football, Football, Sports Journalism

In the spring of 1986, the three-sport star athlete Mark Collins of San Bernardino’s Pacific High School was one of the top prospects in the National Football League player draft.

You could ask anyone. He was a leader as well as an elite athlete, and the NFL did not miss him, even if he was a bit overlooked, at Cal State Fullerton. By the time the 1986 draft rolled around, NFL scouts knew all about him, and it was thought his name would be called late in the first round or early in the second.

A very big moment in a “local” kid’s life.

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Almost Forgot to Mention This Hare-Brained Scheme from 1990

April 29th, 2021 · 1 Comment · Back in the Day, Football, Italy, Journalism, soccer, Sports Journalism

Been a while since I had the nerve to hold myself to a ridiculous plan to report on a sports event, to spend X-number of hours on the road — or in the air, or both.

This was back before I got old and my nerves frayed.

I have written about several of my hare-brained schemes, during my three decades in journalism, and most of those sketchy plans of mine ultimately were successful … if more than a little fraught.

In my enthusiasm during the planning stage, I often failed to take into account simple realities such as departure times, fuel stops, traffic jams, road construction, detours, parking. And, oh yeah, weather.

I was thinking about this again the other day, here in France, as we mulled future travel plans, assuming Covid-19 ever lets up.

And I remembered a hare-brained scheme from three decades back, one that I have not yet shared. Lucky you!

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Cold Freezes the Heart of France

April 24th, 2021 · No Comments · France, Wine

It is not uncommon for Americans to travel to Paris and return home believing they now know La France.

The reality is often missed.

What we consider a refined, cosmopolitan place … well, that is Paris all right.

France is the biggest nation in Western Europe and also its emptiest. It has miles and miles of villages of vines in the southern half of the country.

This is mostly a rural nation, where the cultivation of fruits and vegetables, and the raising up of animals provides sustenance and income.

But the biggest product on the French menu is wine, and has been for 2,000 years.

Thus, a cold-snap in early April, after the vines have begun to sprout, becomes a regional economic disaster. Particularly in the region where we live, the Herault.

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American Fingerprints on Europe’s Soccer Upheaval?

April 20th, 2021 · No Comments · Arsenal, Barcelona, Baseball, Basketball, Champions League, English Premier League, Football, NFL, Rams, soccer

At this moment, only one story commands the attention of European sports fans.

And that would be the misguided attempt by a dozen of the continent’s best-known clubs to break away from the European Champions League and form their own elite competition — which they plan to call the Super League.

Twelve clubs have announced their intent to play in this league, including English sides Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham; Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid; and the Italian trio of Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Three members have not yet been revealed.

The idea behind the Super League is the usual — to gain more money. But the route to additional revenue, in hundreds of millions of dollars per team, could be said to owe its machinations to the example set by U.S. sports leagues.

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Lords of the Rings

April 10th, 2021 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

I have never worn a ring. I rarely look at them on the fingers of other people.

Occasionally I am asked, “what did you think of that ring?” someone is wearing out in public, and people are sometimes annoyed I was looking at something other than the ring, and have nothing to contribute to the discussion.

So it must be one enormous, super-blingy, over-the-top ring, the very essence of overkill … for me to notice it.

For example: The championship rings handed out to Los Angeles Dodgers players yesterday, before their first game at home since winning the World Series last fall.

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I Meant to Do That

April 5th, 2021 · No Comments · Basketball, UCLA

I didn’t really think UCLA’s Bruins would be “ruined” versus Gonzaga in the NCAA semifinals — despite what I wrote before the game.

(See previous entry.)

What that was … was invoking the opposite of what I really wanted, as a long-time UCLA fan. Not the blowout I predicted, but something a lot closer.

This is a primitive attempt to shift all the “mojo” to the other side. To the “overdog” — which was Gonzaga, the 14.5-point betting favorite.

And it very nearly worked.

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Gonzaga Will Leave Bruins in Ruins

April 3rd, 2021 · 1 Comment · Basketball, UCLA, USC

Did anyone else stay up late to watch UCLA come through with another upset in the NCAA Tournament? Remember? Four days ago? (It ended at 6:16 a.m where I live and yes, I would like to be congratulated for that.)

It was nervous time, but it also was clutch time as the Bruins came through with a 51-49 victory over Michigan, the top seed in the East bracket.

That gave UCLA a five-game March Madness playoffs winning streak, one that began with an overtime upset of Michigan State in the First Four.

Back before that victory over Michigan State, UCLA partisans probably would have said they would be happy with a single tournament victory — given that the Bruins carried a four-game losing streak and 17-9 record into the postseason.

Clearly, they have done much more, eliminating BYU, Abilene Christian, Alabama and Michigan, the top seed in their bracket.

It makes a senior citizen recall the UCLA glory days of John Wooden, the coach who led the Bruins to 10 NCAA titles from 1963 to 1975. (They added one more, over Arkansas, in 1995, with the O’Bannon brothers leading the way.)

So, now they are in the Final Four, and today will take on Gonzaga in the second semifinal.

Unfortunately, Gonzaga is not living in the past, when it was the prototypical plucky little mid-major program.

These guys are monsters and we can expect, sadly, that they will destroy the Bruins today.

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UCLA and USC and the two NCAA Runs That Have Electrified SoCal Basketball Fans

March 30th, 2021 · No Comments · Basketball, UCLA, USC

This is the biggest night for Los Angeles college hoops in … I think it is safe to say “forever.”

Both USC and UCLA have battled into the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. That has never before happened.

And not only that, they are playing in the same city tonight, in the same arena, one after the other, and if both win they will meet each other in the Final Four, with one or the other winning a championship next week, on April 3.

This is mind-boggling, considering how erratic both programs have become, but they have been outstanding this month, and a bit lucky, and SoCal people from all over the world will be hoping to tune in — even if the first game starts at 1:15 a.m. here in France.

UCLA has made lots and lots of runs deep into the NCAA Tournament, (see: John Wooden), but none since 2008, when Jim Howland took the Bruins to the Final Four in three consecutive seasons.

USC basketball has had a few moments, over the past century, with one Final Four appearance, in 1954 (not even I remember that), and an Elite Eight appearance in 2001.

The idea that they could play each other in the Saturday semifinals … my head is about to explode.

Each team has a lot of work to do. Each is an underdog. USC by nine points, UCLA by 6.5.

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Catching Up on College Madness

March 22nd, 2021 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Basketball, English Premier League, France, soccer, Sports Journalism, UCLA, USC

I have lived outside the United States for most of the past 12 years and I can vouch for this: Over that much time your sports interests mutate. Perhaps significantly.

Some sports pretty much disappear from your mind. Thinking all high school sports; just can’t keep track of any of them, so I lost track of all of them. Motor racing is another. The rest of the world doesn’t much care about the two primary forms of racing, in the U.S. — Nascar and Indy Car. And you can’t follow what you can’t find on TV. Like hockey.

At the other extreme are the sports you begin following with particular enthusiasm. Soccer and international soccer and particularly the English Premier League. We might see as many as seven, eight, 10 matches per week. Liverpool and Arsenal and and various Uniteds. The Two Robbies, Earle and Mustoe.

And then there are those sports on a slow burn. I have lost the ability to follow the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, day to day, but I will always know who is good and who stinks. I may even make an effort to keep a toe in the water. (Like by subscribing to NFL RedZone.) Baseball and the NBA … because of time differences it is hard to see them live, but I read about them most days

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