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Legacies in Play for Lakers, LeBron

September 18th, 2020 · No Comments · Basketball, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

Hey, no pressure, but …

–The Lakers are one championship behind the Boston Celtics for the most NBA titles, 17. They could catch their green arch-rivals by winning The Bubble Finals in Florida.

LeBron James already has passed Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in career scoring, has only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in front of him, and is perhaps a fourth NBA title away from greatest-of-all-time discussion.

Of course, this all depends on the Lakers defeating the Denver Nuggets in the conference finals, beginning tonight, and then the Eastern Conference winners, Miami or those guys, the Celtics.

Some significant legacies are at stake.

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About That Lakers-Clippers Playoffs Showdown

September 16th, 2020 · No Comments · Clippers, Lakers, NBA

It must be tough being a Clippers fan. Well, heck, yeah, it is.

The franchise has been around for a half-century now and has never played in an NBA Finals, let alone won one.

The odometer rolled over to 50 seasons of failure last night when the Denver Nuggets completed a comeback from 3-1 down to breeze past the discombobulated Clips 104-89 in Game 7 of the conference semifinals.

And the answer to a question posed in August is, “No, you cannot have a Lakers-Clippers showdown in the conference finals.”

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Dodgers Fans: Don’t Assume

September 8th, 2020 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Dodgers

Potentially making an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”

In March of 2012, the Guggenheim Group announced it was buying the Los Angeles Dodgers from the unpopular Frank McCourt for more than $2 billion — making it, at the time, the most expensive change of ownership in professional sports history. Any time, anywhere.

If you had asked me, back in 2012, if by 2019 this incoming, deep-pockets crew would win a World Series … I would have said, “Oh, yeah. Eight chances at getting it done? They will do it at least once.”

But here we are, with World Series chance No. 9 of the Guggenheim era coming up, and the Dodgers remain in pursuit of a first World Series victory since 1988. Which is not “just the other day”.

About two-thirds of the way through the strange, truncated and Covid-fraught 2020 season, the Dodgers appear to be the best team in the Major Leagues. They are 30-12 at this writing and lead the National League West by five games with 18 to play and are considered a sure thing to appear in the expanded playoffs.

But … they have been similarly well-regarded, going back to 2012, and I am concerned they are making some of the same mistakes they tend to make just before and during the playoffs.

To wit:

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Messi to Barcelona: ‘Never Mind’

September 4th, 2020 · No Comments · Barcelona, Champions League, Football, Galaxy

It looked like it would be a Messi mess, but it turned to be much ado about nothing.

And just when soccer fan were getting their heads around the idea of Lionel Messi playing for a club other than Barcelona.

He did say that was his preference, getting out of Dodge, following another Champions League exit, this one by the humiliating scoreline of 8-2, in favor of Bayern Munich.

Where would the six-time Ballon d’Or winner go?

Manchester City was nominated as a contender, given that (like Paris Saint-Germain) the club is owned by a sheikh who wants nothing more than to buy enough talent to win the Champions League, the planet’s greatest club competition.

How about one of Italy’s top teams? Juventus or Inter, maybe? Could Bayern figure out a way to use the greatest attacking player in the history of the game?

(To the tune of 444 club goals and 70 for Argentina.)

Maybe he could go to Major League Soccer, like David Beckham did, 13 years ago. Leo could join the Galaxy and step into the great and ancient (since 2018) rivalry known as “El Trafico“.

Barca versus Real Madrid; Galaxy versus LAFC; pretty much the same thing.

So what happened?

To recap:

Last week, Messi went public with his preference to leave Barcelona, the only team he has known, but a club that seems to be sinking into a Not Quite Good Enough rut. A slow spell hammered home in the Champs quarters by Bayern. Messi apparently was frustrated that Barcelona seemed to be slipping and team officials were powerless to stop it.

So, Messi was a no-show at the first day of training, and he re-iterated that he wanted to be gone. The soccer world blew up.

Then, today, he moseyed out of Camp Nou and sheepishly said, “Never mind!”

He said he is fine with staying with the only club he has played for, Barcelona, which has not won the Champions League since 2015, when coach Pep Guardiola still had hair.

What happened was this:

Barca officials pulled out the contract Messi signed a few years ago, and reminded him of the clause calling for a 700-million fee, payable to Barca, if he left the club before the contract expired, which will be after the coming season. As in 2020-21.

Suddenly, Messi was a lot less interested in getting out asap. Not even Manchester City will hand over 700 million euros just to be able to negotiate with Messi.

So, Leo going nowhere this season. One more year with Barca, pretending to be enthused as Barcelona tries to rebuild around him.

Where will he play next? Check back in June.

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Au Revoir, Monsieur Robert

September 2nd, 2020 · No Comments · France

The bells. The bells tell the tale.

When the church bells toll for 10 or 20 minutes … it means someone in our little French village has departed this mortal coil.

A funeral service is about to begin, and in this case it was for someone we knew. At least a little.

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Back in the Day: Angels in Heaven

August 26th, 2020 · No Comments · Angels, Back in the Day, Baseball, monkey

What a great time to be an Angels fan. A well-rounded team, a first World Series, one of the great comebacks in baseball history, leading to a championship.

The key game was Game 6, at Anaheim Stadium, I filed a comment piece. Here it is, under the headline: “Angels create an instant classic; Commentary: Game 6 magic will remain with fans forever”

October 26, 2002

By Paul Oberjuerge

ANAHEIM — Holy Rally Monkey!

What we have here now, friends, is a World Series for the ages. A classic. And your Anaheim Angels are one victory from winning it.

If the first five games of the 98th World Series weren’t scintillating enough, the Miracle on Katella in Game 6 took this event to another level. And to its absolute limit of seven games.

The Angels were down 5-0 in the seventh inning of an elimination game Saturday night and looked as dead as King Tut. They hadn’t scored a run in their previous nine at-bats, had gotten a runner in scoring position in only one of those and their chances of some 11th-hour resurrection looked as likely as world peace.

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What Is That Creepy Creature on Firefox?

August 24th, 2020 · No Comments · Barcelona, Olympics

I have been looking at this thing every day for years now. However long I have used Firefox as my browser. And I have no recollection of making that choice, so it has been a while.

I don’t go looking for it. It waits for me, lying in ambush when I log in.

The message is delivered by the official, totally confusing creature that wants to tell me about how a site I requested cannot be found.

I can always find The Creature if I click on a tab that, the previous time I was online, I visited espn.com. Like, I fall asleep with my laptop in my lap (where else would it be?), and when I come around, espn has turned into this creepy blob/slug-like thing attempting to tell me I cannot get into espn.com.

(A couple of clicks, and I’m out.)

However, after all the years of staring at that thing, trying to figure out if it has a face, arms, a tail … well, today I looked at a few websites and found one … at reddit.com …that attempts to do some ‘splainin’.

Here, go have a look.

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When Grandsons Send Letters

August 22nd, 2020 · No Comments · France, Germany, tourism

I have been a grandfather for nine years and change, and it’s a pretty good gig. You can take a whack at spoiling the little guys and not feel guilty about it, and you can smile and head for the door when three boys get a bit too … boisterous.

There are some great moments out there, and I was reminded of one of them today while sorting some papers, and specifically while reading a hand-written letter from No. 1 Grandson (by birth order), Wesley.

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Thank Goodness for Mookie Betts

August 20th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Generally, when I hear about an athlete getting a contract with lots of years and enormous numbers, I heave a sigh.

“He can’t possibly be worth all that money.” And generally the athlete is not. Teams get excited and offer big deals based on last season, or the last few seasons, and give insufficient attention to what the athletes might be reasonably expected to do going forward.

The Angels can tell you about this. They gave Albert Pujols a 10-year, $240-million contract, ahead of the 2012 season, figuring they were adding one of the best players in the game.

Well he had been one of the best … but within a few years, as Pujols got into his mid-30s, his production fell off markedly, and these days, advanced statistical analysis suggests any average ballplayer could help the Angels win as much as does Pujols.

So, when the Dodgers signed Mookie Betts, whom they had traded for in the offseason, to the second-biggest baseball contract ever — $365 million over 12 years — I heaved a sigh …

But then I mulled it a bit more, and thought about how much Mookie has done in recent years … and I decided, “You know, I’m willing to roll with Mookie on this one.”

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When to Pick: Nervous Time for Vintners

August 19th, 2020 · 1 Comment · France, Languedoc, Wine

Typically, we would be looking at another couple of weeks before the wine-producers haul out their monstrous vine-shakers and start bringing in the 2020 harvest.

However, a dry, hot summer has the local producers are thinking later this week more than later this month.

Which reinforces what I come to understand about making wine, while living in one of the biggest wine-making regions in the world: This stuff is complicated!

We live in one of the most wine-intensive areas of France, the Languedoc, just southwest of Montpellier. After most of five years here we are beginning to pick up on what goes on during the frenetic month or so that leads to a bottle on your table.

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