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Winter Olympics: Once Is Enough

February 7th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Olympics

The Winter Olympics is an acquired taste. Unless you grew up where winter dominates life. Say, Russia. Norway. Lapland. Buffalo.

The Winter Games generally are held in a city/town that is hard to get to (from places where people actually live) and feature a lot of winding mounting roads that either are icy or slushy. Either way, you probably are wearing the wrong shoes.

The Winter Games entail about 12 days of action stretched over 17 days of competition. Which actually is an improvement over the Winter of decades past, which was maybe seven days of action dragged out over 11 days.

(I covered one of those, Sarajevo 1984; if a blizzard hadn’t descended and wiped out a couple of days of programming I’m not sure what we were supposed to do for those 11 days.)

Still and all, I recommend dropping by a Winter Games, if it happens to land within a couple of days’ drive of where you live.

But just the one.

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Back in the Spaceflight Business

February 6th, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Many members of my generation have been space enthusiasts since childhood. We spent lots of hours in our teens watching manned flights sent up by the U.S. Space Agency, usually know by the acronym NASA.

The original goal, as outlined by President Kennedy in 1960, was getting a manned spacecraft to the moon … and putting astronauts on the lunar surface.

Anyone alive in June of 1969 remembers when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. It was astonishing.

Several more lunar landings followed, and then NASA seemed to decide nothing else could be made of the moon, at that point in time, and no one has been on the moon since.

The global idea now seems to be that space flight has two reasons to exist, going forward.

1) As a for-profit industry interested mostly in putting space tourists into low orbit, and bringing them back.

2) Blue-skying about going to Mars.

And it seems like humankind took a step toward the latter today when SpaceX, mostly funded by billionaire Elon Musk, sent a satellite into space that will do elliptical orbits of Mars.

We might be getting somewhere now.

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About the Lakers and the Summer of 2018 …

February 5th, 2018 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

That was reality that slapped the Los Angeles Lakers in the face.

Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the duo responsible for the club’s roster, apparently have been disabused of the notion that a free-agent superstar or two is keen to join their team this summer.

According to espn.com, the Lakers no longer are banking that the Summer of ’18 will be all about them — and an instant return to the club’s historic role as championship contender.

Which is good news for Lakers fans, who were wondering just how the team was going to pull that off.

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Super Bowl 52: Very Happy to Be Very Wrong

February 4th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, NFL

I missed it. I have no trouble saying it. I was sure the New England Patriots would defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52. And I first wrote that nearly three weeks ago, ahead of the conference championship games.

Not so sure, however, that I did not watch Super Bowl 52. Not so sure that I shut off the TV, in France, when the Patriots finally moved ahead, at about 4 a.m. local time.

My sense of the inevitability of a Patriots victory was fully engaged when Tom Brady and the Patriots got the ball, trailing 38-33, with more than two minutes to play.

How many times had we seen Brady push the Patriots down the field to win in the waning seconds? This was going to another example of that. The Eagles defense was in tatters, and I thought their offense had erred by scoring too soon; they should have tried to get a first down at the New England 4, so they could burn the clock down to a few seconds before kicking a winning field goal.

I was unhappy. Because when it comes to the Patriots, I would rather be wrong about them winning.

But I had outlined the inevitability of their victory and had (mostly) resigned myself to it — with the stipulation that I would under no circumstances stay up long enough to see Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick and Brady passing around another Lombardi Trophy.

Then came the play that never happens to the nearly perfect Patriots.

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Bad Basketball: NBA’s Dog Days

February 3rd, 2018 · 1 Comment · Basketball, NBA

Goodness, the NBA is awful right now.

Lots of bad teams. Scads of nearly unwatchable games. Good teams unable to produce a genuine effort.

Apparently, it is so difficult to win consecutive games on the road, or back-to-backs anywhere, that we should go back and worship the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors — who somehow went 73-9, setting the NBA record for victories.

This season’s Warriors, who retain the stars of the record-setting team and are in Season 2 of being augmented by the addition of Kevin Durant, have lost two of three, including the second half of a back-to-back in Denver tonight.

And that’s the NBA’s best team.

NBA fans like to talk about how the game is growing, passing boring old baseball, with the NFL in their sights … but anyone who has paid attention since the turn of the year knows the NBA is ragged and disjointed and too often disinterested, at the moment. And

Consider:

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Today’s List: Favorite Moments from ‘The Post’

February 2nd, 2018 · No Comments · Journalism, Lists, Movies

Finally saw The Post, the Steven Spielberg movie about the Washington Post and the Pentagon Papers. It was an afternoon screening at the multiplex at the nearest semi-big town. And it was in English. So.

I recommend that all former newspaper journalists see the film. And most certainly those over the age of 50, for whom the “period piece” (set in 1971) might dredge up a lot of memories, back when what we did mattered. And sometimes mattered a lot.

It is a movie that made me lament the collapse of the industry, and it made me wistful for Things As They Were, but also thankful that I was in the business for the whole of my working career. We all were very, very lucky.

I am going to turn this into a list (I don’t do enough of those) … of my 10 favorite moments in the movie.

Let’s count down backward, from 10 to 1.

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Still Depressed by Excessive Patriot-ism

February 1st, 2018 · No Comments · NFL

I have been in the slough of despond for most of a month now.

Once the NFL’s “divisional” round of playoffs was complete, it became obvious to anyone who has been keeping track of the most basic of the league’s trends … that the New England Patriots would win yet another Super Bowl. And that is what I wrote on January 14, ahead of the conference championship games — Jacksonville at New England and Minnesota at Philadelphia.

I am even more convinced than I was then that we will get to watch the Patriots passing around the Lombardi Trophy at the end of Sunday’s game.

Which I will make a point of not staying up to watch.

It’s all good news for the Patriots.

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Blake Griffin and the Historical Necessity of the Clippers Getting Rid of Their Best Player

January 31st, 2018 · No Comments · Basketball, Clippers, Lakers, NBA

If you live in France and get a batch of English-language programming on your TV deal … you can watch a ton of NBA games.

There are the ESPN nights, and the TNT nights and whoever has the weekends … and it feels like I can count on an NBA doubleheader at least four nights a week, each with a format rather like “best game in EST or CST early, best game in PST or MST late”.

And by “late” we mean early, here in France, with the second game beginning around 4:30 a.m., on this side of the Atlantic, finishing at 6:30, and I have seen a lot of that second game over the past month or two, a level of NBA-watching perhaps previously unknown in my life.

Which is all introduction to the point of today’s post:

Having studied the Clippers several times over the past month, I am convinced they were not going anywhere with Blake Griffin, who was getting 35 percent of their total payroll, and I am all in on their trading him to Detroit for three players and two draft picks.

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The Trials and Tribulations of the Arsenal Fan

January 30th, 2018 · No Comments · Arsenal, English Premier League, Football, soccer

When I decided that, oh, what the hell, I was a fan of Arsenal FC, the English Premier League club … I was concerned at being branded a front-runner.

Straddling the turn of the century, Arsenal won the Premier League three times in seven seasons, and this was when Alex Ferguson, the knighted coach of Manchester United, was still roaming the touchline.

The third of those Arsene Wenger-led Arsenal league champions, the 2003-04 club, went all 38 matches unbeaten, never done before or since, and are known, modestly, as The Invincibles. Not that I knew about it, at the time, given my generic disinterest in European club football.

However, by 2009 disinterest had morphed into a bit of interest, coinciding with a soccer-heavy, four-month stint on the sports desk of the International Herald Tribune, in Hong Kong.

In previous entries here I have mentioned crossing paths with Wenger in the press box at the Stade de France while covering a World Cup qualifier in the summer of 2009. (France versus Romania.) He was there to work in a broadcast booth, I believe.

He seemed like a decent, dignified man, tall and a bit patrician in bearing, but friendly with French journalists he recognized.

And, eventually, I just decided that I liked Wenger’s commitment to an attacking style of play, and that the club felt more like an international entity than something parochial and particularly English (like, say, Newcastle or Everton) … and that was that.

And how has that Arsenal decision turned out?

Not well, and getting not-weller.

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‘How Did I Ever Get Along with Five?’

January 29th, 2018 · No Comments · Baseball

Another ride in the Wayback Machine, inspired by poking around the other day for the Firestone “Wheels Are Turning” television ad.

In this one, the advertising spot is fairly lame … but the product it is flogging is Just Plain Weird.

That would be the Sixfinger toy kit sold by Topper Toys and promoted heavily on TV, in the mid-1960s.

Check the video.

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