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Eli Manning and His Career in This Blog

November 29th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, France, Lists, NFL, Sports Journalism

Eli Manning will not start for the New York Giants on Sunday, ending a streak of 210 consecutive starts at quarterback for the Giants, going back to 2004.

However, the Giants are 2-9 and their playoffs hopes were buried weeks ago, and Eli will be 37 in five weeks and is not having a very good season, albeit trying to lead a banged-up and only semi-talented team.

An outsider could make a case that the Giants trying something different might be a good idea. Nothing to lose; let’s have a look at the backups, starting with Geno Smith at QB.

But Eli has friends and fans in New York. Lots of them. The Giants won the Super Bowl twice with Eli at the controls.

News of the benching circulated yesterday, a decision made by a remarkably unpopular coach, Ben McAdoo (who, parenthetically, has the most ridiculous hair in football) and an unpopular general manager named Jerry Reese.

Pretty much, New York exploded, with radio guys (hello, Mike Francesa) and TV guys (hey, Screamin’ Stephen) and pundits, experts and fans throughout the Tri-State area going nuts.

They all hate that the Giants are awful, and Eli being benched makes them crazy, overlooking the idea that the NFL is competitive and the definition of insanity is to keep starting, again and again, the same quarterback who just got beat.

Anyway, I like Eli. He has appeared several times on this blog in items I like, and I will link to them below, saving the best for last.

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The Clippers and Their Sure Return to Incompetence

November 28th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Clippers, Lakers, NBA

As a native of Southern California, I knew all about the Los Angeles Clippers.

They were bad, except when they were horrid.

They didn’t have fans, per se; their games were attended by bargain-hunters who could not afford to see the Lakers or were supporters of whatever NBA team the Clippers happened to be playing.

They were owned and operated by Donald Sterling, a bad man and a bad owner, and the idea of the Clippers ever eclipsing the Lakers in the standings or in the hearts of fans was preposterous. Ahead of the 2011-12 season, they had reached the playoffs four times in 33 seasons with the Clippers name, advancing to the second round once.

Then the Clippers got a few things right. They used the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft to take Blake Griffin, a year after they had taken a promising center, DeAndre Jordan.

NBA president David Stern then scandalously stepped in to punish the Lakers and help the Clippers, blocking the trade of Chris Paul, then 26, from the New Orleans Hornets to the Lakers, and a week later approving the trade of Paul to the Clippers for three middling players and a No. 1 draft choice.

And “Lob City”, as it was called, broke out with Paul tossing the ball at the backboard, where Griffin or Jordan would dunk it.

It was fun, for a time there. For the next six seasons, the Clippers won at least 60 percent of their games, racking up a 66 percent winning record (including a club-record 57 victories in 2013-14) and reaching the playoffs six consecutive years — though failing to get past the second round.

And now?

The Clippers are so over. Headed back whence they came — to the land of no-hopers and discounted tickets.

How did this happen?

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Goff Prompts Re-Evaluations by NFL Cognoscenti — and Me, Too

November 27th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

Let’s make this formal.

I apologize for suggesting that Jared Goff was a bust.

(This is Day 2 of the Empathy Tour; pretty sure I will get over it.)

I never directly wrote, on this blog, these words: “Goff is a bust.” But I did suggest here and here and here that he could be, or that someone else thought he was, or could be. The first of those, even before the season began, was fairly thorough in outlining all the ways he could not be up to snuff.

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The Casual Cruelty of the Sports Term ‘Bust’

November 26th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Sports Journalism

It was a paragraph of the sort every sports journalist has written once, twice, a thousand times in describing athletes who turn out to be not as successful as others believed they would be.

It went like this, on the New York Times website:

The Minnesota Twins picked first at the 1999 Rule 5 draft … The Marlins, who picked second, wanted a pitcher named Jared Camp. The Twins wanted a pitcher named Johan Santana. So the Twins took Camp, the Marlins took Santana, and then the teams swapped those players … Camp never pitched in the majors and was out of pro ball within three years. Santana won two Cy Young Awards for the Twins

Our focus is meant to be on the Johan Santanas of the world but increasingly I find myself pondering the fate of the other guy, in constructions such as this one, and wonder about what becomes a lifetime of being held up as a cautionary tale. A failure.

A bust.

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College Football Playoffs: Never Enough

November 25th, 2017 · No Comments · College football, Football

You would think the NCAA knew better. That the sturm und drang that accompanies the 68-team college basketball playoffs would have prompted them to leave football alone — ending the season with bowl games and letting collections of journalists and/or coaches and/or cranks with a trophy to figure out who ranked where.

But then some sharp guy down in accounting did the math and decided a college football playoffs meant more money for the organization and one “champinship game”.

But did anyone really think that pitting Nos. 1 and 2 at the end of the regular season would solve, forever, the “who deserves to be called champion” question?

Or that going from one extra game to three, via the College Football Playoff committee, would definitely, finally, end all hint of unhappiness from the rest of the nation’s major college football teams.

Someone is always going to be on the bubble.

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An Act of Random Kindness and a Saved Trip

November 24th, 2017 · No Comments · Travel

I saw this just the past day or two, on some website. “Describe an act of random kindness that you encountered.”

I think the point of this is … the act ought to be dramatic, unexpected and from someone you do not know. That is what the “random” is getting at.

I probably am forgetting all sorts of random acts … but I remember one clearly even though it happened a long time ago. Thirty-five years ago, actually.

We were preparing to return from London to Los Angeles, after our first trip across the Atlantic, and we were going to head to Heathrow after our “full English breakfast” at the B&B we had taken somewhere near (if I recall aright) Paddington Station.

When we got back to the room … well, disaster. My wife’s camera and wallet and, most important of all, her passport … were gone. And we were supposed to be in the air in a few hours.

First complication?

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Mbah a Moute: Big Plus for Rockets

November 23rd, 2017 · 1 Comment · NBA, UCLA

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute‘s final season at UCLA, 2007-08, was also my last as a journalist in Southern California.

I remember Mbah a Moute fairly well. He was a junior, a starter at power forward for a UCLA program that was riding high, and a regular contributor the previous two seasons. But he also was the fifth-best guy in the lineup that included Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp.

Nothing about Mbah a Moute said “NBA star”.

The notion that he would have a significant pro career … and he has, with 10 seasons and more than $25 million in salary … well, I never saw that coming.

Not only has Mbah a Moute, a native of Cameroon, moved into his 10th season in the league … the other day he had an NBA-record plus-minus statistic of plus-57 for his latest team, the Houston Rockets.

Which is astonishing, for several reasons.

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RIP, ‘Pocket Hercules’

November 22nd, 2017 · 1 Comment · Olympics

The first paragraphs went like this:

“He stands five feet tall.

“He weighs 132 pounds.

“He can lift 418 pounds over his head.

“His name is Naim Suleymanoglu, from Turkey, and pound for pound he is the strongest man in the history of the world.”

That was the opening of my story on the featherweight lifting competition at the Seoul Olympics, one of the more memorable events I covered as a journalist at 14 Olympics.

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Newspaper Wrinklers and Crumplers

November 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Journalism, Newspapers

Pretty much everyone who has worked in print journalism nurses a grudge toward people who crumple a newspaper while paging through it.

Today’s paper, especially.

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Sorting the World Cup Best from the Rest

November 20th, 2017 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, France, Russia 2018, World Cup

The 32 teams are set.

Last nation into the tournament was Peru, with a 2-0 aggregate victory over New Zealand in the inter-confederation playoffs.

Here are the nations that will participate in Russia 2018 — 31 of them, with the host Russia making it 32.

Let’s break these down into contenders, long shots, also-rans and no-hopers.

These evaluations might change a bit, after the draw is made, on December 1, for next summer’s tournament. But this is what we have at the moment.

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