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A First-Grader’s Favorite Times at School

March 17th, 2021 · No Comments · Dodgers, Germany

I have three grandsons who attend school in Stuttgart, Germany. About eight hour’s drive from where we live, in the south of France.

We would have driven up to Stuttgart a time or three this year — if not for the Covid pandemic, which has limited movement around Europe.

Luckily, we live in a time when we not only can connect by phone, but can see each other, too.

The boys — ages 9, 6 and 4 — missed at least a month of school, after Germany was knocked around by the second wave of the virus, and I was curious about how they felt about returning to school.

The oldest said it was cool. He could see his friends again.

The first-grader is very active — he showed me how he has learned to do a forward roll on the trampoline in the backyard.

At the moment, however, he is not an enthusiastic student.

I asked him what his favorite part of school is.

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Hagler-Hearns and Passing Up the Greatest Fight of the Past 50 years

March 15th, 2021 · No Comments · Boxing, Newspapers, Sports Journalism

Marvelous Marvin Hagler died this week at the age of 66, and he got a lot of things done in his sport and in his life : one of boxing’s greatest punchers and owner of the sport’s hardest chin; multi-year middleweight champion in the 1980s; actor in Italy; a ringside commentator in the UK …

But I tend to believe that when anyone with a vague interest in boxing heard about Hagler’s demise, 90 percent of them probably blurted: “The Greatest Fight Ever!”

That would be Hagler’s action-packed ode to publicly sanctioned violence, when he knocked out Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns in a middleweight brawl to beat all brawls, in April of 1985.

Boxing fans can never get enough of that fight, 8 minutes and 1 second of mayhem that left reporters at ringside spattered with blood.

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Could It Be? Baseball Considers Helpful Reforms

March 12th, 2021 · 1 Comment · Baseball

After a few decades during which Major League Baseball actively made its product less interesting, we may be seeing changes in game-thinking.

MLB is tinkering with the ball, with the goal of “deadening” it a wee bit — and presumably making it slightly harder to hit home runs.

The glut of home runs slugged the past few years has had the effect of making for a boring, less strategy-based game — unless your idea of great baseball is all about homers and strikeouts, which both are breaking records year after year.

Also, in the minor leagues, which MLB now runs from top to bottom, several potential rules changes will be tried out, and some could become the law of the land — including a ban on some forms of defensive shifts, more games governed by an electronic strike zone, a 15-second pitch clock, limiting pickoff moves and larger bases.

Several of those rules would have the effect of making the game more like it was 20-30 years ago, when the stolen base, sacrifice bunt and other forms of “small ball” were part of the game.

This is good news.

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APSE? I Remember You!

March 5th, 2021 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Newspapers, Sports Journalism, The Sun

For much of my sports journalism career, being part of a good showing in the annual Associated Press Sports Editors competition was a big deal.

Even now, in an era of shriveled and under-staffed newspapers, most sports editors want to see their sections make a mark. The APSE contest is the industry Oscars, after all.

Without the speeches.

The winners from 2020 were announced today, and I am glad the contest is still staged — because modern print journalists get little enough attention or salary. An “attaboy/attagirl” or two … is the least we can do.

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Last Roundup for Nine-Man Baseball?

March 2nd, 2021 · 1 Comment · Baseball

I have loathed the designated hitter rule from the start — which was in 1973, when Major League Baseball’s American League chose to make the DH baseball law.

To its longstanding credit, the National League refused to follow the AL’s move, which was in keeping with the more traditional league’s status that has for a century-plus been known as the Senior Circuit.

The NL began play in 1876; the “Johnny-come-latelies” in that other league didn’t get around to organizing until 1901.

Yeah. What do those guys know about ball?

The NL to date has decided it doesn’t need players who never cross the lines, who never pick up the glove and wait for their at-bat to come around again.

The biggest issue I have with the DH is this: It allows players into the lineup who are not ready to play defense. And that is why fans of the National League still sometimes refer to the AL’s “10-man brand of baseball”. Because it IS different.

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Premier League Tease Turns into Another Blowout

February 7th, 2021 · No Comments · Arsenal, Champions League, English Premier League, Football, soccer

For a month, maybe two, it looked like one of the most competitive Premier League battles in recent history. In the early going, to scan the upper half of the league table was to find several names few would have expected.

West Ham, Everton, Tottenham and Leicester City all had their turn at the top of the standings. Chelsea. Manchester United spent a couple of weeks at the pinnacle, and so did defending champions Liverpool.

The churn continued, for a time. One unlikely team up, another headed down.

It was great fun to see a half-dozen clubs formulating plans for pushing on to the top … and several of those teams above (all, of them, I believe) were at the top for a day or three.

Then it was Liverpool, mostly, but the Reds looked a little soft, a bit vulnerable — a development perhaps to be expected when the club’s best player — centerback Virgil van Dijk — was lost for the season after a brutal challenge from Everton keeper Jordan Pickford.

Then came a spurt by Manchester United, led by the merry elf Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but then his side lost to Sheffield United, the worst team in the division … and now what?

“Now what?” has an easy and perhaps obvious answer — the team that is going to wring out the excitement of this season:

Manchester City, of course.

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Super 55: Brady Won’t Be Able to Keep Pace with Mahomes

February 6th, 2021 · No Comments · Football, NFL

The National Football League’s Super Bowl is not a big deal in France. That may be mostly because the game kicks off at about 12.30 a.m. (technically, Monday morning) in Central European time. For people with jobs that begin before noon, it’s rough because dawn is about to break when the typical SB ends.

(I hope to get a little sleep before kickoff, then join the CBS broadcast, with a goal of sticking it out till the end.)

Which brings us to Super Bowl 55, to be played tomorrow in Tampa, Florida. The Kansas City Chiefs versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I see only one story line, and that is this:

The best young quarterback (Patrick Mahomes, 25) will defeat the best old quarterback (Tom Brady, 43).

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A Gamble Worth Making: Rams Get Stafford for Goff and Three Picks

February 3rd, 2021 · No Comments · Football, NFL, Rams

I am not going to argue against any reasonable trade the Rams could make to replace Jared Goff at quarterback.

And I certainly will not criticize a deal that brings in clutch quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions in exchange for Goff and three high draft picks.

It was in the middle of this season that I wrote the Rams would never win a Super Bowl with Goff at quarterback. That was after the four-turnover game versus Miami that brought home to fans just how many aspects of quarterback play Goff struggles to master. Even after four years and 69 games as a starter.

From this moment on, Goff’s further development, if possible, is someone else’s problem. Stafford, meanwhile, might be able to fix some of the Rams’ problems. Or general manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay certainly hope so.

The Rams do not get Stafford for nothing, of course. He costs them their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, and a third-rounder this year. But he may be exactly what the Rams need to round out a team that already has one of the league’s leading defenses.

What can Stafford do for them?

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In Search of Author’s Resting Place

January 30th, 2021 · No Comments · Books

Grave of Patrick O’Brien, in Collioure, France; a fan has left a copy of a book.

One of my favorite authors is Patrick O’Brian, creator of the “Master and Commander” sailing series. All 20 books of it.

He was a bit of an eccentric who left his family before World War II, seemed to have a government job that perhaps pertained to military intelligence and who legally changed his name after the war — from Richard Patrick Russ, Englishman, to Patrick O’Brian, Irish-Catalan.

And, I found out recently, he lived 40 years in the south of France, only 90 or so miles from where we dwell now.

So, with some kindly weather finally making an appearance, we made the 90-minute drive south to Perpignan, taking the exit for the beach towns from there to the border with Spain.

And there we were, in a handsome little town named Collioure, wedged between the Mediterranean and the vine-covered hills, at the feet of the Pyrenees, a few miles from the Spanish border.

We also planned to find his grave, there in the town he called home for the final 40 years of his life.

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A Blog Post — On Deadline

January 29th, 2021 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Let’s see how this works. I am going to post to my blog in 10 minutes. And one minutes is nearly gone.

People who do blogs in their spare time may not grasp how much time it takes to populate a blog.

The scary part of it is that a blog has no deadline that a newspaper writer would know, and the posts can sprawl, buried under research and what we all hope is some interesting writing.

Now, I will jump forward to the body of this post.

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