Monthly Archives: July 2011

Not So Amused Any More

We have annual passes to a couple of amusement parks here in Southern California. We like to take the kids.

Anyway, we were enjoying another fun-filled Saturday when I was again reminded of just how crude, rude and disgusting some people behave in public.

We spent more than five hours there and aside from the general callousness and public drunkenness of some people,  the day was pretty normal. (Have I ever mentioned the children on backpack leashes?! What a joke!) It wasn’t until we were leaving that I witnessed three incidents that really illustrated certain levels of crude, rude and disgusting behavior.

1. A haggard-looking couple inhales a couple of cigarettes apiece before entering with a 3- or 4-year-old in tow. What is this child learning from these people? Addiction. That’s pretty crude.

2. A giant ‘I’m allergic to stupid people ah-choo’ t-shirt on an even bigger redneck. … It was alarming and most definitely rude, especially to his family, who are clearly just as allergic and unlikely to ever shake that big-ass bug.

3. A man and woman clasping cigarettes and a stroller stopped right in the middle of a busy walkway to search for a lighter. … To be so ignorant of the people around you, to have such blatant disregard for anything but your habit — it must be bliss.

What happened to decency? What happened courtesy? Am I speaking a foreign language with these words?

There was a time when I didn’t notice (and therefore care about) things like this. But not anymore. And it’s not all that amusing.

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Rubber Meets Road For USMNT

U.S. Soccer has finally hired Juergen Klinsmann, the German expat, as coach of its men’s national soccer team.

Message boards a rejoicing, soccer aficionados are busy regaling the new coach as a real innovator.

But is he really the guy to take the USMNT to the next level? Can he really bring U.S. Soccer to the brink of winning the World Cup?

Since the USMNT has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals (2002), the next level for U.S.men’s soccer constitutes earning a berth in a World Cup semifinal. Klinsmann has reached the semis before, as coach of Germanyin 2006, but he lost that game and had to settle for a 3rd place finish in a tournament his country hosted.

Reaching the semifinals isn’t necessarily the brink of winning a World Cup, though it’s awfully close. There’s certainly something to take away from a Top 4 finish in planet Earth’s biggest tournament — honor, notoriety, etc – but expectations need to be greater.

Scads of writers are saying this is a sure-fire match, the USMNT and Klinsmann. I’m a little more apprehensive. What’s really in this for U.S. Soccer? Is Klinsmann the great European soccer prodigy that will alter this country’s fortunes forever, as was described in the book “Soccernomics”?

Is a 3rd  place finish at the World Cup enough of a credential to create this kind of furor over a guy who lives in Newport Beach  and occasionally consults a bad Major League Soccer franchise?

After five long years of courtship, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati hires Klinsmann at a time when the men’s U-20 and U-23 teams do not have managers and the national team plays Mexico in less than two weeks?

It may not be the best of timing, but this is where the rubber meets the road.

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Filed under MLS, Soccer, U.S. Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

Bob Bradley’s Time Was Up

It was clear to see after the U.S. men’s national soccer team lost to Ghana in the Round of 16 at last summer’s World Cup.

Bob Bradley’s time was up.

Never a tactician, Bradley was forced to engage his team on an emotional level moreso than mental.

And allowing a defensive lapse (and goal) in extra time against Ghana proved his methods were not sustainable. No longer was he a coach who could inspire victory. His motivational powers had reached their zenith.

Nevertheless, he was retained by U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati and led the USMNT for another year, another tournament. This time, the Gold Cup, North American’s regional tournament.

Bradley’s roster selections for the Gold Cup were unbalanced. His lineup changes were slightly better.

If not for the inspired play of Freddy Adu toward the end of the tournament, this Gold Cup would have been near complete and total disaster. Not that losing to Mexico, in the title game, after leading 2-0, isn’t complete and total disaster.

Because it is.

He could no longer command more from his players than what he got in South Africa a year earlier, and certainly not against Mexico at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

And if your team can’t put up a second-half fight against your most heated rival in a tournament final, someone has to go.

Bob Bradley’s time was up.

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Filed under Soccer, U.S. Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

Smith Getting One Last Try(Out)

This former No. 1 just got one last shot. Maybe that’s all he deserves.

Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers agreed to terms on one-year, $5 million contract on Wednesday, insuring that he’ll at least get a look from new coach Jim Harbaugh.

Read the espn.com bit here.

Smith battled injuries and inconsistency but was productive the last two seasons, averaging more 2,300 yards each season while playing just 22 of a possible 34 games. He also threw for 32 TDs and 22 INTs during that time – all while playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the National Football League.

That’s why I think Smith deserves his shot with the new regime. Not because I think the 27-year-old is better than what he is (he’s a slightly above-average QB), but because he’s resilient, and he’s finally behaving as though he really is the leader of this team; He’s the one that organized Niners’ workouts during the lockout.  

According the espn.com, Smith made the decision the re-sign “after speaking with new coach Jim Harbaugh and, in part, because he wants to prove he wasn’t a Bay Area bust.”

A Bay Area bust? He’ll never be as big as BALCO.

But if he wants to try he can avoid missing the playoffs again. I think that’d be enough to reignite the fans, and show the team that invested so heavily (Smith was tha NFL’s No. 1 overall pick in ’05) that there is hope for the five-time champs, who haven’t made the playoffs since ’02.

Consider this $5 million your last, Alex.

Better yet… it’s your last shot in San Francisco.

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Filed under Football, NFL, San Francisco 49ers

Santana’s No-No Out Of Nowhere

Ervin Santana has been a marginal starting pitcher in his seven seasons in the major leagues.

A career 82-63 record and 4.31 ERA would indicate middle-of-the-rotation talent. An average 2011 season (6-8, 3.69 ERA) might indicate stagnation of that talent.

But Santana defied his career and season records to elevate himself into baseball history, pitching the first no-hitter of his career Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians.

Santana allowed one run on an error, a stolen base and a wild pitch and was otherwise untouchable. He struck out a season-high 10 batters.

Read the L.A. Times article here.

Historically, Santana is a far better pitcher at night than he is during the day. Why is this significant? Because Santana pitched his no-no in a game that started around noon, local Cleveland time. This game was in the middle of the day, in the middle of July, and Santana didn’t need the glare of the lights to turn on his potential. 

The timing was certainly right. Outside Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, the Angels pitching staff (Santana, Joel Piniero and Tyler Chatwood) have been woefully under .500, collectively, so a performance like this was overdue. It wasn’t quite “Weaver and Haren and the rest of the cupboards are barren,” but it’s close.

Santana’s no-no will send his team on to Detroit (the Angels play the Tigers in a four-game series beginning Thursday) with a sense that this team is better than, perhaps, its best two starting pitchers.

Ervin Santana had been a marginal starting pitcher in his seven years in the big leagues. Now (or for just today, anyway) he’s the best around. And maybe the cupboards aren’t all that barren.

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Filed under Baseball, Los Angeles Angels, MLB

NFL Is Back, To My Chagrin

Part of me was really hoping for a truncated National Football League 2011 season.

Why? I’m a little burned out on fantasy football.

Don’t get me wrong. The concept is a beautiful thing — the draft, the players, the weekly point totals — but it also becomes a burden if you’re invested enough to want to win. And it can be engrossing at its best, debilitating at its worse.

I’m tired of being somewhere in between, depending on how many leagues I’m in that season.

I was really hoping for an 8- or 10-game season plus playoffs. Instead, it’ll be a full season sans the Hall of Fame game, the league’s most dispensable event. In fact, it’ll be so darn close to being just like the lockout never happened that’ll it’ll seem like the lockout never happened.

There won’t be one 2011 season game effected, not even one real PRESEASON game effected.

It’ll be like nothing ever happened. And the NFL is back, to my chagrin.

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Filed under Football, NFL

Euro Wacko And Amy Winehouse

Every once in a while, a series of days come along that are filled with so much sadness that I find myself asking, “What compels some people?”

With news of the massacre in Oslo, Sweden, spreading, the world is introduced to a psychopath. Anders Behring Breivik shot and killed more than 80 people — including many youths — in an oceanside resort on Friday. The L.A. Times ran a headling this morning quoting the killer, who allegedly said “You’re all going to die.”

Chilling stuff. What compels people? What compelled Breivik to think his rampage was going to be anything but one of the most egregious and horrific acts of humanity (outside of war) in the 21st century?

I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that question.

Then, on Saturday, five-time Grammy winner Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home. The cause of death is not know at this time. Winehouse was best known in the U.S. for her hit “Rehab,” but it was fewer than 12 steps to her demise; Drug-fueled rages, run-ins with both U.S. and British police and hit-or-miss performances.

In death Winehouse joins a much smarter crowd than she ever ran with in life, grouping with iconoclast pop music artists Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison to become the fifth in a quartet for the ages. That age being 27, of course.

What compels people? What compelled Winehouse to such urges of self-destruction and yet, surges of artistic brilliance? And why was no one within her inner circle compelled to step in and save her life?

What compels people? Questions of motivation are rarely answered truthfully.

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Filed under Celebrities, World News