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Posts tagged ‘sucks’

Hot Enough For Ya?

And it's only partly sunny ...

You know, if I didn’t know better (or at least, hope better), I’d think Al Gore might be right.

We went all summer without anything that resembled summer, and now in the first week of fall we have the hottest day in the recorded history of Los Angeles. It hit 113 degrees this afternoon at the recording station downtown – so hot, in fact, that it broke the station … it may have been even hotter! Out in the San Fernando Valley, where it’s objectionably hot on even the most pleasant of days, it got even warmer. It was so hot today in Los Angeles (“How hot was it”), you could have cooled off by driving to Palm Springs … :-)

Those of us who pay extra to live at the beach do so to avoid such unusual occurances, but as you can see from the graphic we didn’t avoid the heat even here at the Home Office. Partly sunny and 98? Miserable … just miserable.

I’m thinking this afternoon would be a perfect time to curl up in a hammock under a couple of shade trees with the one you love. Now if I only had some trees, a hammock, and a one … :-\

Spiked …

You’d never know it to look at me, but I am a child of the beach. I live a mile and a half from the Hermosa Beach Pier, and, save my college years in Riverside, this is the furthest I’ve lived from the ocean in my life. It’s a culture I embrace, and a livestyle I enjoy, even if I do it mostly from the sidelines.

Living at the beach, it’s impossible to miss one of the most prominent sports played there – beach volleyball. Whether an after-work jungle ball matchup or a serious weekend tourney, volleyball nets dot the sand and are in use more often than not. For those who play at an elite level, there are even professional beach volleyball tours where the best players can earn a living playing the game they love.

The game comes in many forms, depending on how many people you have on a team, but the most exciting – and telegenic – version is 2-man (or woman). With only two people to cover all that sand, it leads to exciting digs and dives and spikes. The professional 2-Man tour has been around for decades, and for the last 23 years has been organized by the AVP – the Association of Volleyball Professionals – which brought order to the chaotic beach tour, bringing both genders into the same events, developing sponsors, arranging television coverage, and introducing flocks of landlocked new fans to the sport through a national tour that criss-crossed the country year-round.

Twice a year, the AVP Tour would visit the South Bay beaches – home turf for the majority of the players. Everyone wanted to win Hermosa, because it was their hometown event, and Manhattan, because it was the Wimbledon of their sport. Hermosa Beach is in the books, but the Manhattan Beach Open will take on an entirely new look this weekend, because the AVP has folded its tent and cancelled the remainder of the season.

“On behalf of AVP staff we want to express our sincere gratitude to fans, players, partners and sponsors,” said Jason Hodell, AVP CEO. “Words cannot express our profound disappointment.”

“Through the course of this investor search we have encountered individuals and groups with intelligence, common sense and a passion for the game of beach volleyball,” said Mike Dodd, AVP commissioner. “Unfortunately, the time constraints were such that pulling the trigger on the amount of money necessary to salvage this season were too great. Ironically this sad news comes as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Manhattan Open, our sport’s crown jewel and the one event that showed us all we could dream big. The Open has seen its ups and downs over the years and always persevered. I’m sure our sport will do the same.”

I guess this shows what happens to what is essentially a fringe sport in difficult economic times. Beach volleyball rode the wave created by Olympic success – and little swimsuits – as far as they could, but in the end the wave broke on a rocky shore. The game will go on, of course – this weekend’s iconic Manhattan Beach Open is being run as an “old-school” tournament by the city (a decision that is not without it’s own controversy) – and the Americans will once again compete for gold in two years at London. But they’re going to have to go abroad to earn their spot on the Olympic team, and to earn a living, and that’s a sad statement for all of us who love the sport.

They say there are no bad days at the beach, but there are sad days, and this is definitely one of them. There’s a lot I’m gonna miss about the AVP … Geeter doing the worm … Kerri dominating the net … Rachel’s butt

As Chris Marlowe always used to say to end the AVP telecasts, “The beach … is closed.”

Expensive Money

The National Bird is making a visit to the Southland today. No, I’m not talking about the bald eagle, but rather Air Force One, which will deliver President Obama to Los Angeles for a pair of Democratic Party fundraisers later this evening. AF1 is scheduled to hit the tarmac at LAX around 4PM – just the right time to guarantee the Presidential motorcade will irritate the hell out of evening commuters. The President’s destination is Hancock Park, where they will be holding a pair of events at the home of writer/producer John Wells of “West Wing” and “ER” fame.

Maybe I’m just getting cynical in my old age, but it seems like a lot of time and effort to hop an overnight to Cali just to rake in some money for the party coffers. Sure, they’re gonna stop in Wisconsin to make a speech at some alternative energy factory there, but we both know that’s not the real reason they topped off the tanks on the Big Blue Bird this morning. It’s so the elite – and wannabe-elite – of Hollywood and the local political ranks can be seen with the President, and inject a little capital into a political machine that’s hemorrhaging hundreds. But while it may seem a little smarmy to have the Commander-in-Chief fly cross-country to raise money while juggling two wars, it’s no different than his last 10 predecessors did.

Let’s put aside the distaste for a second and get down to what matters – the money. They always say that if you want to understand a scam, follow the money – so let’s give that a shot here. The two events – a cocktail party and a dinner – are expected to raise about a million dollars. The 200 guests get a chance to hob-nob with the rich and powerful, but we all know there’s only one reason they’re dropping the money in the till – Ol’ #44. Let’s face it, if you want to meet LA Mayor – and fellow fundraiser guest – Villaraigosa, all you need to do is be in the right snack stand at a Lakers game.

So the Dems are counting on the Pres to show up and do his thing, but just how much do you think it costs to bring a sitting President across the country. There’s the cost of the flight, plus the security, plus all the hassle on the ground … I’m pretty sure it’s a lot more than the $1M they’ll raise. And if you think about it for a second, who’s paying to bring Obama to the Wells residence anyway? That’s right – you and I, the American Taxpayer. We’re footing the bill for the entertainment at a event where money is raised for a political party. Wouldn’t it be easier – and a lot less irritating to commuters – if they just had us all write out a check directly to Nancy Pelosi?

Excuse me while I force the vomit back down my throat …

No Soup For You, Tigers Fan …

I was about to craft a witty, insightful post about the obvious impact the removal of steroids has had on baseball, as evidenced by the Tigers’ Armando Galarraga tossing the third perfect game in less than a month – a feat that had only happened 18 times in the history of baseball before those three. And then Jason Donald of the Indians walked up to the plate.

Donald represented Galarraga’s last obstacle – the 27th batter he had faced in the game without allowing a baserunner. He looked at a couple of outside pitches, then hit a sharp grounder in the hole between first and second bases. First baseman Miguel Cabrera moved to his right, scooped up the ball and – after waiting a beat for Galarraga to break towards first base – tossed the ball to the pitcher for the final out. The fans went wild – until they saw first base umpire Jim Joyce spread his arms wide, signaling Donald was safe. The perfect game – heck, even the no-hitter – were lost on that final play.

It would be hard enough to lose such a monumental achievement at the very last moment, but as the replay clearly showed, Joyce blew the call – Donald was out by half a step. Tigers manager Jim Leyland and several players ran up to complain, but the call stood. The next batter grounded weakly to shortstop, ending the game on the bitterest of notes.

As much talk as there would be had Galarraga achieved his perfect game, there will be a lot more after the bad call. The loudest voice will be that in favor of using instant replay for cases like this, an extension of the video review already in place for certain events such as determining fair or foul balls or whether a ball indeed cleared the fence for a home run. And while instant replay would certainly have overturned Joyce’s call and preserved perfection, I’m going to come out against it.

To me, one of the joys of baseball is its humanity. It’s not ruled by a clock but rather by the flow of the game – you have to get 27 outs, and you can do it as quickly or slowly as you like. The current usage of instant replay makes sense to me only because it reviews a portion of the game not immediately overseen by a human umpire – often, the closest ump can be over a hundred feet away. In those cases, instant replay is a tool, much like a pair of binoculars.

There are umpires stationed on every base, and when a play is made they are right on top of it. In the call tonight, Joyce was in the right place at the right time – he just blew the call. You expect them to get it right, just as you expect the shortstop to cleanly field a ground ball. But both men are human, and humans make mistakes, and sometimes that leads to unfortunate moments like tonight. But to subject their calls to review is to call their judgement into question. Most plays at a base are bang-bang – the umpire must be looking in one place and listening in another, and always to the right things. It takes years to develop the skill set required to perform at the big league level, and to me, that time earns you a certain respect. I know there are a lot of folks tonight in Detroit who passionately support instant replay, but I’d rather see the occasional blown call – even in such a crucial time – than to have every umpire question themselves on every play, knowing Big Brother is looking over their shoulder.

Big Help, Little Man …

Yesterday, a particularly grumpy rodent was dragged from his burrow on Gobblers Knob and trust into the air before a large and eager crowd.  I refer, of course, to the annual appearance of that Pennsylvania Prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil.  Phil’s pudgy body did indeed cast a shadow on the snowy ground, which legend holds indicates another six weeks of winter.  Considering the National Weather Service is already predicting “epic snowfall” for the East Coast this weekend, you can imagine what a popular guy ol’ Phil is right about now.

If you saw the movie – one of my faves, btw – then you may already know the myth:  German settlers brought the knowledge that hibernating animals were better at understanding the weather than they were, and watched the reaction of the groundhog to determine when to plant.  Over time, the traditional holiday of Candlemas was usurped as a celebration of this ritual, and Groundhog Day was born.

It’s worth noting that while Phil has predicted a long winter 85% of the time, he’s only been right 39% – which would still get him a job with any local TV station in LA …

Bad News From The Marlin Grounds

A combined rescue fleet is currently scouring the waters inside San Clemente Island looking for survivors from a mid-air collision last night between a Coast Guard C-130 and a Marine Corps AH-1A Cobra helicopter.   Witnesses reported seeing a fireball just after 7PM last night 15 miles east of the island.  A debris field has been spotted, and the search for survivors among the nine crewmembers of the two aircraft is ongoing.

The location of the search is close to the “289 Fathom Spot,” a place often fished by our local marlin fleet.  Had this occured a month ago, there likely would have been a sizeable private boat fleet working the area that could help in the search. Rescuing pilots from downed swordfish spotter planes is a near-yearly occurance for local fishermen, but this would certainly be much bigger.

You’d think with all the open space there is offshore that these things couldn’t happen, but time and time again we see tragedies like this happen. At this point, the likelihood of survivors is slim, and I’d expect that it will soon transition from search to recovery.

Making things all that much more pointless, the C-130 had been called down from Sacramento to help search for someone who was reportedly trying to row a 12-ft skiff to Catalina. Personally, I believe if you do something so stupid as to put your life voluntarily as risk in such a ridiculous fashion, the least society can do is let you achieve your goal of a meaningless death. That these 9 airmen were lost because of this jackass makes me hope he survives just so someone can kick his ass.  Maybe we can unleash the Langley Nut Cracker on him …

Monday Sports Rant – SC Sucks Edition

Get your attention, SC Fan? Good, cuz someone clearly needs to deliver a little clarity … and I’m just the guy to do it.  And before you start the f-bomb emails, I’m an SC fan, too – but I’m also a realist, and this is time for a little reality

Normally, this would be a multi-topic sports posting, but with the Slipup in Seattle fresh in the minds of TrojanNation, I thought it best to dedicate this space to a little group therapy.  But before we begin working out the grief steps, let’s start with the facts:

Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans, #3 in the country, travelled to Seattle to play the Washington Huskies, coached by former SC assistant Steve Sarkesian.  The Huskies, which last season became the first Pac-10 team in history to compile a no-win season, beat the Trojans 16-13 on a last-second field goal.

Simple enough, right?  Let me first say I’m going to try hard to resist the temptation to say “toldya so,” since I called this shot a week ago.  Instead, however, let’s just look a little deeper at how USC went from participant to bystander in the national title chase.

A lot of people are calling this a huge upset, but they’re wrong.  Upset yes, in the sense that USC was ranked higher than UW, but not in the sense that it was a surprise.  In retrospect, it seems so obvious that this was a classic trap game – Carroll even warned his team about it in the locker room after their defeat of Ohio State a week earlier.  But apparently, some lessons can’t be taught and must be experienced.

The first flaw?  USC was a legitimate national title contender.  I don’t think so – not when their entire starting linebacker corps from a year ago is now starting in the NFL on Sundays … not to mention the guy penciled in to lead the offense this year.  It’s easy to see why Carroll was so irritated when Marc Sanchez jumped from the cardinal and gold to the green and white – he knew the Trojans were screwed.  The finely-crafted chain of quarterbacks was suddenly broken, and Carroll had three different but equally distasteful choices – Aaron Corp, who continually served as the also-ran in the yearly QB competition, Mitch Mustain, who blew up the Arkansas football program before landing at SC and realizing what a mistake he’d made, and true freshman Matt Barkley – talented but as young and raw as they come.

Carroll opted for Barkley, and against OSU he showed moments of brilliance.  But he also showed the inexperience of youth, and made matters worse by getting hurt on a sack late in the game.  When he couldn’t throw on Saturday morning, the game belonged to Corp – and the Huskies.

Any other school facing what USC had coming into this season would simply declare it a rebuilding  year and concentrate on next season.  But with all the money behind the Trojans, that’s just not an option.  So they did what they could, and got punched in the teeth.  Get used to it, SC Fan – it’s not the last loss you’ll taste this season.

Flaw #2 – Pete Carroll is some kind of untouchable football genius.  There’s no denying the success of the SC football program, and much of the credit deservedly goes to Carroll.  But the success that led to a pair of national titles earlier in the decade was a team effort – and much of that team is now elsewhere.  Like the NFL’s Patriots, other programs looking to tap into the Trojan mystique have tapped members of the staff to lead their football squads.  Offensive coordinator Norm Chow left for the Tennessee Titans before landing across town with UCLA; his replacement, Lane Kiffin, did the same with the Raiders before signing on this year as head coach at the University of Tennessee.  Defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron – a key USC recruiter – left to lead the Old Miss program and is now on the staff of Kiffin.  And last year’s two lead coordinators – Sarkesian on the offense and Nick Holt on the defense – were both on the Washington sideline during their defeat of the Trojans.

This kind of talent drain inevitably leads to dilution, and puts more pressure than ever on Carroll and his “legendary” skill as someone who can replan at halftime and execute in the second half.  The truth is, as this game and last season’s embarassment by Stanford shows, Carroll is in dire need of fresh talent on the staff.  Much as the squad is in a rebuilding year, so too is the coaching team.

Flaw #3 – The Huskies are not the team that went winless in 2008.  I’m no UW expert, but I know that their star quarterback Jake Locker missed much of last season, and coach Ty Willingham was just going through the motions after realizing this job wouldn’t make people forget Notre Dame.  USC played like they were playing the 2008 Huskies, and it showed.

Flaw #4 – Injuries were too much to overcome.  Matt Barkley might only have two games as a starter, but he’s Brett freaking Favre compared to Corp the Carp.  On the other side, the leader of the defense Taylor Hays was out as well.  You can’t just plug new guys into the two most important spots on the field and just assume everything will be fine.

Final Flaw – Sark wanted it more.  Admittedly, Sarkesian and the Huskies had nothing to lose – hey, just avoiding a blowout would have been seen as a victory.  But Sark and Holt were better positioned than anyone to expose flaws in the Trojan game plan, and did so to perfection.  While Carroll and the SC staff had basically the week between OSU and UW to prepare for the game, Sarkesian has been doing so from the moment he was introduced as the Huskies new coach.  You know damned well he had this game circled on his calendar, just as Charlie Weis and Rick Neuheisel do.  He had the time to plan it right, and his team executed his plan well.  Carroll was dealing with a team flat after a big emotional win.

Used properly, this could actually be a good thing for the Trojans.  Common wisdom is that an early season loss is easier to overcome, and USC could still run the table in the Pac-10 and do a BCS bowl.  But there’s no guarantee whatsoever that they can do that, and there’s still the two rivalry games to contend – and you know that they both sense weakness.  Even if the record doesn’t end up what Trojan Fan is used to seeing, this season can be valuable if it is used to grow Barkley as a leader.  A true sophmore QB isn’t often a contender for the Heisman Trophy, but he could easily be come next fall – if cooler heads prevail.

MLPA Morass

If you’ve been following the long saga that is the SoCal Marine Life Protection Act implementation, then you know that we’re coming down to the last stages, and it doesn’t look good for the recreational fishermen. To recap, the MLPA was passed in 1999, and mandated the development of the creation of a series of closed areas, all in the name of saving the resource. For those who don’t fish, it’s a pretty cut-and-dried issue, and most environmental groups are on the side of the closures. Cities and businesses, such as partyboat operators, who depend on the ocean for their livelihood are on the other side. Stuck somewhere in the middle are the recreational fishermen, who tend to be disorganized and under-represented. There’s been a series of scoping meetings and workshops to draw out the map, but as it stand it looks like much of the coastline and island shores will ultimately be closed to fishing.

Most of the media coverage I’ve seen has been in fishing outlets, so it tends to be pretty much of one opinion. The Easy Reader, a local newspaper that covers the South Bay area in which the Home Office resides, has a good article in their most recent issue that talks about the impact to Redondo Beach of the potential closure of one favorite fishing spot, Rocky Point in Palos Verdes. One quote in the article from Captain Eric Hobday of REDONDO SPECIAL highlights what a lot of the locals feel.

“The truth is gillnetters, long-liners and, not as much, the seiners … they raped the place in the ’70s and ’80s,” Hobday said. “They f***ing raped it. And now you are telling us to leave the area?”

As usual, the politicians are slamming the barn door long after the horses have escaped, and we’re the ones getting crushed in the hinge.  No one had the stones to stand up to the commercial interests when they were, as Captain Hobday so accurately describes it, raping the resource.  But now they’ve finally woken up, and their political instincts tell them that action – any action – is better than nothing, even if it’s totally wrong.

I’m a conservation-minded person, so I’m not automatically against closures, but they need to be intelligently considered.  I’m willing to err on the side of caution, and would rather see something closed for preservation while the science is developed, but this process is far too politically motivated (and interest group funded) to suit me.  It’s time for everyone to take a step back, understand what’s really at stake, and make sure the decisions taken are the right ones.

The final public meeting for the process will be September 10th at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel.  You can learn more about the Southern California MLPA implementation effort at this link.

Thanks For The Help, And You’re Fired

You know, when I see the amount of time we spend covering our own asses, I marvel at the thought that we’re decended from the folks who won the West …

Jared Bergstreser and Colin Trapp were employees at a Best Buy store in Colorado. I emphasize “were,” because they aren’t any more. The heinous act for which they were terminated? They tried to stop a shoplifter.

“A gentleman came by us in a red shirt with a bunch of product in his hand. It was pretty obvious that he hadn’t paid for it yet,” Trapp said.

“I just kind of reacted. I wasn’t thinking about it and followed the guy out the front door and tackled him,” Bergstreser said.

As you might imagine, the corporate types are quoting the policy manual and justifying their decision.  The terminated employees are still disappointed by it all.

“It was just completely demoralizing. You think you have in your head what you know is right or wrong, what your parents instilled in you growing up as a child, and then to be reprimanded for that act is so sour and so sad,” Trapp said.

“I think I did what I believed was right,” Bergstreser added.

Now, to be fair, the situation could easily have gone bad.  The thief pulled a knife, and a store employee got nicked in the process of trying to calm the situation.  And it’s true that Best Buy, like most retail enterprises, has policies in place that dictate that employees do not insert themselves into dangerous sitations for fear of just such an escalation.  Some kind of action would need to be taken towards the employees for a technical violation of policy, but termination?  What exactly is the message they want to send here – or do they even care about the message?  We spend so much time and money protecting the rights of the guilty and those presumed so; just once I’d like to see someone stand up for the people who try to do the right thing – even when technically it’s wrong.

If it were up to the corporate lawyers, our forefathers would still be standing on the Boston quayside, saying “we can’t throw that tea in the bay … we could get in trouble,” and the Union Jack would be flying over the White House.

OK, I’m Officially Freaked Out …

But wait ... there's no more!

But wait ... there's no more!

Damn – is it a tough time to be a celebrity or what?  I know what they say about celebrity deaths coming in threes, but what happens when they start coming in six-packs?

OK, so Ed McMahon wasn’t much of a surprise, since he’d been battling age and illness for a while now.  Farrah Fawcett and Fred Travalena were both fighting losing battles to cancer, so you knew it was just a matter of time.  Even Michael Jackson can’t be considered a complete surprise, considering the way he’d abused chemicals and cosmetic surgery over the years.

But how do you explain Billy Mays?  Like Jackson, Mays was only 50 when he was found dead yesterday morning by his family.  The preliminary reports are blaming his death on heart disease, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first guy to go down that way … but you just thought it’d be mid-pitch for Mighty Putty or something.  Making Billy’s death all the stranger, he’d been a passenger on a plane that blew out tires during a hard landing in Tampa a few hours earlier, and even mentioned to others that he’d been conked on the head by the contents of a overhead bin.  They say that it’s not related to the death …

Now, while we do make part of our living here at the MB on the follies of celebrity, we don’t spend a lot of time mourning their passing.  In this case, though, it hits unconfortably close to home.  Michael and Billy were both 50 … later this week, I celebrate a birthday.  Care to guess which one … yup …

I think I need to hit the bicycle …