ATHLETES PROTESTING BEFORE GAMES DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: My Thoughts

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Los Angeles Chargers players showing solidarity before a recent game. Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com

 

MY TWO CENTS ON NFL PLAYERS AND OTHER ATHLETES TAKING A STAND AGAINST RACIAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES

It’s been another polarizing issue in a series of polarizing issues prevalent in this country as of late.

And it would be ignorant of me to not offer my personal opinion on Colin Kaepernick and other athletes, from the NFL and elsewhere, kneeling in protest of police brutality and other racial issues before games while the national anthem is playing.

So here’s how I feel about it all…

I have family who fought and died for that piece of cloth with seven red stripes, six white stripes, and fifty white stars on a blue field in the upper left hand corner.

My great-grandfather fought in World War I.

My uncle was killed in the Korean War; it’s been over 65 years and his remains are still somewhere in North Korea instead of the Los Angeles National Cemetery where it belongs.

My father, who I never knew (but that’s another story), fought in the Vietnam War.

Which is why I personally choose to stand for the “Star Spangled Banner”, my attitude being “Might as well”.

However…

I’m also an African-American male.

A black man who has encountered racism, such as being racially profiled several times by the Santa Monica, CA police during the 1990s, including getting handcuffed in front of my house because I fit the description of a stalker.

As well as being denied jobs strictly because of my being black, like when I was told that someone else was being chosen to coach a little league girls’ softball team instead of me upon sight because “He asked first”, after I made such a good impression during the phone interview.

And being called the “N-word” mostly during my early childhood years by quite a few white kids in the then-rural suburb of Woodcrest outside of Riverside, CA, and hearing that word a few times in Santa Monica.

Not to mention experiencing various slights and “microaggressions” that, looking back, I recognize that that’s what I went through on various occasions during my adolescent and young adult years.

Of course I can’t forget the many instances of African-Americans being disrespected at best and encountering outright bigotry to the point of murder at the hands of the local authorities at worst;

Incidents like the Rodney King beating and subsequent acquittal of those four white cops despite the brutalization being caught on video – which triggered the L.A. Riots/Rebellion 25 years ago – and the police murdering guys like Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray certainly come to mind.

 

THE “BLACK POWER” SALUTE HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD: Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) during the 200 meters medal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics. Photo courtesy of blackwomenofbrazil.com

 

I know, I know – What does this have to do with NFL players kneeling and protesting before games?

To put it bluntly, I support those athletes.

I know that many folks – who seem to be mostly white and conservative, curiously enough – are foaming at the mouth over the kneeling, the arm-linking and the fist-raising, saying that while they have a right to protest, to do so on the job should be punishable by virtual condemnation to hell.

What those folks don’t understand is that people like my uncle died so that Kaepernick and all those other players in the National Football League,

And I’m sure a lot of guys in the National Basketball Association when that season opens in a few weeks,

And every other sports league for that matter,

Can kneel, raise fists, link arms, or not come out of the locker room at all – like the Sparks did before Game One of the WNBA Finals – during the national anthem.

To not allow that is not only denying only free speech,

But denying human rights.

Of course, all of this is nothing new;

In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City Tommie Smith and John Carlos, after winning the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter finals respectively, raised their fists in the “Black Power” salute on the medal stand during the national anthem, earning them an expulsion from the Games and a one-way ticket home from IOC President and known racist Avery Brundage.

Muhammad Ali had his heavyweight title stripped the year before when he refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army, losing three years of his boxing prime before the Supreme Court overturned his five-year jail sentence.

And we all know the pure hell that Jackie Robinson went through for daring to integrate Major League Baseball in 1947.

All of these instances and incidents past and present have one thing in common:

The protagonists’ color of their skin.

And as a black man, I feel I have no choice but to stand in solidarity to those guys who are taking a stand against injustice and the hypocrisy that America has exuded to those of its citizens who don’t happen to white, wealthy, male, straight, conservative, or Christian.

Or a combination of those six attributes.

Though I wouldn’t kneel during the Star Spangled Banner due to my family’s involvement in defending that stars and stripes flag, if I were on an NFL team and they chose to remain in the locker room before the game, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks did before this past Sunday, I would be right with them.

And if the team decided to link arms, I would do that.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

EVERYONE, including professional athletes, has every right to take a stand for what they believe in and what they don’t think is right.

Those who would bad mouth such actions or would deny those rights are doing one thing:

DENYING HUMAN RIGHTS.

Which in essence is the heart of it all.

It would be very wrong of me to not give these athletes my support in this.

Especially since there are millions of people in these United States – and other places – that still see me as inferior and lesser due to the color of my skin.

 

SANTA CLARA, CA – SEPTEMBER 12: Kenny Britt #18 and Robert Quinn #94 of the Los Angeles Rams raise their fists in protest prior to playing the San Francisco 49ers in their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 659019765 ORIG FILE ID: 603555170 Photo courtesy of ftwusatoday.com

 

 

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IT’S OFFICIAL: Olympics Coming To Los Angeles In 2028

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, center, speaks during a press conference to make an announcement for the city to host the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2028, at StubHub Center in Carson, outside of Los Angeles, Calif., Monday, July 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu) photo courtesy of indianexpress.com

 

A FEW COMMENTS REGARDING THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE’S DEAL TO HAVE L.A. HOST THE OLYMPICS IN 2028 WHILE PARIS GETS THE GAMES IN 2024

Even though this is old news, it wouldn’t be right to not give this a mention on this site…

It seems like the IOC is capable of getting something almost right.

While it’s great that they awarded Los Angeles the Summer Olympics, it’s not as great that the torch will be lit in a renovated Coliseum in 2028 rather than 2024.

At least that will give L.A. and it’s Olympic Committee that much more time to make sure that the logistics – transportation, as there are expected to be more bus lines and additional Metro Rail trains, and venues like the new home of the Rams and the Chargers in Inglewood which will be up and running – are well and good.

While no one can predict the future, especially what will happen in eleven years, I’m quite confident that the Games of the XXXIV Olympiad will be like the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, which was the last time the world’s best athletes came to Southern California to compete for gold medals,

Spectacular.

To be honest, in the tradition of “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it”, I won’t think about it much until it’s upon us.

I mean, I just entered my fifties, and I’ll be 61 when that torch is lit.

Los Angeles’ current mayor, Eric Garcetti, will be long gone by then.

As a matter of perspective, I had just turned 17 the last time the Olympics were in L.A., Mary Lou Retton, Edwin Moses, and Carl Lewis doing their thing.

In the meantime, I’ll go on with my life until the sun ignites the fire on the torch on that mountain in Greece in a little over a decade…

 

A shot of the Coliseum from the last time the Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984. Photo courtesy of news.sky.com

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Regarding The Various SoCal Sports Teams This Past Weekend

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Candace Parker (#3) celebrating with Odyssey Sims and the rest of the Sparks after clinching their second straight WNBA Finals berth yesterday. Photo courtesy of womenshoopworld.com

 

Except for two teams – maybe three if you count the Dodgers taking two of three from the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capitol (though they lost on Sunday) – it wasn’t a good weekend for the sports entities that call the greater Los Angeles area home.

* MUCH kudos goes out to the basketball team that’s frankly the best that L.A. has to offer, the WNBA’s Sparks, not only for clinching a berth in their league’s Finals for the second consecutive year and earning the opportunity to defend the championship that they won in such spectacular fashion last year,

But also for being the only SoCal sports team that won on Sunday as every other team that was in action, the Rams, the Chargers (on a last second missed field goal for the second straight game), the Dodgers and the Angels…

All lost.

Now for the obvious question…

Will the Sparks repeat as WNBA Champions?

My Answer: Though those Sparks certainly have a good shot at having a second consecutive parade in downtown L.A. as they are on a roll, having won ten straight,

The Sparks’ opponent in the Finals, the Minnesota Lynx, a team that lost to them in an epic Game Five last season, will be motivated on a pronounced level to avenge that extreme last second heartbreak.

Which is why I’m not seeing those Sparks repeating.

I hope I’m wrong.

 

L.A. Sparks vs Phoenix Mercury, WNBA Semifinals, Game 3 highlights – Sparks won 89-87 (courtesy of YouTube)

 

* USC’s Trojans get a big well done from me for what at least in their mind was enacting revenge for that crushing loss to Vince Young and his Texas team in the BCS Championship in 2006 and beating the Longhorns in two overtimes on Saturday.

That game unfolded almost exactly as I said it would in the predictions article that I did on this site three weeks ago (here’s the link to prove it): http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/usc-trojans-football-2017-game-predictions/, Texas giving ‘SC a real tough battle before the Trojans pulled it out in front of a very loud and dedicated Trojan Family at the Coliseum.

But as I said on this site’s Twitter page, while the Trojans should have no problem beating their next opponent, a California team that even though they’re playing better than I expected remains no match for Sam Darnold, Ronald Jones II and company,

It’s the opponent after Cal that they need to worry about, as they head for the Palouse to face a good (and ranked) Washington State team with an experienced senior quarterback,

On the road,

On a Friday night,

With several defensive players banged up as ‘SC has no bye weeks,

In what’s the perfect definition and illustration of these two words:

TRAP GAME.

 

 

Highlights of USC’s 27-24 double overtime win over Texas on September 16th (courtesy of YouTube)

 

 

* As for my alma mater’s football team…

There’s a post on the website BruinsNation.com  that was spot-on regarding not only UCLA’s 48-45 loss to Memphis on Saturday,

Which not only unfolded the way I had predicted, as a toss-up,

But also discussed the general direction that the Bruin program has been heading under coach Jim Mora for the past two years-plus, commenting on how UCLA missed their chance at taking over the L.A. sports scene in light of the USC sanctions, no pro football teams, and the mediocrity of the two baseball clubs.

And how while Mora is “…a great human being and a fantastic ambassador for UCLA,” he’s also “…probably reaching the end of the line.”

I, for one, don’t want to fire Mora in the middle of the season.

While their chances of beating their next opponents, a Stanford team with a dominant running game, are quite slim considering their deficiencies in stopping the run, I won’t know if Mora should be let go at the end of the year until around midnight on September 30th.

That’s when the Bruins home opener against Colorado will be over.

And with their record most likely being 2-2 going into that game, that match-up against the Buffaloes is the epitome of a crossroads game.

As far as I’m concerned, a win will mean that hope remains in Westwood for a good season.

And if UCLA loses,

I’ll consider the season over and will set my eyes on Bruin basketball and particularly gymnastics.

* Regarding our two NFL teams…

It was a bad day for both the Rams and the Chargers as they lost in the last minute; the last second in the Chargers’ case as Younghoe Koo missed a game winning field goal attempt for the second straight game.

All I have to say is that if the Rams and Chargers have their hearts set on their squads being of playoff caliber, they need to wake up now.

These are two mediocre pro teams that Los Angeles has, and while the Rams have a chance in a weak NFC West, I don’t see the Chargers finishing anywhere but last in a strong AFC West.

But that all remains to be seen.

That’s about it for my random ramblings regarding our teams;

As always, let’s see how things unfold…

 

Freshman walk-on kicker Chase McGrath (#40) holding up holder Wyatt Schmid (#46) after making the game winning field goal in USC’s 27-24 double overtime win over Texas on Saturday. Photo courtesy of newsday.com

 

GUTTY LITTLE ANGELS: Will They Make The Postseason?

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Baseball’s Superman, also known as Mike Trout, high-fiving some Angels teammates during a recent game. Photo courtesy of hattiesburgamerican.com

 

DO I THINK THE ANGELS WILL WIN A WILD CARD SPOT?

 

I have to give these Angels much credit.

Despite their season-long lack of the most important ingredient to a successful baseball team – pitching – Mike Scioscia’s red-clad team is right in the thick of it in the American League playoff race, sitting two games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second Wild Card spot with 17 games to go as of this writing.

They picked up two proven veterans, second baseman Brandon Phillips from the Atlanta Braves and outfielder Justin Upton from the Detroit Tigers, to help them in their bid to play in October.

And they have certainly shown much guts in their play, essentially becoming the Rocky Balboa of baseball.

There’s one factor that’s preventing me from seeing them as a playoff team, however…

The fact that while they upgraded their lineup in adding Phillips and Upton, they failed to upgrade in the area that they sorely needed to upgrade the most;

PITCHING.

 

Highlights from the Angels’ most recent game, a 9-1 blowout of the Astros at Angel Stadium. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

Yes, I know his salary was too much for owner Arte Moreno to take on, but when I saw the just traded to the Houston Astros from the Tigers Justin Verlander hurl a two-hit shutout at the Angels the other night, my thought was,

“That’s who the Angels should have picked up!”

In short, it was pitching the Angels needed, more than hitting.

Sure, young guys like Parker Birdwell have shown good potential of late, but that’s not what the Angels can depend on in the long run.

 

A look that the Angels seriously need to consider going back to, particularly the caps as what they have now doesn’t work for me. BY THE WAY: the all-time strikeout king Nolan Ryan is pictured on the left…

 

That’s why even though I completely respect those Halos from Anaheim for what they’ve accomplished to this point, my response to whether they will earn that second wild card spot and face the New York Yankees in that one-game playoff is…

NO.

That’s not to take away their A-plus effort, as I see them finishing above .500, winning between 82-85 games.

Which considering the Angels’ flaws and MANY injuries on the mound – their only pitcher with a double-digit win total, J.C. Ramirez, has just announced that he has a torn ligament in his elbow – is a tremendous accomplishment.

Of course, I hope I’m wrong.

I hope the Angels get that wild card ticket punched, as these next 17 games will determine that – and their season.

But as long as their pitching is was it has been all season, though they’ve given it a heck of an effort, I’m just not feeling it.

I do admire their guts, though.

There’s one other thing those Angels need to do…

Get rid of those ugly uniforms and caps and go back to their 80s look!

Or their original look from the 60s!

Anything but what they look like now (or that winged periwinkle ensemble from around 2000; that didn’t look good, either)!

 

ANAHEIM, CA – JUNE 03: (L-R) Maicer Izturis #13, Erick Aybar #2, Peter Bourjos #25 and Torii Hunter #48 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim celebrate their teams 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 3, 2011 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Now THIS is a good look for those Angels, their original uniforms from the early 1960s; why can’t they go back to this?! Photo courtesy of baseballessential.com

 

 

 

DODGERS IN BIG TROUBLE: Are They In The Biggest Collapse In Sports History?

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Dodger manager Dave Roberts (#30) going over things in the midst of his team’s longest skid in thirty years. Photo courtesy of sportscanyon.com

 

LOS ANGELES DODGERS – STRUGGLES BY THE NUMBERS:

* A ten-game losing streak, tied for the longest in L.A. Dodger history with the 1961 and 1987 Dodgers

* Losers of 15 of their last 16 games

* Lead in the National League West has dwindled from 21 to nine games

* Dodgers’ Offense During Losing Streak:

.197 average, 24 runs scored

* Dodgers’ Pitching During Losing Streak:

6.42 Earned Run Average

 

“…right now we’re the worst team in baseball. What we did three months ago doesn’t mean a whole lot right now. No one in this league is going to feel sorry for us…We’re bleeding a little bit right now. I think teams are smelling the blood.”

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner

 

What that red-bearded guy said in an article from today’s Los Angeles Times sums up how things are going for the Dodgers rather well.

In over forty years of following the team, I’ve never seen anything as bad as this.

It’s like a sense of hopelessness is permeating the atmosphere surrounding Chavez Ravine, that the results will be bad no matter how hard the effort.

Unless things change NOW – and there’s no indication of any end to these doldrums in sight,

We’re looking at, quite possibly, the biggest collapse in the history of sports.

Not that there isn’t any precedent with this team, as there are two instances where these Dodgers blew a lead late in the campaign and stayed home for the postseason…

* In 1962, the year that Dodger Stadium opened, the team held a four game lead in the National League (there were no divisions then) with seven games to play.They lost their final game while the second-place San Francisco Giants won, setting up a three-game playoff.

Which the Dodgers lost as despite winning 102 games in the regular season, they gave up the winning runs in the ninth inning in Game Three at Dodger Stadium, leaving the rival Giants to face the New York Yankees in the World Series.

* The other instance, while the Dodgers were based in Brooklyn, is the much more famous one.

In mid-August of 1951, a date in the World Series seemed safely embedded at Ebbets Field as the “Boys of Summer”, led by the great Jackie Robinson, held a 13-and-a-half game lead over the New York Giants.

Then while the Dodgers played .500 ball over the next few weeks, the Giants proceeded to go 37-7; it took a spectacular game-saving catch and winning home run by Robinson on the final day against the Philadelphia Phillies to set up a three-game playoff.

The Giants won the first game, the Dodgers blew the Giants out in the second,

And every baseball fan knows what happened in the ninth inning of the third game at the Polo Grounds;

Dodgers led 4-1,

A tired Don Newcombe gave up three hits and a run,

He was replaced by Ralph Branca,

Bobby Thomson stepped up to the plate,

And the next thing you know, Russ Hodges was screaming,

“The Giants win the pennant!!! The Giants win the pennant!!! The Giants win the pennant!!!”, with Jackie Robinson checking to make sure that Thompson was touching every base on that Shot Heard ‘Round The World.

 

Not even the best pitcher in baseball’s been immune to the Dodgers’ bad fortune as Clayton Kershaw lost his most recent game. Photo courtesy of abc7.com

 

 

All right, that’s a good piece of history, but what about this year’s team?

I know folks are asking that right about now…

To be honest, there’s not much I can say about those Dodgers as they’re in a free fall.

Outside of winning, there’s doesn’t seem to be anything they can do as the teams that have done the damage to them, the Milwaukee Brewers and particularly the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, have adjusted to the Dodger pitchers and hitters.

Make no mistake, the word is out on how to pitch to guys like Turner, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger and how to hit against guys like Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Yu Darvish, and especially the Dodgers’ middle relievers (I won’t include Clayton Kershaw on that list just yet).

As such, they’re embarking on a road trip that will seem them play the very strong Washington Nationals – who have just clinched the National League East – in between the two teams with the worst records in baseball, the Phillies and the Giants, who the Dodgers will face in a three-game set starting tonight.

If that blue-clad club doesn’t get well in San Francisco and Philadelphia, where those teams are well on their way to 100 losses,

Then as far as I’m concerned, their fate is sealed.

The biggest collapse in sports history will be complete.

And their credibility not only in the baseball world, but in the sports world in general, will be shredded for a LONG time if not forever.

As a longtime Dodger fan, I pray that doesn’t happen.

And I’m sure every other Dodger lover is praying the same thing.

 

The cause of the Dodgers’ woes? A victim of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx? Photo courtesy of conservativeangle.com

 

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS: 2017 Season Preview

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Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who despite less than spectacular results so far the team is continuing to count on to be their future. Photo courtesy of nbclosangeles.com

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

First Season: 1936 in Cleveland. Moved to Los Angeles in 1946, becoming the first major pro sports team in Southern California. Spent 49 years in L.A. and Anaheim before moving to St. Louis in 1995. Returned to Los Angeles in 2016.

2016 Season: 4-12, 3rd in the NFC West

* Lost last seven games and 11 of their last 12 after a 3-1 start

* Offense ranked 32nd – and last – in the NFL

Coach: Sean McVay (1st year)

Home: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, capacity 93,607

First Game/First Home Game: Sunday, September 10th, vs Indianapolis Colts

 

Key Players:

Jared Goff, QB – 54.6% completions, 1,089 yards, 5 TD, 7 INT

Todd Gurley II, RB – 885 yards, 3.2 ypc, 6 TD

Tavon Austin, WR – 58 receptions, 509 yards, 3 TD

Aaron Donald, DT (holdout) – 36 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

Alec Ogletree, LB – 98 tackles, 2 INT

Mark Barron, S – 90 tackles, 2 INT

Johnny Hekker, P – 98 punts, 47.8 ypp, 78 long

 

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp recovering a fumble in the end zone against the Dallas Cowboys during a recent preseason game at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of turfshowtimes.com

 

 

COMMENTS:

Like more or less all of SoCal, I was happy at the news that the Rams were returning to L.A. after 21 years.

Given their futility of the last decade-plus, being without a winning record since 2003 or a playoff berth since 2004,  I was also realistic about any chances of instant success, telling fans that they should be ecstatic if they finished 8-8.

I didn’t think that things would go as bad as they did, however, as by the time the season mercifully ended with the San Francisco 49ers completing their sweep of the Rams, their offense had reached a point where they couldn’t score off Santa Ana Mater Dei High School’s defense.

It certainly took away much of the hype of pro football coming back to the Southland.

Although Jared Goff’s season wasn’t very good, I didn’t like all the attacks on him, sympathizing with last year’s first overall pick for this simple reason:

He was a rookie, and he played like one.

People should remember that John Elway, on a very short list of all-time great quarterbacks, wasn’t so hot as an NFL rookie either, throwing twice as many interceptions (14) as touchdowns (7) in 1983.

And he ended up having an okay career for the Denver Broncos.

Do I think that Goff’s career will turn out to be anything like Elway’s?

I have no idea.

But I do think that he should be given both a break and time to develop, as it won’t surprise me to see him go through more growing pains in his second year in the league.

 

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 09: Rampage, the Los Angeles Rams mascot, takes the field before the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 9, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Photo courtesy of losangeles.cbslocal.com

 

As for the other big issue regarding the Rams as they begin their second season back in L.A:

Much has been said about All-Pro sack master and all-around defensive stud Aaron Donald holding out and missing all of training camp, not putting on the Rams uniform once with their opener three years away.

Here’s what I think…

As good as Donald is and has been for the Rams, the reality is that their record during his three years as a Ram is 17-31.

More importantly, they only won four games with him last season.

In other words, the Rams have achieved nothing with Donald on their defensive line as far as what matters most: their win-loss record.

So if he would rather not play over wanting more money and the right to opt out, fine.

In fact, I wouldn’t mind if the Rams traded him for future draft picks, as I believe if Donald really wanted to be a Ram, he’d be at practice getting ready for the opener at the Coliseum this Sunday now.

Let him go and good riddance.

All right, the big question: How do I see the Rams faring in 2017?

I’ll be honest:

I don’t expect much from them at all.

Like last season, the Rams and their fans should be extremely happy and celebrate if they finish 8-8, for that would be a sign of real progress.

In fact, I’ll see progress if they win six or seven games.

With their new, thirty-something year old coach – who’s the youngest in the NFL – they’re in a total rebuilding mode, and have been for a while.

Which means that fans will have to continue to exude something that I advised that they do last year…

PATIENCE.

 

The player that many Rams fans are turning their lonely eyes to: Aaron Donald, who sat out the preseason due to a holdout and is set to possibly miss a significant chunk of the regular season. Photo courtesy of nfl.com

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: 2017 Season Preview

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SAN DIEGO, CA – JANUARY 01: Kenny Wiggins #79 of the then-San Diego Chargers leads his team onto the field against Kansas City Chiefs during a NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 1, 2017 in San Diego, California. It would be their last game in San Diego. Photo courtesy of Time.com (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

First Season: 1960 in Los Angeles. Moved to San Diego in 1961, where they would play for 56 seasons.

2016 Record: 5-11, 4th in the AFC West

* Lost last five games, including a 20-17 decision to the winless Cleveland Browns!

* Lost seven out of their last nine games

Coach: Anthony Lynn (1st year)

Home: StubHub Center, Carson, CA, capacity 27,000

First Game: Monday, September 11th, at Denver Broncos

First Home Game: Sunday, September 17th, vs Miami Dolphins

 

Key Players:

Phillip Rivers, QB – 60.4% completions, 4,386 yards, 33 TD, 21 INT

Melvin Gordon, RB – 997 yards, 3.9 ypc, 10 TD

Tyrell Williams, WR – 69 catches, 1,059 yards, 7 TD

Antonio Gates, TE – 53 catches, 548 yards, 7 TD

Jatavis Brown, LB – 79 tackles, 3.5 sacks

Denzel Perryman, LB – 72 tackles, 8 sacks

Melvin Ingram, DE – 60 tackles, 8 sacks

Casey Hayward, CB – 57 tackles, 7 INT (including one for a TD)

 

Philip Rivers, the Chargers’ all-galaxy quarterback since 2006. Photo courtesy of upi.com

 

Comments:

A few months ago I was chatting with a young lady who was from the San Diego area.

The conversation got to how she and her fellow San Diegans could have kept their Chargers, as there was a ballot measure that would have approved a tax to raise money for a new stadium.

She told me, in essence, that they were sick and tired of owner Alex Spanos, who felt that the Chargers’ longtime home, Qualcomm Stadium, was no longer acceptable and he needed a new stadium, which he wanted the fans to pay for.

And which the San Diego folks would not go for as they defeated the ballot measure by a huge margin.

As an illustration of how sick they were of Spanos, the young lady I was talking to put the San Diegans’ sentiments perfectly:

“L.A. can have (the Chargers)!”

Well, here they are, playing in a soccer stadium with less than half the capacity of the average NFL facility – and roughly a third of the capacity of the Coliseum, home to the now-crosstown Rams.

Not that they are going share StubHub Center with the MLS’s Galaxy forever, as they will be moving to the new state-of-the-art palace in Inglewood with the Rams in 2020.

But for now…

As far as their chances this season, not that much is expected of L.A’s new sports team.

Particularly considering their last place finish in the AFC West last year and their 1-3 record in this year’s preseason, beating only the Rams.

At least those Chargers will have two bona fide, future Hall of Fame stars in  quarterback Phillip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates, who have spent eleven years accounting for over 100 touchdowns.

Gates is the Chargers’ all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns, while Rivers is the franchise’s all-time leader in pretty much everything a quarterback can do.

Their defense has some studs as well, guys like Joey Bosa on the defensive line and Jatavis Brown and Melvin Ingram at linebacker.

And with new coach Anthony Lynn at the helm, the Chargers have shown they want to get a fresh start; new town, new coach.

If they stay healthy and things work out perfectly, I can see them going 8-8,  maybe even 9-7.

But they could also go 5-11 again, or worse.

A couple of things are for certain:

1.  I’ll bet anything that StubHub Center will be bathed in silver and black instead of navy blue and gold when the Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas in 2020) Raiders are the Charger’s opponents there on New Year’s Eve.

Not only are those Raiders completely legitimate, they arguably have more fans in the SoCal area than the Chargers and Rams combined.

2.  It will certainly be interesting – for both the Chargers and the fans – to play and watch games in a place as intimate as StubHub Center.

As such, I welcome the Chargers.

It’s nice for Los Angeles to have two National Football League teams after not having any for 21 years.

COMING ON THURSDAY: Our preview of the Chargers’ crosstown neighbor, the Rams, as they begin their second year of their return to L.A.

 

Chargers taking the field at Carson’s StubHub Center, their home for the next three years until the new spectacular facility in Inglewood is finished. Photo courtesy of sandiegouniontribune.com

 

 

 

 

UCLA BRUINS FOOTBALL: 2017 Game Predictions

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UCLA coach Jim Mora pumping up his Bruins before taking the field against Texas in 2014. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com

 

HOW I SEE THE BRUINS FARING IN EACH GAME DURING THE 2017 SEASON

Much like their rivals from south of downtown Los Angeles, this predictions piece featuring my alma mater will be done in a different fashion.

Unlike those crosstown rivals, however, not that much is expected of UCLA, stemming from their atrocious four-win campaign of a year ago.

Preseason publications like Athlon and Lindy’s has the Bruins finishing anywhere between second and fourth on the Pac-12 South; I picked them to finish third – see the UCLA football team preview on this site that was done last week (here’s the link): http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/ucla-bruins-football-2017-season-preview/

Though most members of Bruin Nation, including myself, believe that this new Under Armour-clad team will be better than last season’s version, the UCLA community, as a whole, though visions of (at minimum) ten wins, a victory over USC, a Pac-12 championship, a top-four ranking and a berth in the College Football Playoff are always dancing in their heads,

Bruin fans can’t honestly say how things are going to go with 100% certainty.

They could win nine games, as one pundit predicted, but they could also lose nine games with Jim Mora – who I feel will be coaching for his job – updating his resume and accepting a large buyout after the California game on November 24th.

As such, after I took a look at this year’s schedule, which I think is quite tough, here’s how I see things…

 

DEFINITE, FOR SURE WINS – No matter how bad those Bruins may get, it’s 99.99% guaranteed that they’ll beat these squads with relative ease:

Hawaii, Arizona, Arizona State, California

DEFINITE, FOR SURE LOSSES – No way, no day, no how is UCLA going to beat these teams:

Washington, Stanford

PROBABLE LOSS – The Bruins will be competitive and have a chance, but it’s on the road and this opponent will be a bit too tough at the end:

Utah

OK, WHAT ABOUT THE USC GAME?

Like I stated in the Trojans’ predictions article, it’s my personal tradition to wait until two days before the Crosstown Rivalry game to make any speculations or predictions as to whether UCLA can regain the Victory Bell and paint it true blue.

That especially includes predicting the score; check back on November 16th during our Crosstown Rivalry coverage.

 

 

FILE – This Sept. 10, 2016, file photo, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen passes during the first half of a college football game against UNLV, in Pasadena, Calif. Both BYU and UCLA entered the season with high expectations from returning quarterbacks with glitzy resumes. Now both programs hope their star signal-callers find their groove in Week 3 when the Cougars host the Bruins on Saturday night. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File) Photo courtesy of ocregister.com

 

 

As an illustration of the uncertainty that I and many folks in Bruin Nation have regarding this team, there are four games that, though winnable, I honestly consider toss-ups.

In other words, although these games are winnable, I honestly don’t know how they will unfold.

These are the games that I see as making or breaking the Bruins in 2017…

TEXAS A&M, at the Rose Bowl, September 3rd

One thing’s for certain: UCLA will have a lot to prove in this first game in what will be 90-plus degree heat against a good Aggie team from College Station.

My prayers go toward the folks in Houston and the rest of southeast Texas for all the suffering due to Tropical Storm Harvey, by the way; I’m sure there are plenty of A&M students, alumni, and fans from that area, and I hope that their loved ones are all right.

As I’ve been telling people, being that kickoff is at 4:30 p.m., by 8:00 that evening, as far as whether or not those Bruins will have a good season;

I will know.

MEMPHIS, in Memphis, TN, September 16th.

Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a winnable game.

But it’s also UCLA’s first road test against a team that although it’s a mid-major program, they’re not exactly Little Sisters of the Poor as the Tigers are a solid team with a fan base chomping at the bit to get those big, bad Bruins from L.A, the biggest name on their non-conference schedule.

The memory of that 42-35 squeaker in 2014, when Memphis would have tied the score if not for the clock running out on them – I still remember the frustration on their sideline as the clock hit three zeroes – doesn’t help my convictions.

I honestly won’t know how quarterback Josh Rosen and company will respond until they kick things off there.

COLORADO, at the Rose Bowl, September 30th

These Buffaloes from Boulder deserve much credit, going from everybody’s whipping boys to Pac-12 South champs in the six years they’ve been part of the conference.

Yes, I know they have to replace four-year starting quarterback Sefo Liufau and the bulk of their starters on defense; eight to be exact.

But I see them as jelling by the time they come to Pasadena, with a probable 3-1 record going in.

As for UCLA, it will all depend on how they look in their first four games.

I’ll probably have a more definite feel as to if the Bruins can/will win this game after that, as I will in this one:

OREGON, at the Rose Bowl, October 21st

After all the glory that those Ducks enjoyed in recent years, including an appearance in the 2014 National Championship game,

This is the epitome of a rebuilding team that Oregon has; going from nine wins in 2015 to four wins and a loss to Oregon State (of all people!) in 2016 – which got their coach fired – clinches that claim.

Being that this contest is at home, and the Bruins are very motivated to end a skid that hasn’t seen UCLA beat the Ducks in ten years, this is certainly a game that UCLA can win.

However…

I’m not 100% ready to put Oregon in the for-sure “W” column yet, and here’s why…

This is still a quick-strike team that can score points in a hurry, to the tune of 35 points a game, and star running back Royce Freeman is still a Duck.

I’ll have to see how the six games before this one unfold before making any predictions.

 

Members of The Den – UCLA’s student group dedicated to Bruin athletics – cheering at the Rose Bowl…

 

All right Bruin Nation, that’s how I see UCLA on the gridiron this season, which commences in roughly 72 hours.

I will be at the Texas A&M game, and one group I’ll be watching like a hawk as far as figuring out how good 2017 will be in Westwood will be…

THE OFFENSIVE LINE.

As those five big guys in front of Rosen go (as well as the catching ability of the wide receivers, can’t forget them!), so will go the Bruin offense.

And so will go the Bruins in general.

As a UCLA alum (class of ’91) and someone who’s been a fan of all things Bruin for roughly four decades, of course I hope the Bruins completely redeem themselves from a horrible 2016.

The best-case scenario? An 8-2 record going into the ‘SC game.

As someone who’s impartial, objective, and realistic in his coverage of UCLA, however, I know that those Bruins could have far less than eight wins by the time they face the Trojans in the Coliseum on November 18th.

BOTTOM LINE: I don’t have a definite say on how UCLA will fare – at least not yet.

This is definitely one season where I will need to see how things unfold, starting this Sunday.

 

I’m so looking forward to seeing the debut of these new Under Armour uniforms at the Rose Bowl this coming Sunday – I’ll definitely be getting the white/away version of this jersey! Photo courtesy of bruinsnation.com

 

 

USC TROJANS FOOTBALL: 2017 Game Predictions

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USC coach Clay Helton leading his Trojans out of the Coliseum tunnel just before a game. Photo courtesy of conquestchoronicles.com.

 

HOW I SEE THE TROJANS FARING IN EACH GAME DURING THE 2017 SEASON

This year, I thought I would state my predictions for this 4th-ranked USC team in a slightly different way…

Everyone on the sports channels and in the sports pages has been singing the praises of this Trojan team, practically crowning them Pac-12 Champions and giving them a spot in the College Football Playoff before their first kickoff against Western Michigan at the Coliseum five days from now (as of this writing).

I can’t say that I blame them, as ‘SC is loaded and has major momentum after winning their last nine games, including a win that the Trojan Family will forever be ecstatic about in the Rose Bowl.

With a quarterback who’s not only on a roll, but someone who pretty much everyone has in New York in early December accepting the Heisman Trophy.

When I looked at USC’s schedule, I honestly had to agree with the pundits in saying that the stars are aligned for them to win the vast majority of their games if not all of them.

I’m picking Clay Helton’s cardinal-and-gold bunch to not have much of a problem with most of the opponents they will be facing…

 

Easy Wins – wins where I’m sure the scrubs will be playing by the 4th quarter:

Western Michigan, California, Oregon State, Arizona State, Arizona

Probable Wins – Opponents that will give USC a battle but because of the Trojans’ advantages will come up short:

Texas, Utah, Notre Dame

I know, I know – What about the UCLA game?

It’s a personal tradition of mine on this site that I never make any predictions of how the Crosstown Rivalry Clash will unfold, particularly who will win and the score, until two days before the game.

To find out how I see that battle unfolding and whether or not I see ‘SC retaining the rights to the Victory Bell, you’ll have to check out this site on November 16th.

 

Sam Darnold, the #1 key to USC’s plans of college football domination in 2017…

 

Having said all of that, as I have stated in the preview of this Trojan team there are three schools that I think are capable of beating them.

Three opponents that could beat ‘SC and ruin their plans of “Conquest” and national championship glory.

Here they are:

STANFORD, at the Coliseum, September 9th

In my opinion, this will be the toughest game on USC’s schedule.

The team that is most capable of beating the Trojans.

This fellow California private university from Palo Alto has had ‘SC’s number, beating their SoCal rivals in six out of the past eight contests between them, including in the Pac-12 title game in 2015.

And by what I saw this past Saturday in Sydney, Australia, what with the Cardinal crucifying Rice so bad (62-7, including a 38-0 halftime lead!) that I’m sure that folks are wondering if that Ivy League-level school from Houston – prayers go out to all those folks due to that hurricane and huge rain deluge – should drop football,

Which had that school with the tree mascot and very non-conforming and just plain cool scatter band featuring a running back, Bryce Love, filling the shoes of departed all-everything stud Christian McCaffrey rather neatly,

It would surprise me not in the remote least if “All Right Now” is blasting in the Coliseum instead of “Conquest” and “Tusk” after that game.

 

WASHINGTON STATE, in Pullman, WA, September 29th

This has the words “TRAP GAME” screaming all over it.

Why?

  1. These Cougars from the Palouse are a good, solid team with a high-flying offense that can move the ball and score quickly, led by head coach/offensive guru Mike Leach and senior quarterback Luke Falk.
  2. They beat top-tier teams like Oregon and Stanford on the road last year, and…
  3. With the game being in Pullman, a place where opponents have ALWAYS had trouble and where the weather has often played a factor, combined with a team and fan base that will be waiting for USC with rabid intensity…

I can definitely see Wazzu pulling off the upset and the students storming the Martin Stadium turf when the clock hits three zeroes in the 4th quarter.

 

COLORADO, in Boulder, CO, November 11th

Just like with Washington State, this is screaming “TRAP GAME”.

Despite the fact that the Buffaloes have to replace their four-year starting quarterback, Sefo Liufau, and eight of their 11 starters on defense.

With ‘SC not having any bye weeks this year, they could be a beaten up bunch of Trojans by the time this contest comes up.

The weather may well not be all sunny and warm like they’re used to in L.A., Boulder being in the Rocky Mountains and this game being in mid-November,

And if I know the USC community in general, not just the team, they may not be able to help but look past these defending Pac-12 South champion Buffs a little bit.

And they may have a bit of trouble keeping their minds off of crushing their next opponent: UCLA.

Plus those CU students and fans, with Ralphie, their buffalo mascot, leading the way, will be more than ready to go for the upset.

In other words, the Trojans may be ripe for one by that time.

 

There you have it Trojan Family, how I see the games being played out.

I don’t see the Trojans going 12-0, because even in the glory years of a decade ago (with the exception of 2004-05 of course), there was always one or two teams in the conference that had no business beating them doing exactly that; remember the Bruins and 13-9 in 2006?

I don’t think this year will be any different, though in the end I think ‘SC will definitely be the Pac-12 South champs with a strong possibility of being Pac-12 champs with a berth in the four-team playoff.

I suppose there’s nothing left to do but have the Trojan marching band’s drum major stab the middle of the field at around 1:45 pm this coming Saturday.

 

USC students passionately rooting for their Trojans. Photo courtesy of upi.com

UCLA BRUINS FOOTBALL: 2017 Season Preview

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UCLA’s band of Bruins charging out of the Rose Bowl tunnel for a showdown with Oregon in 2014. photo courtesy of DailyBruin.com

 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA) BRUINS FOOTBALL

99th SEASON

2016 Record: 4-8, 2-7 and fifth place in the Pac-12 South

* Lost six out of their last seven games in 2016

* Lost to Stanford for the ninth straight time

* Lost to USC for the second straight time, sporting a 4-13 record against the Trojans in the 21st century

* The rushing attack ranked 127th out of 128 teams in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision with a total of 1,011 yards; Ronald Jones II of USC had more yards – 1,082 – by himself!

 

Current Ranking: Not in top 25 – received nine votes in the initial AP poll

Coach: Jim Mora, 6th season

Home: Rose Bowl (since 1982), capacity 91,136

 

The Bruin who will be looking to have a season for the ages at quarterback and, like so many of his teammates, redeem himself for last year: Josh Rosen.

 

Key Players:

Josh Rosen, Jr. QB – 59.3& completions, 1,915 yards, 10 TD, 5 INT

Soso Jamabo, Jr. RB – 321 yards (led team!), 3.9 YPC, 3 TD

Nate Starks, Sr. RB – 292 yards, 3.4 YPC, 1 TD

Bolu Olorunfunmi, Jr. RB – 280 yards, 3.9 YPC, 4 TD

Darren Andrews, Sr. WR – 55 receptions, 709 yards, 4 TD

Jordan Lasley, Jr. WR – 41 receptions, 620 yards, 5 TD

Kenny Young, Sr. LB – 90 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 5 sacks

Jaleel Wadood, Sr. S – 76 tackles, 2 TFL

J.J. Molson, So. K – 12-20 FG, 27-27 extra points, Long: 49 yards

 

 

A Bruins’ highlight video made to get fans pumped up for this season. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

OFFICIAL COMMENTS:

Earlier this summer I went to an open practice and scrimmage that my alma mater’s football team, UCLA’s Bruins, was holding on campus.

One of the first things I did upon arriving at Wasserman Football Center, their sparking new facility, as the players were going through their drills was to look on my left, where the offensive linemen were working out.

My overwhelming thought upon looking at those big guys was…

“There’s the reason why the Bruins were 4-8.”

It was their ineptitude in both pass and run blocking that led to Josh Rosen missing the second half of the season with an injured shoulder and the Bruin running game ranking next to last among all of the teams in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision.

While the rest of the team performed okay during the scrimmage  – Rosen showed that he was healthy and ready to go – one things is for certain:

If UCLA is to redeem themselves for that pathetic 2016, their offensive line needs to perform at least a thousand times better.

As do the receivers (don’t think I forgot about them!), who I’ll bet led the Pac-12 if not the nation in dropped passes; which was another factor in last season being so forgettable.

It’s not that the talent is lacking in Westwood; I’ll put guys like Olorunfunmi and Jamabo at running back and Andrews and Lasley at wide receiver up against anyone in the conference.

It’s their execution that’s a key to a better 2017 on that side of the ball.

As for Rosen, I’m not that worried about him.

Everyone in Bruin Nation knows that he needs to have the season of his life, not just for this season but also for his future as he’s not only playing for well-being of the UCLA program,

Rosen’s playing for the well-being of his future earnings as the way he’s talked about the NCAA and how “…football and school just don’t go together,” as sure as I’m writing this he will declare himself available for the NFL draft as soon as he takes his last snap either against California on November 24th, or in whatever bowl game UCLA plays in.

If he has a season like his first two this year, the projected first round pick will have his name called in the fourth or fifth round.

For those who don’t believe me, talk to Matt Barkley.

That is why I think Rosen will have a very good year behind center; his NFL prospects depends on it.

 

UCLA’s Dance Team, an integral part of the Bruins’ outstanding Spirit Squad! Photo courtesy of beatsc.com

 

Going to the other side of the ball:

Even though most of the starters on defense are gone, including Takkarist McKinley, who I hear is kicking butt on the Atlanta Falcons,

People are still looking at that unit favorably not only because of guys like Jaleel Wadood in the secondary and Kenny Young at linebacker, but also due to the new blood that’s going to see action, namely five-star defensive end Jaelan Phillips.

Coach Mora is giving Phillips every chance to show what he can do, and from what I’ve heard about this kid, I think he’s going to make some nice contributions.

And speaking of Jim Mora:

Many pundits have him on the hot seat due to his 12-13 record the past two years.

I’m not one of them – at least not yet as I see his seat as warm.

To keep me from heating up that seat, UCLA needs to make a convincing showing in the first game on September 3rd; by 8:00 that night, as far as I’m concerned his seat will either be hot or cooler.

As for how many wins Mora needs to keep his job, most people say eight.

I say seven, plus a bowl, will keep his job safe.

Six wins will put him on the bubble.

Anything less than that and he’s gone.

 

Though these two now-former Bruins – Takkarist McKinley (left) and Jayon Brown (right) will be missed on defense, that unit will have quality guys this year and will figure to be a strength…

 

Let me go ahead and state my official prediction for my alma mater’s football program, a team I’ve been a fan of for over three decades:

 

Seven wins, third place in the Pac-12 South, and a berth in the Sun Bowl at best, or the Las Vegas Bowl or Foster Farms Bowl in San Francisco.

These Bruins will be better than they were in 2016, but their schedule, with them playing Stanford and top ten teams Washington (#8) and USC (#4) on the road, is too tough for me to see a higher win total.

 

Of course as a member of Bruin Nation I would LOVE to see UCLA win at least ten games and contend for the College Football Playoff.

But as someone who’s impartial, objective, realistic, and not a “homer” about the teams I follow, I have to call it as I see it.

With ten days left until they kick things off against Texas A&M, I certainly hope that those Bruins, if they read this, use it as a motivation to prove me wrong and fully redeem themselves from a bad 2016.

As such, I see four sure wins, two sure losses, one probable loss and four toss-ups on UCLA’s schedule.

To find out who those wins, losses and toss-ups will be against, come to this site on Thursday, August 31st.

 

Check out the new Under Amour uniforms that the Bruins will be sporting – I particularly like the white jerseys! Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com