Sunday, August 31, 2008

Olympic Hangover, Part Two

Second of a two-part series.

Throughout all of the preparations for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the organizers kept secret the identity of the final torchbearer who would light the flame in the Coliseum cauldron. Word leaked about some of the athletes who would carry the torch on its final legs, but nobody was certain.

 

As the anticipation and excitement escalated, I did the thing you’d naturally do on the opening day of the event I’d been thinking about for years – I went to a Saturday afternoon Dodger game.  Lenny Seligman, Mike Greer, Grant and I soaked in the sun as a fan near us claimed she knew the identity of the ultimate torchbearer, but that she was sworn to secrecy. After the game we rushed back to Claremont, with my cassette tape of the Olympic theme, “Bugler’s Dream,” playing over and over all the way to Mike’s house, where we watched the opening ceremonies on TV.  A couple hours into the telecast, Mike’s dad started going outside and looking toward the sky. When we finally asked why, he said he was checking to see if any of the giant balloons from the balloon release drifted our way. No luck.

 

The Coliseum never looked better (remember, I spent the previous two years working and attending USC, Los Angeles Express and Los Angeles Raiders games). And when 1960 Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson ran the anchor leg of the torch run and ignited the cauldron at the peristyle end, the Olympic Games had finally returned to Los Angeles.

 

When Beth and I put in our ticket order more than a year before the start of the Olympics, we tried to spread our choices so we could attend many events. Beth ended up giving her tickets away to many of the events, but she still attended track and field, basketball, swimming, diving and probably more. As it turned out, we had tickets for almost every day of the Games. When I added in the tickets I received as payment for working for Track and Field News, we ended up at one or more events every day of the Olympics, except one. I had a media credential, so I went to USC that day and walked around the Olympic Village. And when I wasn’t at a venue, we were watching on television or starting our own events, like the hose game (high jumping over a hose strung across the pool) and synchronized floating, which involved the strenuous task of floating on a raft while doing nothing else.

 

The first day of athletic competition was on Sunday. While my friends and I played over-the-line at Pomona College in the morning, the results quickly started coming in for the cycling road races from Mission Viejo. The Games had started and I hadn’t yet had a chance to watch.

 

But that didn’t take long, since we had tickets to our first event that night. Beth and I joined Susie and Gordon DesCombes at the Forum for a first-round basketball game between Australia and Korea. Or maybe it was Brazil… or Canada. I can’t remember who played, but we had great seats, and Pat Riley was just a few rows in front of us. Darleen May, who has since died but was the women’s basketball coach at Cal Poly Pomona at the time, was one of the referees.

 

The rest of the Olympics were non-stop action. Looking back, I can count going to at least nine of the venues and seeing 11 different sports. That doesn’t count watching multiple days of basketball and volleyball, and five days of track and field (I missed a couple days). I had a portable television plugged into the lighter in my car so I could see what was happening elsewhere (okay, traffic was easy, but I didn’t watch TV while I was driving). One day Lenny and I went to a U.S. men’s basketball game early one afternoon at the Forum (the team with Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Sam Perkins, Wayman Tisdale, Chris Mullin, etc.), and then sped down the freeway (and no rush hour traffic) to Long Beach for volleyball that evening. The next day I did the same thing with Mike, starting with a U.S. men’s basketball game and then wrestling in Anaheim. Then we rushed back to the Kilsby’s house in Claremont to watch the end of an exciting women’s volleyball game on TV.

 

Greg Setlich and I went to a volleyball game one night, and paired up again later for track and field at the Coliseum. That night we ventured over to USC and found a beer garden area just outside the entrance to the Olympic Village. It was open to the public and had live music, along with plenty of cold refreshments. Athletes would also come over for a beer and to visit friends and family, and as the Games wound down and their events were complete, more and more athletes would join the fun. For the remainder of the Olympics, it became my nightly hangout, and I’d be joined by different friends. Grant I went a couple of times after being at the Coliseum, and Dave was with us one of the nights. Ross Bosson and I went there on the final Saturday night after watching the gold medal boxing bouts at the Sports Arena. Mingling with other fans and athletes, we tried to convince people I was a Swedish pole vaulter.

 

I went to water polo with Jim Moore, and Beth and I went to baseball at Dodger Stadium with Jim and Andi. That was the team with Claremont’s own Mark McGwire, whose dad, John, was my dentist at the time.

 

The track and field was the best. There would be separate morning and afternoon/evening sessions. The mornings were mainly heats and qualifying events, but they were still fun to watch. Dave, Grant and I watched a few decathlon events in the morning, and then walked back over to USC so I could work on the newsletter for T&F News (in which I wrote that Mary Decker was a lock to win the 3,000). We returned to the Coliseum to watch Daley Thompson from Great Britain earn the title of World’s Greatest Athlete as the winner of the decathlon.

 

Beth and I were there to see Carl Lewis win the 100, and to see Jackie Joyner fade in the 800 meters and lose the heptathlon to Glynis Nunn of Australia by just five points.

 

Grant and I watched Lewis win the long jump, and we witnessed countless other events. But of course, the clearest memory is the women’s 3,000 meters. With her win at the World Championships in Helsinki the year before, Decker was the favorite. But teenage South African barefoot runner Zola Budd, running for Great Britain, had recently set the world record in the 2,000 and was suddenly Decker’s biggest threat.


Sitting fairly low on the north side of the track near the peristyle end, I had the binoculars clearly focused on the pack as they ran on the south side in front of the press box. Then it happened. I saw the bodies bounce and the runners break stride. The one in red tumbled to the ground. With the field glasses still pressed against my eyes, I shouted to Grant, “It’s her. She’s down. She’s out. It’s over.” Mary Decker wasn’t getting back to her feet. She stayed down as the training crew, led by Upland’s Mark Hill, came to the rescue. But the event that people came to see had lost its suspense. Maricicia Puica of Romania (the only Eastern Bloc country that participated) ran away from the field and won easily. A flustered Budd faded to seventh.


To this day, Beth and Susie take the credit – or blame – for Decker’s misfortune. Neither liked the cocky American crybaby, and as they watched the race at home live on TV, they commented that they wished she would fall. She did. Beth and Susie had the decency to admit they felt badly afterwards, because it was their fault (so stop blaming Zola Budd).


The 16 days of the 1984 Games proved that Los Angeles was a different place when the world was visiting. As Beth and I drove on Manchester toward the 110 freeway after the women’s basketball gold medal game at the Forum, a seedy-looking guy pulled up next to us and waved to get our attention. Ignoring him would have been the smart thing to do in South-Central Los Angeles. But cautiously, we cracked the window enough to hear him ask, “Did we win da gold?”


That's the reason I love the Olympics. It's not just the sports and the athletic competition, but the world putting everything else aside (for the most part) to come together for something magnificent, where people's accomplishments are celebrated and their achievements live forever in the memories of guys like me.


On Sunday, Aug. 12, the Olympics came to a glorious conclusion, but not without a few final-day events. Beth and I met her mom, Jeanette, at the swim stadium for the platform diving finals, where Greg Louganis dazzled the world with his gold-medal performance.


That was all for us. We were home with hours to spare before the local grocery clerk took the Coliseum stage and led 93,000 people singing “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” and the final fireworks lit the sky.

 

Within days, life returned to normal in L.A. The freeways were again packed, and smog filled the air. But for that magnificent summer, Los Angeles was the capital of the world.

 

As expected, the United States was the big medal winner that year, as it was this summer in Beijing. Interestingly, Americans won this year’s much-ballyhooed Olympic medal count with an impressive 110 total medals. By comparison, and with the absence of 14 Eastern Bloc nations, the U.S. won an astounding 174 medals at the 1984 Summer Olympics, including 83 gold medals. Nineteen-eighty-four really was a year that shined with gold in Los Angeles.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Olympic Hangover

First of a two-part series.

Before they get too far behind us, I still wanted to get in at least one more blog about the Olympics. I think this is the first time since the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles that I was truly captivated for every day they were on, and saddened when they ended. Of course, I always miss them when they are over, and I was going through major withdrawals Monday night with no beach volleyball or track and field to watch. The alternative programming was the Democratic National Convention, which got no play in our house.

This Olympics was as good as any I can remember, if not better, and the images of Michael Phelps, Dara Torres, Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Usain Bolt, LaShawn Merritt, Misty May-Treanor, Kerry Walsh, and even Kobe Bryant will be remembered forever. I loved turning on the TV at 5 a.m. to watch obscure sports, and trying to stay awake at night to see who won the medals.

This really was a great Olympics.

But it still pales in comparison to 1984. Not only because I was there, but because I was a part of it. I frequently look back on those as the greatest 16-day stretch in my life. Beth sometimes gives me a funny look when I say that, but I actually ran into a guy this week who said the same thing about his Olympic experience in 1984. It was magical.
The 1984 Olympics were more than just those 16 days. The build-up to the Games started for me when I enrolled in graduate school at USC in August of 1982. There was already an attitude around the campus that the Olympics were just around the corner, and my faculty adviser was a guy who had been to the previous five or six Olympics (or more), including Moscow in 1980. The McDonald’s Swim Stadium – otherwise known as the Olympic swimming and diving venue – was under construction on campus, and the Games were simply part of the daily conversation. They were definitely a priority. 

I attended the dedication ceremonies in 1983, and with the completion of the swimming pool, the campus hosted the U.S. Swimming Championships that summer. I ended up working for Associated Press, sending results from the venue. Later that summer, I did the same thing for the synchronized swimming championships. I’d never even heard of synchronized swimming, but there I was, sending the results over a telecopier machine from the press box at Dedeaux Field, which was the backstage press area for the swimming pool. Imagine the fun I had trying to explain to my friends that I worked the synchronized swimming championships.

The World Championships of Track and Field were renewed that summer in Helsinki, Finland. It wasn’t a problem for us that the event was telecast only on late-night TV and on weekends. After all, we were college-age students and staying out late was the norm. We’d go over to Beth and Susie’s apartment in LaVerne to watch, and our motto was “Helsinki – Hell With It.” The most memorable event for me was watching Mary Decker win both the 1,500 and 3,000 meters, including a dramatic come-from-behind victory over heavily favored Soviet runners in the 1,500.
 
That summer is when the tickets went on sale, and Beth and I decided we wanted to go to as many events as possible. We didn’t exactly have the budget to go to the big things, so we picked a few medal events, but mostly a mix and match of other things to fill out the schedule. We ruled out the opening and closing ceremonies, which were the most expensive tickets, and took our chances with the rest. We sent off our check and kept our fingers crossed, because it was another nine months or so before we’d know what we got.

Throughout my second year at USC, the Olympics were everywhere. They came up in class discussions, with fears of gridlock and pollution. Nike had huge ads featuring athletes plastered on the sides of buildings (even though Converse was the Olympic shoe sponsor). Former USC Olympian John Nabor spoke in one of my classes, and there were student-athletes that I knew who would try to qualify to participate. USC was one of the Olympic villages, and three of the primary venues were within walking distance (the Memorial Coliseum, Sports Arena and swim stadium). As the year went along, new things appeared, like the statues in front of the Coliseum next door, and flags and banners along the streets.

I think the biggest thrill for me to that point came in the spring of 1984. I was a graduate assistant for the sports information program (an academic program that was run in combination by the School of Journalism and the P.E. department). The adviser from the P.E. department invited her friend Bud Greenspan for dinner and to speak at her class one night. She also invited me. If you don’t know, Greenspan is the guy who makes all of the great Olympic documentary films, including the incredible “16 Days of Glory” series. You can’t miss the guy. He has a Telly Savalas haircut, and black horn-rimmed glasses that he always has mounted on his forehead. He wore them like that at dinner, too, as he talked about filming in Munich and Montreal and everywhere else. What a cool experience, eating dinner with the guy who immortalized the heroes.
 
My Aunt Jerry worked for Coca-Cola, which was an Olympic sponsor. She was able to purchase sets of Coke Olympic pins, and so I quickly became a pin collector. For my birthday that year, Beth gave me an incredible set of five framed posters by artist Ernie Barnes (his artwork is pictured in this blog). That was one of the presents I still treasure most, and the posters still hang in my home. Maybe that’s one of the many reasons I married her.

In the months leading up to the Games, Grant Warhurst and I tried to go to as many track meets as possible. We went to the Times Indoor Games at the Forum, where a team from the Soviet Union participated. That was especially significant, because the Soviets were rumored to be leading an Eastern Bloc boycott of the Olympics in retaliation of the U.S. ban of the 1980 Games in Moscow. We stayed until the end of the meet and watched Sergei Bubka from the USSR set a world indoor pole vault record at 19 feet, 1 1/2 inches, just minutes after American Billy Olson cleared 19-0 ¼. All the other events had long ended, and all eyes were glued to the drama in the pole vault pit.

The Sunkist Games at the Sports Arena were a month later, and there were numerous other meets, because it was an Olympic year. Everything was big, and most drew international competition. The Mt. SAC relays were amazing. Athletes from 23 countries competed, but the highlight was watching Carl Lewis win the 100 meters once again. Jackie Joyner won the heptathlon. Athletes who competed at Mt. SAC won 35 Olympic medals three months later. The UCLA invitational at Drake Stadium followed, leading up to the biggest U.S. meet of the year, the United States Track and Field Trials.
“Doc” Smith, my adviser at USC, helped me to do an unpaid internship with Track & Field News during the Trials and the Olympics. By this time I’d finished my master’s degree, but I wasn’t about to jump into the real world job force until after the Olympics were over. That much was certain after working the Trials. Talk about a kid in a candy store. I had jobs to do, but mostly I got to watch a great track and field competition. I even got to bring Grant.

The Olympic torch run came through Claremont that summer, and so Beth, Susie Rascon (soon to become DesCombes) and I stationed ourselves on Foothill Boulevard just east of Indian Hill to watch the early morning processional. Yeah, that was cool, too.

The organizers of the Los Angeles Olympics did a great job of building the anticipation and creating the buzz. People were ready. My friend Brent Shyer headed up the press operations at the baseball venue at Dodger Stadium, and Don DesCombes was a venue official at the Coliseum. I came to learn years later that George Bradvica was in charge of the equestrian venue at Santa Anita. Pam Bosson was part of the Jazzercise team that performed at the opening ceremonies. On the night she went to rehearsal, Dave Bosson, Grant and I went to Mt. SAC for a pre-Olympic tune-up track meet featuring the U.S. athletes and others. Everybody was seemingly a part of the Olympics.

The big day finally came on Saturday, July 28, 1984, but it seemed I’d already had an Olympic experience worth remembering. And things hadn’t even started.

First of a two-part series.

Monday, August 25, 2008

More Kudos For Brehaut

Today's Los Angeles Times has a great story about Richard Brehaut on page 3 of the sports section. The newspaper ranks Richard as the No. 2 high school quarterback in Southern California behind Matt Barkley of Mater Dei. Click here to read the on-line version of the story.

Also, Rivals.com now has Richard ranked No. 4 nationally among senior high school quarterbacks, and he stands at No. 53 in the national rankings among all seniors at all positions. There is a great story on the Bruin Blitz Web site, but it is a subscription-based site, so all you can do is see the teaser information from this link.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The (Non) Rules of Blogging

It’s hard to believe there are any real rules to blogging. I started this because I like to write, and I felt this was a great place to spread good news, tell personal stories or make observations. Along the way, whether by accident or intent, a few items generated some conversation. They weren’t intended to be controversial, but a couple of topics inspired some people to offer their opinions. That’s all good.

But that isn’t necessarily the purpose of my site. I created this as my personal platform, and not as a public forum, especially when it comes to slamming other people. I love when people respond and enhance what I’ve written, like with my “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore” blog and several others. That’s what makes this fun.

One of my other postings drew a lot of attention, and I was bothered by the blind hate that people expressed in their comments that followed. But those comments on my site were “vanilla” in comparison to those that were shared in broadcast e-mail to the CHS baseball community. Those all seemed to be from anonymous authors.

Through all of this, I watched as a man was ripped to shreds by people who didn’t have the decency or balls to put their names behind what they were writing. He may not have been the right fit for the job, and he made his share of mistakes, but I don’t think he deserved the public ridicule he received, especially from people who didn’t even take ownership of their criticism.

This isn’t about what I wrote in my own blogs. I raised the topics, and I’ll stand by that. But I also believe I was fair and balanced in my presentation of the issues. Readers took the ball and ran with it, and some of the comments got out of hand.

Apparently, there is an anonymous reader who isn’t happy that I won’t let him or her have a voice on my blog. That isn’t what my blog is about. That's why it's called "Sid's Side." There are other public forums to express yourself. And there are a lot of blogs out there that don’t even allow for public comments. If you don’t like reading what I have to say, then don’t.

This isn’t about censorship or freedom of speech. I am in full support of open exchange of ideas and opinions. But this is not a traditional medium, and there are no universal rules. I haven’t established standards for this site, and my approach will change and evolve as the site grows. And it will probably change from topic to topic, too. In fact, I even pulled one of my own writings because I wasn’t sure it sent the right message or tone.

I’m simply not going to host another debate that knocks and bashes someone who deserves a fair chance. As I said before, this is a guy who is incredibly talented, bright and fair. That may not be what some people want. I don’t think their complaints are even about him, but, unfortunately, he will be the target. That’s too bad, because those people don’t yet understand how lucky they are. He absolutely will make a positive difference. I know he still needs to prove himself. So let him.

Clearly, not everybody agrees with me. That’s fine. The disagreements won’t be played out in this blog. I’m not about to engage in the childish banter that plagued the community last season and fueled nasty e-mail battles. I don't see any benefit whatsoever. I’m happy to discuss this or any subject in an intelligent conversation, so feel free to send me a note or give me a call. I assume you know how to reach me.

In the meantime, I’ll keep the comment box open, and I hope you’ll respond. Now you have an idea of how I’ll run this thing.

And remember, anybody can start their own blog to express their views. You don’t even have to put your name behind it. Just keep in mind that what you put in print is subject to libel laws. Good luck.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Making Olympic Memories

I love the Olympics. I’ve been intrigued by the magic of the Games ever since I was a kid. I think my earliest Olympic memory was when I was 8, watching parts of a hockey game at a friend’s house on a black-and-white TV during the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France. Oh, and I remember Peggy Fleming.

By the time the 1968 Summer Olympics from Mexico City rolled around, I was hooked. I remember they were in September, because school had started and we talked about the Olympics in class. I loved the pageantry and symbolism, and what it was all supposed to mean. I was captivated by the events. To me, Olympic sports like swimming, diving and track and field were as mainstream as football and baseball.

That’s because the Olympics are so memorable. And while I certainly can’t remember everything, there are athletic achievements that will live forever. They become part of our nation’s social fiber and our history. Remembering past Olympics is different from remembering batting averages or starting lineups. The Olympics are about incredible moments. The big ones come to life every four years, but there are so many others that live on, too.


I mean, when else would you ever watch events like badminton, ping pong (okay, they call it table tennis), trampoline, field hockey, team handball, rowing, fencing, archery, cycling, diving, equestrian and weightlifting on TV? I’ve watched bits and pieces of all of those, along with boxing and tennis. I’ve even watched some soccer, which means this must be special. NBC continues to feed us plenty of swimming, gymnastics, volleyball (indoor and beach) and basketball, and now track and field. Those are the things that TV viewers want. I want more. And more baseball and softball, too (it’s stupid that the IOC is getting rid of those and keeping the obscure sports).

I must have these feelings every four years, but the Beijing Olympics seem extraordinary to me. There already have been so many great moments to remember. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out these frame-by-frame photos in Sports Illustrated of Michael Phelps’ incredible 100-meter butterfly victory for his seventh of eight gold medals.

Forty years after falling in love with the Olympics, I don’t really recall if I actually watched the big events when I was younger, or if they are engrained in my head because of the coverage that followed. I do remember watching Tommie Smith and John Carlos run the 200 meters in 1968, and the medal ceremony that followed when they both raised the black power sign on the medal stand. But I didn’t witness Bob Beamon’s unbelievable long jump of 29-2 to become the first person to clear 28 feet, let alone 29. And I don’t remember watching when Jimmy Hines became the world’s fastest man or when Bill Toomey was crowned the world’s greatest athlete.
But the things that surprisingly still ring clear are both the opening ceremonies and the closing ceremonies. I was so impressed by the torchbearer climbing the steps to light the caldron. And when the games came to and end, there seemed to be such sadness. I remember an image of the word “Mexico 68” in fireworks, and watching as it slowly burned out. But then the word “Munich” appeared, and all was well. It was at that moment that I remember telling my dad that I wanted to go to the Olympics.

My dad died before the next Olympiad, so we were never able to have that experience together. And going to Germany was a bit unrealistic to begin with. But I knew that one day I’d go to the Olympics. Fortunately, in 1984, the Olympics came to
me.

It’s just as well that I didn’t go to Munich in 1972, because that was the year the Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and killed the Israeli athletes. It was still at the heart of the Cold War, and the rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet Union was at its peak. As a 13-year-old kid, I thought that the Eastern Block countries were cheating in everything. If not the teams, then the judges and the officials. Remember? They gave the Soviet basketball team three attempts to win until they finally did. The U.S. team didn’t go to the medal ceremonies, and they still haven’t accepted the silver medals…. A Russian won the 100-meters, but after two American sprinters were disqualified because they didn’t run in the early heats. Apparently they were told the wrong time of their races. And the East German women (if you wanted to call them that) won seemingly every event in the pool. Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut was the darling of the Games, but less-popular Lyudmila Turischeva was the true star USSR gymnastics team. The United States had its share of success, led by swimmer Mark Spitz with his seven gold medals. On the track, Dave Wottle, wearing a baseball cap, won the 800, and Frank Shorter won the marathon. Pomona’s Bob Seagren finished second in the pole vault.

I eventually did make it to Munich years later, and I saw the Olympic stadium and swimming pool. But there were no events then, and on that trip I was more interested in the HofbrÀuhaus.

Still determined to go to the Olympics, my friend Lindsey Brewer and I decided we’d make a cross-country bike ride to Montreal.

Yeah, right.

But I watched the Games on TV and remember the highlights – Nadia’s perfect 10, Bruce Jenner winning the decathlon and unknown Edwin Moses winning the 400 hurdles. I also remember watching the platform diving, as Italian Klaus Dibiasi won his third straight gold, beating the 16-year-old American, Greg Louganis. Throughout the games, there was a McDonald’s commercial starring Claremont High’s Patti O’Toole. She was our own local Olympic celebrity.

The Games of 1980 really were only the Winter Olympics for the United States, because of Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the Summer Games in Moscow. Too bad. A couple of years later, when I was in graduate school at USC, the head of the public relations department, Kenneth “Doc” Smith, told me stories of just how great it was in Moscow. He called it the greatest Olympics that America never saw. There was no television coverage, since the U.S. didn’t participate. That summer came and went without the Olympics.

But the winter was different. The Lake Placid games probably provided more memories than most, and they produced one of the greatest moments ever –the American hockey team’s “miracle on ice” victory over Russia en route to the gold medal. I still remember living at the “Animal House” in Pomona, listening to KMET-FM, when Paraquat Kelly came on the air late one Friday afternoon and said, “We beat the Rooskies.” Our typically full house of college students was intently tuned in for the tape-delayed broadcast a few hours later.


My 1984 Olympic memories are too many for this blog, and they deserve a place by themselves. I still look back at that summer as the greatest 16 days ever. In the years that have followed, my love for the Olympics has been adopted by our kids, who look forward to our own special opening ceremonies with the Moores, Seligmans DesCombes and others who share our Olympic spirit. It really is an incredible time. Tune in before the magic is gone.

New Coach

As I had hoped and pretty much expected, the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education at its Monday meeting officially approved the appointment of Steve Jackson as the new head varsity baseball coach at Claremont High School.

I suspect there will be people in the program who are unsure about this selection, but I think it is an incredible hire for CHS. Six months from now those people will understand. Claremont is fortunate to have him. Steve is a fantastic coach, a bright baseball mind and a good person. And he's fair.

The Claremont Unified School District press release with the announcement is now posted on the Claremont High Baseball Web site.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Not So Endless Summer


It’s hard to write the blog when you’re on vacation, and just as hard when you return. This really does take a kick in the butt to get going again. The thing I’ve learned in the brief time I’ve been writing this is that you have to dedicate time to keeping it updated. And while I have several longer blogs in the works, those can take a back seat to current events, including the Olympics (stay tuned). In the meantime, here are a few random notes.
  • The beach is a great place to vacation. It’s less than an hour’s drive, but it’s a world away. Gazing at the Pacific from the deck of our Newport Beach boardwalk rental is a good way to spend a week. The view of sunbathers on the beach and passers-by on the boardwalk is ideal from our perch on the second-floor. And it is the perfect place to ride our beach cruisers – easily one of our smarter investments. The sunsets and the reflection of the moon on the ocean at night are breathtaking. Last week was particularly fun, because we got to spend time with friends who were vacationing, too. The DesCombes have a place on Balboa Island, and the Moores and Brehauts also had rentals for the week. Plus, Dave came down for a day, and there were assorted others. I’ll mention them all in an upcoming Olympic opening ceremonies blog.
  • Sam is getting an early taste of college life this week, spending time with his brother at Sid’s apartment in San Marcos. I’m glad they love spending time together, and I’m sure it’s good for both of them. Sam will return to enjoy about three more weeks of summer before classes start at Claremont High on Sept. 3, while Sid gets his fall semester started on Aug. 25 at Cal State San Marcos…I think all of us could use an extra month of summer. I wonder if Sam has mastered beer pong yet.
  • Following his outstanding performance at the Elite 11 camp, as well as those at other showcase events, UCLA-commit Richard Brehaut from Los Osos High has jumped to No. 4 on the Rivals.com national rankings of class of 2009 high school quarterbacks. Last week at the beach, he was just another high school senior enjoying the summer before football practice starts again. He’s a good kid and deserves the success that is coming his way.
  • Claremont High is expected to announce its new baseball coach next week, following the school board’s approval at its meeting on Aug. 18. Hopefully the Claremont parents will stand by Principal Brett O’Connor’s judgment on this one, and support the new coach and by letting him do his job. My hunch is that this will surprise some people, but it will be a great hire.
  • The Iggy Biggie Football League will hold its annual draft on either Saturday, Aug. 30, or Sunday, Aug. 31. As usual, the draft will be held over Labor Day weekend in advance of the NFL’s opening day, which this year is Thursday, Sept. 4. Remarkably, this is the 26th year we’ve been doing this (more blogs about Iggy Biggie to come, too).
  • It’s a kick watching Manny Ramirez. He gives the Dodgers a chance to win every night (if the pitching can hold up), and there is anticipation and electricity every time he comes to bat. The final six weeks of the season will keep people watching baseball through the end of the September. I hope the four-game sweep over Philadelphia kicks off the kind of run the Dodgers will need to win the Western Division and advance in the playoffs.
  • I love the Olympics. I have several upcoming Olympic blogs in the works, so I’ll just make a quick mention of a few highlights so far. The opening ceremonies really were spectacular, and the events are great—especially since I’ve been watching stuff at 5:30 a.m. and throughout the day on my office TV. I’m not a big gymnastics fan, but last night’s women’s all-around final performance by Nastia Liukin was probably the best gymnastics display I have ever seen. She won the gold medal, but I think her scores weren’t nearly as high as they could have been. Must have been the Soviet judge.
  • The college football season starts in two weeks. The NFL season kicks off in three.
  • The Los Angeles County Fair opens on Friday, Sept. 5. It used to be that I counted the days until it started – and then until it ended. That was back when I didn’t get to enjoy my summers and take off for the beach in July and August. It was the most frustrating and tiring job I’ve ever had, and easily the hardest I ever worked. But it was also my most rewarding, fun and satisfying job, too. I know what the staff is going through right about now and I wish them well. Their summers ended months ago.