Friday, July 24, 2009

Looking into the Crystal Ball

A big part of being a sports fan is the intrigue and mystery that surrounds the news that takes place off the field. No, not reports about steroid use and felonious activities, but the gossip of front office rumors that keep us all guessing.

This is the stuff us sports fans love. It’s our chance to play general manager and propose our own trades and free agent acquisitions. And it’s why fantasy sports are so huge and why people care about watching the NFL and NBA drafts on television.

With baseball’s non-waiver trading deadline upon us next week, the NBA still in its free agent signing period, and NFL teams soon headed to camp, the rumor mill is burning. Sports talk radio is full of the latest hearsay, and Sports Center and Baseball Tonight are focused on the latest trade buzz. Media “experts” are doing their best to scoop their colleagues about the next big player move. Most of the major media conglomerates like ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports have sections on their Web sites dedicated to rumors of the day. My favorite is MLB Trade Rumors, a site that is updated regularly every day with the quick-hitting speculation about player transactions. I read somewhere that some players have learned they were traded by reading this site.

A couple of major deals have already taken place, so I better jump get my predictions in now.
Here's a look into my crystal ball for some useless predictions, based only on hunches. No reason for this, except to show my brilliance if any of these actually come true. And if they don't, well nobody cares anyway. This is the only way I can play G.M. until our fantasy football draft, but that’s more than a month away. Here goes…
  • The Dodgers will land a starting pitcher and probably a reliever. They could use both, but they shouldn’t give up any of their current key roster parts to get either. Remember, the team is comfortably in first place and already likely headed to the playoffs, barring a late-season collapse. But post-season baseball is all about pitching, and it’s important to be able to send a reliable ace to the mound. Chad Billingsley had a great first half of the season, but he doesn’t yet stack up with other No. 1 starters. Clayton Kershaw is the hottest pitcher in baseball right now, and someday may be among the elite. But I’d rather have an experienced veteran starting the first game of the playoffs. But, if L.A. can’t pick up a legitimate top starter, then these guys are not bad fallbacks…
  • Despite all the experts thinking he’ll be dealt to the Phillies, Toronto’s Roy Halladay will be traded to the Dodgers – or he won’t be traded at all. I get the impression Ned Colletti will go hard after the best pitcher in baseball, offering prospects and maybe a current major leaguer. It would be a huge mistake to deal Kershaw, and I doubt he’ll be included. I just have this feeling he’ll pull this off – like he did in acquiring Manny Ramirez last year…
  • If Toronto declines, then the Dodgers will focus on Cliff Lee of the Indians. It appears that an offer of prospects would get the deal done for the American League Cy Young winner. He definitely wouldn’t be a bad guy to have, either…
  • After that, I don’t think there are many other No. 1 pitchers on the market. Most of the other guys that would be logical targets are on teams still in contention (Roy Oswalt, Justin Verlander) or injured (Jake Peavy). If that’s the case, then the Dodgers will likely pursue a back-of-the-order guy, like, Bronson Arroyo or, ehmmm, Brad Penny (okay, maybe not him)…
  • I have limited guesses on the reliever. There are many available, and so it will probably be a matter of cost. My guess is that they’d try to get a guy who hasn’t been overworked this year, since most of the Dodger bullpen is already getting up there in innings pitched. Maybe George Sherrill of the Orioles or one of the Cincinnati relievers, like Francisco Cordero (although the Reds claim to be buyers and not sellers, even though they may be the worst team that I watched play against the Dodgers this year, along with the Mets)...
  • The Angels won’t make a move, except for maybe a middle-reliever…
  • Lamar Odom will finally come to his senses and sign with the Lakers. Ever notice that he has his moments when he seems to forget his surroundings – like those times he doesn’t pay attention to the clock or just disappears at some games. This is one of those cases. He’ll be back. Why wouldn’t he?...
  • Allen Iverson won't be a Clipper...
  • The Los Angeles Football Stadium proposal in the City of Industry will clear its final hurdle before the end of the year, and the Roski Group will soon start courting NFL teams. My guess -- the Chargers and the Jaguars will both be playing in Los Angeles within a few years (yep, two teams)…

  • And by the fourth game of the year, true freshman Richard Brehaut takes over as quarterback of the UCLA Bruins.
Now that I’ve put those out there, I’ll take credit if any of these come true.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Making Ends Meet in California

Most of the material that appears here is a light-hearted view of sports, family and friends, the community and some of my life experiences.

So forgive me while I get sidetracked by real life. We all know the economy is in dire straits, and most of us have started to tighten our belts. And we probably know a few people who have lost their jobs or homes (or both), or people whose own businesses are in trouble.

Now we’re getting to the point where this news has an impact on a lot more of us. With so many of my friends putting their kids through college – or getting ready to – our wallets just got a little bit lighter.

The California State University Board of Trustees Tuesday approved a 20 percent student fee increase for this fall. That’s on top of a 10 percent increase enacted just a couple of months ago. Annual full-time undergraduate student fees at all CSU campuses will increase by $672, from $3,354 to $4,026 per year. This is in addition to the $306 annual fee increase for full-time undergraduates adopted in May. Add on mandatory campus fees of a little more than $800, and California State University students will pay around $4,850 a year in fees per year.

Here's a video of Chancellor Reed detailing the CSU situation...

Even with the fee increase, CSU campuses continue to offer the lowest fee rate in the United States among comparable institutions. They remain a remarkable bargain for the high-quality education they provide.

That may not be a consolation for those of us with college-aged kids, but it’s still the most economical alternative for a top-quality university education. The state’s other four-year higher education system, the University of California, boosted its fees several months ago.

What’s happening is that the financial responsibility for public colleges and universities is falling more and more on the true users of the product, rather than on the general state population as a whole. This is actually more in line with what happens in other states, and not necessarily a bad thing, but is a contradiction to the California Master Plan for Higher Education, a 1960 roadmap for the state’s three college systems – the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges – to guarantee any qualified California resident who wanted a college education the opportunity to receive one. But in the past 49 years, it seems the CSU has gone from state-supported to state-assisted to now just being state-located, and that guarantee is becoming harder to promise. Access to higher education is more difficult. It’s not to the point where public universities are being privatized, but with fewer state funds from taxpayers, college students have to cover a larger slice of the pie. Geez, is it really that long ago that state university fees were around $75 a quarter when I was a student at Cal Poly Pomona? Nah, 30 years isn’t really that long ago.

Nevertheless, a CSU education is still an incredible bargain today, and it puts the comparable cost of a UC or private institution in perspective.

The state’s financial support for the California State University has fallen dramatically, and because of the extremely messy state budget situation, which just came to a tentative resolution this week, support for the CSU has been reduced a staggering $584 million, which is an unprecedented 20 percent decrease.

Then again, the state does not have a whole lot of choice when it comes to balancing its $26.3 billion budget deficit. Education accounts for a huge amount of the California budget expenses line. Beyond social programs and prisons, the Legislature had few options when it radically peeled back state expenditures, and those other areas also took big hits.

And so is everybody else. As such, the CSU will adopt a potpourri of actions to address the state-funding shortfall. The fee increase is only part of the solution and addresses about 25 percent of the problem. In the coming weeks, we’ll see more measures put into place at Cal State San Bernardino and all CSU campuses, so that the university can continue to provide a high-quality education to as many students as possible. Those steps include employee furloughs and layoffs, enrollment reductions, a hiring and salary freeze, and significant travel and purchasing restrictions.

A big chunk of the issue will be addressed with a combination of furloughs and layoffs. Some of us at CSUSB will begin working a furlough schedule in August through the next 11 months, which, to me, is a much better option than the alternative. I will gladly take furlough days to avoid seeing people lose their jobs.
We’ll see fewer students at college campuses over the next couple of years, and classes may be harder to get at CSUs, depending on whether or not faculty vote to negotiate a furlough program or opt for large-scale layoffs.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the fee increase will have little or no impact for many people, including a lot of folks in the Inland Empire. For example, one-third of the revenue from the fee increase will be set aside for financial aid, and virtually all dependents from households that make $75,000 or less will not pay any fees. More than half of the students at Cal State San Bernardino (around 55 percent) will be completely covered for the increase through a mix of grants, fee waivers and federal tax credits. There are a lot of scholarships and other financial aid packages available to students, and it’s worth a visit to a campus financial aid or admissions Web site for more information.

I don’t need to tell anybody that it’s tough out there. But hold on and keep college at the top of your priority list. Even if it costs a little more, it’s well worth it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cool in the Pool

Congratulations and best wishes to our friend Jack DesCombes, who was selected to swim for the United States in the North American Challenge Cup Aug. 5-7 against teams from Pacific Swimming (San Francisco), Pacific Northwest Swimming (Washington), Mexico and two time defending champion Canada.

We charted some of Jack’s success last summer, here and here, but he has since changed swim teams and is now a member of the Mission Viejo Nadadores.

Southern California all-star swimming teams have a rich history and a "golden" past – having been the first real competition outside of Southern California for many recent and past Olympians such as Aaron Piersol, Amanda Beard, Kaitlyn Sandeno, Anthony Ervin and many more.

Jack had a successful short course season, where he posted six times in the “Top 16” in Southern California for his 13-14 age group. He was the fifth fastest in the 50-yard freestyle and seventh and eighth fastest in the 200-yard and 100-yard backstroke.

He qualified for the NACC team by posting some of the best long course times in Southern California this season, including second place finishes at the recent June Invitational at La Mirada in both the 50 and 100 meter freestyle (times of 25.97 and 56.83, respectively).

The Nadadores are now preparing for the Summer Junior Olympics in late July. Jack and his 13-14-year-old relay teams have a chance of setting some Southern California records and posting the fastest times in the nation this year.
Looks like another former participant in our kids’ fantasy football league who is making a name for himself (see blog from June 11).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fair Concerts

The Los Angeles County Fair announced its 2009 End of Summer Concert Series and Adrenaline Nights lineup today. The Fair starts on Saturday, Sept. 5, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 4.

Check out the
Fair's concert Web page for ticket information and show details.

Here's the lineup:

Sept. 5 Al Green and the Spinners

Sept. 6 Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert

Sept. 7 Jaguares
Sept. 10 Monster Truck Madness
Sept. 11 Peter Frampton and Kansas

Sept. 12 Good Charlotte

Sept. 13 Lynyrd Skynyrd

Sept. 17 Creedence Clearwater Revisited
Sept. 18 WAR and Average White Band

Sept. 19 LeAnn Rimes

Sept. 20 Mariachi USA Fiesta

Sept. 24 TBA
Sept. 25 Donna Summer

Sept. 26 Ciara

Sept. 27 The Beach Boys

Oct. 1 Demolition Derby

Oct. 2 Charlie Wilson and the Gap Band

Oct. 3 World Championships of Freestyle Motocross

Oct. 4 Shinedown, Puddle of Mud and Saliva

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Football Around the Corner

UCLA has posted its 2009 football media guide, and it's huge. In fact, you can't download the entire thing in one shot. There is a table of contents, and you can download a .pdf of each of the sections.

Here's a link to the publication.

Interestingly, freshman Richard Brehaut is listed among the returning players instead of the newcomers. Since he enrolled in the spring quarter and had the chance to practice with the team during the spring, he's considered a veteran.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Batter Up

This one's for Dave Bosson. Bet he's fun on Thanksgiving. But he can't do Bobby Tolan...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

25 Years Ago in L.A.

This isn’t an Olympic year, but Los Angeles is celebrating anyway. It’s hard to believe that it was 25 years ago when L.A. hosted the Olympic Games. But then again, it’s hard for me to believe I just turned 50. I was fortunate to be right in the middle of things back in 1984 as I finished up my master’s degree at USC and then worked several pre-Olympic events and the Games themselves...
The Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games and the Los Angeles Sports Council are hosting a celebration at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, July 18, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles Games. At $184 a pop, I’m going to pass, but it’s still nice to remember when Southern California truly was the center of the world...

While I’m reminiscing about the Olympics, the Games in Beijing last summer were incredible. Then again, as is evident from many past posts here, the Olympics have always held a special place for my family, my friends and me. Check out some of these pictures, courtesy of the Moore family, from our traditional Opening Ceremonies party and competition last summer at Newport Beach...

Gotta love those 1984 shorts...and hair.

Maybe I shouldn't use "borrowed" artwork to include with my blog, because it seems to have been taken literally. Yeah, the tiki bar is open, but better check in first (see below)...

Claremont High hasn’t had a lot to celebrate in recent years when it comes to football, but the Wolfpack should be proud of its passing league championship this past weekend. The tourney, held at CHS, featured schools from throughout Southern California, including some powerhouse programs. The Pack beat Orange Lutheran on Friday, and then came back to beat the Lancers in the championship game Saturday to finish the tournament with a perfect 8-0 record. Orange Lutheran finished first last year in the mighty Trinity League (which includes Mater Dei, Servite and others), and came within a game of the Pac-5 Division championship game. USC quarterback Aaron Corp is a graduate of Orange Lutheran, which knocked off a strong Upland High team in the semi-finals. Claremont’s victories came against decent competition, including Bonita and Crescenta Valley, among others. I don’t know how this will translate to September, when they put on the pads, but it has to be a good sign. Regardless, it's worth celebrating now. Congratulations…

Upland High has also enjoyed passing league success this summer, and making the final four of the Claremont tournament shouldn’t be dismissed. The Highlanders should again be a formidable foe for defending league and CIF Inland Division champion Rancho Cucamonga for the Baseline League crown this year. As always, the Baseline League should be a battle. Rancho returns most of its team from last year and is the probable favorite. Upland and Los Osos lost starting their QBs to NCAA Division I programs, but both should be competitive again this year. And Etiwanda looked strong in the Claremont passing tournament. If Claremont can find big bodies for the line, the Pack could pull off a few surprises. Football season is less than two months away…

I’ve missed seeing results of local Little League tournament games in the newspaper. But with the way newspapers are shrinking, it’s not a surprise. Too bad. But Upland National Little League has links to brackets for all divisions in District 23, and those are updated daily. Claremont Little League does a good job of keeping track of the District 20 results, too...

It’s time for Major League Baseball’s All-Star break, and the Dodgers are sitting pretty atop with National League West with the best record in baseball. That makes me happy. But they definitely need more pitching for the second half and postseason. I like the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin’s trade proposals to acquire Roy Halladay from Toronto. It might take a five-for-one proposition to bring the best pitcher in baseball to Los Angeles. I’m fine with the names he mentions, as long as they don’t throw Clayton Kershaw in the mix. As soon as he gains a better command of the strike zone and stops walking so many hitters, he will be the best pitcher in baseball. It took Sandy Koufax six years to master his control, and for six years that followed he was so dominant that he is still considered by many to be the greatest left-handed pitcher to ever play in the big leagues. Not that Kershaw is Koufax, but watch this guy. I have a feeling we'll remember him for a long time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Tiki Bar is Open

More random thoughts as I enjoy a summer Friday. Unfortunately, these are likely to become furlough Fridays before too much longer…

I love the 4th of July. But hidden in the mix of all the other better-known traditions are some others that don’t quite get the widespread attention. Like the gathering at Dave Bosson’s house on Eighth Street as the runners fly by in the Claremont Freedom 5,000 5k run/walk. I can think of no better way to start Independence Day than with a Bloody Mary watching the fun. His house is just a couple blocks from Memorial Park, where the rest of the community gathers later in the morning. I get the impression that people who don’t even know Dave show up and take advantage of his hospitality (and bar)…

And then there are the mid-day festivities at the Seligman residence in Claremont. It’s another one of those less publicized holiday traditions, but one that you can count on most years. Cheers…

By the time those get-togethers break up as people head off to parades or fireworks shows, I’ve usually about had it. So while the crowds flock to their favorite stadium shows, I’ve always favored finding a good vantage point where you don’t have to battle the people or traffic. For years, that meant parking going to the great shows at Fairplex or parking at the bowling alley across the street from Upland High, where
tailgate parties were spread throughout the parking lot… and at businesses all along Foothill from Euclid to San Antonio. But those have gotten pretty popular, so this year we reverted to pulling up a couple chairs out on the driveway and watching the aerial explosions from the distance. The view was surprisingly good and the drive home was a breeze, since I already was home…

This year we revived an old tradition by starting the fun on July 3 – something we did for many years before kids came into the picture, including my bachelor party at Dave’s house on Baseline 24 years ago. Not a bad way to start the summer. The tone of the parties have changed, but the Robinson tiki bar is now officially open for summer 2009. Come on by…

Beth and I made a brief, relaxing trek to the beach this past weekend to celebrate our 24th anniversary. Newport Beach was pretty crowded, but it is always great. And even though Balboa Island was full of holiday weekend vacationers, it’s hard to beat the peace and serenity of the beach. We’re just thankful our good friends generously open their home to us to unwind and relax. These coastal getaways are truly a world apart from our daily grind in the Inland Empire, and they are something I’ll always appreciate…

While we were there we dropped in on Beth’s sister Marilyn Bosson Skidmore at the Tabu Grill in south Laguna Beach. Marilyn’s pretty proud of this place, and with good reason. This intimate restaurant has been getting great reviews and recently became the highest rated restaurant in Southern California, scoring 29 out of a possible 30 points on the Zagat scale. Aside from that, the food was incredible (as was the service, of course)…

Another fun summer tradition is the weekly Monday concerts in the park series in Claremont. That’s just a great way to start the week. The LCR Band opened last Monday and sounded great. The Ravelers are set for Aug. 3…

Along with the Monday concerts, Claremont has a full calendar of music and family events, including the Claremont Village Live music on Friday nights and Claremont Wednesdays, which is a street fair event with music, retail booths, food and more in the village area west of Indian Hill. A couple of weeks ago I saw there was a musician scheduled by the name of Cydney Robinson. I went to the event so I could tell her that she spelled her name wrong, but I couldn’t find her…

Did you happen to catch FM radio station 100.3 “The Sound” today? They’re calling it a tribute to the old KMET (94.7) and have brought back a bunch of the old DJs from the past. Just heard a tape of the old fish report with Paraquat Kelly and “The Burner” Mary Turner. Great memories. Just like a little bit of heaven. KMET was such the soundtrack for most of us in the 1970s, and it’s pretty cool to hear some of the DJs and air-checks from years ago, including tapes of late, great pioneer jock B. Mitchel Reed and others. The Sound is doing the KMET format throughout the day, closing with an hour of Dr. Demento…

The Orange County Fair opened today and runs through Aug. 9. Now they’re calling it the OC Super Fair. Maybe that’s because of the Fair’s extensive entertainment lineup at the Pacific Amphitheater and at stages around the fairgrounds (where the local favorites the Dogs will perform July 15-19). Or maybe it’s because the fair has been extended over five weekends. This seems to be the trend with fairs – utilizing more weekends and closing on Mondays and Tuesdays...

The Los Angeles County Fair also will be longer this year, covering five weekends from Sept. 5 through Oct. 4. That’s a long haul, but the total run only adds up to 23 days when you subtract the dark days. With a few days to rest, that isn’t so bad, especially compared to the years in the early 1990s when the Fair was open 24 straight days. That was a killer, but still something I’ll always remember fondly.

This year the LA County Fair is opening for three days over Labor Day weekend from Saturday, Sept. 5, through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7. The event then picks up a couple days later and is open every Wednesday through Sunday from Sept. 9 through Oct. 4, and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I like the idea of trying to get a few folks in the gates before school starts after Labor Day.

Upland Day at the Fair is Wednesday, Sept. 30, and Claremont Day is Thursday, Sept. 24. All of the local communities have their own day at the Fair, along with ceremonies to honor their community heroes…

I expect the Fair to announce its End of Summer Concert Series lineup pretty soon. I haven’t talked to anyone at Fairplex, but it’s not hard to find a schedule of some of the acts that will be playing this year. Most of these acts have been there before: The Spinners on Sept. 5 (I suspect they’ll be part of a bigger show), Blake Shelton on Sept. 6, Kansas on Sept. 11, Lynyrd Skynyrd on Sept. 13, Creedence Clearwater Revisited on Sept. 17, War on Sept. 18, LeAnn Rimes on Sept. 19 and the Beach Boys on Sept. 27. There will be more, so we’ll mention those when they are officially announced. And I’ll try to preview the shows as they come, since I believe I’ll be back doing the grandstand house announcements again this year before each show. So when you hear “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the End of Summer Concert Series…” look for me at the soundboard in the box seating area…

I’m really not ready to think about the end of the summer yet, since it just started. Enjoy, and I hope to see you at the tiki bar soon (yeah, even tonight). Just give us a call.