And, we’re back. Miss me?

So, what if you started writing on your own, stopped, and then had to start again?

Welcome to my world. Or, welcome back.

Slapping words on paper, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, has been a part of my life since junior high (no middle school for me, folks!) and encouraged in my high school years to the point where I could make a little (very little, as it turns out) money at it.

But life changes. As do the words.

That’s the romantic version, in a nutshell. In reality, I didn’t renew my hosting fees and thought Facebook and Twitter rants would be enough. And, for someone used to slamming out 500-word epics on deadline, it’s not.

So, we’ll try to do these exercises in punctuation and grammar yet again. Maybe twice a week, depending on road conditions and how one drives.

One has to thank a couple of unfortunate events for this comeback tour.

On Feb. 14, 2018, the lives of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., were forever changed after 14 of their classmates and three school staff members were killed in one of the deadliest mass shootings at an American school.

But, as Buddhist philosophy teaches, out of the mud grows the lotus.

The aftermath of this tragedy has inspired the survivors to take action, first with the #neveragain movement, which not only begat March for Our Lives, but a nationwide, summer-long effort to register teen and college-age voters.

Us older folks may be failing in our responsibility at leaving the next generation a better place than we inherited, but they are picking up the torch.

And, within the last couple of weeks, there was the shooting at the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md., that left five dead, including four employees in the newsroom.

But, as they say on Broadway, the show must go on. Or as Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook tweeted, “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

And they did.

Such dedication to causes has to be admired. And their inspiration turned into action.

So, we will resume these little essays on whatever and wherever my whims take me, be it President Trump, the state of the Giants and Warriors or life in the 2010s. And we hope to have a little fun doing it, because there’s not any cash in it.

Hope you enjoy. I know I will.



Just say no, Raiders Nation

If you’re a Raiders fan, this is the day you knew was coming, again.

Goodbye, Jack London Square. Viva Las Vegas.

By a 31-1 vote (according to reports, Miami was the only no vote), the NFL cleared the runway for the Raiders to leave Oakland for a new playpen coming to a Las Vegas near you before this decade is done.

And while fans may be crying about losing their team for the second time, it’s also time for them to act.

During Monday’s newser, Mark Davis said they’d refund the money of any season ticket holder.

They should take him up on that.

Walk away from the 2-3 lame duck seasons of the Oakland Raiders. Stay home. Give the money to charity.

For all the talk of Raider Nation, it’s really nothing more than a set decoration for the studio show that’s the NFL on TV. Doesn’t matter where they play, as long as the field is 100 yards long and 180 feet wide. Could be Oakland, or Las Vegas, or Kalamazoo.

But let’s face it, for all the mayor Libby Schaff’s brave talk over the weekend, it was too little, too late, in a city not only trying to juggle the desires of the Raiders and the Oakland Athletics, but a myriad of real life problems.

And as much as the NFL likes to talk about being a part of the communities they serve, in reality, it’s all about the Benjamins. Just ask the folks in St. Louis and San Diego.

So what happens next?

As noted, the Raiders will play at least two more seasons in Oakland, assuming attendance doesn’t fall to the point of embarassment (like in Memphis, where the Tennessee Titans played briefly while fleeing Houston for Nashville).

Levi’s Stadium? If that were really a viable option, would not the Raiders and 49ers already be sharing it?

And in Oakland?

A new stadium for the A’s – now the city’s only team in the four major pro sports with the Warriors moving to San Francisco’s Chase Center by the end of the decade – will happen, but for all the speculation of sites near Howard Terminal or even Merritt College, their best bet may be to build a new yard on the current site, which features fantastic access to the freeway, BART and the airport.

Kaepernick and the cause

Perhaps its a tribute to how fast things change nowadays or the shortening of attention spans in the social media era, but an issue that was on the front pages a mere six months ago seems appeared to have been resolved and has been confined to the back pages.

It’s been revealed that Colin Kaepernick, who has opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers, will end his kneeldown protest during the national anthem.

Kaepernick said he’s abandoning the protest since it has accomplished its goal, to draw attention to the plight of black Americans.

Of course, the cynics in cyberspace and elsewhere, at least those who are not distracted by the flavor-of-the-day crises in Washington, Indianapolis and, yes, even Bowling Green or Sweden, will point out that he’s dropping the protest mostly because he’ll be on the job market.

Or maybe they just stopped paying attention since there was nothing more to be outraged about over Kaepernick.

There were those that doubted his sincerity, claimed it was a ploy to get into the starting lineup, or an attempt to impress his girlfriend, he shouldn’t be paid attention to because he was not a starter or he would only pay lip service to his beliefs.

But, having missed the bus the first time, why keep waiting for that ride that’s long been discontinued?

We’re seeing efforts to address the issues, not only financially (Kaepernick’s foundation is donating $1 million to community groups, a figure the 49ers matched, according to Rolling Stone), but an increase in social awareness among athletes, no doubt sparked by Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Olympics.

In the NBA, for example, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been quite vocal about social issues, as has star player Steph Curry.

Also, LeBron James was a supporter of Hilliary Clinton during the presidential race, several member of the New England Patriots have announced they will not visit the Trump White House with the rest of the team, and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler has been adamant about his opposition to Trump’s immigration ban that has since been struck down by the courts.

Even the critics have to admit his protest did not play a role in his play on the field, which was more a product of the flustercluck that’s become the 49ers in the Levi’s Stadium era.

As for concerns he’d be a distration, well, his teammates did give him the Len Eshmont Award for inspirtational and courageous play.

And, needless to say, the donations did show he was putting his money where is mouth was.

Perhaps this is why we are hearing so little about this from the social media outrage machine: He answered all his critics and then some.

And the cause has been advanced.

The adventures of Reporter Trump

Lost amid all the silliness that came out of President Trump’s first news conference on Thursday – and there was so much to choose from – was his statement that he felt he could have been a good reporter.

Nothing like a good challenge on a rainy Friday afternoon, so, let’s put on our editor’s hat and imagine what kind of stories we’d get from Donald Trump, reporter for the Hometown Commercial Scimitar.*

High school football

A big crowd came out for Friday night’s game between the Hometown High Cougars and those No. 1 tricky Clinton County Warthogs. Not as many as came to my inauguration, but more than for the Women’s March on Washington. I think Clinton got the plays in advance.

Pet of the Week

This is Rover. He’s three years old, has all his shots, is housebroken and loves children. He’s available at the County Animal Shelter. He’s all yours. I prefer dogs that weren’t in the pound.

When the circus comes to town

I got to ride an elephant! (and we thank you, Debbie Speer).

Man on the street

This week’s question: So,how do you like me so far?

At the courthouse

We all knew he was guilty, but the so-called judge ruled against those trying to protect our country. Sad!

And, his exit interview

I’m fired? Fake news! Crooked media is unfair!

* – this space’s tribute to the late Charles Stough, chief copyboy at the BONG Bull, who we think would have appreciated this. If not him, then chief photographer Herman “Speed” Graphic and his Faithful Companion, Typo the Wonder Pig.

Why are they messing with baseball?

Amid all the dark headlines, a ray of sunshine arrived this week.

They’ve been called the four most beautiful words in the English language, and you’ll get no argument here: Pitchers and catchers report!

Yet, at this time of incredible optimsm for the upcoming season – hey, the Cubs finally won a World Series – at a time you think they couldn’t possibly come up with a way to mess with baseball, they’ve found a way to mess with baseball.

And it’s not the White House, or the media, or even the Russsians that are trying to mess with the game. It’s baseball.

Or as Walt Kelly put it in “Pogo,” “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

This summer, baseball will experiment, in the rookie leagues, with trying to shorten extra-inning games by starting each inning with a runner on second base.

It’s something that’s already being done in international baseball and will be on display during the World Baseball Classic this spring. It’s also used in international softball as well.

It makes sense in the minors, where most baseball folks will tell you the emphasis is on player developoment, not winning. Why burn out a potential 20-game winner in a Springfield vs. Shelbyville all-nighter?

But in the major league game? Why mess with such a good thing?

It feels like another ideas that have come along of late designed to be thrown up against the wall to see if it sticks.

In recent times, these suggestions have included returning to a 154-game schedule (like this is a holy number), shortening games to eight innings, or, going back to ther ’70s, allowing a batter to take his base after Ball 3, while strikeouts occur after Strike 2.

There’s nothing wrong with extra innings, except to the TV folks who want a nice, crisp ending to things, or those with short attention spans looking for the next shiny object to chase.

A quick Googling turns up an intersting tidbit: Extra inning games, in a typical season, account for only eight to 10 percent of all major league games. Do we really want to mess with a system for such a miniscule number of games across 162 games?

And what about the playoffs? Will we be robbed of great moments like Game 2 of the Giants-Nationals series in 2014, settled in the 18th inning on Brandon Belt’s homer (a game that should have only gone nine innings anyway since Buster Posey was safe on that call at the plate … but I digress!).

Plus, as a recovering baseball numbers-cruncher, there’s a myriad of questions: How to account for the runner on second? Does this cheapen the RBI? And how do you figure out which runner starts the inning on second?

In recent years, college and pro football, as well as the National Hockey League and international soccer have installed tiebreaking proceedures for the regular season. In all sports, it created a system that didn’t exist previously. And while ovetime may have been a distraction in the Super Bowl, it doesn’t mess with the excitement that is overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But baseball has a tiebreaking system in place. It’s called extra innings. It’s worked for a century and then some. Why are we messing with success?

Why Bowling Green matters, or, the White House that called ‘wolf’

It happened again Thursday night, and by Friday, it was a social media sensation, for all the wrong reasons.

Trump spokesman Kelllyanne Conway, in the midst of defending the president’s executive order banning travel from several Moslem countries, cited the “Bowling Green massacre” as a reason why the country needs such an action.

Except, as we know by now, there was no Bowling Green massacre.

It was just yet another figment of the collective mind of the Trump administration, just like the overflow crowds at the inauguration, the millions of illegal votes cast that denied Trump a victory in the overall vote totals and the threat grizzly bears present to American school children.

Social media responded as only it can, with everything from green bowling balls, green ribbons to remember the “victims” and faux historical markers.

It’s good for a laugh, but looking at the big picture, even Trump boosters should worry.

Call them lies, falsehoods, half-truths, or, in the Trumpian newspeak that’s all the rage nowadays, “alternate facts,” they’re a series of statements that we’re being asked to buy, even though they have no basis in reality.

And while inventing massacres (personally, I hope no Nate Thurmond memorabilia was destroyed) may seem like a minor sin, it raises the matter of trust.

If Trump and his followers are going to distort the truth on these matter, how do we know they will be telling us the truth when it comes to issues that could lead us into another Constitutional criss, economic calamity or, pray not, war.

It’s the least we could ask of the man with the nuclear codes, isn’t it?

In other news:

  • It’s needed now more than ever. Alas, we have to wait nine days for pitchers and catcher to report, as of Feb. 4.
  • That ancient tome, the Columnist Manifesto (not to be confued with the book by Karl Marx) requires a Super Bowl pick. So we’ll go with the old standby in this case: Good defense always finds a way to stop a good offense, so it’s the Patriots.
  • Can’t help but think the NFL was delivered a huge karma cookie over the past few weeks with a result that was opposite of what it wanted: The Chargers moving to Los Angeles, while the Raiders will remain in Oakland rather than a glitzy playpen in Las Vegas.
  • It’s still hard to see the NFL working in Vegas, the gambling question aside.

For all the talk of increased tourism from fans of visiting teams and “guys weekends,” look at the map. Outside of metro Las Vegas, what’s the nearest big city: Kingman? Barstow? San Bernardino?

And in between, a lot of sand and spent Acme products.

When will we look live at an apology, Brent?

Brent Musburger closed his long sportscasting career Tuesday night with a college basketball game on ESPN, but there’s one thing the 77-year-old needs to do before starting his new job with a Las Vegas gambling information company.

Apologize to Tommie Smith and John Carlos for a very disturbing column.

A little perspective: The late 60s were a troubling time, perhaps more troubling than the times we’re in now (but we’ll let history judge that).

In April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assasinated in Memphis, Tenn., while showing support for black sanitary workers.

Two months later, Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, who also promoted the causes of the poor and minority groups, was assinated in Los Angeles after giving a victory speech upon winning the California primary.

This year also saw George Wallace running for president on a pro-segregation platform with the American Independent Party.

It was also during these times Muhammad Ali was fighting in court after his heavyweight boxing title was stripped due to his refusal to be inducted in the military.

In October 1967, sociologist Harry Edwards launched the Olympic Project for Human Rights, which called for a boycott of the 1968 Olympics by black athetes.

While the boycott did not come about, it did produce one of the keystone moments in the struggle for human rights, Smith and Carlos’ raised-fist salute in after going 1-3 in the 200 meters at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, setting the stage for social involvement by athletes.

As one might expect, given the times and an era in which the sports media less critical of sports institutions and the dumb jock cliché was in full force in the media and elsewhere, response was swift, and negative.

After threatening to ban the American team from the rest of the Games, International Olympic Committe President Avery Brundage then ordered Smith and Carlos out of the Olympic Village.

Musburger, a sports writer for the Chicago American newspaper, labeled Smith and Carlos “black-skinned stormtroopers.” The text of the column can be found here :

Both were villified when they returned to the States as well, but as time went on and as the cause of civil rights moved forward, the tide turned in their favor.

In 2005, a statue depicting their protest was unveiled at their alma mater, San Jose State, with the spot occupied by silver medalist Peter Norman left empty, at the Australian’s request, so vistors could stand in his spot.

In 2008, the duo received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs.

Both were on hand when SJSU announced the revival of its legendary track and field program last summer, and Smith was on hand last month when the university announced the establishment of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change, in the company of Edwards, James Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbarr, among others.

But where’s Brent? Have his views on Smith and Carlos changed since 1968?

We don’t know. He hasn’t said anything since then, although he’s had plenty to say about the beauty of Katherine Webb, girlfriend of one-time Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, and Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was briefly suspended from the team after pleading guilty in the assault of a female student.

So why can’t he say anything about his words on Smith and Carlos? And where is the outrage beyond this corner of cyberspace and a few other publications?

With his play-by-play duties complete, perhaps Musburger will have time to search his soul and atone for his words. Perhaps even learn the way to San Jose, which would be an appropriate venue for his mea culpa. On in 2018, which marks not only the 50th anniversary of the Smith-Carlos protest, but the return of SJSU’s track program.

Otherwise, it remains an ugly blot on a storied career.