Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Flower of Los Angeles

I don't have a lot of influence around these parts.

I'm just an ink-stained wretch who bares his soul on these pages for the amusement and entertainment of our readers.

Or as Gene Fowler once wrote, "Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."

But I am here today to right a wrong, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, view with alarm, all those things that responsible newspapers are supposed to do.

Specifically, I am here to chastise the Tournament of Roses.

They have done a hell of a job running the Rose Parade for a century or so, making it into a must-view international event long on beauty and family values, short on gimmicks and bad taste.

But for too many years, the Rose Parade folks have ignored in their selection of grand marshal the most visible, most beloved, most celebrated citizen of the greater Los Angeles area, a man who as much as anyone defines the word "institution."

And time may be running short for the opportunity to salute his remarkable talent.

I speak of Vincent Edward Scully, the melliflous and knowledgeable voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 59 years.

He has been named California Sportscaster of the Year 28 times, he received the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, was honored with a Life Achievement Emmy Award for sportscasting and induction into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995, and was named Broadcaster of the Century by the American Sportscasters Association in 2000.

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame. There is talk of erecting a statue of him at Dodger Stadium.

Through the power of his voice, he has almost single handedly made the Dodgers one of the top drawing franchises in all of sport.

His popularity has crossed generational, economic and racial lines.

But he has never been grand marshal of the Rose Parade.

Last year, writing about Scully, I said, " When I think of a half-century of Dodger baseball...there is one constant that remains when all the seasons and players begin to blend together in memory.

"That is Vin Scully. Back in the days before every game was televised, Scully was the Dodgers. his voice on the radio meant spring was here. When Scully called the Dodgers, it was time to get the lawn furniture out, fix a cool drink and listen to the drama unfold as only a master story teller could describe it.

"It is Scully who said, 'He (Bob Gibson) pitches as though he's double-parked.'

"It is Scully who described pitcher Tom Glavine as being 'like a tailor; a little off here, a little off there and you're done, take a seat.'

"It is Scully who called Stan Musial 'good enough to take your breath away.'

"It is Scully who said, 'It's a mere moment in a man's life between the All-Star Game and an old timer's game.' "

Scully doesn't announce a game. He sings it. In his hands, it is grand opera.

"Criticizing him is like criticizing Shakespeare," wrote Gary Kaufrman. "You can do it, but you say more about your own foolishness than anything else."

We have watched while tournament officials honored an omlette flipper, a cartoon mouse, a frog puppet, various actors and actresses and inummerable politicians.

This year's theme is "Hats Off to Entertainment" and president RonaldH. Conzonire who picked the theme also gets to select the grand marshal.

Not that the theme makes a great deal of difference.

Last year's theme was "Passport of the World's Celebrations" and featured TV chef Emeril Legasse as the honoree. Go figure.

In 2005, it was "Celebrate Family" and Mickey Mouse was selected. I was never quite able to connect the dots on that one.

So whatever theme the Rose Parade people come up with, Scully fits.

I don't know if he has been asked to be grand marshal in the past and declined. He is as self-effacing as he is talented.

But he rode on the Dodger 50th anniversary float last year so we know he's not adverse to getting up in the middle of the night to motor down Colorado Boulevard.

On Friday, Sept. 5, 2008, Scully announced that he intended to continue calling games through the 2009 season at age 80. It will be his 60th season with the team.

And its high time he rides at the front of the parade.

If you agree, contact the Tournament of Roses at 391 South Orange Grove Ave., Pasadena, CA. 91184. Send them a letter. Ask your friends and family to send them a letter. Send them a copy of this column. Or e-mail them at :

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Thorny Issue

Another National Football League season has begun without a team in Los Angeles.

And once again, the apathy is overwhelming.

Let's face it. We have two college football teams with bigtime fan bases in town. UCLA drew an average of 76,000 fans to the Rose Bowl last year with a mediocre team. And you couldn't get a ticket to a USC game at the Coliseum if your name was Tommy Trojan.

The NFL, after an absence of 14 years, just doesn't generate much buzz around here anymore.

Unless your name is Ed Roski.

Ed, part owner of the Lakers and Kings and co-owner of Staples Center, has gobs of money and the passion to bring the NFL back to the Los Angeles area.

He's so passionate, in fact, he has unveiled a plan to build a $800 million stadium in the city of Industry. All he needs is a team.

Which is like saying I can fly. All I need is wings.

If fans in Los Angeles are skeptical, they should be. The wreckage of other NFL plans lie strewn about like so much hurricane debris.

But let's engage in the willing suspension of disbelief for a few moments and presume Ed does the deal.

The Chargers or the Raiders or some other team rises to the bait and moves to Los Angeles.

The first thing the team would need is a place to play while their new stadium is being built.

Enter the Rose Bowl.

Eager to generate revenues for much needed improvements to their aging facility, a NFL team, even as a temporary tenant, would appear to be nothing short of Santa Claus to the Rose Bowl folks. They need hundreds of millions of dollars to bring their stadium into the 21st Century.

When they call the Rose Bowl the "Granddaddy of Them All," the emphasis is on "granddaddy." The place is 86 years old. It operates at a loss. It needs new seats, new tunnels, upgraded video and scoreboards, lighting and sound systems. It needs luxury suites to generate revenue.

It needs to be able to compete.

But there is a downside to all of this. Consider:

If Roski builds his stadium, you can be sure he wants to keep it full. Empty stadia cost money. Full ones create income. So it would be no surpise if Ed would enter the bidding to host the BCS college football championship game, a contest that has been held at the Rose Bowl in the past in rotation with other stadia in the country.

What Roski could offer is a state-of-the-art facility with abundent luxury boxes and other amenities the Rose Bowl, in its current state, couldn't hope to match.

The resulting loss of revenue for the Rose Bowl would be a blow not only to its financial future but to its stature as well, something the city of Pasadena could ill afford.

It is probably far-fetched to think that Roski's new stadium would pick off UCLA or the Tournament of Roses games as tenants. Far fetched but not impossible. With the exception of the Rose, all of the original stadia that hosted New Year's games - the Cotton, Sugar and Orange- have been or are being demolished, the games being played in new facilities miles from the originals.

We may be getting ahead of ourselves here. Roski doesn't have a team, the NFL still appears to view Los Angeles with disdain, the Rose Bowl is still packing them in.

But Los Angeles hasn't had a new stadium since the Coliseum was opened for business in 1923. The odds favor a new one sooner rather than later. And if Roski makes his plan work, the ramifications both pro and con could reach right into Pasadena.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Par for the Coarse

News: The Ladies Professional Golf Association will require
players to speak English starting in 2009, with players who have been LPGA
members for two years facing suspension if they can't pass an oral evaluation of
English skills. "Athletes now have more responsibilities and we want to help
their professional development," deputy commissioner Libba Galloway told
The Associated Press. "There are more fans, more media and more sponsors.
We want to help our athletes as best we can succeed off the golf course as
well as on it."

Views: Hogwash. The LPGA, whose television ratings rank somewhere
below reruns of "Wife Swap," is using the race card as a scapegoat for its

It seems the women's tour has been populated in recent years by
Korean golfers whose skills often put them on top of the leaderboard. Like
most professional sports venues, it is becoming intermational in makeup.

But apparently many of the recent arrivals can't chat up the
sponsors, schmooze with high rolers in pro-ams or grab big enough endorsement
deals to please the cash hungry LPGA. So the tour leadership is blaming those
who don't look like them.

If it's not bad enough that the LPGA has chosen the meat cleaver
approach to its problems, it broke the news as athletes from around the world
gathered to compete in harmony and friendship in Beijing.

Half the Dodgers roster in recent years has been made up of
foreign-born athletes. Can you imagine what the reaction would have been if Major
League Baseball would have given Fernando Valenzuela or Hideo Nomo the heave
ho based on their language skills?

The LPGA has chosen stupidity over diversity.

News: The newspaper business is going to hell.

Views: This is a topic of great debate but apparently journalists
in San Diego are buying into the glass-half-empty view.

About 20 Union-Tribune staffers slept in the newspaper's lobby
recently, determined not to miss their chance to take what's expected to be the
final buyout offer.

News: Some men may be more genetically predisposed to encounter
difficulties in monogamous relationships, including marriage, a Swedish study

Views: Like we guys have been saying all along, we just can't
help it. The research out of Stockholm's Karolinska Institute suggests two
out of five men have the DNA pattern that makes them less able to commit to
a stable relationship.

And you thought we were just insensitive slobs.

If that's not enough, Psychology Today suggests that the history
of western civilization aside, humans are naturally polygamous.
Polyandry (a marriage of one woman to many men) is very rare, but polygyny (the
marriage of one man to many women) is widely practiced in human societies,
even though Judeo-Christian traditions hold that monogamy is the only natural
form of marriage.

Or, as George Bernard Shaw put it, "The maternal instinct leads a
woman to prefer a tenth share in a first-rate man to the exclusive possession
of a third-rate one."

This particular study has set off a debate about whether people
should conduct genetic tests to find out whether potential mates are bad
marriage prospects.

Which means when you give her a ring, she may ask to swab the
inside of your mouth before she says "yes."

Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University
who studies romantic love, told the Washington Post that she would not
reject a potential mate whose DNA is suspect. But, she added "I might not
start a joint bank account with them for the first few years."

News: John McCain names Alaska Gov. Sarah Polin as his running

Views: If McCain wanted to draw attention to the Republican
convention this week, he has succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams.

By selecting Polin, he has tosssed a political flash bang grenade
into the room whose resounding explosion is still ringing in our collective

And while many in the GOP decry the attention focused on Polin as
a liberal media hatchet job, they must know that when someone uknown is
dropped onto the international stage as a major player, questions are going
to be asked.

Are some of these questions irrelevant? Is the media going
overboard? Not when the person in question is next in line to be the most powerful
person on the planet.

I was critical last week when Obama named Joe Biden as his running
mate. A long-winded party insider who has been kicking around the Beltway
most of his political life, he hardly exemplifies the "change we can believe
in" mantra of the Obama campaign.

But Sarah Polin is more sound bite than substance, the victim of a
cynical process in which expediency often trumps experience.

If she's an attempt to corner the female vote, someone didn't do
their homework. When Geraldine Ferraro, a Democrat, ran for vice president
in 1984 as the first woman on a major party ticket, she and Walter Mondale
lost the women's vote by 12 percentage points to Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

And strictly on resume, she makes Joe Biden look like Thomas