The Steady Thrum of Sam Farmer

By T.J. Simers

Sam’s back at it.

The LA Times sent Sam Farmer to England to cover Wimbledon, and now on to Scotland for golf. Keep in mind they won’t send a beat reporter with the Angels when they travel in California.

If I was still working at the Times, I would want to know what Sam has on the editors. We already know the Times’ editors aren’t the swiftest, a story this week on the front page of the newspaper recounting why the top two editors were fired a while back.

At first blush, an England-Scotland boondoggle sounds super-duper but that probably means Sam had to take his wife with him. It’s like an all-expenses paid getaway, and no offense, but a distraction unless most days you don’t have to interview the athletes.

I remember writing years ago, let’s see what kind of golfer Tiger Woods will be after he gets married and gets distracted by a wife chasing him and swinging a wedge over his head.

It’s the same way for a reporter, his work No. 1 while covering an event in Inglewood, overtime or not, writing his story and then going home late at night. But you go to England or Scotland with the wife in tow and it’s a vacation for her, and I’ll betcha the guys sitting on the copy desk back in the good old USA never get the chance to treat their wives the same way. I wonder if they hear about it?

But then if you take the wife to a strange and different land like Scotland, who is going to leave their wives wandering the taverns alone?

I’m beginning to understand why Sam gave us the life of a hawk at Wimbledon, the difference between fluffy and not-so-fluffy tennis balls followed by a report on an old-timer’s shoes. You knock those stories out early, and instead of hanging around to watch tennis matches, you can be back with the wife before the second-helping of strawberries and cream.

They were beautifully written stories, of course, if you are into hawks, balls and shoes; but for the guys sitting on the desk who have to explain to their wives Big Bear in the summer is just a fine vacation, I don’t like their chances of nibbling on crumpets or slurping tea.

As for Times’ readers, it’s not like the Times isn’t covering the golf tournament or the tennis. The newspaper had Doug Ferguson writing a real, legitimate golf story, and while the newspaper is trying to pull a fast one by using a “Doug Ferguson” byline, at the very bottom of his story it makes mention that Doug writes for the Associated Press.

Several others working for the AP reported on the tennis for the Times. Odd, because the reason big papers send their own writers to big events is to avoid having to use the Associated Press.

Water under the London Bridge, let’s fast forward to see what Sam is giving us from the golf tournament: A tent city and a picture Sam took of “Camp leader Tom Critchley.” Always wondered what Tom looked like.

“We are the largest hotel in Scotland this week,” Tom is quoted as saying, and that’s why I buy the LA Times’ sports pages to get information I could not get elsewhere.

He also gave us a picture of Simon, Elaine and daughter Emma sitting on the grass, and I’ll take Sam’s word that the patch of grass is in Scotland and not Brea.

Sam writes: “The sun is setting over the birthplace of golf, casting the majestic Old Course in rose gold.” That reads like a Plaschke column, only a month ago someone would have been killed on that spot.

“Massive grandstands are in place for the 150th Open Championship,” writes Sam, “And the flags atop them snap in the steady breeze. On a giant banner under the leaderboard, this year’s slogan: Everything has led to this.”

I have no idea what that means, and Sam doesn’t attempt to explain, but there’s no golf being played yet, no reason to check out the leaderboard and as Sam writes: “With the spectators gone for the day, the course is empty.”

And this is the main story on the first page of sports, no golf, no scores, no spectators. Read on: “But there’s a soft thrum of pop music in the distance, and, as you walk toward it, the happy chatter of kids playing soccer.”

What is it about the LA Times, and always soccer, a Dylan Hernandez column, a Kevin Baxter story and now Sam going to Scotland to cover soccer?

He does not tell us the score of this soccer game, and probably no one did score because it is soccer. But he writes about the tents that are there so people can sleep between matches, while offering his best line in two weeks: “Rest your head here and you have — in golf terms — an ideal lie.”

I’d like to see someone sitting on the copy desk trying to come up with that; that’s brilliant writing. Maybe that should be the LA Times motto: You want pretty writing, we’ll send our people all over the world to give it to you.

I know this, as hard as Sam has been working, he’s going to need a vacation.

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