Help wanted: LA Times in need of female columnist …who can write

By T.J. Simers

One person’s garbage is another’s treasure, someone said in trying to explain why Helene Elliott is allowed to write a sports column in the LA Times.

OK, I get that. We used to say that the really crummy columnists would appear in the back of the newspaper with the tire ads. But now newspapers don’t attract that many ads, but still have crummy columnists. And the Times’ sports section is so small the back is almost the front.

When I wrote I was put on Page 2, no one ever dreaming it could be worthy of Page 1.

Now it’s bad enough Elliott is crummy, but she’s a hoarder as well. She was writing Wednesday in the Times about the only woman ever to play for an NHL team, keeping it in her column writing memory bank for almost 30 years.

It was a forgettable story 30 years ago, Canadian Manon Rheaume playing the second period in goal for the Tampa Lightning in an exhibition game. By LA relevancy and NHL standards, she never existed, just like all the NFL guys who play in exhibition games and are cut before making the team.

But we get Elliott writing about her 30 years later as if it matters, and on the front page of the LA Times sports section.

Now I know the LA Times has a female sports editor and there has been a push to display more women’s sports in the newspaper, and I know Helene Elliott is a columnist usually writing about things readers don’t care about, but when these two get together, yuck.

What’s the importance of this story, well, Elliott tells us in a paragraph: ”It’s not that teams and leagues are becoming ‘woke.’ They’ve belatedly realized admitting women into their stale, restricted old boys’ club adds knowledge, perspective and experiences that can invigorate the sport.”

Hogwash. Stale restricted old boys club? I know Elliott’s columns read like that, but 30 later after Manon Rheaume’s brief appearance in exhibition play, nothing has changed. Women still don’t play in the NHL.

And there’s no clamor for more women in hockey. Nothing wrong with it, but how ridiculous to make more out of it than a team just hiring a qualified candidate to fill a vacancy.

Elliott is supposed to be knowledgeable. She’s in the hockey hall of fame, I presume because of her writing but then that goes to show you the quality of writers covering the NHL.

She’s a boring columnist, who was trying to prove a point in Wednesday’s newspaper. I have no idea what that point was beyond referring to the NHL as a stale restricted old boys club, but if she’s trying to make the case the NHL needs more women, double hogwash.

If it was just a training camp feature, it was lame and the sports editor should have buried it inside.

We can agree, disagree or not care, I for one falling in the latter category. Go ahead and load up the front office with women. The Times ran a big picture of Rheaume taken in February on the front of sports Wednesday because she’s nice to look at. Maybe hockey needs cheerleaders.

Maybe hockey is just trying to impress its fan base, or the media that keeps tabs of such things.

I suspect most people only care what’s going on the ice, and like the NFL, there are no females playing the game.

We all like circus stories, a newspaper a great place to tell them, but Elliott’s hockey player performed almost 30 years ago and by most accounts it wasn’t that memorable.

She’s now in the player development department, and I’m sure she has a lot of riveting player development department stories to tell. Didn’t get any in this Elliott column, but maybe Part 2 is coming tomorrow.

I hear it all the time how reporters have agendas, and I always say the same thing: Most writers are just trying to meet a deadline and are making no attempt to push an agenda.

But this was an agenda column, the female sports editor showcasing it, written by the female sports columnist pandering to female readers by presenting a female hockey player who never played in an NHL game. I’m sure, “Let’s get more women stories in the sports section,” is a newspaper mantra. And one not usually to be argued.

However, this just wasn’t a good, interesting column, ending like it started in going nowhere: “Because she said no to those who doubted her so many years ago, other women have had the opportunity to say yes to significant roles in a game that can’t be for everyone if it doesn’t let everyone have a say in its present and its future.”

WHAT? That’s 47 words of gibberish.

Sometimes one person’s garbage is just garbage.

Plaschke needs to write more, gush more about USC

By T.J. Simers

I have called for an investigation via Twitter, and once the Russian bots, or whatever is insidious about Twitter get ahold of that, look out.

The Los Angeles Times has a problem: Kevin Baxter.

He is the newspaper’s designated soccer writer, which should mean he seldom is allowed to write.

But I’m not sure there is day when he is not featured in the sports pages, today a full page on the Galaxy and yesterday a story on curling from Oakland.

What does Baxter have on the editors?

I know hm, but not well enough or interested enough to say hi.

I sat next to him in the Times’ sports department, but we didn’t talk; he covered soccer. He is not considered one of the sports section’s better writers, and that is troubling because there aren’t many better writers left in the Times’ sports section.

Maybe he’s not considered a good writer because he writes about soccer and no paper would have one of their better writers covering soccer. Or curling.

The same holds true for the Angels, the Times’ believing no one reads about the Angels so why put anyone who can write on the beat, and they haven’t.

Baxter, though, has a grip on the Times’ sports editor. I blame Dwyre for that. He stepped down as one of the nation’s top sports editors to have a love affair with Zenyatta as a columnist. I remember what his wife said at the time: “I don’t care.”

They have gone through a number of sports editors since Dwyre and I don’t know much about the new one except she approved Baxter writing about curling from Oakland. Dwyre approved of hiring J.A. Adande as a columnist, so he didn’t always know what he was doing, but he had far more hits than misses.

Baxter now gets whatever he wants into the newspaper, and I surmised in a tweet that this works to the newspaper’s benefit because the Times wants to get rid of its print section. It’s too costly to produce, a better chance to make money if the newspaper is only on online.

By putting Baxter into the newspaper every day, I’m sure the thinking is the readers won’t be able to stomach it and flee. I did. I cancelled my print subscription recently because the editors were successful on showing to me there wasn’t much there.

I get maybe two Plaschke columns a week for yucks, one Hernandez column a week because he apparently doesn’t like to write and Elliott dribble from the U.S. Open every day.

I lived through Sam Farmer’s yawner on a raven flying over Wimbledon, which only goes to show you the newspaper has a tennis-writing problem.

You put Farmer’s tennis stuff in the newspaper, along with Elliott’s and then mix in Baxter and Los Angeles collectively nods off. I’m beginning to understand why Plaschke has gone so far over the top gushing about USC’s football team.

No one better at being outrageous than Plaschke, which is a much-needed wake up call for the newspaper’s remaining readers. Given all the glory teams of old at USC under Pete Carroll, John Robinson and John McKay, Plaschke has seen enough from wins over Rice and Stanford to know this is a national championship team beyond anything we have seen.

Now I like that. That’s a reason to still buy the Times, Plaschke willing to make a fool of himself and we can follow his journey through the USC season.

He just doesn’t write often enough. I would suggest the editors take away space from Farmer, Elliott and by all means Baxter and throw in Woike, the guy who will be slobbering over the Lakers’ front office, and let’s have Plaschke write a USC daily diary on its march to predicted glory.

We know it will be a positive story until USC plays Utah, the buildup monumental if written by a gushing Plaschke, and should USC stumble, he’ll trash the Trojans.

It’s a win-win, getting Farmer, Elliott, Baxter and Woike out of the newspaper the rest of the football season, or watching Plaschke take out his prediction embarrassment on USC.

Now that’s good newspapering, so I know the Times won’t do it.

Poor, poor parents who have kids playing soccer

By T.J. Simers

The grandkids were in from Arizona because one of them had a soccer match in Irvine. If only I could have had a dental appointment out of town.

Soccer is the worst thing that has happened to parents since Chuck E. Cheese.

Our little darling played three soccer matches and her team had one goal. I think. The field is so big, and I’m told it was scored at the other end.

I couldn’t even tell you for sure which one of the three girls sitting on the bench across the field was our kin. If you are benched in soccer you have to be really crummy as I was telling our granddaughter who was born in the wrong month as her parents were explaining to me.

It’s something about being born in December and you are the youngest, which makes every other girl older and bigger, so they have driven from Arizona to watch their kid sit on the bench and are OK with it. That’s what happens when you don’t plan a pregnancy and just leave it to the whims of the Grocery Store Bagger.

Those whims drove me worried as a father until the Bagger married the daughter and then I was cheering him on not knowing it might lead me one day to watching a soccer game. Had he just waited six months, she wouldn’t be on the bench.

If you are going to play club sports those are the kind of things you need to think about.

As far as being a spectator, it was freezing for one match, blistering hot for another. Parents have to schlepp chairs, tents, and coolers to far away fields while noting the bathrooms are a long walk away and there is the fear of missing something, but it’s soccer so they will miss nothing.

This is club soccer so it’s more arrogant and important than just soccer, hundreds of 12-year-olds running around like it’s going to get them somewhere and gawd it’s boring.

But you have to tell your little darlin, “You were great, kid, running all around the field and I think I saw you kick the ball once and that was great. You’ll tell me, won’t you if you ever score?”

The Times had a story Monday on some kid playing for the Angels, blowing up a quote from the kid’s mother: “I think the whole city of Yorba Linda knows about Ryan (Aguilar) right now.”

I live in Yorba Linda; never heard of him. But I’m happy for his mother who probably went to hundreds and hundreds of Little League games, high school games, club games and it all paid off.

That’s the only good thing about not having a boy. I had two girls, four granddaughters, but I never had to sit through a six- or seven-inning Little League game.

I have two granddaughters playing basketball, time coming off the clock and constant action. I don’t have to man the snack bar, dress for polar conditions or worry about our boy crying because he wants a Freddie Freeman glove and that’s what Freddie would do.

I know our girls aren’t going to dream of being WNBA players one day because like everyone else they have no desire to even go to a game. If they were boys hitting baseballs off a tee, their father would be dreaming of the day they go play for the Dodgers.

One of the basketball players sat there miserable watching her sister play soccer while wondering why her parents had a December baby when her mother told her to take the baby of the family to the bathroom a million miles away.

. She stood up in a huff like teenagers do, said a very bad word and started to storm off before her father lit into her.

Now I understand why they sit away from all the families at one end of the field.

I’m not sure if the baby of the family heard the foul language, but she did witness her older sister getting scolded by her father at a soccer game, and I’m kind of hoping it scars her.

The little one will be making a choice between soccer and basketball very soon.

So, here’s hoping when the teenager stalked off, she told the baby of the family what she had said and made the point of saying this would never happen at a basketball game.

Sorry, Thuc is a Woman

By T.J. Simers

I wrote about the WNBA last week figuring no one reads blogs.

I’m embarrassed to say I had it wrong, receiving a tweet less than five minutes later—from a L.A. Times reporter.

Ben Bolch tweeted to say I slandered LA Times’ reporter Thuc Nhi Nguyen.

Now I used to get these crank emails all the time when I was a columnist for the Times. You know, these people live among you. Even Times’ reporters.

Ben was really upset because I called Thuc a male, when he is a she. That’s funny, because all the Thucs I have known in my life have been males.

I was a little surprised he didn’t try to defend her and make the case she wasn’t a terrible reporter, but you have only so many characters when you tweet.

I immediately replied to Ben in a tweet and apologized to Thuc for not knowing who she was; she’s probably never heard of me and could have made the same mistake given the T.J. initials. I appreciate the fact she had Ben reply for her.

The mistake should never have happened. I should have known the Times would take a sexist approach and have Thuc covering the Sparks.

But I thought the point of the blog had more to do with Thuc’s reporting job on the Sparks and how horrible it had been rather than her sex. Let’s face it, Ben should have given her some help if the Times’ editors don’t care about the final newspaper product.

The editors could have saved her; that’s their jobs. We’re still waiting to learn why one of the league’s former MVPs just abruptly quit.

Too many holes in a story are just part of the learning process. This happens to young reporters all the time, and I hope I’m not making another booboo and guessing Thuc is young because if she’s old and has the Sparks for a beat she should quit the business.

I thought that would be the end of it, nobody caring about the WNBA or whatever Thuc wrote about it. But Ben tweeted again, making this the most tweeted story I have ever written to say: “Her name is Thuc Nhi, and I am proud to call her my co-worker.”

That hurt deeply. Nine years ago I was Ben’s co-worker when the two Times’ editors, who were later fired, slandered my work. Never got a call from Ben. Never heard that Ben went after Times’ management. Never heard from Ben to hear how I was doing. Didn’t see him in court wishing me well. Nothing from Ben.

I don’t know if it was a male-female thing. I know Thuc has tweeted praising Ben’s work, and I never found reason to do that. I don’t know if Ben treats females differently than males, but this is all I have to go on.

I guess I will just have to take a closer look at what he does, whatever that might be.

Shabby Sparks Coverage; I Know, Who Cares?

By T.J. Simers

I apologize for writing about women’s basketball.

The Los Angeles Times sports pages have been doing that a lot lately, but I understand why. The Times is motivated to put its sports pages out of business and drive readers online. No better way than to offer silly stories in the newspaper on subjects that readers might ignore

That would explain Sam Farmer’s coverage from Wimbledon and the British Open.

On Wednesday the newspaper tried to make hard news out of a Sparks player leaving abruptly.

I could see a story about the fans leaving the Sparks abruptly but why would a four-time All-Star center do so?

Well, the LA Times could not provide that answer. They offered a lot of guesses, but couldn’t get to the bottom of Liz Cambage’s decision to announce a “contract divorce.”

A what? Does she get half of the Sparks in the split? Contract divorce is a new one to me, but lit I guess.

I actually read the story by Thuc Nhi Nguyen, and it was gibberish, and every reason why the Times has declined as a newspaper of record. Thuc left the Sparks off the hook, failing to report what really happened between the Sparks and Cambage.

I have seen Thuc’s byline atop a number of Sparks’ stories, so he must know the front office, head coach and other players. He wrote the story, though, like he knew no one and the reader suffers because of that.

The reason the newspaper is delivered is to give readers the inside story. If you have noticed, most Times’ stories these days stretch to almost 100 inches. That’s a lot of words to say nothing.

They just sent a reporter to Florida to write about three Chargers’ players who happened to be from Florida. Fascinating. The Times made it a three-part series with a million words. They were clearly trying to turn their readers off, something they have been doing for the last decade.

But I read the women’s basketball story, the pain overwhelming, but desperate to learn why an All-Star just suddenly quit.

The Times put the story on the first sports page below a picture of Peyton Manning and Patrick Mahomes getting pelted by thousands of superballs falling from an overhead plane.

Hey, it was a Sam Farmer story.

Now as I got to the fifth paragraph of Thuc’s story after looking at the picture of Mahomes to make sure he hadn’t been hurt, the head coach of the Sparks was quoted as saying nothing.

“Once a person gives you that verbally what she wants, you have to listen because it could be something else, could be something that’s not related to basketball.”

Where are the editors at the Times? How do they let something like that creep into the sports pages without asking Thuc, “Yeah, “But why did she leave abruptly?”

I would imagine Thuc is a young reporter, and so his editors should be helping him. If he’s old, he should quit if his job is covering the Sparks.

Now as the only reader to stick with the story as it jumped inside the sports section, that’s where we get into the BS.

“We want what’s best for Liz …” said the team’s managing partner in a press release. Come on, every team wants what is best for itself before moving on to the next player like a cat owner moves on to the next pet after their furball gets run over.

Thuc reports that the Sparks head coach later “hinted” what might be wrong with Cambage, and what does that mean? Did he give Thuc three chances to guess what she was hinting?

Thuc reported that the Sparks only made the head coach available to talk to the media, which is a sure sign something funky is going on here. Where’s Thuc? It’s his job to talk to everyone who doesn’t want to talk.

Maybe Cambage struggled mentally to contend with things, which has become a headline recently around sports, and that would be troubling. But I can’t imagine anyone receiving that news being anything but empathetic.

Thuc wrote this wasn’t the first time Cambage “has ditched a team suddenly.” Having used the word, “ditched,” I can’t imagine Thuc doing that with someone he knows to be emotionally troubled. He should know what’s going on but maybe he doesn’t.

Cambage was a former WNBA MVP, and the Sparks are on the edge of the playoffs. I would imagine Sparks fans would be interested in what caused her to abruptly leave.

They couldn’t find it in the Times.

A Mike Tirico Press Release

By T.J. Simers

Sam Farmer turned over his fluff reporting to the only man who could do better, the guy paid to hype the British Open on TV.

Ingenious. NBC-TV’s Mike Tirico does all the work and Sam maintains his reputation as the LA Times’ chief schmoozer.

The hype begins almost right away. Sam tells us by way of introduction that “In 25 years covering the Open Championship, the NBC golf commentator has seen his appreciation for this place only grow.”

He’s seen it, I’m happy for him, but why do I need to read about it? Hello, friends, isn’t it enough that we have to find the courage some weekends to watch golf with Jim Nance announcing?

In those 25 years that Tirico has covered the Open, this is only the fifth time they are at the Old Course because the tournament rotates from here to there. It is Tirico’s job to supply the reverential commentary to the TV pictures to help drive up the ratings. Next year the reverential whisper will come from Royal Liverpool.

I can’t say for sure if this is the first time the Times has struck a partnership with NBC to help its cause, but I know it has a deal already to promote ESPN by providing columnist Bill Plaschke regularly.

It is against the Times’ Ethics Guidelines for Plaschke to give his freelance insights to ESPN for financial gain. Unless, of course, the Times can benefit, the Times getting a TV camera from ESPN years ago to use on other projects in the Times’ newsroom.

Many years ago, vaunted baseball writer Bob Nightengale got fired for sending his work to SI.

Nightengale claimed the Times fired him for writing articles about racism in sports. He hired famed attorney Johnny Cochran, but the lawsuit never really gained traction. As someone who has been there and done that, it is an excruciating process.

Nightengale is presently a highly regarded baseball columnist for USA Today.

I found it interesting to read Nightengale’s Wikipedia page, which reads: “During his time at the (LA Times), he worked alongside baseball journalism contemporary Bill Plaschke.”

I had drinks with columnist Mike Royko at the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, and that beats working alongside Plaschke any day of the week so big whoop.

Now as for that ESPN camera, Around the Horn and Plaschke boosting the network’s rating, read that sentence again and tell me if that could possibly be accurate.

Plaschke replaced me on Around the Horn, and there is no question that was an upgrade. But the newspaper’s relationship with ESPN has always been hypocritical, the ESPN website a direct competitor of the Times and having Plaschke pass on his thoughts to the ESPN website every week would be a firing offense.

I can’t imagine watching Around the Horn, though, without Plaschke on it, and read that sentence again and tell me if that could possibly be accurate.

As for allowing NBC to tout the British open in the Times without paying for an ad, the newspaper is going out of business.

Mike Tirico works for NBC, but I don’t know if it is against the Times’ ethics to promote him, after all, he used to work for ESPN. I just know it’s a pretty good scam if you can get somebody else to write your story.

And Tirico has to just love the headline in the Times over his story: “FIRST PERSON—A SPECIAL SOMETHING.” I have never thought of Tirico as a special something. Salma Hayek maybe.

The headline continued: “Tirico, NBC’s broadcaster for the British Open, affirms exactly what makes the Old Course so revered.”

Shouldn’t a real golfer who has been out there whacking the golf ball affirm exactly what makes the Old Course so revered? Golfers have to play well to get paid and know every corner of the place; yapping TV heads just have to let the TV pictures tell the story.

I would have had Tiger Woods give us a FIRST PERSON story on the Old Course because he’s got nothing else to do the next couple of days. That would have really been A SPECIAL SOMETHING.

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.

Dining on Quail or Pigeon Parts

By T.J. Simers

I’ve tweeted about this twice today because when a newspaper like the LA Times hits rock bottom I think it should be noted.

Under the storied Times’ “Column One” logo on the very front of the newspaper, Sam Farmer writes about Rufus, the hawk. Be still my beating heart.

I’m sure the story is well-written, although tough to say while laughing so hard, but Rufus’ job, when not dominating the headlines from both sides of the ocean, is to hunt and viciously kill.

I have no idea if this has anything to do with Rafael Nadal withdrawing from Wimbledon, but if Rufus could be trained to take out .220 hitters in baseball the game might get a much-needed makeover.

More than Rufus, my concern is Sam. The Times sent him all the way to England to write about Wimbledon, but so far he’s given us a story about the Chargers’ coach who gee-whiz-golly-gee got to go to the tennis tournament. And now Rufus.

If the guy has such an aversion to tennis players, I share his feelings. I took a look online to see if Sam was writing about tennis athletes and found this: “One of the coolest things about Wimbledon, the best souvenirs, is you can buy the game-used balls after the matches.”

I’d ask for the Nadal balls since they probably weren’t used that much, but whatever, you don’t get coverage of Wimbledon like this anywhere else.

I found another Sam story online, so he’s been typing a lot. He wrote this: “You’re looking for a lack of fluff,” and I can’t say that I ever have, but he goes on to write, “Why Wimbledon uses 55,000 tennis balls a year. ”

That wasn’t a question I had, but he writes that, “Tennis balls age like a pitcher of cream in the sun.”

I probably don’t need to tell you Sam is the Times’ football writer, or why he was counting tennis balls in Europe while the USFL championship game was being played over here. How he knows how cream ages, I don’t know.

But Sam’s quest for anything but tennis in Wimbledon continues with a story on Chargers’ coach Brandon Staley, who got to sit in Pete Sampras’ seats at Centre Court presumably because Sampras wasn’t there or there were no big matches.

As for Rufus, who also had his story told at the same time in The Guardian by reporter Sirin Kale, Kale reported that Rufus was eating defrosted quail while Sam had Rufus eating pigeon parts.

Tough to say who really nailed it, but my subscription is on Sam, who probably tasted the snacks in the name of accuracy. Remember he’s a football writer, and as long as it’s free, he’ll eat anything.

Over the years I took my chances in writing off-topic while at a big event, the Times’ lawyers suggesting at trial that I did the newspaper wrong when I went to a cemetery on Mother’s Day instead of an Angels game. Had there been any sign of life with the Angels, I would have gone there.

I commend Sam on taking a chance to write about Rufus for a dying newspaper and will pass on the name and number of my lawyer.