My Thoughts Regarding Athletes Protesting Before Games

Miami Dolphins kneeling before a game. Photo courtesy of




It’s been another polarizing issue in a series of polarizing issues in this country as of late.

And it would be ignorant of me to not offer my views of Colin Kaepernick and other athletes, from the NFL and elsewhere, kneeling to protest police brutality and other racial issues while the national anthem is playing.


So here’s how I feel about it all…

I have family who fought and died for that starred and striped flag.

My great-grandfather fought in World War I

My uncle was killed in the Korean War; it’s been 67 years and his remains are still somewhere in North Korea instead of the Los Angeles National Cemetery where it belongs.

My father fought in the Vietnam War.

Which is why I personally choose to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner”, my attitude being “Might as well.”



I am also an African-American male who has encountered racism, such as being profiled several times by the Santa Monica, CA police during the 1990s, including getting handcuffed in fromt of my house because I “fit the description” of a stalker.

I have been denied employment because of my being black, like when after a great phone interview for a job, I was told that it was being offered to someone else because “He asked first” upon laying eyes on me.

I was called the “N-word” on numerous occasions during my early childhood years by quite a few white kids in the then-rural community of Woodcrest outside of Riverside, CA, and hearing that word a few times in Santa Monica.

I have experienced various slights and microagressions that, looking back, I recognize that’s what I went through during my teenage and young adult years.

Of course it’s impossible to forget the many instances of African-American men being brutalized and murdered in the hands of the local authorities; incidents like the Rodney King beating and subsequent acquittal of those four Euro-Caucasian cops who did that dirty work – which triggered then L.A. Rebellion/Riots 25 years ago – and the murders of guys like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray come to mind.


Image #: 13530908 American athletes Tommie Smith (middle, gold medal) and John Carlos (right, bronze medal) at the Award Ceremony for the 200m race at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, October 16, 1968. The Olympics Black Power salute was a notable black power protest and one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games. DPA/LANDOV Photo courtesy of


So what does this have to do with NFL players kneeling before games – I know you’re asking that right about now…

In a nutshell, I support the athletes.

I know that many folks – mostly of the white and conservative persuasion, curiously enough – are foaming at the mouth over the kneeling, the arm-linking and the fist-raising, saying that while they have a right to protest, to do so on the job should be a crime punishable by virtual condemnation to hell.

What those folks don’t understand is that people like my uncle died so that Kaepernick and the rest of those guys in the National Football League,

And the National Basketball Association as I’m sure there will be quite a bit of kneeling at Staples Center and other arenas when that season opens in a few weeks – and every other sports league for that matter,

Can kneel, raise fists, or not come out of the locker room at all like the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks have been doing during the WNBA Finals.

To frown on that is not only a case of free speech,

But a case of denying human rights.

Of course this issue is nothing new, Tommie Smith and John Carlos getting expelled from the Olympic Games in 1968 after displaying their Black Power salutes on the medal stand.

As well as Muhammad Ali getting stripped of his heavyweight title the year before after refusing to be inducted into the army (and undoubtedly getting sent to Vietnam), losing three years of his boxing prime before the Supreme Court overturned his five-year prison sentence.

All of these incidents have one thing in common:

The protagonists’ color of their skin.

And as a black man, I feel I have no choice but to stand in solidarity to those taking a stand against racism, racist injustice, and the hypocrisy that American has exuded to those of its citizens who are not white, male, straight, wealthy, conservative, Christian, or any combination of those six attributes.

Though I wouldn’t kneel during the national anthem due to my family’s involvement in defending that American flag,

While there are many people, particularly African-Americans, who are boycotting NFL games due to this issue,

I would go if I had the opportunity to go to a Rams or Chargers (the two teams in my area) game.

But I would wear a #7 Kaepernick jersey in solidarity.

It would be very wrong to not give these athletes my support in this issue.

Not as long as there are millions of people in these United States – and other countries – that still see me as inferior and a “lesser” due to the color of my skin.


Two Los Angeles Rams making like Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Photo courtesy of





If I Had A Son (or Daughter), Would I Let Him/Her Play Football?

The NFL’s  Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers getting it on. Photo courtesy of


I’ve seen it on ESPN and Fox Sports reports and documentaries.

I can vividly recall my heart breaking when I saw former Chicago Bears quarterback and basic sunglasses-wearing bad-ass Jim McMahon struggling to remember where his home was on outings.

Not to mention big names such as McMahon’s Bears teammate Dave Duerson and former San Diego/just moved to Los Angeles Chargers and USC  linebacker legend Junior Seau kill themselves.

And I’ll never forget the sad condition of Mike Webster, the Pittsburgh Steelers center from the Super Bowl glory days of the 1970s, who was the same age as I am now (fifty) when he passed away of a heart attack.

All because of Cardio Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, which is essentially brain damage caused by way too many concussions.

Which these guys – and many more football players (and hockey players, too; can’t forget them) I may add – have suffered from for so long as recent research found that out of 111 brains of former football players studied, all but one showed signs of CTE.

It’s at the point where for the past couple of years, whenever I watch a football game one of my first thoughts is this…

“I hope his head’s OK.”

I think that’s a main reason behind me, despite liking the pigskin game as much as the next guy, preferring baseball.

A thought came to me very recently regarding all of this on a personal level:


CELEBRATING UNDER THE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Hart High School’s football team, from Newhall, CA, after winning a CIF championship. Photo courtesy of



IF I HAD A CHILD – WHETHER IT WAS A SON OR EVEN A DAUGHTER (Plenty of girls have liked the sport enough to have played it and want to play it) – WOULD I LET HIM/HER PLAY FOOTBALL?

I won’t waste any more time on answering this:

If it was flag football in a Parks and Recreation league, sure!

That brand of the game is obviously much safer, with no tackling.

Now the big question; if it was a Pop Warner tackle league or a high school team…

My Answer: YES – if my kid really wanted to do it.

There would be one condition I would put upon my youngster before I signed the form, paid the entrance fees, signed up for the booster club, etc…

The first concussion my child suffered on the gridiron, he/she would be immediately pulled from the field by me – or I would order the coach to – and would be done for the season.

Like any other sane parent, I would take no chances with my loved one’s health.

He or she would be gone, then have a complete brain scan at the beginning of pre-season practice – and pass with flying colors – the next year before I would let them take the field.

I can’t make it clearer than that.

For all those parents and loved ones whose children are doing battle on that 100-yard space, whether he’s a eight-year old in Pee-Wees, a 16-year old under the Friday Night Lights, or a five-star recruit at one of the country’s collegiate football kingdoms,

I pray that your kid gets through this season concussion-free.


Action from a Pop Warner game. Photo courtesy of





I know that one can poll ten people and get ten completely different lists regarding this subject.

I also know that I’ll get many disagreements regarding at least some of my choices.

But these are the movies with our national pastime as the subject that I have enjoyed the most and feel are the best.

For the record, I’ve included documentaries as well.

So here’s my list (in no particular order) – let the debating begin…

NOTE: Click on the YouTube links to view scenes…





Considered by many to be the single greatest baseball film ever made; it’s number one on my list.



42 (2013)



If you need any explanation as why this film depicting Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color line is on my list, I don’t know what to tell you.





I remember seeing this in the theaters more than once, I enjoyed it so much. Plus it’s an essential film to show girls; to inspire and encourage them to follow their dreams.






Along with the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series, the factor that piqued my interest in baseball.



61* (2001)



This HBO film by New York Yankee fan #1 Billy Crystal was so good, even Yankee haters become fans for two hours.






I remember being in high school when this Robert Redford movie came out; I was SO excited at this final scene when Roy Hobbs (Redford) smashed the lights with his home run.





This HBO movie gives a good historical lesson of the Negro Leagues and its two greatest stars, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, along with Jackie Robinson and how he was chosen to break the color barrier.





Though there’s some recent debate about the viciousness of White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, whose mean stinginess is widely thought to be the reason for the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, this is the definitive story – in my opinion – about how Shoeless Joe Jackson and those other seven guys lost the World Series on purpose for gamblers.



WHEN IT WAS A GAME TRILOGY (1991, 1992, 2000)


This HBO trilogy, which is simply film footage of Major League Baseball and its players from the 1930s through the 60s, rekindled my fondness for the game.





Though I know there are folks who feel that this PBS mini-series should be discredited for the way it depicted Ty Cobb (in light of recent evidence of his character) and other things, I remember feeling that this was perhaps the greatest thing I ever saw on television when I first viewed it in ’94.

Plus it was dearly needed due to the World Series-killing baseball strike that was going on at the time; a perfect tonic.


OK, there are my choices.

You are now free to say how much you disagree with them if you are so inclined…



Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles CA – a place I have been to over fifty times, with a gorgeous view of the downtown skyline in the back drop.


The cover of the Dodgers’ 1978 yearbook, which being that it was only $1 I’m surprised I didn’t get. Photo courtesy of



When I look back on the forty years that I’ve regarded baseball as my all-time favorite sport, it’s inevitable that I recall how it got to be that way.

At the root of it all was my Asperger’s Syndrome, in that as a kid I would get absolutely obsessed about different things; I remember when I was seven or eight being obsessed with maps, studying road atlases and tracing maps of Riverside, CA, where I lived, from the back of the phone book.

This map obsession and various others would fade after a time, but one didn’t.

I was always exposed to baseball as my grandparents, who I lived with as a young boy, were fervent fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Starting in March, a game would usually be showing on the television screen, Vin Scully spinning his stats and stories like he was your best friend.

One of my obsessions as a little boy was the Peanuts comic strip. I practically worshiped Charlie Brown and company – I still make it a point to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, the best animated feature ever made, every holiday season – and part of their antics was their pathetic attempts at playing baseball.



Thirteen youngsters who influenced me in a significant way as far as my getting involved with baseball. Photo courtesy of


When I reached double-digit age in 1977, something else happened to enhance my attraction to baseball…

The Dodgers played in the World Series that year, and being that they were in the Fall Classic I of course watched the games on TV; I’ll never forget how disappointed I was when the New York Yankees’ Reggie Jackson solidified his “Mr. October” status with those three home runs in Game 6, clinching the title for those pinstripers.

Imagine my further disappointment when those Yankees repeated, at my Dodgers’ expense, the next year; I remember wanting to be a major leaguer so I could get revenge on those Bronx-based people.



One of those influencing baseball moments for me: Bob Welch striking out Reggie Jackson in Game 2 of the 1978 World Series. Courtesy of YouTube.


My first visit to Dodger Stadium, on my 11th birthday in 1978 – I remember it vividly; my mom, some cousins and I sat near the right field foul pole on the field level, Davey Lopes stole four bases, and Don Sutton shut out the Montreal Expos 5-0 – only crystallized my entry into the baseball world, as did a certain movie released a couple of years before depicting a certain little league team whose ineptness remains legendary, The Bad News Bears.

Which along with that first Dodger Stadium visit was the last straw in my becoming  obsessed with the game.

What attracted me and countless others to that movie was the fact that these were real kids playing ball, with an emphasis on the real as that movie did much to influence me.


Part of my first exposure to baseball. Image courtesy of


It was because of The Bad News Bears that I felt that girls could do anything that boys could do as Tatum O’ Neal made like current Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw at mowing down the boys with her fastball.

It was because of The Bad News Bears that I began playing baseball myself – Sunset Little League at Memorial Park in Santa Monica, CA, about a ten minute walk from my home.

And it was because of The Bad News Bears that, having a natural ability at putting the bat on the ball, I dearly wanted to hit like Kelly Leak, the bad-ass delinquent played by Jackie Earle Haley, and worked hard when I transitioned to pick up softball in later years to hit like that character.



One of the greatest endings to a sports movie ever – the last scene of “The Bad News Bears”. Courtesy of YouTube


The next four decades saw me involved in nearly every aspect of baseball and softball, from playing Pony and Colt League Baseball up to age 17 as well as Little League,

To coaching at mostly the youth level, from my brother’s T-Ball team to eventually earning a spot on a high school coaching staff in 2007,

To playing intramural softball in college and pickup softball for the bulk of my adult life.

My obsession with baseball has also manifested itself in my significantly large cap collection, as over the years I have owned the caps of every major league baseball team as well as several college teams, with roughly twenty of them being the cap of my alma mater, UCLA.


Another way in which these Bears influenced my love of baseball, when they played in Houston’s Astrodome in the “Bad News Bears In Breaking Training”. You can spot Astros stars (from left to right) J.R. Richard (my favorite), Bob Forsch, Cesar Cedeno and Bob Watson in the dugout. Photo courtesy of



And being the history buff that I am (my bachelor’s degree is in that subject), I consider Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary one of the greatest TV productions ever made as I have extensively studied the game’s past.

While baseball’s not as much of an obsessive thing with me as it was as a kid, I consider Opening Day of the major league season the REAL New Year’s Day, a holiday to celebrate as being an adult about to enter his 50’s, I see baseball as like a warm quilt on a cold day.

It gives me a comfort that other sports like football (though I like the college version and am a longtime fan of UCLA’s team) don’t and can’t give me in that its pace, which people tend to frown on and is a factor in the preference for sports like football and basketball, is leisurely and not stress inducing.

But that’s just me.

All I know is this…

Because of its familiarity and comfort food-like feeling, baseball will always be my favorite sport.

And I have the Dodgers, those Bad News Bears, and Charlie Brown and his crew to thank for that.


The official team photo of the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the reasons why baseball became very dear to me. Photo courtesy of


Concussions, CTE, & Other Debilitating Injuries: Is Football REALLY Worth It?


Members of the reborn Los Angeles Rams, back after 21 years in St. Louis, taking the field at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of




Now that the confetti’s been cleaned up and the Vince Lombardi Trophy has been awarded in Houston, with the team receiving that trophy embarking on their celebratory parade as I write this,

Over the past several years I’ve watched football games on TV and in person and – sometimes in the back of my mind, sometimes in the front of  it,

Considering all the stories of former stars and heroes who were seen as near-gods in during their time on the gridiron who are…

  • Unable to remember how to get home from the store as well as sometimes needing help remembering their oldest friends and even their own names
  • Can barely walk without significant pain
  • (In some cases) are paralyzed
  • Broke and homeless or even dead by suicide due to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy suffered from all the hitting on the field

I have wondered if playing the game of football is worth it.

Many big names have ended up as statistics as far as CTE and other permanently painful injuries and how it ultimately ruined their lives, Super Bowl champions like Brett Favre, Jim McMahon, and Harry Carson along with ex-Tennessee Titan Frank Wycheck, who has recently stated his fear of having CTE,

As well as guys who are tragically no longer with us such as former Baltimore Colt and Lite Beer commercial legend Bubba Smith,  Oakland Raider Ken Stabler, and notably Junior Seau, the former USC and San Diego Chargers Hall of Famer who shot himself in 2012.

These are and were the athletes who, suffer from bad headaches and memory loss in addition to the sometimes excruciating pain in their joints and various other body parts.

As former New York Giant Carson described it, in his words he “…doesn’t think as clearly as I used to. Nor is my speech (and) selection of vocabulary as good as it used to be.”

To make it clear, contrary to what some may be thinking I do enjoy football, having been a fervent fan of my collegiate alma mater’s team, the UCLA Bruins, for roughly 35 years and having seen them play approximately 130 times.




Philip Rivers, the longtime San Diego Chargers QB who will as of next fall be playing his home games in Los Angeles; he’s another guy whose brain and overall health I’m praying for. Photo courtesy of


I completely understand the appeal of football in this country, how it attracts people not only with its violent, battle-like nature and the pomp and pageantry that goes along with it, i.e., cheerleaders and marching bands (which I was involved with in both high school and at UCLA),

But – more importantly – also with the extreme sense of camaraderie that the game provides in the form of tailgating (my favorite part of football) and simply being with people similar to you as far as the team they root for.

I also completely understand the appeal of playing the game as who wouldn’t want to be adored by anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 people on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  Not to mention all the lovely young women in short mini skirts holding pom-poms showing such enthusiasm over what they are doing on the sidelines.

And the fact that injuries suffered on the gridiron are unfortunate but also an occupational hazard that is more or less inevitable.


The more I hear and see all these tragedies stemming from playing football – I’m praying that newly re-crowned Super Bowl hero and the guy who everyone’s saying is the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, doesn’t end up like Carson or (even worse!) Seau with all the hits he must have taken over his nearly 20 years as a New England Patriot,

The more I’m glad I chose to play baseball as a kid and continue to play softball today, because I know I wouldn’t be able to handle the costs of being a football player.

And the more I’m convinced that in the long run, because of its level of safety, longevity (the average NFL career being four years as opposed to 7-10 years for Major League Baseball) and security (the average salary is higher in MLB than in the NFL) compared to football, baseball is the better game to play.

I suppose that’s my answer as to, as much as I still like it and understand that it’s a forever slice of Americana, if I feel football is truly worth it.

By The Way:  On a side note, I think Brady needs to retire as with all the success and accolades he has collected squatting behind the center and throwing spirals, not to mention the many millions he has earned – enough so that his great-grandchildren will be set for life – what more does he need to prove?!



Two guys whose heads I’m fervently hoping and praying will ultimately be OK shaking hands after the recent Super Bowl; the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan and the Patriots’ now-five time NFL champ Tom Brady. Photo courtesy of


Me And My Second Favorite Baseball Team


Chicago’s Cubs celebrating something they haven’t been able to celebrate in 108 years – a World Series championship. Photo courtesy of




Before I continue, let me make something crystal clear:

I am a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, have been for a long time, and will continue to be one.

The Dodgers will always be first in my baseball universe, but let’s put it like this…

You know how sports fans often have a second team that they find themselves liking and rooting for except when they play their primary team?

The Chicago Cubs are that second baseball team for me (with the Pittsburgh Pirates a close third, but that will be saved for another post).

I was just watching some YouTube videos of Cub fans reacting at the moment their team won the World Series, and I teared up a bit as I’m not sure any one else who’s a fan of a team besides the Cubs was happier for that ball club, their fans, and the city of Chicago than I was.



Highlights that every Cub fan has been waiting for their entire lifetimes, courtesy of YouTube.



Actually, my connection to the Cubs goes back thirty years, to when I coached a little league team in Santa Monica for four seasons that was called – you guessed it, the Cubs.

I had Cubs jerseys that I wore to those games, and I especially remember journeying to Chicago in August of 1987 to pick up my then-five year old brother, who was visiting his father.

It was my very first time outside of Southern California, and as I took the train (didn’t want to fly), I got to see two-thirds of America; I felt like an explorer in the 1500s discovering the New World.

Most importantly, I was scheduled to see a doubleheader at Wrigley Field during my two days in the Windy City, but the weather miserably failed to cooperate as it poured rain the entire time I was there, washing out my plans to see the Friendly Confines on Clark and Addison Streets and check out those Bleacher Bums.

Which is why seeing that iconic ballpark remains on my bucket list.

I also remember taking home a Cubs fan pack consisting of a pennant, a button, and some other knickknacks.

Kind of weird considering my Dodger roots, I know.

Over the years my attraction to those Cubs remained despite my loyalty to the Dodgers. I got to see the Cubs twice when they played at Dodger Stadium, one time being when Sammy Sosa – this was a year or two after his 66 home run odyssey as I was rooting for him over Mark McGwire to break Roger Maris’ record – hit a game tying home run to send the game into extra innings.


Chicago Cubs fans celebrate during a rally in Grant Park honoring the World Series baseball champions Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Chicago Cubs fans celebrate during a rally in Grant Park honoring the World Series baseball champions Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) Photo courtesy of


Fast forward about a decade or so…

When the Dodgers faced the Cubs in this year’s National League Championship Series, though I was clearly rooting for the Dodgers not only would I have not been that upset if the Cubs had won, as an objective and realistic Dodger fan who runs a sports fan site/blog called SoCal Sports Annals (here’s the link:  I picked the Cubs to win in six games because they were simply a better team with more pitching depth.

When those Cubs made my prediction spot on, there was no question that I would be rooting for that franchise to win their first World Series since 1908.

As a matter of perspective, the last time those Cubs won it all (besides the obvious such as World War I not breaking out yet or the automobile barely being invented or radio, let alone television, not existing)…

My grandfather – who died in 1982 – was all of two years old.

My grandmother – who died in 1993 – was not even born yet!

Los Angeles – America’s second largest city with over four million inhabitants – had barely over 300,000 people.

Culver City, CA – a suburb of Los Angeles where I now reside and have lived for 18 years – didn’t exist and wouldn’t for another nine years!

Other cities in Los Angeles County that didn’t exist in 1908:  Beverly Hills, Burbank, Torrance, San Fernando

Most of America’s streets were dirt, not paved as that was a rare thing.

Roosevelt – Teddy, not Franklin – was the president.

Women were not allowed to vote – and wouldn’t be for another twelve years!

* Movies were of the silent kind and wouldn’t be able to “talk” for another 19 years!



The scene at Wrigley Field the moment the Cubs won the World Series, courtesy of YouTube.



And as far as baseball and other sports were concerned…

Babe Ruth was a 14-year-old resident at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore.

Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson; NONE of those legends were even born yet!

The NFL, NBA and NHL – NONE of those leagues existed!

And not only were USC’s teams not called the Trojans, and wouldn’t for another four years as they were called the Methodists…

my collegiate alma mater, UCLA, did not exist!


CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 04: Chicago Cubs mascot Clark celebrates during the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series victory parade on November 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs won their first World Series championship in 108 years after defeating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in Game 7. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, CM - OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD **

CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 04: Chicago Cubs mascot Clark celebrates during the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series victory parade on November 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs won their first World Series championship in 108 years after defeating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in Game 7. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) ** OUTS – ELSENT, FPG, CM – OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD ** Photo courtesy of


All right, enough with the historical perspectives…

The bottom line was, when Kris Bryant threw to Anthony Rizzo at first base for that final out in Game Seven, I was as happy as anyone.

Which considering that I’m a Dodger fan whose team was beaten by the Cubs, is saying something.

I found myself wearing my Cubs cap for the next few days, including to my weekly pick-up softball game, as well as watching the parade and rally a few days before.

I think the reason I reacted to the Cubs winning the crown the way I did was because it was not only good for that city, it was good for baseball in general as that game had pretty much ceased to be the National Pastime, football – both the pro and college kind – having taken over years before.

Baseball got a boost in popularity thanks to that team residing in Chicago’s North Side, and being a longtime baseball and softball guy that was good news.

I don’t think I’ll buy any Cub jerseys as I would feel like the ultimate bandwagon fan and a traitor to the Dodgers if I did.

But that doesn’t change my happiness over those Cubbies breaking a 108-year curse.

This year it was the Cubs.

Next year (I hope) it will be the Dodgers.

But until then…

Congratulations, Cubs! 



This year it was the Cubs, and deservedly so. Next year I’ll hopefully get to see this team celebrate a World Series title. Photo courtesy of





The Coliseum peristyle on July 28th, 1984; note the newly lit torch burning to signify the start of the Los Angeles Olympics. Photo courtesy of




As this latest rendition of the Olympic Games are a bit more than 24 hours away from the Opening Ceremonies and the torch being lit (as of this writing),

Amid all the issues and troubles that have been dogging the host city, Rio De Janeiro – ranging from garbage in the water where the sailing and other events are scheduled, to people losing their homes to make room for venues, to the mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus that has driven a good number of Olympians away…

Memories of one particular Olympics have popped up in my head: the 23rd Summer Games that were held in my city, Los Angeles, California, in 1984.

I was 17 and on the verge of my senior year in high school when Rafer Johnson lit that torch in the Coliseum that July 28th; I remember attending a funeral that day and coming back to the deceased’s house, turning on the TV, and watching the parade of athletes march down the track.

Like pretty much everyone else in L.A., I was into the Olympics as this was an obviously once in a lifetime event.

It didn’t even matter to us that Russia and other communist countries (except for Romania and China, much to their credit) boycotted to get back at the U.S. for skipping the Moscow games four years before; nobody seemed to care once things got underway.

I recall my female schoolmates having crushes on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team, Mitch Gaylord in particular as he was seemingly everybody’s honey.

As for me, though I thought Mary Lou Retton was cute, the Los Angeles Times’ columnist Jim Murray calling the women’s gymnastics all-around gold medal winner “Charlie Hustle in a leotard”,  I was more into a synchronized swimmer named Tracie Ruiz.


1984:  Mary Lou Retton of the United States in action during the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. Mandatory Credit: Steve Powell  /Allsport

1984: Mary Lou Retton of the United States in action during the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. Mandatory Credit: Steve Powell /Allsport This young lady more than earned the title “Darling of the 1984 Olympics” with that all-around gold that she won. Photo courtesy of


I remember my mom’s old boyfriend from college coming down from Oregon for the Games, which was cool as I specifically recall him knocking on my bedroom door to let me know that baseball, which was a demonstration sport and featured future Hall-of-Fame level talent like Mark McGwire on the U.S. team, was on TV.

The biggest recollection of those Olympics for me was the marathon, traditionally held on the last day, for the simple reason that the start of that race was about a half block from my house at Santa Monica College.

I stood on top of a parking structure overlooking the small football stadium on SMC’s campus among – as you would imagine – a huge crowd as after the starting gun went off, the runners went around the track a few times before heading north on 17th Street, right through my neighborhood.

There’s a picture of my mom and my then-two and a half-year old brother watching the runners go by that I thought was cute.

To be able to say that I saw an actual Olympic event was, to risk a cliché, pretty special.

Although I would meet 1996 Magnificent Seven Olympic hero Kerri Strug 16 years later, those 1984 games provided some good memories for me.

And despite all the problems that have plagued Rio, I’m sure that when the torch is lit, the athletes start to do their thing and the medals are given out, people will put the bad issues on the back burner.

At least for a while.

At the risk of sounding corny, let the Games begin!



Carl Lewis competing in one of his four track and field events on the way to matching Jesse Owens’ four gold medals. Photo courtesy of