Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed a bill that effectively approved construction on a new football stadium in the City of Industry. This is truly a landmark day for those who have been yearning for the NFL to return to LA, myself included, since the Rams and Raiders left 15 years ago.
For years, the biggest hurdle to NFL football in LA was the lack of a stadium. The city government in Los Angeles was only willing to get behind the Coliseum, a site the NFL desperately did not want. City politics helped kill perfectly legitimate plans in places like South Park and Chavez Ravine. (The latter led Peter O'Malley to sell the Dodgers, which ultimately put us in the bizarre situation we're in today with the McCourts. For the record, I blame Mike Hernandez and Mark Ridley-Thomas for that, but that's a conversation for another day).
There's a laundry list of other failed stadium plans. A plan for the Raiders to move to Hollywood Park fell apart because Al Davis didn't want to wait for it to be built. A plan to renovate the Rose Bowl was rejected by the Pasadena City Council. A plan in Carson failed because partially because it was on a toxic waste dump. Other stadium proposals in Anaheim, El Segundo, and Lynwood never materialized.
But now, thanks to the incredible work of Ed Roski and Majestic Realty, we are as close as we've ever been to a modern football stadium in the greater L.A. area. Make that the state of California actually, as all three NFL teams in the state play in aging stadiums. I'd argue that today is also a victory for development and progress in California, as we showed that eight homeowners in Walnut are not enough to stop a project that will create jobs and benefit the region economically. In fact, those who are upset about the environmental exemption granted by the governor neglect to mention that the proposed LEED-certified stadium would actually be better for the environment than what would go there otherwise.
The biggest remaining hurdle now is getting a team to move here. Now that there is an actual stadium plan approved, expect relocation talks to get serious. The hope is that a team could move to the Coliseum or Rose Bowl in 2011, and the new stadium could be completed by 2013. Of course, relocation could be complicated by existing stadium leases and I am unsure what kind of deal Roski wants to work out in order give him at least some ownership stake in a franchise. There are seven teams that could potentially move to L.A. and I'll take a look at each of them.
San Francisco 49ers: The Niners are the least likely team to move among the seven. The team has been working for a long time on a new stadium in Santa Clara. It's possible that could fall through. But even if that were the case, the Niners are the dominant team in the Bay Area, there is a ton of history with the franchise, and one would reason that the Niners would exhaust every Northern California option.
Oakland Raiders: The organization is completely unstable right now, and it wouldn't surprise me if Al Davis were admitted to an insane asylum at some point. In the meantime, he's in a horrible stadium in Oakland with a lease that expires after the 2010 season. The NFL wants the Raiders to consider sharing a stadium in Santa Clara with the 49ers; however, the team has never given a definitive answer to that idea.
Rumors have persisted for years that anyone from Dean Metropoulos to Ed DeBartolo would like to buy the Raiders and move them south. Al Davis only owns 26% of the Raiders and he is not in great health, so anything could happen there. The Raiders also have as sizable a fan base any NFL team in L.A.
But part of the problem with the Raiders is their brand. When they played in the Coliseum, the Raiders name was synonymous with gang violence. Families stayed away from the Silver and Black. Players were afraid to let their kids attend their games in person. Even the NFL wouldn't allow Monday Night and Sunday Night games to be played at the Coliseum because they thought it wasn't safe.
It's true that USC football and continued development in the region has helped change the perception of the Coliseum and the surrounding area. But it will take a lot to change the perception of the Raiders. Perhaps a new owner with the right personality and the right marketing plan can make a difference, but it won't be easy.
San Diego Chargers: They might be in the best position to move of any team in the NFL. The Chargers can get out of their stadium lease if they're willing to pay a fee that decreases every year. They've been trying to get a new stadium in San Diego for a long time, and as far as I know, there aren't any serious proposals on the table. Still, it remains to be seen how much of a stake the Spanos family would be willing to give up, and at least publicly, they remain very committed to staying in San Diego. I think the NFL would like to keep a team there too, if possible.
Jacksonville Jaguars: If I'm NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, I'm looking at a team in a tiny market like Jacksonville that won't sell out a single home game this year on one coast, and I'm looking at an unserved market with 17 million people on the other coast, and I'd be wondering "how do I get them to move?"
I lived in Florida for two years, and I'd bet the Jaguars rank about fourth in the Jacksonville pecking order -- below Florida, Florida State, and Georgia college football. Certainly Jaguars attendance would bear that out, as the team appears to be nearing a crisis situation.
Moving the Jaguars to LA seems to make perfect sense. Even the name "L.A. Jaguars" has a nice ring to it. Unfortunately for LA though, Jacksonville has one of the toughest leases to break in the NFL. The team can only break its lease if it loses money for three consecutive seasons or if a judge determines that the city has not properly maintained the Jaguars' stadium.
On the first point, the Jags may very well be able prove financial losses at their current pace. But doing so would require the team to open its books to the public, something that sports teams almost never want to do, and the NFL might not even allow it. On the second point, the city has paid millions on improvements to the Jaguars' stadium, and it even hosted a Super Bowl as recently as 2005. Even if the Jaguars found a way to get out of their lease, they might have to pay up to $50 million in rent owed to the city in a lump sum.
The lease was negotiated by Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, who is a Jacksonville guy and wants the team to stay. But he is also nearing 80 and has also openly talked about selling.
Perhaps a solution can be reached for the Jaguars to move to LA, especially since Jacksonville would appear to have little strategic value to the NFL. But for now, I still wonder why the league granted Jacksonville an expansion franchise over Baltimore and St. Louis back in 1993.
St. Louis Rams: I would absolutely love it if the Rams moved back to L.A. I grew up a Los Angeles Rams fan, and I have to admit -- as bizarre as this sounds -- that I miss them. TJ Simers recently wrote an article joking about how he didn't want the Rams back here because they're a terrible team right now. But good teams generally don't move, and in the NFL, bad teams can improve quickly. On-field performance is the least of my concerns right now.
The Rams have a storied history in Los Angeles, dating back to the days of Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin, Crazy Legs Hirsch, Deacon Jones, Eric Dickerson, and Jackie Slater. Despite what Simers might argue, the name Los Angeles Rams has cachet in this city, and at least has a historical brand to sell.
The Rams have a clear out-clause in their stadium lease in 2014 and have a murky ownership situation. After Georgia Frontiere died, control of the team went to her children Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez. Rosenbloom has made it clear that he'd like to keep the Rams in St. Louis, although I'm not sure why. He lives in Los Angeles where he's a Hollywood producer who made the Shiloh the dog movies. Still, him and his sister have been fielding offers the 60% share of the Rams that they own (Rush Limbaugh's interest became very public), and it might be difficult to find a buyer who wants to keep the team in Missouri when it would figure to be more profitable in Los Angeles. Still, 2014 is a long time from now.
Minnesota Vikings: I would be surprised if the Vikings left Minnesota, but it's certainly plausible. The Vikings' stadium lease expires in 2011, and persistent efforts to build a new stadium have born no fruit. The organization has expressed clear frustration with the state legislature for several years now. If significant progress is not made soon, then Vikings will surely take relocation seriously.
Still, it's hard for me to believe that given the deep emotions Minnesotans feel for the Vikings, that the team would leave. They have a rich tradition in the Twin Cities. However, the same could have been said about the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Colts, and they both found a way to leave. It would be interesting to have two Purple and Gold teams in L.A. that originated in Minnesota. Of course, if the team could always change its name if it moved here.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills are in a complex situation in Buffalo. The city is not what it once was, and it simply cannot support an NFL team. Bills owner Ralph Wilson recognizes this and has reached a deal to play several home games in Toronto each season until the team's lease expires in 2012.
Wilson just turned 91 though and has said he will not give the team to his children. That could leave the Bills for sale and open the doors for an L.A. buyer. Still, it's also possible that the team could wind up playing more games in Toronto, or even move there under a new owner. Additionally, Roger Goodell is from Western New York state and would like to keep a team there. If the Bills did move to L.A. though, then a name change might be a good idea.
The Dodgers went out with a whimper in their season finale, losing Game 5 to the Phillies 10-4. This will no doubt give ammunition to the Dodger doubters who for months have said they were not built for the playoffs (a series sweep of the Cardinals, notwithstanding).
I've always believed the playoffs to be something of a crapshoot, but that's certainly no excuse for them losing this series. The bottom line is, the bullpen which had been their strength all season, fell apart when the Dodgers needed it most. George Sherrill had barely given up any runs in Dodger blue, but his three-run homer allowed in Game 1, and sloppy pitching in Game 4 were real killers. And of course, Jonathan Broxton's fear of pitching to Matt Stairs and sudden loss of command at the end of Game 4 was crushing.
Much has been made of the fact that the Dodgers didn't have an ace. But in truth, aces don't grow on trees, and the Dodgers did have the pitching talent to win the series. For all the hoopla about Cliff Lee, he only won one game in the NLCS... a game the Phillies could have probably won with Chad Durbin going a full 9 innings. Cole Hamels was hardly stellar in his outings, and Joe Blanton didn't do much either. The only other Phillies pitcher with a dominant outing was Pedro Martinez, pitching in a game the Dodgers won.
Still, Chad Billingsley's sudden second half slide (after an All-Star first half) deprived the Dodgers of a much-needed arm starting an NLCS game. I'm disappointed in the Dodger training staff and Joe Torre for thinking that Hiroki Kuroda was healthy enough to pitch in Game 3. He clearly wasn't ready to come back then. And sometimes managers overrate the small sample size of postseason games, which probably led Torre to think that Vicente Padilla was an ace based on just two good starts.
The Dodgers lineup wasn't bad in this series, but they did leave a lot of runners on base and didn't come through quite as often as they needed to. Conversely, you have to give the Phllies credit for getting their lineup together, especially Ryan Howard, who raised his game to a whole new level.
This season is not a failure, although many will call it that. The Dodgers finished 2009 with the best record in the National League, they won a playoff series, and their kids officially grew up. They will enter 2010 with their nucleus in tact, and have a talent base good enough to contend for a World Series. Obviously, they will need to explore options for starting pitchers, as John Lackey will be a free agent they could sign and Roy Halladay could be on the trade block.
Until then, as the old Dodger saying goes: "Just wait 'till next year!"
Ceramic artist Dora De Larios knows the exact moment when she began the journey that led to her current retrospective, "Sueños/Yume: Fifty Years of the Art of Dora De Larios," at the Craft and Folk Art Museum on Wilshire Blvd. She was eight years old and saw the historic Aztec calender stone at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Struck by its power, she instantly felt connected to her Mexican ancestry. From that point on, she knew she would become an artist.
The CAFAM exhibit's name uses the Spanish and Japanese words for dreams. Born in downtown Los Angeles in 1933 to Mexican immigrants, De Larios grew up with Latino and Nisei neighbors. After Dorsey High School and studying ceramics and sculpture at USC, she opened her first studio in Los Angeles. Exposure to Japanese culture at an early age was a key influence. It "set the stage for relationships with other cultures later on," says De Larios.
A 13-month trip around the world in 1963 included stops in Japan, Hong Kong, Nepal, East Africa, and Egypt, and further broadened her knowledge and love of world cultures.
De Larios has had a "lifelong interest in the divine, its symbolism and its interpretation in various cultures," says CFAM guest curator Elaine Levin. "She offers us an extraordinary world of whimsical yet confident animals, loving friends, family. Interspersed in this colorful melange are the mystical forces of life, embodied by mythological creatures and goddesses which fuel the artists imagination." De Larios works not just in clay, but uses wood, plastic and steel in some pieces.
De Larios also does commissions for public and private spaces in California, the U.S., and internationally. Architect Lisa Landworth, of Landworth Debolske Associates on Wilshire, met De Larios in 1987 when her client, Alan Sieroty, "had the idea of integrating the work of an artist into the façade remodel of his building at 6022 Wilshire, in the heart of the Miracle Mile. An unfortunate remodel done in the 1960's had obliterated the building's Art Deco roots."
De Larios was chosen for the commission since her medium of ceramic tile sculpture, and her geometric design concept, perfectly meshed with the desire to recall the original Art Deco style. "Dora's tile installation provided a dramatic bas relief focal point that successfully integrated fine arts with architecture," says Landworth.
De Larios continues to be inspired by travel, world culture and her hometown. "I love the vitality of Los Angeles, the different cultures and enclaves. You can really get lost here," she says.
A favorite spot is the Greek Orthodox church near Normandie and Venice Boulevard. But she makes it very clear that her favorite place to be is her studio on Venice in Culver City. With a smile she says, "I work, and I work, and I work some more."
"Sueños/Yume: Fifty Years of the Art of Dora De Larios" is on view at CAFAM through Jan. 10, 2010.
Top photo: courtesy of Dora De Larios
Photo of De Larios: Judy Graeme
The big news in Dodgerland tonight is that Frank and Jamie McCourt have reportedly separated. I've actually been hearing this rumor for a while, but I'm surprised it happened now. It's very disappointing that this news would come out the day before Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. Couldn't it have waited until after the season?
I don't really know the reason for the split, but I've heard that there was an internal struggle between Frank and Jamie on how to run the team's business operations. Frank had brought in Dennis Mannion as President, a very sharp executive who has done some great work for the team. Mannion had previously been an executive with the Baltimore Ravens. Jamie had brought in Dr. Charles Steinberg, who now "has permission to entertain offers from other MLB clubs." Steinberg grew up down the street from Jamie in Baltimore and supposedly lost influence to Mannion within the organization.
Any conjecture about the future of the Dodgers right now is just that... conjecture. I don't know what will happen, and it's inappropriate to speculate too much. I will speculate to a level though that I think is appropriate though. First off, Forbes estimates the value of the team is $722 million, a considerable increase on the $430 million that the McCourts paid back in 2004. It looks like they made a good investment. The couple's net worth is estimated at $1.29 billion according to the LA Business Journal.
Secondly, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal claims that if there is a divorce, then Jamie would be in a better position to buy out Frank. Third, most reporters this evening are bringing up John Moores' recent divorce which led him to slash the payroll of the San Diego Padres and then sell the team early this year. Let's hope the McCourts can either patch up their differences or if they hold onto the team for a little while, they do it in a way that doesn't cause them to give up the nucleus of a team that's reached the playoffs 3 times in 4 years.
If the McCourts did wind up having to sell the team, then who would buy them? Well, this is just pure speculation, but I'll throw a few names that might make sense. Again, this is speculation on my part, and I have no direct knowledge of anyone's intentions. First, AEG would figure to be a possibility, considering their investment in sports facilities all over the world and their position in the LA sports market. Ed Roski has done work with AEG in the past, but he is also working actively on bringing an NFL team to the City of Industry. That being said, Chavez Ravine has long been rumored as a potential site for a football team, and that could motivate any sale. Casey Wasserman is another name that could surface.
When the Dodgers were for sale earlier this decade, Alan Casden was a potential buyer for the team. So was David Checketts who is now trying to buy the Rams, and just removed Rush Limbaugh from his investment group. The Glazer family was also interested six years ago, led by Malcolm who owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United. Glazer lives in Beverly Hills, but owning the Dodgers could lead to issues with the NFL's cross-ownership policy. It's also possible they could skirt that issue if one of the Glazer sons bought the team, but there's a lot to work through in that scenario. There was also once a rumor that Eli Broad wanted to buy the Dodgers and install Peter O'Malley as team president. Dennis Gilbert is someone with LA ties who is currently trying to lead an investment group to buy the Texas Rangers. He actually interviewed for the Dodgers GM job once. Mark Cuban would like to own a baseball team, but he is not well-liked by MLB owners.
The current economic climate has reduced the number of people who could potentially buy the team, especially since it's now worth over $700 million. Buying the team would also include all of the land around Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. It's possible that anyone who buys the team will view the acquisition as a land deal. It's also possible that the McCourts could go through a messy divorce that puts the team in limbo for a few years, when hopefully the economy does improve and MLB could see the team sold for a higher price. In all likelihood, there would probably be several potential buyers who aren't on anyone's radar screen right now, whom most people have not heard of before.
It's certainly a heck of a time for all of this to happen.
Update: According to Frank McCourt's attorney, Frank is the sole owner of the team. Future control of the Dodgers could depend on the pre-nup.
If the McCourts are really about to go through a long and bitter divorce -- and reports are that could be the case -- then shame on them. They made every possible misstep after they bought the team, and after numerous regime changes, they finally have the organization where it should be. Through it all, they sent legions of Dodger fans on a bizarre roller coaster that most would just as soon like to forget.
Now, with the team about to begin its biggest playoff series in 20 years, there is a strong indication that millions of Dodger fans are about to be dragged through a long and messy divorce which will put ownership of the club into question. Dodger fans don't care about these two people, and they don't want the McCourts' personal problems to throw the organization into chaos. If the McCourts can't come to a speedy and amicable resolution, then they should do the people of Los Angeles a favor and sell the team as quickly as they can. Dodger fans deserve better.
We're down the League Championship Series, and the prospect of a Freeway World Series has never been closer. This season, Southern California is truly the king of baseball regions. The Dodgers led the Majors in attendance and finished with the best record in the National League. The Angels finished second in the AL in both the standings and in attendance.
For seven straight years, the Dodgers and Angels have been in the top-6 in attendance in MLB. Yes, baseball is alive and strong here, and Los Angeles has proven itself as a great sports town. Don't let any obnoxious East Coast-biased fans tell you otherwise.
The Angels win over the Red Sox was predicted on this site, although I was a bit surprised that they were able to sweep. The Halos lineup is the best it's been in years, and they are getting contributions from everyone in the batting order. Their pitching has held up well for the most part, and their defense is strong.
The Dodgers win over the Cardinals was not predicted on this site, but only because I thought the team's late season struggles would continue. I've been a big defender of the Dodgers all season long, and evidently the belief that the team would step up their play in games that mattered held up true.
I am a bit dismayed though at the anti-Dodger pro-Angel bias that we've seen in the Los Angeles Times and in other media local media outlets, and I'll touch on that briefly. Like me, the Times predicted a Cardinals victory in the first round, but unlike me, they saw a sweep. Turned out the Times got every single game wrong.
In his "analysis" Times scribe Kevin Baxter claimed that the Cardinals had a better lineup than the Dodgers. However, Baxter listed just two Cardinals players - Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday - neglecting to mention that the rest of the lineup was mediocre. Well, the other six Cardinals did nothing in the series (and neither Pujols for that matter), while the deep Dodger lineup was able to hit Chris Carpenter, Joel Pineiro, and Ryan Franklin just fine.
Yesterday's LA Times offered 10 reasons "Why America should root for the Angels over the Yankees" without a similar article for the Dodgers. On the front page of that issue, there was a small box announcing a "Cole front is moving in" referring to Cole Hamels' success against the Dodgers in the postseason last year. It didn't mention that Hamels has been a completely different pitcher this year, and struggled in his one start against the Rockies.
Jon Weisman at DodgerThoughts has a great post about postseason myths, and how the Dodgers have proven many of them wrong. The Dodgers aren't winning baseball games in a traditional way and that seems to have flummoxed media pundits. The truth is there are many ways to win a baseball game, and it takes a full roster of 25 players.
You can't just say "Carpenter and Wainwright" and automatically give that team two wins. Even the best pitchers fail to get a win in 40% of their starts, leaving the win to the bullpen or an opposing pitcher. You can't just say "the Dodgers are all about Manny" when 89% of the team's plate appearances don't involve him, and then you see guys like Ronnie Belliard and Mark Loretta wind up with key hits.
So with all of that being said, I am going to preview both the Dodgers and Angels series by looking at specific matchups. First, let's look at Dodgers-Phillies:
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz vs. Russell Martin
Last year, a Sports Illustrated player poll rated Russell Martin and Joe Mauer as clearly the two best catchers in baseball. This year, Martin has confounded everyone and been the worst regular hitter in the Dodgers lineup. He's still a defensive asset, but his play this season has been very troubling. Carlos Ruiz is a pretty mediocre catcher with some upside and some power. In this series I see both players having similar production.
First Base: Ryan Howard vs. James Loney
It's true that Ryan Howard strikes out too much, can't hit lefties, and isn't much of a fielder. But he's still one of the best power threats in Major League Baseball, and only Albert Pujols hits righties better. James Loney will turn into Mark Grace if he's lucky.
Second Base: Chase Utley vs. Ronnie Belliard
For now I'm going to assume that Belliard will start over Orlando Hudson in every game, although I think there's some matchups that favor Hudson. It doesn't matter though because Chase Utley is the best hitting second baseman in the game today.
Third Base: Pedro Feliz vs. Casey Blake
Pedro Feliz is the weak link in the Phillies lineup while Casey Blake is a pretty consistent performer. Neither does much defensively.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins vs. Rafael Furcal
Have you seen how bad Jimmy Rollins has been this year? He nearly destroyed my fantasy team before I was luckily able to unload him in a trade. Rollins was always overrated and he's nothing close to the player he was 2-3 years ago. Furcal has also struggled this season, but it looks like he's finally healthy and hitting like it. But given that both players are somewhat unpredictable, there's no clear advantage.
Left Field: Raul Ibanez vs. Manny Ramirez
Ibanez has gotten a lot of publicity for having one of his best seasons. But Ibanez is a prime example of how a player's good first half can lead to a season-long reputation. Ibanez hit .232 after the All-Star break and his defense is almost as bad as Manny Ramirez's. While Ramirez has gotten a lot of criticism this season, justifiably so, he's the greatest threat in this series at the end of the day.
Center Field: Shane Victorino vs. Matt Kemp
Shane Victorino was a key to the Phillies win over the Dodgers last year. But Matt Kemp hits for more power, steals more bases, and is a greater threat at the plate. Both of these guys are great players, but Kemp is a little bit better.
Right Field: Jayson Werth vs. Andre Ethier
The Dodgers once had both Victorino and Werth in their organization, but let them go. Their stellar play is an example of what can happen if a team gets rid of good young players. Fortunately, the Dodgers held onto Kemp and Ethier and their in the NLCS for the second straight yet.
As for Eithier and Werth, both of these players have remarkably similar statistics. The biggest difference is that Werth strikes out a bit more while Ethier is horrible against lefties.
Projected Game 1 Starting Pitchers: Cole Hamels vs. Clayton Kershaw
I know that Cole Hamels pitched well in the postseason last year. But that was last year. He hasn't been the same pitcher in 2009 and his whining about throwing a day game against the Rockies made him look almost immature. Clayton Kershaw has looked fantastic lately and he provides a useful left-handed arm in this series. Still you wonder about him going deep into games, even with the Dodgers great bullpen.
Remaining Starting Rotations: J.A. Happ, Cliff Lee, and Pedro Martinez vs. Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, and Hiroki Kuroda or Chad Billingsley
Since neither manager has told us much about the rotations beyond Game 1, I won't project another matchup. I'm guessing the Phillies will use Cliff Lee in Game 3 so that he doesn't go on short rest. In that case, Lee could be used in Game 6 on normal rest. Lee has been terrific since he joined the Phillies and is the best pitcher in this series. J.A. Happ is a good young pitcher, but we can't really expect to see much from him. He only lasted three innings in his first postseason start. Martinez had a nice comeback year, but he's still a shell of his former self, and he can't pitch deep into games. That's worrisome if you're the Phillies and you have a bad bullpen.
Randy Wolf finally looks like the great prospect that the Phillies once had now that he's over his injuries. He didn't pitch well in the first inning of his first postseason start and it hurt him the rest of the way. Still, you have to think he'll bounce back. Vicente Padilla is another great ex-Phillies prospect who has had his own journey and is pitching as well as he ever has. The No. 4 starter spot is between Hiroki Kuroda who might be pitching hurt and Chad Billingsley who is unpredictable.
If you were to rank these starting pitchers, you'd go Lee, Wolf, Padilla, Happ, Martinez, Kuroda/Billingsley with the last spot potentially moving into the top-3. If I were the Phillies, I'd actually consider using Joe Blanton over Martinez. Overall, I think Lee's great pitching will be counter-balanced by the pedestrian performances from the other pitchers, while the Dodger pitchers will consistently get into the 6th inning and leave their team with a chance to win.
The Dodger bullpen has been a source of strength all season long, and the addition of George Sherrill coupled with the health of Hong Chih-Kuo allows the team to mix lefties and righties. The Phillies bullpen could actually cost them the series. The Dodgers won two early season games because of Brad Lidge meltdowns and Scott Eyre and Ryan Madson haven't pitched well in the 9th when called upon.
The Phillies bench is not much to write home about with guys like Ben Francisco, Greg Dobbs, Miguel Cairo, and Matt Stairs (yes, him). The Dodger bench offers some interesting options with the obligatory Jim Thome pinch hit appearance, Orlando Hudson's solid play, and the speedy Juan Pierre.
Manager: Charlie Manuel vs. Joe Torre
Both of these managers have proven themselves in the postseason, but Joe Torre has won more and I love the job he's doing this year. I'll give the edge to experience.
Prediction: I see the Dodgers taking Games 1 and 2 in LA, with the Phillies bullpen possibly blowing one of those games. I think Cliff Lee will come back strong in Game 3 and the Phillies will steal another back home. Even though Lee is going Game 6, I see Dodgers learning from him the first time and coming back to win the series at home.
Dodgers in Six.
Angels vs. Yankees
At this moment, I don't have the time to write a full post about this series. I might between now and Friday. Either way, I think this series is going to be a classic. Both teams have deep lineups, but they both have their flaws. The Angels still match up particularly well against the Yankees though, the Halos taking it. Angels in Seven. And yes, I think we'll have a Freeway Series.
At 6:55 this morning, still dark here in Portland, there was a knock at my front door. My husband had just left for work and I was still in my nightgown.
"Who is it?" I asked, not being able to see through the keyhole, which, for reasons I have no explanation for, is set at six feet high.
"It's Hector," came the voice. "I'm Brendan Mullen's friend."
I remembered meeting Hector during Brendan's trip to Portland last year, to read from Live at the Masque: Nightmare at Punk Alley, his book about the proto-punk club he opened in Hollywood in 1977. Brendan's appearance at Powell's Books had been packed, more crowded than for any of the dozen writers I've seen read there, and as was fitting the subject and its author, included young punks, old punks, and one drunk heckler with a mullet. Brendan patiently answered the questions of each. Brendan always chose his words with care, and often spoke so softly, and with a Scottish burr so burry, one did not realize for several beats that what he'd just said was lacerating or funny or both.
But this morning, not yet having had a cup of coffee, I could not understand why Hector was on my doorstep this early, and so, I asked.
"Brendan died yesterday," he said.
I opened the door. The Army jacket Hector wore looked as though it weighed a hundred pounds. I brought him inside. He told me Brendan had died during a trip up the coast with his longtime girlfriend Kateri Butler; they'd been at a restaurant in Ventura celebrating Brendan's 60th birthday when he had a stroke. I asked if Hector had spoken with Kateri, with whom I worked for years at the LA Weekly. He said he had, several times, including once already this morning.
"I called and woke her up," he said, a little sheepish but it couldn't be helped. He needed to talk about his friend, so much that it drove him out of his own home before dawn to find mine, a place he had only ever been once, a year earlier.
"It's too soon," he said, of Brendan's death. "We still had so many things to do."
We talked about what had been done. About Brendan's books, and his latest project, writing the copy for a Red Hot Chili Peppers coffee table book, copy the publisher had apparently asked to be cleaned-up; they wanted a little less of the early-years drug stuff, a request, Hector said, Brendan thought pretty funny, as did Hector, as did I. We'd all been in LA in the 1980s; we'd directly seen the casualties; I can still see Jamie Slovak, brother of the Peppers original guitarist Hillel Slovak, standing in my driveway the morning after his brother overdosed, looking utterly broken and alone.
Brendan had both driven the LA punk era of the 70s and 80s and documented it, its epiphanies and deaths, its rattiness and joys. But he never seemed, to me, nostalgic for it; he seemed circumspect, and concerned with getting things right. And happy, I told Hector; that the longer I knew Brendan, and I had known him twenty years, the more joyful he became. I told Hector, also, of Brendan's generosity; how after my first big story for the Weekly, he was the first person to phone and congratulate me. It was a call that made me feel validated, as I imagine his giving venue to so many at the Masque did, the way his oral histories did, by giving people voice.
"That's how he was," said Hector, wiping at a tear with a crumpled piece of paper towel.
It's true. And while it is equally true we tend to say nice things about the dead just to say them, I have a story, a recent story that is testament to Brendan's generosity.
It was during his trip to Portland last year, during which I threw a little party for him, to celebrate his book and so he might get together with some of his friends here, and some of mine. Also invited were my 18-year-old daughter and her friends, including her then-boyfriend Aidan, who was playing guitar in the band Wolfgang Williams and the Punk Rock Faggots.
I told Aidan, Brendan Mullen was coming over; that he'd run a club in LA called...
"The Masque," said Aidan. "You're kidding me. You know him? Can I meet him?"
When Brendan arrived, wearing per usual a pork-pie hat, I told him to be ready; that he was going to have a novitiate sitting at his feet. Brendan's eyes went wide in mock alarm, and he said, in all sincerity, that it would be his pleasure to meet Aidan.
Which it evidently was: as the party went on around them, Brendan and Aidan hung out for two hours; they looked through Brendan's books and they talked about Aidan's band. It was a meeting of equals, and it was Brendan's patience, curiosity and genuine kindness that made it so.
I called Aidan just now, to tell him, about Brendan's death.
"That's terrible," he said. "I was just thinking about him two days ago."
What had he been thinking?
"I was thinking," said Aidan, "how nice he was. He was such a nice guy."
Soon after passing his driving test on Monday morning, Bruce Lisker drove his car to the Sherman Oaks carwash. He pulled in and I jumped out with my camera ready, along with a CBS camera crew that is preparing a special on Lisker's story. The carwash employees couldn't help but notice all the attention. "What, did you win the lottery?" a young man asked. Lisker smiled. "Yeah, something like that," he said.
Reserved, quiet and polite to a fault, Lisker seems to be enjoying every minute on the outside, learning something new every day — like what to tip the car wash workers, or how to use an ATM. "Before I went in, there were no cellular telephones, gps, no internet to speak of. When I was arrested, they were just starting to sell albums on CD. I had never used an ATM, written a check, voted, used a credit card. It was a different world."
"If I was bitter and filled with loathing, no one would want to hang out with me. On the inside I was waiting for one day when I could heal, recover, and part of that is being sociable.
"There were people who set out to destroy me. I'm not going to complete their mission for them. My Dad was always there for me, Joy my stepmother was there for me, she treated me just like a mother, she became in my heart and in hers my mother." Joy passed away years before his release. Lisker is now living with her husband until he gets a job and sets out on his own.
With his driver's license came the last bit of freedom he was craving. "The last time I drove around as a licensed driver was March 10, 1983, driving to my parents' house...Getting my license--it's a milestone in getting back my life. "
He was looking forward to driving alone for the first time in 26 years.
"I want to drive to the beach. It's something I had in my mind for a long time. My parents' ashes were scattered off the coast. It's a resting place. I want to spend some time looking out. I love the beach, it's the edge of forever. The beginning of the ocean, the majesty of everything that can be, of possibility. I love the beach. The girls wear bikinis there."
With a camera crew in tow, he did not get much time alone. A trip to Point Fermin, where his parents' ashes were scattered into the ocean, will come sometime in the near future. Lisker had sought permission in 1995 to leave prison and attend his father's funeral, but permission was denied. He mentions his Dad often, and many memories of his younger life with his parents crowd his thoughts as he reconnects with Los Angeles and the Valley.
Since his release he has been experiencing L.A. with friends and family — a Dodger game, jogging in the park, the Santa Monica pier, his favorite waffle place on Ventura Boulevard, and a trip to the Getty. "Just the building alone is beautiful," he said. "And while I was inside, it struck me: two weeks before I was being guarded at gunpoint. Now, two weeks later, I'm standing in front of a Vermeer."
His days are often packed, busy, doing the simple tasks of ordinary life: shopping, banking, connecting with old friends. "Some days are hard," he says. When asked to explain, he mentions his parents, as he often does when something triggers a memory.
"Both my mom and dad are gone," he says. They can't share his joy, or see him finally free. The sting of that loss, and its enormity, is never far below the surface.
At the car wash, the curious young man approached Bruce. "So man, what's your story?" Lisker explained: "I was in prison for a crime I didn't commit, and I was released about a month ago." The young man's face was serious.
"Wow, I feel that, man," he said. "How long were you in?"
"Twenty-six years," Lisker said.
"Oh no," he replied.
"Yeah," said Lisker. Then he asked, "How old are you?"
"Twenty-one," he answered, and the number seemed to hang in the air as they both grasped what it meant.
This week Lisker will take his first plane trip, to Northwestern University where he will appear on a panel at Northwestern's Law School, along with two other men wrongfully incarcerated as juveniles and now released. The airport security measures, which seem so absurdly excessive to most of us, will feel all too familiar to Lisker.
For the sixth consecutive year, either the Dodgers or Angels have made the playoffs, and this is the third time in that stretch in which both have reached postseason play. I would love to see a Freeway World Series, but in order to get there, both the Dodgers and Angels will have to get by tough first round opponents.
I broke down both series on The Filter with Fred Roggin yesterday, but here is a more in-depth analysis:
Dodgers vs. Cardinals
Both of these two teams finished the 2009 season poorly. The Dodgers seemed to take an eternity to clinch the NL West, while the Cardinals lost eight of their last 10.
Both teams have also struggled offensively of late. The Cardinals really only have two good hitters on their team -- Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. I hear idiot media pundits all the time say that the Dodgers don't have the big hitters to win in the playoffs, but they forget that no MLB teams are perfect. St. Louis is going to start Ryan Ludwick (disappointing year), Skip Schumaker (no power), Brendan Ryan (an unknown), Colby Rasmus (inconsistent), and Mark DeRosa (.228 average in St. Louis). That's a lot of question marks.
Many of the Dodgers hitters have struggled mightily down the stretch. Manny Ramirez, who has been a major disappointment since he returned from the steroid suspension, hit just .229 in September and he hasn't hit a home run in a while. Matt Kemp hit .241 in September was hitless in two October games. Andre Ethier only hit .212 in the season's final month. Russell Martin has been an enigma all year. Casey Blake and Ronnie Belliard have been banged up lately. Orlando Hudson has fallen out of the lineup. And I have no idea what to expect from Rafael Furcal.
I don't think any of these Dodgers hitters are bad. But I don't think most of them have been at their best. There's a theory that the Dodgers hitters have just been bored for a while, and there is credence to that argument. Still, what I've seen this past month hasn't been encouraging.
When it comes to pitching the Cardinals have two of the best pitchers in the National League in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. I'm sure if Joel Pineiro was the Dodgers Game 3 starter then the local media would be freaking out, but he's gotten little attention despite having a solid year. In Game 4 the Cardinals will turn to either Kyle Lohse (who has struggled lately) and John Smoltz (who is barely hanging onto his career).
The Dodgers are going with two lefthanders in the first two games -- Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw. That's significant because the Cardinals do not hit lefties well. The team surprisingly announced today that Vicente Padilla will start Game 3 of the series. Rumors of Padilla being a clubhouse cancer were greatly exaggerated. He's pitched pretty well for the Dodgers, going 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA. That being said, neither him, nor Kershaw figure to pitch deeply in games. Perhaps no Dodger starting pitcher has greater questions surrounding him than Chad Billingsley who will start Game 4. I've been one of Billingsley's biggest defenders, but I can't explain his sudden and sharp collapse in the second half after being named an All-Star in July. Still, Billingsley has the talent, his last start was respectable, and he should have plenty of motivation in the postseason. We can only hope he comes through.
All season the Dodgers have gotten 5-6 innings from their starting pitchers and then turned it over to one of the best and deepest bullpens in baseball. George Sherill has been excellent in the 8th inning, and Jonathan Broxton is as tough to hit as anyone in the 9th. If guys like Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, and James McDonald can be stable, the Dodger pitching should be OK.
St. Louis' bullpen is filled with plenty of no-names who have mostly pitched well. Their closer Ryan Franklin had a stunningly good year, but a lot of sabermetricians think his luck is going to run out.
Both of these teams have veteran managers who are among the all-time leaders in postseason games managed. Joe Torre is known for keeping his teams mentally strong while Tony LaRussa has made many smart strategic moves over the years.
I've been one of the biggest defenders of the Dodgers this season. I felt like most of the criticism levied against them was unwarranted and unfounded, and I've often been appalled at the glee with which local media members have bashed them. That being said, I can't ignore what I've seen the past few weeks with the Dodgers. While there is no evidence that momentum means anything entering the postseason, I don't like the way the Dodgers are playing, and I'm going to pick the Cardinals to win the series.
Angels vs. Red Sox
The Angels have never beaten the Red Sox in a playoff series, going back to 1986 and the famed Donny Moore-Dave Henderson plate appearance. More relevantly, the Red Sox have beaten the Angels in postseason in 2004, 2007 and 2008. Is this the year the Angels come through? I think so.
The Angels have been playing with a great deal of inspiration in honor the late Nick Adenhart. But also, the reason why the Angels have struggled in the postseason is their lack of offense. The Halos will bring their best lineup into the postseason since 2002. Kendry Morales has been the home grown power hitter that they've been searching for. Their young infielders -- Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis, and Howie Kendrick -- have all been good lately, while Chone Figgins gets on base and has speed. Bob Abreu was a shrewd addition in the outfield and Torii Hunter has had a pretty good year. Juan Rivera swings at a lot of bad balls, but he has power. And while Vladimir Guerrero isn't what he used to be, he's carried his weight since he came back from injury.
The Red Sox lineup is fantastic, and will not lay down against the Angels. Kevin Youkilis is one of the best hitters in baseball and Dustin Pedroia is a reigning MVP. David Ortiz has improved since his atrocious start and Jason Bay is as good as anyone in the outfield. Victor Martinez was also a nice addition.
The difference in this series for me is the pitching. Both Jon Lester and Josh Beckett are phenomenal pitchers, but both suffered late-season injuries, and it remains to be seen if they'll be at full strength. It's hard to believe that a team with a $120 million payroll will make Clay Bucholz their No. 3 postseason starter, but after spending much of the year in the minors, the young Bucholz will get the call. It looks like the Red Sox will go with Lester on short rest in Game 4 rather than going to hobbled pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Red Sox bullpen is a certainly a hodgepodge of characters after Jonathan Papelbon.
The Angels pitching staff is kind of weird. John Lackey, Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir, and Joe Saunders are all talented pitchers who have all gone through ups and downs this year. But I think they'll come through, especially since the Halos will use two lefties at Fenway Park.
The Angels bullpen is arguably their biggest concern. Brian Fuentes led the AL in saves, but he's hardly lights out. All of the Angels top middle relievers imploaded early in the season, giving way to unproven commodities like Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger. No one knew who Francisco Rodriguez was when he dominated for the Angels in the 2002 postseason. I don't think we'll get that out of Jepsen and Bulger, but they're not terrible either.
Overall, I see the Angels going to the ALCS and facing the Yankees, against whom the Halos match up well.
We were lucky enough to get tickets to the Gustavo Dudamel extravaganza at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night. (And, thanks to a ride on the Red Line and a short stroll up Highland, were lucky enough to skip the traffic extravaganza that accompanied it.)
And then 35 minutes flew by as our city's amazing orchestra followed this new guy, followed the young Venezuelan with the full-body method of conducting and, just like that, brushed aside all the pomp and circumstance and earnestness and speechifying that had come before and made music, lord, the music they made.
The IOC vote never ceases to surprise, and the 2016 vote was no exception. The eventual winner, Rio de Janeiro, was somewhat expected, but Chicago's early exit caught many people off guard. While there is a lot of goodwill and positive sentiment towards Rio right now, I seriously question the IOC's decision, and think it might prove to be a mistake.
I will get into my thoughts on Rio a bit later in this post, but first I want to talk about how the vote unfolded. Most of the reporters I've seen on TV and the journalists I've read online really don't understand how this process works, so hopefully I can shed some light on this site. Here is how the vote broke down:
Ballot 1: (95 eligible, 94 valid ballots)
Madrid - 28
Rio - 26
Tokyo - 22
Ballot 2: (97 eligible, 1 abstention, 95 valid ballots)
Rio - 46
Madrid - 29
Tokyo - 20
Ballot 3: (99 eligible, 1 abstention, 98 valid ballots)
Rio - 66
Madrid - 32
Rio de Janeiro elected.
Chicago realized fears some had in being eliminated in the first round. Really, any of the four cities could have been eliminated first. I was concerned that Chicago did not have a strong enough base to get out of the first round, and that appears to have been the case. I thought that President Obama's appearance could have garnered enough votes from Africa in the early round, but in hindsight, these votes are much more about personal relationships.
Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch made it clear today that his last wish in life is for Madrid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Samaranch is not as influential as he was even four years ago, but he carried enough weight to give Madrid the first round lead. Many of Samaranch's friends seemingly did not want him to embarrassed with an early Madrid exit.
Tokyo clearly wanted to save face and avoid first round elimination. I can only suspect how the process unfolded, but based on the fact that Tokyo lost two votes in the second round, there were clearly other IOC members who also felt a compelling need to see Tokyo advance at least one round.
The collective strong desires on the part of Madrid and Tokyo to avoid early elimination may have cost Chicago the votes that it needed in the first round to stay alive. Based on the numbers, there were obviously a lot of IOC members who came to Copenhagen with the intention of voting for Rio. But it is plausible that just as many members also intended to pick Chicago, and first round finagling cost the city dearly.
I've long said that the IOC should reform its voting process. While it would be nice to eliminate the secret ballot so that IOC members can be held accountable for their vote, that is unlikely to happen any time soon.
What is reasonable is for the IOC to adopt new rules that prevent vote switching. If 22 IOC members thought that Tokyo had the best bid in the first round, then at least 22 should have thought that Tokyo had the best vote in the second round. There is no logical reason for an IOC member to change his/her mind other than backroom dealing, personal promises, and the desire to make a city look good for as long as possible in the voting.
The IOC's electronic system could easily be programmed to lock in a vote until a city has been eliminated. Another option would be for IOC members to rank their choices 1-4 in advance. Either solution could only help the IOC truly pick the best city to host an Olympic Games and prevent much of the politics that only a handful of old sports bureaucrats really care about.
Another question I have is why one member abstained in rounds 2 and 3. That is something we may never know.
Many observers might note Rio's 66 votes and think that they were going to win no matter what. Heck they were only two votes away from winning outright in the second round. Still, I think that the overwhelming sentiment among IOC members was for the 2016 Games to be held in the Western Hemisphere. I would bet that Chicago would have picked up significant votes in the second and third rounds had they not been eliminated early. When they were out in Round 1, Rio did not have serious competition. Such is the oddities of IOC voting.
My favorite quote of the day comes from Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper in discuss Tokyo's ability to stay alive for the first round at Chicago's expense.
"I'm shocked," Gosper said. "The whole thing doesn't make sense other than there has been a stupid bloc vote."
So what else hurt Chicago? I touched on this in my last post, but President Obama's visit to Copenhagen was not as effective as Tony Blair's was for London 2012 nor Vladimir Putin's was for Sochi 2014. Both of those former world leaders spent several days meeting with 30-40 IOC members and personally lobbied for the Games. President Obama was in Copenhagen for just over four hours, gave one speech, answered one IOC question, and did not meet with any IOC members. While he had the clout to potentially do less than Blair and Putin, I'm sure many members were disappointed that they did not get to meet him personally. I know that Michelle Obama met with numerous IOC members, but unfortunately for Chicago, she was not enough.
Former Danish IOC member Kai Holm said as much, claiming Obama's stopover was "too business-like."
"It can be that some IOC members see it as a lack of respect," Holm added.
Chicago had the disadvantage of presenting first, and technical problems (on the IOC's end) actually delayed their presentation. Rio and Madrid went third and fourth respectively, allowing their emotional appeals to be fresher in voter's minds on what is certainly a long day for them. And while the President and Michelle Obama both gave good speeches, by all accounts Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had the most charismatic and passionate speech of the day. The Brazilian leader has actively been campaigning for Rio for months, and he spent plenty of time meeting with IOC members in the days before the vote. His hard work certainly paid off for Rio.
Another problem for Chicago had nothing to do with its bid - which was technically excellent - and a lot to do with the USOC. I outlined many of the problems with the USOC in my post earlier this week. But in a nutshell, many IOC members are still upset that the USOC receives a disproportionately large share of Olympic television and sponsorship revenues. The USOC has seen considerable leadership turnover over the past decade, making it more difficult for an American city to build relationships with IOC members. Additionally the USOC's botched announcement of a new television network earlier this year proved to be a significant blow.
Swiss IOC member Denis Oswald made his opinion clear: "It was a defeat for the USOC, not for Chicago."
Oswald has been one of the most outspoken critics of the USOC in recent years, and I wouldn't pretend to think that he speaks for most IOC members. That being said, he is on the IOC Executive Board, and his comments indicate to me that at least several of his colleagues came in with the mindset that they would not vote for any American city until the USOC went through some real reform.
If any U.S. city hopes to host an Olympic Games in the future, then the USOC and its new Chairman Larry Probst will have to demonstrably prove that it is an unpretentious partner in the Olympic Movement. The USOC has already made progress to that end in recent years, but they evidently still have more work to do.
Universal Sports' Alan Abrahamson has more on the USOC's failings his post here.
I grew somewhat concerned about Chicago's chances when I heard the questions in the Q&A portion of the presentation. Syed Shahid Ali, an IOC member from Pakistan who would love nothing more than for polo to become an Olympic sport, asked a question he probably knew the answer to about the US's procedures of letting overseas Olympic visitors into American airports. Ukrainian IOC member Sergei Bubka (yes, the former pole vaulting champion) asked about the far distance of the Chicago cycling and shooting venues - again a question he probably knew the answer to. Both Bubka's and Ali's questions only brought to light two of the few perceived weaknesses of the Chicago bid (I'd argue they're not really weaknesses). Considering that Bubka is a fairly influential IOC member and Ali is a vote that Chicago might have been hoping for, it led me to believe that Chicago might have a tough time finding votes. IOC members generally know the answers in Q&A sessions, so there is a calculated reason behind every question.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the opposition groups in Chicago that protested an Olympic bid. There were several groups that peppered the IOC with anti-Chicago mail and one group even garnered an audience with the Evaluation Commission earlier this year. Every city has opposition groups, and I strongly disagreed with most of the points made by those against Chicago. That being said, I think they helped weaken Chicago's efforts, and they might have made a difference.
As for Rio, I have serious questions about their bid, and fear that the IOC might have made a mistake. I hate to be the person to rain on the Rio parade, because I know there are many people celebrating in South America today. But there are significant problems with the Rio bid that have not been discussed enough in the public sphere, and they need to be addressed.
Many people say that Rio "deserved" the Olympics because they have never been in South America. I can certainly understand that sentiment, but I believe that cities deserve to host an Olympic Games by putting forth the best plan and having the infrastructure in place to invite the world. An Olympic Games is an incredibly complex operation that requires an enormous amount of security, first-rate facilities, and smooth transportation. Only a small handful of cities in the world have the infrastructure in place to pull off an Olympic Games.
Rio has estimated that it will spend $11 billion in construction and infrastructure improvements to host the 2016 Olympic Games. I would be willing to bet that the cost will wind up being at least few billion greater. I've already seen some estimates that have their real expenditures being at $14-15 billion.
Conversely, the Tokyo budget was $4.4 billion, the Chicago budget was $4.8 billion, and the Madrid budget was $5.4 billion. One of the strengths of the Chicago bid was that most thought it could generate the greatest level of revenue from television rights, sponsorship, corporate support, and ticket sales. If Chicago was hoping to make a small, but significant profit at a $4.8 billion budget, then Rio will be hard-pressed not to lose money.
Approximately $5 billion will be spent on Rio's public transportation and potentially another $4 billion on environmental cleanups. Most of those expenditures will be shouldered by either the local or national government. In the meantime, Brazil could be spending another $3 billion on venues for the World Cup in 2014. As a result, much of Brazil's sports marketing resources will be focused on soccer for five of the seven years that IOC members might hope that sports like rowing and judo get promoted in the South American nation.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is hard to think of a scenario in which Brazil does not suffer significant financial strain in the middle of next decade due to its sporting ambitions. At a time when the IOC has repeatedly expressed a desire to see the cost and size of the Games reduced, it's curious that an overwhelming majority of members would vote for a city that could very well cause the headlines the IOC least likes to see - headlines about lack of readiness, cost overruns, growing government debt, etc. I really do hope and pray that I am wrong, but the odds are seemingly against it at this point.
Next, there is the issue of crime in Brazil, which is a serious problem. Alan Abrahamson had an excellent article on it at Universal Sports, which cited a New Yorker story that revealed just how dangerous the city's street are right now. Unfortunately, it appears the IOC allowed P.R. about future policing programs to trump actual data.
Rio also does not have the 48,000 hotel rooms required for an Olympic Games, and will put many visitors up in cruise ships. When Jacksonville hosted the Super Bowl a few years ago, many media members stayed in cruise ships and complained ceaselessly about it. Will the media be more amenable to cruise ship hospitality in 2016 in Rio?
I don't want to make this seem like I'm completely knocking the Rio bid. They could very well prove to overcome these challenges. But I am disappointed in the media for not appropriately covering these problems with the Rio bid - problems I know they will be talking about in seven years. I am also disappointed with the IOC office, which glossed over many of these concerns in the Evaluation Commission report, after noting them in previous documents, including a technical report that deemed Rio incapable of hosting the 2012 Games. I personally believe that these issues were never properly discussed, and the implications for Rio could be tremendous.
Many Chicagoans already want their city to host the 2020 Olympic Games. I can certainly sympathize with how they feel. Unfortunately for them, it's hard to see the USOC putting forward a candidate city in four years. As odd as this might sound, many IOC members consider North and South America to effectively be the same region (partially due to the PanAm Games), and will not support a Western Hemisphere Games in 2020.
Expect Cape Town or Durban to have a strong bid for 2020, as Africa is now the last continent not to host the Olympic Games. Much of South Africa's bid will depend on the quality of the World Cup they host next year.
Rome continues to make noise about a 2020 bid, and they would figure to have a good chance. New Delhi has openly discussed an Olympic bid, but they must first get through the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which has seen its fair share of problems. It's possible that a Middle East city such as Doha or Dubai bids for 2020, but the Doha 2016 bid was rejected over weather concerns. I would not be surprised if Tokyo bid again for 2020, and I think they might have a better chance then as well.
For now, it looks like the 2018 Winter Olympic vote will be a four horse race between PyeongChang in South Korea, Harbin in China, Annecy in France, and Munich (which will try to become the first city ever to host both the Summer and Winter Games). There still might be another city or two that gets a bid together for 2018.
The best hope for the U.S. might be for the USOC to make a concerted effort to rebuild and stabilize without worrying about an Olympic bid. If the USOC can make enough tangible progress in the next four years, then Denver and Reno/Tahoe are already interested in bidding for the 2022 Winter Games. I would not expect a U.S. city to host the Summer Olympic Games until at least 2028, and possibly 2032, which would be 36 years after Atlanta.
I have always wondered what it would be like to reenter society after years of wrongful incarceration. Is there anger, bitterness, joy, regret--or all of that? I decided to ask Bruce Lisker, recently released after 26 years in prison for the crime of killing his mother, if I could visit with him occasionally to see how he fares as he rebuilds a life he left so many years ago. He has maintained from the start that he was innocent, and the DA decided on August 21 not to retry him for the crime. He has agreed to let me tag along as he makes a new life for himself. — Iris Schneider
Photos by Iris Schneider
Lisker met me outside the apartment where he is staying, with the widower of his stepmother, in Encino. He has a used car, just bought from his sister, and a learner's permit. In a few days, he will take his driver's test. If he passes, that will mean even more freedom, something he is getting used to.
Lisker, 44, was 17 and on drugs when his mother was murdered. He was in prison for 26 years, convicted of her murder. In that time he has cleaned up his act. He is polite, in good physical shape and looks nothing like the long-haired wild-eyed teen he was at the time of his arrest. He was released in early August, pending a decision on a new trial. At a pretrial hearing last week, the District Attorney, while claiming that he still believed Lisker was guilty, decided not to retry the case. For the first time in 26 years, Lisker left the courtroom a truly free man. He had maintained his innocence and fought hard for his release. Now he has the chance to begin a new life.
"Today is the first day of the rest of my life," Lisker said last week. "I've said that before and I say it again. If I try to live any other way, to make up for lost time, I would be miserable. And I never could accomplish it. I can't do that to myself and to those around me who supported me all these years."
Lisker left prision with the $200 that is usually given to parolees. "They treated me pretty nice and gave me the money as if I was being paroled," he said. Along with some money left to him by his dad, who died in 1995, he has enough for now to get a start on his new life. "He completely believed in my innocence," Lisker says of his father, a former Marine. He is convinced that seeing his son in prison all those years contributed to his early death. "It was so stressful on him. It consumed him."
As we walked the aisles of Target, he looked at his list: laundry detergent, printer ink, maybe a GPS to help him navigate the city more easily, a belt, and some underwear (you were only allowed five pairs of prison issue while incarcerated.) Lisker paused to take it all in and sometimes the absurdity of it made him giddy. Suddenly, there were so many choices.
Mixed in with all the new experiences--like stepping into a Best Buy or Target for the first time--or walking around a mall on fancy marble floors--many memories came flooding back. As we exited the Target parking lot, something looked familiar. "I think this is where the Fedco used to be," Lisker said. "I remember driving down this street with my Dad." Lisker noted that much had changed, but "it's still my Valley." He recalled shopping with his mom as he passed a small line of shops that looked straight out of the 60's.
In prison, Lisker took as many computer classes as allowed, starting in San Quentin and then at Mule Creek State Prison. He tried to work as much as he could while incarcerated, and says he was lucky enough to get some good jobs on the inside and work for people who treated him with respect.
"They always wanted the best person for the job, and I always tried to be that person," he said. But he acknowledged that inside, the bar was not very high. "The group of people in prison, they are not into excelling, they don't want to stand out from the pack. But I didn't care. I always wanted to be the best."
Now, he wants to work as a web designer but knows he has a steep learning curve ahead. In prison the internet was forbidden, but he subscribed to as many computer magazines as he could, trying to keep up with new technology.
Lisker says he never gave up the hope that one day he would be exonerated. "Without that hope, you begin to die in there," he says.
The contrast of before and after is stark. "Inside, everything was meant to be austere. The feeling of denial was intentional." Now, those limits are gone but the realities of starting over have taken their place.
"Building an entire freaking life from nothing is daunting." he said with a rueful laugh. Then he turned down the aisle of "Men's Essentials" at Target, and began filling his cart.
First in a series of occasional visits.