Author: Chris Dufresne

Postcard from Spain: A sleepy look at Super Bowl “Monday”

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain—Sorry this Super Bowl report is late but, somewhere between Pink catching a cold and Nick Foles catching a touchdown pass, I face-planted into the synthetic-leather couch cushion of our mid-city apartment rental. Last thing I remember was Cris Collinsworth, or maybe it was a rooster, crowing. Some are calling Philadelphia’s 41-33 victory over New England on Sunday one of the most thrilling in history. If you say so. That’s not how it played in this sleepy little town, on the Atlantic Ocean, near the French border. Here it was the stupor bowl, a snoozer, worse than watching Bill Belichick read the phone book to villagers in the town square. I couldn’t stop yawning and needed the toothpicks from my pre-game olive plate just to keep my eyes open. NBC isn’t going to like the “overnights” from San Sebastian because the entire broadcast was “over night” and played to an audience of two American tourists and one angry fisherman. I finally know what Pac 12 “After Dark” football feels like for East Coast viewers. Strange doesn’t begin to describe this experience for me. I covered nine Super Bowls for the Los Angeles Times, including the last one played in Minneapolis (Washington over Buffalo). There are some coma inducers in my clip file, topped maybe by San Francisco’s 55-10 mauling of the Denver Broncos in New Orleans. There...

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Postcard from Spain: All hands on deck!

    I decided on this vacation to be more spontaneous. So, instead of luxuriating for a month in San Sebastian after three days in Barcelona, as planned, my wife and I boarded a 90-meter merchant vessel named “Helenic” that was off-loading a cargo of wood pulp in the Spanish port of Pasaia. See you all in a few months, or years, if ever. Turning 60 soon…what the Helenic? You think I’m making this up? Well, I have pictures. Our Netherlands-based hunk of girded steel is captained by Barbara Francke, one of the few women to reach such a sea-faring rank. Ronald, chief mate, estimates the ratio of men to women captains is “4,000 to 1.” It would embarrass Captain Francke to call her a pioneer of her sport, but that’s what she is, a regular Billie Jean Queen Mary. And let me tell you she runs a tight ship. My wife and arrived Monday morning at the port of Pasaia, where Captain Francke greeted us warmly before buzzing us through the security gate. The captain’s log had us leaving Pasaia around 4 p.m. for a four-hour sail to the port of Bermeo. From there, we would pick up a load of gypsum before shoving off to Sweden. After that it was anyone’s guess. The crew only knows a few days in advance where the next assignment will come....

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Hard to believe: Winter Olympics going on without me

This has been the week, every four years since 1994, that I traditionally start packing for the Winter Olympics. Except this week, instead of Korea, I’m packing for Europe. See, I’ve never been to Spain, but I’ve been to Lillehammer. It is my sincere hope the sober half of me saddened by missing out on Pyeongchang will soon be consoled by the drunken half of me situated in San Sebastian. Looking back, which is what I mainly do now, covering Alpine Skiing for the L.A. Times might have been the greatest assignment ever handed down to any sports writer. I’ll never forget that call back in 1993. I was playing with the kids in the street when I was summoned to the phone. On the other end was Times’ sports editor Bill Dwyre, the voice of God, about to inform me my life was going to get colder. Bob Lochner, the inside editor who had been handling the Olympic ski beat, was retiring. Dwyre told me to go buy some ear muffs because he had me booked on a toboggan for the 1994 Lillehammer Games. What?? Where?? Yes Sir! I had not skied since college but next thing I knew I was on a plane for Colorado to cover a World Cup race at Steamboat Springs, a training run to get me ready for the real thing in Norway....

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Season review: I can’t pick winners but, hey, I can pick games

You don’t want to go to Las Vegas with me, or the race track, or have me pick your bowl winners. Refuse any overture, or invite, to become a minority investment owner in any of my fantasy enterprises. I joined the ESPN college football “Pick ’em” contest this year and bailed out mid-year after realizing I was picking my “confidence pick” winners in the wrong order. Oops. My TMG weekly offerings were so upside-down and ass-backward I had to bring in my second son to take over the overs, the unders and the in-betweens. “Child Lock” did post a winning record and that improved the family to somewhere around 10 games under .500. I finished t-26, out of 36, in the TMG bowl-picking contest which, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, left me four light years away from ESPN’s contest winner. I wrote Five Reasons why Oklahoma would win the Rose Bowl, and Georgia won, then Five Reasons Georgia would win Monday’s national title game, and Alabama won. I went to a state college that dropped football 20 years ago and now cover the Pac 12, which didn’t place a team in the top 10 of the final AP, USA Today or Rasmussen polls. I’m bad at math, directions and, to save my life, can’t sew a button on a shirt. But here’s one thing I did great in the...

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“Young guns” title game shoots holes in my theory

ATLANTA—All my favorite axioms are dying, one by one, bit by bit, year by year. I used to say, in basketball, with a three-point lead late, you always prevent a three-point shot by fouling your opponent. Yet, coaches continue to mock me to my face. Former Lakers’ Coach Phil Jackson was the worst. I thought defense won Rose Bowl championships, yet watched the last two winners ALLOW nearly 100 combined points in glorious victory. Monday night, though, in the College Football Playoff national title game, my ace-in-the-hole got buried six-feet-under. This was a tough one and I’m not even sure how to explain it to my children. You can’t win a national title with a true freshman quarterback. That’s what I always told the grocery boy and my mailman. That clarion call, solid as a sunrise since 1985, is dead. Monday night’s title game wasn’t just decided by a true freshman QB. It was going to be decided, either way, by a pencil neck. Georgia was already starting Jake Fromm, a rookie from Warner Robbins, although he’d been the starter since taking over for injured Jacob Eason in the opener. What Alabama did, though, defied everything thing I’d ever come to believe in. Down 13-0 at halftime, Coach Nick Saban benched sophomore Jalen Hurts and put the school’s fate in the hands of Tua Tagovailoa. It was a preposterous...

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