Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Sports

His Excellency, Ambassador Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar-jerseyTo find the earliest stories the Los Angeles Times wrote about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I had to search for his birth name -– Lewis Alcindor Jr. He was a New York high school student being courted by UCLA and other powerhouse basketball schools.

So it took a bit of mind-bending to go from reading about that teenage school kid to interviewing the sports legend who’s about to turn 65 -- the man who, when I talked to him for my "Patt Morrison Asks" column, joked that his arms, the arms that pulled off that phenomenal "sky hook" shot, are getting too short to read the newspaper.

Life after basketball has meant some TV and movie roles (he was hilarious in "Airplane!"), writing and co-writing a slew of books, and now as a U.S. global cultural ambassador. Check him out with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the event in January, where he says, "I remember when Louis Armstrong first did it back for President Kennedy, one of my heroes. So it’s nice to be following in his footsteps."

He’s made his first trip abroad in that new iteration, to Brazil, and I asked him about the job description, and his visit to Brazil.

"They want me to speak to disadvantaged kids about their future with an emphasis on education, and answer questions  about Americans and democracy and what it’s like here in this place we call America."

I wondered whether Brazilian kids knew who he was.

"Yes, I was surprised! They have three or four [Brazilian] guys in the NBA, so the kids there now play the game. They have courts in some of the slum neighborhoods."

And what did they want to know about the U.S.?

"They were very taken with President Obama. They [also] have a history of slavery there. To see President Obama become president, it really gives them a different idea about the potential of democracy. That was something they all wanted to ask about, [whether] this democracy stuff can work for [them]."


Patt Morrison Asks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- still hooked

--Patt Morrison

Photo: Former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar poses with a jersey of Barcelona's basketball team during the official presentation of the friendly basketball game between Barcelona  and the Lakers at the Palau Blaugrana in Barcelona on June 1, 2010. Credit: Josep Lago /AFP/Getty Images

Saints go marching in -- straight to the NFL's costly doghouse

"Winning is everything" is just a slogan, something the NFL just taught the New Orleans Saints and Coach Sean Payton in a very costly lesson
They're called the Saints. But they weren't, and now they're paying for it.

Watching the mayhem of National Football League games every week, you might not think so, but the NFL actually wants to keep its players safe -- safe being a relative term, of course, for a game in which the infliction of pain is a central element.

But when it emerged that the New Orleans Saints were actually paying players for hits that injured opponents, the news hit the sports world like a blitzing linebacker.

On Wednesday, the league turned the tables on the franchise, hammering it for its "pay-for-performance" bounty system:

The league has suspended Saints Coach Sean Payton without pay for the entire 2012 season; Saints GM Mickey Loomis for the first eight games of the upcoming season; and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams -- now with the St. Louis Rams -- indefinitely.

The Saints, who have been fined $500,000, also must forfeit their second-round picks in both the 2012 and 2013 drafts.

Joe Vitt, New Orleans’ linebackers coach and assistant head coach, was a potential interim replacement for Payton, but he was also suspended for six games for his part in the scandal and subsequent coverup. ...

The Saints were found to be paying players -- from a cash pool made up of contributions of players, Williams and others -- for injuring opponents. The rewards included $1,000 for causing an opponent to be carted off the field, and $1,500 for a knockout.

Now, there are those who will say that the punishment doesn't fit the crime -- because, they say, there wasn't any crime. They argue that injuring opponents, or at least intimidating them with physical play, is part of the game. 

These are the folks who decry every rule change intended to protect players with the taunt “Why don’t you just put dresses on them.”

I have a word for that argument: Baloney.

Football is a game. Yes, it involves physical contact. Yes, injuries occur -- often.

But there must be -- and there are -- limits. Regardless of the comparisons, NFL games are not gladiatorial matches. 

It’s bad enough that the game is now so violent that most of its players end up with life-altering injuries.

But what the Saints did clearly crossed a line that should never be crossed, in any sport. Not only that, but when warned about the program, the franchise -- did nothing.  

As The Times’ Sam Farmer reported:

One of the reasons the penalties are so severe is that the league had instructed the Saints to dismantle the program, and they did not.

Yes, grown men play this game, and they are well paid for it. But these men will play for a very short time. They have families. They have a right to a life after football.

"Winning is everything" is just a saying. It's not meant to be taken literally.

Something the Saints, deservedly, just found out.


Excuse me, my tattoo is ringing

Peyton Manning, Zeus of QBs in a football-mad nation

"Luck": It was a mistake to euthanize HBO's show about horse racing [Blowback]

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: New Orleans Coach Sean Payton. Credit: John G. Mabanglo / EPA


Peyton Manning, Zeus of QBs in a football-mad nation

Peyton Manning with John Elway and John Fox
Never mind presidential politics, rising gas prices and Apple's stock moves.

Peyton Manning is reportedly set to become the Denver Broncos' new quarterback.

And if you don't think that’s big news, you're probably not an American, and you're certainly not a football fan.

In the sports pantheon of the United States, football is king, pro football is Mt. Olympus and Manning is the Zeus of quarterbacks.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Here's what the Manning news meant in the cold logic of Las Vegas:

According to R.J. Bell of Pregame.com, Denver's odds to win the next Super Bowl were as high as 70 to 1 in February but have now dropped to 10 to 1.

Only four teams have better odds: the Packers (6 to 1), Patriots (7 to 1), 49ers (7 to 1) and Saints (8 to 1).

But it's just football, you say. It's a Sunday afternoon diversion.

Think again. The National Football League is the economic engine that can.  Last year, Forbes reported that the average NFL franchise is valued at $1.04 billion, exactly what it pegged as the worth of the Broncos. ( In comparison, the Dodgers will sell for $1-billion-plus, and that will be the highest price ever for a Major League Baseball franchise.)  

And it's not just the U.S. we're talking about. All 32 NFL teams rank in the top 50 of the most valuable sports teams in the world.

So Manning's move has major financial as well as competitive implications.

But of course, the other intriguing part of this sports soap opera is that Denver’s incumbent quarterback is Tim Tebow.   

Tebow is interesting because although his quarterbacking skills are not in the same universe as Manning's, he has a large and avid fan base, due at least in part to his strong Christian faith.

Which means that he may not stick in Denver but that teams such as Jacksonville and Miami may be interested because Tebow puts fans in the seats and drives television ratings.

And all of this, of course, has another economic angle:  Television, talk radio and the blogosphere feed off the news the NFL generates, even in the sport's off-season.  The pursuit of Manning has been a major topic for weeks, and the fate of Tebow will be a big story as well.

It may be March Madness time in college basketball, but the madness that is professional football knows no season.


Sure you can go home again

Save the incredible sinking, leaning Washington Monument

The test-tube babies testing the limits of survivor benefits 

— Paul Whitefield

Photo: Peyton Manning, left, takes a tour with executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos John Elway, right, and Broncos Coach John Fox at the Broncos' training facility in Englewood, Colo. Credit: John Leyba / Associated Press


Dodgers bidders, beware the parking lot attendant!

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is willing to sell the team but not the parking lots surrounding the stadium
Which of these sounds like a good deal:

For sale: Beverly Hills mansion, $25 million, driveway and garage not included.

For sale: Vintage Ferrari, $5 million, tires and wheels not included.

For sale: Gulfstream V, $25 million, wings not included.

For sale: L.A. Dodgers, $1 billion-plus, parking lots not included.

So you answered "none of the above" too, right? 

Then why are there still nine groups bidding for the right to pay beleaguered Dodgers owner Frank McCourt beaucoup Benjamins for a team -- and a stadium -- that needs upgrading, and they won't get the parking lots?

Really, this is starting to feel like the time your parents told you that of course you could go to the Springstreen concert -- as long as you took your 14-year-old brother. Or when you were in college, and there was that annoying frat brother -- but he was the only one who had a car.

Want to know what it's like to have Frank as your partner? Ask Jamie McCourt.

Honestly, buying the Dodgers under these circumstances would be like having Dick Cheney as your vice president.

Of course, not everyone is delusional. Of the 11 groups that made the cut in the bidding process, the Rick Caruso/Joe Torre bunch dropped out Thursday, citing the parking lot issue. That followed the reported withdrawal earlier in the week of a group that included former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley.

So who's still in? Well, the biggest local name is probably Magic Johnson, and then there are several East Coast types and assorted well-heeled folks -- all of whom apparently really love the Dodgers.

And what exactly is the parking lot scenario?  From The Times' story:

McCourt divided the Dodgers and the parking lots into separate entities in 2005, with the approval of Major League Baseball. The Dodgers are in bankruptcy, but the McCourt entity that controls the parking lots is not.

The sale agreement between McCourt and MLB specifically permits him to retain the lots --  and build parking structures on them if he chooses.

The new owner of the Dodgers would inherit a lease for the parking lots -- at $14 million per year, with increases starting in 2015 -- and a separate loan that McCourt has said requires the team to play at Dodger Stadium until at least 2030.

Hmm, can you say "hamstrung"?  Because all I hear are warning klaxons, starting with the fact that Frank managed to run the Dodgers into bankruptcy -- but not his parking lot company.

Which means that he apparently knows a lot more about running a parking lot than a baseball team. 

So, worried about the high price of gas? Think parking in Chavez Ravine is expensive now? Wait until you attend a Dodgers game in 2015. Can you say "second mortgage"?

Not to mention what ticket prices will have to be if the new owners want to recoup their investment.

But the bidding goes on. You can talk all you want about a bad economy, but obviously the 1% folks are doing just fine, thank you very much, if they can pony up this kind of cash for part of a franchise -- and who knows, based on Frank's penny-pinching ways, the parking lots may turn out to be the best part of what's left.

Still, I've always been sure of one thing: Rich people didn't get rich by being stupid.

But in this case, you have to wonder if another old adage won't prove true: A fool and his money are soon parted.


What to do about $4 gas

Gotta get some Google Goggles

The Dow is climbing! The Dow is climbing!

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, left, and center fielder Matt Kemp. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

Michelle Rhee's advice: Stop overpraising kids

Michelle-RheeStudentsFirst chief Michelle Rhee is a lightning-rod figure in educational reform, and I talked to her at length for my ''Patt Morrison Asks'' column. Her goal of a tough-love, top-to-bottom overhaul of public schools doesn't stop in the classroom or with teachers; even how we reward our children is in need of a makeover, she told me.

As an example, her own daughters, she says in a radio commentary, "suck" at soccer, yet they have so many medals and ribbons, "you'd think I was raising the next Mia Hamm."

And that is not, to her mind, a good thing:

The practice of applauding kids for taking part and trying their best, whatever the results -- you are concerned that we overpraise kids.

I think it's a huge problem. We don't want to make kids feel bad. I tell the soccer story: One of the soccer leagues my kid was in wanted to stop keeping score because they didn't want the kids on the losing team to feel bad. That's so ridiculous. Life is about sometimes losing and being able to tough it out, and if you're not as good, you know you've got to put in the hard work to get better. If we're creating this cocoon for kids where they think that if they just try their best, we can tell them that's sufficient -- that is doing a disservice to kids in the long run.

Shouldn't you also hold the soccer coach responsible, the way you'd hold the teacher responsible?

Saying "we're not going to keep score" is the same as saying "we're not going to look at student achievement levels." A coach's win-loss record is the basis on which [the coach] is paid. If you were to say, "We're going to stop keeping score; we're going to evaluate coaches on how they're inspiring team spirit" -- are you kidding me? People would go ballistic!


An L.A. teacher reviews her review

Patt Morrison Asks: Hard lessons with Michelle Rhee

Does the Miramonte case argue for cameras in the classroom?

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Michelle Rhee is seen at Good Housekeeping's 'Shine On' Women Making History theatrical event at Radio City Music Hall on April 12, 2011 in New York. Credit: Evan Agostini / AP Photo

M.I.A. has digit malfunction, flips off the Super Bowl

MIA at the Super BowlEight years after Janet Jackson's famous wardrobe malfunction, the Super Bowl halftime show has delivered another performance not suitable for broadcast TV. I'm not talking about Madonna's surprisingly inexpert lip-syncing Sunday; I'm referring to M.I.A., the English rapper, extending her middle finger to the global television audience while a recording of her voice blares "I don't give a shhhhhh."

If you're one of the 15 people who didn't tune in, it's easy to find recordings of M.I.A.'s bird-flipping online. NBC's censors were a tad slow on the draw, so the video goes fuzzy after the deed is done, not during. That's likely to prompt the morality police to complain to the Federal Communications Commission, which has a zero-tolerance policy for the spoken equivalent of the rapper's gesture. At least, that's the FCC's policy today; the Supreme Court is in the process of deciding whether it's constitutional for the agency to penalize broadcasters for airing the fleeting use of an expletive.

Given how she courts controversy, it's no surprise that M.I.A. would use the Super Bowl stage to do something meant to be shocking. Perhaps that's what Madonna had in mind when she gave the rapper a cameo role (alongside Nicki Minaj) in one segment of her show. The Material Girl has reached the age at which she's entitled to provoke by proxy.

Still, M.I.A. seems to have missed an important memo from the Powers That Be. Appearing in a Super Bowl halftime show means that you've crossed the line separating artistic integrity and commercialism. If you're not celebrating a career, you're either pimping a new record to the masses or trying to introduce yourself to them. In other words, you're taking a short cut in the path to global stardom.

This is a forgivable transgression if you're already a global star and you absolutely kill, as Prince did in 2007. Otherwise, it's just a declaration that you're part of the Big Corporate Entertainment Machine and you're in it for the money.

That's fine, really -- even musicians have to pay the rent. But once you've crossed that line, you can't credibly flip the bird at your audience. In a sense, M.I.A. did that just by appearing on the Super Bowl stage.

Maybe M.I.A. was trying to show that she can keep it real no matter how many people are watching. She's a rule-breaker! No one tells her what to do! A better way to deliver that message, though, would have been to turn down the invitation to play a bit part in the Madonna Traveling Circus. Turning her back on the chance for Super Bowl fame would have been better for M.I.A. than the fame she found Sunday.


Israel misguided on Iran

Career politicians for Mitt?

Pain at the gas pump: Round up the usual suspects?

-- Jon Healey

Credit: Christopher Polk / Getty Images

Book 'em -- Bill Bratton draws a big and big-name crowd

While the nation's leadership was gathered under the Capitol dome on Tuesday evening to hear President Obama's State of the Union speech, the civic leadership of Los Angeles was gathered at a bookstore to hear former Police Chief Bill Bratton.

Bratton is the coauthor, with Zachary Tumin of the Harvard Kennedy School, of the book "Collaborate or Perish!" a public policy guide chock-full of salient examples on how to get an entire organization to get on the same page to get things done, from an aluminum company to the LAPD.

The book alternates voice and examples from Tumin and from Bratton, and includes Bratton's accounts of a half-century of dysfunction in the LAPD, and how the cops and the community have come to an amicable teaming. He's especially forthright about the problems and resolution in the high-stakes 2007 MacArthur Park "May Day melee."

Not all of Bratton's examples came from the thin blue lines; he had praise for the Missoni fashion house's collaboration on a budget-priced line for Target. (His necktie was not Missoni but a fetching one nonetheless, with a pattern of moons and stars.)

I moderated the event with the authors at the Barnes & Noble store in the Grove, where the audience was standing room only -- or maybe saluting room only.

Just as cameras scanned the House chamber during the State of the Union speech and caught sight of Supreme Court justices and Cabinet members, anyone scanning this crowd would have seen:

Bratton's successor, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck; L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca; Andre Birotte, the U.S. attorney for Los Angeles; former Mayor James Hahn;  Police Commission President John Mack; LAPD advisor and former Police Commission President Gerald Chaleff; former police commissioner Ann Reiss Lane and her husband, Bert; police commissioner John Mack; assistant LAPD Chief Earl Paysinger and deputy chiefs Sandy Jo MacArthur and Michael Downing; and Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Central City Assn. ("Collaborate or Perish!" uses the new policing model for skid row as one of Bratton's examples.)

In short, like the State of the Union speech -- in which one Cabinet member always stays home in case the unimaginable happens (this time it was Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack) -- I briefly wondered the parallel question: who in the LAPD senior staff wasn't at Barnes & Noble?

Outside the body politic were Bratton friends George Schlatter, the TV producer and director, and his wife, Jolene; film producer Arnold Kopelson; Barbara Davis, whose late husband, Marvin, had owned 20th Century Fox; Wendy Stark, daughter of legendary producer Ray Stark; and the ever-glamorous Angie Dickinson, who once wore a badge herself, in her TV roll on "Police Woman."

At a post-book-signing reception for Bratton and his wife, Rikki Klieman, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa put in an appearance, as did council member Tom LaBonge, who presented Tumin, a first-time L.A. visitor, with the LaBonge version of welcoming bread and salt -- a city proclamation and a loaf of pumpkin bread.

The host showed after all the other luminaries. He is the onetime president of the Police Commission and thus a Bratton collaborator himself, and the man who, with former baseball manager Joe Torre, just put in his bid for the Dodgers -– Rick Caruso.

The nosh served up for the fete: chicken skewers and mini-cheeseburgers. Not Dodger dogs. Not yet, anyway.


L.A.'s condom law hardly curtains for porn

The Supreme Court and the slaughterhouse

State of the Union: Mixing politics and policy

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Former Police Chief Bill Bratton is seen in 2002. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Alabama -- snore -- wins -- snore -- the Field Goal Bowl -- snore

Alabama coach Nick Saban
I know they call it football, but really, did Alabama have to take it so literally?

In what will go down as the Field Goal Bowl, the Crimson Tide beat LSU in the Boring Championship Series title game Monday night, 21-0.

Really, it only set college football back about 30 years. It was, in fact, a game for the ages -- the Dark Ages.

If this had been a meal, it would've been a turducken -– but it was only the first part of that dish; sadly, the Oregon Ducks, who may not be champions but wear the coolest uniforms and who at least score touchdowns in bunches, were missing this year.

I mean, the game's theme song had to be "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

If you were among the lucky ones who missed it, allow me to briefly recap:

First quarter, Alabama kicks a field goal. 3-0.

Second quarter:  Alabama fakes a field goal.  Alabama has a field goal blocked.  Alabama kicks a field goal.  And another. 9-0 Alabama at halftime.

Halftime show:  They trot out a guy to try to win some kind of contest.  And holy grits, they have him  attempt field goals.

At this point, you have to wonder if the game isn't in violation of the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Especially given that viewers also have been forced to listen to play-by-play guy Brent Musburger call analyst Kirk Herbstreit "Herbie" so often their ears are bleeding.

Third quarter: Alabama kicks a field goal.  Alabama has a field goal blocked. Alabama kicks a field goal.

By now, although Herbie (no relation to the movie Volkswagen, though any of those films would've been more entertaining than this game) and Brent don't seem to have noticed, LSU has run the same two plays the entire game.  (For you casual fans, let me point out that the modern game has complicated offenses.  Plays are something like "X waggle, 32 toss, Z-out,  fire on hard-count 2." Except LSU's plays are "32 on hutt" and "Hike it to me, I'll run it, everyone else go deep.")

Fourth quarter:  An Alabama player runs the ball all the way into the end zone.  This is called a touchdown.  Tide fans weep. No one else is watching anymore.

Of course, the kicker -– apparently now the guy in the halftime contest -– misses the extra point. 21-0 Alabama.

The game ends.  The Gatorade is spilled. The confetti falls.   Tide Coach Nick Saban is so excited, he actually smiles.

LSU's players are despondent, knowing that most will be punished by losing their free cars.

Alabama's players are joyful, knowing that, as national champions, even better free cars await them.

College football fans, meanwhile, can only hope that next year's game features USC, or Oregon, or even a Boise State or Oklahoma State.  Anyone who can actually score touchdowns.

Defense may win titles, but if I have to watch kicking, I'll tune in to soccer.

Right, Herbie?


Photos: BCS title game: Alabama vs. LSU

BCS preview: How about USC-LSU next year?

SEC is consistently better, with a little bit of luck 

--Paul Whitefield

Photo: Alabama Coach Nick Saban celebrates with players after championship win.  Credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images


Joe Torre and Rick Caruso aim for the Dodgers

Joe Torre Dodgers

Never mind all the battling for political position in frigid New Hampshire.  Consider the bidding war about to erupt over balmy Chavez Ravine. Venerated former Dodgers and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre has quit his executive job with Major League Baseball and joined forces with real estate developer and shopping center impresario Rick Caruso to attempt to buy the Dodgers. Word that the two might team up surfaced in November.

They join a growing list of heavy-hitting potential buyers including billionaire hedge-fund executive Steven Cohen, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, former Dodgers stars Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey, basketball legend and businessman Magic Johnson, and respected former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley.   As the so-called bid book went out last month from owner Frank McCourt to provide prospective bidders with information on the team's worth,  more people were announcing their interest in buying the iconic team.

We would expect nothing less than a flurry of interest from serious investors for one of baseball's most storied teams.  But what's heartening is the way that potential bidders have been allying themselves.   You need money to buy the Dodgers (like $800 million for starters,) but then you need passion and baseball savvy to know how to spend it and -- hopefully -- get the team to the playoffs and the World Series.   Johnson vowed to make baseball the priority and says he's insisting that any money people he teams with believe the same.  Cohen has teamed with an influential sports agent.  Now come Torre and Caruso, a formidable duo when it comes to understanding Los Angeles from two different perspectives:  Who knows baseball better than Torre?  And who knows better how to make people feel amused enough to spend money in a crowded venue than Caruso?  Just a word of caution: Much as we love the Grove,  one of Caruso's most famous creations, we don't want Dodger Stadium to look like the Grove East.  But we're guessing he knows that.



C'mon, Angelenos, let's buy the Dodgers

Joe Torre and Rick Caruso announce bid for Dodgers

Getting a piece of the Dodgers' action, one Angeleno at a time

--Carla Hall 

Top photo: Joe Torre. Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press. Bottom photo: The Grove.  Credit: Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times

Year in review: California budget, L.A. pro team, GOP triple threat

Romney, Gingrich, Paul
It's the season of giving, and in 2011, three stories kept giving, and giving and giving.

(Wait, what, three? Not five? Or 10? No. Good things come in threes.)

Even better, these three stories will  undoubtedly be around in 2012 -– the ultimate in re-gifting, you might say:

California's budget woes. It seems like only yesterday that Gov. Jerry Brown was dealing with the state's budget mess. In fact, it was about yesterday -- Dec. 13, to be exact. 

That's when Brown announced further painful cuts to state services to keep the state budget out of the red. 

It didn't have to be this way. Heck, way back on Jan. 19, I wrote about using The Times' handy-dandy online budget balancing tool to balance the state's budget. It took about 15 minutes.

So, if a math-challenged journalist can do it, why can't the state's politicians?  Because it's not about balancing the budget.  It's about the philosophy of government. California's Republican lawmakers don't want a government at all, really. Californians may want compromise, but it's not easy to compromise with a bus driver whose goal is to drive the bus off the cliff.

Don't think so? Well, in Washington, Republicans in the House resisted keeping the payroll tax cut. In Sacramento, Republicans resisted the governor's attempt to let existing tax cuts expire, claiming that amounted to a tax hike. Sound logical?  Then you need to get back on your medication.

Pro football in Los Angeles. Like those beautiful muses of Greek mythology, the sirens continue to sing their song of professional football in L.A., luring wealthy investors onto the financial rocks and leaving fans brokenhearted. 

But this time, it's really, really going to happen. Really. We have a stadium; or, I mean, we have nice renderings of a stadium.  We have a place to put the stadium. We have a rich company -– AEG -– behind the stadium, and the effort to get a franchise.  

All we need now? A team. And it appears that the only way we'll get a team is to steal another city's. And lots of money will have to change hands. And rich guys in other towns, such as San Diego, may have to be paid. 

And if we actually get a team, the average fan won't be able to afford to go (to see what will probably be a bad team). And we'll probably get fewer games on TV. And traffic will be worse. And no matter what anyone says, taxpayers will probably have to cough up some money.

So tell me again why we need a pro football team? 

The Republican presidential race. And finally (with apologies to Newt Gingrich), we come to the little Tiffany bag under the tree. Nothing has been more entertaining than this year's crop of GOP candidates. The race has had more front-runners than a Kentucky Derby. And it's become the Little Engine That Could of the media industry. Enough trees have been cut down (bytes used?) in covering this campaign to re-forest Haiti.

Two truths have emerged in covering this Alice Through the Looking Glass affair:  No one is really sure what's going to happen, and if you want to make enemies in a hurry, write something nasty about Ron Paul. (Or even something nice about Ron Paul -- his supporters will take offense regardless.)

To recap my personal highlights:

On May 12, I confidently predicted that Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee, and that he would lose to President Obama. 

Then, on June 10 -– sensing that the Republicans didn't share my enthusiasm for the Mittster -– I boldly entered the race myself.  The heart of my platform? No taxes. (No, not lower taxes; no, not no tax hikes. Just no taxes.)

I thought it would be a winner. If Michele Bachmann could be taken seriously, why not me? Sadly, I was more a Tim Pawlenty than a Gingrich.

On Sept. 26, my crystal ball was at its clearest: I correctly predicted the demise of Rick Perry, writing that if you can't beat the pizza guy (Herman Cain), you aren't presidential timber.

So now I'm back to Romney. I believe what I wrote May 12. I'm sticking to it. Sort of.

But the new year is almost here. And I'm sure I'll be opening this gift again and again in 2012.

And I'm willing to bet that we'll have a GOP presidential nominee, and a balanced budget in California, before L.A. has a pro football team.


The most troubling immigration trends

Congress' 10 biggest enemies of the Earth

Photos: Ted Rall's 10 most popular cartoons of 2011

--Paul Whitefield

Photos: From left, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul. Photo credit: Associated Press



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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