Coke made Santa the Claus that refreshes

NOTE/SPOILER/WARNING: Today’s post deals with Santa Claus and his existence. If this would be a “sensitive” subject for your family, it might be good to restrict which family members should read it. Thanks for reading this ridiculous disclaimer.

The image I had of Santa Claus as a kid likely came from the same source yours did: the annual Coca-Cola ads in magazines, showing Santa (we were on a first-name basis even then) making his rounds and stopping for a moment to not only eat cookies, but also to drink a bottle of Coke.

Santa Coca-Cola No. 1
The first Santa Claus Coca-Cola ad created by artist Haddon Sundblom was this one in 1931.

It wasn’t so much knowing that Santa drank Coke (which was pretty cool), but more to know what he looked like. It was to see his red suit, the black boots, the enormous belt that went around his enormous belly (you couldn’t call it a stomach or a tummy; it couldn’t be anything but a belly), the white beard, the twinkly eyes, the rosy cheeks.

It was Santa. A kid, seeing those remarkable ads, couldn’t help but think that Santa was real and that everything you’d heard about him was true. He knew who you were and he had your name on the “nice” list (you couldn’t imagine him putting anyone on the “naughty” list).

That image of Santa was so real, your mind blocked out incongruities. You were willing to ignore the fact that the department store Santa didn’t look very much like the Coca-Cola Santa, or that the “Ho-ho-ho” of one Santa didn’t sound very much like that of another. You paid no attention to seeing more than one Santa in the same shopping center, just minutes apart from each other.

Suspending reality is what Santa Claus is all about and kids do that better than anyone. Kids have always known that growing up is something to be avoided. One look at a grown-up tells you that. There’s very little make-believe going on there, way too little joy, way too much seriousness.

Of all the Santas I met in person, my favorite was the one at the place where my dad worked. My dad worked for Pacific Gas & Electric Co., at the big PG&E materials facility on South Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo.

It wasn’t a place I got to visit very often, but every year when I was a kid, all the employees’ kids were invited to come to a Christmas party and get a gift from Santa.

This Santa was very close to the one in the Coca-Cola ads, but he had a kind of Jackie Gleason humor about him. The big PG&E boss would welcome everyone and he would soon (but not soon enough for all us kids) introduce the man of the hour.

Santa would enter to a frenzy of screams and applause. He would stand next to the big boss as the frenzy would die down and the two of them would just awkwardly look at each other, the big boss smiling and looking proud of himself, but Santa peering impatiently, while holding a big sack of toys.

Finally, Santa would say, in a Gleason-like roar, “Where do I SIT?”

Everyone would laugh as the big boss embarrassedly scrambled to find Santa a chair. The idea that Santa could be funny — and have a bit of a temper was endearing to me. The joke was repeated every year and every year I laughed as though I had heard it for the first time.

I don’t remember how old I was when I realized Santa wasn’t real, but it was difficult. (Even typing “Santa wasn’t real” was difficult for me just now.)

Usually at Christmastime, my grandparents would drive up from Los Angeles to visit us. But one year we drove down to visit them instead. I don’t remember why we switched, but it led to me finding out the truth about Santa.

I had started having creeping suspicions. Classmates at school would belittle people who still believed in Santa, so it was smart just to remain quiet about the subject, rather than to open myself up to cruelty.

The tradition at our house back then was that we exchanged presents for each other on Christmas Eve and that gifts from Santa appeared on Christmas morning.

Visiting my grandparents’ house made for some cramped sleeping arrangements. My parents and I had to sleep in the living room, with them in a foldout sofa bed and me on the floor. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem, but this was Christmas Eve, never a night for sound sleep.

I dozed off for a while, but at some point I became aware of rustling in the living room. It was completely dark, but I started hearing whispering along the lines of “Do you think he’s asleep?”

My first thought was to answer and say, “No, not yet,” but I didn’t. They got up and started moving around and I could hear more rustling, this time in the direction of the Christmas tree.

It suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. My mom and dad were Santa! They were putting the gifts from him in their place thinking I was asleep! What’s more is that they had always done that.

It had all been a lie. The very foundation of my childhood was being broken to bits, right there in the living room of that tiny house on Division Street in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve.

I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I bounce up and shout, “What are you doing?” Should I accuse them of flat-out lying to their only child? Should I call the police? Child and Family Services?

I didn’t do any of that. I very intensely tried to fake sleep. I wanted to cry, but didn’t dare. I didn’t want to let on that I knew what they were doing. It was kind of like discovering your parents are burglars or something. You didn’t want to launch an intervention against them.

I felt resentment, but not toward my parents. I didn’t blame them. It wasn’t their fault. They were parents and this was something they had to do. It was in the job description.

So I just lay there, my innocence slowly going down the drain.

“Why? Why does the world do that?” I thought. Why do grown-ups come up with this wonderful image of a chubby and plump, right jolly old elf, the best friend a kid could ever have, only to know that idea must eventually be torn to shreds?

That night it was my turn to pretend, to deceive. After this enormous surprise that had been turned to overwhelming sadness, I pretended to be asleep.

Of course, I don’t remember at all what Santa brought that year. At some point I told my parents I didn’t believe in Santa anymore. It was kind of like giving them permission to stop sneaking around on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure I ever told them I had been awake that night.

As parents ourselves, my wife and I downplayed Santa and talked more to our kids about the birth of Jesus, which is what Christmas is all about in the first place. But there’s still a nostalgic feeling I get when I look at the Coca-Cola Santa ads. There’s still a little bit of a kid in me and the smile and wink Santa gives me tells me that’s all right.


Could Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket become ESPN networks?

Entertainment circles are buzzing about the possibility of the Walt Disney Co. acquiring 21st Century Fox Inc. Certainly there is a myriad of elements to such a deal and sports is right up there with the biggest of them.

The_Walt_Disney_company_logoIf Disney were to acquire Fox, it would assume control of Fox’s many regional sports networks, including Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. The deal, which is said to be worth more than $60 billion, would also give Disney the Fox studios and many of the Fox networks, but not including the Fox broadcast network, Fox News or Fox Sports 1.

21st-century-fox-logoAccording to CNBC, Fox’s regional sports networks make up one-third of the $60 billion all by themselves and it shows that Disney is committing itself even further to live sports.

“With the play to get the RSNs,” CNBC’s Eric Jackson wrote “… Disney is telegraphing that it is going to have the key sports you care about — nationally and locally — for a long time. If you want those games, you need to visit the Magic Kingdom, whether as a cable subscriber, an [over-the-top streaming] subscriber, or both.”

Fox’s regional networks carry 44 MLB, NBA and NHL franchises. Getting the rights to a reported 5,500 more live events per year could help Disney attract fans to the new ESPN+ streaming service it has in the works. However, even though Disney has not had regional sports networks (it did try a couple of decades ago to start one in Southern California), acquiring Fox’s could put up a red flag for federal regulators.


Billy Martin will be the subject of an “MLB Presents” documentary on Dec. 14.

There have been few figures in sports more compelling than Billy Martin. MLB Network will show what promises to be a very interesting documentary on the former player and manager, most closely associated with the New York Yankees, at 5 p.m. next Thursday, Dec. 14.

MLB Network Presents: Billy will be narrated by John Turturro, who played Martin in the 2007 miniseries The Bronx is Burning. Interview subjects will include his son, Billy Jr., his former wife Gretchen Martin Creswell, his widow Jill Martin, his former agent Eddie Sapir, and David Mantle, son of Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle.

As a manager, Martin turned around every team he worked for, but often found himself in trouble with his own players, with former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and in a number of alcohol-fueled controversies.

“In my opinion, [he’s] the best game manager in the history of the game,” Hall of Famer Tony La Russa says in the film.

Along with La Russa, Rod Carew, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Tom Grieve, Ron Guidry, Don Mattingly, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson and Buck Showalter are interviewed.

The documentary will also have details from the car accident that killed Martin on Christmas Day in 1989, including a retracing of the route that Martin traveled home before crashing at the foot of his own driveway.


Aaron Boone
Aaron Boone will go from the ESPN booth to the New York Yankees dugout. (ESPN photo)

It was a surprise to learn that Aaron Boone would become the Yankees’ new manager after working for ESPN since 2010. Boone apparently won over the Yanks with his knowledge of and allegiance to analytics.

ESPN will now have to make a bigger overhaul to its Sunday Night Baseball booth for 2018. Dan Shulman had already begged off the series to spend more time with his family (he’ll still do some baseball games and continue with college basketball), so only Jessica Mendoza remains from the three-person crew.

“Sitting next to him for the last two years, there is no one I have learned more about the game from than him,” Mendoza said of Boone. “I am so pumped for this next adventure for Aaron and his family and have no doubt he will bring even more success to the Yankee organization.”

Shulman was equally proud.

“I couldn’t be happier for Aaron,” he said. “… I think we all felt he was destined to get back into the game at some point and I know how excited he is to have this kind of an opportunity. I am really looking forward to watching him on this journey.”


Despite air quality problems from the Southern California wildfires, there should be no problem with the Los Angeles Rams hosting the Philadelphia Eagles at the Coliseum at 1:25 p.m. Sunday on Fox. The Eagles, who played at Seattle last week, have been practicing in Orange County. The Rams canceled outdoor practice Wednesday in Thousand Oaks and had made plans to practice Thursday at USC if the air wasn’t better. The Coliseum should have no air problems Sunday.

Tonight’s NFL game is Saints-Falcons at 5:20 p.m. on NBC and NFL Network. On Sunday, Fox’s 10 a.m. game is Cowboys-Giants. CBS will have Redskins-Chargers at 1 p.m. The 5:20 p.m. NBC game is Ravens-Steelers.

We’re in the college football lull before bowl games. That clears the decks for the Army-Navy Game at noon Saturday from Philadelphia on CBS. Army is 8-3 and Navy is 6-5.


Fox NFL Sunday will originate from the Coliseum at 9 a.m. Sunday. … The Steelers’ comeback win over the Bengals gave ESPN a 7.8 overnight big-market rating for Monday Night Football, up 30% from the comparable game last season. … NBC plans to once again primarily use its Skycam angle for the Broncos-Colts Thursday night game on Dec. 14. … Give Cris Collinsworth a break! That’s exactly what NBC plans to do on Dec. 16 and 25. Kurt Warner of NFL Network will be the analyst alongside Mike Tirico for the respective Bears-Lions and Steelers-Texans games. Collinsworth will work games with Al Michaels on Dec. 17 and 23. … Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the Seattle Seahawks radio booth following a reported lawsuit alleging sexual harassment.

Santa and the Schwinn bike — and my dad

When I was 7 or 8 years old, I really wanted a Schwinn bicycle.

Schwinn ad
Schwinn ads were big in comic books in the 1960s.

I spent a lot of my time reading comic books and back then, the back page of every comic book had ads. A lot of these ads were for things like science kits, toy train sets or army tanks. The more nefarious of these ads were for things like X-ray glasses, hypnosis lessons and realistic toy rifles.

But Christmas was coming and the thing I really wanted was a Schwinn bike. I was an only child, so I’m sure I was very spoiled and very persistent in letting my long-suffering parents know that I really wanted Santa Claus to bring me a Schwinn bicycle. I’m even more sure that I let them know that nothing but a Schwinn bike would do. Schwinns were even endorsed by TV stars like Captain Kangaroo and if you couldn’t trust the Captain, who could you trust?

Schwinn Captain Kangaroo
If you couldn’t trust the Captain, who could you trust?

But even at this age, I had some idea that bicycles were pretty expensive. That’s why I knew that Santa was the only man for the job. I don’t remember specifically writing a letter to Santa about the Schwinn bike, but somehow I knew my parents were the liaisons, the go-betweens. Apparently they knew a guy who knew a guy, you know what I mean? It was all very hush-hush. You didn’t ask questions. It was just how these things were done.

I grew up in San Luis Obispo and in the 1960s, it was pretty much the embodiment of a American hometown. Downtown you had Woolworth’s, Penney’s and especially Sears Roebuck. Back then, people still said “Sears Roebuck.” That Roebuck guy was still important. Nobody really knew who either Sears or Roebuck were — at least F.W. Woolworth and J.C. Penney had their full names on the sign — but at least back then, Roebuck was still on the marquee.

And the sign at Sears said “Sears Roebuck & Co.” And Company. What did that mean? Who were those people? They weren’t even important enough to be named. Roebuck should’ve seen that as an omen. Sears too, for that matter.

Sears catalog
Sears was magical at Christmastime.

But back when I was a kid at Christmastime, the Sears Roebuck store in San Luis Obispo became a magical place. It was a two-story store (which right away gave it a superior status in San Luis Obispo). I have no memory at all of what was normally for sale on the second floor, but I do remember that every Christmas, they took out whatever it was and filled the whole second floor with toys. I don’t think Sears normally even sold toys the rest of the year, but at Christmastime, there was nothing but toys. Walking up the stairs, seeing the “Toyland” sign as we went, was like following the yellow brick road to Oz. It was completely enchanting.

Well, to make a long story even longer, Christmas came that year and I got my Schwinn bike. It was just what I had asked for. It was my favorite color — blue — and it had stingray handlebars, which was the cool thing among 7- or 8-year-olds back then.

This Schwinn bike is a lot like the one I got as a kid: blue with a saddle that had a big “S” on it. My handlebars were the stingray kind, however. I’d also like to point out I had training wheels, but only for a little while.

It wasn’t a 10-speed bike, or a 5-speed bike, or even a 3-speed bike. It was more of a no-speed bike. It didn’t have hand brakes either. If you wanted to go, you moved the pedals forward. If you wanted to stop, you moved the pedals backward. It was simplicity itself and perfect in every way.

I rode that bike everywhere. This was back in the day when a 7- or 8-year-old kid could walk or ride a bike to school by himself without his safety being threatened. You could ride to what we used to call “The Little Store” (it’s now High Street Deli) to get an Eskimo Pie.

I always felt so proud of that bike. It was a Schwinn bike. It had a Schwinn emblem on the front and it had a blue Schwinn saddle with a big white “S” on it.

One day, many years later, I was thinking back to my childhood Christmases. I started thinking back to our Christmas trees, the Christmas records we’d play, how from our house’s big front window, I could see the big “SEASON’S GREETINGS” sign strung across Marsh Street.

I started thinking back to that bike. I remembered the saddle, I remembered the blue paint, I remembered the emblem.

Schwinn emblem
This Schwinn emblem has a very precise paint job. Mine didn’t.

For some reason, I remembered that the paint on the emblem had a kind of softness to it. The letters weren’t painted with a sharp outline to them. Somehow I remembered that the paint of the letters kind of blended into the paint of the emblem’s background.

The innocence of my childhood had long since melted away, but it was when I was a 47- or 48-year-old that the truth behind that Schwinn bike finally hit me.

It wasn’t from Santa. My parents didn’t know a guy who knew a guy at all. I’d known that for a long time, of course. But it wasn’t until then that I realized how I had gotten that bike.

Schwinn bikes were expensive and my folks weren’t rich. They wanted to get me what I wanted for Christmas, but a brand-new Schwinn bike was probably a little out of their league.

My dad had a big workshop in our back yard and had lots of power tools. He was a very talented guy when it came to building things (something I would never be). And he was always scrounging around, finding old parts to fix things. My dad really did know a guy who knew a guy; it was just that most of these guys ran junkyards. On top of all this, I’d always heard my dad loved riding bikes when he was younger. He’d even had a job as a messenger boy as a kid.

Terry Carlisle, my dad.

I never got confirmation on this theory from my parents; they had both passed away when this “revelation” came to me. But I am sure what my dad did was that he found an old bike somewhere, found an old Schwinn emblem and painted it as best he could and painted the bike frame the perfect color. I imagine if anything was new on that bike, it might have been the saddle and the handlebars. Maybe. Was the bike even a Schwinn? Who knows?

I do know this: If I had known back then that he had done this, I would have been disappointed and probably thrown a tantrum. After all, I was just a 7- or 8-year-old. I wanted a new bike. And it had to be a Schwinn.

But knowing it now (at least knowing it as well as I ever will on this earth) makes it an incredibly special thing. My dad was never very good at saying things like “I love you,” but every once in a while he’d do things like this that would let you know. Even if it wasn’t until 40 Christmases later.

150 more are laid off at ESPN

Another round of layoffs hit employees at ESPN this week as 150 people were let go by the network. They were all behind-the-scenes personnel, coming from “studio production, digital content and tech groups,” according to SportsBusiness Daily.

ESPN-LogoThe layoffs impact less than 2% of ESPN’s 8,000 employees and come as its parent Walt Disney Co. continues to cope with declining subscription numbers and high league rights fees.

It’s the second time this year ESPN is eliminating positions; 100 layoffs in April affected not only those behind the cameras, but also on-air talent. In the fall of 2015, about 300 were let go.

ESPN’s programming is gradually shifting toward serving the growing digital world. It has launched a SportCenter-type show on Snapchat and SportsCenter Right Now on the ESPN app, and it plans to begin a direct-to-viewer ESPN+ in 2018.

These days, fans can find sports highlights online whenever they want and are not as likely to sit still for an entire SportsCenter newscast. In addition, ESPN’s subscriber base, which was more than 100 million in 2011, is now down to 86.9 million.

Also, ESPN is ending the 4-8 p.m. PT broadcasts of SportsCenter on ESPNews after Thursday. SportsCenter will continue airing on ESPNews from 7 to 10 a.m. on Sundays during the NFL season. The personality-driven SportsCenters on ESPN, hosted by Scott Van Pelt, Jemele Hill, Michael Smith and Sage Steele will continue as in the past.


Meanwhile, there is other, happier ESPN news (that’s ESPN news, not ESPNews):

  • ESPN’s NBA viewership is up 24% from last season, averaging 1.9 million viewers through 19 games, compared to 1.6 million last season. The Nov. 22 Warriors-Thunder game drew 3.3 million viewers, the most for an ESPN regular-season game since Christmas 2016. The Lakers-Kings game later that night was seen by 2.2 million, a 69% gain from the comparable game last year.
  • ESPN will provide live SportsCenter segments on the World Cup draw on Friday morning with ESPN2 airing a live, one-hour, post-draw ESPN FC special at 9 a.m. ESPN Deportes will have seven hours of live Spanish-language coverage starting at 6 a.m.
  • The Arizona Republic reports that ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards is about to be hired as the new football coach at Arizona State. The hiring is said to only be awaiting the approval of school president Michael Crow. Ray Anderson, the ASU athletic director, was Edwards’ former agent before he became an NFL executive.


The college football season is down to the conference championship level and the Pacific 12 starts things off Friday night with No. 11 USC playing No. 14 Stanford at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium at 5 p.m. on ESPN. It’s kind of like the Pac-12 sits at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving. All the other big games are on Saturday.

The AAC championship is at 9 a.m. Saturday with No. 12 Central Florida playing No. 16 Memphis on ABC. At 9:30 a.m., the Big 12 championship has No. 2 Oklahoma facing No. 10 TCU on Fox. The SEC championship, usually the biggest draw of the bunch, will have No. 4 Auburn taking on No. 6 Georgia on CBS. No. 25 Fresno State plays unranked Boise State at 4:45 p.m. in the MWC championship on ESPN. The prime-time games (in the East, anyway) at 5 p.m. PST are the ACC championship between No. 1 Clemson and No. 7 Miami on ABC and the Big Ten title game between No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 8 Ohio State on Fox.


In addition, the College Football Playoff pairings and those for the unfortunately named “New Year’s Six” games will be on ESPN at 9 a.m. Sunday.

In the NFL, the Redskins and Cowboys play at 5:20 p.m. on NBC and NFL Network. The Redskins had threatened not to wear the all-yellow “Color Rush” uniforms the league had mandated for them, so it was possible they might have played naked, but word now is they will dress in all burgundy instead of all banana. Fox has the doubleheader this Sunday with Vikings-Falcons at 10 a.m. and Rams-Cardinals at 1:25 p.m. CBS has Browns-Chargers at 1 p.m. On NBC’s Sunday night game, it’ll be Eagles-Seahawks at 5:20. The ESPN Monday night game is Steelers-Bengals at 5:15.

The NFL is said to be considering moving the Dec. 10 Eagles-Rams game to the Sunday night NBC slot. Fox had left the game unprotected among games that could be moved, but now is trying to keep it and put it in its national window.


NBCUniversal announced its will show more than 2,400 hours of coverage across all its networks and digital platforms from the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February, with 176 of those hours on NBC itself. For the first time at a Winter Olympics, the network will show prime-time coverage live to all time zones. For the first time, it will show live events during its late-night coverage. … To get ready, you may want to watch Birds of Prey World Cup skiing event from Lake Louise, Alberta, at 11:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN.

CIF Southern Section high school football finals are Friday and Saturday nights. Between Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket and the Fox Sports Go online app, every game will be available to watch. Of interest to Ventura County fans will be Oaks Christian at Valencia at 7:30 Friday on Prime Ticket and Moorpark vs. Paraclete and Grace Brethren at Antelope Valley at 7 Friday online.

Will Chip Kelly work his magic at UCLA?

Get the UCLA visor ready. Chip Kelly is coming to Westwood.

UCLA hopes Chip Kelly — visor and all — will be able to bring smiles to Bruins fans. (Abdoozy photo)

The Bruins pulled the trigger on perhaps its most exciting and intriguing football coaching move since — well, since Jim Mora, the man they fired before hiring Kelly.

Kelly was just about ready to be plucked out of the college football free-agent coaching zone (that is, he was an ESPN analyst) by Florida when UCLA swooped him up instead.

It was seen as a brilliant if unusual move by UCLA, which is not generally known for making big-name hires. Of course, Mora was also seen as a big name. Big names don’t always work out.

It wasn’t all that kind a move toward Mora, who was fired on his 56th birthday, Nov. 19. Strangely enough, the hiring of Kelly, 54, was announced on his birthday, Nov. 25.

We can talk about whether or not Mora deserved to be fired (my view is he probably didn’t; most coaches don’t), but instead let’s talk about Kelly and his chances of succeeding at UCLA.

Kelly is coming back to college. He was 28-36 in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles (including 0-1 in playoffs) and 46-7 in college at Oregon (including 2-2 in bowl games).

At Oregon, Kelly was 33-3 in Pacific 12 Conference games and won three Pac-12 titles. He won a Rose Bowl, a Fiesta Bowl and was national runner-up in the 2010 season.

UCLA would take that in a heartbeat.

Chip Kelly, Sam Bradford
Chip Kelly, shown with Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford, had little success in the NFL. (Keith Allison photo)

He decided, in 2013, to try his hand in the pros and it didn’t go well. Of course, a coach is not as much in complete control of his success in the NFL as it is in college. The 49ers and Eagles were not very good franchises during that time and that didn’t help Kelly. His reputation was damaged by his NFL experience and it remains to be seen whether he can repair it by going back to the college ranks at UCLA.

For UCLA, it is thrilled it was able to not only land the biggest name available to fill its coaching vacancy, but also thrilled to get people to talk about the Bruins in ways that do not include either Mora or the three UCLA basketball players who were shoplifting in China.

The immediate uptick for UCLA is in recruiting. At Oregon, Kelly was able to nab several Los Angeles area stars away from either UCLA or USC. According to, 41 of Oregon’s 93 recruits under Kelly were from California. We’ll see if he is able to keep future standouts at home — or at least from going to USC.

It should also be pointed out that Kelly was offensive coordinator under previous Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, Kelly benefited from inheriting Bellotti’s players. It should also be pointed out that Oregon was put on NCAA probation for three years in regard to the school’s use of recruiting services. The hammer — which included a show-cause restriction against Kelly’s being immediately hired by another college difficult — came down on the Ducks right as Kelly was going to the NFL.

Kelly’s up-tempo offensive system at Oregon was revolutionary. It spread the offense while making the quarterback a running threat and defenses had no idea how to stop it.

Now they do. So Kelly will either have to come up with some other kind of eye-popping, jaw-dropping kind of offense or the Bruins will have to recruit players who can succeed in a more typical style.


Now, while wondering if Kelly can coach a team (UCLA) wearing Under Armour uniforms as well as he can a team (Oregon) wearing Nike, here’s a look at the week just past:

  • At least UCLA’s coaching hire wasn’t anything like Tennessee’s, which had to withdraw its offer to Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano after a public backlash in regard to Schiano’s connection to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.
  • The Los Angeles Rams showed they will be a postseason force to be reckoned with in their win Sunday over the New Orleans Saints.
  • In fact, so did the Los Angeles Chargers, in their win Thursday over the Dallas Cowboys.
  • The Anaheim Ducks had to apologize and take down a video of center Ryan Kesler walking around the office naked. The video, which showed Kesler walking past several cubicles of female office workers, culminates with Kesler explaining that he was celebrating the NHL’s 100th birthday in his birthday suit. Given the many instances of sexual harassment in the country recently, it was a bad idea all around.

  • The Golden State Warriors wore their new Nike “statement” uniforms Saturday. You may have seen alternate jerseys they wear that say “The City,” in reference to San Francisco. These were a nod to Oakland that say “The Town.” It’s not necessarily a knock. According to ESPN, “the area was originally called ‘The Town’ when incorporated [in] 1852, before being reincorporated into the city of Oakland two years later.”
  • Of course, it’s a little strange given that the Warriors plan to move into a new arena in San Francisco in 2019.
  • The Warriors, even though they were called the San Francisco Warriors from 1962 to 1971, have played in “The City” only from 1964 to 1966, at San Francisco Civic Auditorium and at the University of San Francisco War Memorial Gymnasium. Since moving to the Bay Area, the Warriors have played in the Cow Palace in Daly City, San Jose Arena and their current home, now called Oracle Arena, in Oakland. They also played six games at San Diego Sports Arena in 1971-72 because they had just become the Golden State Warriors and took it seriously.
  • Speaking of uniforms, the Orange County Register points out the Lakers haven’t worn their traditional purple road uniforms once this season. That’ll change Monday night in a “road” game against the Clippers. The Lakers have worn their gold uniforms — for generations, worn only at home — for 11 of their 19 games this season, even including at Boston.

On Thanksgiving, to whom are you giving thanks?

You can’t help but pause on Thanksgiving, at least sometime during the weekend. The whole thing is built with pauses.

Waiting to get on an airplane, driving on a slow freeway, in between conversations with relatives and friends, maybe lining up to fill your plate, halftimes of football games, tryptophan-induced stupors, standing in line at Black Friday sales. You can’t help but pause during Thanksgiving.

Some people can’t stand pauses; they have to keep moving, thinking, planning, working, doing.

prayerWhat’s the best thing to do during a Thanksgiving pause? This is not a trick question. The answer is built right into the title of the holiday. Give thanks.

You’ve been given a lot: life, liberty, friends, family, health, happiness. And even if some of those things are missing or lacking, I’m sure there are still things you can think of that deserve gratefulness.

So give thanks. That part is easy. But then there’s the next part: To whom do we give thanks? You can’t just whisper a “thank you” out into the atmosphere. You can’t just say it under your breath to make sure the guy standing next to you in the Black Friday line doesn’t hear you.

Are you giving thanks to the people who cooked your Thanksgiving dinner? To the teams playing football on TV? To the porter who handled your luggage at the airport? To the people who built the freeways you were backed up on?

If you have a job, are you giving thanks to your boss? If you’re married, are you giving thanks to your spouse? Most of those people do deserve our thanks. We know we have been given a good life, even in spite of the obstacles and trials that pop up. But to whom are we really giving thanks on Thanksgiving?

OK, OK, by now you probably know the answer I’m trying to steer you toward:


It seems like such a no-brainer, so obvious. And yet I know of so many people this week who will gather for Thanksgiving meals and festivities and who will even bow their heads to a God they don’t believe in, or toward whom they are hostile or apathetic.

Why? Well, bowing your head is just kind of the thing to do on Thanksgiving.

But let me ask this question: If you are not giving thanks to God, then to whom?

And this one: If you are not giving thanks to God, then why are you giving thanks?

The idea of setting aside a national day of thankfulness is a quintessentially American thing. And it has always been with the idea of thanking God.

Thanksgiving has been nationally celebrated in the United States since before it was a nation. Of course, we know about the Pilgrims; they celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621. The Continental Congress declared the first official national Thanksgiving in 1777. From the very beginning, the day was designed to thank God, described in George Washington’s 1789 proclamation, as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Thanksgiving became an annual celebration in 1863, during the Civil War, in a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln (written by Secretary of State William Seward):

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

“… No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

I’m not trying to put a damper on Thanksgiving or make anyone feel guilty. Don’t go canceling the turkey and the cranberry sauce on my account. I’m just saying we should consider our motives as we enter Thanksgiving and celebrate it for the right reasons.

While we’re at it, we should also consider the blessings God has given us, especially how He has forgiven us of our sins through the sacrifice and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ.

Now that’s worth celebrating! Happy Thanksgiving!

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before Him with joyful singing.

Know that the Lord Himself is God;

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving

And His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His lovingkindness is everlasting

And His faithfulness to all generations.

— Psalm 100

UCLA players and Jerry Jones should all just sit awhile

Rather than one big thing going on in sports right now, there are a lot of smaller things vying for our attention. Pro and college football, pro and college basketball, pro hockey — they are all just starting to draw us in.

UCLA_WW_PRI_LOGO_ON_WHTSome of the things are on the field and some (way too many) are off the field:

  • UCLA men’s basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who returned to the U.S. after shoplifting from stores in China, have been suspended indefinitely by the school. “Indefinitely” can be short or it can be long. It should be long. At the earliest, the players should not play again until February. The optimum length is the entire season. If their uppity, entitled parents pull them out of UCLA, so be it.
  • Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and would-be king of all he surveys, appears to be a conspiracy of one in his effort to derail the contract extension of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. As usual, however, this does not appear to be stopping Jones one little bit.
  • New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner says manager Joe Girardi, who led his team to within one game of the World Series, would have been fired even if the Yankees had won the World Series. Sounds like Hal learned loyalty from his father George.
  • I can’t hear about Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman without thinking of Seinfeld.
  • Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Aaron Judge of the Yankees deservedly won the Rookie of the Year Awards in the National and American leagues respectively. But let’s just say it’s a good thing those awards were voted on before the end of the regular season.
  • Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne fittingly went into the Hockey Hall of Fame together over the weekend. The start of Kariya’s career coincided with the start of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim franchise and he was soon joined by Selanne. The pair made the expansion team worth watching from the very start.
  • Dodgers fans should be smart enough to realize that Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks deserved the NL Manager of the Year Award this year more than Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did. Besides, Roberts won it just last year. Lovullo’s D-Backs went from 69 wins in 2016 to 93 in 2017.
  • Clayton Kershaw looks on during batting practice.
    Clayton Kershaw is 46-15 the past three seasons with a 2.07 ERA, but has no Cy Young Awards. (Arturo Pardavila III photo)

    However, it might be understandable that Dodgers fans would be irked, miffed and perhaps even a little peeved that Clayton Kershaw did not win the NL Cy Young Award. Kershaw finished second to Washington’s Max Scherzer. Scherzer was 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA, pitching 200⅔ innings and striking out 268 with 55 walks. Kershaw was 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA, pitching 175 innings (missing more than five weeks with lower back tightness) and striking out 202 with 23 walks.

  • Kershaw has won Cy Young Awards three times (2011, 2013 and 2014) and has finished second twice, third once and fifth once. He and Greg Maddux are the only two pitchers to finish in the top five for seven straight years.
  • However, it’s almost a little strange that Kershaw hasn’t won since ’14. The Cy Young is not about a body of work, but consider this: Kershaw is 46-15 the past three seasons with a 2.07 ERA, but no Cy Young Awards.
  • Bobby Doerr of the Boston Red Sox, the first Baseball Hall of Famer to live to be 99 years old, died Monday in Junction, Ore. The oldest living Hall of Famer is now Red Schoendienst, who played mostly for the St. Louis Cardinals at 94; the oldest living major leaguer is now Chuck Stevens, who played for the St. Louis Browns, at 99 (three months younger than Doerr).
  • It’s a week of big news for the Oakland Raiders. At 4-5, they’re struggling to get back to .500. They’ll be playing the New England Patriots at Mexico City on Sunday. They also broke ground Monday on their new stadium in Las Vegas.
  • Unusual: USC’s football team, which plays UCLA in its big rivalry game Saturday night, is ranked No. 11 in the latest AP poll. Its men’s basketball team is ranked No. 10.