Seeing a reflection in Northern Ireland

In the 35 or so years U2 recorded music, anyone familiar with the Irish rock group’s anthology is painfully aware Bono is obsessed with the United States.

Truth be told, many of the Irish always have been. My father immigrated here with his brothers as a young man. He still has the little flag they gave him when he took the oath of allegiance. President Kennedy may be the only person outside of the Bible that he considers a hero.

I can only make half-baked guesses as to why this deep-rooted fascination with America exists. The best way I can explain it comes from when I was a comedian. Comics love poking at the scabs of American racism. So I would chat with Paul Rodriguez and after mentioning I had Irish heritage, he laughed and referred to the Irish as “the white Mexicans.”

I’ve also been referred to as “the white (insert other race here)” by other minority comics for the same reason. The conclusion to draw? Maybe I’m not on the same social level as other white folk. There were once signs on American storefronts encouraging the Irish not to seek employment there.

And yet the Irish eventually prospered here. So yeah, my brethren have an affection for the United States that it would likely never have with their next-door neighbors to the east. Simply put, many Irish loathe the British, the inevitable result of centuries of land grabs, systemic economic repression and guerrilla warfare.

Which might give you pause if you see elements of the same in the American civil rights timeline.

The British wanted to annex all of Ireland for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is improved access to the Atlantic Ocean for shipping trade and naval defense. Also, Ireland’s economy for centuries was based on agriculture, especially beef. The British look at Ireland the same way Jeff Bezos and Amazon look at brick-and-mortar stores — as an inferior target.

After centuries of struggle, the Irish believed British elites looked at them as an subordinate race prone to violence, a lack of civility and in need of the guiding hand of their superiors despite the fact that most Brits were as white as most of the Irish.

The hatred remains despite the Irish Republican Army having laid down their crude armaments. I have gone to Irish import shops where the store owner praised the right-thinking lads. In our society, we would consider those right-thinking lads as terrorists.

Despite being covered in a sheet of optimistic green clover, brimming with enchanting music and tales of mischievous leprechauns — how could Ireland not make for an ideal backdrop for a bitter, noir mystery novel? I look at Ireland the same way Raymond Chandler looked at Los Angeles.

This is what inspired me to write “Assumption Day,” which debuts Nov. 8 through the Wild Rose Press. The story takes place in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1970 — when a tenuous peace is threatened after young Catholics insist of civil rights and five people die. It’s up to the one trustworthy inspector in the Royal Ulster Constabulary to solve the crime before the region implodes in civil war.

To be clear, I don’t claim to have the answers for racism in the United States any more than I would the solutions for lasting real peace between the British and the Irish.

I just want a story that gets received better than the last U2 album.

Not that one game defines the Lakers, but…

As a faithful Angelino, I overloaded my DVR on Thursday to watch the Dodgers and Lakers. I learned two things from the binge watch with certitude.

Them sure ain’t the old Dodgers. Reaching the World Series for the first time in nearly three decades helped me reach that conclusion.

Also, these are the same young Lakers. There really isn’t much reason to think the Lakers are going to be appreciably better than last year.

I will stipulate to you that is an overreaction if you will stipulate that preseason hype about this being a playoff team is an overreaction.

We all get it. Magic Johnson’s first priority was to restore order after the slipshod, play-the-hunch approach from trust-fund baby Jim Buss. I am confident Johnson has taken big strides in a short amount of time.

Yet, the drubbing they took from the Clippers on opening night looked like the same no-defense, no-low post, no identity hot mess from the last three years when the Lakers finished with the No. 2 overall draft pick. Only this year, no matter how bad it gets, the Lakers won’t get any such draft relief. That was traded away.

Let’s be semipositive to start: I didn’t have much of a problem with Lonzo Ball’s nasty debut. He debuted against a chippy defensive expert. Not an easy task. He will improve.

I also liked the fact that the starting lineup included some long-needed tough decisions. In other words, there was an unstated admission that former lottery draft pick Julius Randle can’t stay awake during a game. Overall, there is some rhyme and reason to a starting lineup of Ball, Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng, Larry Nance Jr. and Brook Lopez. It should get somewhat better when Kentavious Caldwell Pope enters the lineup, bumping either Deng or Nance back to the bench.

But the playoffs? Maybe it’s a better investment to wager that in a Vegas sports book than to buy Big Baller Brand shoes. Either way, that’s not money well spent. This team won 25 games last season. To qualify for the playoffs, it would stand to reason that they would have to win more games than lose this year. To do so, the Lakers would need to win at least 16 more games. That is a huge spike.

Beyond the open paths to the rim the Lakers allowed, despite the addiction to chucking up threes with nary a teammate under the rim in case the shot goes awry, though, I was struck by a third chronic unsolved problem.

Last year, I wrote that the Lakers had no team identity or defined leader. All of that youth meant nothing if the energy was not organized and then molded. Take the Dodgers. They have an identity, a philosophy, that lead to wins. We are going to have depth across the roster — starting pitching, relievers, etc. The Dodgers are called “relentless.” But they also have defined leaders, an ace in Clayton Kershaw, an elite closer in Kenley Jansen, elite hitters in Corey Seager. Most importantly, it seems as if they have a leader in Justin Turner.

Who is the leader of the Lakers? Hell, who is their best player? Do you know? I don’t.

Last year, coach Luke Walton figured he’d just let the roster decide on its own. It was foolish then and it’s foolhardy now. There was no sign of an alpha dog on the floor who would put his teammates on his back through sheer force of will. That’s on Walton. In a roster of youngsters, he’s the adult in the room. If he refuses to put someone in position to lead, he’s going to be out of a job.

It may be the first step for actual growth, which is what — you know — you have to do to become a playoff team in the first place.

I’m looking forward to telling you more about this


My second novel, “Assumption Day,” debuts Nov. 8. You can preorder it on iBooks and other apps for $4.99. To be honest, I’m a cheapskate. I’d totally go that route. But if you prefer a paperback, I would gladly take the $16.99 from The Wild Rose Press.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be shamelessly bragging here about this historical fiction murder mystery that takes place in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1970. But for now, I wanted to let you know it exists.

I truly believe “Assumption Day” is a captivating read. If you enjoy it, feel free to tell your friends. I’m not looking to get rich off of the work as much as I am trying to make a name in the publishing industry.

Please end the #strong movement

I want to speak on behalf of three cities — San Bernardino, Calif.; Las Vegas and Orlando. It’s a tad presumptuous to claim to represent so many people, but having lived in all three I have a good idea of what links them.

We are not #strong. We are not #VegasStrong. We are not #OrlandoStrong. We are definitely not the extremely clunky and hard for most to spell correctly #SanBernardinoStrong.

Hear me out. This is not meant to be rant against any political party or candidate.

We didn’t join the military en masse as many millennials did after 9/11 — keep that in mind the next time we want to rip that generation. We didn’t even feel compelled to do a few extra reps at the gym.

We are not #strong because after all this time, nobody has a firm grasp on what it means to be #strong.

Take San Bernardino. When I grew up in that city, it was a proud blue-collar area. It wasn’t idyllic as Christopher Robin frolicking with Pooh Bear in the Hundred Acre Wood, but it did instill worthwhile values. I look back at that time fondly because San Bernardino did play a role in the man I became. It was diverse and a little hardscrabble. You had to respect people of all walks of life. You had to earn your keep.

I hardly recognize San Bernardino today. Industry and its Air Force base closed up. One of its malls died. Heck, you have to search for any retail in the city above a liquor store. Since then, both city and county governments have faced major ethical scandals. The city itself declared bankruptcy due to horrific mismanagement.

So a couple of Muslim terrorists open fire on a holiday party and I’m supposed to accept #SanBernardinoStrong? I can’t. Why should I? What makes a corrupt city in ruins #strong?

Orlando and Las Vegas are financially better off and relatively stable places to be, but what makes them #strong? All the marquees and billboards in the cities proclaimed their #strength after another Muslim nutjob shot up the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and believe me, you don’t have to convince me that lazy-eyed hillbilly was nuttier than a fruitcake when he opened fire from Mandalay Bay.

Being #strong isn’t limited to gun attacks, either. Boston was #strong after a bombing. Houston is said to be #strong after a flood. But what does that hashtag accomplish, exactly?

Now, people have gone to social media and asked us to #PrayFor these cities. I can respect that. I think it’s a precious gift for someone to pray for you or me, even if you don’t believe in a deity.

But did you ever notice that after 9/11, New Yorkers were not #NYCStrong? No. We stood with New York City. We were united with New York.

What I would suggest is that instead of false claims of strength, we consider telling people we are #OrlandoUnited or #VegasUnited.

Consider Orlando. I worked about two blocks from the Pulse, an LGBTQ club. You should have seen the city unite behind that community following the attacks. You hate Trump supporters? They were there to help, donating blood and money. Same for the Muslim community, I might add. I was there. I saw it. You now see the rainbow flag fly over much of that city, at Orlando City Soccer Club games, etc.

What if Houston united to make Texas safer from natural disasters?

Maybe in Las Vegas, we unite behind first responders. I doubt we join this anti-second amendment push I saw on social media, but perhaps we unite behind banning bump stocks. I don’t know yet, but what I hope for is that we unite for something bigger than ourselves.

Ironically, that would be a real demonstration of #strength.

PS — I have no idea if San Bernardino would ever unite for anything, so there’s that.

Good morning, Don Garber,

I doubt you feel much better than I do after the United States men’s national team was inexcusably eliminated from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup last night. Frankly, if you got a good night of sleep I would be surprised, because losing to Trinidad & Tobago exposed more than just how flawed the national team was.

It revealed that progress from Major League Soccer in 21 years might just be a fraud, too.

As commissioner of MLS, this should make your blood run cold.

Last night, in the midst of a take-no-prisoners rant that should be played in a loop in your office until every syllable seeps into your being, ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman included your league as part of the reason for this unacceptable collapse. And he’s right. He’s right because MLS fed this team the likes of Darlington Nagbe, Michael Bradley, Kellyn Acosta, Brad Guzan, et al. All of whom and many other MLS “stars” vanished on the world’s stage.

Hell, the USMNT was coached by a man plucked from your league’s glamour franchise, the Los Angeles Galaxy.

I could list the all of MLS contributions to the national team, but why rub your nose in it? I simply want to drive that point that players who honed their skills in your league just can’t cut it in international play. That is an ugly reflection on MLS. If the United States has regressed in soccer, which it has, then it must follow that MLS has not progressed in skill level, either. Clearly, it hasn’t.

The other item Twellman mentioned that sank like a bowling ball in the esophagus was the billion dollar investment Americans have made in soccer. We’ve made the investment in infrastructure for U.S. soccer, its youth program, and certainly in Major League Soccer. You have insisted on soccer-specific stadiums for franchises, and in most cases tax dollars have come in.

The thing about us ever-lovin’ capitalists, we expect a return on our investment. If we don’t get it, the wallets close. Philadelphia taxpayers foot the bill for most of the Union’s stadium snd nobody shows up because the team stinks.

So when we drop a billion dollars on a sport and this is the best you can do, oh immediate changes have to be made. I travelled to multiple USMNT qualifiers. I also have travelled to see MLS in Los Angeles, Portland, New Jersey, Dallas and Orlando. You think I want to climb aboard another plane for this?

Americans are looking at all those USMNT uniforms — why did they come out with five new jerseys in the last year, by the way? — with MLS player names on the back and thinking “these players are our best?”

Why would I want to see Nagbe and the Portland Timbers if Nagbe falters on the national team? Right now, Toronto FC is far and away your most exciting team. Why watch them play? Bradley and Jozy Altidore are outmatched against the rest of the world, even countries like Trinidad & Tobago. Hell, we don’t even know if Trinidad or Tobago have professional soccer.

This is not to say MLS is the problem, but it has to take an active role in being the solution. The future of your league depends on it. And U.S. soccer needs MLS to exist. FIFA doesn’t award a World Cup to a nation without a top-flight pro league.

If you haven’t already called the U.S. Soccer Federation headquarters and demanded the immediate resignation of president Sunil Gulati, you will become part of the problem. He has to answer for where that billion dollars went.

Gulati’s ouster is not a one-step fix to a systemic failure. It is a needed first step. It is one you must insist upon, because his failure is your failure. Last night’s failure, which marked the first time the USA didn’t reach the World Cup since 1986, indicates MLS has not progressed, either.

Which makes every other sport look pretty damn good right now.