In case I don’t see you during Thanksgiving…

Lately I’ve been reading an ugly idea: that Thanksgiving dinner is an ideal place to argue politics — as if we don’t have enough fertile ground for shouting matches with relatives. I just can’t partake in Thanksgiving politics, although I admit if I see that photo of Al Franken one more time my stomach will empty for another plate.

On this holiday, I prefer to feel gratitude — as old-fashioned as that sounds — and I have a lot to appreciate this year. It was an unusual year for me, in that I had four major goals. I accomplished them all. Despite that, I went through a three-month period of misery. It’s startling to achieve dreams and still be dreadfully unhappy.

Those three months were my last in Florida. I know what caused it. I prefer not to go into it.

So for openers, I am thankful for the people who sensed I wasn’t happy and reached out. They know who they are. I am thankful for you. I hope you have a most joyous holiday season.

I am thankful for the friends I did make in Florida, too. It is a fun state, fascinating and gorgeous. Regrettably, I didn’t make many lasting friendships there. The ones I did make? The people there I appreciate their humor, their intellect, their quirkiness. Sorry the rest of it didn’t work out for me.

Living on the east coast afforded me the chance to see most of the country at a slower pace. I am thankful for what I learned about America. What an amazing nation. My senses overloaded on the hues of our culture, which varies from state to state. It would take months to fully recall and appreciate what I’ve taken in. I savor those memories daily. The music of Nashville. The art museums of Philadelphia and Chicago. The architecture of Baltimore. The alcoholism of Kansas City.

I must admit, though, that I am extremely thankful to be closer to my friends and family here in Las Vegas. I’ve already made road trips to Los Angeles, Arizona, and I can’t wait to see my parents tomorrow. Thanksgiving is a time for overloading on comfort food, but eating all of that grub is merely a symbol. Thanksgiving dinner is a metaphor of how our lives can be delicious and bountiful. My life is abundant for the friends I have. The relationships you create lead to lasting comfort and joy.

My best friends? They know who they are. People I’ve begun to cultivate relationships with, I hope you know I value you.

Finally, I am grateful for those of you who have purchased my latest novel, “Assumption Day.” I want to keep that brief because I don’t want to make this blog post sound like a sales pitch. Thank you.

Let’s all have a warm holiday season. There are far more beautiful things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in political philosophy.

What’s the point? Or, why do authors get so hung up on theme?

About a year ago I flew to New York City to wow somebody in the publishing industry with a murder mystery novel I created. While most agents are women — which, by the way, is a good thing since women tend to make up most of the people I see in a Barnes & Noble — I happened upon a male rep in the restroom of the Midtown Hyatt in Manhattan.

“Thing I hate the most is authors who can’t stop talking about the theme of their books,” he muttered to the wall paneling just above the urinal. Then he looked over at me and added, “Pitching to me in here taking a piss I hate even more.”

Like most everything I’ve learned in the publishing industry, that simultaneously made sense and made me wince. Oh, it’s not the only thing that came across as useful and insipid. I had an agent tell me my book would stand a better chance of getting published if I could squeeze “girl” in the title. Girls on trains and with dragon tattoos kicking over hornet nests and falling into spider webs. That sort of thing.

But I digress.

My point is beyond mentioning there will always be a disconnect between authors and agents. That’s apparent. It’s also obvious to mention that agents are the first bona fide readers of a writer’s golden prose. Your friends and family may think it’s brilliant, but nobody else is going to know if it doesn’t land on a bookshelf. That’s an agent’s job. If the agent doesn’t care about theme, chances are most readers don’t either.

But I must suggest that agents let their crabby little wordsmiths prattle for 45 seconds about the brilliance of the theme.

Themes — as hoity-toity as they come across — are what push a writer across the finish line. No matter how strong that first inspiration permeates a writer’s alleged soul, in my opinion there is no such thing as a muse for a novel. I have to have a compelling reason for why I’m writing in order to finish. My current novel, “Assumption Day,” checks in at about 300 pages. It’s not exactly as long-winded as “War and Peace,” but compare that to the average article in USA Today, and that’s a hefty amount of quality time at the laptop.

Most writers that I know don’t like to wing it. (As an aside, that’s called “pantsing” in publishing, another phrase that simultaneously makes sense and creeps me the hell out.) The writers I hang with, read, etc., they want to have a reason for slogging through the process.

Theme is that reason. They want to make a point. The story, the character, or just one particular scene, can make that point.

I write murder mysteries. The point is not to say “killin’ is bad.” If the Ten Commandments didn’t convince you of that, neither would Agatha Christie.

In the case of “Assumption Day,” I studied the lengthy and turbulent history of Northern Ireland. I appreciated its music. I shook my head at its petty divisions. I learned bombmaking, not hands-on, of course. I went through the research and filled notebook with ideas came because of one salient point that has more to do with the United States than it does about the Emerald Isle.

That there’s only one Martin Luther King, Jr.

In my mind, I wanted to use Ireland to illustrate the point.

Many have tried to stake a claim to King’s mantle, and yet nobody else has even come close in Western civilization. Not in America. Not in Europe, either. Definitely nobody among the legions of social justice warriors online. Perhaps that’s why things continue to be divisive among us.

If you enjoy “Assumption Day,” maybe you will pick up on that. Maybe not. I hope not to make things that obvious.

But “Assumption Day” wouldn’t be possible without that little point I wanted to make.

Having said that, I wouldn’t want to disrupt your time in the bathroom to tell you that.

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.

Reviewing life in Florida

Years ago, living in Los Angeles, I dated a girl from central Florida who could not stop talking about how much she hated California. I couldn't get her to shut up about it. Disney World is better than Disneyland. Universal Orlando is better than Universal Hollywood. Why are all the buildings here painted brown? What's with the homeless peeing in the schoolyard? Leave the kids alone during recess.

It was not meant to be with her. Not because of her love of the Sunshine State, but because her nickname was "badonkadonk." Guys love a girl with a badonkadonk, and she sure had one, but her personality was just as badonkadonk as her actual badonkadonk. A girl nicknamed "badonkadonk" possesses the mentality to turn your life into what comes out of a badonkadonk.

And I damn sure didn't move to Altamonte Springs to find her, but it's time to leave. I just don't want to make this a bitter departure, so I figured I'd tell you what it's like to live here.

I left California because that state is completely out of control. Even worse, the people there are oblivious to how chaotic it actually is. Florida, despite the weird articles you see posted on Facebook about a crocodile suing a hillbilly for child support for her crocobilly triplets, is a much better state than you think. Floridians want those weird stories online because it will keep more Californians from moving in.

I was told I'd return to SoCal within six months because of humidity. I didn't. That's what air conditioning is for. Unlike California Gov. Jerry Brown, Florida Gov. Rick Scott makes sure the air conditioner switch works. Scott also has managed to figure out that a state next to an ocean should have water, something Brown hasn't deduced. And Scott has figured out how to do this without swiping 13 percent of your paycheck.

But this isn't totally about politics. That would be a stupid reason to move across the country.

Or is it? Because for all the talk we've heard for generations about laid-back California cool… Many Floridians are actually more tolerant of diversity than Californians, open to polite discourse and approachable. You don't get shouted down for being liberal or conservative here, let alone face an uprising of antifa or open Klan demonstrations.

The Beach Boys sang about wishing they all could be California girls. I sing about wishing California girls would STFU about how plastic bags are the destroying the planet.

Florida is neither Republican red or Democrat blue. It is the most purple state in the union, which is a blessing. Like California, Florida is so large that you could split it into regions. Out west, it's the extremely liberal coastline with a conservative inland swath. Here, north Florida is pretty damn redneck. Southern Florida is deep blue.

Here near Orlando? Perhaps being near a worldwide travel destination such as Disney World plays into it, but you have no choice but to accept those around you. I have never met so many different cultures and creeds in my life. California mandates you to accept everybody by governmental fiat. Here, you observe people, talk to them and appreciate who they are without getting beaten down on social media.

I've broken bread with Haitians, worked one block away from the Pulse night club, learned a little Arabic and Portuguese, watched Wrestlemania with Indians — both native and from Asia. Many of the people here have been delightful.

What is the difference between government-forced diversity and just getting to know people? Take the Pulse night club. The reaction across the state was inspiring. While many Californians tried to spin this into a political issue on social media, Floridians lined up in droves to donate blood or contribute to LGBTQ causes. That included Trump supporters. That also included people from the Islamic community. I know it. I witnessed it. Californians went to their smartphones to complain, but Floridians rolled up their sleeves to help.

The problem is, I haven't made lasting connections. I haven't had a girlfriend since I've been here. I don't have people I can call up and hang out with. To say I have been lonesome is an understatement. If you want to know how I can write multiple novels in two years and get published in such a short time, that's how.

When I was a child, particularly my teenage years, I was in the same boat. I wasn't hated — I hope — but I was working for a daily newspaper in my time away from high school. At that time in my life, that was my dream. I was called a prodigy. It came at a cost. I was emotionally running on empty because I was so isolated from people.

Isolation damages the soul. There's a saying about all work and no play making Jack a dull boy, so I did play. I traveled. I went to Magic games, Orlando City soccer, NFL, Cape Canaveral, the everglades, South Beach and Tampa. I volunteered for local charities, brought dozens of doughnuts for my coworkers and worked out like a man possessed. I never went to Disney World, though. A middle-aged man walking alone in Disney World is a one-way ticket to being posted on the Megan's Law website.

The other bridge I would not cross was listening to Jimmy Buffett. To hell with that creep. If you ever see me in a Hawaiian-print shirt and cargo shorts, humming "Margaritaville" in a Mustang convertible and cruising the local junior college for chicks, please take my life in the most disgusting way possible. But I digress…

None of what I did mattered. Hard work, lots of play and no friends to share it with makes Jack a depressed boy.

I worked at two diagnostic imaging centers. Life reached a nadir with my latter job, which I will not mention so that the coworkers still there will not be further brutalized just from knowing me. Most of the regular employees were nice people. Current management was bitter, cold and gossipy to the point of unethical. I could detail much of what went on if I chose to, but I will put it simply: I have never seen so many people openly weeping while they work in my life.

You're not supposed to be crying on the job. And people are supposed to care if you are crying on the job, but management didn't. The numbers did.

So about 40 hours of my week were spent around people wiping their eyes, and when I got home I had noone to hang out with.

I have no choice but to leave. The health of my soul depends on it.

When I got into diagnostic imaging, I knew it was a profession that could take me anywhere I chose. There are 50 states in the union. I've got 48 to go.

Let's see if Las Vegas is a better fit.

I will miss the girls, though. Turns out they all have badonkadonks.

Don’t read too much into the Gold Cup

Jordan Morris fired an expertly placed strike into the back of the net in the 89th minute to lift the United States to a 2-1 victory over Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in Santa Clara last night, thus making sure The Yanks became the soccer equivalent of the valedictorians at summer school.
Don't get me wrong. You want to lift trophies under a confetti flurry on national television. That's quite the ego stroke. Girls love that stuff.
However, this tournament might have exposed the divide that separates our continent from Europe and South America in the world's beautiful game.
Keep in mind that Honduras reached the semifinals of the tournament without scoring a single goal.
Or that Jamaica reached the finals and it had already been eliminated from qualifying for the World Cup.
What can be discerned from the tournament, in my opinion, are two things:
1) Don't overreact about Mexico getting steamrolled by the Reggae Boys in the semifinals. El Tri stretched itself pretty thin in the last month or so, having sent its top players to Russia for a tournament of grander scale. I believe Mexico didn't take this tournament that seriously and got what it deserved.
El Tri has a comfortable lead in World Cup qualifying. That's not going to change.
Having said that, I wish the team had told its fans so that they wouldn't treat the tournament as life and death.
Hell, the USMNT had the same approach. It's the only reason I didn't travel to see the team play in Tampa. You send your B team to play in a downpour and want me to sit through a driving rainstorm? I'll pass.
2) Andre Blake needs to get out of MLS.
The Jamaicans are young, quick and well-organized on the back line. Tournament organizers called Blake — who plays for the Philadelphia Union — the best goalie. I agree.
He's also too good for MLS. For his good and the benefit of his national team, he needs to take his talents overseas against the best in the world.
3) Juergen Klinsmann was right. The United States needed to change its approach. Only his execution of that change stunk and current coach Bruce Arena has a clear vision of what the team will look like.
What do I mean? I think Clint Dempsey's days as a starter are numbered. Dempsey, who tied Landon Donovan for most goals in USMNT history during the tourney, was sidelined with a heart condition last season. As desirable as scoring is in any sport, a coach has to be able to rely on his players to stay alive.
I know that reads like a sick joke. Look at the men and women who play the game. It's a different body type. Soccer players are cardiovascular machines, built to run for more than 90 minutes. Can a man with a heart condition be expected to run at top speed for 90 minutes?
Which players acquitted themselves for a shot at the World Cup team, should the USMNT qualify? Morris, for one. I think midfielder Darlington Nagbe played with more creativity and intellect than the much-hyped Kellyn Acosta.
Anyone else? To be frank, no. Dom Dwyer got a look, but a missed penalty shot likely killed his future. How can anyone argue that his upside is greater than Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood, both of whom have played for superior European teams?
Simply put, if you follow soccer on our humble continent, you know who the better players are for both Mexico and the United States. You'll also see the difference when they play in World Cup qualifying in September.

But the Lakers aren’t supposed to be the boys of summer

For a fan base seeking any ray of optimism to bask under, I understand Lakers fans rejoicing that the newbies won NBA Summer League in Vegas last night. I’m in the same boat. I’d rather feel good than to remember the disaster the franchise became since the passing of Jerry Buss. Swaggy P? Buss family legal infighting? #TheLakersAreSoWhite? Timofey Mosgov?

But you do realize this is akin to being the valedictorian in summer school, right? No student applying to Harvard would include that on the application.

True, the Lakers are right now better than they were at any point in the last four years. However, that’s an indication of how low the bar was set.

Any improvement by the Lakers in the last few weeks had nothing to do with a handful of games near a casino. You just haven’t been able to see that yet because with the exception of Lonzo Ball, most of those Summer League players will not make an impact during the upcoming season.

The Lakers upgraded in at least two, and as many as four, positions in the starting lineup. That’s what should make you happier.

Brook Lopez at center and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard are genuine improvements over Mosgov and Jordan Clarkson. They are simply more versatile, particularly at the defensive end. This matters because in the NBA, defense is suspect. In Los Angeles, defense was nonexistent. 

Further, second-year forward Brandon Ingram was the one untouchable player in a tsunami of Lakers trade rumors, meaning his future is far brighter than Luol Deng’s anything.

And Ball appears to be better right now than D’Angelo Russell ever was. True, analysts took Ball to task for his poor shooting and defense. People took Magic Johnson to task for poor shooting as a rookie, too. I have no problem giving Ball time to develop accuracy in his shot because if those Summer League games proved anything, it’s that the kid is a sniper in terms of passing.

Now for the reasons to curb your enthusiasm: Any other names from the Lakers summer team that you throw at me and I’ll give you the same reply. Maybe they make the team, but the only remaining starting player on the hot seat is Julius Randle.

Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma aren’t starting. They’re guards. Thomas Bryant is a center. He’s probably third on the depth chart behind Lopez and Ivica Zubac. Maybe Zubac or Bryant or Larry Nance Jr. pry the inconsistent and undersized Randle from the lineup. I wouldn’t mind seeing that. I’d miss Randle about as much as any of you pine for Russell right now.

Does this column read a little cold? It should. When you haven’t won 30 games in a few years, that’s a frigid reality. Johnson was right when he took over the team. Only Ingram was an untouchable. If Johnson didn’t fall in love with the Lakers youth movement of the last few years, why should you? The results aren’t there.

As for the results this year? The smart money is LA winds up with about 35 wins, forfeits its first-round draft pick as the result of horrible trades you don’t remember them making and possibly firing Luke Walton to lure top tier free agents.