The writing on (and off) the wall: Getting too judgy in the Ohtani-Judge discussion

Tom Hoffarth /

Come Judgement Day 2022, when the Baseball Writers Association of America voters attempt to separate the G.O.A.T.s from the unicorns, Aaron Judge will be the chosen one for the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award.

New Yorkers won’t have it any other way.

Anaheimers know better.

Shohei Ohtani, who has somehow put together a more stunning resume than last year’s AL MVP season, appears to have set a bar far too high. Others are under duress trying to quantify what is normally thought of superior greatness when put up against unworldly achievement.

The social-media banter starts civil and devolves into something logic can’t always appropriate:

Ohtani is not only the game’s most valuable commodity, but also its most invisible. He is the greatest influencer as well as the sport’s most cost-effective player. A meager $5.5 million stipend from the Angels’ payroll — or what it costs for a 30-second Super Bowl TV ad — equates to what Justin Verlander ($28 million this year) and teammate Mike Trout ($37.2 million this year) are both doing right now.

How do you reward him, if not with cash, than with proper recognition?

Continue reading “The writing on (and off) the wall: Getting too judgy in the Ohtani-Judge discussion”

The writing on (and off) the wall: Just try to top Topgolf for self deprecation

Tom Hoffarth /

Shot a respectable 176 playing Pebble Beach Golf Links the other day.

Pounded down a couple of George Lopez brews, tipped the valet and got home in time to take a nap before the Chargers-Chiefs game.

Thanks, Topgolf.

If you’re driving toward, away from, or involved in a police pursuit near from LAX on Pacific Coast Highway, and this magnificent black-and-gray kingdom East of El Segundo’s landmark Chevron Oil Refinery catches your attention, perhaps you’ve reached your unintended destination. Proceed with caution.

One must be prepared there is a seduction into believing a) golf really isn’t all that challenging, demanding or demeaning, b) you’ve got time to prove that theory and c) your credit card limit can be extended in emergency circumstances.

Or, just leave your wallet in El Segundo and pursue another quest.

For the last 20-some years, Topgolf has become this bedazzled and beguiled business model on how to successfully spray tee shots to all corners yearning for legalized torture chambers under the ruse of an entertainment venue.

Sparked by its successes in Las Vegas, Austin, Scottsdale, Nashville and all the other up-and-coming 21st Century upwardly mobile resorts, Topgolf somehow seizes onto one of God’s historically problematic endeavors — as in, “G-D-it, I just lost another $5 Top Flight in that ditch” — and dupes all comers into considering this could be as recreational enjoyable as when their grandparents ran off on Saturday nights for their bowling leagues back in the ‘60s and came home smelling like a carton of Lucky Strikes.

There’s crying in golf. Tears, and fears. And no bumpers in the gutters. It spares no one.

Topgolf is stimulation through simulation. A grip-and-rip, multi-tiered launching pad that makes you forget it’s a multilevel marketing scheme.

It took until last April before getting this escape room pried opened in Southern California (after one was strategically planted first near the Ontario Airport). Airport-adjacent sites seem to be targeted now in Southern California where property can be easily transformed. It’ll only get worse if California passes sports betting legalization.

This one here in L.A. non-proper came after years of resistance from the local neighbors, led to believe this would attract the most undesirables elements. You know, the Bogey-Man Syndrome.

Now, look at the parking lot, on any day, any time. It looks like a new Carvana just set up shop.

For the uninitiated and somewhat inebriated, think of a typical mundane golf driving range now amped up with an assortment of bells, whistles and cart girls hustling over a range of food and beverage — and advice — that will push you down a path of ego punishment.

They provide the clubs, an arsenal of Callaway drivers, hybrids and wedges, all compliments of Topgolf’s new parent company. The have the balls, filled with electronic diodes, for you to whiff over, top, slice, hook and fade, by accident or on purpose. The fake grass and the rubber tees are standard. Now add in more flatscreens than the video section at Costco that tell (or mock) you, upon impact, just what your recorded as far as trajectory, speed, arch and landing spot. It’s as if you’re on a CBS telecast, the celeb partner of Phil Mickelson’s at the AT&T Pro-Am.

(Maybe a poor choice of PGA Tour pro to use here, since he’s taken his talents to that farcical Saudi league to pay down his latest gambling debt.)

So, yeah, that’s a faux Pebble Beach Course, all right. One of four in the simulator’s evil storage unit. You trust it is telling you the truth on where to aim and, when you’re a decent distance from the pin, how to chip toward the 57-yard target, make it in the middle part of the netting, and somehow accept responsibility for a triple-bogey. If at any point you use more than 10 swings, an alert pops up — you’ve exceeded your limit — so you’re stamped a certified loser and ushered ahead to the next hole. By the time you’ve taken the walk of shame to the Famous No. 18, the phony Pacific Ocean on the left and the phony sea lions barking at you is a welcome relief.

But wait, there’s more.

Continue reading “The writing on (and off) the wall: Just try to top Topgolf for self deprecation”

Yesterday’s News: Avoiding ‘Ted Lasso’ doesn’t make you an a**so

Tom Hoffarth /

The Emmy Awards scoreboard from last Monday night shows that “Ted Lasso” kicked the crap out of the competition with a four-goal victory over at the big fancy theater in L.A. Live.

The Outstanding Comedy Series. The Outstanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Outstanding Comedy Director. The Hollywood Reporter reports it, and we honestly believe it to true.

You likely know this whole thing, an expanded NBC soccer promo somehow morphed into a script, goes on about an American college football coach who lands in England to coach up a bunch of real football players just to miff the owner’s ex-husband. Somehow, infectious optimism abounds. It’s the old goldfish-out-of-water plot, just across the pond.

Reviews of the show in quick-blurb form:

“Wickedly Funny” – New York Times.

“Laugh-Out Loud Funny” – Entertainment Weekly.

Funny thing: We still haven’t watched one bloody minute of it.

It’s been around now, what, 14 years? It could still be airing in extra time for all we know. Forgive us, but we’re still in a COVID fog since our 2020 vision went blurry.

We remember glossing over a series of L.A. Times stories about this from its esteemed soccer writer, why it happened, how it was a “tonic for our trying times,” and how it had lasso’d the football world to rally around it.

Not watching “Ted Lasso” — and to this point, any of its reported 22 episodes — doesn’t make us an a**so.

A friend with swell intentions — and a family member with a SAG-AFTRA card — slipped us one of those “For Your Consideration” screeners. Yes, we all have one of these pals with media contraband.

The other day, we went searching for the DVD out of curiosity and found it in the office desk-top organizer between a menu for Gus’s Fried Chicken and a Readers Digest renewal form. It was tempting to throw it into the old-time Blue Ray machine just to see if the thing still works.

Nope, didn’t happen.

Why this aversion to “Ted Lasso”? Without the aid of a Zoom therapy session, we tend to believe it has to do with:

= It airs on Apple TV+.

Sorry, that’s where it streams — a concept our 3-year-old grandson is still trying to figure out when he sprints to the bathroom after another gallon of apple-plus juice.

On our household spreadsheet, Apple TV+ is a net minus. In downsize mode, we’re not apt to add more apps and passwords and all other sorts of nonsense. We understand that our iPhone has an ApplePay thing to make charging everything extremely easy. It also tracks our every move and randomly adds fees to the monthly statement that have something to do with Storage and stuff we can’t control.

Continue reading “Yesterday’s News: Avoiding ‘Ted Lasso’ doesn’t make you an a**so”

The writing on (and off) the wall: Dr. Soon-Shiong and the DNR Angels? That’s rich

Tom Hoffarth /

Everyone and their destitute friends want to tell Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong how to spend his disposable income these days. It’s become an epidemic.

Soon enough, he’ll fritter it all away just as easily by himself.

The Los Angeles Business Journal just released its annual list of the 50 Wealthiest Angeleonos – you can read it online but you only get so many looks before you’re faced with trying to scale a paywall to keep away the illegal riffraff.

Spoiler alert: Soon-Shiong has retained his No. 1 prime-time top spot because of his deteriorating estimated his net worth of $19.1 billion.

When he was top L.A. dog in 2021, the Brentwood resident and LeBron James neighbor supposedly had $20.4 billion tucked away. Yet he is anything if not consistent – he’s lost six percent of his walking-around money in each of the last two years. Even more if you check other sources of repute.

And still, enough think he’s the person they want to buy the Angels.

There can’t be an Angeleno in his right Charles Schwab ledger who’d own up to wanting to own the Angels these days.

Soon-Shiong is in the health-care business. He knows a DNR situation when he sees one.

First, no one living in a 25-mile radius of Angels Stadium has even received their first COVID shot. That’s the definition of a dying fan base.

He also has to take into account that Shohei Ohtani, the most remarkable Major League Baseball player we will every witness in our lifetime, will be summonsed back to his home planet soon unless he is compensated according to what Babe Ruth and Cy Young would be paid, combined, in today’s economy. They’ve not created a super calculator with that many digits yet.

Soon-Shiong has to be running out of patience, patients and patents.

Continue reading “The writing on (and off) the wall: Dr. Soon-Shiong and the DNR Angels? That’s rich”

The power of the ask: When someone’s basic needs for survival go beyond the obvious

Originally posted December, 2021

By Tom Hoffarth

We learn to ask anyone wrestling with the realities of shelter and food insecurity who manage to arrive each Saturday morning at the St. Robert’s Center in Venice a simple question — What do you need?

It is as much a conversation starter as it is a fact-finding mission.

The answers are remarkably simple and ones you might not always default do. But consider the beauty of:

= A hot cup of coffee, please. With as many refills as you can spare. To take the chill off the night before.

= Access to an electrical outlet, to recharge a phone. How long can I leave it plugged in? This is how I stay connected to the world.

= Five quiet minutes in a restroom, if that’s possible. Just to gather oneself.

The last umpteen months of protocol adjustments brought on by the COVID pandemic have forced Catholic Charities L.A.’s facilities like this one that serve the Santa Monica area into a “grab-and-go” assembly line. Often in a condensed time window.

The basics of offering food, clothing and toiletries are the default essentials, and come from various sources. It was a pivot to pre-made grocery bags and lunch bags — granola bars, fruit cups, cans of soup (stay away from anything condensed), Vienna Sausages and whatever else has easy-to-carry nutritional value – are things regularly ordered and picked up at the Westside Food Bank. More financial donations that allow shopping at the local Smart & Final. About a dozen volunteers from surrounding Catholic churches donate their time and hearts — and often what they can cull from their spouse’s closets — each week to make it flow in whatever direction it will end up going.

Blankets, hoodies, socks, pants and other practical clothing items for men and women are there, depending on what’s available. Same with seizing the day for anyone who could use travel-sized bar soap, toothpaste and shampoo/conditioner. Add masks, hand sanitizers and alcohol wipes to the essential lists.

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