I probably should be writing about the Cubs historic 2016 World Series, beating the Cleveland Indians three straight to win the title and end their 108-year drought. I think I’ll leave that to Chicago sports writers. Besides, I’m still lamenting the Cubs beating our Dodgers three straight in the NLCS! All of which brings me to Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. (Please bear with me as I try to explain.)
In 1952, Dr. Peale (1898-1983) wrote “The Power of Positive Thinking,” which sold 5 million copies. But, unfortunately, Dr. Peale had a bigoted side. In 1960, the controversial minister stated unequivocally that JFK was unfit for the presidency because… he was a Catholic! (Former presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson responded best, “I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling.”)
By now you’re probably wondering what is Norman Vincent Peale doing in a sports column? Simply put, I wish “positive thinking” could help our local sports teams. (How’s that for an awkward segue?)
You see, for fans of Los Angeles team sports these have been rather dark days. The Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, USC football and UCLA basketball have been in historic droughts and the Rams are adding to our woes.
The Rams came here in ’47 as the first major pro sports team in L.A. but left in ’95 for St. Louis. This year they came back, but, so far, things have gone so dismally that fans in St. Louis are now celebrating their departure. (Drum roll, please.)
Consider the Rams’ loss in London a few weeks ago against the Giants, in which quarterback Case Keenum had four interceptions. While watching the misery on TV I found myself muttering, “I remember the Rams, now.”
Things are so bad for the “Lambs,” as some detractors call them, at this rate head coach Jeff Fisher will soon have the most losses in NFL history! (Dan Reeves holds the dubious crown with 165, Tom Landry has 162, followed by Fisher with 160.) Many believe that this is a do-or-die season for Fisher and, so far, it’s not looking like a “do.”
As for the aforementioned Dodgers, it’s now 29 years since they’ve been in a World Series, the longest drought in franchise history going back to Brooklyn. But there’s good news.
Dave Roberts was NL Manager of the Year, shortstop Corey Seager was NL Rookie of the Year and closer Kenley Jansen was NL Reliever of the Year.
But there’s also bad news. Despite winning the West for the 4th straight year, the Dodgers have major issues for 2017. Two right off the bat (no pun intended) are re-signing 3rd baseman Justin Turner and Jansen. They also will need to rebuild the starting rotation and decide what to do with outfielder Yasiel Puig.
Even given the Dodger issues, the Angels are in worse shape. They finished last season 21 games behind the Texas Rangers and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. In 2017, they may be “rebuilding” more than chasing a championship. Poor Mike Scioscia. Poor Angel fans.
As for the Lakers, each of the last 3 years has been worse than the year before. In fact, last year they set the all-time record for the franchise’s worst season. The Lakers are coming off an amazing win over the Warriors on Friday and there’s hope in the air that rookie head coach, Luke Walton, will somehow turn things around. Experts, however, are predicting the Lakers will be lucky to win 30 games this season. (Ouch!) If so, Walton will likely have enough good will to survive for a few years, but not so Jim Buss.
When Buss first took over as VP of basketball operations, he boldly predicted the Lakers would be “contenders,” i.e. playing for the Conference Championship, within three years. According to my calendar, at season’s end, the three years will be up. If the Lakers don’t make the playoffs this year, my prediction for Buss in 3 words: Buh bye, Jim.
Fairly regularly, the USC football program used to contend for an NCAA Championship. Now they’re lucky to be in a bowl game on New Year’s Day. As for UCLA basketball, they once won 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years. Last season, however, they finished 10th in the Pac 12, their lowest ever.
After three years, Bruin Coach Steve Alford has a winning percentage of 61.9%, the worst since Wilbur Johns. (John Wooden’s predecessor.) If it’s a “do-or-die” season for Fisher and Buss, the same might be said of Alford.
To be fair, the Kings recently won two Stanley Cups in three years (2012-2014) and the Sparks won the WNBA title this year. But, all in all, L.A. sports teams are essentially at their collective historical lows. And I apologize if this trend has turned me into something of a “Donald Downer.” But wait, I’ve got an idea. Maybe each team should read “The Power of Positive Thinking.” After all, it couldn’t hurt. At least, I hope not.
By Jack Neworth
Jack also writes “Laughing Matters,” which appears every Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org