The sporting life in the Valley and Southern California had amazing highs and center-of-the-Earth lows in 2017, giving those of us lucky enough to watch alternate waves of disbelief, discontent, and the determination that things will be different in the New Year.
In other words, the kind of year a true sports fan wishes for every year, so long as the results aren’t always awash in discontent.
We’re at the point of the year — the end — where we beg and plead with Santa to bring a sled full of gifts and answered wishes. But despite all the advances in technology, The Big Guy can’t catch up to every request; some slip through the cracks.
So allow me to finish up the list before he and his reindeer take off on their annual Dec. 24 trip that spans the globe.
I promise to check it twice.
For the San Fernando High football team: Nothing, thanks. The Tigers, after surviving the nonleague schedule with good health then rolling through the Valley Mission League unbeaten, got the perfect playoff roadmap. They stayed out of the City’s Open Division (with a possible low seed and road opener) and got the top seed in the Division I bracket, meaning all their playoff games leading up to the championship game were at home. San Fernando didn’t waste its trip to the final at El Camino College, winning its first City Division I title since 1975. For Tiger fans, it doesn’t get any better than that.
For Birmingham High boys’ basketball and Cleveland High girls’ basketball: A lifetime viewable recording of their 2016-17 seasons that ended up in the first ever City basketball titles for both programs — Birmingham in the boys’ Open Division and Cleveland in girls’ Division II. As much as having the championship banner means to the Patriots, the one Cleveland now owns means even more to a school that — rightly or wrongly — can feel looked down upon by the more upscale or larger West Valley area public and private schools. Even having been moved into City Division I this current season can’t diminish the glow the Cavaliers are still basking in.
For the Granada Hills girls’ volleyball team: What the Birmingham boys and the Cleveland girls just got. Their five-set victory against Palisades High of Pacific in the City girls’ Open Division has to rank among the most stirring title matches of this year in any sport. Yes it’s true: the phrase “it’s a shame someone had to lose” is a cliché. But for those fortunate enough to witness the titanic battle in November, no cliché ever had a greater ring of truth. The spectators were as drained as the players by the final point.
For the Los Angeles Dodgers: A World Series Game 7 pitcher (should they get back there again) that can get more than five outs without giving up almost as many runs before the parking lot is full. But the Dodgers’ Series loss to Houston can’t all be laid at the cleats of Yu Darvish. LA had other games it could have won but couldn’t close out (as in Games 2 and 5). It didn’t have to come down to a Game 7.
For the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Heartfelt pats on the back for using the off-season to actually improve their team instead of hanging on to the excuse that the remaining leaden contracts of Albert Pujols and (now out of baseball) Josh Hamilton makes that impossible.
For the Lakers and Clippers: A set of blinders for each to get through the rest of the NBA 2017-18 season. Neither LA team figures to compete for a championship; the Lakers have too much youth and the Clippers have too many injuries to get out of the Western Conference. The Lakers are in the midst of changing their culture. The Clippers may have to do the same.
For Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: An ill-fitting Grinch suit for his petty efforts to derail the contract extension of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. Hey, even Tom Brady’s had to do time in Goodell’s lockup.
For Chip Kelly: An extension of the cordial personality Kelly displayed at his introductory press conference as the new UCLA football coach. It would go a long way to getting Kelly the time he’ll need to try and lift the program from its present middle-of-the-pack level. Recruits won’t mind a smile or two, either.
For Tom Meusborn: Some compassion and reflection. Meusborn resigned a second time as the head coach of Chatsworth baseball. Meusborn won eight City titles in his nearly 30 years of leading the Chancellors, but none since 2009. He may be a victim of his success; he may have become too rigid to win another title. Either way, here’s hoping he’s not done.
A final lap and round of applause to: baseball players Don Baylor, Roy Halladay and Yordana Ventura, basketball player Connie Hawkins, boxer Jake LaMotta, football player and actor Bernie Casey, Minneapolis Lakers coach John Kundla, journalist Frank DeFord and soccer player Cheick Tiote are some of the notable sports figures who have left their earthly vessels. May they and their survivors find peace.
The list is completed. For the rest of us, enjoy a safe and sane holiday season.