• David Bernhart

Once there was a house.

It was a beautiful house.

It was a big house.

It had a big backyard.

With a pool.

The Lady of the House loved to host gatherings.

There were parties in the living room.

Parties in the family room.

Parties by the pool.

One day, the Lady of the House announced that she was to be married several months hence.

Friends of the happy couple were each invited to bring a dish for the reception, much like a potluck.

Immediately, many culinary ideas were proposed, so many that the Lady of the House offered to host a pre-wedding potluck for all involved to present their dishes and determine which would be served at the reception.

That first potluck went well, though the results regarding whose creations would make the cut were inconclusive.

The second potluck a week later went even better, but further deliberation was still needed.

By the third gathering, a regular weekly potluck had taken hold and the catering of the wedding reception was happily turned over to the handful of true foodies in the group.

Of course, the wedding took place in the big backyard.

And the potlucks continued.

There were potlucks in the living room.

Potlucks in the family room.

Potlucks by the pool.

Contentment reigned.

Then came a malady.

Suddenly it was unsafe for people to gather.

The Lady of the House consulted her friends and made the heartbreaking decision to end the potlucks.

I was blessed to be a member of that group.

I miss that house, which now belongs to new people.

Hmm, I wonder if they like potlucks ...

  • David Bernhart

On February 16 of last year, an essay I wrote was published in the Los Angeles Times as that week's installment of "L.A. Affairs":

I had written music reviews as a stringer for the local Burbank and Glendale newspapers when I was a teenager, and it was a valuable experience, but appearing in the Los Angeles Times was a thrill.

The Times has just announced the forthcoming publication of a hardcover book featuring "the editors’ favorite selections of true stories from 'L.A. Affairs' highlighting nightmare dates, love at first sight, heartbreak and happily ever afters in Southern California." And I'm even more thrilled than before to let you know that my column has been chosen for inclusion in the book. Wow, my words in an honest-to-goodness hardbound book. Maybe this writing thing is going to work out after all.

The book will ship beginning February 4, but orders placed by January 31 will qualify for a $10.00 discount:

With taxes and shipping charges, the total cost comes to about $30.00.

I'm biased, of course, but this sounds like the perfect holiday gift for that hard-to-buy-for virgin on your shopping list.

Merry Christmas!

  • David Bernhart

The legendary Los Angeles sportscaster Jim Healy is best remembered for the heyday of his nightly radio show from the late 1970s to the early '90s. Besides reporting the nuts and bolts of sports, Healy incorporated into the proceedings a conveyor belt of audio clips, taped voices of athletes, entertainers, politicians. Most were brief, used as the punch line to a particular news item; others were lengthy and never intended for public consumption. Ask anyone (sports fan or not) who was listening to L.A. radio in those years, "What's your opinion of Kingman's performance?" and they'll probably smile in recognition:

But Healy would warn me at this point not to bury the lede. As nostalgic as I am for the rants of Tommy Lasorda, the Healyisms that mean the most to me today are the uncommon insights Jim would insert into the midst of the raucous humor. One such contrary opinion was "Bad teams lose close games." At first, I thought that couldn't be right. A team that loses close games must be good because it stays in contention to the end. After a while, I began to understand that Healy was correct: A bad team may hover within striking distance of victory, but it finds ways to blow it in the clutch.

And there was another frequent Healy insight, criticizing the habit of doctors, public relations specialists and their partners in the press of pronouncing surgery on an athlete "successful" the moment the procedure concluded, a practice that continues to this day:

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a compound ankle fracture in a game two Sundays ago and underwent surgery the same evening. Were he here, Jim Healy would point out that the success of this operation can only be determined by the level of performance Prescott exhibits when he returns to the gridiron next season. If he plays as well as or better than he did prior to the injury, the procedure will be deservedly called successful. If Prescott never again performs as well as before, the rush to label his surgery a success will have been wildly premature.

Two years ago, Alex Smith, quarterback for the then-Washington Redskins, experienced an injury even more catastrophic than Prescott's, a compound leg fracture resulting in a broken tibia and fibula. Following an initial procedure the day after Smith's injury, this was typical of the headlines:

Ultimately, Smith endured 17 operations in a battle -- successful, in the end -- to save his leg from amputation and his very life. Against all odds, Smith returned to quarterback Washington in a back-up capacity on October 11, the same day that Dak Prescott was hurt. Smith completed nine of 17 passes for 37 yards and was sacked six times, a poor afternoon, especially when compared to his earlier standards.

Jim Healy's perspective on the success of surgery is nuanced and one I've never heard expressed by anyone else in media. And as with his adage about bad teams and close games, it took me some time to grasp its wisdom. A surgeon or PR exec might find it expedient to communicate the message that surgery on an athlete is by definition successful as long as the broken bones are set and the patient wakes up after the operation. In reality, nobody knows whether an athlete who goes under the knife will perform at their pre-injury level when they suit up again.

Alex Smith was lauded and rightly so for simply walking onto the field of play two weeks ago, regardless of his performance. There's also a narrative among some football observers that Smith should be named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year by acclamation, again without regard to how well or poorly he performs.

Jim Healy might have a contrary opinion about that.