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  • Writer's pictureDavid 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!

  • Writer's pictureDavid 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.

  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

Laurie and I have been coloring. Not coloring the truth, but actually coloring in coloring books as we did when we were children. And we aren't alone. Coloring for adults is officially a thing, a trend that has spread nationwide, complete with numerous health benefits. Experts say coloring can improve motor skills, enhance sleep and lessen anxiety. I'm no more artistic at coloring than I was in kindergarten, but I'll certainly attest to its stress-reducing properties.

As I color, and struggle sometimes to stay inside the lines, I think about two cherished American traditions: protesting and voting. Protesting is coloring outside the lines. It's an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo, occasionally leading to disregard for societal boundaries. Voting is coloring inside the lines, working within the system.

Much justified outcry followed the August police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., including the players of the National Basketball Association sitting out several days' worth of playoff games in protest. In the same moment, however, it was widely reported that only about 20% of eligible NBA players were registered to vote. I vividly remember January 21, 2017, the day of the worldwide Women's March. Due to the hundreds of thousands who wanted to attend the Los Angeles event as much as we did, Laurie and I couldn't get any closer to downtown L.A. than the North Hollywood Metro Station. While seeing such an eruption of civic engagement was still heartening, I looked at the crush of people around me trying to make it down to the subway platform and couldn't help wondering how many of them hadn't gotten around to voting in the election two months before.

I'll admit that when coloring, I derive more stress reduction from loosening up and disregarding a few boundaries. But the time always comes to buckle down and work within the system.

Both protesting and voting have their time. It's now time to color inside the lines.

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