No one comes to LAX unless they have a good reason to, you know, like propose to your fiancée as she steps off a plane from Kazakhstan or depart with a lottery jackpot for a new life in St. Bart's, never to look back.
On the day I landed from England and arrived in the United States for a new job as Yahoo Sports' soccer writer seven summers ago, I met people doing both, and in the intervening years I have often wondered what became of them.
It is easy to picture the star-crossed lovers (she said yes) still locked in marital bliss and the lucky new millionaire still sipping rum punches on a beach. But you just never know.
After all, as I landed in Tinseltown and, happily ignorant of the traffic terror that awaited, prepared to launch myself into the city, I had no idea of what the coming years would hold.
As I ready to embark upon a new position with a different publication and leave the place that has been my working home since that day – seven years older, grayer, fractionally wiser in some ways and prone as ever to foolishness in others – now is the time for enjoyable reflection.
It is hard to feel sorry for a team that has more financial resources than any other and spends them lavishly, a practice soccer's authorities think so poorly of that they levied a fine of $75 million.
The "punishment” laid out to Manchester City for investing too high a proportion of its revenue on new signings was a blueprint in modern soccer absurdity, and the message was this: Dare to spend too much money and we'll make you spend even more of it.
Such is the sport's current reality. Everything can indeed be fixed with pots of cash, and it is indeed structured, by development rather than design, to keep the status quo firmly entrenched in its ivory tower of superiority.
And here is where City, which lost a Champions League group stage nail-biter 1-0 to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, finds itself in an oddly unique position.
LAS VEGAS – Marcos Maidana is likely to escape punishment for his alleged bite on Floyd Mayweather during Saturday's welterweight title bout at the MGM Grand.
Mayweather claimed that Maidana, of Argentina, had bitten three fingers on his left hand during a clinched exchange during the eighth round en route to a comfortable unanimous decision victory for the American.
"We clinched, we came together," Mayweather said. "My hand went under him and he bit my three fingers."
After Mayweather recoiled and screamed out in pain, video replays indeed appeared to show Maidana had chomped down on his hand. However, with Mayweather not expected to make a formal complaint, it is unlikely Maidana will face any kind of sanction from the Nevada Athletic Commission or boxing authorities.
The incident was merely a mild roadblock as Mayweather cruised to a resounding win, albeit one that lacked the thrills and spills of the pair's first fight in May.
LAS VEGAS – It was a brief flurry of words that was either the start of the best thing that boxing could wish for or yet another disappointment in a sad series of false dawns.
Floyd Mayweather hinted on Saturday night that he might be finally ready to give boxing the fight it craves above all else by insisting he was ready to open negotiations over a showdown with Manny Pacquiao.
After totally dominating his rematch against Marcos Maidana in a unanimous 12-round decision at the MGM Grand, Mayweather suggested the two biggest draws in the sport could meet at last, more than six years after such a bout was first discussed.
"Let's make it happen," Mayweather said when asked by Showtime's Jim Gray. "Pacquiao needs to focus on the guy in front of him. Once he gets past that test, let's see what the future holds."
Pacquiao fights relative unknown Chris Algieri in Macau on Nov. 22 and Mayweather has indicated he will compete again in May. For all Maidana's pluck, any neutral fan in his right mind would prefer to see Mayweather take on Pacquiao rather than either man face off with outmatched rivals.
LAS VEGAS – Even in this town of chance, where slight of hand and sturdiness of spirit built a desert outpost that operates within its own social ecosystem, selling Floyd Mayweather’s latest $32 million stroll is proving quite a challenge.
All of the usual promotional measures are in place; Mayweather’s face remains emblazoned stories high on the eastern face of the MGM Grand, videos play everywhere you turn amid the September heat, and the obligatory big-fight slogan is seen all over Sin City.
“Mayhem” is promised when Mayweather takes on Marcos Maidana in a rematch that is a marriage – or a remarriage – of necessity as much as a genuine need for a score to be settled. The first fight was an entertaining early-May scrap that gave some thrills and spills and ended in an odd majority decision, but was ultimately comfortable for the champion.
However, Mayweather needs fights to fill out his six-bout deal with Showtime with a measure of credibility and despite his extraordinarily high opinion of himself and a ceaseless posse of congratulatory sycophants permanently in tow, even he must realize that there is a danger of some relative public indifference setting in.
Calling Landon Donovan "one of a kind" can be taken as either praise or criticism, or in the unusual case of his departing cameo from the United States men's national team, neither.
Because Donovan's farewell bow – which will come against Ecuador in a friendly on October 10 in East Hartford, Conn. – will never be repeated.
Not by him obviously. This will be thank you and goodnight after 157 games and 14 years. But in all likelihood the testimonial nature of his selection won't be replicated for anyone else, not any time soon or years into the future.
As evidenced by the recent World Cup, American soccer is growing up and Donovan represents a generational bridge between a sentimental past and a more ruthless and demanding future. Under Jurgen Klinsmann, things are hard-nosed enough that Donovan got dumped from the World Cup squad despite his long service and status as arguably the best American player of all time.
That wouldn't have happened for prior tournaments. The Los Angeles Galaxy forward's reputation and record would have been enough to get him onto the 23-man roster.
Manchester City's run to the English Premier League title last season didn't have the romance (or the catastrophic blowup) of Liverpool's dramatic near-miss.
Despite clinching the league for the second time in three years, City still doesn't have the swagger of Chelsea. And, most painful to admit, for all the billions spent in turning the team into a major force, it doesn't have the global gravitas of its local neighbor Manchester United.
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What City does have is the pole position and status of title favorite heading into the new season. There's a growing sense that City is very much here to stay as a major player in English soccer. Lavish investment, year after year, tends to have that effect.
Everybody loves the English Premier League, right?
With more big clubs, electric crowds, action, drama, television exposure and commercial impact than any other competition on Planet Futbol, why not?
Usual suspects Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have their legions of fans in every corner of each continent, but nobody would forget that Manchester United, despite last season's jaw-dropping tumble down the standings, continued to outsell and outdraw the lot of them both on and off the pitch.
Yet a gnawing problem is creeping at the shoulder of the Premier League's powerbrokers.
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For all the hype and hysteria and an endless pot of television-enabled wealth to lure players from more than 100 countries, the very best players in the world are nowhere to be found in England's top division.
In his homeland of the Netherlands, Louis van Gaal is known as "The Iron Tulip," meaning he is now the possessor of both the English Premier League's toughest coaching job and its oddest nickname.
Analyzing what a tulip's characteristics are – apart from being Dutch – requires a discussion that we don't have time for, not with the Premier League season just a few days away. But what is not lost in translation is that van Gaal, the new Manchester United boss, is no shrinking violet.
And that, in itself, is exactly what United needs.
Van Gaal is his own man with a glittering pedigree, but his no-nonsense approach and demand for discipline also make him the closest thing the game has to Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary coach who steered United through 2½ decades of mostly unfettered glory.
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When that era ended and Ferguson's anointed successor David Moyes could do no better than a gloomy seventh-place finish, it was clear that change was both required and inevitable.
CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan has a maximum of four months and 21 games before he is done as a professional soccer player. And then what?
Who knows? Television work? Perhaps, but not just yet. Maybe he will sleep until noon each day. Probably, he will embark on some global wanderings. He'll likely coach kids. Maybe he will let himself go, although at around 150 pounds he has a ways to go.
So who knows? Not him, that's for sure. And that, for Donovan, is the whole point of planning to retire at age 32.
After a decade and a half of a regimented life in soccer and the demands placed upon him from outside and within, retirement at the end of the current Major League Soccer season will bring a sense of liberty he has never had and, only recently realized, he wanted.
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