I am roaming the ravaged streets of Los Angeles while Patrick Mahomes is in my ears; directing me to watch my back. Despite the best efforts of the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and the reigning NFL MVP, I am no match for the sniper sitting atop a nearby roof who takes me out in front of a police car.
“I told you to watch out,” Mahomes said. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. You’ll know next time.”
Thankfully I have a next time because Mahomes and I are playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 ‘Operation Grand Heist,’” which was released this week. Mahomes was in Los Angeles to get a tour of Treyarch, a video game developer in Santa Monica, which developed the game and six other “Call of Duty” titles dating to “Call of Duty 2: Big Red One” in 2005.
“In the off-season I play a lot,” Mahomes said. “I get in trouble with my girlfriend when I play too much but in the season you have to manage your schedule but I’m good about having an hour or two a week where I’m up to date and not losing any of my skills. I play a good amount, especially now in the off-season where I get a little more free time.”
“Call of Duty” is a multi-person, first-person shooter game and is one of the most popular games in locker rooms around the country with athletes ranging from Pittsburgh Steelers and former USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl Anthony-Towns, who both play it on a regular basis and stream some of their games on Twitch.
“It’s the competition,” Mahomes said when asked why so many athletes like playing “Call of Duty” in their free time. “You have to really work to get good at it. When you’re a competitor and play sports, you’re competing every single day, and when you play against each other in ‘Call of Duty’ or any other game you want to show that you’re the best at whatever you do so you compete and try to win as much as possible.”
Even though Mahomes is away from his teammates in the off-season, he said the game helps him keep in touch with them even when they're hundreds of miles apart.
“The main guys I play with in the locker room are Anthony Hitchens, Tyreek Hill and Gehrig Dieter," Mahomes said. "Those guys are always on. Anytime I hop on, they’re always on. There’s a lot of guys who play. You’d be surprised how many guys in the locker room play video games, especially ‘Call of Duty’. It’s another way you can blow off steam, especially in the off-season while a lot of us separate and go to our home states to see family we can still communicate and keep in touch witch each other.”
Mahomes knows he’s not good enough to be a professional “Call of Duty” player but he said he wouldn’t be opposed to one day owning a professional “Call of Duty” team like Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, who owns Rise Nation, an esports team he founded in 2014.
“I’m definitely open to it,” Mahomes said. “I love the “Call of Duty” series. Being here today is awesome and seeing everything that goes into every single game. It’s something that I’m definitely interested in.”
The Dodgers knew Manny Machado wasn’t going to be on the team after the World Series but it’s still surprising to see him stay in Southern California after reportedly agreeing to a 10-year, $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres. After the news broke “The Mighty 1090,” an all-sports radio station with a clear signal in L.A., played Queen’s “We Are the Champions” as multiple callers cried tears of joy. The Padres finished last in the NL West last season and haven’t made the postseason since 2006.
LAFC topped the “Live Events” category of Fast Company’s annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2019, which was released Wednesday. Every team perceived to be the No. 2 team in the market, such as the Chargers and Clippers, should sit down with LAFC president and co-owner Tom Penn and figure out how he and his team were able to do what they’ve done with an expansion team in a market that already had the most successful MLS team in history in the L.A. Galaxy. They have cultivated a fan base that rivals the Galaxy within 12 months without a postseason win under their belt. It's really unheard of in a market where championships and history are the only currency that matters to most fans.
The Raiders were never returning to Southern California, even for one season, despite talk they were considering playing the 2019 season in San Diego while their new stadium in Las Vegas is being built. I never thought the league would have allowed a nightmare scenario where the Los Angeles Chargers returned to San Diego to play the Raiders in their old home. It looks like they won’t have to worry about that with the Raiders reportedly agreeing to stay in Oakland this season and possibly one more season if there is a delay in the opening of their stadium adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip.
Kristine Leahy showed off her comedic chops on FS1’s “Fair Game” this week when she had a “Toast Battle” with former Clippers forward Blake Griffin. She began her toast by raising a glass of bubbly and saying, “This is champagne. I know you might not know what that is because you’ve never won a championship.” Griffin responded by raising his glass and saying, “To LaVar Ball.”
While spraying beer and champagne is a staple of postgame locker room celebrations now, one of the first-known occurrences in a clubhouse was on Sept. 8, 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers celebrated clinching the NL pennant earlier than any team in history.
Dodgers star pitcher Don Newcombe, who passed away Tuesday, once told me he couldn’t enjoy the moment because he got into a shouting match with center fielder Duke Snider, who had gotten beer on Newcombe's suit and poured beer into one of Newcombe's hats. “I told him, 'Duke, don't you throw that beer on me because I take care of my clothes,” Newcombe said. “I spend a lot of money on my clothes, and I don't want them ruined.”
One month later the two stood side by side for a memorable photo wearing derby hats while teammates poured beer on them after they beat the New York Yankees to win the franchise’s first World Series. History was made and a tradition was born.