No Bull: Lalas made a bad call

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Alexi Lalas, most recently the roster-builder of your Galaxy before he was relieved of his duties, said on ESPN’s soccer coverage recently that if the Red Bulls of New York beat Real Salt Lake and made it to the MLS Cup, he’d shotgun a Red Bull energy drink on the set (story linked here and here).

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We did some research, and after several minutes of fishing around (linked here), we are now convinced that the Red Bulls did in fact quality for the Cup, to be played at Home Depot Center on Sunday, and broadcast by ESPN (12:30 p.m.).

JP Dellacamera will call the match with John Harkes and sideline reporters Allen Hopkins and Pedro Gomez.

Rob Stone hosts the studio show with Julie Foudy and … Lalas, who was also a former president, GM and player for the New York franchise. Lalas also predicted before that Red Bull-Salt Lake final that Red Bull would lose to Houston in the conference semifinals.

The challenge for Lalas after Bulling up on his bet — the trick is to slam a hole in the bottom of the can and drink it all down ASAP — won’t be so much the caffeine surge (go with the sugar-free, it’s safer), but more possibily for Stone and Foudy to keep him quiet for the rest of the halftime and post-game analysis.

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Ali-Spinks may have the key to a man’s innocence

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Maybe you remember the story of the Juan Catalan, who spent more than five months in jail after a witness falsely accused him of murdering a 16-year-old back in 2003. His alibi was that he couldn’t have been the gunman – he was at the Dodger game that night with his 6-year-old daughter. He had a ticket stub to prove it, but prosecutors didn’t believe him.

It wasn’t until Catalan remembered that an HBO crew was there to film an episode of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” that, with a little more probing by his attorney, video evidence was uncovered that proved him right.

A judge finally released him citing insufficient evidence, and Catalan filed a claim against the city for false imprisonment.

(Some versions of that story linked here, here and here)

That may set the stage for another sports-related incident that could help another allegedly wrongly accused man go free.

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The Chicago Sun-Times reports today (linked here), in a story headlined “Muhammad Ali bout could clear man of murder,” that Anthony McKinney could be the latest version of Juan Catalan.

The 18-year-old McKinney was charged with robbing and killing a security guard in Harvey, Ill., on Sept. 15, 1978. McKinney had confessed to doing it, although no evidence was ever found. In 1981, McKinney was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

But a new trial is being sought based on evidence turned up by the Northwestern University Law School, uncovered by journalism and law students.

On that date of the crime, Muhammad Ali made boxing history by defeating Leon Spinks to win the heavyweight title for a third time. A witness who told a grand jury that he left his house at the end of the 10th round and ran into another man, and they said at that time they saw McKinney commit the crime. McKinney testified he watched the entire fight and left his house at 10:30 p.m.

The Northwestern students believe that the two witnesses, and McKinney, were coerced into a false confession and testimony, and the TV logs of the Ali-Spinks fight help their case.

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Fox Chicken Soup, a speciality in Redondo Beach

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The day before you settle in for a turkey dinner, have a big bowl of Jim Fox Chicken Soup.

The Redondo Beach Cafe (1511 S. Pacific Coast Hwy, R.B., 310.316.1047) (site linked here), run by those Montreal-raised, Greek-bred Tsangaris brothers, Costa and Chris, have decided to name a bowl of chicken soup on their menu in honor of Jim Fox, the Kings’ FSN West analyst and former player.

Why? Why not.

They’ve invited anyone who wants to come to the restaurant on Wednesday, Nov. 26, for a ceremony prior to watching the Kings face Edmonton at 7 p.m. (the Oilers’ home feed, not on FSN West).

And if that’s not enough — and don’t you think it oughta be? — the restaurant will host its regular Grey Cup bash — Sunday at 3 p.m. — to celebrate the crowning of the Canadian Football League champion. The party grows every year, and more than 200 could be cramming in to the place for this one.

Or, about a third of what’s expected for Fox Chicken Soup night.

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Dr. Casey and her sunshine band, shrink-wrapped

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Many have asked recently about Joe McDonnell’s future in the sports-talk biz. We’re working on it. We just talked to Joe as he was driving out to Arizona to take in tomorrow’s Lakers-Suns game in Phoenix — a small vacation to get away for awhile.

While Arte Moreno-owned KLAA-AM (830) (linked here) has yet to hire McDonnell as a weekday sports talk host — it’s been two months since McDonnell did his last show for KLAC-AM (570) and it would seem to be a natural move to 830, which keeps running colon-cleansing informercials during the day — the station has announced one addition.
“The Dr. Casey Show” starts Saturday (9 to 10 p.m.) and Sunday (2 to 3 p.m.).

Dr. Casey Cooper (www.drcaseycooper.com) is a state-licensed psychologist from USC specializing in sports culture. She maintains a private practice in Mission Viejo and assists individual athletes, families, and teams.

Working at a sports-talk show would seem to be a good place for a sports shrink. Just lie on the couch and tell us why you can’t stop hitting the redial on your phone, Jeff from Tarzana.

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Goodell Q-and-A Part IV: If apps could kill

The final installment of the Roger Goodell Q-and-A, with everything else that was worth noting:

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On the reaction of streaming video on NFL games during NBC’s Sunday night telecasts?

Goodell: “Very positive. We felt this was important to do because streaming on the Internet will be more and more prevalent as people consume media on different platforms. We’re learning, NBC is learning, what consumers like or don’t like. What is, the phrase they use, killer app? (a definition linked here if you so desire). It’s something we’re glad to partner with NBC.”

Back to getting this NFL Network negotiation settled: Are you open to a parternship route?

Goodell: “We are open to negotiations and we’ve openly said, and privately said, this will come to a negotiated settlement at some point in time. I believe that’s what it should be and we encourage those negotiations.”

Would you have given away the Patroits-Giants game last year in week 17 if you had to do it over again?

Goodell: “Yes, it was an historically significant game in the history of the NFL and there was a great deal of interest in seeing it, more than 35 million. The frustration of not being able to get the distribution and demonstrate this kind of product doesn’t belong on a sports tier and there is demand for it. That statement was loudly made.”

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On what ultimately will get the deal done:

Goodell: “It’s ultimately the cable operators’ determination that there’s a great demand for the content. I think it’s there and ultimately they’ll understand we’re committed to the long term and they’ll help us work to get the consumers what they want. We’re not new to disputes. They go on all over the country. I’m sure we won’t be the last.”

What aspects of the new media intrigues you the most?

Goodell: The telephone is nothing we haven’t already thought of. We have a forward-thinking partnership with Sprint and that’s a big opportunity for us. All the content created right here is going to be increasingly valuable in the digital world and we’ll be delivering more and more football, not just games, to new devices. There’s never been a greater time to be an NFL fan because of that. And there’s an insatiable appetite for NFL football. That’s good news. Now we have to figure how to feed that.”

And how is it again that people have found your personal phone number?

Goodell: “I don’t know. I asked that. People are pretty creative now a days.”

FYI: Jim Rome has a two-segment sit-down with the commissioner taped Tuesday on today’s “Jim Rome Is Burning” (ESPN, 1:30 p.m.)

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Goodell Q-and-A Part III: When did L.A. become S.D.?

A third part to the Q-and-A with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, this, about what determines games the L.A. audience receives on a weekly basis:

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From an L.A. TV perspective, do you get a sense that when there’s talk of a team coming to this market, that fans fear they won’t be getting the best game available every Sunday and it is one of the reasons fans here may resist having a franchise brought here after all these years? Is there a benefit of not having a city locked into a team, especially with L.A.?

Goodell: “I’ve heard that theory and have seen it written before, but it’s not backed up by the facts. First, our policies have been very pro-consumer and allowing people to see high quality football. You look at the local markets and see a significant bump when a home team plays. Clearly that is a plus and I believe that would be the case here in Los Angeles if the city had a franchise. Plus as technology develops, Sunday Ticket is an example so people can see more than just what’s on broadcast television and that’s another benefit of the current policy.”

The other part of the policy is that L.A. is considered a secondary market to San Diego, so that when the Chargers find their way to L.A. TV even if they aren’t doing so well. I hear complaints from people asking, ‘Why do we have to see that game? We’re not part of the San Diego market.’ Do you hear complaints as well about that?

Goodell: “That happens around the country. The networks regionalize most of our games on Sunday afternoon so they make determinations as to what games would be the most popular. Frankly, those are decisions that the consumer doesn’t have the choice to make. But I go back to our policies being very pro-consumer.”

The final Part IV coming up shortly …

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Goodell Q-and-A Part II: Free TV works for us

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More from the Q-and-A on Tuesday with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell:

ESPN will move the BCS to cable in three years from now. ESPN president George Bodenheimer didn’t want to say whether it thought the Super Bowl would ever be on cable. Guess you’re the one to ask if there’s anything that could put the NFL title game off free TV:

Goodell: “The one thing that’s been pointed out repeatedly in all the media reports (on the BCS deal) is that the NFL is the only league that continues to be successful on free television. And we’re proud of that. We anticipate that going forward. I don’t see any significant restructuring from that standpoint. We have a great relationship with ESPN but the majority of our telecasts are always on free television.”

Is that a good strategy for college football to point toward — cable TV — considering how much college football is covered on ESPN?

Goodell: “The one thing I’ve learned about this job is to take care of your own business.”

What about playoff games on cable somewhere down the line?

Goodell: “Again, it goes to the NFL Network schedule, we love the idea of being broadly available and the fact all our games are on free TV in those markets (when the NFL Network does a game) is something we’re proud of. We haven’t gotten to the point of strategically how we’ll market our different packages going forward and with whom, but again the core principle will be to remain available to as many as possible.”

Part III arriving in a few hours…

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Goodell Q-and-A Part I: Who gave up his personal number?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell popped by the Culver City offices of the NFL Network on Tuesday — his first visit, he said, since taking over as the league’s boss in Sept., 2006. He’d been in Buffalo the night before for the Bills-Browns game and, before flying back East on Tuesday night, he did a Q-and-A with some locally-based reporters, touching on the future of the league-owned NFL Network and how it will work itself into cable homes sometime down the road.

Some of the highlights will be broken up in postings between now and the next couple of days:

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On what it will take for the NFL Network to finally turn the corner and become available to consumers who continue to ask for it, despite the ongoing struggle between the league and major cable operators such as Time Warner, Comcast and Charter:

Goodell: “I was updated earlier today that we are on 300 cable and satellite carriers. We’re trying to resolve the remaining big three. But the interest has been extraordinary from all the other carriers. … When you look at how networks grow, I’m looking at a variety of other networks and they’re in 10 million homes. I think the expectation may have been higher in some people’s minds, but the reality is, this is a very successful network and I think the reality of how we get there is to continue the quality, expand our programming and eventually we’ll get that distribution because I think viewers will demand it.”

On whether the average viewer understands all the behind-the-scenes fighting, or if they really care:

Goodell: “I would argue they don’t care, they just want to see it and I understand that perspective. In this day in age, people can see most everything they want, and they want to see the games and quality of programming that comes out of this facility.”

On what is the most effective way to get the NFL Network’s message out about what’s going on — letters to the editor, commercials, any other options?

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Goodell: “The communication is to get people to truly understand why it’s not there. (NFL Network CEO) Steve (Bornstein, sitting nearby) is laughing at me because I was returning fan calls (Thursday night). A number of fans called my personal line and left voice mails — and I called them back. We talked about why they weren’t getting it and they appreciated it and understood. I don’t think it makes them feel any better because they want to see the games and the NFL Network, but at least they understand that we care and most importantly, we’re not benefiting by this. Particularly as it relates to a sports tier. We’re fighting the sports tier because they’re charging our consumers seven, eight bucks a month to get that. That’s wrong. We think there broad interest in the game, that’s been proven and it should be available more broadly. …
“(Callers) asked questions, ‘Why am I not seeing the game?’ and we went through it very methodically, I was watching the game as I was doing it. They had good questions and I think they went away at least better informed on the issues.”

On whether it was hard to convince the people that it was actually you calling them back:

Goodell: “A couple didn’t believe it, but they finally became convinced. I’m still emailing one of them.”

Part II coming up….

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L.A.’s college football TV week 13: Spare some change?

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USC can’t do anything to strenghten (or weaken) its place in the Bowl Championship Standings, because it has the week off.

UCLA is taking a nap this weekend as well.

So let’s all sleep in and dream about a college playoff system instead.

Or maybe we can circle back to the very end of the interview that President-elect Barack Obama did with “60 Minutes” question guy Steve Kroft , when he spoke up out of turn about an eight team, three-round system that sounded more than reasonable to “any sensible person.”

“I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this,” he said. “So, I’m going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

BCS coordinator John Swofford responded: “For now, our constituencies — and I know he understands constituencies — have settled on the current BCS system, which the majority believe is the best system yet to determine a national champion while also maintaining the college football regular season as the best and most meaningful in sports. … We certainly respect the opinions of president-elect Obama and welcome dialogue on what’s best for college football.”

What’s best for college football? Did you see what ESPN promised to give the BCS clowns between 2011 and 2014?

This season comes down to what TheBigLead.com (linked here) says is all that’s left watching: Texas Tech at Oklahoma (Saturday), Florida vs. Alabama (probably in the SEC title game Dec. 6), and the National Championship (in early January). Everything else is just noise.

WEDNESDAY:

==4 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: No. 17 Ball State at Central Michigan (with Todd Harris and Ray Bentley)

THURSDAY:

==4:30 p.m., ESPN and ESPN360.com: No. 23 Miami at Georgia Tech (with Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer and Erin Andrews)
==6 p.m., ESPNU: Grambling at Texas Southern (with Charlie Neal and Jay Walker)

FRIDAY:

==6:30 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Fresno State at San Jose State (with Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and Rob Stone)

SATURDAY

== 7 to 9 a.m., ESPN: “GameDay” is at Norman, Okla., for the Texas Tech-Oklahoma contest with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard.
==9 a.m., Versus: Yale at Harvard (with Rich Ackerman, Dale Hellestrae and Bob Harwood)
==9 a.m., Channel 7: Michigan at No. 10 Ohio State (with Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire and Stacey Dales)
==9 a.m., ESPN and ESPN360.com: West Virginia at Louisville (with Dave Pasch and Andre Ware)
==9 a.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Indiana at Purdue (with Pam Ward and Ray Bentley)
==11 a.m., ESPNU: Jackson State at Alcorn State (with Dwayne Ballen and Eddie Robinson, Jr.)
==11 a.m., ESPN Classic and ESPN360.com: Florida Classic: Bethune-Cookman vs. Florida A&M (with Eric Collins and Shaun King)
==11 a.m., MTN: Colorado State at Wyoming (with James Bates, Todd Christensen, Natalie Vickers and Andrea Lloyd)
==11:30 a.m., Channel 4: Syracuse at Notre Dame (with Tom Hammond and Pat Haden)

==Noon, FSN West: Washington at Washington State (with Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis and Jim Watson)
==12:30 p.m., Channel 7: No. 15 Michigan State at No. 8 Penn State (with Mike Patrick, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe)
==12:30 p.m., Channel 2: Mississippi at No. 18 LSU (with Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson)
==12:30 p.m., ESPN2: Boston College at Wake Forest (with Terry Gannon and David Norrie)
==12:30 p.m., Versus: Air Force at Texas Christian (with Joe Beninati, Glenn Parker and Tim Neverett)
==12:30 p.m., ESPN PPV: Stanford at California (with Rob Stone, Chris Spielman and Jessica Mendoza)
==12:30 p.m., Big Ten Network: Illinois at Northwestern (with Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis and Charissa Thompson)
==12:30 p.m., CBS College Sports: Marshall at Rice (with Tom Hart and Trev Alberts)

==2:30 p.m., ESPNU: Duke at Virginia Tech (with Dave Armstrong and Larry Coker)
==3 p.m., MTN: No. 14 BYU at No. 7 Utah (with Rich Cellini, Jon Berger, Blaine Fowler, Sammy Linebaugh and Toby Christensen)

==4 p.m., Versus: No. 21 Oregon State at Arizona (with Ron Thulin, Kelly Stouffer and Lewis Johnson)
==4 p.m., Big Ten Network: Iowa at Minnesota (with Wayne Larrivee, Chris Martin and Anthony Herron)
==4:15 p.m., ESPN 2 and ESPN360.com: No. 20 Pitt at No. 19 Cincinnati (with Mark Jones and Bob Davie)
==4:45 p.m., ESPN and ESPN360.com: Florida State at No. 25 Maryland (with Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham and Jack Arute)
==5 p.m., Channel 7: No. 2 Texas Tech at No. 5 Oklahoma (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Lisa Salters)
==5 p.m., ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Vanderbilt at Kentucky (with Mark Jones and Bob Davie)
==5 p.m., CBS College Sports: UNLV at San Diego State (with Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor)

SUNDAY:

==5:15 p.m., ESPN and ESPN360.com: Connecticut at South Florida (with Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore)

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ESPN signs on with BCS … so, did you pay your cable bill?

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ESPN officially announced today its partnership with the Bowl Championship Series starting in 2011, after the last two years of the Fox deal runs out, and continuing until 2014.

Does it mean there will be no playoff system until 2014?

John Swofford, the BCS coordinator and ACC commissioner, said in a conference call this morning that it’s not likely that any changes will come, but they’re still open to adjusting the format in the future.

While the Rose Bowl remains a separate deal with the Disney Company, ESPN/ABC Sports chief George Bodenheimer also said today that no decision has been made past 2010 about putting that Pasadena classic on ESPN along with all the other BCS games.

Bodenheimer would not confirm that the new deal calls for Disney to pay what’s been widely reported to be $125 million per year for four years, which is $25 million a year more than Fox proposed.

The real sticking point to this with viewers could be determining how many are actually shut out of the BCS title game starting in 2011 with it becomes a cable-exclusive delivered show. Changes in the analog delivery taking place early next year — which may cause more to buy cable — seem to narrow the gap in the over-the-air vs. cable audiences. For example, Fox can deliver the upcoming BCS title game to about 114 million homes; ESPN has about 98 million homes. But in this economy, how many who already can’t afford cable will suddenly buy it just to keep up with the delivery system?

It could also give ESPN some strength to increase its fees to the cable systems, which in turn might increase your cable bill. ESPN today generally runs about $2.85 per subscriber, a relative bargain considering all the rights fees it pays to different leagues and conferences.

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