2008 year-end poem: Game over

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By Fred Lief
Associated Press

Don’t look at the clock, we know that it’s late,
And sometimes it’s hard to keep it all straight.

A game back in May? A blown double steal?
A lawsuit in August now on appeal?

Here in the fading days this December
Clemens well knows we can “misremember.”

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2008 passings in sports

Notable sports deaths in 2008, from the Associated Press, starting with our own former Daily News assistant sports editor Matt McHale, 50:

Media:

Eliot Asinof, 88
Skip Caray, 68
Dan Cook, 81
Myron Cope, 79
Jack Falla, 62
Red Foley, 79
Mary Garber, 92
Grits Gresham, 85
George Gross, 85
Chuck Heaton, 90
W.C. Heinz, 93
Jerome Holtzman, 82
Charlie Jones, 77
Barry Lorge, 60
Sherman “Jocko” Maxwell, 100
Jim McKay, 86
Steve Parry, 64
Paul Robbins, 68
Gib Shanley, 76;
Randy Smith, 61
Don Wittman, 71
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2008: The crazy stuff in sports

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By Fred Lief
AP Sports Writer

Indignities come in all forms. John Odom, however, may have found a classification all his own.

Odom (pictured above) is a minor league pitcher, and not an especially good one. He was traded this year from the Calgary Vipers to the Laredo Broncos of the Golden Baseball League. He wasn’t traded for cash or even for those old reliable “future considerations” and “player to be named.”

Odom was traded for 10 bats.

No doubt, it could have been worse. A year or so ago, a European soccer player was said to have been traded for a slab of beef.

But for the Odom, the going price was 10 black, 34-inch maple bats. According to the manufacturer, they sell at discount for $65.50 each.

Odom was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2003 but released. He still thinks he’s got a shot at the big leagues. In the meantime, without a Robin for a sidekick, he has a nickname: Bat Man.

“I’m still in shock from this phenomenon,” he said. “I don’t know how to describe it. It’s mind-boggling.”

Humiliation is an equal opportunity employer, and in 2008 there was plenty to go around.

Consider Eliot Spitzer. It wasn’t enough that the former New York governor got caught in a tabloid inferno for his call-girl escapades. The Macon Music of minor league baseball’s South Coast League promoted — before ultimately backing off — an “Eliot Spitzer Night” in which any fan named Eliot, Spitzer or Kristen (his lady of choice) would get $1 off admission.

Or consider:

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The media learning curve: Dec. 19-26

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Let’s make it quick: We’ve got people holding a spot for us at the local AMC theatre for that feel-good holidcay flick with Tom Cruise and the Nazis … it beats “Marley And Me” … and we smell rain coming.

This week, we learned at the Media Learning Center:

== Jeanne Zelasko has every reason to believe that she can work on her Juan Pierre home-run call (linked here)

== As fate would have it, NBC’s Bob Costas gets his shorts in a bunch when players on teams try to decide their own destiny (linked here)

== NBC jumped on that Chargers-Broncos game for Sunday pretty fast — it’s a 5:15 kickoff now (linked here)

== Detroit News columnist Rob Parker will not be appearing at the Laugh Factory anytime soon (linked here).

== The Associated Press’ male athlete of the year, and its sports event of the year, are liked by a tight Speedo (linked here).

== Sexy women have a better chance of making it into sportscasting … or do they? (linked here).

== In a related story, is ESPN sexing up “The Sports Reporters”? (linked here)

== In an unrelated story, ESPN’s Pam Ward will spend her Sunday in Shreveport, La. (linked here).

== In another unrelated story, ESPN’s Mike Tirico is ready for his closeup (linked here)

== Matt Vasgersian managed to use the word “turd” in a proper context (linked here)

== For the first time in 22 years, the NFL is considering other syndicated radio companies instead of Westwood One to handle its games in the future (linked here).

== NBC’s Johnny Miller got in hot water for a joke about Italian-Americans during the U.S. Open, but ESPN’s Chris Berman gets a free pass? (linked here).

== LeBron James and Ice Cube got an ABC “Friday Night Lights-Meets-Entourage” pilot in the works (linked here and linked here)

==More about the MLB Network launch from CNBC’s Darren Rovell (linked here)

==More weird stuff about Fox NFL analyst Brian Baldinger’s mangled digit (linked here)

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15 years ago today: The first Lambeau Leap, thanks to the L.A. Raiders

The Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Fifteen years ago, safety Leroy Butler invented one of the most popular ways for a Green Bay Packer to celebrate: the Lambeau Leap.

It was Dec. 26, 1993, when defensive end Reggie White scooped up a fumble by Los Angeles Raiders running back Randy Jordan and lateraled the ball to Butler.

He then ran the final 25 yards to the end zone to give the Packers a three-touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter. Butler celebrated by leaping into the arms of fans.

Maybe it was the numbness caused by the third-coldest game day ever at Lambeau Field, with the temperature at zero and the wind chill at minus-22. Or clinching the victory for Green Bay’s first playoff berth in 11 seasons.

“Scoring a touchdown is exciting, but the anticipation of all those fans ready to thank you for what you have done gives you chills like nothing else,” Butler said in his autobiography, “The Leroy Butler Story: From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap.”

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Zelasko for Dodgers’ TV play-by-play gig? Why not

We’re aware of a couple of well-qualified broadcasters who’ve inquired about what’s going into the Dodgers’ decision on finding a play-by-play person for their 40-game TV road game package, since Charley Steiner has been reassigned to radio only.

Not to give away any of the candidates — the usual suspects, sure — but one that’s come up on the radar is someone we should have thought of immediately. At least, if you’re thinking outside the box.

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Jeanne Zelasko, who found out last month that Fox won’t be needing her to do the MLB studio show this summer, has told Jim Gintonio of the Arizona Republic (story linked here) that’s she’s “been beating down their door a little bit,” telling the Dodgers she’s very interested in the gig. Even without baseball play-by-play experience.

“I’ve been around baseball a very long time, and (former Red Sox and Rangers manager) Kevin Kennedy (working with her in the studio as well as on the FSN Prime Ticket telecasts) … taught me more about the game than I think most people could ever consider,” said Zelasko, the wife of KABC-Channel 7 sportscaster Curt Sandoval and 42-year-old mother ot two. “I was blessed to be next to him for eight years (in the studio).

“So I’m excited. I don’t know if they’ll bite.”

Why wouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t they? She’s done ice skating and gymnastics play-by-play before.

“I would never ask for something I thought I would fail at,” she said. “I think it’s gonna take the right woman at the right time, and if I may be so bold, I believe that person’s me.”

To date, we know only of Suzyn Waldman (linked here) doing any broadcasting for a major league team, hired in 2005 as a color analyst for the New York Yankees’ WCBS-AM radio, working with play-by-play man John Sterling. Zelasko would be the first woman to do play-by-play in the big leagues if the team is that forward thinking.

Zelasko’s next Fox network assignment is as the sideline reporter for the Jan. 2 Cottom Bown. She will also be part of the Fox All-Star Game and World Series coverage in 2009.

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The media learning curve: More stuff to unwrap, regift

UPDATED: FRIDAY, 12:30 p.m.:

Looking forward past today’s column (linked here) on the Jan. 1 sports lineup — not the bowl games, a hockey game (that’s a clip above of the rink setting set up at Wrigley Field) and the intro to MLB Network (www.mlbnetwork.com), who Friday announced that former MLB reliever Mitch Williams and SI.com “insider” Jon Heyman have been added to the network staff — and what else you need to know:

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==That’s Rocco Mediate, with Greg Norman Jr., draped around his neck and partner Matt Achatz, left, reacting after a short-iron shot lips out during the ADT Skills Challenge, taped in Miami on Nov. 3 and airing Saturday and Sunday (Channel 4, 1 to 3 p.m.). It’s PGA pros teammed up with their bag carriers in a new format. Mediate and Achatz play against Peter Jacobsen and Mike “Fluff” Cowan, Fred Couples and Joe LaCava, and Greg Norman Sr. and Jr. competing in long drive, trouble shots, fairway bunkers, greenside bunkers, long iron, short iron, chip shots and putting. Dan Hicks, Roger Maltbie and Gary Koch provide the commentary for NBC.

== “199 Lives,” a well-received documentary on the life of motocross racer/FMX rider/rally car racer Travis Pastrana, airs on ESPN2 (Sunday, 6 p.m.). That’s the trailer for the flick above.

==ESPN reports that its third season of “Monday Night Football” was the most-watched series on cable TV in 2008, set an all-time cable viewership record for the third straight year. ESPN’s version of “MNF” also has seven of the top 10 all-time biggest household audiences in cable history, led by the Eagles-Cowboys telecast on September 15 (12.9 million homes). ESPN’s 17 Monday Night Football telecasts in 2008 averaged a 8.9 rating, representing an average of 8,679,000 households. The season finale — Chicago’s OT win over Green Bay — had a 9.8 rating.

AND THE CLOSING ARGUMENT:

== As Deadspin.com (linked here) reminds us, beware when Fox analyst and former NFL player Brian Baldinger is doing a game on your TV set. As he will be Sunday, with Dick Stockton, on the Giants-Vikings’ 10 a.m. contest.
Baldinger apparently suffered such a bad injury to his right pinkie finger, it’s just … you can see for yourself:

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Lakers-Celtics: There’s magic in the air. … and Magic

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Stuff we’d like to pass along about the Boston Celtics’ visit to Staples Center on Christmas Day — Channel 7, 2 p.m. — to tangle with the Lakers in a game that you can’t help but stop unwrapping presents and stare at the new flat-screen (oops, did we give away the surprise?) to witness (and remember, it’s just a regular-season contest):

== Magic Johnson, making his first appearance for the ESPN/ABC family as a studio anaylst (with a special taped intro planned from Pat Riley, his former coach and once an NBC analyst), comes on with Stuart Scott, Mike Wilbon and Jon Barry (one of these things is not like the other) starting at 11 a.m.

== Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson call the game on TV, with Lisa Salter running the sidelines. Spero Dedes and Mychael Thompson have it on radio (KLAC-AM 570).

==The rest of the day’s schedule on TV:
= New Orleans at Orlando, 9 a.m., ESPN: (with Dan Shulman, Doris Burke, Nancy Lieberman)
= “NBA Countdown”, 11 a.m., Channel 7
= San Antonio at Phoenix, 11:30 a.m., Channel 7 (with Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown, Heather Cox)
= “NBA Tipoff,” 5 p.m., TNT
= Washington at Cleveland, 5:15 p.m., TNT (with Marv Albert, Mike Fratello and Craig Sager)
= Dallas at Portland, 7:30 p.m., TNT (with Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Cheryl Miller)

== Magic has a one-on-one interview set with Kobe Bryant that will air at halftime of the Lakers-Celtics game (some of which has already played on ESPN’s “SportsCenter”)

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