Jimbo will open his yap for Tennis Channel

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John McEnroe may be the go-to tennis analyst on whatever network will hire him. Old nemesis Jimmy Connors wants a piece of the action, too.

Tennis Channel signed Connors as its lead analyst during the U.S. Open in September, its first year of covering the event. Connors, who most recently coached Andy Roddick and had some trouble with fans outside a college basketball game near his home in Santa Barbara, has experience working for the BBC during its Wimbledon coverage. But he hasn’t been on a televised tennis team for a U.S. network since 1991.

Bill Macatee will call the U.S. Open matches for Tennis Channel — 60 hours of live matches — with Connors and Martina Navratilova, so both the all-time men’s and women’s singles title holders will be together in the same booth.

“I’m very happy to join Tennis Channel’s on-air team during its first US Open coverage, and to work with Bill Macatee, Martina Navratilova and the rest of the team,” said Connors in a statement. “The U.S. Open has a special place in my heart and in the hearts of American tennis fans, and no other tournament in the world can match its drama and the electricity. In a short amount of time Tennis Channel has shaken up the way the sport is televised, and I’m excited to be a part of the effort to take US Open coverage to the next level.”

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The Dodger Stadium Winter Moto X Games, Tractor Pull and Cow-Chip Tossin’ Championships?

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The Dodgers explicity ask that those who participate in the now regular “Under The Lights” promotion — where you pay $500 to take BP, shag fly balls and throw in the bullpen — to refrain from wearing metal spikes. Because, you know, clods like you will tear up the grass just by walking on it. It’s OK if the players take divots out of it. You’re not supposed to cut a rug with your lack of experienced moves.

But when the team had the “UTL” night nearly two weeks ago, which we participated (linked here), a team rep said they’d be installing new grass soon. The green stuff we played on the other day wasn’t in bad shape. Still it was getting to be more shades of yellow.

So when this picture arrived, taken from the angle of the team offices above the third-base line, it really didn’t surprise us that they’ve started the process of laying the new sod. Before the real heavy (.001-inch) rains.

Still, the horror of a grass-less “Lasorda Heaven On Earth.”

No fake stuff here. That would be blasphemous. Enjoy (or weep over) the view of the park while it looks like a construction site. Again.

Kind of makes you wonder what a football field would look like in that area. Or a rodeo.

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Next, ESPN’s bosses will be threatening to make them take furloughs

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By David Bauder
The Associated Press

NEW YORK — ESPN’s top executive told employees that he’s instituting a hiring freeze and won’t give any raises to top executives as one of television’s most successful enterprises feels the effect of the economy.

ESPN and ABC Sports chief George Bodenheimer said he expected 200 jobs will be cut within the next year, mostly positions currently unfilled.

The moves come despite what Bodenheimer called a record year for ESPN in 2008, although the company doesn’t release financial details. Cable television’s top sports franchise showed its muscle by outbidding everyone in November for the rights to televise college football’s Bowl Championship Series for four years starting in 2011.

“The economy is worsening,” Bodenheimer said, “and ESPN and our business partners — especially some of our major advertisers — are feeling the impact more acutely than at any point in our lifetime.”

He spoke to ESPN employees Wednesday through a company computer connection, and his message quickly became public.

The company is not ruling out layoffs, although the vast majority of job cuts will come through not filling open jobs, a spokesman said. Bodenheimer said he’s ordering a review of operations over the next few months to find ways to save money.

Although top executives won’t see raises, Bodenheimer told the troops that some merit raises will still be available to lower level staff.

He also said the company will make key investments both in the U.S. and internationally. ESPN and partner ABC are expected to be bidders later this year when the rights to televise the 2014 and 2016 Olympics goes up for auction.

“Our goal remains to come out of this period stronger,” Bodenheimer said.

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Our Daily Dread: Plan to wing it Sunday … or not

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From CNBC’s Darren Rovell (linked here), via Deadspin.com (linked here), via SportsRubbish.blogspot.com (linked here), via UPI.com (linked here), a news service we weren’t even aware still existed, so we’re not sure if we can trust it any longer:

There’s a reported shortage of a favorite Super Bowl Sunday foodstuff.

Not avocados.

Try Buffalo wings. Or don’t and save ‘em for the rest of us.

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Some five percent of all buffalo wings are consumed on this NFL title-crowning day.
That’s about 1 billion wings consumed.

“That’s a lot of chickens that died for your sins,” writes the author at SportsRubbish.

Yet, the reason this comes up is because a company in Buffalo that supplies many of the nation’s tiny chicken arms has gone bankrupt — we here that’s a problem almost along the lines of bad peanut butter finding its way to your shelves.

But wait. According to this report (linked here), a PR guy for the National Chicken Council says the shortage is a “wild exaggeration.” And a spokesman for Tyson Foods says trends may indicate there’s a problem, but “our wing business typically starts increasing in December, reaches a crescendo at Super Bowl time and remains strong through the NCAA basketball tournament in March.”

So who do we trust with our food information? Where the hell is Rachel Ray when we need her squealing voice of reason, and seasoning?

Rovell actually adds to this consumption scare: The California Farm Bureau Federation says there a celery shortage because of … global warming? California celery ripened too early and Florida’s celery came too late.

Now, we have a real problem. You’re cutting into our Bloody Mary ingredients. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme must be next.

You got any food fears this weekend? Email me at thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com or post a comment here.

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John Updike (1932-2009)

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John Hoyer Updike (Wikipedia bio linked here), the Massachusetts native and acclaimed, Pultizer Prize-winning novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic and literary critic, died today from lung cancer. He was 76.

Linking him to sports isn’t easy, but the Boston Red Sox know him well.

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It was Updike, who in a famous essay called “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” on Ted Williams’ last game played in Oct., 1960, once described Fenway Park as a “lyric little bandbox of a ballpark” and “a compromise between Man’s Euclidean determinations and Nature’s beguiling irregularities.”

The essay’s first few lines are inscribed on the walls of the reception area in the team’s front office since 2002.

Enjoy the whole essay here thanks to where it originally appeared in The New Yorker (linked here) and reprinted on the Baseball Alamanac (linked here).

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Dude looks like a lady on Super Bowl Media Day … and we’re stupid enough to chronicle it

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(AP photo/Charlie Riedel)
Reporter Sarah Spain (remember her? go to this link and then to her official site linked here) representing something called Mouthpiece Sports, bumps with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Early Doucet during the team’s media day for Super Bowl XLIII on Tuesday.

How does any practicing journalist get any real work done on Tuesday’s Super Bowl media day? They don’t. They end up covering themselves covering the circus. Look at this clip on YouTube that the NFL Network tries to discuss (linked here) before moving forward to this story…

By Jenna Fryer
The Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — The bride didn’t bother showing up Tuesday.

It’s a good thing, too. She might have been upstaged by the dude in the dress.

The oddballs once again crashed Super Bowl media day, mingling among real journalists and shocking some players with the absurdity of their questions and the audacity of their antics.

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This year’s crowd at the annual rite seemed a bit tamer — did the weakened economy take a bite out of this, too? — and the bride who so persistently pursued New England’s Tom Brady and Bill Belichick last year was a no-show.

No worries, gentlemen, a “fairy godmother” picked up a lot of the slack.

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ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball schedule: So far, no Dodgers or Angels games switched to inconvenience your day

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There are plenty of times when we enjoy ourselves a 5 p.m. Sunday night baseball game at the yard. Like, when we don’t have to work Monday, for one. And we’re more inclined to hang out at the beach during the day. The smell of the Coppertone or Hawaiian Tropic is just as aluring as the scent of Dodger Dogs.

ESPN’s 20th season of “Sunday Night Baseball” schedule is somewhat released today, and our beach days are safe. For now. There are a lot of holes to fill. Which is probably good.

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Our Daily Dread: Talk of the NFL back in L.A. is like the weather, except too many people now seem to want to do something about it

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The two things that cross our radar, and causes some unintentional consternation:

== The San Diego Chargers have struck a deal with the Wasserman Media Group to market the franchise in Los Angeles and the O.C., (story linked here). Which, of course, for those who try to connect Point A to Point D, implies that the former L.A. American Football League team is angling for giant U-turn right around Camp Pendleton and headin’ home. The team has a bailout plan in case there’s no new stadium being built for them in the Northern Tijuana region, and Casey Wasserman, who owns the now dormant Arena Football League’s Avengers, can focus on this Franchise That Could down South, able to get a large foot in the door for the time when it comes that current ownership decides to add partners who have some juice and forward thinking.

== A woman in Bellflower gave birth to octuplets on Monday, the second time in recorded history this has happened (story linked here). A boy. A boy. A girl. A boy. A girl. A boy. A girl. A boy. Delivered five minutes apart, cesarean. What a performance. Premature, but most are said to be kicking and crying. As if they just hear the news of the NFL coming back to their new neighborhood.

Since Los Angeles has been content without an NFL team since the Raiders and Rams abandoned the region after the 1994 season — would that be 15 years now? — the citizens brigade has learned to adjust. There’s no more of a mourning period. No more grief. Or anger. Or even frustration. Mostly, a focus on moving forward, enjoying the upcoming sunset on the beach, getting on with other productive things. Like USC football. Some actual attending religious services on their free Sundays instead of sliding into the Barcalounger to see which game is on the 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. slots.

The Chargers have since become our TV-mandated adopted team, and, according to local affiliates, a healthy draw, win or lose. Their charge to the playoffs after a 4-8 start, even winning a playoff game, kind of elevated the interest level a few degrees. We know LT, Rivers, Merriman … even a couple other players whose names escape us.

You know, after further review, we’d kinda welcome the Chargers back, nearly 50 years after they literally bolted. Prodigal son kinda thing, and all. So what would be happening with that plan to build an Ed Roski stadium out in the City of Industry? Wasserman, as we know, has ties to Roski and AEG, that Tim Leiweke-led group that built Staples Center, Home Depot Center, LA Live and had plans at one time for a downtown stadium until it grew tired of the red tape involved. That Coliseum thing sits there, the giant retrofit elephant in the room, throwing its weight around when it comes to the National Football League overtures of returning to L.A. stories.

As for that new team of gaggle of kids that just arrived in Bellflower: What team jerseys are those kids going to be asking for in, say, seven years? The Chargers could sell in bulk to that family. It behooves the Wasserman Media Group to send a representative to that Kaiser Bellflower hospital this morning with a box of jerseys, helmets and those fake contracts, signing each one of them to playing contract. That’s 8/11th of a starting lineup. Or ask the girls if they’re more interested in becoming cheerleaders.

Even if they all grew up to be stadium vendors, that’s eight jobs just filled in L.A., in this economy, thanks to the NFL. Does it smell like there’s a comeback in the air?

What’s your take on this? If you’re not up for leaving a comment here, email us at thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com.

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Live alpine skiing, under the lights, on your computer, this AM

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It’s 60,000 people under the floodlights in Schladming, Austria, on a frozen hill. And you can share the experience.

The FIS men’s alpine ski World Cup event airs today at 8:50 a.m. (first run) and 11:30 a.m. Universal Sports (linked here), the L.A.-based company that was recently purchased by NBC to help with its Olympic coverage. NBC will air it in a highlight package on Feb. 15.

Universal Sports is also available as a TV network on 30 million homes nationwide, including some cable channels in Los Angeles.

Schladming is a small mining town in the Styria area of Austria, that is now very popular with tourists. And nutty ski fans. Think PGA Tour stop in Phoenix (which will be on CBS this weekend).

“It’s a cool, crazy event,” said Ted Lighety, the U.S. skiier and defending Giant Slamom World Cup champ. “People are 20 deep at the start, heckling you, cheering you, asking you for autographs. Flares are going off. There is smoke on the course sometimes. It’s a complete show. The crowd is more overwhelming than the skiing.”

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Why on God’s Celtic Green Earth would a Laker fan want this T-shirt?

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It’s offered on NBA.com’s team store (linked here), for $25.99, with the hopes you’ll purchase it as a St. Patrick’s Day novelty.

We’re OK with the Dodgers wearing green hats during spring training. But a shamrock Lakers’ shirt … You may as well hire a someone dressed as the Lucky Charms guy deliver it to you via Fed Ex.

It’s made by adidas, with the marketing explanation on the site: You’ll love this adidas Originals Los Angeles Lakers super-soft, short-sleeve t-shirt. The high-quality cotton shirt is decorated in St. Patrick’s Day colors and designed with the distressed team logo screen-printed on the chest for a vintage look.

Yeah, vintage Bob Cousy. The Lakers actually have a home game on March 17, versus Philadelphia. That’s a Tuesday night. In case you’re wondering what you may want to wear out to the bars that day.

(Thanks to the link from TheBigLead.com, via RedsArmy.Wordpress.com)

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