Yo, Normie, glad to see you back at the bar … uh, Laker pregame

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Forget, for a second, how Fox Sports West has yet to explain why, less than 16 hours after he was released from jail for an alleged Driving Under the Influence charge in Marina del Rey, Norm Nixon was allowed to appear in his studio analyst role on the pre- and post-game studio show around Tuesday’s Lakers-76ers telecast.

Tonight, Nixon was back on again for the Lakers’ pregame show, without mention of his DUI arrest.

“Let’s talk about the other night,” co-host Bill Macdonald said at the start of the broadcast, looking at Nixon.

No, not about the fact that you were driving your Ferrari bad enough to attract the CHP (hey, gotta have a front license plate, dude) and have them detect enough alcohol on your breath to do a field sobriety test. Or how you were released from jail at 3:30 a.m. after posting a $5,000 bond — enough time to get a nap, wash up and get to Staples Center for the Lakers’ pregame.

No one at FSN will answer any questions about allowing Nixon to go on the air, other than referring questions to Nixon’s legal people.

In light of how TNT handled Charles Barkley after his recent DUI led to a three-day prison stay, FSN is hardly getting ahead of this story and is simply sending a head-in-the-sand mixed message.

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Arbogast, talking about how he could have got tail on the road (not even sloppy seconds) but turned it down, what’s important with penis size and denying gay sex with Paul McDonald

And that’s only in the first couple minutes of his appearance on Jim “The Poorman” Trenton’s LuvCh@t online show at this link:

http://luvchat.com

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Believe it or not, taking Pete Arbogast’s entire body of work into account, this is probably the most degrading, embarassing thing he’s ever done.

This is a guy who takes pride in coaching youth sports? Something just doesn’t feel quite right here.

“Ladies, does performance matter more than size, can I have a show of hands?” Arbo asks on the show sponsored by a male enhancement drink and a company that sells sex toys.

No response yet from those who employ him as the play-by-play voice of USC football on radio. Perhaps they’re still trying to figure out how to deftly handle this. Or ignoring it as much as usual.

By the way, Arbogast is no longer doing his online talk show for the USC website, so maybe that’s why he has this free time available.

There’s even video later of Arbogast’s wife coming on to talk about their love life and his favorite sexual position, with her teenaged son making an appearance during the sex talk.

“Let’s just say it’s a number,” Arbo interjects when the wife is asked about his favorite sex act.

Later, there’s a “tripod” reference he makes about the penis-enlargement drink that sponsors the show.

Yes, it gets creepier and creepier as the show moves forward.

If Petros Papadakis, who has hosted and appeared on KROQ’s “Loveline,” does this stuff, it’s kinda entertaining. He’ll actually make some interesting relationship observations, which makes his “Lance Romance” spots work on his KLAC show.

But with Arbo trying to look cool here… egads. Does no one give him career advice? Does he think it’s just a small webshow that no one will see — because there’s no way to find it and email around to others who’ll be equally disturbed by hearing about his preverted attitudes about sex.

“If you don’t clean yourself (down there), you’re gonna smell bad, duh,” he later says in something much more tame.

Yeah, that’s the kind of stuff you’d hear Vin Scully talking about with his free time.

There’s too much more to even transcribe it. Listen and watch for your own strange entertainment. You’ll never get that hour back of your life.

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Our Daily Dread: How to be iPhoney about the Dance

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In a perfect world, the same phone you usedto call in sick to your superior being back at the office this morning was the same piece of high-tech equipment you use later in the day to watch live video of the NCAA Tournament action as you sat in the airport bar waiting for your weekend flight to Las Vegas.

Ironic, too, that you’ll make sure to check the caller ID on the same device Monday morning while passed out in your hotel. It may be from human resources informing you that your services are no longer needed.

Play it smart, phone boy.

In today’s dicey economic climate, stealing company time to watch tournament games for free on your office computer screen is enough of a risky business proposition. Even that cheesy “Boss Page” fake spreadsheet is a tough sell for anyone to believe as real, especially now that it has a sponsor.

Phone it in instead.

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AT&T customers are the ahead-of-the-test-market curve this year for a new iPhone application (along with the iTouch) providing all access to CBS’ live NCAA game video, powered by MobiTV, for a $4.99 fee. The only hitch is having WiFi access (the 3G service will only get you audio from the TV call, which isn’t all that exciting).

So, depending on how resourceful you can be with that gizmo, you could make it look as if you’re checking email from a client named Duke Binghamton right there in the board room without looking bored.

As they did last year, Verizon Wireless customers with the right phones and plans also can watch video, and AT&T’s LG Vu, LG Invision, Samsung Access and Samsung Eternity also can get a one-game video stream. But as anyone with an iPhone call attest, there’s a world of difference gadgetwise.

The universe of potential users for this first granted access may be miniscule – some estimates are that less than five percent of all cell phone subscribers even access video, let alone the live stuff. But it’s another test case for the power of the NCAA Tournament’s reach for the insta-user.

If the March Madness on Demand that was introduced a year ago on CBSSports.com and NCAA.com is the greatest innovation for the NCAA Tournament consumption, the iPhone application may be a close second for those who’ve harnessed the specialness of the multi-purpose device. Short of buying DirecTV’s stay-at-home “Mega March Madness” package for $69, this is another step in ending the reliance on the over-the-air CBS telecast of network-knee-jerk cuts from one game to another, a system that tries to please everyone but more often frustrates anyone.

Recession logic may lead to the conclusion that all tech gadgetry is now a luxury item. Yet, there is stronger evidence to show that as more people are go without home-based land-line phones, cell users are learning more about how iPhone applications may be worth the price of admission.

There have been 17 million iPhones sold in the U.S. through 2008, and some analysts predict about 45 million more will be bought up this year. Last year, smart-phone sales alone grew 68 percent over 2007. No wonder Apple stock has gained $16.55 a share in just over two weeks.

For those who can’t afford not to have it, there seem to be enough “connect to the madness” stimulus packages offered by major electronics stores these days. Cellphone sales for this event are being pushed as hard as a flat-screen TV would be during Super Bowl week. Special extended plans are also offered, as well as coordinating college-logo cases for the phones where a customer rep is more than happy to demonstrate how to access scores, stats, schedules and brackets with a warm touch of the finger.

The announcement this week that new iPhone 3.0 software will soon be available to allow users such things as “pushing” news and sports scores make the device all that more work-friendly.

So, too, is the NCAA figuring out its college demographic is the perfect guinea pig for this means of tournament consumption.

And don’t forget, all games from the Final Four will also be for sale — $1.99 each — on Apple’s iTunes Store the day after they are completed. If you haven’t burned out on everything by then.

Meanwhile …

The Onion Sports headline of the day:

Local Office Betting On Who Will Win NCAA Tournament Pool At Other Office

ROCHESTER, NY–In what has become a yearly tradition, employees at the office of Institutional Investors filled out brackets Wednesday and placed bets on who will win the NCAA “March Madness” pool being held in the S.G. Schilling Inc. offices across the street.
“All the people involved are equally uninformed, so it’s anyone’s bet,” said assistant media planner Evan Glazer, adding that the pool helps build camaraderie in the office. “I like to do a little research. Mike; Doug Smith or Smitts; Mr. Shernoff; that project analyst guy, they’re always the top seeds. I’m predicting that Caroline, the cute and feisty office manager, is going to pull an upset this year, but that’s a risky pick. Also, I used to work with [HR coordinator] Will [Krepack] at another company, so I have to favor him.”
The majority of employees claimed that actually winning the pool would certainly be exciting, but the biggest thrill comes from betting on what other people are betting on.

Comment here or at thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com. Just don’t Twitter me.

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Plaschke … please pass next time

We weren’t all that crazy when we saw him eat … whatever it was … Chinese hot dogs? … in Beijing during the Summer Olympics (linked here).

Now, he’s become the L.A. Time’s face of March Madness.

This isn’t why readers today are becoming more turned off by newspaper reading. But it’s something they could sure use as ammunition:

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Barry O’s picks don’t include much dancing for UCLA, USC and … sorry CSUN

You’d think he’d have shown a little more love to Illinois.

The guy doesn’t play politics when it comes to trying to please everyone. Especially when he’s in California these next few days and predicting a quick elimination of all California teams right from the start.

We’ll take his final four. Except make a Big East team win. No matter how it plays out, this is the Big East’s year.

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Sure, you can call Storm, Elliott a scrub

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They scrubbed up nicely to do float-by-float call on the network’s Tournament of Roses Parade, despite our reservations, on Jan. 1.

This time, Hannah Storm and Josh Elliott, the morning anchor team on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” do more synergetic Disney crossdressing by appearing on the episode tonight of “Scrubs” (Channel 7, 8 p.m.), appearing as themselves.

The sight gag involves Turk (Donald Faison) getting an idea from watching “SportsCenter” to perform a risky procedure that may restore a paralyzed teenager’s ability to walk.

Or, it may cause you to just walk away from the TV set.

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Our Daily Dread: Maybe the U.S. can be World (Baseball Classic) beaters … maybe not

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Jeffrey M. Boan/Associated Press

David Wright is congratulated by Kevin Youkilis (21), Derek Jeter, second from right, and Shane Victorino after a 6-5 win in the bottom of the ninth over Puerto Rico at the World Classic Baseball game in Miami on Tuesday. Wright’s base hit drove in Brian Roberts and Jimmy Rollins.

Less than 24 hours before Tuesday’s U.S.-Puerto Rico elimination game in the World Baseball Classic, Tim Dalhberg wrote a column for the Associated Press wire services that began this way:

The World Baseball Classic comes to a merciful end next week at Dodger Stadium, though the odds are it will end earlier for a U.S. team that apparently didn’t take Tommy Lasorda to heart when he said it was their patriotic duty to win one for the home team.

Never mind that the Americans are so hobbled by injuries that they have a hard time fielding a starting nine. Even healthy they were going to have difficulty with teams that really seem to care about whether they win or not.

The Cubans certainly care. They better, because Fidel Castro is keeping a close watch on things, even suggesting some strategy to go up against Japan’s pitching.

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The Venezuelans care, too, and so does their president. Hugo Chavez (right) wasn’t in Miami to watch his countrymen eliminate the Netherlands over the weekend, but even from afar he couldn’t stand the thought of Magglio Ordonez being booed by Venezuelan fans simply because he was good friends with the leftist leader.

“Viva Magglio, and all our patriots!” Chavez said.

All those patriots are having a nice tournament so far, which isn’t all that surprising since most of them are on major league rosters. The same goes for Puerto Rico and, to a lesser extent, Japan, which got six shutout innings out of Daisuke Matsuzaka [stats] to hand Cuba its first loss. …

To them, the WBC means something, even with goofy rules that make it seem more like Little League than the big leagues. Putting on a uniform with their country’s name on the front gets them as passionate as Lasorda was earlier this month when he tried to get the American players to buy into winning for their country’s sake.

“It’s our game. Baseball is America’s game. It doesn’t belong to the Italians or the Cubans or the Koreans or the Japanese,” Lasorda said. “It’s our game, and we’re not going to let them beat us.”

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Those were interesting words, if only because they were coming from the man Bud Selig appointed to be global ambassador for the WBC. Apparently, Lasorda’s idea of global begins at Dodger Stadium and doesn’t extend past New York City.

But Lasorda has the wrong job anyway. What he should be doing is managing the U.S. team.

It’s not that Davey Johnson doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s a longtime baseball guy who guided four different major league teams over 14 years and managed a group of minor leaguers to the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics.

But Lasorda might have provided a spark that seems to be missing on a U.S. team that is just 3-2 and is one loss away from elimination. He might have brushed aside the objections of various major league teams and used pitchers as he saw fit to win games, not stay on spring training schedules.

He might have seen to it that the players on the U.S. team began conditioning even before spring training and were in the same kind of form that players from other countries seem to be. He might have twisted a few more arms to get the right players to commit.

And he certainly wouldn’t have begged off Saturday’s game with Puerto Rico because he had a wedding to go to…

########

Before Tuesday, the only news the U.S. team made in the WBC was, in no particular order:

== Getty “mercy ruled” in an 11-1 loss to Puerto Rico.

== Injuries to Dustin Pedroia, Chipper Jones and Ryan Braun took them out of action, and resulted in catcher Brian McGann playing the outfield for the first time. Manager Johnson also said that if he had to, he’d have forfeited a game because of a lack of players.

== Johnson, the former Dodgers skipper, slipping out to attend a step-son’s wedding.

== A dust-up with the Dutch team over Bryan Engelehardt posing too long after a meaningless home run, to which which U.S. reliever Matt Lindstrom decided to throw behind the next hitter, the dangerous Vince Rooi. Johnson said Lindstrom told him his shoulder was sore, and that’s what caused it.

Seems logical enough, with all that’s been going on with the U.S. team.

Until Tuesday.

From a U.S. baseball fan’s perspective, the blase attitude generally expressed by many in the media is easily and eagerly regurgitated by those who either are so out of tune with this tournament that they feel better trashing it, or are so indifferent about it that its easier to speak ill of it because they’re trying to justify their lack of interest in it.

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It’s probably just a residual effect as well from the players who have opted out of the competition for fear of … whatever they fear having millions of dollars resting on their arms and shoulders and rib cages, when a “meaningless exhibition” could endanger their livelihood.

Kind of like the struggle Manny Ramirez seems to be facing with a sore hamstring from trying to play the outfield just one day in spring training.

Just when everyone seemed ready to toss this whole baby with the bathwater, the U.S. pulls off a bottom-of-the-ninth victory, knocking out that same team that mercy ruled ‘em a couple of days ago.

And, perhaps, the buzz may be back for those who have tried to dismiss it (story linked here), especially since the U.S. has now qualifed for the semifinals to be played this weekend at Dodger Stadium. Or, at least a double-take. A U-turn. Pretending now to be on board.

Now, does it matter? Probably, since the U.S. team somehow made it this far, when in the inaugural event, they didn’t get past the final eight and seemed to be not that frustrated so much by it. Willing their way into the Final Four seems to be a major step in the process.

For those not closely following, the U.S. can lose tonight’s game against Venezuela … it’s only for seeding purposes and could determine whether the Americans face Japan or Cuba in the next round of win-or-go home. So don’t read too much into the results

We caught up with Steve Phillips, the former Mets GM and current ESPN analyst doing the Pool B games in San Diego, including tonight’s elimination contest, and he agrees with much that’s been written, like Dalhberg’s column. But he also agrees with the recent assessment of the WBC by MLB commissioner Bud Selig when he called it “remarkable.”

“Among most baseball people, maybe I’m in the minority, but I love it,” said Phillips. “The whole concept is phenomenal. There have been some unbelieveable stories, in the way Puerto Rico has performed, the Netherland’s story is fantastic, and a guy like Pudge Rodriguez, without the WBC, may not have had a place to showcase himself and found a job.”

Phillips doesn’t want to be the spokesman for defending the event, but he will if it means that negative attitudes are trying to sink it.

For those who choose to point out all the shortcomings so far in this event, Phillips has an answer for that as well.

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“We shouldn’t think, ‘What’s the problem with the World Baseball Classic,’ it’s ‘what’s the problem with the U.S.?’” Phillips said. “Maybe we are focused on trying to fix the wrong thing.”

Dalberg’s column, while assuming the U.S. was on its way out the door and was attempting to problem solve, is still useful. And Phillips agrees — to fix the American’s problem of nagging injuries and lack of players who want to commit because they feel it could compromise their spring training routine, players who are all-in from the start must be recruited. Phillips likens it to the recent changes in the structure of the U.S. Olympic basketball team.

“You can’t commit half-heartedly to this, especially when you compare the U.S. to the Cubans, Korea, Japan and the other Carribean countries,” said Phillips. “Many of them have the benefit of playing winter ball, and they’re in good shape when this begins. Cuba is already in mid-season in their leagues.

“What the U.S. needs is a more structured preparation process, not just making spring training two weeks longer. I think they need to have a combine, a three-week minicamp prior to spring training, play intersquad games. Some people may say that makes the season too long, but when you look at the ‘Dream Team’ in basketball, they’ve given a two-year committment to play in qualifying events and practices. And they still get the best players.

“I know the ‘Dream Team’ is preparing for the Olympics, and that has a certain sort of credibility that the WBC hasn’t got in that stature yet, but if you can get the best players to commit now, it could work out better in the end.

“There are other tweaks you can make about having too many days off between games, or rules about replacing injured players. But you see what guys like Roy Oswald did to prepare for this. He was starting to throw back in mid-December instead of January. He had five bullpen sessions instead of one during that time. That extra work has paid off, while maybe others haven’t done enough. The training has to be more structured, not leaving it to the devices of the players to let them do it.

“If I’m a general manager, I’m not looking to eliminate the World Baseball Classic, but looking for more structure so we can say we did everything we could to eliminate any kind of issues with injuries. It’s easy to see a player get hurt during the WBC and say, ‘Ah, ha, I told you it wouldn’t work.’ Players get hurt in spring training just as easily.”

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The WBC has had a couple of exposure moments where it’s a sitting duck, another reflection of Selig’s lack of forsight, when it comes to those who want to dismiss it.

But, with games like Tuesday night, there are more “Ah, ha!” moments of real entertainment. And enlightenment. And … success?

The process of this tournament is far more important than the outcome. If the U.S. doesn’t win, it’s not a failure. But it sure is a lot better for the future of the WBC, as long as it’s played in the U.S., for an American team to at least make it to the Final Four.

“And this is the right time to have it,” Phillips adds. “Everyone else may think it’s best during the All-Star break or after the season, but this really is the least disruptive time in the major-league season.”

Maybe because, considering everything else, it’s the time of year when a guy like Lasorda may be more energized to be the head cheerleader. The fact he has a team worth cheering for Friday night at Dodger Stadium says a lot about progress overcoming unnecessary hurdles that the U.S. team seems to want to put in its own way.

Add your comments here or with thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com

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Hey, that’s Norm Nixon … didn’t you just get a DUI’d?

Strange as it may seem, this was pointed out to us tonight: Norm Nixon managed to make it to his FSWest committment on the Lakers’ post-game show after the game against Philly just 18 hours after he was out of jail from on a DUI charge.

Celebrating St. Patty’s day a bit early?:

From TMZ (linked here)

Norm Nixon Busted for DUI
Posted Mar 17th 2009 12:44PM by TMZ Staff

Former NBA legend Norm Nixon was arrested last night on suspicion of DUI.

Nixon was pulled over by California Highway Patrol just before midnight for having no front license plate on his black Ferrari. We’re told officers smelled alcohol, so they gave him a series of field sobriety tests — which he performed “poorly.”

Nixon — best known for his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 70s and 80s — was booked and posted $5,000 bail.

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Your CBS delivery of Thursday-Friday of the NCAA tournament

Keeping in mind the network will show the home market squads — UCLA, USC and Cal State Northridge — from start to probable finish — here’s what CBS has locked in for Thursday and Friday of the first-round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (for KCBS Channel 2):

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Thursday:
9:25 a.m.: Cal State Northridge vs. Memphis
11:25 a.m.: Cal vs. Maryland
4:25 p.m.: Gonzaga vs. Akron
6:30 p.m.: UCLA vs Virginia Commonwealth

Friday:
9:30 a.m.: Utah St vs. Marquette
11:30 a.m.: Arizona State vs. Temple
4:20 p.m.: USC vs. Boston College
6:45 p.m.: Florida State vs. Wisconsin

Otherwise:
== Buy DirecTV’s Mega March Madness package for $69 (linked here)
== Go free online at CBSSports.com or NCAA.com “March Madness On Demand” and watch the games (on a slight delay), but register early now. (linked here)
== Check out the new iPhone and iPod applications available for the first time for AT&T subscribers (linked here).

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The kid who won’t be helping USC’s basketball team this week in the NCAA Tournament … no, not O.J. Mayo

Brandon Jennings (linked here) is the 6-foot-1 point guard out of Dominguez High (who then transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia), who then made everyone think he was going to USC with a verbal commitment. Then he signed a letter of intent with Arizona. He then was named 2008 Naismith High School Basketball Player.

Then he went to play pro ball in Europe for $1.65 mil, plus a $2 mil sponsorship from Under Armour. Plus a new friend in that sleezeball Sonny Vaccaro.

He’s profiled on the newest HBO “Real Sports” (tonight, 10 p.m.) with Bryant Gumbel.

Playing for Virtus Roma in the demanding European league hasn’t been so easy for the 19-year-old. But he does see a silver lining as he develops his game while being a spot starter in Italy:

“Could be worse. I could be in college. I could be in class right now.”

That’s the spirit of education talking.

Also on the show:
As the first brother and sister to coach in an NCAA tournament in the same season, University of Pittsburgh men’s coach Jamie Dixon (North Hollywood, Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks High) and West Point women’s coach Maggie Dixon both faced bright futures. But in April 2006, Maggie died of heart failure at age 28. Though devastated by the tragedy, Jamie Dixon has continued to succeed at Pittsburgh, and now has the team primed for a big run in the NCAA Tournament after a bruising Big East regular season. Jon Frankel visits with the Panthers’ leader.

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