Deford has spoken: ESPN, lighten up

“ESPN does so much quality work, but at a certain point, in whatever field, if you become omnipotent, and if you are secure, you stop being a conceited smarty-pants and start exhibiting a measure of grace.”

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What’s taken ESPN so long to hire Frank Deford as its new ombudsman? Probably because this will be his best shot. The rest would be tough to match as critical commentary — or much substance.

A link to the esteemed sports journalist’s take on the Worldwide Leader from this morning NPR “Morning Edition” under the headline: “High-and-mighty ESPN Should Take It Down A Notch” (linked here). It’s also a four-minute commentary that you can listen to, to get the full Deford nuances.

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The curling outtakes

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Andy Holzman/Daily News

Splashed across the newsprint like a 99 Cents Store sale, I’m a bit embarassed with all the attention from today’s sports section coverage of my attempt to make the 2010 Olympic curling team (story linked here).

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But I can turn that frown upside down.

There’s a technique that must be learned that, after a few attempts, shouldn’t be that tough to master. But it involves physical strength and the confidence that you won’t slip and fall in your non-ice skates that really is the secret to starting this with some sort of success. Those who’ve grown up walking on ice have a distinct advantage. Those of us who slip in the shower are set up for failure.

This is what happened after one of my first attempts, a splashdown as if I was an Apollo astronaunt who found a pond in Alaska more comfortable than the Pacific Ocean. This is what those birds must feel like when they fly over Boise State’s blue football field and mistake it for a lake:

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That luge thing doesn’t look so hard. I’m already on my back, and I’m cold. How much more work could that be?

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A follow-up to curling in August: Homer and Marge are gonna do it

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From Daily News Wire Services

Curling will be receiving some prime-time exposure just prior to next year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver as Homer and Marge Simpson take up one of Canada’s favorite sports.

An episode of the long-running comedy “The Simpsons” featuring the cartoon power couple playing the game is scheduled to run in early February on the Fox Network.

“We wanted to do a show at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and my initial idea was to have Homer and three of his buddies do a four-man bobsled,” said writer Rob LaZebnik in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“Then we decided there’s a lot more interesting story having Homer do something with Marge. One of the head writers suggested curling and we all liked it. I learned about mixed curling and it seemed kind of perfect.”

In the episode, Homer and Marge form a mixed-doubles curling team with Principal Skinner and his mother, who are experienced curlers. It turns out that Marge is a natural, while Homer is a disaster on the ice.

Marge is faced with a difficult decision: Possibly win a medal by asking Homer to leave the team or ruin their chances by keeping him.

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Coming Wednesday: Romancing the stone

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Andy Holtzman/Daily News

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Don’t fret, America. My curling days aren’t over. I’d just prefer to look at the rink as half-full, without innocent bystanders pointing and laughing. I’m still in the reinventing stage.

But with six months to go for the 2010 Winter Olympics, I’m behind schedule. More accurately, I’m sitting on my behind. On a block of ice. Trying to figure out why this isn’t as easy as it sorta looks.

Let’s see, just Google “Vancouver . . . 2010 . .. schedule.” Passport? Who needs a passport these days to . . . never mind. Here, the curling competition runs from Feb. 16-25, with the medal event two days later.

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By my calendar, there’s probably enough time left to learn the sport that I’ve seen plenty of times in past Olympiads, qualify for the U.S. team, attend more training camp somewhere in Wisconsin, play in a few warm-up games against Poland, and clean up on the medal stand.

I dream big.

Which makes the pre-training session at the Iceoplex Easy Street rink in Simi Valley (liked here) the other night kinda look more like a nightmare. Or just a minor setback. It depends on how you interpret dreams.

The SoCal Curling Club (linked here) had its “learn to curl” session for anyone over 12 and with $20 to invest lured a couple dozen contestants who may have thought they were trying out for a Canadian reality show. The reality was, just because you owned a pair of warm gloves and thermal socks, there’s no guarantee this club would even take you on as a regular participant once league play opens this weekend.

The club started four years ago, right as curling became appointment TV viewing during the 2006 Turin Games in Italy, since Fred Roggin made it all look so campy. That’s about the time when Carrie Cresante, a Westlake Village attorney smart enough to make it through Pepperdine law school, thought she had the foresight to link into an Olympic-level sport and see where it could take her.

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As a founding member of these SoCal Curlers, she’s been to Canada, where she picked up a pair of $200 specialized shoes with special sliders on the bottom, but better than what you’d find in the rental department at the local bowling alley. She’s also become quite fond of her carbon-fiber broom, because it’s much lighter to move down the ice than those old wooden-handled jobs.

“Most don’t have these shoes, but if I play, I use the right equipment,” the 31-year-old said. “I’m competitive. I wouldn’t be a good lawyer if I wasn’t.”

Plus, she said, the shoes were insulated. For that price, they’d better come with a warm-up act and two-drink minimum.

I really had no time, or patience, to learn all about the foreign terminology. The stone — that a 44-pound piece of granite with a handle attached — is supposed to be headin’ to the house. If you accidentally touched it with a broom as you were sweeping, it’s called “burning the stone,” but since you’re on the honor system, you have to call the friction infraction on yourself.

There’s the lead, second, vice skip and skip yelling at you. The hack line is 21 feet to the hogline. . . .

Blah, blah, blah. . . . All hogwash.

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You couldn’t see this coming: Lakers-Cavs on Christmas Day … and the Clippers, too?

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A five-game Christmas Day lineup of NBA contests on ABC and ESPN has something predictable — Cleveland, with LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, traveling to Staples Center to meet Kobe Bryant and the Lakers (ABC, 2 p.m.) — and then something that’s quite unusual — the Clippers, starting an ESPN doubleheader at 5 p.m. with a game at Phoenix.

Santa has gotten a bit crazy in his old age.

The day begins with Miami at New York (9 a.m., ESPN), followed by Boston at Orlando (ABC, 11:30 a.m.) and capped off with Denver at Portland (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

ESPN and ABC have 90 NBA games combined (75 of them on ESPN). Their schedule starts with an ESPN doubleheader on Wednesday, Oct. 28: New Orleans at San Antonio followed by Utah at Denver. Then it’s the Lakers hosting Dallas on Friday, Oct. 30 (7:30 p.m.), preceeded by Chicago at Boston.

The Lakers and Celtics make 16 appearances on ESPN and ABC — the most allowed by the league on any network. Cleveland has 15 hits, and Orlando has 14. The Clippers have five.

On TNT, the schedule begins on Tuesday, Oct. 27 with a doublehead capped by the Lakers’ receiving their championship rings prior to a game against the Clippers (7:30 p.m.). The opening game is Boston at Cleveland (4:30 p.m.).

The Lakers’ second regular-season game against the Cavaliers, Jan. 21 at Cleveland, is a TNT telecast.

The Lakers make 9 TNT appearances, and the Clippers have three. Cleveland, Denver and Orlando have 10 TNT stops.

On NBA TV, there are 96 games, starting on Sunday, Nov. 1 with New Orleans-Boston. The Clippers have five NBA TV hits on Sunday, Nov. 9 (at Oklahoma City, 4 p.m.), Wednesday, Dec. 2 (home vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.), Sunday, Dec. 9 (home vs. San Antonio, 6:30 p.m.), Sunday, April 4 (home vs. New York, 6:30 p.m.) and Monday, April 12 (home vs. Dallas, 7:30 p.m.)

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Boo-yah! When in doubt, go with the obscure Special Olympics joke

I thought I was imagining it when I heard Stuart Scott try to go mentally challenged “funny speak” during the late-night episode of “SportsCenter” on Sunday. So I played it back. Two or three times.

Not because it was funny. Because it was just so randomly … wrong.

It was right after the Dodgers-Braves telecast, and Scott, on “SportsCenter” duties with John Buccigross, was doing a V.O. on the lead story — Tiger Woods’ triumph at the PGA’s Buick Open.

“Putting for par at the 17th …” Scott begins, then says, “You see the movie, ‘The Ringer’?”

“I did,” answers Buccigross.

The reference is to the 2005 Johnny Knoxville flick (linked here), where he pretends to be a mentally challenged person so that he can win at the Special Olympics.

From there, Scott then goes into a dialect reminscinent of the character “Glen” (played by Jed Rees) … except it made no sense. It’s that halting, child-like voice that you hear from a mentally challenged person — in the context of the movie, it was funny in how they delivered the dialogue. But taken out of context, and attached to a clip that really has nothing to do with “The Ringer” — or golf — apparently was just too good for Scott to pass up.

Can’t find any clips on YouTube or elsewhere. Not sure how else to explain it. Anyone else catch it and have an opinion?

UPDATE:
As of Wednesday AM, still no official kind of response from ESPN damage control headquarters.

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Coming Sunday: In tune with the Bryan Brothers

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Trying to wrangle Bob and Mike Bryan is tough enough, but when you’re told to go somewhere on Stagg Street in Van Nuys, to a unmarked stucco building surrounded by an upholstery outlet, a bagel company, a Kosher bakery and a sheet-metal company, then it’s become both cool and strange.

The most popular men’s doubles team today, who’ll soon have the record for most tournament victories (perhaps by the time they’re 33), are near their Camarillo hometown to play in the L.A. Tennis Open, a place where they served as ballkids and played hide-and-seek through the facilities.

In addition to ripping it up on the courts, they’re trying to rip out a new CD called “Let It Rip,” with Mike on drums, Bob on keyboard and bass, and another new friend, David Baron, on vocals. Other tunes: “Chasing The Sun,” “Marching On,” “Spinning My Days,” and “Autograph.”

It’s tough enough telling Bob and Mike apart — thankfully, for their matches, they wear shirts with their names on the back. One of them has a scar under his eye, actually — Bob, because when they were kids, Mike through he was “He-Man” and actually cut him with a real knife.

They fight, like any brothers. Some more public. But at least they’re entertaining. Read more Sunday, if you can.

More on the Bryans:

== Their official website (BobandMike.com, rather than the outdated BryanBros.com)
== The Bryan Brothers Foundation charity event at Sherwood Country Club (linked here)
== Their Wikipedia bio (linked here)

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