The art of the billboard, NFL Fox style

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It went up in September. It was supposed to be a one-month run, until October. It’s still up, and it’s almost November.

Maybe because the billboard company can’t find another business that wants a sign that includes goal posts.

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A promotional campaign that led to Fox buying four billboards around the country — including one for Southern California, located north of the 405 at Hawthorne Blvd., in Lawndale — stands out for uniquiness in that you just don’t see larger-than-life yellow end-zone posts with flags on the top sticking out and around a freeway-side ad.

“Or billboard with actual pads around the goalposts below,” noted Eric Markgraf, the executive VP of Fox Sports Marketing Group.

Markgraf said doing this “mixed media” campaign was to stand out from the other new wave of digital billboards that need to be updated daily to make them relevant.

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Billboards like this one were also put up to promote the “NFL on Fox” pregame show in New York, Philadelphia and Dallas. In each of those cities, the pad around the post matched up with the local teams — Giants (not Jets), Eagles and Cowboys. It’s also an NFC thing, since that’s the Fox conference of choice.

“It’s really the first time we’ve seen anything like it,” said Markgraf, who worked with a company called New And Improved Media to do the buying and production. “In New York, we put it near the Holland Tunnel, and we were worried that someone might want to vandalize it. But we’ve had nothing but great feedback from it. People have noticed them.
Especially with the flags on the top. Very simplistic, not flashy.”

Now that Fox has only paid for a month’s worth of exposure, it’ll be interesting to see how much they stay up — based on the fact they probably can’t be easily taken down.

Remember back in the summer of ’07, when we drove around the city snapping our favorite sports-related billboards … maybe we gotta revive that one soon.

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World Series strange calls, 41 years apart

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At the same time that Fox is carrying live the Yankees-Phillies World Series Game 1 tonight, the MLB Network is showing the first game of the 1968 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.

The differences very much outweigh the similiarities.

The game 41 years ago is during the day, in St. Louis, a “hot and muggy day” as Curt Gowdy continues to remind the audience. The game tonight at the new Yankee Stadium is rainy, cold, with players blowing fog from their breaths.

But almost at the same time — at least, on the current clock — umpire controversy ensued.

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Getting baseball over the ump

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While we’ve apparently gone past the point of any way to introduce expanded instant replay for the 2009 World Series, which begins in a few hours from Yankee Stadium, it shouldn’t preclude those at Fox Sports from at least letting the MLB decision-makers know that the technology is in place to make it happen, should they choose to explore it.

Ed Goren, the Fox Sports executive producer and president, isn’t neither going to gently nudge, nor strong advice, the MLB on how it should do this from here, lest he be mistaken for someone who cares about the game’s future and its integrity beyond obviously blown calls by umpires throughout these playoffs.

“We don’t have a say in this,” said Goren. “We televise the games. When the NFL decided on replay, it wasn’t the network going to the NFL. Whatever the rules are, they are what they are. It’s a baseball issue and we leave it at that.”

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That’s for the record. Off the record, Fox and TBS be best showing MLB that it can turn around a disputed call within seconds based on its technology and replay machines on hand for playoff games. That’s Bud Selig’s strongest protest — replays will slow the game up even more. But it doesn’t have to — evidenced by the fact at how fast Fox was able to expose three blown calls in the ALCS Game 4 at Angels Stadium, two of them by crewchief Tim McClelland.

As Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal will likely point out on tonight’s telecast (4:30 p.m., Channel 11) as many as a dozen top-notch umps are not available to work these playoffs because of injuries. Seven of them are crew chiefs. There’s also an unusual rule that prevents umps from working two consective series in a row, from divisional series, to championship series, to World Series. Meaning, your best guys are likely in the ALDS and NLDS, so they can also do a World Series. And you’re lower level rewards are going to guys in the ALCS and NLCS? How is that a good thing?

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Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who’ll be part of the Fox pre- and post-game studio analysis from the gamesite, doesn’t sound as if he’s pushing for expanded replay. Maybe he just enjoys the art of arguing more with the men in blue.

“I was pushing for the home run (fair or foul) replay because that was something we needed,” Guillen said this week. “I trust the umpires. We can’t make the game a computer TV game. The fans have to respect that. Sometimes (wrong calls) make for good baseball, and the fans can disagree. That’s a positive for our game for so many years. My only problems with the umps is if they make a mistake, they should move on. It’s to early to put extra replays into the game.”

Goren expanded on his earlier thoughts about replay, especially for the postseason versus the regular season: “(The game) is certainly dramatically different in the postseason. Like the umpires who go out and want to get the calls right, our version is that if there’s a bang-bang play and something is questionable, we hope to have the definitive angle. In the regular season with fewer cameras and tape machines, and sometimes the local broadcastes vary from market to market, there’d be no consistency now. But let’s say we have the same issue in the NFL. How many times has a coach challenged a call and there was not enough evidence on the replay to overturn it? Most times, the play stands as called.”

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C’mon … a Griese taco reference gets you suspended now by ESPN? Have they also stopped running ads for “black tacos”?

ESPN decided to suspend college football analyst Bob Griese for a week based on an off-handed comment he made about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya during last Saturday’s Minnesota-Ohio State telecast.

A graphic was shown during the game showing the top five drivers in NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup. Analyst Chris Spielman asked where Montoya was.

Griese replied that Montoya was “out having a taco.”

Montoya is a native of Columbia, not Mexico. And Griese apologized at the end of the game, as well as later in the day Saturday.

And the joke wasn’t even that funny. But was it offensive?

Steve Lyons was not available for comment.

Griese, 64, who has been with ABC and ESPN only since 1986 with no prior disgressions or stupid jokes, was scheduled to do Saturday’s Miami-Wake Forest telecast.

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Come for the Adenhart story, stay for Gumbel’s closing thoughts

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A reminder about tonight’s HBO “Real Sports” (10 p.m., with many replays) — Mary Carillo does a segment on how the Angels dealt with the April death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, talking to his parents as well as lone accident survivor Jon Wilhite.

“It’s a very tough story indeed,” Carillo said this morning. “We interviewed Nick’s parents and a few of his teammates, Jered Weaver, (agent) Scott Boras … every one of them talked about Nick as though it was still hard to believe he could be gone. Though we didn’t get it into the piece, Boras got very jammed up talking about the kid he’d been watching since high school. He told me about how he had to make a bunch of calls that night, and among them were calls to his kids.
” ‘You called them?’ I asked.
” ‘I called them to make sure they were safe…and to tell them I loved them.’ ”
“We went to the Little League field where Nick first showed his stuff as a kid — the field his father still visits every day, now named after his boy. His mother had not spoken about Nick until she talked to us. Boy, she’s a terrific woman. And her boy Henry, almost 16, who grew up idolizing Nick, is a very fine baseball player in his own right, and hopes to make the bigs as well.
“I happen to have a 22 year old boy myself, so this story got stuck between my ribs from the time I first heard of it.”

At the end of the program, host Bryant Gumbel offers this essay:

“Finally tonight, a few words about the New York Yankees. I will admit upfront to some bias, and I’ll certainly understand if the folks in Anaheim would beg to differ, but having the Yankees in the World Series is clearly in the best interest of Major League Baseball. As the most polarizing team in the game, they’re certain to make their matchup with the Phillies the most compelling fall classic in years.

“Now before you start throwing things at your screen, I would ask that you keep in mind one simple truth…that sports works best when there’s a gold standard…something or someone to be measured against. Like it or not, when Tiger Woods struts, when Bill Belichick cheats, when USC tops the football polls, when the Lakers are running…when the time tested best are winning, people care, no matter the sport. And no team has ever won more than the Yankees.

“With their rich, historic tradition and their obscene, exorbitant payroll, the Yankees represent, to many, all that’s right and wrong with Major League Baseball. They arouse levels of passion nationally that teams in most outposts can’t even fathom. And they remind true sports fans of why the national pastime is still baseball, and not betting on some point spread.

“Yes, Yankees fans are loud, passionate and often obnoxious. So too are these who see red when they see pinstripes. Some are provincial, some are envious, some would even claim to actually hate the Yankees…when, in truth, they probably don’t. For as Celtics great Bill Russell once wisely noted: the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy.”

If only the Yankees were playing the Dodgers ..

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How the ‘Wow’ factor plays into today’s kids (and adults) getting pumped up about sports

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Do your kids read books any more? More specific: Do they have the attention span to read a sports book that’s not assigned in school?

Paging through “Wow! The Pop-Up Book of Sports,” the newest Sports Illustrated Kids selection that is released today, there’s the underminding message that we need to really hit them over the head with the “wow” factor to make them pay attention to what’s going in sports.

Or ….

It’s pretty cool to have a pop-up book that can be considered a neat work of kid-friendly art — the stuff you can lay open on a shelf and admire it from near and afar.

That’s where we choose to put this project, which has a relatively reasonable $26.95 price tag consider that’s the cost of a couple of DVDs that may have two replays in them at the most.

Too bad this blog isn’t in 3D. You’d be actually saying “wow” as you flipped through this thing.

It starts with SI photographs, which can’t go wrong in any medium.

Then consider eight moments in sports that now seem to come to life — The Red Sox’s 2004 World Series win, skateboarder Danny Way leaps over the Great Wall of China (attached to a straw, so he twists as he moves from right to left), New York Giants receiver David Tyree’s Super Bowl catch … and Tiger Woods at the Masters … and LaDainian Tomlinson diving over the pile at the end zone line … and Serena Williams hitting a tennis ball into your face … and LeBron James flying in for a dunk, with the rim moving toward your lap as the pages open. … and surfer Kelly Slater, inside the tube, which you don’t realize is really five layers of paper that creates a tunnel of water you’d never imagine could look so real.

(We’ll even overlook the fact that those ’04 Red Sox actually clinched the title in St. Louis, and not at Fenway Park, but seeing a pop-up of the Fens makes it much more pretty.)

Wow, indeed.

Best of all, perhaps, is it comes wrapped in plastic, so that the lookie-loos in the book store don’t ruin it before you can actually buy it (which encourage online purchase so you get it in mint condition).

And even though it has the “warning” that there is a “choking hazard: small parts, not for children under 3 years,” buy it for the kids, keep it as an adult.

SI hired Bruce Foster, who has done nearly 40 pop-up books for museums and publishers, as the paper engineer for this one. He also did the pop-up opening scenes for the Disney movie “Enchanted.” That’s the payoff for those who know his work.

Maybe it’s best we don’t have any photos to show of what some of these scenes look like. We’ll save the surprise for when you get your hands on it.

We also offer these two reviews, for what they’re worth, on the Amazon.com site (linked here).

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Your L.A. Week 8 NFL TV viewing schedule: Sorry, only 4 games .. and one with No. 4 from Minnesota

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This is the NFL week you get mis taken for a World Series fan.

NBC takes a huge leap of faith and shows amazing restraint in refraining from doing a Sunday night game this week because a) Bob Costas says he wants to watch World Series Game 4 to break it down for himself at a later date, b) Keith Olbermann says he wants to be at World Series Game 4 to be seen, c) John Madden called and said he wants to play Madden ’10 with his grandkids, d) the rest of the world pretends an otherwise regular-season NFL game would not outrate a World Series game, so there’s professional courtesy here…
After all, would MLB plan a regular-season game up against the Super Bowl? See, it’s payback for being nice.

Somewhere, Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson are smiling.

Instead, we get the most anticipated NFL regular season game since Chris Berman started wearing Depends on the set — Minnesota at Green Bay. Figure out the story line. And without Joe Buck in the booth with Troy Aikman, because he’s with Tim McCarver in Philly that night.

The rest of the schedule: Too many good teams have bye weeks (bowing out to the Minn-GB stage) and L.A. is saddled with CBS’ 1 p.m. window because the Chargers play the Raiders, as if it matters, and can’t get Miami-N.Y. Jets (among other things):

Read it and weep:

SUNDAY

==10 a.m., Channel 11: Earlier Tuesday, it was San Francisco at Indianapolis (with Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan and Laura Okmin) but then it was later changed to N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia (with Kenny Albert, Moose Johnston and Tony Siragusa), as opposed to Seattle at Dallas or St. Louis at Detroit; CBS has in this window that you can’t see because of a 1 p.m. single-game telecast — Miami at N.Y. Jets, Cleveland at Chicago, Houston at Buffalo and Denver at Baltimore)

==1 p.m., Channel 2: Oakland at San Diego (with Dick Enberg and Dan Fouts, instead of Jacksonville at Tennessee)

==1 p.m. Channel 11: Minnesota at Green Bay (with Thom Brennannammennennann and Troy Aikman, as opposed to Carolina at Arizona, which really looks quite appealing now if you ask us)

MONDAY

==5:30 p.m., ESPN: Atlanta at New Orleans (with Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden)

Bye bye: Cincinnati, Kansas City, New England, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington.

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And now, the aftermath: Steve Phillips plays the ‘sex addict’ card, PA girl is fired

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It’s in today’s New York Post (linked here), which broke this story two weeks ago:

== ESPN MLB analyst Steve Phillips, fired by the net on Sunday after asking for personal time off to deal with his family after his affair with a company production assistant went public, has began seeking counciling because he’s a “sex addict.”

Phillips, 46, “really needs help, and this was the best way to do it,” said his agent, Steve Lefkowitz. .. “It was a bid to keep his life. He’s going in for an illness. The problem is, he fell off the wagon. … He knows he needs help, and he wants to work it out. He wants to keep his four boys and his wife. He doesn’t want to lose them.”

In 1998, Phillips, while as the Mets GM, took leave for counseling after admitting he had multiple extramarital affairs. His wife, Marni, last month sued for divorce after learning of his trysts with 22-year-old Brooke Hundley.

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Hundley, by the way, was fired by ESPN. It’s a police matter: She’s suspected of using ESPN computers to create fake online accounts to contact Phillips’ son and try to get information on the family.

Hundley filed a restraining order against Phillips on Aug. 20 that claimed he pressured her for sex.

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37 reasons why the Lakers repeat … you on board?

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1. Jordan Farmer changed his number. To this one. The one he wore at Taft High. Does that not show he’s rededicated himself to being No. 1? That’s one way to look at it.

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2. Derek Fisher wrote an autobiography this offseason called “Character Driven: Life, Lessons and Basketball.” It concludes: “The high I’ve experienced since we closed out the (Orlando) Magic (in last year’s NBA Final) hasn’t worn off . . . I’m driven and I see no sign of that changing. My eye is firmly fixed on the rim and no opportunity is going to pass me by.”

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Trevor Ariza was holding everyone back.

4. Luke Walton is tired of being mistaken for another Luke Walton – a retired U.S. Olympic oarsman, also from San Diego. Google it.

5. It fits into Larry David’s story arch on the current season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” – go back to Episode 3 where the guys from NBC gave him seats to a Lakers game, but he was up in the 300 level at Staples Center. Where he couldn’t trip Shaq.

6. Adam Morrison, with the tight haircut, has dedicated himself to making Laker fans forget they’ve ever heard of Vlad Radmanovich.

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7. Lamar Odom, knowing the cameras will be on him during his every move, has renewed Hollywood reality show credibility at stake. Watch for (at least for now) step-father in law Bruce Jenner blowing kisses near the player tunnel.

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8. Jack Nicholson hasn’t been in a movie since “The Bucket List.” On his real bucket list, after curing cancer and before finding Roman Polanski to clean up the mess he left at his house 32 years ago: One more Laker title for a season-seat holder since 1967.

9. Four games against the Clippers during the regular season. Four aut-o-matic clicks in the win column without having to check into the scorer’s table.

10. The Lakers only have to play the Charlotte Bobcats twice this season – Feb. 3 (home) and March 5 (away).

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Your Week 9 L.A. college football TV choices: USC-Oregon looks like it could be, um, decent

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Decent enough for ESPN’s “College GameDay” to venture out to the opposite coast and check in on how the Trojans and Ducks will matchup on the early-morning Saturday show. They’ll even keep the big guns in Eugene to call that game that afternoon.

For what it’s worth, “GameDay” has already committed to being in Colorado Springs, Colo., the next Saturday when Air Force hosts Army as part of “a weeklong initiative honoring the veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Some goofy things going on this week: Notre Dame goes to San Antonio to remember it has a game against Washington State; UCLA isn’t on TV but East Carolina is on national TV; Ohio State has another non-conference game, this time against New Mexico State; Alabama gets to sleep in.

And, ESPN goes up against the World Series on Sunday with some football (since NBC won’t)… so there.

The rest of the week in the colleges (with current BCS rankings):

THE LOCALS:

== Saturday, 5 p.m., Channel 7: No. 5 USC at No. 10 Oregon (with Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Lisa Salters)
== Saturday, 1 p.m.: UCLA at Oregon State (radio only, KLAC-AM 570)

WEDNESDAY

== 5 p.m., ESPN2: East Carolina at Memphis (with Rece Davis, Lou Holtz, Mark May and Rob Stone)

THURSDAY

== 4:30 p.m., ESPN: North Carolina at No. 13 Virginia Tech (with Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer and Erin Andrews)

FRIDAY
== 5 p.m., ESPN2: No. 21 West Virginia at South Florida (with Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore)

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SATURDAY (HALLOWEEN)
== 7 to 9 a.m., ESPN: “College GameDay” from Eugene, Ore., with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard.)
== 9 a.m., Big Ten Network: New Mexico State at No. 17 Ohio State (with Matt Rosen and Anthony Herron)
== 9 a.m., ESPN: Indiana at No. 4 Iowa (with Mark Jones and Bob Davie)
== 9 a.m., ESPN2: Purdue at Wisconsin (with Pam Ward and Ray Bentley)
== 9 a.m., ESPNU: No. 8 Cincinnati at Syracuse (with Clay Matvick and David Diaz-Infante)
== 9:30 a.m., Versus: Nebraska at Baylor (with Ron Thulin, Kelly Stouffer and Lewis Johnson)
== 10:30 a.m., FSN West: Missouri at Colorado (with Bill Land, Gary Reasons and Emily Jones)

== 12:30 p.m., Channel 2: No. 1 Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla. (with Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson)
== 12:30 p.m., Channel 7: No. 24 California at Arizona State (with Terry Gannon and David Norrie)
== 12:30 p.m., ESPN: Michigan at Illinois (with Mike Patrick and Craig James)
== 12:30 p.m., ESPN PPV: No. 19 Miami at Wake Forest (with Bob Wischusen and Brian Griese)
== 12:30 p.m., ESPN PPV: Kansas at Texas Tech (with Ron Franklin and Ed Cunningham)
== 12:30 p.m., ESPNU: Central Michigan at Boston College (with Todd Harris and Charles Arbuckle)
== 12:30 p.m., CBS College Sports: Temple at Navy (with Dave Ryan and Randy Cross)
== 1 p.m. Versus: UNLV at No. 6 TCU (with Tim Neverett, Glenn Parker and Lindsay Soto)
== 1 p.m., The Mnt.: Air Force at Colorado State (with James Bates, Todd Christensen and Roger Bailey)
== 1:30 p.m., ESPN: No. 12 Penn State at Northwestern (with Carter Blackburn and Chris Spielman)

== 4 p.m., FSN West: Kansas State at Oklahoma (with Joel Meyers, Dave Lapham and Jim Knox)
== 4 p.m., ESPNU: Eastern Michigan at Arkansas (with Eric Collins and Brock Huard)
== 4:30 p.m., Channel 4: No. 23 Notre Dame vs. Washington State in San Antonio (with Tom Hammond, Pat Haden and not Willow Bay)
== 4:30 p.m., CBS College Sports: New Mexico at San Diego State (with Tom Hart and Aaron Taylor)
== 4:45 p.m., ESPN: No. 24 South Carolina at Tennessee (with Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Erin Andrews)
== 5 p.m., ESPN2: No. 3 Texas at No. 14 Oklahoma State (with Sean McDonough, Matt Millen and Holly Rowe)
== 5 p.m., Big Ten Network: Michigan State at Minnesota (with Wayne Larrivee, Chris Martin and Rebecca Harlow)
== 5 p.m. The Mtn.: Wyoming at No. 16 Utah (with Ari Wolfe, Blaine Fowler and Sammy Linebaugh)
== 7 p.m., ESPNU: Magic City Classic (delayed): Alabama State vs. Alabama A&M (from Birmingham) (with Charlie Neal & Eddie Robinson, Jr.)

SUNDAY

== 5:15 p.m., ESPN: Marshall at Central Florida (with Dave Lamont and JC Pearson)

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