No objections here over TBS dropping Chip Caray

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A Turner Network spokesman confirmed Monday that TBS won’t be using Chip Caray on baseball play by play in the future.

A son of late Braves broadcaster Skip Caray and a grandson of famed broadcaster Harry Caray, Chip Caray did first-round and division series playoff games for TBS during the past three seasons. He originally worked with Tony Gwynn and Bob Brenly, then teamed with Ron Darling and Buck Martinez.

Caray also was part of the network’s Sunday regular-season package.

Pomeroy said no replacement has been picked.

“Since the end of the 2009 MLB Playoffs, we’ve had several discussions with Chip Caray regarding 2010 and beyond. Both sides agree that now is the right time to move ahead on different paths,” the network said in a statement.

Not soon enough for most.

Caray was criticized heavily for his work, particularily last October, when he miscalled plays.

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Coming Tuesday: An old-school solution to the Tiger case

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AP Photo/John Raoux
A new fire hydrant is seen in the front of Tiger Woods’ home in the Isleworth community in Windermere, Fla., on Monday.

Dan Durbin, a USC Annenberg School of Communications & Journalism professor who specializes in sports media and pop culture, said he was talking to a doctoral student and an undergrad Monday afternoon outside his office about the latest “news” to come out in the Tiger Woods saga.

“They were both speculating about what had happened, based on what they’d heard and read,” said the 48-year-old Durbin. “One said, ‘I heard it was a fight . . .’ The other said, ‘I heard he had an affair’ and then talked about something else he read about something else online.

“And this is the fundamental problem.”

Durbin says he’s in “a wait-and-see mode until some kind of authoritative source gives what seems to be a reasonable and legitimate explanation.”

Good luck with that.

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Our Daily Dread: Tiger’s tale, and trying to decide which is the true way it wags

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AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
A caddie walks past an ad showing a photo of Tiger Woods at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks on Monday, where the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, will take place starting Wednesday.

It’s the best of New York Times for the sports media.

It’s the worst of Internet times for the sports media.

Tiger Woods, again, has brought us together at this dysfunctional news-gathering divide.

The shelf live of this Woods’ daily story (in the so-called “mainstream” media) and hourly story (in the ever-present “new” media) depends on how much the beast needs, or wants, to be fed.

The public, in Tiger terms, is hungry for meat. How much do they need to consume?

Since the world-wide public figure crashed his car pulling out of his driveway at his Florida home early Friday morning, there’s the fact — he injured himself, appeared to be unconscious for a time, went to the hospital, came back home, has avoided talking to local authorities (not a crime) and said in a statement his back window was smashed out because his wife, Elin, tried to “courageously” rescue him.

More facts: The Florida Highway Patrol is seeking a search warrant for hospital records that would document how he was treated at the hospital — the police want to determine if the injuries Woods had, including facial cuts, came from an auto accident or domestic violence.

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There’s also no getting around the fact that two days earlier, the National Enquirer (“Got News? We’ll Pay Big Bucks”) reported that Woods had an affair with a woman, who has since hired attorney Gloria Allred to defend her in the court of public opinion and beyond.

The Enquirer is a national magazine that while focusing on celebrity gossip, has been right at a low percentage of the time enough to make everyone else now pay attention and consider it as a legitimate news source. Sometimes.

Jumping to conclusions from Point A to Point Z, independent reports on the Internet do more than imply there’s much more behind this.

The mainstream media has reported on what’s been reported, trying to at least be “for the record” without giving it any validation. Yet.

It puts the journalists who are skeptical, yet act responsible, on one side working both against and with those who are cynical, and act on their own behalf, trying to poke the sleeping Tiger for more information — especially since he’s now said he’ll bail out on attending his own charity event at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks to lick his wounds.

Holding the media up for examination isn’t news, as we try to define again which media sources are more useful and which is more of a nuisance. But we watch with interest as the public is less likely to make a delineation. It’ll buy the ice cream from the stand that’s within its reach more likely than wait for the next batch to be made with more care and quality control.

We find ourselves amused, and confused, in which direction to turn for accurate information. Who wins in the long run — the short-term satisfaction instant sources or the ones established for having the patience to see how things shake out before reporting on what’s known and what isn’t?

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Our go-to source in many case, the New York Times, sums things up well on its website in its “Leading Off” blog (linked here) – again, blurring the line between what’s a mainstream source here and what’s another Internet novelty.

It surveys the landscape with links to those sites that are trying to fill in the so-called blanks. It even offers up a great Twitter-land take: Someone pointed out that Woods was “a mailbox and a parked car away from the Tiger Slam” after hitting a fire hydrant and a neighbor’s tree.

Which means, of course, this will run the course of Leno / Letterman / Kimmel / Conan.
It will lead to Golf.com (the main site of Golf magazine, a company that’s part of the Sports Illustrated family) to not only try to cover this in a responsible way but also link to a story called “Celebs weigh in on Tiger crash,” with a list of Twitter responses from those like Seth Meyers, Rainn Wilson and LPGA player Erica Blasberg (“tmz.com thanks for bringin us the real dirt!”) because, apparently, we need to know this.

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AP Photo/TMZ.com

There seems to be no line blurred when it comes to identifying news after it happens. The Associated Press is presenting a copy of a photo from TMZ.com to all its mainstream media clients today because, to tell the truth, it’s the only one who seems to have a photo of the damaged vehicle. It even comes with the strange dual photo credit of AP and TMZ. Partners in covering a crime. When it’s beneficial to both.

In the most recent past, it would have been the sports-talk radio shows driving this. Now those hosts simply pick and choose which website or blog they tend to align with and hash it out in the court of public opinion.

Again, the mainstream media types, using whatever technology is available to us, are left trying to act as impartial artibrators and clean up everyone else’s messes.

The challenge to the consumer is not just who to believe, but what you want to believe, and why you choose to believe something.

We’ll do our best to convey the information in a responsible fashion. Don’t mistake speed for inadequacy.

Those who want to doubt Tiger’s story will always be there. As a public relations move, it does his image no good to stand behind statements on his own website, or those offered by his representatives.

It put an air of dishonesty out there. There’s no transparency to this. Yet.

If you’re to believe Tiger as a family man, a product endorser or a legendary golfer, the message should come from him. As Sports Illustrated senior writer Joe Posnanski wrote on Golf.com today: “This is the first time in a long time that something big about Tiger Woods has been revealed without Tiger Woods officially endorsing it.”

Human nature will only fuel this story. And as Tiger himself admitted in some kind of statement over the last days, he’s only human himself.

The funny thing about golf: It’s the only sport where you’re supposed to call penalties on yourself. It’s a gentleman’s game that’s built on character and trust.

This isn’t a public image problem he can just swipe his American Express card at and make go away.

The media must keep trying to report what’s accurate. All we can do is hope you wait for the process to take place, rather than try to cut ahead of the line and get a better tee time.

Until then, we’ll keep an eye on the newschopper trying to follow the slow moving white Ford Bronco black Escallade as its towed to a local repair shop for further investigation.

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Play it forward: Nov. 30-Dec. 6 on your L.A. sports calendar

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MONDAY

The NFL’s top two offenses meet — the undefeated Saints (420.5 yards a game) and the twice-beaten Patriots (416.1 yards a game) — meaning someone’s going to have to play defense. New England ranks No. 7 in the league defensively; New Orleans is No. 17.
The combined record of New Orleans’ foes is also a mere 37-63; the Pats have faced a much stronger schedule. Berman, begin the bellyaching …
NFL: New England at New Orleans, 5:30 p.m., ESPN.

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TUESDAY

The Kings, est. 1967, hold the edge over the Ducks, est. 1993, by a 39-34-17 count in the regular season meetings. But in the last 10 encounters, they’re even at 4-4-2. Yeah, we know, when these two get together, they throw all the records out. Then go retrieve them, because people want to know what they are.
NHL: Kings at Ducks, Honda Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, 1150-AM, 830-AM.

Jeff Bower. He’s the Hornets current head coach, the one they picked after they excused Byron Scott. So how’s that working? Chris Paul remains injured, leaving Darren Collison to pick up the slack. Want to return your tickets now?
NBA: Lakers vs. New Orleans, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSN West, 710-AM.

WEDNESDAY

Trevor Ariza won’t have any championship ring to collect on this trip to L.A.
NBA: Clippers vs. Houston, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, 980-AM.

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THURSDAY

The winner of this one at Sherwood Country Club gets $1.35 million of the $5.75 million purse. In contention: Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Lucas Glover, Padraig Harrington, Zach Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Anthony Kim, Sean O’Hair, Kenny Perry, Ian Poulter, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker, Camilo Villegas, Mike Weir, Lee Westwood and Y.E. Yang.
Tiger Woods?
Hmmmm. Might depend on what the state troopers of Florida may have to say about things. Because this all benefits his foundation, Tiger wants to get his story straight with his wife before leaving her behind on another road trip.
Golf: First round of the Chevron World Challenge, Sherwood Country Club, Thousand Oaks, Golf Channel, noon to 3 p.m. (Golf Channel also has the second round Friday; NBC has the third and final rounds Saturday and Sunday at noon)

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To the winner of this Civil War, it’s the Rose Bowl. Not the BCS title Rose Bowl, but the other one one New Year’s Day. Oregon started it season with a Thursday night contest on ESPN — and lost to Boise State.
College football: Oregon State at Oregon, 6 p.m., ESPN.

The Longhorns have actually received some first-place voting in the latest AP poll. The Trojans, not so many. Even after that impressive win over Coppin State.
College basketball: USC at Texas, 6 p.m., ESPN2.

The Senators from Ottawa have legislated a trip to Los Angeles.
NHL: Kings vs. Ottawa, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSN West, 1150-AM.

FRIDAY

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Dwayne Wade update: Still good. Fifth in the league in scoring at more than 27 a game. Seventeenth in assists at more than 5 a click.
NBA: Lakers vs. Miami, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, FSN West, 710-AM.

SATURDAY

Winner gets the … let’s see … Little Caesars Bowl? Does the GMAC Bowl need someone of stature? Seems kinda shortchanging everyone here. Loser wonders why it was scheduled following the emotional letdown game against their rival.
College football: USC vs. Arizona, Coliseum, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7, 710-AM.

Winner gets the … BCS title game, right. Loser is sent to the Sugar Bowl, maybe to make sure Boise State pays the price for butting into the party.
College football: SEC Championship: Florida vs. Alabama, 1 p.m., Channel 2.

Winner gets … a BCS title bid. Uh, not so fast, Cornhuskers. That’s only for you, Longhorns.
College football: Big 12 Championship: Texas vs. Nebraska, 5 p.m., Channel 7.

Play this one outside at Dodger Stadium if you’re going to force us to watch hockey in the daytime.
NHL: Kings vs. St. Louis, Staples Center, 1 p.m., FSN West, 1150-AM.

Play this one outside at the Nokia Theatre if you’re going to force anyone to watch the Clippers try to keep pace with the Pacers.
NBA: Clippers vs. Indiana, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, 980-AM.

As long as they’re on a road trip, head over to Atlanta and try not to make it too embarassing.
College basketball: USC at Georgia Tech, 3 p.m., Fox Sports Southwest, 710-AM.

SUNDAY

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Let’s assess the latest damage: UCLA couldn’t win the seventh place game of something called the 76 Classic in Anaheim, losing their third in a row, by 11 points to Long Beach State. The 49ers had never beaten UCLA — 0-11 going back to 1970. Where does Ben Howland’s 2-4 team go from here? A meeting against the nation’s near unanimous top-ranked team comes visiting to Pauley. Duck n’ cover.
College basketball: UCLA vs. Kansas, Pauley Pavilion, 2:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, 570-AM.

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Last meeting, the Lakers collected a 121-102 win over the Suns, playing the second of a back-to-back, on Nov. 12. They’ve been No. 1-2 in the Pacific Division ever since.
NBA: Lakers vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., FSN West, 710-AM.

NBC picked this one from the Fox schedule recently because, well, wouldn’t you want to see Brett Favre against Kurt Warner in prime-time now that “Curb Your Enthusiasm” has ended its season?
NFL: Minnesota at Arizona, 5:15 p.m., Channel 4.

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Mike Penner (1957-2009)

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The last email correspondence I had with Mike Penner was predictable. I traded a few notes with him about some things and asked how he was doing a couple of month ago.

He responded: “Just trying to get through it.”

I checked this morning, and I still have an email address both for Penner and Christine Daniels. Mostly because I wasn’t sure which one to use after awhile. I’d send messages on both, figuring they’d reach him/her eventually.

But the news today that Mike apparently ended his tormented life at just 52 is heartbreakingly sad. It’s not fair.

Having covered some of the same beats with Mike — particularily the sports media — we crossed paths plenty of times, although I knew he’d rather have not left his house much of the time. He’d always send nice notes to me about something I’d written, and I’d return the favor. Mostly, the later.

I know of no one who has endured this daily, random hardship of trying to figure out gender assignment. For awhile, it seemed as Mike had it figured out. Once, it seemed to be settled, it wasn’t. I’m so sorry he had to endure such pain on a regular basis.

My condolences to him and his family, as well as to one of his best friends in the business, Billy Witz.

The Associated Press version of the story:

Los Angeles Times sports writer Mike Penner, who announced two years ago he was a transsexual and was changing his name to Christine Daniels, has died at age 52, the newspaper reported Saturday.

Penner was pronounced dead Friday at a hospital, said Los Angeles County coroner’s Lt. Brian Elias. He said coroner’s officials hadn’t yet performed an autopsy or issued an official cause of death.

The Times said in a story Saturday (linked here) that Penner was believed to have committed suicide. Penner had returned to using the name Mike Penner last year and was a Times columnist at the time of his death.

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In 25 years with the newspaper, Penner covered Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the Olympics, World Cup soccer, tennis and other sports. A fluid writer with a sharp wit, he worked at various times as a reporter, columnist and the newspaper’s Los Angeles Angels beat writer.

Times Editor Russ Stanton said Penner “respected our readers a great deal, enough to share with them his very personal journey.”

Penner revealed that journey on April 26, 2007, when he wrote a story for the Times headlined “Old Mike, New Christine,” in which he revealed he was taking a few weeks vacation and when he returned to his job as a sports writer it would be as a woman named Christine Daniels.

“I am a transsexual sports writer,” Penner wrote. “It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words.”

The announcement sent shock waves through the sports world, but Penner’s bosses were supportive.

As Penner himself noted, when he revealed his plans to Times Associate Editor Randy Harvey, who was then the newspaper’s sports editor, Harvey “leaned back in his chair, looked through his office window to scan the newsroom and mused, ‘Well, no one can ever say we don’t have diversity on this staff.’”

After his vacation, Penner did indeed return as Christine Daniels, not only continuing to report on sports for the Times but also authoring a blog called “Woman in Transition,” detailing his experiences.

Making public the transition, he once said, was the hardest thing he had ever done.

“How do you go about sharing your most important truth, one you spent a lifetime trying to keep deeply buried, to a world that has grown familiar and comfortable with your facade?” he asked.

At the time of his announcement he was married, and he declined to discuss his family situation. He said he was undergoing female hormone treatments but declined to say whether he planned to undergo a sex-change operation.

However, he eventually dropped the “Woman in Transition” blog and returned to writing under the name Mike Penner.

At the time of his death he was writing a column for the Times called Totally Random that focused on offbeat, lighthearted and historic moments in sports. His last one appeared in the paper on Nov. 15.

Information on survivors and funeral arrangements was not immediately available.

== The April 26, 2007 L.A. Times column: “Old Mike, new Christine” (linked here).

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== An ABC News story in April, 2007, when Daniels made her debut (linked here)

== A story SI’s Rick Reilly did on Penner/Daniels in July, 2007 (linked here)

== A link to the Daily News’ “Out in Hollywood” blog by former reporter Greg Hernandez after hearing Daniels speak at a National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association convention in San Diego in 2007 (linked here).

== A Feb., 2009 story in USA Today about how Daniels’ transgender attempt didn’t last and he’d returned to Penner (linked here).

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The Media Learning Curve: Nov. 20-27, the more dubious the better

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First, more Dubious Dozen 2009 entrants who didn’t make it into today’s yearly wrap-up column (linked here):

* Horndoggery: n.: see ESPN

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The culprit: ESPN vs. Deadspin.com

The crime: Deadspin editor AJ Daulerio, more than miffed that the World Wide Leader mislead him on reports about inappropriate behavior by then-employee Steve Phillips (eventually let go after it was confirmed the baseball analyst had an affair with an employee), began his own pursuit of “horndoggery” rumors that continued to fill his email box about things going on at the company.
The ongoing link: http://deadspin.com/tag/espnhorndoggery/

The aftermath: ESPN president George Bodenheimer sent a memo to employees in October — which Daulerio obtained eventually (linked here) — calling into question “unwanted media coverage, including a series of Internet posts where the editor expressly stated that many of these items were based on rumor and that they had not attempted to verify their accuracy. Compounding this issue is my disgust that some of our own unidentified employees are leaking materials to the media thereby contributing in a significant way to these destructive efforts.”
So, “If anyone feels that we are not living up to our commitment or that your work environment, either in our offices or at any remote location, is of concern, you can and should bring that to the attention of your supervisor … or to me personally.”
Also in October, Daulerio published the entire lawsuit filed against Deadspin by former ESPN NFL commentator Sean Salisbury (linked here).
Oh, Deadspin also made note that on Bookmaker.com, wagers were being accepted on: “Next ESPN Personality Involved In A Sex Scandal.”
“I’d go big on the underdog,” wrote Daulerio. “Just sayin’. Despicably.”

* The Beer Goggles

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The culprit: Ed Podolak, Iowa football radio analyst.

The crime: With the team for the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl, Podolak, a former Hawkeye quarterback and running back, ended up enjoying himself so much, photos showed up on the Internet, starting with Jay Christensen’s The Wiz Of Odds (linked here). Three pictures of the 61-year-old, including one where he’s looking down the blouse of a women, were also posted on an Iowa State fan Web site.
It wasn’t Podolak’s first brush with public intoxication. In 1997, Iowa City police charged Podolak with just that, plus interference with official acts, after campus police found him sleeping in the grass on the University of Iowa Pentacrest.

The aftermath: “I am embarrassed by the pictures,” he said later. “It was late in the evening at the hotel. But I am responsible to represent the university and I am embarrassed by my actions.”
Too late. A week later he said he was going to “retire” from the broadcast booth. Then he came out of retirement in March, and has been calling Hawkeye games all season, logging his comments on his blog at his official website (linked here).

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Play it forward: Nov. 23-29 on your L.A. sports calendar

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MONDAY

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Check the T-wolves roster, please … One guy from Australia. Another from Montenegro. A big man from the Ukraine. OK, all clear. Release Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith back to their chairs, with both clutching their Clipper plush toy.
NBA: Clippers vs. Minnesota, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, 980-AM.

No foolin’: After the Bruins’ victory over Cal State Bakersfield on Friday, they fell from No. 7 in the Jeff Sagarin USA Today computer poll to No. 104. And Cal State Fullerton did nothing Friday, but went up from No. 138 to No. 20. Pepperdine is … oh, what does it matter?
College basketball: UCLA vs. Pepperdine, Pauley Pavilion, 8 p.m., FSN West, 570-AM.

Keep your cameras pointed on the Titans owner up in the press box. We hear he can get pretty comical. Oh, right, he used to live in Houston, too. Probably has a lot of old friends he wants to let know he’s still thinking about ‘em after moving his Oilers out of town long ago.
NFL: Tennessee at Houston, 5:30 p.m., ESPN.

TUESDAY

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In an imperfect world, this would have been the game where Allen Iverson debuted in a Knicks uniform.
NBA: Lakers vs. New York, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSN West, 710-AM

WEDNESDAY

Michael Jordan says that other players, aside from him, deserve to have their numbers retired. He didn’t mention any former Clippers.
NBA: Clippers at Indiana, 4 p.m., Prime Ticket, 980-AM.

After averaging more than a point per game in his first 20 games this season, Anze Kopitar has just three assists and no goals in his last five.
NHL: Kings at Edmonton, 6:30 p.m., 1150-AM (no TV).

THURSDAY

On Thanksgiving, there’s this basketball tournament called the 76 Classic (linked here), in its third year, played in Anaheim that’s supposed to mean something to someone. At least it does for ESPN — giving it some programming on a day everyone would just as soon not play. The Bruins are joined by Long Beach State, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Butler, Clemson and Minnesota. We’d just as well sneak out and go across the street to Disneyland. College basketball: UCLA vs. Portland, Anaheim Convention Center, 8 p.m., ESPN2, 570-AM. (Note: UCLA plays Butler or Minnesota, TBA, on Friday and couple play in the tournament final on Sunday.

Another Kings road game with no TV coverage. Who wants to pay the crew holiday salary?
NHL: Kings at Vancouver, 7 p.m., 1150-AM (no TV).

Hold this one at the old Pontiac Silverdome, for old time’s sake, now that it’s been sold.
NFL: Green Bay at Detroit, 9:30 a.m., Channel 11.

Hold this one at the old Cowboys Stadium, for old time’s sake, now that it’s been demolished.
NFL: Oakland at Dallas, 1:15 p.m., Channel 2.

Hold this one at the old Mile High Stadium, for old time’s sake, now that it’s somewhere.
NFL: N.Y. Giants at Denver, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network.

FRIDAY

Pass.
NBA: Clippers at Detroit, 5 p.m., FSN West, 980-AM.

Probably pass, as well.
College basketball: USC vs. Coppin State, Galen Center, 7:30 p.m., usctrojans.com, 710-AM

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SATURDAY

Prediction: Both USC and UCLA finish the season 7-5, with the Bruins holding the tie-breaker for eligibility to the WhateverItIs Bowl in East Matilda, N.M. Can the Trojans live with that? Would this little girl be disappointed?
College football: UCLA at USC, Coliseum, 7 p.m., FSN West, 570-AM, 710-AM.

Charlie Weis, meet your maker. Note: If Stanford gets near the 50-point mark, don’t be too upset.
College football: Notre Dame at Stanford, 5 p.m., Channel 7.

On Friday, Golden State (4-8) earned its first victory this season over a team with a winning record when it turned away Portland, 108-94. Keep an eye on newly signed forward/center Chris Hunter, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound D-Leaguer who made his NBA debut in the second half and was effective in containing the Blazers’ Greg Oden, holding him to five points. “I’ve never seen him before, never met him before, but that guy belongs in the NBA,” Warriors coach Don Nelson.
NBA: Lakers at Golden State, Channel 9, 710-AM

The Blackhawks end a five-game roadie that started in Edmonton and went to Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim and here in 10 days. At least, it was warmer.
NHL: Kings vs. Chicago, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSN West, 1150-AM.

SUNDAY

O.J. Mayo, on your left-over turkey sandwiches.
NBA: Clippers vs. Memphis, Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, 980-AM.

If the Nets are still 0-for-the-season coming in, expect the odds to favor the Lakers.
NBA: Lakers vs. New Jersey, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., FSN West, 710-AM

Ask them to play a football game, and we’ll be there.
College basketball: USC vs. Nebraska, Galen Center, 1:30 p.m., FSN West, 710-AM.

The Sunday night game has potential.
NFL: Pittsburgh at Baltimore, Channel 4, 5:20 p.m.

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Get out to Hollywood Park for a tribute to Zenyatta, where she’ll be paraded around between races, fans get a DVD with highlights of all her 14 races (all wins) and you can buy a beer for owners Jerry and Ann Moss, trainer John Shirreffs and jockey Mike Smith.
Horse racing: Hollywood Park, Inglewood, first post: 12:30 p.m.

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More on Vijay: The success stories don’t end here

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The Vijay Amritraj Foundation Vijay Amritraj visits the Samrakshan Orphanage in India during a recent trip for his VAF foundation.

A postscript to today’s column on Vijay Amritraj (linked here):

Amritraj tells a story that occured a couple of years ago, when the women’s pro tennis tour had an event in India at the same time he was there to visit the Mitra Jyothi charity, which helps blind women shunned by their families and helps them create skills such as basket weaving and carpet making.

“I decided to present a check from the foundation to the head of the project — this 4 foot, 11 inch blind woman — at center court of the WTA event, and she stood there between me and Venus Williams,” said Amritraj, who is 6-foot-4. “Venus looks at me after this and says, ‘She makes me feel this big with all she’s done,’” as he holds his finger and thumb on his right hand just an inch apart.

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During a visit at his Van Nuys office, not far from his long-time Encino home, Amritraj had plenty of other tales about his visits with those in need in his native India, and how the motto of his foundation — In Giving, We Receive — means more to him now than it did when he started the non-profit in 2006.

For example — a group of mentally challenged men, prone to violent outbursts, are suddenly joking with him as he pays a visit to their group home and spends the next 90 minutes listening to them talk about the times they’ve seen him lose big matches during his impressive tennis playing career. He watches a surgery on a blind young man where they take a tooth from deep inside his mouth and implant it under the skin near his eye for form a natural membrane, which is then taken out and used as a cover for the new pupil, giving the patient the chance to see colors for the first time.

“It’s a wonderful gift to be able to give,” he says quite modestly. “And who’s to say which charity is better or worse than another? There have been a number of great philanthropic attempts from the United States. This country is truely a miracle worker. By far, Americans are the world’s greatest givers — by far — and for the way Americans are sometimes described around the world, I’ll never understand it. We have so much to learn from the people like the Bill Gates and Warren Buffets of the world.”

And from how they help the poor around the world. In India, it’s not just the visuals of children playing in the trash heaps of “Slumdog Millionaire,” being bought and sold as slaves.

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For the grace of God, Amritraj knows that he and his two brothers became pro tennis players almost by accident, then had success in the Davis Cup as well as on the pro tour as a doubles team and singles competitors that brought them both riches well beyond their dreams. Vijay, Anand and Ashok Amritraj — who all live in the San Fernando Valley now — were among the first Indians to play in top-flight international tour tennis. In 1976, Vijay and Anand were semifinalists in the Wimbledon men’s doubles.

Ashok is chairman and CEO of Hyde Park Entertainment in Hollywood, which has produced movies such as “Bringing Down The House, “Raising Helen,” “Shop Girl” and “Walking Tall.”

Vijay, the chairman of First Serve Entertainment, says he visits India seemingly once a month, in part because his parents still live there — they’ll be celebrating their 60th anniversary in December — but also to tend to some businesses there and, more importantly, visit some of the projects that his foundation is helping to fund.

He also travels a lot for the Singapore-based ESPN Star Sports network, doing commentator work on tennis and golf programming. His oldest son, Prakash, is a 26-year-old veteran now of the men’s pro tennis tour, several years removed from a championship season at USC. Amritraj’s other son, Vikram, is involved in hip-hop music production.

“I know, from my end, I’m very fortunate to have the parents I have,” said Amritraj. “I could just as easily been in a hole. Who’s to say how I ended up? My life has been so ludicracy blessed. I have to constantly ask myself — Did I deserve this?”

Consider making a donation or attending the Dec. 4-5 VAF fundraiser in Calabasas and Beverly Hills. Sponsors who have underwritten the event include American Airlines, Sony Entertainment Television, Disney, Rolex, IREO, Highglow, Tennis Channel, Standard Chartered and TATA.

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Vijay Amritraj accepts appointment as a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2001.

== More to look at:
== The Vijay Amritraj Foundation official site (linked here)
== A list of the charities that the VAF funds, including St. Vincents Home for AIDS Patients, Center for the Aged and Mitra Jyothi, which provides education and life skills to blind women (linked here)

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Our Daily Dread: Lawler-Smith punished after one email objection; media hijinx ensue

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And that guy who did so — we’re going with a Clipper season-seat holder named Arya Towfighi, since the L.A. Times has so gracefully printed his name in today’s edition — is responsible for having Michael Eaves replace Ralph Lawler (and Don MacLean over Michael Smith, a noted improvement) during the Clippers-Nuggets broadcast on Prime Ticket Friday night.

Put on a raincoat and goggles if you’re ready to enter this crapstorm:

Issue 1: The coverage:

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== Today’s L.A. Times’ “HOLY $*!# MAN WALKS ON MOON” approach makes it look as if the U.S. has just declared war on Iran. A story with all-out caps, taking up more than 50 percent of the front page, buries an otherwise more interesting piece of news — the Clippers just registered their biggest win of the season, an improbable 7-point victory over the Denver Nuggets, who a week ago destroyed the Lakers. If you take the Times’ front page at face value, it looks as if: a) Lawler died, b) a mean looking guy for the Memphis Grizzlies wants revenge, c) it was a very, very, very, very, very slow news day and someone’s knee jerk judgment got in the way — almost as fast as someone’s did at FSN before this decision was finally made.
“WORDS GET IN THEIR WAY” read the headline. Story gets in L.A. Times’ way is how it came out.

== The L.A. Daily News — my employer — played it as a seperate story, inside, above the story about the Clippers’ victory. At first, I believed it was being overplayed. I wasn’t sure what the purpose of this “story” was about or the message we were delivering — outside of describing what was said and their was a suspension taking place.
Earlier in the night, when this story appeared on the Associated Press wire services, I was alerted to it by my boss. My intial reaction: There’s got to be more to this. I’ll make some calls, see what I can find out. Since that’s all the information we had — four paragraphs, without a transcript — we decided that it was worth placing at the end of the Clippers’ game story, which was reported by the Associated Press. We’d make note of it, we’ll follow up later if there seems to be more news to this. That was exactly how it was displayed in the Daily Breeze — on page 10 of their section today.
Somehow, the earlier Daily News gameplan changed, and it was displayed larger with a headline, but not that was a far more reasonable approach to it than how the Times went carpetbagging with it.

Issue 2: How this story came to be:
The Times, according to its story, was one of three place where this angered viewer sent his email, taking offense to how Lawler and Smith talked about Memphis big-man Hamed Haddadi, the first Iranian player to make the NBA, as he entered the game against the Clippers on Wednesday. The person emailed them a transcript of what was said about Haddadi — using terms that referred to Sasha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” character, pronouncing his native country as “Eye-ran.”
About 2-plus hours before the game, FSN West/Prime Ticket issued some sort of press release explaining why Lawler/Smith were being replaced by Eaves/MacLean, how what they said was inappropriate, issued apologies, and explained that they took appropriate action — with no mention that Lawler and Smith had been taken off the air. Sorry, but you not only buried the lead, you didn’t even report your “appropriate” action. That’s very appropriate for a company that, of late, has no tact in dealing with the local media, and I’ve come to accept that as well. It’s almost as if they’ve become the Clippers of the local media entities. It’s a place where good people no longer work, and other good people have been let go for budgetary reasons that go beyond any quality explanation.
In the end, this was apparently a story created for the Times, about the Clippers and with FSN West/Prime Ticket’s steering. They had ownership and were going to move forward.

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Issue 3: The punishment:
Did Lawler and Smith deserve to be taken off the air and made an example of for what they said? Not based on their inglorious track record.
The two have been a Punch-n-Judy nightclub act for the last eight years. Stories have actually been written about how “fun” it is to listen to them exchange crazy thoughts and ideas as another lame loss goes into the books. Why else would anyone watch a Clipper game, if not because they enjoyed the broadcaster’s chemistry, idle banter and poor-man Abbott and Costello routines. Neither are close to being my favorite broadcasters, but I accept the fact others like them, so, as an athlete says when he has no explanation for something: It is what it is.
So, let’s review — they are encouraged to get a little silly. And, here, they do. And someone hears it. How? Chances are — seriously — that no exec at FSN West/Prime Ticket would have even been aware this was said except for ONE EMAIL that was sent. In our opinion, they did cross a line, but nothing that is outlandish in this day in age. But by the same token comment, it should be reported, dealt with, explained, used as a teaching moment, and you shake your head and move forward. If one person is offended, you take note. If two are offended, you add it to the pile.
From what appears to be only ONE EMAIL, all this action took place.
But then again, considering the parties involved, it makes perfect nonsense. The Times, the Clippers and FSN West/Prime Ticket are stumbling over themselves today wondering if they did the right thing, while at the same time, probably feeling some pride that they did something newsworthy. It’s ripe for a Three Stooges script.

One other thing: The Times’ story adds that “this isn’t the first time Fox has disciplined an announcer for on-air comments,” and then gets into the Steve Lyons firing in the 2006 ALCS. That was Fox, the big network, handling something said after Lyons had been on thin ice for many seasons. This is Fox Sports Net West/Prime Ticket, a different “thing” in the Fox pecking order, and a stretch at best in what happened here.

Issue 4: More on the punishment:
Lawler and Smith get suspended.
Norm Nixon (linked here) gets a DUI in Marina del Rey last March. FSN West kept him on the air as a pre- and post-game studio analyst through the Lakers regular season and playoff run. If he was punished for this, there was no press release issued. If he was not punished…. find the logic.

Some great reaction today:
== The Miami Herald website (linked here)

Follow me now on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tomhoffarth

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