Coming Friday: A day off the beach with Dain Blanton


Dain Blanton, the two-time U.S. Olympic beach volleyball player who won gold in 2000, knows he doesn’t have a path paved in gold as he segues into a sportscasting career that currently finds him as a sideline reporter for the Clippers’ home and road games on Prime Ticket.

Maybe that’s what keeps him pushing forward.

“I’ve loved being around sports my whole life, and with volleyball everything changed,” the former Pepperdine volleyball star told us the other day. “You’d train during the week and be gone on weekends. Every day was different. Covering a team (like the Clippers) is similar in having a consistency in a non-traditional way — some days travel, some days practice, some days off.

“I’ve never wanted to be front of the camera. The draw was more for me to be around sports. Sports has always had a positive impact on my life. And the bottom line, it’s entertainment. I’m trying to convey a message and do it in a comfortable way to bring someone closer to the game. I want to be able to tell you what happened in the huddle or what LeBron James told Blake Griffin as he whispered in his ear.”

Just prior to tipoff at the Clippers-Cavs game on Prime Ticket last Saturday, James called Griffin over for a brief conversation. Griffin had just found out he was going to have season-ending knee surgery, and was in street clothes next to the Clippers’ bench.

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After their meeting, Blanton went up to Griffin and asked him what happened, then reported on it during the game.

“He told him to hang in there, get back healthy and be the player he could be,” Blanton told the TV audience. “For a guy like Blake, that must have been a pretty cool experience. That has to be encouraging.”

As week 2 of the 18th annual Best and Worst of the L.A. Media polls come out — our yearly power rankings, if you will — Blanton is in the spotlight again.

More ….

== Blanton’s website (
== Blaton’s Beach Volleyball Database bio (linked here)
== Blanton’s 2008 induction into the Pepperdine Athletic Hall of Fame (linked here)
== A 1998 Jet magazine story on how Blanton is attracting more African Americans to beach volleyball (linked here)

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30 in 30: The next wave of ESPN docs


ESPN’s already most fulfilling project in its 30-year existence — “30 in 30” sports documentaries, which have covered such subjects as the rise and fall of the USFL, the University of Miami football program, Wayne Gretzky’s arrival in L.A. and the live and times of Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder — has a few more slotted for the coming months.

The latest release indicates that the next swam will include:


== “Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks”

The 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, Miller scores eight points in 8.9 seconds to push Indiana past New York, and mixes it up with Spike Lee. Director Dan Klores shows how the former UCLA star became New York’s Public Enemy No. 1. Airs March 14.

== “No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson”

On Valentine’s Day 1993, 17-year-old Bethel High School basketball star Allen Iverson was bowling in Hampton, Va., with five high school friends. A quarrel erupted into a brawl. Iverson ended up in jail in a city divided along racial lines. Director Steve James, who did “Hoop Dreams,” returns to his hometown of Hampton to see how this impacted the community. Airs April 13.

== “Silly Little Game”

How did fantasy sports start? It can be traced to a group of writers and academics who met at La Rotisserie Francaise in New York to form a baseball league — The Rotisserie League. Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen explain how it evolved into a $4 billion industry with 30 million participants. Airs April 20.

== “Run Ricky Run”

In 2004, while most in the media thought Ricky Williams was ruining his life by leaving football, he thought he was saving it, living in a $7 a night tent in Australia. Director Sean Pamphilon looks at the life of the Miami Dolphins running back and how he came back. Airs April 27.


== “Straight Outta L.A.”

The Raiders, according to rapper-turned-filmmaker Ice Cube, who moved from Oakland to L.A. in 1982 and captivated black and Hispanic fans during a time of gang warfare, immigration and real estate expansion. As a member of the controversial rap group N.W.A, Ice Cube helped make the silver and black culturally significant. He looks at how the Raiders changed the city before moving away in 1994. Airs May 4.

== “The Two Escobars”

Born in the same city in Colombia with the same last name, Andres Escobar and Pablo Escobar shared a childhood love for soccer. Andres grew up to become one of Colombia’s most beloved players; Pablo rose through the ranks of the criminal underground to become not only the most notorious drug baron of all time, but also arguably the secret weapon responsible for Colombian soccer’s unprecedented rise to glory. After Columbia’s early elimination from the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Andres Escobar was mysteriously murdered. There’s a connection to Pablo, as director Jeff Zimbalist explores. Airs May 11.


== “June 17, 1994”

Arnold Palmer played his last U.S. Open round at Oakmont, the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Chicago, the New York Rangers celebrated their first Stanley Cup in 54 years … and O.J. Simpson led police on a slow-speed chase down the 405. Director Brett Morgen weaves it all together. Airs June 16.

== “The 16th Man”

If you’ve seen “Invictus,” you’ll know this story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, when South African president Nelson Mandela tried to unify his country with the Springboks. Morgan Freeman, who plays Mandella in “Invictus,” joins producer Lori McCreary and director Cliff Bestall to tell the story again. Airs June 22.

== Other previously announced “30 for 30” projects that have yet to air include Academy Award winner Bill Couturi doing “Guru of Go,” on the 1991 Loyola Marymount basketball team coached by Paul Westhead and John SIngledon doing “Marion Jones: Press Pause.”

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Latest Abby Sunderland launch target date: Saturday


After delays that go back to November related to acquiring the right vessel, having new equipment tested and shifts in global weather patterns, the around-the-world voyage of Abby Sunderland is tentatively set for Saturday at about 11:30 a.m. from the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey.

The 16-year-old from Thousand Oaks can become the youngest in history to circumnavigate the globe without assistance and without touching land.

Abby, who with brother Zac was named the 2009 Daily News Sportspersons of the Year, is trying to be the youngest to get around the world solo as another 16-year-old, Jessica Watson of Australia, is also in route, having left in Oct. 2009. Watson is five months older than Abby.

“I’ve been ready to go now for many weeks,” said Abby. “A technical issue followed by some weather delays has pushed back my departure, but I’m feeling strong and sound and ready to soberly embrace this challenge.”

More on the trip:

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A horrible, incorrigible 18: What to make of the Suns-TNT disfunctional relationship


We had stopped keeping track of how many times the Phoenix Suns lost when they played games on the TNT cable network, until it came up again Monday night during the Lakers-Orlando telecast, and Marv Albert made note of it. The MLK Day tripleheader on TNT began with the Suns losing in Memphis, 125-118.

For the 18th time in a row on the net.

“Did you get any messages from your old (broadcast) partner Steve Kerr?” asked Albert’s current partner, Doug Collins. Kerr is the Suns’ GM.

“No, but I might be hearing from him soon,” said Albert.

What, asking for his job back?

The Suns haven’t won a game on TNT since March 13, 2008, which was a playoff contest against San Antonio. That stretch of 18 includes two playoff losses and two exhibition losses, both in outdoor games at the Indian Wells Tennis Center.

Monday’s loss shouldn’t be all that shocking. The Suns finished an 0-4 roadie and have lost 10 of their last 11 away from Phoenix. They’re 10-15 in their last 25.

So what does anyone make of this implausable run of bad luck between a team and a network?

Last December, when the streak hit 17 following a 105-102 loss in Portland, something called “Larry Brown Sports” wrote:

“To make the loss look even worse, the Suns were up by 11 entering the fourth quarter … How can this bizarre losing streak possibly be explained? Let’s ask Suns GM Steve Kerr:

‘It’s bizarre,’ Kerr said. ‘ …it’s not like we don’t beat good teams on ESPN. There’s no explanation. Let’s pin it on Charles. He brings that negative vibe all the time.’

“Part of the losing streak is attributed to playing weak competition; Phoenix wouldn’t be losing 17 in a row if they were playing the likes of Memphis and Oklahoma City on TNT.”

Except, they lost No. 18 against Memphis.

The players know all about it.

Before Monday’s game, Suns guard Jared Dudley posted on Twitter:

TNT game tonight.. Have to break the curse.. Were to good of a team to have any losing streak.. Have to get back on track tonight.. Let’s Go

Allen Moll on (linked here) notes that during all games Phoenix plays on other networks during this streak, its record is above the .650 winning clip.

The Suns’ TNT losses have come by an average of 11.2 points. The only games they almost won were a Jan. 15, 2009 game at Denver, when Grant Hill was tripped on a potential game-winner with no call, and an Indian Wells exhibition when rookie Earl Clark missed a late 3-pointer to tie.

The Lakers have beaten the Suns by margins of 19, 26 and 13 along the way.

“One, it has to do with the competition. Two, after a while, it’s mental,” said Suns forward Jared Dudley. “People do think about it early on. It’s a different team than last year. I guarantee we’re going to win one game on TNT this year. I don’t know what game but we will win one.”

The Suns’ next TNT appearance: Thursday, Jan. 28 against Dallas. They could make it 20 in a row on Thursday, March 4 against Utah. After that, it may be wait’ll next year.

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The best L.A. sports moment for 2009 is … you pick again … and we’ll give you ours


The 2009 L.A. Sports Awards won’t be given out until Feb. 19, at the just opened JW Marriott at L.A. Live, but you can have a say in it.

Voting is taking place at the L.A. Sports Council’s official site (linked here) and ends on Jan. 31.

Each Southern California pro team, university and association nominated its top three moments for 2009. The moment — it’s defined as “anything from a specific instant in time — such as a winning goal, hit or shot — to a special event, individual or team record, or career achievement.” It must have taken place in the local area or by a local athlete or team.

If you want our opinion, the best moments we picked:

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