Play it forward: June 21-27 on your sports calendar

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

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MONDAY

Tennis: Wimbledon, first round, 3:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., ESPN:

Starts today, ends July 4. Great, if you’re an American thinking of making a splash on the Fourth of July (i.e., Andy Roddick). Or if you’re a streaker. Best news about the event so far: Vuvuzelas have been banned. Ian Ritchie, the tennis club’s top exec, issued a statement Thursday saying spectators would not be allowed to bring in any noise-making devices that have annoyed so many watching the World Cup. “Out of courtesy to the players and their fellow spectators, we make a point of asking spectators not to bring items which could either cause a distraction or interfere with the enjoyment of the occastion,” the statement said. “Rattles, klaxons and vuvuzelas all fall into that category … Our messsage is do not bring them in the first place.” The official website (linked here) can tell you much more. And it’s all in English.

TUESDAY

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MLB: Dodgers at Angels, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., Channel 9, FSW:

The Angels’ new homestand actually runs parallel to Wimbledon — it’s 12 games in a row at Anaheim ending on the Fourth of July. In the first phase of Freeway Series last weekend, the Angels took all three at Dodger Stadium. Don’t expect the table to turn here. The Angels haven’t been swept in a series at home since June 2007.

WEDNESDAY

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FIFA World Cup: U.S. vs. Algeria, 7 a.m., ESPN:

Algerian culture is rich in proverbs. Such as: “If you want the object to be solid, mold it out of your own clay.” And: “None but a mule denies his origin.” And: “The iron is struck while it is hot.” That last one may pertain to having a hot striker ironing out any problem a team could have.

MLB: Dodgers at Angels, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime, FSW:

John Ely, bounced around in his last outing against the Angels, and at Cincinnati, has his spot in the rotation come up again for the Dodgers.

THURSDAY

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NBA draft, 4 p.m., ESPN:

At a site called NBADraft.net (linked here), not to be confused with any official league internet desination, the Clippers’ No. 8 overall pick will be wasted on someone named Luke Babbitt, a 6-foot-9 foward from Nevada, the Lakers will take two non-descript players with their two second-round choices (or trade them away, as they’ve done in the past), and outside of Washington’s Quincy Pondexter, who could go to the Washington Wizards in the second round, there won’t be a Pac-10 player picked. So there you go.

WNBA: Sparks at Washington, 4 p.m.:

The Sparks could have as many picks in the NBA draft as the Lakers. Their road trip continues in Atlanta on Sunday.

MLB: Dodgers at Angels, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime, FSW:

It’s the last meeting between the I-5 rivals, but what if this L.A. vs. that L.A. played 18 times a year, in the same division, nastiness building on a monthly basis instead of just six interleague tiffs crammed into the schedule so early as to not make much of a difference by the end of September. “It’s been floated around,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre admitted recently. Torre and Angels manager Mike Scioscia are both involved in commissioner Bud Selig’s Special Committee of On-Field Matters. “The passion is here,” Torre agreed. “(The rivalries) are different, but not one better than the other. Even if it’s more laid back here, (the matchup) is still No. 1 on their lists.” It could be part of an All-California Division, right? “It sure would be much easier for travel and seem to make a lot more sense,” Torre agreed. “The only way you can make sure it’s gonna fly is if the fans accept it. This isn’t really a game that’s changed its rules a lot. That would be a huge step.” Just putting it out there.

FRIDAY

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MLB: Dodgers vs. New York Yankees, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime:

If Manny Ramirez was the focus of attention last weekend in Fenway, Joe Torre will be in the spotlight for this one, managing against the team he took to four world championships and six AL pennants from 1996 to 2007. In those 12 years, he won 1,173 games, more than half of the 2,280-plus career wins he’s had in 29 total years as a manager. We could keep throwing more stats up there, but what would it matter? There are supposedly no tickets left for this series because the Dodgers tied them into season-ticket packages and have been marketing this for months. Someday, the Dodgers could play a three-game series at the new Yankee Stadium. That would be much more noteworthy.

MLB: Angels vs. Colorado, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:

The Angels, by luck and not by choice, should miss hot Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jiminez, scheduled to pitch at home against Boston on Wednesday. He could have been the first player named Ubaldo to ever perform in Anaheim. The teams also face off Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 12:35 p.m.

NHL Draft, Staples Center, first round, 4 p.m., Versus:

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The Kings host the annual draft for the first time in franchise history, and why not? Many of the big picks in the last few years have become Kings’ property. They have nine picks in this one, including 19th overall. If you want to attend, check out the info at lakings.com/nhldraft. Again, going off the board, at MyNHLDraft.com (linked here), which has nothing to do with anything, they say the Kings will take Quinton Howden, a 6-foot-2 left winger from Moose Jaw of the WHL. The NHL Network has rounds 2-7 on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Or you can go see the movie “Grown Ups” that is released today: Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Kevin James, David Spade and Chris Rock play five grown-ups who won a youth basketball title and now come together for their coach’s funeral. Then they play together again.

SATURDAY

MLB: Dodgers vs. New York Yankees, Dodger Stadium, 4 p.m., Channel 11:

Don’t let the shadows at Dodger Stadium confuse you. It’s not a playoff game. Just a late start to it’s in prime time for the East Coast.

MLS: Galaxy at Toronto FC, 4:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel; Chivas USA vs. FC Dallas, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Not to be confused with any games going on in South Africa at this time.

SUNDAY

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MLB: Dodgers vs. New York Yankees, Dodger Stadium, 5 p.m., ESPN:

You already know the storyline here. What a shock it would be to see Adrian Grenier in the stands tonight for the nationally televised game. That’s because the HBO show “Entourage” starts its seventh season tonight. To catch you up: After an accident during the filming of his latest action flick, Vince (Grenier) has developed a new lease on life that makes him even more difficult to manage. The rest of the guys — Drama, Turtle, Eric — try to map out their futures, while Ari (Jeremy Piven) looks to add to his resume as “the biggest agent in the world” by forging an alliance with the NFL. Mike Tyson is supposed to make a guest appearance this season, to punch up the plot. Derek Jeter would seem ripe for an appearance.

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The Cooperstown caravan begins

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No media column today. Nothing over the weekend.
Instead, posting right now from JFK in NY, watching Serbia upset Germany, having just survived a redeye, waiting for a JetBlue connector to Syracuse, and from there, a rental car to …
Cooperstown.
For Father’s Day weekend.
Will take a behind-the-scenes tour on Saturday, after participating in the Father-Son catch at Doubleday Field.
Also have tickets to the Classic (Old-Timers Game) on Sunday, which will include Jay Johnstone (got a call into him to see if we can hook up somewhere).
All’s very good — watched Game 7 of the NBA Finals from a sports bar at LAX on Thursday night. Just about every TSA person had left their post to watch the big screen for the final few minutes. Which explains how we got through security so quickly upon arrival.
There was an Obama-esque feeling to the celebration in the airport — so much unity in the community, as Vic the Brick would say. Or it was like when Tiger Woods won his first Masters in 1997, and all the workers from the area came out to see him make history on the 18th green. We were surrounded by all the LAX workers it seemed, from all the restaurants, bars, security, concessions, custodians — all in one loud voice.
Pretty neat, actually. And no planes were tipped over and lit on fire.
Will report back periodically this weekend and do more indepth with photos, etc.

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Father’s Day hammock ideas, for better or worse

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Aside from what you’ve seen reviewed during the month of April from our baseball book review list (linked here), consider these for potential Father’s Day gifts:

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== “Are We Winning? Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball,” by Will Leitch ($24.99, Hyperion, 293 pages, linked here):

It’s got Dad’s Day written all over it.
Yet I see I’ve bookmarked this at page 149 but haven’t continued it over the last couple of weeks.
I admire what Leitch has done with this — put into context his baseball experience, with a game between his (and his dad’s) Cardinals and his friend’s Cubs at Wrigley Field as the conveyor belt. I’m identifying more to his friend Mark in this case, so maybe that’s the unexpected U-turn I ended up taking by accident in the process and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing in Leitch’s approach to all this.
He’s selling today’s game as something that’s worth buying, despite all its faults, especially when it continues that father-son connection. I’m buying it.
But I’ve also skipped ahead, to a chapter that covers the top of the fifth, and Leitch’s examination of today’s media, where the Internet has changed the rules, and he’s really embraced it.
“Some reporters have bristled at the industry’s change, making themselves into martyrs of a new age, blasting sports reporting’s transformation as the death knell to all that they hold dear. I understand. I worked at an old small town movie theatre in high school … now there are multiplexes, with digital prints downloaded and programmed. The job I loved no longer exists. That mades me sad. But it does not make me blame the digital prints. Movies look better now, too.”
But Journalism (with a capital J, or even lower case) is hardly better for the technological advancement. Maybe it will be. But I’m having a tough time with that as I see the product in one way spread to the masses and open new windows of thought, but also deteriorate into a product that like giving a set of car keys to everyone who can type. Eventually, there’s more accidents, traffic problems, Sig Alerts, cleanups, repair bills … for society, is it better to let everyone on the Information Super Highway (are the kids still calling it that?) while the Amber Alerts are telling us that another story has been hijacked and we all have to suffer for it.
I like hearing more voices, but I’ve got enough voices in my head creating traffic-tower reverberration. I think I’ve adapted as well as I’d like so far (thanks for reading this blog this deep into the converation).
I’m trying to be onboad with Leitch as he escorts me into this new age of reporting. He’s going to have to pull the rope harder. Maybe we need to sit down at a game together and talk this out.
I’ll give this one another try sooner rather than later. I’m still sad.
When I get over it, I’ll resume.

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== “Sports From Hell: My Search for the World’s Dumbest Competition,” by Rick Reilly ($26, Doubleday, 204 pages, linked here).

This did not pique our interest when we first heard about it (from him, actually, while he was between jobs), or a month ago (linked here) when we kept stumbling onto to his pimping his ride. In fact, we’ve kind of repelled from this, despite the great concept (which we also think has been done before, and possibly better, linked here).
What kind of irks us again, with another read, is Reilly picking Homeless Soccer as one of his “dumbest.” It’s the last chapter in this book, after World Sauna Championships, Ferrett Legging, Bull Poker, The Three-Mile Golf Hole, Rock Paper Scissors, Women’s Pro Football, Chess Boxing, Drinking Games, Zorbing, Baseball (yes, baseball, because it provides some funny lines for him to use), Nude Bicycling and Jarts.
Homeless Soccer was too good to make fun of.
“You combine a very dumb sport by itself — soccer — with an even dumber premise, and you’re there! … If a homeless team did happen to win the Homeless World Cup, where would they put it? In their grocery cart?”
Stop, my heart is splitting.
Even after he figures out the benefits of this event — helping people who happen to be without a home bring some hope in their lives — Reilly continues to make fun of it.
Until the very end, when in his concluding chapter he admits: “You couldn’t see the face of one of those homeless soccer players as he soaked in a standing ovation … Really, considering my preconceived notions of what these sports would be like vs. what most of them actually were like, maybe I was the dumbest of all.”
Again, it’s Reilly making it about Reilly, making the journey into Reilly and coming out even more Reilly than before.
How dumb.
I’m surprised he hasn’t launched a seperate book on this sport now, praising it. Put in the files. Right after you’re done explaining how you’ve been transformed by Special Olyjmpics — which you originally thought was really dumb.

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== Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s,” by Dan Epstein ($25.99, St. Martin’s Press, 340 pages, linked here):

Great concept. Bland execution. With all that great material?
The cover, featuring Oscar Gamble’s Afro, Bill Buckner’s mustache and Mark Fidrych standing there, is a great sell job. But year by year, Epstein writes about what happened as if it was a Wikipedia entry. In between, he manages to get into what’s the juice of the decade — ashtray stadiums, Astroturf, polyester uniforms, hair, and promotions. But again, it feels like we’re watching from afar. Maybe we experienced it, but it’s hardly jogging our memory. This seems only to want to document it rather than revel in it. Where’s the quotes from those who lived it, and now may regret it? I lost interest in the middle of the chapter telling us about ’74, which is strange, since it was leading to the Dodgers finally getting to the World Series. Someone can try this again, with a little more “Starsky and Hutch” flair it deserves.

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== “Traded: Inside the Most Lopsided Trades in Baseball History,” by Doug Decatur ($19.95, Acta Sports, 187 pages, linked here):

Go first to the appendix and see the “notice to player of release or transfer” document that Decatur managed to save that involved his great uncle, Art Decatur, when he was traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in 1925. To see the words “you are unconditionally released” crossed out, and the trade explained to him on a card signed by Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson, is too good for words.
Was that the worst trade in Dodgers’ history?
Of course not. It was when Fred Claire gave the Montreal Expos the rights to future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez in exchange for second baseman Delino Deshields in 1994.
Not so fast, says Decatur.
By a system he’s developed that considers the future value of players acquired in a given trade, weighted value of players at the time of the deal, etc., etc., he first manages to explain why the Cincinnati Reds dealing Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Papas and two others in 1966 was only the 17th worst trade in Reds’ history (with apologizies to a line from “Bull Durham”).
Then he breaks down why Martinez-for-DeShields isn’t even in the top 10 worst in Dodgers’ history.
And in the grand list of the top 306 lopsided trades in baseball history, Martinez-DeShields is at No. 255.
We can’t explain it. We can only report it.
According to Decatur’s data, the Dodgers’ best trade in franchise history was in 1939, obtaining eventual Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese from the Boston Red Sox for Red Evans, Art Parks and cash. It’s No. 24 on the all-time list.
The most lopsided trade ever, ever? Not the Boston Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 in 1920.
Try — seriously — the Houston Astros obtaining Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley from the Baltimore Orioles in 1991 for Glenn Davis? By the formula, this deal is 609 on New Future Wins Shares; Ruth-to-N.Y. was 576.
We could read this for hours. And we have. Befuddled. But enlightened. And amused. And that’s half the battle with engaging a reader. This book has done it.

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June 15, 1985: The Express at Pierce College, as I remember it

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Twenty-five years ago today, I wasn’t even sure where Pierce College was. Woodland Hills? OK.

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I knew the San Fernando Valley was somewhere north of Westwood. I saw signs pointing toward the place when I’d head up the 101 toward the central coast.

Steve Young, on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, made his one and only stop at Pierce on this day when he was about half his current age.

As the quarterback in his second year with the United States Football League’s Los Angeles Express, Young had already resigned himself to the fact he’d be heading to the NFL the next season — the Tampa Bay Bucs drafted him out of BYU, but he and agent Leigh Steinberg decided to take a $40 million deal from the spring pro league offered by Express owner Bill Oldenberg.

They’d progressed to the playoffs the year before. Then Oldenberg’s financial world crumbled, the league offices took over the Express, and by the time they’d played out their 1985 schedule, they’d drawn less than 10,000 a game at the Coliseum. They decided, for their final home contest, they’d move it to Pierce College to see if they could drum up a new ownership group who might want to keep the team afloat, as the rest of the league was about to challenge the NFL in the fall of 1986 and eventually take them to court — only to lose by embarassing measures.

Before that, this was the league’s most embarassing moment.

One way or another, this was the last time the Express would be in L.A. And Pierce College did the best it could to accomodate on short notice. The 90,000-seat Coliseum had filled to just about 12,000 for the last three Express games. This couldn’t have been worse.

Yeah, right.

Because covering the Express at that time was more about what was happening off the field rather than on it — who’d bought their way out of a contract, what coaches disappeared, what part of Poliwog Park in Manhattan Beach was off limits as the Express headquarters, what gate was locked and how would Young fare scaling the chain-linked fence to get his paycheck without ripping his jeans — this game against the Arizona Outlaws and quarterback Doug Williams wasn’t much on the radar until it actually happened.

I carpooled with Express communications chief Herb Vincent from his Redondo Beach apartment, because I feared I’d get lost. We were told the college was by this new place called The Warner Center, but that meant nothing.

Piece’s athletic director at the time, Bob O’Connor, saw this as a way to get his school some attention, and possible revenue for the future. If the league could rent Pierce’s football field, it could boost Valley business as well. Pierce football coach Jim Fenwick was in charge of arranging for locker rooms and operating the stadium that day.

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Don Klosterman, the Express general manager who’d built this team, and acting USFL Commissioner Harry Usher, who was Peter Ueberroth’s right-hand man during operation of the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics, had convinced Valley businessmen to take a look at this opportunity.

The Express did their homework — it cited a UCLA study that showed 1.5 million lived within a 20-mile radius of Pierce, and nearly 2.1 million lived in the San Fernando Valley.

Pierce found a way with temporary seating to expand from 5,500 to 15,000 seats, but as many of us noticed when we walked it, it seemed as if it was a stadium under construction for a movie shoot. The fact they said that it could expand to 35,000 if the Express were to move there seemed nearly impossible to imagine.

Sportswriters covering this were asked to “compete” in a pre-game field-goal kicking contest. I was there representing the Daily Breeze, with Chris Dufresne of the L.A. Times, Dave Shelburne of the Daily News, Steven Herbert (now with City News Service), Gene Zaleski of the Santa Monica Outlook, plus a couple others whose name (probably better for them) escape me now. Who won? Does it matter? The winner was probably offered a one-game contract with the Express. Who wanted that?

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In the press box, space was tight, and I was seated in the front row next to this very nice, recognizable gentleman who told me he was an NFL scout. I had no idea, until someone else filled me in: That was Marv Levy, who’d become the head coach that fall of the Buffalo Bills and go on to make four trips to the Super Bowl.

The game — can’t remember much, except a lot of dust was kicked up at Shepard Stadium. There were pot holes, some filled with sand, and spots painted green on a field that wasn’t really up to speed for a June football game. They’d probably had a rodeo at the place more recently than any kind of athletic event.

The official attendance was listed as 8,200, but there were no turnstyles to make that accurate. There was no TV coverage. Randy Rosenbloom and Ron Glazer did the play-by-play and color for the broadcast on KWNK-AM. Raiders owner Al Davis was also lurking around.

The Express players — 37 strong, due to many injuries at this point and no money to find replacements — showed up on a bus, but we didn’t know until later how that almost didn’t happen. The bus driver taking them from Manhattan Beach had been stiffed by the team in the past, so he wasn’t leaving until he was paid. Head coach John Hadl wrote him a check. The driver turned it down. Young started rallying everyone to cough up some cash, but most of the players were wallet-challenged. The trainer, who had just been paid, ran down to the bank, cashed his check, and got the several hundred dollars necessary.

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After the Outlaws, a team called the Wranglers for their first two seasons under coach George Allen, rustled up a 21-10 victory for coach Frank Kush. Express running back Tony Boddie scored a touchdown, and Tony Zendjas kicked a field goal. It sent the Express one loss shy from their final 3-15 record (they’d lose their final game in Orlando, televised on ESPN, with Young filling in at fullback on a few series).

We chased players down in the parking lot for some quotes. Most of the team had gathered to change in some shed nearby. Someone put a sign above it that read “The Hilton.”

Williams, who’d been in the NFL with Tampa Bay and played in an NFC title game against the Rams, and would some day guide the Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl, said afterward: “I thought I left all this when I left high school.”

He added: “To tell you the truth, this was a letdown. But you have to play where they play.”

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Young met with some reporters on a hill of dirt somewhere north of the end zone, while the fumes of the bus a few feet away made everyone a little light headed.

“I thought maybe the cheerleaders would decorate the team bus,” he said. “I feel like I’ve come full circle.”

Young was sacked twice and staggered off the field in the final minute of the game, leaving just 13 healthy players on offense by game’s end. Young had completed 233 of 441 passes for 3,076 yards and 17 touchdowns to that point in the season.

“Whose mom has the carpool next week?” Young, who, like Williams, would be a future Super Bowl MVP, yelled out later.

“I’d say this was a successful experiment,” said Klosterman, the former American Football League exec with the Los Angeles Chargers who tried this kind of thing before. He’d die 15 years later, in 2000. “You have to have vision to see downstream. If they can work it out in the Valley, I think it could be the salvation of the league.”

Tell that to Cal State Northridge, as it tried for years to get a new football stadium and had to fold its program.

Vincent was disappointed on the drive home, realizing the team didn’t have enough ticket-takers or ticket sellers to help with those who wanted to come and see this — turns out, the only time a pro football team played in the Valley.

Fenwick would say later that they netted about $5,000 in concession sales.

Afterward, Usher was asked what he thought of how the experiment worked.

“I wasn’t there,” he said. “But quoting an authority no less than my wife, who was there with my son, I heard it was a lively crowed that was enjoying itself,” he said. “We had a crowd of 8,200 and I’m told there may have been more. We collected real dollars. That’s refreshing.”

That was a nice way of putting it. Would have made a nice tombstone. For the team, and the league.

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Play it forward: June 14-20 on your sports calendar

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Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

MONDAY

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MLB: Angels vs. Milwaukee, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:

Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf (4-6, 5.31 ERA), who throws today against the Angels in the opener of a three-game interleague series, seems to have done pretty well for himself after the Dodgers didn’t want to commit to a three-year contract. The Dodgers definitely could not have promised the former El Camino Real High star anything close to the run support he’s received so far from the Brewers. Wolf, mind you, was the winning pitcher when Milwaukee edged Pittsburgh, 20-0, back on April 22, and on May 8, he beat Arizona, 17-3. Yet he hasn’t won a game since then, giving up three homers in an inning to the Cubs when last we watched him on the mound.

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TUESDAY

NBA Finals, Game 6: Lakers vs. Boston, Staples Center, 6 p.m., Channel 7:

Celtic pride has swelled up larger than Andrew Bynum’s knee. Just look at how jazzed Maria Menounos is to see Donnie Wahlberg before Game 3 at Staples Center. The script handed down by the NBA office before the series started continues back in L.A., since the Lakers wanted at least one more home game, and a sell-out of the courtside seats filled with publicity-seekers. Andy Garcia, shave that crazy mustache and show up with your game face.

MLB: Dodgers at Cincinnati, 4 p.m., Channel 9:

The NL Central-leading Reds have a big-leading 12 wins in their final at-bat. “I don’t know if you expect it, but I know everybody believes, from the players to the administrative assistants to the grounds crew,” manager Dusty Baker says. “Don’t turn off the TV if we’ve still got bats in our hands.” Remind us to remind Jonathan Broxton. Hiroki Kuroda, who hasn’t registered a win since May 18, faces Aaron Harang in the first of three.

MLB: Angels vs. Milwaukee, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:

Kendry Morales still leads the Angels with 11 homers. You might remember the last one he hit. Seeing as how he just had surgery is won’t play again this year, see how long that holds up.

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WEDNESDAY

MLB: Angels vs. Milwaukee, Angel Stadium, 4 p.m., FSW:

Get out the eyeblack before someone gets a black eye. The Angels’ Joel Pineiro, who draws this strange twilight starting time again, said last time out against Toronto, in right about the sixth inning, he made a pitch to the plate without knowing where it was going. “The sun blinded me for a second,” he said. “During my delivery, I was losing sight (of catcher Mike Napoli).” Just warning Prince Fielder now before he gets mad.

MLB: Dodgers at Cincinnati, 4 p.m., Prime:

Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw struck out 10 Cardinals in his last win. Over his last seven starts, he has a 1.95 ERA, striking out 54 in 46 innings.

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THURSDAY

NBA Finals, Game 7: Lakers vs. Boston, Staples Center, 6 p.m., Channel 7:

We’ve come this far. Might as well make it historic.

MLB: Dodgers at Cincinnati, 9:30 a.m., Prime:

The Dodgers’ James Loney (.471, 8 for 17 with a HR and 5 RBIs) and Matt Kemp (.455, 5 for 11, 1 HR) have the best career marks against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, scheduled to pitch against them today.

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Golf: U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, first round, ESPN, noon-to-2 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.; Channel 4, noon-to-2 p.m.:

When Tiger Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, finishing at 12 under and with everyone else over par and no one with 15 shots, Miguel Angel Jimenez, who shared second place with Ernie Els, reportedly said to a USGA official: “Excuse me, sir. Can you tell me where the playoff starts for the other tournament between me and Ernie?” That was the most dominant victory in the 150 years of championship golf. The previous margin of victory in a major: 13 strokes, by Old Tom Morris at the 1862 British Open. Woods also finished 41 shots ahead of last-place Robert Damron. “I didn’t do anything special that week,” Woods said. “Everything was just on.” Woods may be No. 1 in the world again 10 years later, but it’s hardly the same. He looks rusty since coming back from a five-month layoff at the Masters and tying for fourth. The real measure of Woods could start here. He tees off at 7:36 p.m. with Lee Westwood and Ernie Els. Phil Mickelson starts 11:06 a.m. with Padraig Harrington and Y.E. Yang.

FRIDAY

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FIFA World Cup: U.S. vs. Slovenia, 7 a.m., ESPN:

According to Chowhound.com, the best Slovenian sausages made of pork, garlic, and white wine (then cold smoked for four days) are over at Stolichnaya Bakery next to Whole Foods on Santa Monica and Fairfax. Try one while the U.S. is smoking Slovenia in World Cup Game No. 2.

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MLB: Dodgers at Boston, 4 p.m., Prime:

Check the scoreboard: What’s Manny Ramirez’s excused absence count up to so far? Could he conveniently come up with an injury / excuse / pardon to get out of playing for the Dodgers against the team that gave him away two summers ago? “The people of Boston have been very, very fond of Manny for a long time. I would like to believe the majority of them will remember him that way,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. Or, he could just disappear into the Green Monster door, if they allow him to play left field and not DH. Meanwhile, the Dodgers also talked Vin Scully into making the trip to Fenway — just to do this game. Then he’s got the weekend off for himself. Too bad the Lakers aren’t in town any more.

MLB: Angels at Chicago Cubs, 11:20 a.m., FSW:

Three games at Wrigley Field – all in the day – could test the Angels’ Torii Hunter’s ability not to get lost in the ivy.

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MLB: Washington at Chicago White Sox, 4 p.m., MLB Network:It’s Stephen Strasburg’s third career start. We have a feeling every one of them will make it onto some sort of national telecast before they’re on a National telecast. And lookie here: Topps baseball card company already has cranked out a new one for him, right after his MLB debut on June 8. Trade you a couple hundred Kerry Woods for it. And Letterman has already had him on to read a Top 10 list.

WNBA: Sparks vs. Connecticut, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.:

They’ll bring it indoors again, now that the Lakers don’t need the facility the rest of the summer.

Golf: U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, second round, ESPN, noon-to-2 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.; Channel 4, noon-to-2 p.m.:

One more thought about Tiger, from Associated Press columnist Tim Dahlberg: “He’s still the No. 1 player in the world, has been for the last 261 weeks. But, as the mutual fund salesmen warn, past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. Worst-case scenario? How about a Tiger Woods who becomes so mediocre we simply stop caring?”

SATURDAY

MLB: Dodgers at Boston, 1 p.m., Channel 11:

They’re not chanting “Manny, Manny . . .” They’re just looking to see if Nomar Garciaparra is still on the Dodgers’ bench.

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MLB: Angels at Chicago Cubs, 10 a.m., FSW:

Ted Lilly, who took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before pinch-hitter Juan Pierre led off with a single, comes back from that one to pitch for the Cubs again, this time against Jered Weaver, who doesn’t want anything to do with his brother again for another week and could miss the Dodgers’ series next week all together.

Golf: U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, third round, 1:30-to-8 p.m., Channel 4:

From sea to shining sea, we’ll see enough of the Monterrey coast even as the sun sets in the Pacific. Back east, it’ll be time for the late local news. Here, we play in the ocean another half hour.

SUNDAY

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MLB: Dodgers at Boston, 5 p.m., ESPN:

Before he leaves town, and the sun sets on what could be his last season as the Dodgers owner, Frank McCourt proposes one more deal with anyone listening in Boston: Take my wife, please.

MLB: Angels at Chicago Cubs, 11:20 a.m., FSW:

We’d be remiss if we didn’t remember that the Angels’ first season (1961) was at Wrigley Field — the old one in L.A. Go here (linked here) and tell us what you discovered.

Golf: U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, final round, noon-to-6 p.m., Channel 4:

Throw a little more history into the wind: This is the 50-year anniversary of what some consider one of the best U.S. Opens ever, a convergence of three great golfers when Arnold Palmer held off aging Ben Hogan and 20-year-old amateur Jack Nicklaus at Cherry Hills in 1960.

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For those a little crabby over the Abby Sunderland story …

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You told us so. C’mon, you’re dying to say it.

Just do it.

Abby Sunderland, scooped up by a French fishing boat somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean today, could doubt herself, too. That’s what 16 year-olds, and well as those 96 years young, tend to do.

The battered 40-foot, mastless vessel she may never see again is called Wild Eyes, but when she pushed off from Marina del Rey six months ago, navigating between dreams and criticism, Abby went into this thing with eyes wide open. So did her family.

Halfway around the world, within reach of becoming the youngest to ever circumnavigate the planet by herself, her eyes may be full of tears. But she did grow up fast.

A horrible nervousness amidst the calm of prayer followed Laurence and Marianne Sunderland around their home Thursday while TV crews camped outside when the news came that Abby’s lines of communications had failed and she’d set up a distress signal.

The parents had to be asked again for their reaction, and their explanation.

How could they recklessly let this happen?

They’d faced it already months ago, as well as years ago, when they allowed their then-17-year-old son, Zac, to do the same thing.

He came back safely, albeit after some encounters with pirates, horrible weather, things breaking – all the kind of stuff that happen on these sort of Moby Dick adventures.

Accusing them of insane child endangerment, rushing a trip at the wrong time of year in a perilous direction, and now inquiring how this these search-and-rescue teams will be compensated – the questions have changed, just re-asked, by talk-show blowhards as well as NBC’s “Today” show, having the family stand outside their home in the darkness of Friday morning to size up Abby’s misfortunes after she was spotted by aircraft.

Through it all, the family said the same thing — we have faith in her.

She proved her parents right, doing what most her age might not be able to do. She didn’t panic. She asked for help, activating search beacons, then hunkering down.

It was the perfect storm — the same armchair parents who doubted the success of this trip had all the evidence they needed, and without the guilt of having to pontificate about it over a dead body.

We told you so.

We’ll tell you something right back.

We’re just as comfortable and proud now in naming Zac and Abby Sunderland as our Daily News Sports People of 2009 as we were at the end of last year.

That honor was an acknowledgement of something that seemed to be missing in the sports world – the pursuit of life.

You can take calculated risks without being reckless. Just like you can be so bold as to order the larger-screen high-def TV so that it’s easier to settle into our NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR viewing seasons, navigating through vacations, weddings and family gatherings so we don’t miss major sporting events.

We can plot a plan and take action, or we can be spectators and speculate.

What Zac already accomplished, and what Abby had set her mind to try to do, should continue to be more a beacon of hope than hype. They’ve showed there’s more do for teenagers today vegging out watching someone else’s real world happen on a TV show.

If we’re guilty of anything lately it’s living vicariously through Zac and Abby the last couple of years. But it’s also been much more inspiring.

Zac and Abby Sunderland faced nature head on. Boy and Girl versus Wild.

They measured their intestinal fortitude and then were fortunate enough to have parents gave their two oldest something many adults forget to hand over to their kids today — the opportunity to succeed and / or fail.

We’ll leave it alone for now with Abby’s latest blog posting (linked here)- on the deck of this French ship, not sure where she’s headed next, and apologizing for not having written in so long:

“It seems everybody is eager to pounce on my story now that something bad has happened . . .

“There are plenty of things people can think of to blame . . .my age, the time of year and many more. The truth is, I was in a storm and you don’t sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. . . . Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.

“Since when does age create gigantic waves?”

When the waves of criticism subside, you live and learn. Thank God, Abby Sunderland is able to do both today.

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The Media Learning Curve: Kicking ourselves to the curb, curbing our enthusiasm

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(Writer’s note: We’ve already been called out by readers because of previous references to what we call the sport that will be on display during the FIFA World Cup — ignoring the official title of “football,” skipping over the acceptable reference of “soccer,” and landing directly on the compound modifier “kickball,” which seems to accurately describe what’s going on in these facilities otherwise reserved for swap meets, smorgasbords or Smart Car fleet sales.

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Blasphemous? It’s more blasting those who take it too seriously.

We apologize ahead of time if we’re going to offend any more of you, and actually appreciate the fact you’ve made it this far in seeking some information that doesn’t pertain to Univision or any other language-specific dish channel that will undoubtedly provide far more analysis and high-pitched screaming than offered on a usual Food Network presentation of “Top Chef.”

Where everything else is heading in the sports media world, outside of the confines of the pitch of the newspaper version (linked here):

== Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash has been hired by CBSSports.com to file video segments for its website and You Tube channel (www.youtube.com/CBSSports) from the 2010 World Cup. Nash, a Canadian citizen, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa.

== ABC says the first three games of the NBA Finals has drawn 15.2 million viewers and a 9.1 rating, both up 11 percent against last year’s Lakers-Orlando series, and the best three-game average since the 2004 Lakers-Detroit series. ABC has also had the highest-rated shows in primetime each night.

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== HBO2 will reair its 2007 hour-long documentary “The UCLA Dynasty,” tonight at 7:30 p.m., a look at the John Wooden years coaching Bruins basketball. Says Bill Walton in the piece: “When you’re part of something like that, it changes your life forever. It was the fans. It was the players that we had. It was the times. What it really was, was John Wooden.” The DVD is also available on warnerarchive.com or wbshop.com for $14.95 (linked here).

== Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals had a 5.8/10 overnight rating, the best for any Stanley Cup final game in 36 years (a 7.6/27 when Boston played Philadelphia in Game 6 of 1974, also on NBC). The top 10 markets outside the obvious — Chicago (32.8/50) and Philadelphia (26.8/38) — included Buffalo (13.5/20), Pittsburgh (9.7/14) and Detroit and Indianapolis (6.3/10).

== Marv Albert says it was his call to option out of doing Monday night NFL games for Westwood One this upcoming season on radio. He’s been doing the package the last nine years, but guesses he spends more than 175 days a year on TNT’s NBA games and New Jersey Nets games for the YES network. He also expects to be doing NCAA basketball games when Turner Sports starts its partnership with CBS in expanding its coverage next spring.

== Since we didn’t miss her much last season when she was on maternity leave, weathergirl Jillian Reynolds’ absence from the Fox NFL studio show this coming fall probably won’t upset too many viewers as well. A Fox spokesman confirmed she won’t be back this season.

== While the ESPN Zone restaurants near Staples Center and in Anaheim near Disneyland will stay open, they will be sold off by the Disney corporation as part of a purge of the facilities that have tried to connect food with sports TV across the country. The chain of restaurants were the first to put TV screen above the urnals in men’s rooms — bravo — but they’ll be shutting them down in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Baltimore and Las Vegas (at the New York, New York Hotel) by June 16. USA Today reports that with the recession having hurt restaurant sales generally, ESPN Zone general manager Dominic Minniti says: “The overall economics of continuing this operation were very challenging.” Tell that to the Fox Sports Restaurant spot that has sat vacant attached to Staples Center for the last three years. Maybe better prices and better food would have helped.

AND FINALLY:

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== Brooke Hundley, the 23-year-old fired as an ESPN production assistant after her affair with baseball analyst Steve Phillips became public, is suing the network saying it defamed her and wants more than $15,000 in salary.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Stamford Superior Court, says ESPN defamed her by firing her based on false statements by Phillips and by claiming she had not fully cooperated with its investigation.

Hundley says she fully cooperated with ESPN’s investigation and accused ESPN of acting maliciously to insulate itself from liability for Phillips’ conduct.

“Hundley’s claims are without merit and we will vigorously defend against them,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said. “Her current charges do not accurately portray ESPN’s handling of the matter.”

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Who cares about this?

ESPN.com, which listed the story on its site (linked here) with the headline: “Former Phillips paramour sues ESPN.” It doesn’t even give her the dignity of listing her name in the headline, while then calling her a word that she may think is even flattering.

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The latest Abby Sunderland update, from the family

Photo by www.GizaraArts.com

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Posted on Abby Sunderland’s blog (linked here):

“We spoke with Abby early this morning and learned that she had had a very rough day with winds up to 60 knots and seas 20-25 feet. She had been knocked down several times but was handling things well. The wind had subsided to around 35 knots which she and Wild Eyes are quite comfortable with.

“We were helping her troubleshoot her engine that she was trying to start to charge her systems. Satellite phone reception was patchy. She was able to get the water out of the engine and start her up. We were waiting to hear back from her when American Search & Rescue authorities called to report having received a signal from her emergency beacon (EPIRB). We initially thought that the signal was sent automatically from her water-activated EPIRB and that it had been activated during one of her knockdowns. As we pulled the paperwork from her EPIRB registration, we learned that the signal had come from her manually activated EPIRB.

“We were referred to Australian Search & Rescue and while we were on the phone with them another signal came in from her handheld PLB (Personal Locator Beacon). Her water-activated EPIRB has not been activated so we are hopeful that the boat is still upright.

“We are working closely with American, French and Australian Search & Rescue authorities to coordinate several ships in the area to divert to her location. There are several ships in her area, the earliest possible contact is 40 hours. We are actively seeking out some sort of air rescue but this is difficult due to the remoteness of her location. Australian Search & Rescue have arranged to have a Quantas Airbus fly over her location at first light (she is 11 hours later). They will not be able to help her other than to talk via marine radio if they are able to get close enough. Hopefully, they will be able to assess her situation and report back to us.

“Abby has all of the equipment on board to survive a crisis situation like this. She has a dry suit, survival suit, life raft, and ditch bag with emergency supplies. If she can keep warm and hang on, help will be there as soon as possible. Wild Eyes is designed for travel in the Southern Ocean and is equipped with 5 air-tight bulkheads to keep her buoyant in the event of major hull damage. It is built to Category 0 standards and is designed to self-right in the event of capsize.

“Thank you for all of your kind emails and calls. We appreciate your prayers and support.

“We will update as soon as there is some news.”

== Laurence, Marianne and Team Abby

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