The consummate dumbing down of football, by upping the price, and pages, for comsumers


You say you want some evolution?

On my shelf is a treasured 1973 paperback copy of “Football: Learn It, Watch It, Enjoy It,” by Troy Winslow, forward by Frank Gifford, by Crescent Publications in L.A. Winslow was the former Inglewood High star who became, as the back photo says, a “record-holding University of Southern California quarterback, former professional football player, now head coach at Long Beach Polytechnic.” Actually, he was now my typing teacher at Hawthorne High. He signed the book for me in class one day and wrote: “The sequel will be out in about 10 years!”

I don’t think that ever came, unfortunately.

His record, by the way: An 11-for-11 passing day against Washington in 1965. He got the Trojans to the 1967 Rose Bowl as well. Post-Garrett, pre-O.J. Look him up.


Wrote Gifford in the forward: “There has long been a need for a football handbook written not for the use of coaches, players and others with an intimate knowledge of the game, but for the use of the average fan who likes to watch football but finds many aspects of the game hard to understand … Winslow is unquestionably qualified to write such a football handbook.”

And Troy — a name perfect for USC, given to him by a father who also played at the school — did it in 110 pages.

For years, that was my go-to book for backup information on why things happened, if they had to be explained to someone, somehow, in some awkward situation.

How much easier could it be to learn the game?


In 1997, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Football” arrived, authored by Joe Theismann (linked here), with co-author Brian Tracy. Theismann, whose picture is on the cover twice, kept it to 328 pages, with 29 chapters. We actually found it available on for $1, plus $3.99 shipping and handling (linked here).

But really. Did we need to be called a complete idiot?


In 1998, “Football For Dummies,” authored by Howie Long (but probably more written by John Czarnecki) rushed the audience (linked here). On the cover were a bunch of girls apparently playing flag football. Chased by a guy in a yellow tanktop. It looks like the opening to “Three’s Company.” And not afraid to think that more is more, Howie pushed the attention span of the readership with 407 pages.

Again, calling us a dummy wasn’t so endearing.

In 2001, the second edition of Theismann’s “Idiots” (linked here). Joe, in his Redskins’ jersey, is still on the cover. But he’s limited it just one action shot. And he pushed it to 360 pages.

Here comes the sneak: A fourth edition of something called “Football Made Simple: A Spectator’s Guide,” by Dave Ominsky (linked here). Just 129 pages. Just $11. Call us dumb, but this makes more sense. Even if Dave never played the game.

In 2003, the second edition of Howie’s “Dummies.” It raised the bar to 432 pages, got rid of the girls and put a football up on a tee.


In 2005, another reprieve. Rodney Peete’s wife, Holly Robinson Peete, came out with “Get Your Own Damn Beer, I’m Watching the Game: A Women’s Guide to Loving Pro Football” (linked here). Her definition of tight ends was a bit different than Howie or Theismann. But at least we weren’t called stupid.

In 2007, the third edition of Howie’s “Dummies” managed to keep it to 432 pages, but the cover changed again — it was just a green gridiron, with the yellow goal posts. This issue was necessary, the publisher said in their blurb, because, since edition two, “new stadiums have been built, new stars have ascended, and records have been broken. .. new rules … new stadium technologies .. a revised list of greatest players … new advice on training …”

(By the way, somehow through all this, the K.I.S.S guides (Keep It Simple Series) has managed to do a book related to golf, fishing, weight loss, pregnancy, photography, child care, home improvement, feng shui, massage, raising a puppy, guitar, kama sutra, planning a wedding, gardening, wine and the paranormal, but nothing about football. Yet.)


This leads to what landed on the doorstep this week: “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Football,” 334 pages by Mike Beacom, a “veteran pro and college football editor and writer” with and

Did we learn anything flipping through it? In the list of words in the glossary, there’s no listing for “muff.” Where does that get us?

The publishers of this one are asking $18.95. And it’s paperback. Easy to recycle. Even easier to use as a wedge under the old TV back in the den that still tilts a little to the left no matter how we try to fix it.

With the 2010 version of football now having blindsided us — Can anyone explain the BCS again? Has the NFL figured out its overtime rule? — we’re more puzzled than ever.

What does this digression of football primers say about our need to be informed? Are there that many people around us who still don’t get it?

To make it more illogical, the listing for this book poses the question: What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item? Three percent, they say, also buy “U is for Undertow,” a Sue Grafton mystery novel.

Maybe we’re caught in the undertow of this, not smart enough to figure any of this out. We just know that, had we spent the cash every other year to have someone else tell us how little we knew about the game, we’d probably just give up on trying to keep up with it.

It can’t be the complicated, can it?

Paging Troy Winslow.

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Your Bucky Gunts moment

“I hope it’s Bucky Gunts, ’cause I didn’t know you could say that on television. … Let’s face it, we’re all Bucky Gunts here.”

Ricky Gervais’ tribute to NBC Winter Olympics director Bucky Gunts for winning an Emmy for his outstanding performance in a variety, music or comedy special was more comical for a variety of reasons.

It was on Gunts’ network, NBC, where his name was being mocked by Gervais, the executive producer and creator of NBC’s most popular show, “The Office.”

Gunts also came off as the most rigid during the video question: What did your mom want you to be when you were growing up: “First choice, a Baltimore Oriole baseball player. Second choice, the TV business, like my dad.”

As he walked up to accept the award, John Houseman said over the music: “Bucky Gunts majored in hotel management at Cornell but changed to television after his thesis on ice-making machines was deemed wildly speculative and wildly dangerous. That name again is Bucky Gunts.”

Who is Bucky Gunts?

Those of us who’ve known of him in the sports TV business didn’t realize we’d been sitting on a punch line all these years.

NBC’s bio of the man made a running joke at last night’s Emmys:

The Vancouver win was Gunts’ fourth Primetime Emmy, having previously won for directing the Opening Ceremony for Salt Lake, Athens, and Beijing.

Gunts, who has been with NBC Sports since 1983 and has worked nine Olympic Games, has directed every Olympic primetime program since 1996 and every Opening Ceremony since 2002.

For his Beijing work, Gunts also won a Director’s Guild Award and the Opening Ceremony won a Peabody Award. He has also won 20 Sports Emmy Awards.

Gunts was promoted to Head of Production, NBC Olympics in 2002 after serving as Coordinating Director of NBC’s Olympic coverage beginning with the 1996 Atlanta Games. As the Head of Production, Gunts’ day-to-day responsibilities include supervising all broadcast and cable production units. In particular, Gunts is at the forefront of NBC’s continued evolution of the use of new technology to enhance its coverage of the Olympic Games.

In June of 2010, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol announced that Gunts would lead the newly formed “NBC Olympics Production Group,” which is responsible for overseeing all production elements for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Gunts has played an integral role in NBC’s Emmy Award-winning Olympic coverage, directing NBC’s primetime show for every Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games. He also directed every Opening Ceremony since the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics and won a Director’s Guild Award, Peabody Award and a Primetime Emmy for the Beijing Opening Ceremony.

Gunts has directed “Football Night in America” since 2008, and directed the Super Bowl XLIII pregame show in 2008.

He returned to NBC Sports from NBC News in February 1994 when he was named Coordinating Director for NBC’s 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In addition to his Olympic duties, Gunts has served as the lead director for NBC’s Emmy Award-winning golf coverage. He also worked on NBC Sports’ coverage of the NBA and NFL. Gunts has directed NBC Sports’ U.S. Open Golf coverage since 2005; the 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2002 Ryder Cup; and handled directing duties for the 1994-97 NBA and NFL seasons. This is Gunts’ second stint with NBC Sports–he had previously served as an NBC Sports Staff Director from 1983 through 1990, before directing NBC News’ “Today” show from 1990 through 1993.

During Gunts’ first run with NBC Sports, he served as a key director of NBC’s Emmy Award-winning coverage of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. In 1988, he directed the studio portions of both the late-night coverage and the telecast of the Opening Ceremony of the Seoul Olympics, for which he also earned an Emmy. Additionally, Gunts directed NBC’s NFL pre-game show “NFL Live” for six years, as well as the Super Bowl pre-game shows in 1986 and 1989. He also directed coverage of numerous Major League Baseball games–including the 1987 National League Championship Series.

Gunts began his career in his hometown, Baltimore, Md., as a Staff Director for WBAL-TV from 1972-78. He later worked at KPNX-TV in Phoenix, Ariz., and directed newscasts at WNBC-TV.

Gunts graduated from Cornell University in 1972 with a degree in economics. He was a member of the school’s 1971 NCAA-champion lacrosse team. Gunts and his wife, Dennyse, live in Wilton, Conn., with their two children, B.J. and Kate.

At least no one was confusing Bucky Gunts with Temple Grandin.

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Why ‘Little Big Men’ seems so strange to see on ESPN


Next up on ESPN’s “30 For 30” documentary — a film that seems to find blame in how TV and fame made live miserable for a bunch of 12-year-olds from Kirkland, Wash., nearly 30 years ago.

This latest cautionary tale, which ESPN actually ran over the weekend during its Little League World Series programming and re-airs it Tuesday at 4 p.m., goes back to the 1982 LLWS that featured Cody Webster and his buddies upsetting Taiwan for the national title.

This wasn’t very long after the U.S. hockey team knocked off the USSR in Winter Olympic hockey to become national heroes. Yet these kids from Kirkland obviously weren’t ready for their close up. Today, it’s still painfully obvious.


Back then, Taiwan had won 31 in a row at Williamsport, Pa. This was when just four U.S. and four international teams qualified for the finals.

Webster, now 40, is again the focal point of how he never wanted to be the center of attention, but ended up as such because he was, well, the biggest (5-foot-7, 140 pounds) and best player. There’s the clip again of ABC’s Jim McKay putting a mike in Webster’s face after the team beat Taiwan and asking him if he could explain the magnitude of what just happened.

Webster, of course, couldn’t.

“Innocence — as valued as it is vunerable,” says the voice over.

Webster’s dad holds up a copy of the local paper with his son’s photo from the parade the city had upon the team’s return. “He’s not quite sure what’s going on,” dad says.

There’s a clip of Webster and his coach on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” when the host Joan Lunden asking: “What are his chances of becoming a professional baseball player?”

There’s a clip of Bob Costas as part of NBC’s MLB World Series from St. Louis, tossing to an interview with Tom Seaver and the kids live in the stands. Webster had pretty much nothing much to say to Seaver, either.

“I just wanted to be teammate,” Webster says today about all the attention heaped on him back then. “I wanted to be the offensive lineman, not he quarterback. I’ve always been uncomfortable. It’s bothered me. It’s not fair.”

Too bad. As the end of the documentary points out, ABC used the Little League World Series celebration of Webster and his teammates as the “thrill of victory” clip on the “Wide World of Sports” introduction from 1983 to 1988.

What this doc does — again, ironically since it has been ESPN and ABC leading the charge in televising the LLWS — is question again how intense fame is for kids 11- to 13-years old, no matter how media savvy you assume they might be.

One of the things brought up is how much abuse Webster took in his baseball career from that point on, quitting the game several times because he couldn’t handle the taunting (jealousy) from the opposing players’ parents.

“It was the parents, (the) adults,” Webster says today, almost incredulously. “If it was kids, I could handle that my own way.”

Adds Webster’s dad: “It’s a sick thing when grownups swear at a 13-year old kid.”

Webster’s teammates actually tear up thinking about how he was treated, and how those unrealistic expectations put him in such a horrible position.

Webster ended up winning a state baseball title with Juanita High (a team that included six others from that Kirkland Little League team). Webster also won a state football title. He ended up playing college ball at Eastern Washington less than a year, a shoulder injury from football forcing him to quit.

“My heart wasn’t in it,” Webster says now.

So, what do the Kirkland bunch — Webster, Erik Jonson, Shawn Cochran, Bill Cook, Mike Adams, David Keller , Brian Avery and Mark Peterson — want America to know now about them that they didn’t before?

“Today, parents, kids, they all think that the college scholarship is the way to go (for success in baseball),” says Avery. “I personally think you play sports for the fun of it and you can’t put that kind of pressure on little kids.”


“I tell parents, ‘Give ’em a chance. Let ’em succeed. I can guarantee if you push ’em too hard, they’ll be done in a year or two’,” says Webster, who now coaches baseball in the Seattle area (linked here) (a story linked here in the Seattle Post-Intellegencer wrote in 2001 that Webster was working in a warehouse for a container story). “I’ve seen it. It’s just not worth it. It’s a game … always will be.”

== The Sports Illustrated story on Webster and Kirkland, Wash., winning the Little League World Series, written by Steve Wulf (linked here).

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‘The Winning Season’ … is it a winner?

We caught wind of this indie sports comedy, “The Winning Season,” when it was circulating in 2008 (linked here) at Sundance, but for some reason, it never hit theatres — until we spotted an ad touting its “exclusive engagement” starting Friday at the West Hollywood Laemmle’s Sunset 5 and Culver City’s Plaza Theatre.

A PG-13 flick about a guy hired to coach a rag-tag girls basketball team doesn’t look like it’ll have some “Coach Carter” results, but there seems to be a laugh or two already evident from the trailer (above).

Writer and director James C. Strouse (“Grace Is Gone”) doesn’t stretch too far with this storyline, so it’s up to Sam Roswell (as coach Bill) and Rob Corddry (as principal Terry) to make it work with the girls.

“Hilarious!” says someone at Variety.

We’ll be the judge of that. Starting Friday.

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Joey Amalfitano, teaching Giants how to beat Dodgers


The story the other day about how Anthony Amalfitano has reopened an old-school bakery back on Western Avenue in Rancho Palos Verdes (linked here) brought us to wonder: Whatever happened to former long-time Dodgers third base coach Joey Amalfitano — who undoubtedly is related to Anthony, since the Amalfitanos are an institution in the San Pedro area.

A story in Sunday’s New York Times (lined here) answered the later question.

While Anthony may be working on his bundt cakes, the 76-year-old Joey, the Dodgers’ coach under Tommy Lasorda from 1983-’98, has been teaching San Francisco Giants’ farm system players the art of the bunt.

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