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

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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.

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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?

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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 eBay.com for $1, plus $3.99 shipping and handling (linked here).

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

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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.

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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.)

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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 Football.com and ProFootballWeekly.com.

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 Amazon.com 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

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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.

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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.”

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“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

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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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Play it foward: Aug. 30-Sept. 5 on your sports calendar

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

MONDAY

Tennis: U.S. Open in New York, opening rounds, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tennis Channel; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., ESPN2:

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Vera Zvonareva, you’re too good to be true. Still can’t take our eyes off of you. Check out the New York Times magazine website (linked here) about this year’s U.S. Open women’s power tennis game. It’s powerful.
Meanwhile, going back to last year’s event — fourth-round match against Flavia Pennetta. Second set.
Vera did the following:
= Cried on the court during the second set tiebreak,
= Hysterically cried in the locker room in between the second and third sets,
= Ripped off a portion of the medical tape that was wrapped around her thighs,
= Complained to the chair umpire that the remaining tape around her thighs prevented her from playing,

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= Screamed an obscenity at the chair umpire when she wouldn’t give her a medical timeout to fix said medical tape,
= Loudly yelled a compound word/profanity after hitting an unforced error,
= Continued to rip the tape off her leg,
= Smashed her racquet into a post and,
= Spent the final changeover sitting in her chair with a white towel draped over her head.
Then she lost the third set 6-0.
We wish we could have been there to console her.
This year’s event will have Vera seeded seventh, but It’ll go on without women’s top-seed Serena Williams, who, like last year’s men’s finalist Juan Martin del Potro, isn’t participating because of injury. Venus Williams, seeded third, sprained her left kneecap in early August, forcing her to withdraw from hard-court tournaments at Cincinnati and Montreal. She hasn’t played for more than two months. ESPN’s coverage this week runs through Friday; CBS takes over Saturday and Sunday, while Tennis Channel has coverage every day.
Vera could face Coco Vandeweghe in the second round if the niece of former UCLA and NBA star Kiki Vandeweghe can get past her first-round opponent, Germany’s Sabine Lisicki. A meeting again with Pennetta couldn’t happen unless both made it to the final.

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Basketball: FIBA World Championship: U.S. vs. Brazil, 11:30 a.m., ESPN:

Sultan Kosen, a 27-year-old from Turkey who holds the world record by standing 8-feet, 2-inches, was in Southern California the other day, visiting a San Clemente dentist who gave him $50,000 worth of free work. At 300 pounds, he wears a size 28 shoe. Shaquille O’Neal only wears a 23. That said, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Lamar Odom and Eric Gordon are in Turkey for awhile, playing in the basketball world championships, and hardly drawing the same attention that Kosen might. The U.S. games for the rest of the week: Wednesday (vs. Iran, 9 a.m., ESPN), Thursday (vs. Tunisia, 6:30 a.m., ESPN2), and a country to be named later either Sunday or Monday.

MLB: Dodgers vs. Philadelphia, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime:

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We’ve lost interest in whether the late, great Gary Coleman was or wasn’t divorced in a creepy way. The trial to determine who’ll could be the future owner of the Dodgers — McCourt, or McCourt — is supposed to start today. Rendering a decision in this L.A. rematch of the last two NLCS series as, perhaps, anticlimactic. Even with Roy Halliday scheduled to face the Dodgers. With the newest wild-card implications, and Manny Ramirez’s future, here’s where some damage can be done.

MLB: Angels at Seattle, 7 p.m., FSW:

The Angels and Mariners have been somewhat hopelessly spinning their wheels in the AL West race — enough to where Seattle finally eliminated manager Don Wakamatsu was fired a few weeks ago, along with pitching coach Rich Adair, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo and performance coach Steve Hecht. The Mariners’ performance since then: Just about .500. Which is just about the record Seattle star Felix Hernandez brings in (10-10) to tonight’s game, even after winning his last two starts, beating both the Red Sox and Yankees on the road. He still leads the league in Ks (192) and innings pitched (204 1/3) with a 2.47 ERA. His ERA in games he’s won — 0.87. In his other 18 starts (10 losses, eight no decisions), he’s 3.55. Still in the ballpark.

TUESDAY

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MLB: Dodgers vs. Philadelphia, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Channel 9:

A cooler-bag giveaway, to the first 20,000. Pretty cool if you ask us. It would also be cool if Dodger scheduled starter Carlos Monasterious could keep his hit-batters total (it was three last week in Milwaukee) lower than his hits-allowed total (two, in the same game against the Brewers).

MLB: Angels at Seattle, 7 p.m., FSW:

Any thoughts of taking custody of Chone Figgins while up in the Emerald City? While he’d still be eligible for the team’s post-season roster?

WEDNESDAY

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MLB: Dodgers vs. Philadelphia, Dodger Stadium, 1 p.m., Prime:

September arrives, and it should play out as a bright, sunny L.A. day. We hear it’s always sunny in Philadelphia. After Roy Oswalt faces Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers are having an event where – we kid you not – they’ll allow “pre-registered” senior citizens to run the bases. “Seniors Stroll the Bases” is for those affiliated with AARP, Sunrise Senior Centers and Leisure World. For more info: www.dodgers.com/aarp. Or ask Brad Ausmus.

MLB: Angels at Seattle, 7 p.m., FSW:

Jeff Weaver, scheduled to start for the Angels here, is 19-9 lifetime in games he’s pitched in September and October, and he’s 10-3 against Seattle over his career in 17 starts — the most victories against any team in the big leagues, by a wide margin. He only has 62 wins total in four-plus seasons.

THURSDAY

College football: USC at Hawaii, 8 p.m., ESPN:

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The extended Labor Day weekend begins with a trip that USC booked years ago to give its followers a nice, relaxing, end of the summer vacation. Now, it’s about as close to a bowl excursion as they’ll get (unless you want to count a trip to Minneapolis in a couple of weeks). Lane Kiffin’s watch begins without heralded freshman tailback Dillon Baxter, who was also third on the depth chart at quarterback.

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That kind of sums up how this post-Pete Carroll, post-NCAA probation era will begin — unless someone else wants to strip USC of previous titles. Pass the poi and pick your poison. Who else of note is starting the college season tonight? Ohio State (hosting Marshall, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network), South Carolina (hosting Southern Miss, 4:30 p.m., ESPN) and Utah (hosting Pitt, 5:30 p.m., on Versus). Also on this day: The NFL has planned 16 exhibition games, with no one having a bye, in the last tuneup before the regular season starts.

FRIDAY

MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime:

Fireworks are promised after the game. During the game, that’s up to the players. The team leading the NL wildcard race must stand its ground with extinguishers ready. It’s brushfire season. And Barry Zito is carrying the roman candle in the opener.

MLB: Angels at Oakland, 7 p.m., FSW:

The Slumberin’ A’s are actually ahead of the Angels in the AL West. A road swing through Oakland could change it. Maybe.

College football: Arizona at Toledo, 4 p.m., ESPN:

Take Toledo and the 15 points. The Wildcats’ defense ain’t what it used to be.

Golf: PGA’s Deutsche Bank Championship, first round, noon, Golf Channel:

Once Phil Mickelson missed the cut at last week’s Barclay’s event, he lost any mathematical chance of taking Tiger Woods’ top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings. That’s nine events in a row in which Mickelson had a chance to become No. 1 in the world for the first time in his career. When they meet again here, it’ll be even more difficult, based on Woods’ finish unday. The start of this event is pushed back a day to finish on the holiday, the second leg of the Fed Ex Cup playoff event ends with the final two rounds on NBC.

SATURDAY

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College football: UCLA at Kansas State, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7:

The Bruins’ Pistol-packing offense goes to Manhattan, Kansas already is a few bullets shy as the season opens. The offensive line goes without center and captain Kai Maiava (broken ankle), Jeff Baca (academically ineligible) and Mike Harris (suspended). Quarterback Kevin Prince may or may not show, either. Who left the floodgates open? Kick it away, Kai Forbath.

College football: Purdue at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m., Channel 4:

If NBC can manipulate the commercial breaks to satisfy new coach Brian Kelly, maybe new Irish QB Dayne Crist, who replaces that Clausen kid, can scramble around and get enough time to make everyone’s debut big-show-worthy.

MLB: Angels at Oakland, 1 p.m., FSW:

When does “Moneyball” plan for its release? Brad Pitt was just asking us the other day.

MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime:

How did Matt Cain go from a Cy Young candidate a year ago to a .500 pitcher this season? He signed a three-year contract extension in March that bumped his salary from $2.9 mil last year (14-8, 2.89 ERA) to $4.5 this season. Yet, if you look at his career stats, he’s seven games under .500 in more than 160 starts. He beat the Dodgers 2-0 on Aug. 1 with seven strike outs and 13 ground ball outs (versus six fly ball outs). On June 4, he lost 4-2 to the Dodgers when had 12 fly ball outs, just four ground ball outs and six Ks.

MLS: Galaxy at Chicago, 1 p.m., Prime:

You may be one of the few asking: What’s happened to the Galaxy since they started the season 11-0-2? Losing four of their last nine (before Saturday’s game against KC ….

SUNDAY

MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium, 5 p.m., ESPN2:

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The Dodgers still have a promotion with Claim Jumper: If the team scores 10 runs or more in a home game, everyone can get a plate of free wings at the pile-it-high restaurant. It’s only happened twice this year, though. The first: April 16 against the Giants, in the fourth home game of the year. Todd Wellemeyer was the victim for the Giants. Two weeks ago, the team released him.

MLB: Angels at Oakland, 1 p.m., Channel 13:

Only three more against the A’s after this. Not that we’re counting on anything happening.

College football: SMU at Texas Tech, 12:30 p.m., ESPN:

The last pro football-less Sunday of the year also has Delaware State vs. Southern (ESPN, 9 a.m.) and Tulsa at East Carolina (ESPN2, 11 a.m.).

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More on the NCPA, Ramogi Huma and AB 2079

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More from today’s column (linked here) on National College Players Association executive director Ramogi Huma - that’s Ra-MOE-gee WHO-ma - and what else he has to say on the state of college athletics:

== On the pending passage of AB 2079, the Student-Athlete Right to Know bill:

“Many people are shocked to hear the type of misinformation student-athletes get during the recruiting process, and the public really isn’t informed, either. There is a lot of deception and omitted information and a lack of equality nationwide as athletes struggle to get by. It wasn’t until after I was injured as a player did I realize the NCAA capped scholarships. The totals are even below the price tag of the school’s academic scholarships. I don’t think that’s an accident. They know what they’re doing. The players aren’t met to get by. But they sell it as a full scholarship. It’s very tough to navigate through this system.

“(Our organization) has a lot of goals, but this one is to create a very powerful transparency and honesty in recruiting. It’s obvious when you talk about this issue, no one really knows all that’s involved. Maybe they know one or two pieces, or some of the pitfalls, but not all of them. I’ve talked to lawmaker after lawmaker and finally go the support in California, and I hope it continues forward.”

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== On Huma’s college experience arriving at UCLA – in 1995, he was the Bruins’ co-defensive rookie of the year, redshirted in ’96 with a broken foot, started in ’98 as a junior but sustained a career-ending hip injury in the second game against Houston:

“When I went through the recruiting process, I made four visits and had a horrible time. They all seemed like cookie-cutter schools. They were competitive teams, with huge promiment campuses, great coaches. It’s hard to make a decision. Had I known that some of them wouldn’t take care of my medical expenses or other issues, I could have made a much more informed decision.

“I had been offered scholarships from nine of the 10 Pac-10 schools, plus Colorado, took four trips, and everywhere I went, they said I would be given a ‘full scholarship.’ I’d go on these trips – to UCLA, Colorado, Washington and Arizona, and I passed on going to Stanford – and there’d be food for days, and you’d think, ‘wow, college is great.’ I was a light linebacker, just 250 pounds. When I was a freshman, I lost 15 pounds because I couldn’t get enough food to maintain my weight off of what we were given to live off. I was used to five big meals a day. Now I was on the campus meal card, getting one a day, and no extra money at all.

“(When All-American Donnie Edwards was suspended), we started that season 5-0, we beat Miami, and we were on our way. But that changed and Donnie was in trouble. But as mad as we were about the issues, there was no one to address it with anyone. We’d have team meetings, and they’d tell us, ‘The NCAA runs the show.’

“Later, in my first summer, we had a new coach, Terry Donahue left, and a new conditioning coach. The players wanted to get better, so we wanted to do the conditioning program. And there was a lot of pressure to go. But in the middle of our first meeting, an NCAA compliance officer told us, ‘Just to let you know, the NCAA considers this voluntary, so we’re not allowed to pay your medical expenses if you’re injured.’ The players thought he was joking. Then when we realized he was serious, we turned very upset. Some of the players said, ‘My parents don’t have coverage, so what do I do?’ All we could do is shrug out shoulders. It became clear that every other school in the country had to deal with this. At that point, I was ready to do something about it. If we all could join hands, the NCAA would have to hear us and we should have more influence.”

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== On the pitfalls many recruits face in the recruiting process:

“Recruiters have to win at all costs and it may not be convenient for them to give all the information they know. It’s all about verbal agreements. Nothing is in writing. To record the conversation with the recruiters, they’d have to agree to it. The recruiters have free reign. Their incentives aren’t the same as the schools. It’s not good for them to disclose information that isn’t going to help them land a recruit. I know they’re in a tough spot, but you have to sleep at night knowing the truth. They compete. I’m not saying every recruiter is deceptive, but the term, ‘full scholarship’ is very deceptive. All of the recruiters are responsible for that myth. It’s a deep-rooted lie.”

== On how he would do as a parent trying to help his kids deal with recruiters (Huma’s children are now aged 2 and 1 years old):

“The scary part is, I can help them with as much as I know and still can’t guarantee the schools will do as it says. Even if you give the recruiter the benefit of the doubt, who’s to say the coach won’t honor their promises.

“Part of this bill is to disclose scholarship renewal. If a player is in good standings, and a new coach comes in, he can do what he wants – even get rid of existing players. The huge myth in college sports – you have a four-year scholarship. The NCAA caps it at one year, but the schools can verbally guarantee a four-year deal if you keep good grades. But that whole line is against the NCAA rules. There is no outright guarantee. The NCAA is complicit with that – you can’t guarantee it. Sometimes, a school will retain 51 percent of their scholarship players. So they can tell a recruit their policy to normally keep a player. And they’re in the clear.

“It’s very easy for schools to post all this information on a reliable Internet site, straight from the school. But most don’t.”

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== On the NCPA’s backing of the current lawsuit that former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon has against the NCAA for allowing EA Sports to use the likeness of players in video games (story linked here):

“We’re supportive of the case. Obviously, when I was playing the ‘NCAA College Football’ video games back then, you’d see the background, height, weight of each player, and it was obvious that it was us. And it was fun and exciting to see it. Even then, the technology was amazing. But for EA to pretend they weren’t using us …

“We are about advocating equality and fairness. Is it fair for these companies to mandate players sign over their rights? We had no choice. I don’t even remember what part of the paperwork package or what actual document we signed to allow them to use us. But there was so much hypocracy. The NCAA is supposed to protect the athletes from the forces of commercialism. They not only condone it here, but they facilitate it. So then the question is: Who is the NCAA protecting? The players are being used in the process without compensation. If the NCAA is my friend, I’d hate to see my enemy.

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== On the NCPA’s website that grades schools on how much medical assistance information they give to recruits – from an A to an F, if there’s no participation in the survey:

“We explained to every school what we were trying to achieve, and followed it up with phone calls, faxes, emails. Now, it’s a bill. Some of the schools may not want to jump through the hoops of wanting to give our their information, but the medical policies, above all, are most important. For 90 percent of the schools to refuse to give information is ridiculous. It just underscored the need for bill.

== On how his own school, UCLA, was one that didn’t disclose the information (as well as USC and Cal State Northridge):

“I was hopeful they’d participate and disappointed, just as I was with every other school. Even with my alma mater not wanting to give, I had to find other points of leverage.”

== More information:

== The NCPA website (linked here)
== On the state’s movement on AB 2079 (linked here)
== A story from June, 2009 on AB 2079 (linked here)
== A story from Yahoo.com (linked here)
== A story on NPR: (linked here)

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In 2,047 words, how Steve Lyons spent Monday through Thursday on the current Dodgers road trip

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www.osulibrary.oregonstate.edu
Oregon State shorstop Steve Lyons throw to first in a game against Washington in 1981.

We’ll spare most of the mundane, but let you know there’s a link here on the Fox Sports West website (linked here), and the next-to-last paragraph reads:

I think this may be the longest and most boring blog I’ve written to date. I’m not exactly sure why I thought anybody would want to know what I do for any length of time, let alone four days…..but this is it.

And of his performance on the Thursday afternoon game for Prime Ticket:

Of the three games, Thursday was my worst broadcast. The game felt slow and kind of boring, and after three straight games against the same team I always feel like I’m repeating the same stuff about the players that everybody’s already heard. But in my business they say the audience changes about every 20 seconds…. so i guess it’s O.K.

And how the trip started Monday:

Then, at the front of the coach section, it’s all the grunts like me. Announcers (Vin and Jaime, the Hall of Famers, sit in First Class) the production people and others.

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More on Brenkus, breaking beakers and Flubber-busting …

Even more from the media column today (linked here) on John Brenkus and “Sport Science,” which will have an episode to air on ESPN Saturday prior to the James Toney-Randy Couture boxer-vs.-MMA battle in UFC 118 (above, and linked here):

Question: Factoring in performance enhancing drugs into the equation as to who can perform the best feats of athletic achievement is something you’ve addressed as well in your book. Is that the X-factor that you have to weigh that you may wish you didn’t have to?

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Brenkus: I really do take the approach that: Assume everyone’s doing everything they can to get an edge. Steroids aren’t a black and white issue, but really just a big shade of gray. And for anyone to take a different stance, in my opinion, doesn’t understand the business of sports. It’s not the athlete who’s doing it, it’s the machine that demands it be done. People want to crucify athletes for doing this, but the truth is, Advil and caffeine are enhancing performance as well. When you talk about baseball players taking steroids, was it legal or illegal? That wasn’t the question. They weren’t banned at the time. And then there are arbitrary numbers that come up for things like testosterone levels – these nice round numbers that everyone can get their heads around easier.

Q: How has the relationship with ESPN helped move “Sport Science” into this new direction after such a succesful run on Fox Sports Net?

Brenkus: ESPN’s people have also been very collaborative in this process. It’s been very organic. We’ll ask them: What do you wonder about?
And what’s smart about that from ESPN, you’ll never get 15 million people to watch a “Sport Science” show, but you have 15 million people glued to the set when a “Sport Science” segment is on during a game on Monday Night Football. And now, having a standing set here (in Burbank), it’s much easier than having to jam everything into a three-week window like it was before with a temporary set. When we moved to ESPN the only way to run the show was having a standing set because never know who an athlete is available. We’re wired to go live to air from this facility if we needed to. We’re all fibered up and can feed things directly. And L.A. is a great place to get people. Everyone passes through here, if not for training, then for a photo-shoot or a commercial.

Q: If you’re taking this from the approach of what makes good TV – you’ve been a director, producer, editor, all that – how does your background in science come in?

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Brenkus: I was always a good student in physics and biology and the foundation of having gone to the University of Virginia. I only read science stuff — I don’t read anything fiction. And the book I’ve done is the kind of book I’d want to read. You dive into something, learn something. And you look for arguments.

Q: So the point is also that the species can change and all your arguments, based on current information, would make your predictions look far different?

Brenkus: Ten thousand years from now, people could be eight feet tall and fast sprinters.

Q: Did that make registering a prediction 20 years ago harder to do without today’s technology? Could you say when you first started this that no one will run a 9.5 in the 100 meters, not knowing that Usain Bolt would come around, or how to even measure that possibility?

Brenkus: I never really postulated numbers back then, but what I did was really wonder. In most cases, there really was no way to get the answers back then. But then again, a number is meaningless without something to back it up. What I want to do is give something that’s not so scientific that it makes everyone’s eyes glaze over, but enough information so that you can buy into the argument that this is the real answer.
Even when you watch an instant replay, the reason why you’re fascinated is because you’re getting more information. You’re asking yourself, “How in the world did that happen?” The replay brings up far more questions than answers. So we want to tap into that, even if you’re not a sports fan but are someone who has marveled at a human’s ability to walk – how is that engineering feat even capable?

Q: What’s the feedback from viewers? Is there an idea some viewer has submitted that was too good to pass on?

Brenkus: Someone asked about doing the Ironman — can the average person do it? I ended up doing it and it came off well. I did finish it but I blew out my right hip and had to pedal the last six miles into a 40-mph headwind with one leg. The guy who won it, Chris McCormick, actually finished the entire race just as I was starting on the bike part of it. But it also shows how 20 years ago, the top time was about 12 hours. Over two days. Now they’re finishing it in eight hours. That’s staggering about how humans will run the gauntlet when it’s thrown at them.

Q: How expensive can all this get with a single experiment?

Brenkus: It’s not just a matter of throwing out numbers. It really depends on the experiment. We have a large, robust machine with every piece of scientific gear, motion capture equipment, animation, the best camera equipment and a giant staff of researchers, writers, scientists … It’s hard to compare (to even a reality show) because it’s so different. We travel sometimes — one time, we had to go to Indianapolis Motor Speedway because we couldn’t replicate it in the studio.

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Q: Final question: Do you have any idea what flubber is made of?

Brenkus: The actual chemical composition, I don’t actually know. But I do know it’s a property that is bounding up against the laws of perpetual motion — energy that’s exerted equally wil be energy that’s returned. Most people think of Flubber as a liquified Super Ball. That’s not an actual product. Even in theoritical conversations, physics will say, “Don’t you realize how silly it sounds making a perpetual motion machine? But with movies like “Back to the Future,” some think it’s a real thing.

Q: Maybe Flubber could help someone duink the ball on a 14-foot basket (in his new book, “The Perfection Point,” Brenkus theorizes that someone who is 7-foot-2 with a 51-inch vertical leap could be the first to dunk on a basket that high).

Brenkus: That’s the absolute top (actually, 14-feet, 5-inches). You think someone the size of Yao Ming could get a 51-inch vertical. I think it can happen.

AND FINALLY:

== Brenkus says it’s the most-discussed video he get asked about — Drew Brees, going 10-for-10, over at the new Ed Roybal Charter School facility near Dodger Stadium:

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