The Media Learning Curve: Oct. 1-8

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Photo by Peter Iovino.
Josh Duhamel, left, as TV director Eric Messer, and Brooke Josephson (Liz) are in “Life As We Know It,” in theatres today.

Movies, as we know them, can bend the truth, distort history, and leave the imperfect impression on what actually happened. Especially with sports as the basis of a “based on a true story” script.

Kevin Modesti’s take on the new Disney-fied, PG for “brief mild language” movie, “Secretariat,” hits all those notes in today’s column (linked here) that serves as our media feast for today’s newspaper issue. (Kevin fails to note that “Enterouge” star Kevin Connolly plans a reporter in the flick, but that’s probably intentional (linked here).

We added some notes and smokes/chokes (linked here).

Meanwhile, sports, as we know it, can lead to a crazy lifestyle for those of us who work in the field. We know that all too well.

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“Life As We Know It,” a Warner Brothers’ PG-13 flick with Josh Duhamel as a “promising network sports TV director,” reveals that even more as his character, and Katherine Heigl as a restaurateur, discover they have to now take care of their God daughter, Sophie, even though the two main characters really don’t like each other.

And, again, sports and family life don’t easily mesh. Not with kids. Or little kids.

The life plan for Eric Messer (Duhamel) is “moving up from being a broadcast technician to a full-fledged director in national sports television,” according to the movie’s press notes (note: we missed a few opportunties to see a screening of this, so we’re going with the softball version rather than a first-hand account).

Duhamel said he spent a lot of time discussing the character with director Greg Berlanti.

“Greg and I felt it would be easy to fall into the trap of just playing him as a charming womanizer who needs to learn about love, but we wanted him to be a lot more than that,” said Duhamel. “We both felt that it was OK if he was unapologetic or says or does things that the audience may not like right away. Face it, guys can be like that.”

The press notes also point out that the NBA was also “very cooperative with the production,” allowing the movie to use real footage and access to Atlanta’s Phillips Arena. TBS, based in Atlanta, also lent them use of a large production booth for use in the scene where Messner has “a critical moment” in his life plan.

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As for Duhamel, you can find all kinds of stories that explain how he really is into sports — especially football, since he quarterbacked a team for Minot State in his native North Dakota. His wife, Fergie, along with the Black-Eyed Peas, are supposed to be playing at halftime of the next Super Bowl.

He tells ESPN (linked here) that it “my goal in life to play sports. I had a real passion for it. I guess this is close to it. …. Sports shows you how to compete, how to win and lose,” he said. “And it shows you how to be grateful for the opportunities you have. All that aesthetic stuff is fleeting.”

He tells ESPN SportsNation in a chat (linked here) that “I’m a sports junkie so I think I could see myself” being a sportscaster.

He tells Dan Patrick (linked here) that if Dan can get him on at Augusta, he’ll get Dan into one of his next movies. Boo-yah!

He tells USA Today (linked here) that he made a big mistake last November, when, while during the filming of the movie, he went to an Atlanta strip club and got his face plastered all over the National Enquirer (linked here) after a stripper named “Delilah” accused him of infidelity.

“That was … .” He trails off, his face falling. When his gaze refocuses, Duhamel’s eyes are wet.

“It’s not something I like to talk about,” he says. “Definitely one of the most difficult periods I’ve ever been through.”

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His words hang in the air as he thumbs away tears. “Oh man, I’m sorry,” he says. “I walked into that place, and I never should have done that. That was my mistake, you know, and I’ll never do it again. But you can’t help what people are going to do, and you can’t tell what people are going to do for money. That was the biggest thing I learned.

“I was like, ‘Wow, these people really exist.’ If they make money, they’ll do it. And so the hardest part is that my wife had to go through all that. She didn’t deserve that.”

Dude’s either a really good actor, or we went somewhere where we shouldn’t have gone …. or he shouldn’t have gone.

Sorry, man. That’s just the media life as we know it. Yucky.

On to far more tame matters…

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== The MLB and Turner Sports has come to realize it can’t jam four playoff games into one night, especially with no West Coast games, so the Sunday lineup of all four division series contests have been broken up, tentatively (linked here). If a fourth game of the ALDS series between Tampa Bay at Texas is needed, it’ll go at 10 a.m. on TBS. The NLDS Game 3 with San Francisco at Atlanta is slotted for TBS at 1:30 p.m., and ALDS Game 4 (if necessary) between Minnesota and the N.Y. Yankees at 5 p.m. on TBS. The NLDS Game 3 with Philadelphia at Cincinnati has been pushed over to TNT with a 4 p.m. first pitch — up against the NBC NFL coverage of Philadelphia-S.F. Chances are that Sunday lineup will be re-arranged if either ALDS series ends with a sweep in their game 3s on Saturday, putting the remaining games on TBS in the 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. windows.

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== Your NFL lineup for Los Angeles, because everyone’s watching (linked here), including Ben Roethlisburger for another week:

= Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11: Green Bay at Washington (with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver), instead of N.Y. Giants-Houston, Chicago-Carolina, Atlanta-Cleveland, Tampa-Cincinnati or St. Louis-Detroit.

= Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 2: Kansas City at Indianapolis (with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf), instead of Jacksonville-Buffalo or Denver-Buffalo.

= Sunday, 1 p.m., Channel 2: San Diego at Oakland (with Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcotts) instead of Tennessee-Dallas (with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms). Fox also has New Orleans-Arizona in this window (using Kurt Warner as an analyst).

= Sunday, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4: Philadelphia at San Francisco (with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Andre Kremer, and since they’re up in the Bay Area, maybe John Madden?)

= Monday, 5:30 p.m., ESPN: Minnesota at N.Y. Jets (with Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden).

== Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis and Rebecca Haarlow do the UCLA-Cal game from Berkeley (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Prime Ticket) — unless you have the Dish Network (linked here) — while Mike Patrick, Craig James and Shelley Smith are at USC-Stanford (Saturday, 5 p.m., Channel 7).

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The downside to USC-Stanford questionably taking the ABC prime-time window is that L.A. viewers won’t see Florida State at Miami (with steriod-friendly Brent Musburger (read all about it, again, linked here) and overzealous journalistic youngsters Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox), because that shares the regional options available. ESPN is locked in with LSU at Florida (with Joe Tessitore, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe, at 4:30 p.m.), and ESPN2 has Auburn at Kentucky (with Mark Jones and Bob Davie, at 4:30 p.m.).

== NBA TV says former Laker Rick Fox, who staved off elimination this week on “Dancing With The Stars,” will join the network for “select appearances throughout the year” as a guest studio analyst.

== ESPN, seemingly home to all that is college football in the post-season, starts its quest to lineup the bowls with its first weekly “BCS Countdown” show of the season (Sunday, 5:15 p.m.). It will also have the BCS standings, starting with the first to be released on Oct. 17, through Dec. 5. Rece Davis hosts it with BCS prediction “expert” Brad Edwards.

== Aw, screw it, let’s go bowling (linked here).

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AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
Jimmie Johnson climbs out of his car as a thousand students from Emerald Middle School in his hometown of El Cajon greet him on Tuesday. Johnson’s foundation has given the school $100,000.

== Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree call the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Fontana, dubbed the Pepsi Max 400, from the so-called Auto Club Speedway. ESPN has the race (Sunday, starting with NASCAR Countdown at 11 a.m., with the green flag at 12:16 p.m.). ESPN2 has the practice today (noon) and qualifying (3:30 p.m.), as well as the Nationwide Series race (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.).

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We must also note: SportsMediaWatch.com (linked here) reports that for the third straight week, NASCAR’s Chase For The Cup put up poor numbers on ESPN. Sunday’s Price Chopper 400 drew a 2.3 rating on ESPN, down 28 percent from last year’s race on ABC (3.2) and down 34 percent from the 2008 race on ABC (3.5). The race is tied as the lowest rated Chase For The Cup race ever — matching the Sylvania 300 earlier this year. Additionally, the three races rank as easily the lowest rated regularly-scheduled NASCAR races of at least the past four seasons.

The half-full spin: Last Sunday’s race was the 14th most-viewed program of the week on cable, and the No. 2 event of the week on ESPN, ahead of every college football telecast.

== Is it true: Jim Gray received a half-mil for his performance/sparking the idea for the LeBron James’ “The Decision”? That’s what we got from an ESPN source.

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== If Robert Wuhl is never remembered for HBO’s “Arliss,” or as Al Stump in “Cobb,” or as the pitching coach (did you know his name was Larry Hockett) in “Bull Durham,” or as the “angry customer” in “Good Burger,” he could assume the position of a sports-talk host. Wuhl told the New York Times that he’ll start a syndicated, three-hour midday show for Westwood One starting in January.

“I can do sports talk,” he told the Times (linked here), “but I can also talk about movies and politics. It’s not filtered. There are great hosts, like Dan Patrick, Jim Rome and Mike Francesa, but I come from a little different place. I joke that I can’t vote for the Heisman but I can vote for the Academy Awards.”

== TNT sends Marv Albert, Mike Fratello, Steve Kerr and Cheryl Miller to Indian Wells for the annual NBA outdoor game on a tennis court, this year featuring Dallas and Phoenix (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.).

== Next in line for ESPN’s “30 for 30″ series is the relationship that former Lakers center Vlade Divac had with the late Drazen Petrovic called “Once Brothers” (Tuesday, 5 p.m., ESPN). Interviews with former Yugoslavian teammates Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja, as well as Magic Johnson and Jerry West are included in the NBA Entertainment-produced piece. A review and interview with Divac coming soon on this.

== AND FINALLY:

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== If ESPN is intent on having NBA fans treat the Miami Heat like college basketball fans think of Duke, it’s on its way with an aptly-named, oiled-up device called “The Heat Index,” launching on ESPN.com starting Monday under the website’s NBA section.

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Think columns, blogs, video, audio, automated modules, social media elements, photo galleries and other multimedia offerings related to, but hardly excluding, LeBron, Bosh and D-Wade.

Brian Windhorst has been hired away from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer to serve as “one of the leading authorities on LeBron James,” according to ESPN PR speak. Windhorst has written two books about James and has covered him since middle school. He covered the Cavs for the last seven years, but now he’s based in Miami as one of two beat writers for ESPN assigned to the Heat.The other is Michael Wallace, hired away from the Miami Herald as the Heat beat writer for the previous three seasons.

One of the features on this site sure to please Lakers fans is called “Chase for 72,” which is “an automated, daily forecast of how many games the Heat will win including ESPN.com’s John Hollinger projecting the odds of the Heat matching the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins.” There’s also “Hollinger’s All-Time Power Rankings,” which attempts to regularily rank the Heat against the NBA’s all-time great teams, and “The Scene,” which makes Jemele Hill cover the culture, scene and lifestyle angles tied to South Beach as it relates to the team.

If somewhere in that mess it keeps track of the Lakers’ pursuit of a three-peat, maybe that gives it some proper context.

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