AP Photo/Bob Child UConn coach Geno Auriemma reacts during a win over Marquette, the team’s 87th in a row, last week.
There is some kind of noise connected to the UConn women’s basketball team as it approaches the iconic 88 – that is, the winning-streak standard that UCLA’s men’s basketball team accomplished in the early 1970s.
A blah buzz? A muzzled murmur?
A stifled media yawn?
In her column this week for USA Today (linked here), Christine Brennan called it a flagant foul, practically scolding the sports communications industry for failing to generate much of anything decibel-related for this pending achievement. Not even so much as giving it the obligatory apples-to-oranges sides that are drawn with any debate of such low-lying fruit.
On the flip side, a men’s team that happened to be zoning on the Bruins’ NCAA record would have every four-letter network turning upside down trying to produce daily countdown specials, websites and documentaries.
Yet, Brennan’s disappointment that the UConn-Ohio State game on a late-season NFL Sunday that could celebrate the Huskies’ 88th win in a row has “been relegated” to ESPNU and takes away from “the top billing” that the achievement deserves has merit, despite what one high-level ESPN person believes.
“ESPNU is in 73 million homes, and it’s the network of college sports, and this is a huge college sports moment,” Tina Thornton, ESPN’s senior coordinating producer, said today. “So, you know . . . I guess people can say all they want about where we put it, but it’s a great vehicle for a great game.”
Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
NFL: Baltimore at Houston, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
As an L.A. NFL fan that saw the league award a franchise several seasons ago to the former home of the Oilers intead of the former home of the Rams and Raiders, do you find any glee in watching this Texans’ season about to collapse like the Metrodome roof? After what many thought was a tailor-made carpet trip to the playoffs, Houston now knows it has to win its last four in a row, and then hope a couple teams ahead of it struggle? Yup, Houston has a problem. Go ahead. Smile at least.
College basketball: UCLA vs. UC Davis, Pauley Pavilion, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Put these 5-4 Bruins in the Big West Conference, and they’d be a shiny 3-0, with wins this year already against Cal State Northridge, Pacific and Cal Poly. The Aggies of UC Davis are next (with UC Irvine next week). And Ben Howland’s record over the last two seasons is now 18-22?
NHL: Kings at Detroit, 4:30 p.m., Versus:
In the afterglow of a 3-2 OT win against the Red Wings at Staples Center last week, the Kings start a five-game road trip with a rare national TV exposure. They had none of these last year. The Red Wings ended their first two-game losing slide with back-to-back wins over the weekend.
NBA: Lakers at Washington, 4 p.m., Channel 9:
Pardon the presidential interruption, but a day after a special meet-and-greet with Barack Obama — again — the Lakers have another scheduled appointment in pummeling the Wizards, probably not as irratically as they did last week at Staples Center. Last January, when the Lakers were in a 5-5 stretch after a 28-6 start, they had their champions meeting at the White House and were inspired to win nine of their next 11. And, if things to as advertised, Andrew Bynum will see his first action of the season here. Holding your breath?
NBA: Lakers at Indiana, 4 p.m., Channel 9; Clippers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., Prime:
If not for the Grammys, then why again has everyone been kicked out of Staples Center this week? That goofy Disney On Ice show starts tonight, and goes through Sunday. The Lakers, as a result, get to meet up with the team that beat ‘em by three a couple of weeks ago, and the Clippers find out how life’s been treating Elton Brand (averaging 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds a game).
NHL: Ducks at Washington, 4 p.m., FSW:
As for this Ducks’ extended roadie, it’s not clear why they’ve been frozen out. They won’t be back at the Honda Center until New Year’s Eve, but Disney On Ice doesn’t barge in until Dec. 21-26.
NFL: San Francisco at San Diego, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:
The Chargers, in their last home game, only wish they could face Brodie Croyle every week. The 49ers’ Alex Smith, in his last win over Seattle, only wishes he could look like John Brodie every week. San Diego (and Pittsburgh) has the easiest remaining schedule left for AFC playoff-eligible teams — their opponents’ winning percentage for the last three games are a combined .354.
NHL: Kings at St. Louis, 5 p.m., FSW:
Andy McDonald was the Blues’ leading scorer when he went out with a concussion on Dec. 4 – he hit a rut in the ice and crashed into the leg of Edmonton’s Shawn Horcoff. McDonald hasn’t played since. Remember, he missed the last 29 games of the Ducks’ Stanley Cup run in ’03 because of post-concussion syndrome. He also missed seven games earlier this season for the same reason.
NHL: Ducks at N.Y. Islanders, 4 p.m., Prime:
The best lead to a story last week in the Orange County Register: “ANAHEIM – Everything about Teemu Selanne’s game is fine except for that nagging pain emanating from his groin muscle.” He’s gone missing again, maybe for some of this trip.
NBA: Lakers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., Channel 9:
All those things that Doug Collins used to say about Phil Jackson from the broadcast table may come back to haunt him now that he’s back coaching the Sixers.
NBA: Clippers at Detroit, 4:30 p.m., FSW:
TheBigLead.com contributor Stephen Douglas wrote it last week: “The Clippers are a garbage fire and Baron Davis is fanning the flames with an excrement-covered blanket. But Blake Griffin… man he’s a joy to watch.”
High school football: California state Division I championship: Corona Centennial vs. Palo Alto, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Centennial (15-0) won the Division I state title in ’08, and has scored as many as 82 points in a game this season.
College football: New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque: BYU vs. UTEP, 11 a.m., ESPN; Humanitarian Bowl, Boise, Idaho: Fresno State vs. Northern Illinois, 2:30 p.m., ESPN; New Orleans Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy, 6 p.m., ESPN:
To kick off the bowl season, it’s two 6-6 teams meeting in the only live televised sporting event in the state of New Mexico. At the end of the day, they’ll still combine for a .500 record. It can only get better.
High school football: California state open-division championship: Concord De La Salle vs. Anaheim Servite, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Perennial power De La Salle, the open division winner in 2009, is 13-0, having won its division title 19 straight seasons. Servite, 14-0, the defending Division II title winner, and ranked No. 1 by MaxPreps, has won its last 25 in a row. In the 3:30 p.m. Division II championship, Serra of Gardena (14-0), with a 29-game win streak having won the Div. III title a year ago, takes on Folsolm (13-1) from the San Joaquin Valley.
NHL: Kings at Nashville, 5 p.m., Channel 13:
The Kings registered a 4-1 against the Predators in early November behind Jonathan Bernier.
NBA: Clippers at Chicago: 5 p.m., FSW:
See: Friday, at Detroit, Clippers.
College basketball: UCLA vs. BYU, Honda Center, 2:30 p.m. FSW:
For the first time since the inception of the John R. Wooden Classic, its namesake won’t be present. The Hall of Fame coach’s passing in June left some doubt about whether it could go on, but soon afterward, the family said in an a statement that it was “proud to continue the Wooden Classic in honor of our father, grandfather and great grandfather,” said Jim Wooden and Nancy Muehlhausen, John Wooden’s son and daughter. This is the 17th year of the event, and UCLA has been in 15 of them. The day begins with St. Mary’s against Long Beach State.
College basketball: USC at Kansas, 9 a.m., ESPN:
What UCLA couldn’t accomplish two weeks ago, maybe the Trojans can: Ending the Jayhawks’ home winning streak. Depends on what moods the referees are in.
NBA: Lakers at Toronto, 10 a.m., Channel 9:
We’re looking at a list of the leading scorers this year for the non-D League Raptors and … nope, don’t see Chris Bosh. We’ve lost track of his whereabouts. Blame Canada. At least this one will end early.
NFL: Green Bay at New England, 5:15 p.m., Channel 4:
Aaron Rodgers may not remember much about the Pack’s last loss to Detroit – and might have even been more confused watching the Vikings play the Giants on the Lions’ home field on Monday.
NHL: Kings at Chicago, 4 p.m., FSW:
They’ve already lost twice to the defending Stanley Cup champs in the first 22 games. Is Marco Sturm ready yet?
Our biggest Beef ‘O’ Brady with the current college football bowl system?
This season, it looks as if someone from the NCAA went to Overstock.com and bought up all the naming rights nobody else wanted.
So maybe the economy hasn’t fully bounced back to those glorious, disingenuous dot-com days where companies could sponsor a meaningless bowl game by swiping a credit card that they never intended to pay off.
But if this is supposed to be some sudden embarrassment of riches among the Big Lots of the world, maybe we should feel fortunate that UCLA and USC had a) not enough victories or b) too many violations to completely avoid the further embarrassment of having to ask their fan base to cough up full-price plane fair and game tickets for a tacky-named exhibition.
Go down the list. It’s like a who’s who of never was.
A Wilmington, Ohio-based trucking firm. A discount paint-and-body repair shop. A Japanese automaker with a name we still can’t pronounce, and whose top-selling model ranks No. 14 on the American best-seller list.
A multi-vitamin retailer whose customer service complaint hotline expands from 10 p.m. to midnight on Mondays and Tuesdays. An online ticket broker that has neither “Stub” nor “Hub” in its name. A website where you go, daddy, to buy a website domain name.
Two pizza delivery joints. A credit union that’s supposed to be looking out for your investment but is instead paying out $750,000 a team in appearance fees. And a U.S. defense contractor.
Who’s got a spare Poulan WeedEater to come in and clear some of this dry brush?
There are 34 minor-league, preliminary bouts over the next four-plus weeks before the Oregon-Auburn heavyweight battle to determine this season’s pretend national champion. There are just about 34 minor-league names to match.
Either the giants of the Forbes 500 weren’t bold enough to spend a little walking-around money and slap their logo on the midfield stripe, or this is an ingenious way for major corporate America to protest the whole charade.
There will be no drove to be humanely put down after the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl wraps up this Saturday in Boise, Idaho. This company that “replaces in-cab paperwork for the transportation industry from your smart phone” might want to add an app to monitor if anyone’s really paying attention in Spudville, USA.
Some think we’ve reached a new era with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. But it’s really an opportunity for good ol’ 7-5 Syracuse, with stunning victories over Colgate, Akron and Maine but unable to upend UConn for the Big East title, to boldly offer travel packages to anyone willing to take a same-day, 250-mile round-trip charter from the campus to New York City. It comes with ground transportation, a pre-game reception and a “trip souvenir.” But no game ticket. All for just $720 a person.
That Emerald Nut-Job Bowl that the Trojans ended up winning last year in San Francisco? Now it’s the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. A noble cause, but really, is the best way to tackle this kind of global problem with gobs of Mac-and-Cheez Whiz?
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, by the way, is an Irish pub chain. The closest one to us is in Phoenix. That’s not far enough.
These bowls that do get (but don’t necessarily need) NCAA certification have the option of going without a shady business partner. But then they have to figure out a way to pay the teams off for participating. Most guarantee at least the three-quarters-of-a-mil payout.
Yet, something called the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 8, can only afford $300,000 apiece for Pittsburgh and Kentucky. The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl really got carried away and has committed $325,000 each to Troy and Ohio.
Why even bother?
The salad days of college football’s Salad Bowl – it was Phoenix’s precursor to the Fiesta Bowl, sponsored by Tostidos – make us wonder even more: How low will they go with lame names?
Tom Hagel, a senior director of marketing at ESPN, which is the network televising 34 of the 35 games this bowl season, told Bloomberg News recently that he has never had a title sponsor name rejected by the NCAA’s Football Issues Committee, which grants bowl licenses.
“We have our own filter,” Hagel said. “When you’re in the bowl business, it’s almost like you’re buying a house in a neighborhood. You don’t want a real bad house in the neighborhood.”
Unless it’s been sitting vacant for a few years and the neighborhood’s value is plummeting.
In that case, the ExtenZe Bowl has just been added to someone’s short list.
In the New York Times’ obit on the passing this week of former ABC “Monday Night Football” analyst Don Meredith, it notes:
Joseph Donald Meredith was born on April 10, 1938. In high school, he acted in school plays, scored 52 points in a basketball tournament game, graduated second in his class and won a statewide contest for identifying shrubs.
Some of the quotes that came out this week on his life:
== Frank Gifford, who got choked up when talking about Meredith when interviewed live at halftime on ESPN’s recent “MNF” telecast, told New York’s Newsday he went to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a final visit: “I saw him about three months ago. [His wife] Susan called me and said he was a little down in the dumps. He really wasn’t talking to anyone. He would just sit there and was on oxygen at the time and just every now and then he’d try to sing. She had an around-the-clock nurse for him. I figured it was getting close to the end. I just flew out one afternoon and spent two days with him and came back. He didn’t take very good care of himself, to say the least. Once he got to where he couldn’t do anything he just fell apart. Sad.”
== Dan Dierdorf, who did 12 years on “Monday Night Football” for ABC: “He was not a professional announcer and I think that’s really what endeared him to people. I think a lot of people looked at Don Meredith in the booth and thought to themselves, ‘That could be me.’”
== Randy Galloway, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist: “As a huge Meredith fan, I once asked (Cowboys coach Tom) Landry about him while walking back from the practice fields at training camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif. ‘Coach, did you enjoy Don Meredith back in the day?’ A slight grin appeared, then Tom answered dryly, ‘he was different.’”
Personal aside: Without Meredith, there’s no Terry Bradshaw, Paul Maguire, Lee Corso, or anyone else who injects their over-the-top personality into a broadcast. You knew Meredith knew what he was doing, he was perfect for that time when “MNF” was bigger than just a game, kind of an interloper who played his role but had the credibility.
They say that all good things must end. This ended too soon.
The Cowboys plan to pay tribute to Meredith before Sunday night’s game against Philadelphia. The Dallas Morning News reports that Meredith never did attend a game at the new stadium before his death. He was invited for the regular season opener against the New York Giants in 2009, but was the only living member of the Ring of Honor at the time to decline the invitation.
Following up on today’s media column (linked here), the rest of the stuff that passes for our media ring of honor this weekend:
== The NFL slate for your L.A. television stations coming up:
= 10 a.m., Channel 11: N.Y. Giants at Minnesota (with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman), instead of Fox’s other offerings: Green Bay-Detroit, Atlanta-Carolina and Tampa Bay-Washington.
= 10 a.m., Channel 2: Oakland at Jacksonville (with Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots). CBS also has Cleveland-Buffalo and Cincinnati-Pittsburgh.
= 1 p.m., Channel 2: Kansas City at San Diego (with Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker) instead of New England-Chicago (with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms), Denver-Arizona and Miami-N.Y. Jets. Fox also has St. Louis-New Orleans and Seattle-San Francisco.
= 5:15 p.m., Channel 4: Philadelphia at Dallas (with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Andre Kremer).
= 5:30 p.m., ESPN: Baltimore at Houston (with Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski).
= 5 p.m., NFL Network: San Francisco at San Diego (with Bob Papa, Matt Millen and Joe Theisman).
== With today’s updated technology, would any network ever try an announcer-less NFL game again? The NFL Network experimented with it by replaying a recent Thursday night game with only the game sounds (and eliminating the call of their three-broadcaster booth). Thirty years ago, NBC tried it, and whether it succeeded or not is debated on the latest ESPN “Outside the Lines” Sunday morning show (6 a.m.) with then-NBC executive producer Don Ohlmeyer (the current ESPN.com ombudsman) and director David Neal talking about how it went during that contest featuring the 3-12 New York Jets and 8-7 Miami Dolphins in an otherwise meaningless season-ending game (link to video preview here).Dick Enberg and Bryant Gumbel also are interviewed for the piece.
== How ESPN plans to handle Saturday’s Heisman ceremony with Cam Newton and all that stuff (linked here).
== Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson call the 111th Army-Navy game (Chanel 2, 11:30 a.m., Saturday), the second year that the game is played on the second Saturday in December to end the college football regular-season, as part of CBS’ extended agreement to do the game through 2018. Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman and Aaron Taylor do the pregame show (11 a.m.) that includes an interview with Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who says his future plans which include becoming President of the United States in 2040.
== JP Dellacamera and John Harkes call the NCAA men’s College Cup, starting with the semifinals today (North Carolina-Louisville, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU; Michigan-Akron, 7 p.m., ESPN2) and the final on Sunday (1 p.m., ESPN2) from UC Santa Barbara.
== Big Ten Network has Fox Sports Detroit’s coverage of the Michigan-Michigan State outdoor hockey game (Saturday, noon) that is expected to fill the Big House — more than 109,000. The two teams played an outdoor game in 2001 at Spartain Stadium in East Lansing before 74,554. The 16-camera production uses Matt Shepard (play-by-play), former Michigan player and ex-Islanders colorman Billy Jaffe (analyst), Fred Pletsch (between the benches analyst), along with Mickey Redmond and John Keating (hosts/intermission interviews).
== ESPN has decided to unlease online columnist Bill Simmons as a guest analyst on tonight’s Miami-Golden State telecast (7:30 p.m.), joining Dan Shulman and Mark Jackson. At least it won’t happen during the ESPN coverage of the game preceeding it — Lakers at Chicago, with Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy.
== HBO’s final boxing event of the year sends Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Roy Jones Jr. (subbing for Emanuel Steward) to Las Vegas to see Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana and Victor Ortiz-Lamont Peterson (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.).
== Because it can, TNT has decided to send its studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith to Staples Center prior to its coverage of the Lakers-Oklahoma City game on Martin Luther King Day (Monday, Jan. 17). Yes, they’ve been trying to get out more this season. They were at the Oct. 26 Boston-Miami opener, then at the Dec. 2 Miami-Cleveland game.
== A new ESPN-created college basketball “Champions Classic,” featuring “four of the sport’s winningest programs” playing each other in prime time on neutral sites over the next three years – and UCLA didn’t get an invite? In mid-November during the 2011, ’12 and ’13 seasons, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State (who all play in conferences tied to ESPN contracts) have agreed to matchups played as a double header in New York, Atlanta and Chicago. The ESPN director of programming and acquisitions calls it an event that creates “a tremendous pillar for the start of the college basketball season.” Maybe it gives the current UCLA program something to shoot for. Or organize their own event with the help of Fox Sports Net.
== Dreaming of a White Christmas and the 1960 World Series? MLB Network has it, thanks to Bing Crosby.
The black-and-white kinescope of the ’60 World Series Game 7 which was thought to be lost but rediscovered earlier this year at the home of the late singer (who was part-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time) will be seen on TV Wednesday at 5 p.m. on the MLB Network for the first time since it was originally aired 50 years ago.
Bob Costas will include interviews with Bill Mazerowski, Dick Groat, Bill Virdon, Bobby Richardson, Vera Clemente (the widow of Roberto Clemente) and actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton.
Interviews were recorded in front of a live audience of more than 1,000 at the historic Byham Theater in Pittsburgh on November 13, 2010, where the film of Game 7 was screened.
Hall of Fame broadcasters Mel Allen and Bob Prince alternate each half inning of the broadcast, which MLB Network worked with the Technicolor company to restore the picture and sound quality. The original production includes limited on-screen graphics and no instant replay.
Before the telecast, Costas will host a special “Bing and Baseball” at 4:30 p.m., to feature Crosby’s involvement with baseball. Interviews are done with Crosby’s widow Kathryn and his son Nathaniel
Things to do while waiting for the kickoff to the next Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Track down the new Adam Carolla book, “In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks.” (linked here).
Man up, the former “Man Show” co-creator and current podcast radio host rants. Next time you get a flat tire, change it yourself instead of grabbing a hand sanitizer and calling Triple-A like your wife or girlfriend would do.
And while we’re on the emasculating subject: Why did it take 30-some years for ESPN to finally start its own chick network?
Stop fighting it.
Not that there are immediate plans for newly minted espnW to morph soon into the latest ESPN cable channel – if it happens, it’ll be because of a demand for it and financial incentive for the Disney corporation.
But for the time being, you’ve been warned: Those five letters represent the launch of a not-so-demure website blog, the planting of a beachhead to an initiative to see who’s initiated into sports media reform from the female perspective.
The mission statement reads (linked here): “A destination for women who are passionate sports fans and athletes. We hope you find it surprising, informative and inspiring, because we created it just for you.”
For who? “The View”?
“It was conceived to serve females,” says espnW vice president Laura Gentile, “but we’re happy to have men enjoy it, too.”
Go ahead, take the bait. It may not be in your DNA, but there’s a double-helix of information to pour over.
Gentile’s pilot project into luring more women to ESPN’s platforms of sports consumerism involved nearly two years of research to decide on the best form of infiltration.
The gameplan here, as if fits in ESPN’s big picture: Nurture more female viewers (its research shows men make up more than 75 percent of all network viewership) beyond the Olympics, the Spelling Bee or cheerleading shows. And then find out why there are dozens of hours of women’s sports programming offered each week that go unnoticed by both genders.
To cut through the clutter of male-enhanced sports noise, espnW starts with a group of personalities posting mini-columns such as Melissa Jacobs (thefootballgirl.com), Amanda Rykoff (OCDChick.com) and Sarah Spain (ESPNChicago.com), plus former athletes like Julie Foudy, Tamika Catchings, Summer Sanders and Jessica Mendoza.
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images Jessica Mendoza, right, poses with tennis legend Billie Jean King, center, and then-Woman’s Sports Foundation president Aimee Mullins in New York at an awards ceremony in 2008.
Mendoza, the former Camarillo High and Stanford star Olympic softball player, did her first piece (linked here) on lessons learned from a recent women’s self-esteem talk she heard Billie Jean King do at an espnW retreat.
“When I heard this was going to be a place for women’s sports – high school, college and pro — things like Sports Illustrated for Women come and go because it seems like they’re just thrown out there,” said Mendoza, president of the Women’s Sports Foundation and an ESPN college football sideline reporter. “I think it’s cool for a female to know what’s happening in men’s sports, just as it’s OK for guys to know what’s going on with women’s sports. I see this website doing that.”
Gentile says the “pressure is self-imposed” to succeed with this out-of-TV-tube fertilization.
“The three lessons we’ve learned from those kind of cautionary tales is that, one, you have to have a long-term commitment to develop and listen to the audience and mold the product,” said Gentile. “There aren’t very many overnight success stories in this business. You also need to do a lot of homework, and we’ve been methodical in our research. And then you need a dedicated team who is accountable and responsible and isn’t treating this as a side project. We have support on all three of those.”
Feedback from those who visited espnW.com during this week’s launch (linked here) comes from a survey where they’re asked to concede if they are a “woman (it’s espnW after all)” or a “man (curious about this whole espnW thing).”
Mendoza said she asked her husband, Adam, to check out the site this week when they had some downtime at their Moorpark home.
“He rolled his eyes, and in his mind he had this picture of an all-women’s thing, so I left him alone,” she said. “I saw him reading some of the stories. The first question he asked me was, ‘Do they have an app for this?’”
Dodgers radio play-by-play man Charley Steiner will give the mid-year commencement address at his alma mater, Bradley University, on Dec. 18, where he will also receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
The 1971 Bradley grad was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 and into the Centurion Society in 2003. He established an endowed scholarship at the Peoria, Ill., institute of higher learning in 2000.
Steiner’s address will also be the first time the university’s new $50 million arena that was completed last August and is used to house the school’s athletic department and games for the women’s basketball and volleyball teams.
“We are honored to have such an accomplished alumnus like Charley Steiner address our graduates,” Bradley President Joanne Glasser said. “We strive to bring speakers of national stature to inspire our students with their passion, wisdom and life experiences. I am confident that Charley will offer memorable reflections to our graduates and their families as they celebrate this important milestone in their lives.”
Steiner began his career as a newscaster for WIRL radio in Peoria while he was a Bradley student.
== And this just in from the memorabilia market: A signed Charley Steiner baseball is going for $59.10 on BestShoppingCenter.net (linked here).
All the best-selling sports books for this holiday season — you know how to find ‘em.
The Mickey Mantle book by Jane Levy (linked here). The Andre Agassi autobiograph (linked here). Even the annual best sportswriting book (linked here) has the usual good stuff.
We’re attempting instead to characterize some of the somewhat under-the-radar but still-fresh sports page-turners out there for purchase, general perusal or possibly using as a doorstop, in 140 words (not characters), no more or less:
== “Carry the Rock: Race, Football and the Soul of An American City” By Jay Jennings, $25.99, Rodale, 255 pages
Find it at this link Summary: Fifty years after the historic Arkansas’ Little Rock Nine integration incident — look it up if you’re not familiar with it — home-town-bred Jennings examines the 2007 Central High School football team, in a “Friday Night Lights” sort-of treatment. Thanks to coach Bernie Cox, who previously shunned the spotlight, for giving Jennings amazing access to the underfunded program, exposing how this team didn’t bond the same way as others did. “You go to school at lunchtime and you’ll see,” one player says. “The white students are sitting together and the black students are together. They don’t ever get close.” Social change doesn’t always guarantee acceptance, and Cox’s new Code of Conduct pushes things back in the right direction and strikes a chord. As does this book.
== “Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe” By Kate Buford, $35, Knoff, 480 pages
Find it at this link Summary: Buford decided to dig into this subject after doing a biography of Burt Lancaster, who played Thorpe in the movies. And there’s a lot of digging to do. Thorpe, voted the greatest athlete of the 20th century by the Associated Press, is a much more complicated historical figure, but also a bridge from the Wild West to today’s professional sports structure. The 1912 U.S. Olympic decathlon champ (who had his gold later stripped because of a stint as a semi-pro baseball player) was the victim of double standards and racism, and “looms larger (these days) because there wasn’t more concrete evidence (via media),” says Buford. “He’s kept this aura; he just kind of sits out there, pre-technology.” He’s definitely flawed — alcoholism, failed marriages, poor money decision. But it’s refreshing to have his story finally told as complete as possible.
== “One Step at a Time: A Young Marine’s Story of Courage, Hope and a New Life in the NFL” By Josh Bleill and Mark Tabb, $22.95, Triumph Books, 206 pages.
Find it at this link. Summary: The Marine phrase “adapt and overcome” didn’t hit Josh Bleill until he was in Miami, an invited guest to watch his Indianapolis Colts play in Super Bowl XLI. Having lost both legs on combat patrol in Iraq in 2006, he wasn’t sure how to move his life forward. Amidst the nightmares and flashbacks, a dream came true: The Colts hired him as a community spokesman. “It wasn’t some pity job,” Bleill writes. “They haven’t gone easy on me. … The Colts brought me in and taught me how to use my full potential.” His goal: Have every NFL team partner with a wounded vet to make a difference in the community. “No Marine wants people to fell sorry for them. I wanted to work with a purpose, to accomplish something far greater than can be measured in dollars and cents.”
== “Baseball: An Illustrated History (With the Tenth Inning)” By Geoffery Ward and Ken Burns, $39.95, Alfred Knopf Publishing, 563 pages.
Find it at this link. Summary: “What can baseball tell us about who we are as a people?” is the rehashed question by Ward in his re-intro updating the companion book to the PBS “Baseball” 1994 documentary series. Slap the new “Chapter 10″ in and send it back out. Again, the errors are frustrating. One of the 590 pictures is splashed across pages 456-457 captioned: “Oakland pitcher Dennis Eckersley, left, watches his slider disappear into the bleachers of Dodger Stadium as the injured Kirk Gibson begins his painful trot around the bases.” Guess again. Gibson is hobbling toward first, but with A’s first baseman Mark McGwire in his way. Eckersley, with his back to the camera, is coming over to cover the bag. This has to be before the moment, when he dribbled a foul ball and tried to leg it out. Way too obvious?
== “Bad Asses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders” By Peter Richmond, $25.99, Harper Collins, 353 pages
Find it at this link. Summary: Summary: Richmond’s caveat is that “the passage of time has a way of producing permutations” in men’s memories, and “while ‘Badass’ intends to be a definitive history, it is also an oral history of a long-gone time, and it’s hoped readers will approach this work with the full knowledge that history, as retold by several voices, is an elastic thing.” True enough, consumption of this book is as tasty as rubber chicken. Richmond’s exhumation of the “beloved” bunch of “violent rebels … castoffs, psychos, oddballs and geniuses” known as Stabler, Biletnikoff, Atkinson, Villapiano and Hendricks from Oakland’s 1970s is often left to him pulling out info from previously written books by and about them. New info is sparse, and living players and coaches don’t seem to want to relive it. This story seems to be lost in a black hole.
== “The Little Book of Indoor Golf Games: 18 Sure-fire Ways to Improve Your Game at Home or in the Office” By Adrian Winter, $10.99, Sourcebooks.com, 82 pages.
Find it at this link. Summary: Putting is 40 percent of golf, and 100 percent boring. So Winter makes a game of it – more than miniature golf, but practical stuff that aims to improve your aim on the green. The key is setting targets that are 4 inches wide – the diameter of the hole. A putter, a ball, and some tees, plus a string, a deck of cards and patience. The exercises are simple and can be altered to be more of a challenge. Some look more like tennis, croquet, soccer or bowling — the trick is to make the mind think they’re interesting instead of tedious. We like the old standby: Put a dollar bill on the floor, stand eight feet away, and try to putt the ball so it rests on the bill. Now, replace it with a postage stamp. Remember those?
== “Locals Only: California Skateboarding 1975-1978″ By Hugh Holland, edited by Steve Crist, $39.95, Ammo Books, 84 pages.
Find it at this link. Summary: X-Gamers can see what hardcore skateboarding was like some 30 years ago, beyond the Dogtown and Z-Boys fantasy. Holland’s photographic journal of these sidewalk surfers in almost larger-than-life presentation (the book is the size of a small billboard) captures the bronze-and-gold images that stay real. A great Q-and-A with Holland, with Crist, tells about how he started finding skateboarders zipping around in abandoned swimming polls in Laurel Canyon, and there’s that “certain golden glow you get from the haze and the smog in the afternoon light (in L.A.), and (it) hits the figures balancing on the edge of a bowl, with the light reflecting back from the concrete below.” Like pages 18-19, with Scott and Kent Senatore in a San Fernando Valley school yard in 1976. Stacy Peralta and more are frozen in time, in Redondo, Carlsbad, Reseda, Coldwater Canyon, Santa Monica. Intense and beautiful.
== “The Gipper: George Gipp, Knute Rockne, and the Dramatic Rise of Notre Dame Football” By Jack Cavanaugh, $24.95, Skyhorse Publishing, 294 pages
Find it at this link. Summary: Not so much a gripping tale of how George Gipp came to Notre Dame as an unknown in the fall of 1916, and four years later was one of the best-known athletes in the country. OK, so maybe we’ve got a Ronald Regan movie character etched too deep in our mind for the facts to supercede the legend. Gipp, the first All-American player in Notre Dame history, died at 25 years, 10 months on Dec. 14, 1920, and this is as much an attempt to document his athletic abilities (he excelled in baseball and billiards, too) as it is his relationship with Knute Rockne and the program. Truth is, most of the Gipp and Rockne myths have some legitimacy, and here’s a chance for real Irish fans to wake up some retro history.
== “Raising Stanley: What It Takes to Claim Hockey’s Ultimate Prize” By Ross Bernstein, $22.95, Triumph, 368 pages
Find it at this link Summary: Someday, stories from Kings players may be in the updated version. For now, fans of the team must read about the joys others have had with the Cup — yes, it’s superstition that you can’t touch it until you’ve won it. “One thing you don’t want to do is disrespect the Cup, otherwise the hockey gods may punish you,” Bernstein writes. Former Kings coach Barry Melrose, referencing his trip to the ’93 Finals and the loss to Montreal, writes: “I have never touched the Cup and that is something I will just have to live with. (In ’93) I never got the job done. I didn’t earn it. .. To be honest, I don’t even like to be near the Cup. I just feel as though I don’t deserve to be that close to it. … I’ve had my chances.”
== “Da Bears: How the 1985 Monsters of the Midway Became the Greatest Team in NFL History” By Steve Delsohn, $24.99, Crown, 260 pages
Find it at this link Summary: Memories of the Monsters of the Midway fade as the years go by – they won three playoff games by a combined 91-10 — so capturing the 25-year mark of the Ditka-McMahon-Singletary-Payton-Refrigerator Perry-46 Defense team by those still around makes sense and adds new perspective. Our local guys like Tim Wrightman, the UCLA star who joined the team after three years in the USFL, even chime in. Better, Delsohn investigates: Why didn’t this team win more than just once? Former USC star Keith Van Horne: “I remember coming into a team meeting and Ditka’s yelling at us, ‘You forgot what it takes to win’ … Then I went home and on channel 2, 5 and 7, Ditka had three different commercials, not for the same product. I think that sorta encapsulates what happened to that team.” Answers Ditka: “That’s all bullshit.”
More holiday book ideas:
== Endless winter: The top 10 surfing books of the last half year (linked here)
One of our favorite sites to check out for material — old, out of print books mostly — is abebooks.com, a place that a used-book store owner turned us onto several years ago.
A recent search for specificially-autographed books led us in a strange direction.
Such as Ernest Hemingway and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Here’s a document for sale (linked here) — just $12,500, plus $8 shipping — that a New York bookseller has: A typed letter from 1942, signed by “Ernie,” to Hemingway’s boxing coach and trainer, George Brown, regarding a visit he had recently in Cuba from several Dodgers — including a fight he had with pitcher Hugh Casey. It had to be during the team’s spring training in March, and it had to be some interesting meeting.
The text of the letter:
“Early this morning I though of sending you a wire to see if you could come down and get me in shape in about ten days to fight a guy named Hughey Casey who pitches for the Dodgers. We went five one-minute ones last night and I was under the impression that I needed a lot of work in order to come up against Casey again.
(He includes a pencilled-in note: “Maybe he still thinks he can beat me but I really know he can’t if I get out and run and lay off. Have drunk very little all month except twice and have been feeling good”)
“But when I saw him today it looks as though there won’t have to be any again. So it is all right. Marty [Martha Gellhorn] is still very sore about it on account of it taking place in the living room which it seems took a lot of trouble to construct and maintain and will perhaps never be quite so good again.
(Another pencilled-in note: “My left middle tow is broke but otherwise nothing but lots of loose skin on all the old marbles in my mouth. I had him down twice and he hit me with everything he had all the time and it didn’t do me any harm. You would have enjoyed it. All the punches landed and there were lots of them he being a crowder like I have become”)
“There are a lot of really good guys on the Dodgers (he pencilled in: “Casey, Billy Herman, Augie Gulan, Rizzo, Art Davis, Larry French”). We have shot pigeons against them three times and have now won $115 odd from them in the three shoots, and I would hate to think that any bitterness had sprung up from that.”
(A final pencilled post script: “Don’t say anything about the Casey business. REALLY. It was one of those good ones not the publicity kind. I know I can beat him because he is throwing hundreds of right hands. He is one of those good Irishmen that likes to fight and is sure he can beat anybody.”
This kind of sets straight some reports we’ve read that Hemingway challenged Casey in 1948 (linked here), unless that was some kind of rematch.
The same bookseller has this Hemingway note (linked here) for $10,000.
From June, 1942, Hemingway refers to a visit from the Brooklyn Dodgers during that summer, where they spoke of Leo Durocher, the team’s player-manager from 1939-1945:
“That Saturday Evening Post of May 17 didn’t get here unitl yesterday. I read the story right away. The player it refers to is who you think all right. One night I was out with Billy Herman, Larry French, Curt Davis and Augie Galan and were talking about the man in question and how much he was loved and admired by all who work under him (all the players hate his guts) and they asked if I knew he started out as a thief. If he wasn’t he could certainly get himself a nice chunk of money by sueing the man who wrote the story.”
Something didn’t add up to Jerry Palm over at CBSSports.com. Or, he just had some time to kill, and it was worth checking other people’s math to make him sleep better at night.
In a column that the long-time computer rankmeister did Monday for the website (linked here), he discovered that a “glitch” in Wes Colley’s final rankings, that are used in the BCS tabulation, incorrectly put LSU a spot ahead of Boise State. Palm says that Colley’s ranking didn’t include the Appalachian State-Western Illinois playoff game. Why does it matter?
“I will spare you some of the gory, mathematical details,” Palm wrote, “but the net result of that omission in Colley’s rankings is that LSU, which he ranked ninth, and his No. 10, Boise State, should be switched. Alabama and Nebraska, which he had 17th and 18th, would also be swapped.”
Today, Boise State President Bob Kustra showed he’s more than just a steamed potato.
From his own private Idaho, Kustra sent an e-mail to fellow university presidents and conference commissioners Tuesday, a day after Palm’s discovery and story. The BCS has since moved Boise State up to No. 10, and LSU to No. 11, but it apparently won’t affect their bowl pairings. Boise State is still stuck in the Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas instead of a BCS game.
But it gave BCS critic Kustra something to bite into.
Here’s the email that Kustra sent to the Associated Press:
I trust that you have heard about the news from CBS sports analyst Jerry Palm that the BCS rankings erroneously ranked the positions of four teams in the final BCS rankings of the season.
The BCS has corrected for it and Bill Hancock has apologized, but it still leaves open the question of transparency. There are five other computer models used to determine the rankings each week that are hidden from public view, unlike the approach used by Wes Colley who allows the light of day to shine on his work. Thankfully, in this case an astute third party caught the error and brought it to the attention of the BCS. I’m sure that you can imagine numerous “what if” scenarios where this type of mistake could have had significant repercussions.
How many times have we heard calls for transparency on our campuses and how many times have we shared our governance and communicated with our faculties and other constituencies in a transparent fashion? Yet, in intercollegiate athletics, with the NCAA standing silently on the sidelines, we allow the BCS to work its magic with no idea of how accurate its rankings are on a week to week basis.
It’s egregious enough to see teams with mediocre seasons climb into the BCS bowl games because they happen to be in privileged conferences, while others with better records are written off as second-class citizens. When we cannot see how these decisions are made, it becomes an affront to the concepts of integrity and fair play that we claim to value.
When C. Wright Mills wrote of the “power elite”, I doubt he was speaking of universities and intercollegiate athletics. If he were still around, there could be a great second edition, this time focused on where elitism really runs rampant and takes Division 1 football players from some conferences and restrains their ability to compete. I hope you noticed my choice of the word, “restrain.” I trust we will all be hearing more about “restraint” unless presidents step up and do the right thing.
Does “restraint” here mean “restraint of trade,” one of those phrases that seem to send up the red flags in Congress when it comes to monopolies and breaking up illegal cartels?
That’s no glitch in his computer. He meant to type that.