A shot of ESPN estrogen

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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).

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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”?

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“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.

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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.

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“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?'”

Chick-ification is just a sports click away.

== More:
== On Facebook (linked here)
== On Twitter (linked here)
== A New York Times story on espnW from October (linked here).
== In USA Today from September (linked here)
== “Why I hate the idea of ESPNW” by Julie DiCaro (before she’s ever seen it) (linked here)
== A review from BusinessInsider.com (linked here)

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Steiner leads Bradley mid-termers to freedom

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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== And this just in from the memorabilia market: A signed Charley Steiner baseball is going for $59.10 on BestShoppingCenter.net (linked here).

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A few more Christmas book reviews, in a snap

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:

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== “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.

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== “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.

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== “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.”

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== “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?

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== “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.

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== “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?

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== “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.

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== “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.

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== “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.”

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== “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)

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Hemingway vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers: Get your dukes up, and document it

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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:

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“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.

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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.”

Please, Papa, more details …

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Check that: Boise State deserved No. 10 BCS ranking, not No. 11 … as if it matters

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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?

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“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.”

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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:

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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.

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