The Media Learning Curve: Jan. 14-21


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Hans Gutknecht/Daily News Staff Photographer

Three more things you probably don’t know about KCAL Channel 9/KCBS Channel 2 sports anchor Jaime Maggio (even after today’s feature story, linked here):

= Her younger brother is in the Army and has spent the last two Christmases in Afghanistan, including his 21st birthday. “I love to do stories that are military-related, and I hope I get more opportunties to do more of them,” she said. “I’ve got a soft spot for them.”

= She’s probably traveled to more countries than you could find on a globe: Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vienna, England, France, Taiwan. “I’m planning a trip soon to Costa Rica,” she says. “I usually try to not just visit the big cities, but also go into the smaller villages where the people are really hurting, and try to offer help. It’s really eyeopening.”
It goes along with the fact that she’s served on the Steering Committee for the Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular since 2006, a group that has raised more than $20 million to benefit the life-saving work of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Genetics Institute.

= “I can also make a pizza from scratch,” she says, without a hint of boasting.

Meanwhile, the other things of note in TV media land:

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== Your NFL this weekend for two of the final three games of the season — not counting next Sunday’s Pro Bowl in Honolulu:

= NFC championship: Green Bay at Chicago, noon, Channel 11 (pregame begins at 11 a.m.), with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Chris Myers and Pam Oliver, plus NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira. Westwood One radio has Kevin Harlan, Randy Cross and Mark Malone.

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= AFC championship: New York Jets at Pittsburgh, 3:30 p.m., Channel 2 (pregame begins at 3 p.m.), with Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Steve Tasker. Westwood One radio has Dave Sims, James Lofton and Hub Arkush.

= The NFL Network has a six-hour “NFL Gameday Morning” edition start 6 a.m. with Rich Eisen, Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci, Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Rod Woodson, Kurt Warner, Deion Sanders, Joe Theismann, Brian Billick and Jim Mora. After the NFC title game, Paul Burmeister, Jamie Dukes and Tom Waddle have postgame analysis in a four-hour “Scoreboard” show. After the AFC championship game, Eisen, Sanders, Mariucci and Irvin have the “GameDay Final” at 7 p.m.

= HBO2 will also jump in by reairing all five hour-long eposide of its preseason “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets,” starting Saturday at 3 p.m.

== Paul Burmeister, Mike Mayock, Charles Davis, Stacey Dales and Lindsay Soto are part of the NFL Network’s coverage of the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday at 1 p.m. USC tight end Jordan Cameron and UCLA defensive tackle David Carter are on the West squad.

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== The AMA Supercross event from Dodger Stadium on Saturday night airs tape-delay on CBS (Sunday, 9 to 10 a.m., Channel 2) with Ralph Sheheen, Jeff Emig and Erin Bates on the call.

== Versus announced an extension of its contract to cover AEG’s Amgen Tour of California cycling race, which this year runs eight stages from May 15-22, ending in Thousand Oaks, and this year including a mountain stage at Mt. Baldy. Versus has done the event for the last four years and see average viewership grown of 46 percent, with last year’s event seen by 3 million viewers (there were 1.5 million in 2007). Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen will continue to call it, with reporter Bob Roll.

== Mike Tirico, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy are on ESPN’s coverage of the Lakers’ game at Denver (tonight, 7:30 p.m.)

== HBO’s next “Real Sports” (Tuesday, 10 a.m.) includes two media-related pieces: Host Bryant Gumbel feels the need to go one-on-one with Troy Aikman, who will be Joe Buck’s game analyst on Super Bowl XVL, and Mary Carillo does a look at how Peter King does his NFL insider job for Sports Illustrated and the “Monday Morning Quarterback” column.

== There’s also news about the CBS/Turner combo package on the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball tournament (linked here), how KABC (790) DodgerTalk co-host Ken Levine will return to call some Seattle Mariners games this season (linked here), how ESPN has embedded itself into the University of Texas (linked here), and what alternative USC might have had instead of re-upping its radio deal with KSPN (710) (linked here).

AND FINALLY:

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== Rob Stone and Randy Pedersen are back to call the Pro Bowling Association’s Tournament of Champions final round live on ABC (Saturday, Channel 7, 11:30 a.m.), with Kelly Kulick, the first woman to ever win a PBA Tour event, back to defend her title.

Included in the telecast: The band “Bowling for Soup” will also perform their new single, “Saturday Night,” from the lanes. It definitely beat the “Bay City Rollers” version of a song with a similar title.

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Under all that dirt, the Dodger Stadium infield and outfield exists … just don’t try to field any grounders over the next month

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The latest look at how Dodger Stadium is transforming from a world-class baseball facility into a scatter-dirt motocross track for the first time in its 49-year history:

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After the 550 dump-truck loads of dirt (a 60/40 combination of clay and sand mix) were hauled between midnight and 6 a.m. up the Harbor Freeway earlier in the week from three job sites in Carson, the motocross track crew followed a plan that was supervised by Dodger Stadium head groundskeeper Eric Hansen.

The first thing to note: Don’t put any part of the track where he set that orange cone. That’s the pitcher’s mound. And he’d really like to not have to rebuild it again.

“I hope not to see any Bobcats near that cone,” Hansen said.

“I really don’t worry (that things will be destroyed by the track), but it’s just the nature of the business. My heartbeat went up a bit when I first saw all the dirt brought in. If I hadn’t seen it all before today, I might be more worried.

As for the keeping the pitcher’s mound intact, Hansen said that building a new one “sometimes just takes a couple of hours, but to do it right takes a few days to really shape it. In some baseball parks, the mound can be mechanically lowered and raised up. In others, there is water around it and it sort of floats in there.”

It’s not the first time he’s had to save the mound. Back when Dodger Stadium hosted a Rolling Stone concert, the stage set up in center field had a retractable element that allowed Mick Jagger and Keith Richard to move toward home plate.

“There were two channels built so the moveable stage went over the mound,” said Hansen.

Hansen said that his biggest concern is preserving the skin, or dirt part of the infield, so that chunks of rocks from the motocross dirt don’t get ground into it “and be contaminated by the rocks.”

“It’s funny how when the baseball field is there, we try to keep people off the grass as much as possible,” Hansen added. “Now ….”

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His voice kind of trailed off, knowing at what he was looking at, there was no going back.

It took 2 1/2 days to built the motocross track, starting Monday morning at 8 a.m., said Dave Prater, the director of the Supercross Tour. It started with a layer of plastic tarp over the field, followed by plywood, then gravel, then dirt.

“The field is actually intact under it all,” said Prater. “But a month from now, it’ll all be gone.”

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His reference is to the fact that Dodger Stadium will also host a Monster Truck event in mid-February. After this Supercross event, the dirt piles will be moved around and reshaped, then finally hauled away and the new sod put into place hopefully in time for the Dodgers’ first visit late in March for a couple of exhibition games prior to the March 31 season opener against the Giants.

Part of the deal to have the dirt put in for the two events is that the promoters will pay for the stadium to be resodded in time for the baseball season to start.

But if there was a game to be played today, this is the view Vin Scully would have from his TV booth seat:

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Coming Friday: KCAL’s Jaime Maggio brings the goods

Hans Gutknecht/Daily News staff photographer

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“She only has one flaw,” KCAL Channel 9 sports anchor John Ireland says of Jaime Maggio, the feature subject of Friday’s media column to go with the annual best-and-worst list of the L.A sports anchors, reporters and talent.

“We share a desk at KCBS/KCAL,” Ireland continued, “and she has showered our desk with N.Y. Giants and Yankees stuff. She is more in need of Team LA gift card than anybody in town — I think I’m getting her one for her birthday.”

Born in New York and raised on Long Island until she moved to Rancho Palos Verdes at age 14, Maggio has been with KCAL since May on both the weekend “Sports Central” shows and the weeknight versions, either anchoring alone or with Gary Miller. She’s also been a regular on LTV, the Lakers pre- and post-game shows, as well as the Dodgers pre-game shows.

Find out more about her, and how she made her way into the latest Top 10 list.

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Somehow, Conan O’Brien, President Obama and Ashley Judd were left out of the TNT/CBS lovefest for the upcoming NCAA Tournament hoop convergence

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True enough, CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV will combine forces (and financial investments) to cover the newly somewhat reshaped NCAA 67-game men’s basketball tournament, starting in a couple of months. It also includes by way of a mix and match of broadcasters using an older, less known version of the pythagorean therum that will result in — ta da — an NCAA finals three-booth team on Monday, April 4 of Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr.

Which now makes sense seeing how Kerr has latched onto as many college basketball game broadcasts as he can — like FSN’s recent UCLA-USC contest?

This will be year one of a 14-year agreement between the NCAA, CBS and Turner. Anything to soften the blow of having Kellogg on board in a game of importance will be welcome — and we almost see this as kind of a Joe Morgan effect, putting someone else in as a second analyst who’ll point out the many things that Morgan misses during the game because of a ridiculous set of simplistic verbs and adjectives available to convey to the smarter viewing audience what’s going on.

Highlights on how the rest unfolds:

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== When the tournament starts on Tuesday, March 15, Nantz, Kellogg and Kerr (with Tracy Wolfson as the reporter) on truTV, if you can find it.

== Gus Johnson and Len Elmore, with courtsider outsider Craig Sager, will call the first four games on Wednesday, March 16, on truTV.

== There will be two studios, one in New York with Greg Gumbel and Ernie Johnson, with Charles Barkley, Greg Anthony and Kenny Smith (plus Reggie Miller and Seth Davis starting the second week). The other, in Atlanta, has Matt Winer with Davis and Steve Smith. On Tuesday’s first four games: Gumbel, Johnson, Barkley, Anthony and Kenny Smith. On Wednesday: Winer, Steve Smith and Davis.

== The broadcast pecking order for the second and third rounds:
Nantz-Kellogg
Marv Albert-Steve Kerr
Verne Lundquist-Bill Raftery
Johnson-Elmore
Kevin Harlan-Reggie Miller-Dan Bonner
Ian Eagle-Jim Spanarkel
Tim Brando-Mike Gminski
Spero Dedes-Bob Wenzel
Courtside reporters: Wolfson, Sager, Lesley Visser, David Aldridge, Sam Ryan and Marty Snider.

Jump ball.

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Ken Levine among group of broadcasters who’ll call Seattle Mariners games this season

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Ken Levine, the KABC-AM (790) DodgerTalk co-host who called games for the Seattle Mariners from 1992-95, is one of several broadcasters named today to help replace the late Dave Niehaus for the 2011 season.

“I’m not sure yet how this effects DodgerTalk but I’m hoping it can all work out,” Levine said. “I’m very excited to be back in the booth.”

The team said that Dave Sims and Mike Blowers will be the TV duo for nearly all games.

Rick Rizzs will do play-by-play in the radio booth and will be joined throughout the season by Levine, Ron Fairly, Ken Wilson, Dave Valle and Dan Wilson.

Fairly, the former Dodgers first baseman out of USC, worked as a Mariners broadcaster from 1993-2006 and filled in for Niehaus during one series last season.

Dan Wilson, a former Mariners catcher, did games in the booth and studio analysis. Ken Wilson, a former Angels play-by-play man, was Niehaus’ original partner, working with him from 1977-82.

Valle, another former Mariners catcher, has done color commentary in recent years.

Niehaus, who called Angels games with Dick Enberg in the 1970s, died Nov. 10 at the age of 75, the team’s Hall of Fame broadcaster since it’s first expansion year in 1977.

Levine, who turns 61 this Valentine’s Day, is a longtime TV writer, director and producer in Hollywood, working such shows as “M*A*S*H,” “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “The Simpsons,” “Wings,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Becker” and “Dharma and Greg” with writing partner David Isaacs. Levine also co-wrote the 1985 movie “Volunteers” with Tom Hanks and John Candy.

A Top 40 radio disc jockey in the 1970s, Levine always had the urge to call baseball games, he stepped away from his Hollywood jobs and worked in the minor-leagues as a play-by-play man before finally landing jobs with the Baltimore Orioles, Mariners and San Diego Padres.

In 1993, Levine wrote a book, “It’s Gone!… No, Wait a Minute . .: Talking My Way into the Big Leagues at 40″ about his only year with the Orioles 20 years ago.

Two springs ago, Levine was among a half dozen to do play-by-play on Dodgers exhibition games before the job of doing 40 road games for KCAL Channel 9 and Prime Ticket was given to Eric Collins.

== Levine’s farewell to Niehaus on his blog last November (linked here)

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Texas, ESPN have channeled their energy

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ESPN wasn’t buying into the creation of a Pac-12 TV network — Fox outbid the World Wide Leader on that one — but when it comes to joining the University of Texas for a members-only BBQ, there’s smoke and fire in the air.

The Sports Business Daily reports today that Texas will announce a 20-year, $300 milion deal with ESPN for the creation of the Longhorn Network, for both sports and non-sports programming. It’ll launch this fall and be owned by ESPN, which will pay the school rights fees that average $15 million a year.

ESPN has issued a press release saying the channel has yet to be named, and will debut in September. The network also said it would have an “on-line broadband companion” to “offer extensive content, particularly events not featured on the linear TV network due to simultaneous events or other overlapping programming.” ESPN also says it will “create and operate a new, authenticated online/broadband site that will aspire to broadly aggregate content from around the state. It will provide fans, students and parents with access to extensive Texas high school sports, including football, basketball and more, through this centralized home.”

The deal was sublicensed from IMG College, the Longhorns’ multimedia rights holder.

The Sports Business Journal also points out that the Longhorns’ budget for the ’10-11 fiscal year, already the nation’s richest, is $137 million.

This will be high-level, entertaining cultural, music, scientific, Discovery Channel, History Channel kind of stuff. And we have a team put together working on it, and that will be done in collaboration with ESPN,” Texas president William Powers told the Austin Statesman.

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Was there an alternative to KSPN-USC staying in bed together?

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Five more years of KSPN (710-AM) and USC for football and men’s basketball broadcasts, the station and the school announced today. That means the two that hooked up with the 2006 football season will stay connected through the 2015-16 basketball season.

“We are delighted to continue to have 710 ESPN as our flagship radio outlet for Trojan football and men’s basketball games,” said USC athletic director Pat Haden. “As the worldwide leader in sports, the way that 710 ESPN has represented USC’s brand is consistent with the way we present it, both in Los Angeles and nationally.”

The deal also means Pete Arbogast and Paul McDonald stay on as the football broadcast team, while Chris Fisher and Jim Hefner continue on basketball.

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Play it forward: Jan. 17-23 on your sports calendar

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

MONDAY

NBA: Clippers vs. Indiana, Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., Prime; Lakers vs. Oklahoma City, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT:

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No one can milk an MLK Day like the NBA. The Clippers, asked to make the quicker turnaround from yesterday’s emotional win over the Lakers, have the matinee. Then L.A.’s other team tries to recover with a flashback to their playoff opening series from a season ago, when they stole the thunder from eighth-seeded OKC with a six-game win. Kevin Durant averaged 25 a game (five below his season average), but it was a golden-haired Ron Artest given credit for taking him down. On a day where there are 13 NBA games to be played, the TV lineup also includes Chicago at Memphis (10 a.m., ESPN), Sacramento at Atlanta (1 p.m., NBA TV) and Orlando at Boston (5 p.m., TNT), with the TNT studio crew hanging out at Staples Center to take it all in.
The next LAL-OKC matchup is on the last Sunday in February on ABC.

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Tennis: Australian Open, first rounds, ESPN2:

On our backward calendar, the event actually started yesterday, but it’s already into Monday now and we’re still playing catchup. ESPN2 has about a bajillion hours, including coverage that began on Sunday and runs until 5 a.m. on this day, then repeats from noon to 3 p.m. before going back live at 6 p.m. until 5 a.m. Tuesday. It’s a bit mindboggling, but that’s common for this time of year. Meanwhile, maybe you could use a towelling off. Here’s a great buy for $74 Aussie currency (linked here).

NHL: Kings at Dallas, 5:30 p.m., Versus:

The NHL’s MLK slate: Six games. The Kings, perhaps, could use some time away from home, against a Stars squad first in the Pacific Division and winners of three in a row.

TUESDAY

NHL: Kings at St. Louis, 5 p.m, FSW:

How the Blues have won five in a row against the Kings, including both meetings this year, and one last week, could be addressed in the visiting locker room before the puck drops.

NHL: Ducks at Ottawa, 4:30 p.m., Prime:

The Senators’ play of late, sending them 11 points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, has the locals speculating about the future of head coach Cory Clouston and GM Bryan Murray.

WEDNESDAY

Golf: PGA’s Bob Hope Classic, first round, noon, Golf Channel:

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The 52nd go-around in the five-day event in the desert under the Bob Hope name (and without a title sponsor) is “the beginning of some very, very successful years,” says new event chairman Larry Thiel. It could start with getting a field that has some players at least in the top 30. We’re back to La Quinta’s Palmer and Nicklaus PGA West courses, plus the La Quinta Country Club and Silver Rock (with that 625-yard 12th hole). Wayne Gretzky, Sugar Ray Leonard, Bo Jackson and Kurt Russell have the most star power in the field, leading the list of celebs that butt their way inamong the 384 amateurs that will fill in with the 128 pros. And again, mysteriously, no George Lopez.

NBA: Lakers at Dallas, 6 p.m., Channel 9, ESPN:

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If Mark Cuban sends his personal limo to pick up Phil Jackson from the Lakers’ team hotel, will he accept? The teams meet three times in the regular season, all in the second half.

NBA: Clippers vs. Minnesota, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

With foresight 20-20, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love stand to each post 20-20 nights. Everyone else, clear out.

THURSDAY

College basketball: UCLA vs. Cal, Pauley Pavilion, 7:30 p.m., Prime; USC vs. Stanford, Galen Center, 7:30 p.m., USCTrojans.com:

The Trojans’ Nikola Vucevic (10.1) and Alex Stephenson (8.8) are the top two leading rebounders per game in the conference. The Bruins’ Tyler Honeycutt (7.9) and Reeves Nelson (7.8) are Nos. 4 and 5. In between? Cal’s Markhuri Sanders-Frison (8.3).

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NBA: Clippers at Portland, 7:30 p.m., TNT:

The last visit to Portland in early December for a nine-point loss, but the Blazers’ Brandon Roy hasn’t played in nearly a month because of season-ending knee surgery.

NHL: Kings vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSN:

The front-end of a home-and-home against the Coyotes leaves little room for error.

NHL: Ducks at Toronto, 4 p.m., Prime:

Will the Ducks be allowed to start slapping shots at former teammate J.S. Giguere, or will he still be nursing that nagging groin injury?

FRIDAY

NBA: Lakers at Denver, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Channel 9:

If the Carmelo Anthony drama isn’t sorted out by this point, does it matter? It can’t be good for George Karl’s health. TNT’s Kenny Smith: “I think Denver has already been hurt. I don’t think there is anything else that can happen that’s going to make the morale of the team go down (further).” When TNT reporter David Aldridge asked Anthony after a Nuggets’ 28-point win over Miami last week why he hasn’t stated his desire to be traded or to remain in Denver, Anthony replied: “You want me to get booed some more?”

SATURDAY

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Motocross: AMA Monster Energy Supercross series, 7 p.m., Dodger Stadium:

The motorcycle tour that likes to chew up MLB parks in the off season — it started at Angel Stadium earlier this month, hit Chase Field in Phoenix last week and will go to Oakland and back to Anaheim later — makes its debut at Dodger Stadium. It’s strange to see not just a track on the field, but note that the tickets are priced so that pavilion and box seats are the same, and loge level strip that would go from first to third base is actually more expensive.

NHL: Kings at Phoenix, 5 p.m., FSW:

As promised the second of two in a row against the Coyotes. Got any better ideas on how to speed up the season series?

NHL: Ducks at Montreal, 4 p.m., Prime:

This is the Ducks’ fourth game in a row against teams from Canada. In the past, that wouldn’t be so unusual.

NBA: Clippers vs. Golden State, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

The third meeting between the two in the last 13 days, and we’re still not sure how Ryan Gomes and Ike Diogu are racking up as many Clipper minutes as they have.

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College basketball: UCLA vs. Stanford, Pauley Pavilion, 11 a.m., Channel 2; USC vs. Cal, Galen Center, 8 p.m., FSW:

You’ve got to get up pretty early in the day to fight off attacking Cardinals for some national TV exposure. Meanwhile, will the Trojans stay awake for their later-night affair?

College basketball: Cal State Northridge vs. Cal Poly, 1 p.m., Prime:

Lenny Daniel, with 18 points and 13 rebounds last week against Cal State Fullerton, has 17 double-doubles in his two-year Matadors career.

College basketball: Loyola Marymount at Pepperdine, 7 p.m.:

The teams each won their home meetings last season, but since 2000-01, the Waves have a 19-3 head-to-head record against the rivals from Westchester, and that’s with four different head coaches. Tom Asbury is 3-1 over the last two seasons against LMU, and 9-4 during his previous six-year run as the head coach from ’88-’94.

SUNDAY

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NFL playoffs: NFC championship: Green Bay at Chicago, noon, Channel 11:

They’ve played 181 previous times over the last 90 years, but it’s their first meeting in a game that decides who goes to the Super Bowl. They’ve played 181 previous times over the last 90 years, but it’s their first meeting in a game that decides who goes to the Super Bowl. The two teams split their two games against each other this year, with the Bears winning at home in Week 3, 20-17, as the Packers’ had a team-record 18 penalties.

NFL playoffs: AFC championship: N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh, 3:30 p.m., Channel 2:

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The Jets’ reality show rolls on, putting its best feet forward. Back on Dec. 19, Mark Sanchez directed a 22-17 win at Pittsburgh as Ben Roethlisberger drove the Steelers from their own 8 to New York’s 10 in the final 2:08, only to throw incomplete on the final two plays. Maybe it didn’t matter so much to the Steelers, who were told by the NFL nearly an hour after the game ended that they secured a playoff spot via a series of complicated strength-of-schedule tiebreakers.

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Our 72-step program to whipping past the fatties who take up space at the local gym

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It’s a matter of which thing you’d rather stare down more.

Seventy-two weather-beaten concrete steps, right on the beach, connecting Point A to Point Be Afraid.

Or the fatties on the too-few Stairmaster machines at the local fitness center, while stuck in a line of too-tight Spandex.

Bless those gadgets with the LED panels, arrow buttons to change the speed and padded rails to act as a crutch for those who with a fear of heights, balance or actual stairs. But when there’s another “Sorry, Out of Order” sign taped to them, or germy gym rats who won’t adhere to the 30-minute rule, the rules change.

That’s it. No more shuffling in and amongst the other January resolutionists who lose the battle of time and money trying to use machine-made muscle builders.

We’re taking it outside. Welcome to our new 72-step program.

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While we hesitate to reveal the location of our new workout facility – where the winter sun beats down on Avenue C off the Redondo Beach Esplanade – it’s really not that much of a secret. This beast stands out in broad daylight like a sadistic slip-n-slide, smiling wide to show all its teeth like a hungry land shark.

It must have been constructed way back when for far more utilitarian purposes. But anyone trying to lug fold-up chairs, strollers and umbrellas between the station wagon parked at the pigeon-stained coin meters down to the ocean waves below immediately see how impractical it was. Add to that a 45-degree slope that clearly adds to the degree of difficulty.

Instead of watching this feat of civil engineering go to waste, we choose it to reduce our waist line, through our own two feet.

There are enough other famously-known converted public workout staircases that exist free of charge around Southern California just like this. But thanks to Google searches that uncover their GPS location and five-star reviews, they’re harder to keep on the down low.

The stairs along 4th Street in Santa Monica have become “super crowded – dang!” and parking is “a bear.” Even those hidden in Rustic Canyon are maxed out by Type-A social climbers.

Echo Park’s switchbacks that lead to views of Elysian Park and downtown L.A. literally take your breath away – that, and the 423 steps that go with it.

Pacific Palisades, Griffith Park and the Hollywood Bowl aren’t off the beaten paths. Drake Stadium on the UCLA campus may get more foot traffic up and down its bleachers than on the track itself.

Sand Dune Park in Manhattan Beach, where the workout fiends include college and pro athletes, is an entirely other beast to master, when the local neighbors allow it to be open. That steep wall of finely machismo crushed rock simply grinds your soul as well as the soles of your feet. We’re not that stupid.

We’d even consider the ultimatum of those famous stairs in Silver Lake where Laurel and Hardy once lugged a piano up in “The Music Box” if we thought it wasn’t something of a tourist trap. Some day we will run them, and count the steps in the process.

This test of will we finally settled on was one we ignored too much in the past. It kept calling us back, taunting us to try it. Then spitting us out on previous attempts.

So we meet again.

This makes far too much sense for a sensory overload, beginning with all the fresh sea air to breathe. Run it later in the later in the afternoon, you end up witnessing some of the most miraculous views of a Southern California sunset that any God could create.
This is the place where heaven meets a hell of a physical challenge. Not in some four-sided, closed-in adult Gymboree.

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There are a few limitations are to work around – joggers on cell phones, bikers on cell phones, amateur photographers using their cell phones to take pictures, and kids breaking loose like drunken midgets from parents on their cell phones.

But stay focused. Head down. Mind power locked in. Sprint up, counting by 10s. Easy walk back down. Lunge up two at a time, counting by fives. A slog jog back. Sidestep shuffle up, counting by twos.

Cry in pain. Repeat.

Weigh your options. This catechistic climb wins every time. Free and easy. Well, at least free.

And then, at the end of the day, it’s just a short run over to Pacific Coast Highway, at El Burrito Jr., for a post-workout tamale.

Step right up. You deserve it.

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It’s out of the question: A pause for college football’s end-of-year hotflash

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The afterburners of Auburn’s college football championship run have smoldered into a pile of Phoenix ashes, and the degrading All-Star game rituals, impersonal NFL pro camps and head coach cash grabs at the expense of their unpaid players are on the horizon. So what’s the bitter BCS aftertaste we’re left with before we refocus on college basketball’s march to more mayhem?

How many unnecessary hot flashes do we have to suffer during the sport’s latest menopausal cycle? In going through another big change and watching the Pac-10 take the early lead in acting like a bunch of pack rats, hording as many mom-and-popgun programs as possible to stretch its time-zone muscle and boost its own TV network Q-rating framework, does everyone really pad their financial portfolio as a result? Or will the bottom line be that everyone ends up fat and unhappy, with expanding-rear-ended fans confused as to which team is in which gluttonous conference, and watching the game collapse under its own girth?

Because four schools in the SEC have claimed the last five national championships, is that such a skewed-up thing? Would you be saying the same thing if it were five Pac-10 schools?

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How much can Ohio State’s Terrell Pryor get in the open market for a Sugar Bowl championship ring?

Which icky coach (Idaho’s Robb Akey?) went against the rules of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and gave his first-place vote to Texas Christian instead of automatically tabbing Auburn (like the other 56 did), making the Tigers’ championship non-unanimous? And can you blame ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit voting TCS No. 4 on his final AP ballot, with one-loss Oregon and Stanford ahead of ‘em?

How would USC have done against Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl, and would more than 5,000 Trojan fans have been compelled to fly to San Antonio to witness it?
Was Norm Chow really the problem?

Do players from Miami of Ohio really wear GoDaddy.com Bowl title T-shirts?

Fair or unfairly, will Auburn’s Nick Fairley fare as well as another BCS title-game hero like JaMarcus Russell? Will Cecil Newton be his agent, too?

And when does the BCS Title Game finally come up with a real bowl name? Like, the 36 Days To Prepare Bowl?

== If Jessica Alba and Rhianna end up getting the prime camera time at more Clippers than Lakers games each season – whether or not LeBron James is also in the building — would that signify a significant shift in star power?

== What was it again that LeBron tweeted about karma?

== Knowing that the Seahawks already poop-bombed the Bears on Week 6 in Chicago, sacking Jay Cutler six times in the process and holding them to 0-for-12 on third-down efficiency in sunny and 61-degree weather, how do Pete Carroll’s Starbuckers react now to a prognosis of cloudy, possible snow and sub-20 temps (and a wind chill of 10)?

== Logging more complaints: What’s the benefit of seeing the court through the trees again on the new Oregon home basketball floor? Or is it a case that the varnish still hasn’t dried in the middle?

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