John Ireland had a simple request.
“Can you help an obnoxious, know-it-all, loudmouth sports guy out?” the KCAL-Channel 9 Lakers sideline reporter and KSPN-AM (710) midday sports talk co-host asked in an email sent out recently, an attempt to turn a loss into a win over an on-air guarantee he made before the Lakers’ recent game in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers, with the worst record in the NBA, had no chance of upsetting the defending champs who were ending a seven-game, 13-day road trip before the All-Star break. Ireland said as much on the KSPN Lakers pregame show to analyst Dave Miller, who insisted it could happen.
“You sound like an idiot,” said Ireland. “I would quit my job and walk home from Cleveland if they lose this game.”
Final score: Cleveland 104, Lakers 99.
In 1990, Chick Hearn not only put a Lakers’ game at Denver in the refrigerator – they led by 14 with five minutes to play — but said he’d walk home if they lost. Channel 9 producer Sue Stratton put up a graphic: “Distance from Denver to Los Angeles: 1,050 miles.” The Lakers won by just two.
In 1989, when the Pittsburgh Pirates took a 10-0 lead in the first inning at Philadelphia, Pirates broadcaster Jim Rooker said he’d walk home if they lost. They did, 15-11. So he took 12 days to make up the 315 mile trip, and raised money for charity in the process.
Ireland decided he needed a bailout plan.
“I might have given myself some wiggle room,” he said, “but the Lakers had no business losing to Cleveland. I had to do something.”
He channeled it into taking part in the Walk Now for Autism event on April 23 at the Rose Bowl, raising money for a cause that means a lot to him and his family. The goal was set at raising $2,344 – the distance in miles between Cleveland and L.A.
As of midday today, his page on walknowforautismspeaks.org (linked here) has nearly $12,800 in pledges.
“It’s beyond anything I ever imagined,” Ireland said. “I just thought it would be cool to get the number with a lot of small donations to that 2,344 number, but now it’s taken a life of its own.”
Even if Ireland ends up on the road covering a Lakers’ playoff game on that date, he plans to fly home for the event, or complete the walk in whatever city he’s in during the time it takes place in Pasadena.
“I’ll do it, either way,” he said. And guaranteed it.
And we’ve made our modest pledge: $23.44. Match it?