Play It Forward: June 27-July 3 on your sports calendar

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

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THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

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Soccer: Women’s World Cup: Opening round: U.S. vs. North Korea, Tuesday at 8:45 a.m., ESPN; U.S. vs. Columbia, Saturday at 8:30 a.m., ESPN:

In the American’s first stop in the event, from Dresden, Germany, we’re trying to figure out the mind state of U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, still recovering from shoulder surgery, often a little cranky, maybe in need of some Jeremiah Weed premium malt beverage — if that can even be found in Deutschland. We’ve checked her Twitter account (@HopeSolo) and so far, nothing caustic. Nothing crazy. Nothing at all since June 20. “First of all, I’m not outspoken,” she told ESPN.com before her team’s first send-off game against Japan. “Say what you want about the tweets, say what you want about ‘opinionated.’ I would tell you right now, people don’t know me. They don’t know where I came from, they make their judgments off some stupid social media thing, and I’ll take my critics for what it is. Nobody really knows … what’s in my heart, why I believe in the things I believe, what I see behind the scenes and they don’t see.

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“Unfortunately, people think I’m negative and bitter all the time and that’s not the case. It’s all about perspective. I have high expectations on the U.S. team, I always push for more. And I think that’s something that is our responsibility as older players. I’m 30 now, and I think that when we lost the Julie Foudys and the Mia Hamms, we lost that voice. And I think it’s our responsibility to push the envelope and try to get the best that we can get to be professional athletes.” OK, we got it. ESPN soccer analyst and former U.S. head coach Tony DiCicco said it about Solo’s performance needed for the American team to succeed: “It’s hard to win at this level, at these types of events, without a top goalkeeper, and Hope Solo right now in my opinion is the best in the world. She’s a great athlete. She has a great mentality when she gets in goal. She has almost an arrogance of how she plays.” By the way, DiCicco predicts a U.S. win over both Germany (in the semifinals) and Brazil (in the final). Before this U.S. opening match, catch Columbia vs. Sweden (5:45 a.m., ESPN).

MONDAY

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MLB: Dodgers at Minnesota, 5:10 p.m., Prime:

Think Frank McCourt is being singled out? Chad Billingsley must feel like there’s got a target on his back. He fired his glove against the Dodgers’ dugout wall after manager Don Mattingly took him out of his last start with one out in the sixth inning — the right-hander had logged 110 pitches already, and just walked a batter to load the bases. The fact Billingsley had a 4-1 lead against Detroit at the time may have been the clincher — his teammates had only been giving him a little more than two runs at a time during his six losses. He ended up winning this one to improve to 6-6, but his 4.48 ERA and 40 walks (fourth worst in the NL) is hardly impressive for someone making $6.27 million this year. His next start, against a resurgent Minnesota, will be his first look at Target Field. This series includes games Tuesday (5:10 p.m., Channel 9) and Wednesday (10:10 a.m., Prime).

MLB: Angels vs. Washington, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., Channel 13:

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Another week, another series for the Angels facing a team with a new manager. After Nationals skipper Jim Riggleman suddenly resigned despite the team winning 11 of its last 12, former Dodgers manager Davey Johnson is now in charge. For those who show up on Tuesday (7:05 p.m., FSW), it’s Dan Haren bobblehead night, although he’s not scheduled to pitch in this series until Wednesday (4:05 p.m., FSW). The Angels also say every night of the series, they’ll do that crazy racing presidents race like they do in D.C. If only Richard Nixon was alive to watch it.

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College World Series: Florida vs. South Carolina, 5 p.m., ESPN:

The defending-champion Gamecocks (53-14), who have won an NCAA record 14 consective CSW tournament games now, took two out of three from the Gators (53-17) down in Gainesville back in March. To the winner, a post-game live interview with ESPN’s Jenn “How important was is it to pick up this win today?” Brown. The best-of-three between the SEC foes continues Tuesday (5 p.m.) and if necessary on Wednesday (5 p.m.).

TUESDAY

WNBA: Sparks at Connecticut, 5 p.m., ESPN2:

Back-to-back losses to San Antonio and New York was made worse by the latest injury to Candace Parker. This is the third stop in the Sparks’ seven-game road trip, and Parker is already back in L.A. getting her knee examed.

WEDNESDAY

MLB: Boston at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., ESPN2:

Red Sox starter John Lackey comes off a tough loss against San Diego: Five earned runs, four hits, four walks in 3 1/3 innings.

THURSDAY

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PGA: AT&T National, first round, noon, Golf Channel:

Rory McIlroy has gone home, and the tournament from the Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., that benefit Tiger Woods’ foundation will go on — even if the host isn’t around to play in it. Maybe he’s just resting up for the July 14 British Open at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, where he’ll see Rory again.

FRIDAY

MLB: Dodgers vs. Angels, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., Prime, FSW:

A rematch of Clayton Kershaw against Jered Weaver is set for Saturday (6:05 p.m., Channel 9, FSW). They’re also on track, if it works out, to face off as starting pitchers in the MLB All-Star Game on July 12 in Phoenix. Sunday’s finale (5:05 p.m.) goes to ESPN.

SATURDAY

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Cycling: Tour de France, Stage 1: 5 a.m., Versus; 11 a.m., Channel 4:

The favorite will be Spain’s Alberto Contador, known as the world’s best climber and winner of this year’s very hilly Giro d’Italia. But there’s still an on-going doping investigation after he tested positive for clenbuterol at last year’s Tour. Contador says it’s all related to tainted beef. Maybe he’ll soon join the Mexico national soccer team. Keep an eye on Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, Italy’s Ivan Basso and American longshot Chris Horner. This three-week event starts here from Passage du Grois to Mont des Alouettes.

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Tennis: Wimbledon women’s final: 6 a.m., Channel 4:

Naw, we wouldn’t be all that disappointed if Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, who knocked China’s Li Na out of this thing late last week and could encounter Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, was here for the final curtsies. The semifinals are Thursday at noon (delayed), the quarterfinals are Tuesday at 10 a.m. (delayed).

MLS: Chivas vs. Chicago, Home Depot Center, 7 p.m., Prime:

Couldn’t have pushed this back a couple days, made it a July 4 doubleheader with the Galaxy, and all the fireworks that went with it?

Boxing: Wladimir Klitschko vs David Haye, 1:45 p.m., HBO:

Klitschko, the WBO, IBF, RING and IBO heavyweight champion, is finally trying to get Haye’s WBA title. They were due to fight once before, but Haye pulled out with a suspected back injury. Haye then tried talking to Wladimir’s older brother, WBC champ Vitali, but backed away, then took the WBA title from Nikolai Valuev. This one in Germany will be replayed at 9:45 p.m.

SUNDAY

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Tennis: Wimbledon men’s final, 6 a.m., Channel 4:

You take Rafael Nadal. We’ve still got Roger Federer. Until further grass-stained notice. The semifinals are Friday at noon (delayed), the quarterfinals are Wednesday at 10 a.m. (delayed).

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More Q-and-A with Marshall Ulrich

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Following up from today’s column (linked here) on Marshall Ulrich’s plan to run again in the July 11-13 Badwater Ultramarathon through Death Valley (linked here) and then fly to Switzerland to scale both Mt. Eiger and the Matterhorn in the Alps, the author of “Running On Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss and A Record-Setting Run Across America” (linked here) about his run across America (linked here) adds some insights on how it’s not all that difficult to get to a point in your life where you can consider yourself to be an athlete, too.

QUESTION: On Page 24 of your book, you go through all the things that were written about you in different running magazines — “Trail Runners” called you “one of the legends of the trail,” and “Outside” referred to you as “Endurance King,” and “Adventure Sports” had you on their list of an athlete “Over Fifth and Kicking Your Butt.” Your response in the book is: “Good for me. I was a badass.” I’m laughing because I’m sure at the time that was the last thing you thought of yourself, as you’re trying to finish this Badwater Quad, and now you were in a tough spot and couldn’t figure a way out of it.
ULRICH: That was definitely tongue in cheek. I was totally humbled at that point. I never considered myself a ‘bad ass.’ I was just making fun of myself. I had to chuckle: ‘Yeah, right, all I’m doing is trying to survive like everyone else.’

Q: Would you consider yourself some kind of freak of nature at least?
ULRICH: I don’t consider myself extra ordinary, but I admit that because I’ve been able to do this for so long and do some remarkable things, just holding up, that’s simply genetics. Some are predispositioned to have bad joints and knees. So in some respects, I lucked out. But I think a lot of what I am is learned behavior, more of a work ethic. That’s just the way I grew up. I’ve been on some adventure races with people from New Zealand or some Aussies, and they grow up paddling and all those activities that’s just a way of life for them. It’s so ingrained in them, they don’t have a preconceived idea about how it should be.

Q: Is the Badwater Ultramarathon still a challenge for you year after year?
ULRICH: Many things are a challenge. I just know I’ve done so many times and I have a good history there.

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Q: What has the reception to your book been like?
ULRICH: It’s been great. Some excellent reviews. It’s really over the top of what I’d hoped for. There is a lot of word of mouth about it. I’m the most pleased that people find that it’s not just a book about running. Some have told me it’s not about running at all. There are so many elements of life, so many layers that many can relate to. Honestly, I think I did my homework and the book I wrote is exactly how I thought it would turn out. I think it speaks not just to runners, but there’s a demographic of women from 40 to 60 who really seem to get it.

Q: As cathartic as the book may have been for you to write, which is easier for you: Running or writing? Can you compare the two?
ULRICH: Of course, running is much more physical, but, that’s about right, this was as much of a mental challenge as running is a physical challenge for me sometimes in more difficult races. It was very emotional and kind of a healing experience also. I tried to peel all the layers back and get to the core of my issues, open up the sores, make it very honest. That’s the greatest compliment I get about it.

Q: Would it have helped you years ago to read a story like this, to help you through your life struggles?
ULRICH: I think so, but so much is dependent upon how your perspective is in hearing what another person is saying. If I wrote this when I was 40 or 50, it might be more event orientated, about running achievements. With a lot of detail about those things. Instead, I take a lot of my races with a grain of salt today. It’s the journey I took to get here, and it led to overall getting me to this place. The run I had across America really brought me and my family together, and I think the reason was because it also allowed them to open up. That’s the key. They connected with me on a deeper level. That really caught me by surprise.

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Q: What advice are you giving to those 50-plus year-old people who feel as if they’re in no shape to get off the couch and attempt anything like this?
ULRICH: More than anything, they literally have to take the first step. Maybe it’s swimming, or golf or tennis, riding a bike. Anything that’s physical, but also something that’s enjoyable. You can’t force a square peg into a round hole. Then the trick is to just say you’re going to do it maybe three minutes a day. You’ll know it’s hard. It’s hard for me to convince myself to run all the time. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself the luxury of not having to do it every day.

Q: You even mention in your book that the first time your doctor suggested you run, you did it, and it was miserable.
ULRICH: I think I was just curious as to why I wasn’t running. I knew there would be a point when I’d get over that uncomfortable feeling. You have to have the faith that will happen. Just take it a step at a time.

== More on Marshall Ulrich on his website: www.MarshallUlrich.com.

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The Manhattan Beach Grand Prix at 50, and why Ted Ernst still matters in the world of cycling

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Staff Photo by Brad Graverson

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From a large blue-ringed binder, Ted Ernst comes upon the black-and-white mimeographed program from the first Manhattan Beach Grand Prix cycling event.

“This is the only one we know to still be in existence,” the 79-year-old says with a twinkle in his eye, carefully pulling it out of the protective plastic sleeve.

It’s just four total pages – a standard sheet of paper, with information on the front and back, folded in half.

Complete with a coffee cup stain on the top left corner.

“Somehow, we rescued this one,” he laughs.

According to a Daily Breeze story that appeared on Saturday, Sept. 1, 1962 — a younger Ernst is pictured with the race’s queen — that inaugural event was sponsored by Manhattan Beach Junior Chamber of Commerce as part of “a statewide program by the California Jaycees to help keep residents home and off the road during the three-day (Labor Day) holiday.”

Whatever it takes to get things rolling.

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It was also “authorized” by the Manhattan Beach City Council and “sanctioned” by the Amateur Bicycle League of America

“It was a legitimate, legal bike race, from that first day on,” Ernst says
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A half century later, some things may have change, but the things most important stay the same. Ernst’s vision to stay the course – literally and figuratively, on Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue between 15th Street and Pacific Avenue – has made the difference.

When the 50th Manhattan Beach Grand Prix arrives Sunday, Ernst will take modest credit for having the vision to get it started long before a majority of the participants were even born. But everyone else knows better. His photo albums and newspaper clipping portfolio have all the history right there.

An avid cyclist who started the South Bay Wheelmen club a year before the first MBGP and was inducted five years ago into U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame in Davis, Calif., for his contributions to the sport, Ernst reflected on how this special day has become a South Bay tradition:

Continue reading

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Dykstra nails it on Twitter from orange jumpsuit land … and directs people to www.savelenny.com

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The update came from a Charlie Sheen Twitter post:

“#NAILS warlock welcome to my pal @lennydykstra on twitter!! He’s a rockstar and he’s got a lot to say!! follow him cadre!! @lennydykstra.”

Yes, Lenny Dykstra is sold on social media. From jail.

We’ll see how far that goes before it bankrupts either one of them.

Dykstra’s bio says he “Batted: Left Threw: Left New York Mets & Philadelphia Phillies” and is “forced to tweet from a jail cell, but with your support I will slide home any day! – Nails http://www.savelenny.com.”

Some of the first posts from the (former?) Sherwood Country Club resident (in Wayne Gretzky’s home) who has had a bit of a legal skirmish involving money and things he’s owed to people, and things he’s hidden from bankruptcy courts:

== 16 June: “HOW ABOUT THEM PHILLIES!!!! DOUBLE HEADER SWEEP!!!! TAKES ME WAY BACK”

== 15 June: “@MikeVick PHILLY LOVES A COME BACK….WATCH FOR MINE #7!”

== 11 June: “(with a link to a Wikipedia page): STOP THE GREEDY BANKS by educating yourself!”

== 27 May: “”THE COMEBACK” WHEN A MAN LOSES EVERYTHING HE IS CAPABLE OF ANYTHING”

== 27 May: “David Einhorn got the mets for 200M? Wow What A Bargain! If He keeps this up with the mets, he will have more steals then (sic) Mookie Wilson.”

== 27 May: “This is my first tweet in a year. Why? Because the Phillies won in the 19th tonight! Motivates me to get back with my fans!!!!!”

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