On the 16th Day, Bill Simmons still can’t rest … and that’s probably a good

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To point out that there were some critics even before the launch of the website Grantland.com on June 8 would be like saying …

We can’t come up with the proper pop-culture analogy. Maybe one of the Grantland writers could do better.

These were snipers, actually. Really snarky, bitter, feisty, cynical snipers. If that’s the nature of the Internet beast — to slap down the competition, send out a bad buzz and hope it’ll go away — it’s too early to tell.

But it’s out there, festering.

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Scared about a new form of sports journalism taking shape, invading your ADD territory? Petrified by the muscle of ESPN behind it all, giving it time to find its voice and, perhaps, actually working?

== Sam Eifling of the Columbia Journalism Review: “Simmons wouldn’t be my first pick to lead a literary renaissance, even if he has managed to assemble editors resembling an Algonquin Round Table as envisioned by an airport Waldenbooks … Grantland “likely will rise or fall on the appeal of its guiding persona. … At best, Grantland so far is jaunty revelry for the sporting life and for culture at large. At worst, it threatens to go down as the Manhattan Project of navel-gazing.”

== Nicholas Jackson, an associate editor at The Atlantic: “Bill Simmons won’t keep his mouth shut. And that’s probably the reason he has become one of the most successful sportswriters of all time. … But that doesn’t mean that the 41-year-old is going to make a good website editor, which is a title that he’s adding to the growing list — columnist, bestselling author, husband, father, podcaster, executive producer … I think the new site is doomed, and I suspect ESPN’s executives will recognize that in only a month or two even if they refuse to admit it until millions of dollars have been spent. … Yes, Grantland’s ‘murderer’s row of talent’ is (‘HOLY SH*T’) impressive, but that’s just another reason why it’s going to fail. These people are way too expensive for what Simmons is trying to do.”

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== Tom Scocca of Slate.com: “God bless anyone who goes on an aggressive editor-and-writer hiring spree, and good luck to all involved, but really. ‘Grantland.’ As in Grantland Rice. What, was ErnestHemingway.com taken? … Who is Simmons trying to win over with this? This is an actual mystery. Are the romantics who still worship Rice as the founder-saint of modern Quality Sportswriting going to appreciate the tribute, coming from a guy who carved out a niche writing about Teen Wolf and porn stars? Is the wised-up generation that sees Rice as a ponderous cornball, a huckster with a purple ribbon in his typewriter, supposed to be impressed? Outlined against a yellow-white June sky, the Three Consulting Editors rode again. In dramatic lore they are glibness, naivete, and ironic lowbrowism. Their real names are: Gladwell, Eggers, and Klosterman …”

Deadspin.com’s staff seems to be the most irritated, posting almost daily something Simmons related. But also making some points such as: “So far, the single most baffling thing about Grantland: Who cares what (a certain writer feels) … It’s like someone replaced the clear glass in the press box with a one-way mirror, pointed inward. Watch the writers watch themselves.”

One reader of Deadspin.com posted a comment about the site, calling it “an elitist publication splattered with ads for Subway sandwiches and Klondike bars.”

What would you read for a Klondike bar?

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Review Project, which is the defacto ombudsman for all going on at ESPN, wrote recently that while Grantland “is crafted for the ‘too-school-for-cool’ crowd, with a dream team of writers,” it is in need of people who have to “sharpen their focus and develop some self-discipline if they want to keep the audience engaged in long(ish)-form literary journalism. At its best, Grantland is clever and funny, for smart people who want to be intellectually challenged and entertained at the same time. At its worst, it is a bunch of hyperbole and aimless columns that lack a clear focus. …”

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There are some more forgiving, understanding, open minded. Compassionate?

“Others have criticized the writing and the site itself for lacking a coherent vision,” wrote Tony Manfred of BusinessInsider.com (linked here). “For them, Grantland is what happens when a collective of writers are rich and successful enough to see their half-baked ideas come to life. In the 24 hours since the website went live, one thing has become clear: Grantland is the new establishment in American sportswriting.”

During a profile of Simmons in the New York Times magazine (linked here), the so-called “Sports Guy” described Grantland as “what Miramax was to Disney, a boutique division with more room for creativity. It’s probably the perfect analogy, considering ESPN is owned by Disney.

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We’ve had no problems with it so far. In fact, some of the best media-related pieces done in the last couple of months have been on this site — starting on Day 1 with what could be the prophetic story on “The Greatest Paper that Ever Died” by Howie Kahn and Alex French , borrowing 13,909 words, or about 30 screens, to give the oral history of The National all-sports newspaper (linked here). Add to that, Charlie Pierce’s remembrances of working there.

(And apparently, those yellow news racks are still for sale online … linked here).

It was followed by Chuck Klosterman’s piece on how to watch sports in today’s DVR era (linked here), and Michael Weinreb’s essay on how the Fox Box graphic has led to the demise of the “most ubiquitous phrase in the English language” (linked here).

That would be: What’s the score?

Those keeping score of Grantland might want to wait awhile. Be fair, at least? Let it breathe. Or shouldn’t we hold our breath?

That Simmons needed some 2,800-plus words to just write his intro to the site (linked here) isn’t that surprising.

But then, we’ve almost used up 1,000 words just to get to this point and may have buried the lead.

We have questions. And Simmons, via email, has responses:

QUESTION: The first two weeks in review of Grantland, on a scale of 1-to-10? Describe the feeling of a dad seeing his kid take its first steps here.

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SIMMONS: For me the launch is a big blur – the day we launched, I was on an airplane flying from Dallas to Boston for a hockey game. The first three days I wrote off three straight Finals games (two NBA, one NHL) in two different cities. I actually finished my Bruins column in the back of a cab on the way from the airport to my hotel in Dallas. So to borrow your analogy, I missed my kid’s first through third steps.
I remember saying after we had been up for nine to 10 days that things had gone really well, and that we had somehow avoided that one disaster that seems to happen any time someone launch something. And then, I woke up on Father’s Day and our site was being pointed to a domain service. So you can never feel safe I guess. Regardless, I’m really proud of the first two weeks of content that we posted, as well as the quality of the writers we featured. Those two weeks played out exactly as I had hoped.

QUESTION: Can a website like Deadspin effectively send out a bad vibe about Grantland so quickly that you are forced to battle against it, maybe spend too much energy on that instead of focused on bigger picture, letting things settle, and finding an audience that isn’t really a Deadspin or BigLead-type of demo?

SIMMONS: We don’t care what people say about us. It’s a free country. We’re worried putting up quality stuff every day, that’s it. And by the way, we’re not competing with anyone else – everyone on the internet is wasting time all day. We just want to be one of the many places where they waste time.

QUESTION: One review that I think made some sense: We have long-form sites like New Yorker, or even Slate. But will readers of sports literature on the Internet embrace this as a ‘populist site’ content? Can it be too ‘high brow’ or is that not even a direction you’d go when people ask what the tone and direction the site will go? What are the thoughts about launching a site like this when sports, for all intents and purposes, kind of take a vacation this time of year .

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SIMMONS: I don’t care about reviews – we’ve only been up for two weeks. It’s like reviewing the first bite of a hot dog or something. Anyway, I would never limit the scope of the site to ‘high brow’ or ‘long form’or any of that stuff. Once we get our two blogs going, our only goal is to have original angles and quality writing about sports and pop culture every day. That’s it. We just want to be entertaining. You can be entertaining in 700 words or 7,000. As long as people come to the site every day not knowing what to expect, I’m happy.

QUESTION: Will the fall be a truer test of the site’s impact when there’s that jump again with a World Series, NFL, college football, NBA start, etc.?

SIMMONS: The fall will be a better representation of what the site will ultimately look like two to three years from now, but really, July and August are better tests: Those are going to be dead months, there’s going to be nothing to talk about other than baseball, labor disputes and the latest round of cell phone dong photos. So we have a real chance to make an impact I think – if we keep coming up with good material when there’s little to read in general, we’ll gain some momentum I think.
Uh-oh, I just jinxed the two lockouts and now they’re going to extend through next May… forget I mentioned this.

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Mark the day Koufax and Drysdale played Rancho Park

Be careful what you use as a bookmark, warns Richard Davies, writing a piece for the online used book seller AbeBooks.com (linked here).

Book store owners have found all kinds of things when given boxes for sale or donations. Dollar bills. A Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card. A marriage certificate from 1879.

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And a golf scorecard signed by Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.

Fred Dorsett (linked here), a bookseller in Lancaster via Texas (linked here), was the one who made that find, and contributed the note about it to Davies’ story.

When we contacted Dorsett for more information, he gave us this:

“I was at a flea market and bought a book on golf for a friend. I had had it for a week or two and picked it up to take to my friend when the scorecard fell out. I hadn’t noticed the card when I bought the book and idly glanced at it, immediately noticing the names, but attached no significance to them as they had been hand printed.

“It was only when I turned the card over that I had that BINGO! moment upon seeing the actual signatures. I gave the book to my friend (no, I didn’t tell him) and sold the card to an acquaintance who was and still is a diehard Dodger fan. Made a nice little profit since I paid $1.00 for the book and got consideably more than that for the signatures.

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“This all took place 12-15 years ago. I’m not sure of the book’s name, but I think it was by Sam Snead. I think the golf course was Rancho Park. I can’t ask my friend since he passed away a few years ago.

“I’ve come across several similar mysteries like that involving other books. Like: How did a book from a library in Maine, checked out in 1942, wind up on the West Coast in a box of books in Lancaster in 2011? The library still exists and I returned the book, but the records of who checked it out no longer exist.

“Or, how did the book ‘A Cellarfull of Noise’ by the Beatles’ former manager Brian Epstein — and signed by him — happen to show up in the back of a church pew where hymnals are placed in a little town in Kansas?

“This is the kind of thing that drives me nuts, but is also addictively intriguing.”

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Why Abby Sunderland would now go Superwoman instead of Aquagal around the planet

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Photo by the Thousand Oaks Acorn

A year ago, unfriendly rogue waves in the Indian Ocean prevented Thousand Oaks resident Abby Sunderland from sailing around the world on her solo record-setting effort.

The 17-year-old has a new plan of global attack.

“I’m going to fly around the world solo,” she told the Thousand Oaks Acorn (linked here)

For the past three months, the recent home-schooled high-school graduate has been taking flight lessons in a Cessna 150 at the Santa Paula Airport with instructor Mark King. She’s got 15 out of a required 40 hours logged to get a license.

“Right now I don’t have a boat and I don’t have a sponsor to sail around the world,” she said. “I do have a good flight instructor and flight lessons and people who are going to help pull off a flight around the world, so I think I’m going to stick with that for now.”

Sunderland said she got the idea from Bill Bennett, a cinematographer and amateur pilot who met the Sunderlands during her circumnavigation attempt

Her father, Laurence Sunderland, who drained much of the family savings in support of both sailing excursions, added: “She’s an adventurer, but, unfortunately, if that’s what she wants to do, I can’t help her there. I told her, if it’s the Lord’s will, then go for it.”

Meanwhile, Abby continues to tour schools and do public speaking with her new book, “Unsinkable” (linked here)

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It’s time for online petitions: Scully, in the World Series? What harm could it do in signing it?

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More than 1,100 e-signatures have been collected during the latest surge of publicity about an online petition that aims to get Vin Scully in Fox’s broadcast booth to call a World Series game before he retires (linked here).

It comes from New York, not L.A. – Matt Falkenbury of The Daily ‘Stache Mets blog (linked here) decided to post the petition “to have the greatest baseball announcer in the history of the game get one more shot at the big stage, to go out in style, and to crown a champion one more time before heading off into the sunset.”

A year ago, a similar sentiment was posted on a Facebook.com campaign (linked here).

Will Fox listen this time? Do they have to? Who’s going to nail it on their front door?

Stay tuned. This story isn’t finished.

UPDATE: Scully emailed us late Wednesday: “I appreciate the honor, but the Series broadcast is none of my business.”

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A modest $156,679.74 Stanley Cup bar tab

It was at the Foxwoods’ MGM Grand in Mashantucket, Conn., last Saturday night. Six members of the new Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, including Shawn Thornton, Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand, had a little party.

Here’s how it went when the tab came at 2 a.m. (with a service charge of nearly $25,000 — thanks Danielle):

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The $100,000 bottle of Ace of Spades Midas Champagne really kicked things up. There are apparnetly just six of the 30-litre bottles in existence.

Now there’s five.

== More background (linked here)

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Your L.A. Valley College Athletic Hall of Fame class of ’11

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Nearly 200 individuals, coaches and team members have been inducted into the Los Angeles Valley College Athletic Hall of Fame since it started in 2007.

A bunch more go in on Saturday during a ceremony at Monarch Hall on the LAVC campus. According to HOF committee member and nomination chair Brick Durley, the list for the fifth anniversary class includes:

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== Doug Baker: The All-State shortstop for LAVC in 1980 and ’81, he went on to play at Arizona State, was a rookie on the Detroit Tigers’ 1984 World Series team and ended a seven-year MLB career with Minnesota. He also has World Series rings as a scout for the Florida Marlins and Chicago White Sox.

== Charles Lee: Set school records in the 100m and 200m when he starred for the Monarchs in 1996 and ’97. Named the Valley College Athlete of the Year in ’97, he transferred to USC and became an All American in 1998 and ’99 in the 200m and 1600m relays, named the USC Track & Field MVP in 1999.

== The late Don McKenzie: A gold medal winner in the 100m breaststroke and the 400m medley relay in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City starred for the Monarch swim team in 1966 and ’67, setting a national record in the 100 yard breaststroke (59:7), becoming the first Community College swimmer to break one minute in the event.. He later swam for the legendary swim coach Doc Councilman at Indiana University in 1968 and ’69 where he was a Big Ten Champion and an All American. He is a member both the International Swimming Hall of Fame and Indiana University Athletic Hall of Fame.

== Wayne Quigley: One of the great running backs in Valley College football history, he earned All Metro, All American honors in 1967, team MVP, and set three school rushing records in the same year. He finished is college career with two years at the University of the Pacific in ’68 and ’69.

== Ted Calderone: Coming to Valley College from Polytechnic High in 1996, the World War II veteran coached winning programs in football, gymnastic and golf at LAVC, and was the men’s Physical Education Department chair for eight years.

== George Goff: After a long career as the head football coach at Birmingham High, Goff arrived at Valley College in 1964 and spent the next 27 years as head football coach and athletic director.

== Gail Castro Malone: In 2003, she was inducted into the California Community College Committee on Athletics Hall of Fame and in 2007 was a member of the Los Angeles Valley College Hall of Fame Class as a member of the 1976 women’s volleyball team. She was also a part of the 1996 Olympic beach volleyball squad.

== The 1968-70 Men’s Cross Country Team: Winning three state titles, they were coached by Valley College Athletic Hall of Fame member Lazlo Tabori and George Ker.

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Enberg’s last run at Wimbledon already has some tears

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Dick Enberg says he won’t be leaving Wimbledon after five decades and a 32nd and last trip as a broadcaster with a broken heart.

He always has baseball to go back to.

“It’s nice to have two loves, to have enjoyed each for her own charms, all the whole one has the time and longevity to stay the course for the rest of my useful time,” Enberg said via e-mail from England on Tuesday, not long after calling Serena Williams’ emotional first-round three-set victory over Aravane Rezai.

Since the 76-year-old Enberg has decided to effectively leave the life of a network broadcaster and come back starting in 2010 to call day-to-day baseball for the San Diego Padres, he’s allowed himself a three-week break in the season to return to Wimbledon for ESPN’s coverage. But this is it.

It was his year doing the Padres games that made the former Angels’ play-by-play man that baseball was where he wanted to end his career fulltime.

“I’m inspired by the continuing success of Vin Scully and Jerry Coleman,” Enberg said of the two Baseball Hall of Famers who continue to work in their 80s. “Hopefully, I can be as productive, as I move forward. Baseball, unlike any other sport, allows that.

“Nevertheless, I’ll really miss Wimbledon. Without fail, it has allowed me to fall in love every time I visit. And I’ll embrace that.”

Enberg isn’t sure yet if ESPN2 will include him calling any finals, since NBC has the live coverage for the final days. ESPN does redo matches for ESPN Classic.

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Enberg is also doing about 10 vignettes, reflecting on some of his favorite matches and moments, since first arriving at Wimbledon in 1979 for the first ever live telecast to the United State – a “breakfast at Wimbledon” telecast for NBC with Bud Collins and Donald Dell, when no one was sure if anyone would wake up at 6 a.m. on the West Coast for the feed.

Now, ESPN2′s coverage begins every morning at 4 a.m. PDT.

Another vignette will be on that 1979 final with Bjorn Borg and Roscoe Tanner (Dell was Tanner’s agent), as well as one on the Williams’ sisters dominance and the 1982 Jimmy Connors-John McEnroe final.

Enberg told the San Diego Union-Tribune last week that it was his decision to make this his final Wimbledon and “ESPN was sensitive to give me a chance to say goodbye to an event that has been my favorite.”

Enberg is scheduled to come back to covering the Padres’ games for San Diego’s Channel 4 on July 6 in San Francisco. He will also miss 11 games in September while doing the U.S. Open for CBS, which he will also give up after this year.

UPDATE: A USA Today piece on Enberg that ran Wednesday (linked here)

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McCourt’s lawyer: This ‘is not going away quietly’

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Robert Sacks, one of the lawyers representing Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, told the Associated Press today that commissioner Bud Selig’s rejecting a request Monday to approve the Fox/Prime Ticket deal “seems to be a predetermined result to drive Frank out of baseball without a good faith basis … This isn’t going to go away quietly.”

Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president of labor relations, replied: “Mr. McCourt was told early on he needed an equity solution. The entire history with Mr. McCourt and baseball shows he’s been given numerous exceptions that were club-specific to assist him. If anything he’s been treated more favorably than other clubs.”

Sacks then claimed that Selig has been ducking his client and should have given McCourt fair warning about not approving the deal.

“If the commissioner wasn’t prepared to approve the transaction, he should have told Frank so he could pursue other avenues,” Sacks said. “I think I would say the commissioner has put the team in a cash-flow bind and Frank is reviewing his options to address that situation as best he can given MLB’s unwarranted action.”

The whole AP story (linked here)

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Dedes turns down Lakers’ TV gig for Knicks, so it goes to Macdonald

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After Spero Dedes declined the Lakers’ offer to step in as their new TV play-by-play man, Bill Macdonald was hired to replace Joel Meyers with just a one-year contract today.

Industry sources say that Dedes has already accepted a job as the radio and TV play-by-play man for the New York Knicks, a contract that will allow him to continue working for CBS on the NFL and college basketball. Dedes, a New Jersey native and a graduate of Fordham University in New York, is represented by Sandy Montag, an agent who has clients such as Bob Costas and John Madden.

The job effectively is replacing Mike Crispino on Knicks’ radio games on ESPN Radio 1050, but would allow Dedes to move to the MSG TV side when Mike Breen leaves to do a network assignment for ESPN or ABC.

Lakers media relations director John Black said the team had a “verbal agreement with Spero to be our new TV play-by-play announcer but he had a change of heart.”

Dedes did not return a phone call for immediate comment — ironically, a radio spot for a car repair service airing on the Lakers’ KSPN-AM (710) flagship station has Dedes doing the voice over identifying himself as the Lakers’ radio voice.

The 31-year-old has been on the radio for six seasons, replacing Meyers, who moved from radio to TV when Paul Sunderland’s contract was not renewed. Sunderland was the first to step in for Hall of Famer Chick Hearn when he fell ill and passed away in 2002.

When it came out that Meyers’ contract would not be renewed, Dedes was a natural choice to take over, but Dedes insisted there were too many options at the time for him to give the Lakers’ a solid confirmation and it would be presumptious to say he’d be hired.

Dedes had been doing NFL games and college basketball games for CBS and had been a host for the NFL Network and NBA TV.

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