Play It Forward: Aug. 15-21 on your sports calendar

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



Little League World Series, round robin play, Day 1 Thursday: Asia-Pacific vs. Mexico, 10 a.m., ESPN; Midwest vs. Northwest, noon, ESPN; Caribbean vs. Japan, 2 p.m., ESPN2; Southeast vs. Southwest, 5 p.m., ESPN:


Stammer all you want about how TV has ruined Little League 11- and 12-year-old kids — boys, that angle never gets old — but ESPN got a new tongue-lashing about it last week when it decided to stay with the conclusion of a Little League World Series qualifier, pushing coverage of a highly-hyped U.S.-Mexico soccer friendly to ESPNEWS for the first 20 minutes. That’s more than just good, sound programming. It’s the way we do things at the World Wide Leader, said an ESPN spokesman, who tried to be friendly when he tweeted: “Starting US-MEX on ESPNEWS was unfortunate circumstance but this is one of the challenges of back-to-back live events. ESPN almost always sticks w/ the live event until it ends. Soccer fans would want the same if a match ran long.” ABC, which first broadcast this event in Williamsport, Pa., in 1963, will get into the national exposure mix with preliminary games on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon, leading up to the network’s coverage of the U.S. title game (Saturday, Aug. 27) and the overall championship game (Sunday, Aug. 28). West Regional champs Ocean View Little League out of Huntington Beach opens Friday against Rhode Island (noon, ESPN). It’s kinda of odd to think that Angels backup catcher Hank Conger, recently sent back to Triple-A, actually played for the Ocean View team that made it to the West Regional championship in 2000.



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

There’s that dynamite TNT series called “Leverage,” with Timothy Hutton as a former insurance investigator. He’s got this bogus L.A.-based firm called Leverage Consulting & Associates, but they’re really more modern-day Robin Hoods — a thief, a grifter, a hacker and a retrieval specialist use their skills to right corporate and governmental injustices inflicted on ordinary citizens, justice league style. Ordinary Angels fans realize their bogus L.A. team could use all the leverage it can get in their latest battle against their AL West combatants, using this a four-game series (all at 7:05 p.m., with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on FSW) as a direct path toward stealing first place in any kind of method of thievery, grifting, hacking and retrieving. The key match up is Wednesday: All-Star C.J. Wilson against red-hot Ervin Santana. The Angels have won in nine of his last 10 starts, and he’s gone from 3-8 to 9-8 in the process, lowering his ERA by more than one full run. They know there’s three more to play against each other in Texas next week (Aug. 26-28) leading up to the final series of the season (Sept. 26-28).

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


What’s brewin’ here? Same ol, same ol. Milwaukee, with manager Ron Roenicke, has command of the NL Central, bolstered by a bullpen that includes two former L.A. All-Star closers — Takashi Saito and Frankie Rodriguez. And the Dodgers, starting a 10-day, three-city tour, plan to combat that by using recent callup Nate Eovaldi up against Zack Greinke on Wednedsay (5:10 p.m., Channel 9), with Clayton Kershaw going into the afternoon finale (11:10 a.m., Prime).

MLB: San Francisco at Atlanta, 4 p.m., ESPN2:

Meanwhile, back in a world where Dan Uggla is no longer mentioned in the same breath as Joe DiMaggio … The MLB Network has Thursday’s game at 4 p.m.

NFL exhibition: N.Y. Jets at Houston, 5 p.m., ESPN:

It’s Mark Sanchez, in 30 snaps or less. Without Plaxico Burress to test out his injured ankle. But no longer wanting to slug Rex Ryan.


CONCACAF Champions League: Galaxy vs. Club Motagua, Home Depot Center, 7 p.m.:

Apparently, the sooner the Galaxy can import Robbie Keane from Ireland with a two-year, $8 million deal, and export Juan Pablo Angel and his guaranteed contract, the better. Meanwhile, there’s a gap in the MLS action so that the Clausura league champs from Honduras can come to Carson to play a tournament. After this diversion, the MLS resumes Saturday (vs. San Jose, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime).


WNBA: Sparks vs. Atlanta, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

The Sparks (9-13) can dream big — they’ve got back-to-back wins for the first time in a month, and Candace Parker may be coming back tonight after her knee injury in early June. After this one against the Dream, there’s one more home game this week — Thursday vs. Indiana, 7:30 p.m. — before a road trip starts in Minnesota (Saturday, 5 p.m.) and Tulsa (Sunday, 4 p.m.)

MLB: Arizona at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., MLB Network:

Cliff Lee, coming off his 2-1 win over the Dodgers, is scheduled to get his bat back into the Phillies’ lineup against the current NL West leaders. The three-game series includes another national TV game on Wednesday (4 p.m., ESPN).


NFL exhibition: Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Channel 4, 5 p.m.:

The Michael Vick Traveling Circus and Mega Team — defying all NFL cap salary space and time — shows off more of its moving parts in the Steel City. Last week’s exhibition opener had an impressive 18.5 local Nielsen TV rating in Philly, with the mark exceeding 21.0 in the first quarter. It’s either this, or the Saskatchewan Roughridgers against the Toronto Argonauts live in a real Canadian League Football game over on the NFL Network.

PGA: Windham Championships, first round, noon, Golf Channel:


Post PGA Championship and pre-FedEx Cup playoff, this event in North Carolina could have included Tiger Woods in the field, but he declined after failing to make the cut last week. Bad move? He’s down to No. 33 in the world rankings, which the Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson thinks hasn’t happened since 1997. During the second round of the PGA Championship coverage last week, analyst Gary McCourt, himself fashionable with his handlebar mustache, noted: “You know, the guys with the scruffy growths are playing better. Adam Scott (above) … Steve Stricker has it going. Time to man up, Tiger. He’s got the little thing growing. Not working for him, yet.” But then, what is? Golf Channel has the second round; CBS has the final two rounds.



NFL exhibition: Atlanta at Jacksonville, 5 p.m., Channel 11:

Keep an eye on this bunch of Jags. They could be your new L.A. team. Which means they could finally get rid of their mascot, named (really) Jaxson de Ville. It should be on the sidelines handing out bags of your Cheetos.

MLB: Dodgers at Colorado, 5:40 p.m., Prime:

Think of it this way: The Dodgers sweep, and they’re probably overtaking the Rockies and climbing into third place in the NL West. The series includes games Saturday (1:10 p.m., no TV) and Sunday (12:10 p.m., Prime).

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

The Angels took two out of three from the Orioles recently at Camden Yards, with Vlad Guerrero on the DL. He’s back in the lineup for the O’s, hitting fourth and DHing, but he has yet to go long this month. The series includes Saturday (6:05 p.m., FSW) and Sunday (12:35 p.m., FSW).

MLB: Cleveland at Detroit, 4 p.m., MLB Network:

Attention Jered Weaver: The AL Central-leading Tigers just put second baseman Carlos Guillen, hitting .207, on the 15-day disabled list with a sore left wrist.



Gymnastics: Visa Championships, St. Paul, Minn., 8 p.m., Channel 4:

Shawn Johnson, the 2008 Olympic all-around silver medalist and season six winner on “Dancing With the Stars” after she talked her mom into moving to L.A. where she finished her senior year of high school with private tutors, remains committed to making the 2012 Olympic team after a long break. But the 19-year-old hasn’t looked up to her championship form, falling off the balance beam at the Cover Girl Classic in Chicago last month. She still had her petition accepted to compete in this U.S. championship event. Her 2008 teammates Chellsie Memmel and Alicia Sacramone have shown more promise and should contend at this meet. Highlights of the men’s competition, where reigning U.S. champ Jonathan Horton is expected to win, airs Sunday (Channel 4, 1:30 p.m.), but it’s live on Universal Sports on Friday (5 p.m.). Universal Sports also has the women’s prelims (Thursday, 5 p.m.).

NFL exhibition: Oakland at San Francisco, 5 p.m., Channel 5; New Orleans at Houston, 5 p.m., NFL Network:

Here’s what happened to Raiders coach Hue Jackson’s team in their opening exhibition loss to Arizona last week: They won the coin toss. Jackson told them to defer to the Cardinals. One player told the ref they wanted to kick off instead. So Arizona started both halves on offense. As a result, Raiders defensive back Hiram Eugene was on the field to start the third quarter, when he shouldn’t have been. He dislocated a hip in that opening Cardinals’ drive.


NFL exhibition: San Diego at Dallas, 5 p.m., Channel 4:


There’s a clause in the Chargers’ lease at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego that allows them to leave between Feb. 1 and May 1 each year by paying up a substantial early termination penalty. But if you see Philip Rivers on the sidelines with an L.A. cap after the first quarter, there’s your first clue. NBC gets this game instead of the canceled exhibition in Canton, Ohio between the Bears and Rams.

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Getting inside Ned’s head: “Nobody’s tougher on me than me”


(Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

Instead of losing a sleeve of balls on a golf course or taking a long mud bath during a spa day, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti admits that he’s recently allowed himself a guilty pleasure.

About once a month, he’s been going to dinner with “five or six guys who are well-versed in life,” he says. “We talk about whatever comes up. If we’re there three hours, I hope the baseball conversation is only 15 minutes.”

The other night, the group included Tom Sherak, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Bob Moore, the president and general manager of KABC-AM radio, the team’s flagship station; KABC host Peter Tilden; Beverly Hills physician Dr. David Kipper; and Michael Franzese, a motivational speaker and author.


Oh, and Jason Alexander, aka George Costanza from “Seinfeld.” His sit-com character once worked as the assistant to the traveling secretary to the New York Yankees. That apparently allows him some carte blanc into some sharp-witted baseball conversation.

“Here’s how the dinner opens,” says Colletti. “Jason says, ‘You know I don’t follow it (baseball, or the Dodgers) real close.’ I say, ‘Yeah.’

“He says, ‘So how’d you blow a six-run lead (to Philadelphia on Wednesday)?’ I said, ‘Thanks, Jason. Thank you. I appreciate that.’ ”

A dinner for schmucks?

It’s one thing to disentangle yourself from watching a franchise Colletti once built into an National League pennant contender now fragment into one just trying to stay out of the NL West basement, all while team ownership is hashed out on TMZ and Commissioner Bud Selig has sent someone in to babysit.

It’s another to just try to find a simple way to temporarily escape the grind of the game, exhale, and relax. If only through a couple of appetizers before the main course.

“I think that’s a problem,” the 55-year-old Colletti said from his suite before Friday’s Dodgers-Houston game, asked how he’s able to decompress during the season. “I don’t. I try to use every minute of every day.”

We borrowed a few of them for a Q-and-A, hoping it might give him a reprieve from watching what would be a tight 1-0 Dodgers win in 10 innings over the Astros:

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The return (again) of Bruno


Without an announcement, Tony Bruno’s week-long suspension ended a show early, as he quietly reappeared on tonight’s “Into The Night” syndicated show (KLAC-AM at 7 p.m.).

From a studio in Philadelphia (97.5 The Fanatic), where he has spent the last week with family, Bruno didn’t address – at least in the first two hours (podcast can be heard here for hour one and here for hour two) – what happened a week ago Friday when he tweeted about San Francisco Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez being an “illegal alien,” then deleted it, then apologized for it (linked here). Parent company DirecTV suspended him for it.

In an email Bruno sent to us earlier in the day, he wrote about the lesson he’s decided that he learned: “I will only use Twitter to promote guests on my show, never to comment on sports outrages.”


Richard Deitsch of mentioned Bruno on his latest “media power list” column (linked here) by writing: “His tweet was indefensible, an ethnic slur that rightly touched off plenty of anger. … At last check, Bruno’s Facebook page had become a depository of people smacking him down. Bruno has had a long career in sports radio and, for the most part, he’s been very good at it. He should offer contrition on the air upon return because part of his lifeblood is getting guests from pro teams. If he wanted to really elevate the discussion, he could examine how and whether an athlete’s ethnicity plays into fandom. But this is sports radio, after all, where too often low-hanging fruit is the meal of the day.”

So far, no such deal.

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A Reggie Bush-league move all in the name of Louis Winthrope III


It’s the CBS Sunday night show sweeping the nation that isn’t called “60 Minutes.”

The next episode of “Same Name” (Channel 2, 9 p.m.) takes former USC Heisman Trophy winning tailback Reggie Bush, now with the Miami Dolphins, and has him trade places with Danville, Ill., farmer and high school football coach Reggie Bush.

Just like “Trading Places,” without the Duke brothers, Eddie Murphy, or Jamie Lee Curtis dressed as a hooker.

When farmer Bush comes to L.A. to see how NFL Bush lives, he must be pinching himself. But, whether or not it’s done for the TV cameras, farmer Bush will be supplimenting his time “working out” and “socializing” by refurbishing some low-income homes in Southern California.

“Ultimately” according to the CBS press release, “the Bush families discover their common ground, and the local high school football team is moved to tears when the football star gives back to the community.”

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On Sunday’s ESPN “Outside The Lines”: Former CSUN women’s hoop coach Abraham back in the witness chair

Former Cal State Northridge womens’ basketball coach and L.A. Sparks assistant Michael Abraham, once sentenced in 1998 to 18 months in federal prison for his role in a crack cocaine conspiracy charge (link here to 2006 Daily News Q-and-A), is the founder, director, and coach of one of the country’s most successful AAU girls’ basketball programs, Portland, Ore.-based Team Concept (story linked here from the Portland Oregonian).

Starting this year, Abraham cannot coach from the bench at any NCAA-certified tournament because he is a felon who served time in federal prison. A change in NCAA policy this year prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from coaching in NCAA certified girls tournaments. This means Abraham must be in the stands or on the sidelines while his team competes.

Shelley Smith reports on the story as part of Sunday’s ESPN “Outside The Lines” (6 a.m., ESPN, repeated at 9 a.m. on ESPN2).

“I make sure if there’s a guy with a felony, my kids aren’t going to play for him. I just think they need positive people around and positive role models around them,” says Chris Morrison, an AAU coach who also coaches girls basketball at St. Anthony’s High in Long Beach. “If they sold drugs and been convicted of those things, what is that telling the kids that you’re coaching?”

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The Rohach test, on ESPN’s Elite 11


Moorpark High senior Grant Rohach, who has given a verbal committment to attend Iowa State, will be part of an ESPN special called “Elite 11: Top High School Quarterbacks” that begins today at 4 p.m.

Rohach was one of 24 high school QBs who took part in this ESPN “Year of the Quaterback” initative, a two-tiered contest that took place recently at Pepperdine University, narrowing the field down to the final 11 for the next round (which airs on ESPN Aug. 19 at 4 p.m.)

Because the competition has already ended — spoiler alert — we can report that Rohach didn’t make the final 11. Jameis Winston of Hueytown High in Alabama, a commit to Florida State, was one of three MVPs of the group, with Neal Burcham of Greenbrier (Ark.) High (not committed yet) and Tanner Mangum of Eagle (Idaho) High (headed to BYU).

The other eight: El Cajon’s Shane Dillon (going to Colorado), Bart Houston of Concord De La Salle (going to Wisconsin), Chad Kelly of St. Joseph’s in Buffalo, N.Y. (going to Clemson), Zach Kline of San Ramon Valley in Danville (going to Cal), Jeff Lindquist of Mercer Island (Wash.) High (headed to Washington), Austin Appleby of Hoover High in North Canton, Ohio (going to Purdue), Zeke Pike of Dixie Heights High in Fort Mitchell, Ky. (going to Auburn) and Chad Voytik of Cleveland (Tenn.) High (going to Tennessee).

Among those in Rohach’s first round were Jake Rodrigues of Whitney High in Rocklin, Calif. (going to Oregon) and Travis Wilson of San Clemente High (headed to Utah).

ESPN’s Trent Dilfer was the lead evaluator in selecting the final roster spots alongside the other Elite 11 coaches: Former Jets QB Ken O’Brien, private QB coach George Whitfield, ESPN HS Director of Events Brian Stumpf, Nike FB Head Coach Matt James, and college football analyst/former USC QB Coach Yogi Roth.

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Poor Guy had to sell off his three Raiders’ Super Bowl rings


It’s one thing that former Raiders (Oakland and L.A.) punter Ray Guy isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Even worse, the guy recently filed for bankruptcy and was ordered by a judge to sell his Super Bowl XI, XV and XVIII rings to raise money to pay off his debts.

In a sale by L.A.-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions that took place this week, Guy’s rings sold for $96,216. Guy’s Super Bowl XVIII ring that he won with the L.A. Raiders has 23 diamond-encrusted stones shaped into three footballs.

Guy, a Raider from 1973-’86, made seven Pro Bowls and, in 1994, was named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. The Ray Guy Award is annually given to college football’s top punter each season.

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First the kid has the foul ball … then the usher swipes it from him … (and gives it back)

Click on the photo below to start the video:


A foul ball snagged by a little kid at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, only to have the usher snatch it away from him, was purely a joke that the audience watching the game on Prime Ticket didn’t get to see the punch line.

It was the sixth inning of the Dodgers-Phillies game, when the Phillies’ Shane Victorino fouled a pitch high over the backstop screen, landing into the high-rent seats, before the kid jumped on it and picked it up.

The Prime Ticket cameras caught it all (linked here and click on the video above).

Said Vin Scully: “Oh, the little guy got it and he is ecstatic. Good for you. Great … Now just don’t put it in a drawer with some old socks. Use it.”

Just then a Dodger Stadium usher comes up to the kid asks him for the ball and walks away, leaving the kid to leap from his seat asking for the ball back.

And Prime Ticket didn’t catch it all after all.


Cut back to the game. “One and two to Victorino,” says Scully.

Rob Menschel, the Prime Ticket director for Wednesday’s telecast, explains:

“The usher was just teasing the little boy and handed the ball back to him just after the shot changed. I didn’t cut back to the child immediately because the camera (high above home plate) had to return to its normal position for the next pitch. By the time the next pitch was thrown, everything was over.

“As Vin didn’t mention or see the usher take the ball, I thought returning to the child on camera would have made little sense at that point. However, as it apparently caused some confusion in our audience, I probably should have anyway. My bad. I’ll take the hit for it.”

The hits, of course, seem to be coming from many anonymous blog postings (like this one).

Then the Associated Press decided to pick up on it (linked here) and go with this angle: “Depending on who you talk to, the Los Angeles Dodgers this year are no laughing matter or a laughingstock. Maybe that’s why a television camera failed to catch the punchline on what the team is calling an usher’s joke during Wednesday’s loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.”


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Now, if only the Jets would move to L.A.


While those based at the ESPN L.A. offices wonder just which NFL may soon be coming to a Farmers Field nearby that has yet to be built, KSPN-AM (710) announced today it has made a deal to be the New York Jets’ affiliate and broadcast every games that the team plays this NFL season, starting with the Sept. 11 opener against Dallas.

And, yes, having former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez as the Jets star attraction helped make that decision easier.

“It’s an honor to be able to bring Mark Sanchez back to L.A. and back to his huge local fan base,” said Scott McCarthy, Vice President/General Manager ESPN LA. “There is tremendous passion for the NFL here in LA, and this partnership with an elite franchise will further energize the Southland’s sizable population of football fans, who continue to express excitement about the potential return of an NFL team to the region.”

Said Sanchez: “I’m happy that Jets fans in the L.A. area will now be a part of our 2011 season. Their support has always been very important to me, and I look forward to sharing this exciting time with them.”

Bob Wischusen and Marty Lyons call the games on the Jets’ radio network from their ESPN New York 1050 flagship station.

The move fits in KSPN carrying USC’s football games as well as launch a new show with former USC and Jets star Keyshawn Johnson that begins Sunday from 8-to-9 a.m.

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An (under)current event: the Twitter riptide of breaking news


I got a text on Monday night just past 7 p.m. asking if I knew why Tony Bruno wasn’t on his syndicated radio show heard locally on KLAC-AM (570).

My text back: I sent out a tweet ( about a half-hour earlier, that Bruno had been suspended by the show’s parent company, DirecTV. Anyone following my Twitter feed would now know that piece of info.

“Oh, OK,” came a reply.

Oh, no, I said to myself at that moment. Did I just do something right, wrong or fall into a black hole of no return?


For all journalistic intents and purposes, I could have been just as stupid about my use of Twitter as Bruno was last Friday night. During his show, while he was watching the Phillies-Giants game, he got caught up in the moment of a brawl igniting. An unabashed Philly native, Bruno tweeted out his frustration, not only calling Giants manager Bruce Bochy a “coward” but referred to Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez as an “illegal alien.”

The Bruno backlash was predictable, even though he had taken down the tweet just minutes later and apologized for it on his Facebook page. Over the weekend, Bochy addressed the incident by calling Bruno’s response “racist,” giving it much more national exposure. And leading to Bruno’s suspension.

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