It’s Out of the Question: The big deal edition

What’s the deal without Pete Carroll or Jim Harbaugh occupying the Coliseum sidelines during a USC-Stanford game day, each trying to one-up each other on how to look serious while answering a nasally Erin Andrews question just before kickoff without bursting into laughter?

Bright lights, big city.

Dim the hot flashes. There’s something terribly missing here.

Then again, if you really want to make a Trojan hoarse, or a Cardinal red in the face, go ahead and ask him what’s the deal with:

Stanford, a point-spread favorite at USC for the first time ever? Is that a blind-side move neither Matt Kalil nor Jonathan Martin could see coming?

Lane Kiffin’s white-windbreaker, white-visor ensemble — the latter of which always seems to have a tag sticking up in the back? Add a scarf and mojito, and couldn’t he be coaching the Trojans co-ed intramural badminton team?

Stanford’s 38-for-38 success rate in that so-called, 20-yards-and-in red zone this season — 30 TDs, 8 FGs? Yeah, but how many failed two-point conversions after that can they boast about?

The 6-1 Trojans elevated to a No. 20 ranking after last week’s win at Notre Dame? Did you know that’s the farthest down in the AP poll that any USC team, on or off probation, has been with this exact win-loss record since the first ranking in 1936? Do you compute?

The NCAA allowing conferences to give an extra $2,000 in spending money to scholarship athletes? What could Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley do with an extra two grand? A trip to Lawry’s with a handful of lawyers to fill out their NFL draft-eligible paperwork over a six-course meal?

All this “Suck for Luck” strategy being played out among the NFL’s worst teams in the league? Did Carroll get the memo and keep it from Harbaugh?

== Student-athletes can’t look out for their own best interests, pull out of school and transfer without being penalized a full year of playing? But do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do athletic directors can follow rank and yank himself out of a conference and take a better cash deal somewhere else without worrying about setting any kind of poor example of sportsmanship?

== Does Joe Paterno even know his Penn State squad is the most under-the-radar 7-1 team in the country, about to go 8-1 against Illinois?

== Had T.O. (as in, Terrell Owens) arranged to have his workout in T.O. (as in, Thousand Oaks) instead of Calabasas, could more NFL scouts have found it on their GPS?

== Tiki Barber: Still unemployed NFL running back and TV broadcaster, or the new hot haircutting place next to L&L Hawaiian BBQ in Reseda?

== If the Galaxy could guarantee a goal a game from 16-year-old Jack McBean, how far would that go in keeping David Beckham interested in sticking around another season?

== Time to retire the Al Davis Halloween costumes this year?

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‘We will see you tomorrow night’: 20 years later, Joe Buck echos Jack Buck’s World Series call

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David Freese and Kirby Puckett were connected, 20 years (and one day) apart, by a bottom-of-the 11th-inning game-winning home run in Game 6 of the World Series to force a seventh-game.

Joe Buck called the former on Thursday night for Fox. His dad, Hall of Famer Jack Buck, called the later in Minnesota in 1991 for CBS.

They both used the same line: “We will see you tomorrow night.”

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Joe Buck, in his 16th season as Fox’s lead baseball play-by-play broadcaster, said he did it to celebrate his dad’s call.

“I started my career through nepotism, connections, and early on I tried everything to sound different from my dad,” Joe Buck told Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after Thursday’s game. “But in the best game I ever witnessed, ever called, my first thing was to go back to my dad.

“I never would have done that (earlier in my career, trying to distance himself from the family tie. But now I look for opportunities to celebrate him.

“I think I started thinking about it … in the ninth inning. I have become smart enough in all these years of doing it that you can’t in any way shape or form force anything. It has to be right, it has to fit. Those calls are always in the back of my mind. With it being here in St. Louis (where his dad worked for so many years as the voice of the Cards), with it being a St. Louis kid who hit it, and with the crowd doing what the crowd did, I guess it fit OK. But in the end I’m just happy to get through the broadcast and feel good about the whole 4 hours, not just the last five seconds.

“I don’t really consider it some crowning achievement. I’m not going to become like a Jack Buck cover band, and start doing his calls whenever I can cram one in. I felt like this one fit, it was clean in this situation. It wasn’t like it was a base hit and somebody scored from first. … It was a simple straightaway home run that I thought he hit as soon as
the ball left his bat. It gave me a second to gather myself. When I saw (center fielder Josh) Hamilton’s shoulders drop I knew it was OK to say it. … That was building in my mind.

“The beauty of that when it originally was said in ’91 was that (he meant) ‘We knew we’re going to see you for a Game 7. If you bothered to watch this long for this kind of game,
you’re going to be back tomorrow night.’

“I can 1,000 percent guarantee that will never come out of my mouth again. It was the perfect time, and the last time. … It was the perfect time to use it.”

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At least they both wore No. 23: Sabrmetrically, Gibson’s HR may be frozen in time, but Freese’s Game 6 surpasses his World Series performance

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A weekly email from the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) pointed out that David Freese’s performance in Game 6 on Thursday night for St. Louis “surpassed Kirk Gibson’s game-winning 1988 home run as the highest single-game WPA (win probability added) performance in World Series history.”

Timing, apparently, is everything with this stat. Don’t factor in the drama.

The link to David Schoenfeld’s piece on ESPN.com’s “Sweet Spot” blog (linked here), via SABR’s BaseballReference.com, explains how WPA determines the value of each play based on the score, inning and situation, and calculates how the odds of winning or losing the game changed based on that play.

The two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth, down-by-one two-run homer that the Dodgers’ Gibson hit off Oakland Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley in 1988 registered a .870 WPA for his moment, previously the greatest in World Series history. It wasn’t an elimination game. And there’s no way to quantify Gibson being a complete physical mess at the time, either.

Freese got a .969 WPA for his game — most of it from the two-out, two-strike, two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth that tied the game at 7-7 which, from this statistic, was more valuable than his game-winning home run in the 11th.

Add to that teammate Lance Berkman’s .832 — he tied the game in the bottom of the 10th with his two-out single. The fact the Cardinals were on the brink of elimination factored heavily into the equation.

Meaning, the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton didn’t register in the Top 10 with his two-run homer in the top of the 10th that could have been remembered as the series clincher.

WPA is a stat that can be a little tough to wrap your head around.

Bill Mazeroski’s Game 7 bottom-of-the-ninth homer to win the World Series for Pittsburgh over the New York Yankees didn’t make the Top 10 of this list. But teammate Hal Smith’s three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth with two outs to give the Pirates a 9-7 lead did?

Joe Carter’s 1992 World Series-winning homer for Toronto? He had a .596 for the game. Not Top 10. If Toronto lost that game, they’d only have been tied in the series against Philadelphia. But Ed Spraugue’s homer to win Game 2 of that series made the Top 10?

Bobby Thompson’s homer to win the NL pennant for the New York Giants in 1951? His game was .718. But not a World Series game.

Kirby Puckett’s Game 6 homer in the 11th in 1991 for Minnesota, to avoid elimination? It came when the game was tied, true, as did Freese.

Now, we demand a recount, especially if Sprague is somehow ahead of that one.

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Weekly media column version 10.28.11

What’s covered in today’s weekly media column (linked here): Five good questions with Lee Corso, the ESPN “GameDay” studio analyst who’ll be on site in front of the Coliseum on Saturday morning, trying to decide if he’ll pick USC or Stanford to win that night’s game, along with Dan Patrick’s “Occupy GameDay” plans, and more rumblings from DirecTV about dropping Fox channels starting on Tuesday.

The print edition includes this graphic:

ESPN’s Lee Corso is 8 for 8 on regular-season “GameDay” picks when on the set in L.A. prior to a USC or UCLA game (not counting Jan. 1 Rose Bowl visits to Pasadena):
Oct. 30, 2010: Oregon at USC (Corso picked Oregon, Ducks win, 53-32)
Sept. 13, 2008: Ohio State at USC (Corso picked USC, Trojans win, 35-3)
Nov. 25, 2006: Notre Dame at USC (Corso picked USC, Trojans win, 44-24)
Sept. 16, 2006: Nebraska at USC (Corso picked USC, Trojans win, 28-10)
Dec. 3, 2005: UCLA at USC (Corso picked USC, Trojans win, 66-19)
Nov. 27, 2004: Notre Dame at USC (Corso picked USC, Trojans win, 41-10)
Oct. 9, 2004: Cal at USC (Corso picked USC, Trojans win, 23-17)
Oct. 17, 1998: Oregon at UCLA (Corso picked UCLA, Bruins win, 41-38)
Note: In 200 previous “GameDay” predictions, Corso is 137-63 (69 percent), and 6-2 this season (75 percent), coming off an incorrect pick of Wisconsin to beat Michigan State last Saturday.

What’s not covered in the column: A couple more questions with Corso, the show’s only original remaining member (since 1987) and celebrating his 25th season:

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Q: Just once on an L.A. trip, why couldn’t ESPN bring Mel Brooks (left) onto the set of “GameDay” just to mess with the viewers that early in the morning?

A: I don’t know, that’s all up to ESPN. I know last time in was in L.A. (last season) we brought Will Ferrell on and I picked Oregon to win and we had a fight on the set. That was a lot of fun.

What Corso failed to mention: Corso was wearing a giant “Corso” head before he took it off to put on the Ducks’ gear. See that video above.

Q: What’s your most vivid memory of coming into the Coliseum as a coach (he coached for 28 years, including 17 as the head coach at Louisville, Indiana and Northern Illinois)?

A: Joey Browner. I’ll never forget him. There’s a 6-foot-9 defensive back returning punts for touchdowns against us (Sept, 13, 1982, in a 28-7 USC win over Corso’s Indiana team, earning Browner the Sports Illustrated college player of the week mention). I thought the Trojan horse would collapse from running all over the place that day. The year before, I arranged for USC to come to come to Bloomington (Indiana) because I promised the athletic director that I’d deliver a Rose Bowl team to Indiana that season. I didn’t tell him it would be USC coming to play us. And that score was 0-0 going into the fourth quarter, and Marcus Allen scores three touchdowns against us, and we lose 21-0.

Here’s more from another Q-and-A done with Corso last week for the ESPN “Front Row” blog by Rachel Margolis (linked here) prior to his 200th pick:

FR: What has it meant to you to be a part of College GameDay for all 25 years?

LC: It has meant so much to me — such a big part of my life after coaching. I love that GameDay has grown so much in the last 25 years, and the fact that it is now an event- not just a show. I love seeing how the cities, colleges and students rally behind College GameDay, and to see the enthusiasm and excitement of the students is great.

FR: Does it surprise you how popular College GameDay has become and what do you think the reason is?

LC: No, not in the least. The secret behind our show is that it is done in front of a live audience — that is the one thing we do compared to the other studio shows at ESPN. It is unbelievable to be on that stage with the crowd behind us.

FR: What has changed the most since you started going on the road?

LC: So much has changed — a longer show, new faces, but the biggest thing is the popularity. The fact that the show has grown so big, and that the fans are so enthusiastic is electrifying. They get up so early in the morning and they flock to the set, or spend the night to get a great spot in the crowd. That is what keeps going and inspires me the most.

FR: How did you start using the mascot heads to make your final selection of the show?

LC: I believe it was the Ohio State-Penn State game, a top five matchup, in 1996. Brutus the Buckeye walked by Kirk and I the day before the show. I said to Kirk (Herbsteit) if you get me that mascot head, I will put it on tomorrow. I won’t have to say anything and they will know who I pick. So that is how it began. The crowd, the truck and ESPN went crazy and I said I think I have something here!

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Where Jenny Batsche intersects with ESPN’s “GameDay” in L.A.

UPDATED: 3 p.m. Friday:

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Dan Patrick will be a bit preoccupied Saturday morning.

Could he sneak past ESPN security, get a couple of USC fans to hoist him out of the mosh pit, and position himself just beyond Erin Andrews’ left shoulder to sneak onto the “College GameDay” coverage?

Or does he lay low and smile knowingly as he counts how many signs related to his syndicated radio and TV show find their way on camera during the live telecast?

With a fortuitous scheduling quirk, Patrick will be on hand to personally experience the movement known on his show as “#OccupyGameDay,” planning to be somewhere during the early-morning telecast Saturday outside the Coliseum prior to the USC-Stanford game.

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The former ESPN employee has no stealth agenda of revenge. He’s far more entertained by all the fans and followers who’ve put their creative energy into honoring him and the show with their background signage.

“We didn’t initiate any of this, but we will tolerate and we will celebrate it,” said Patrick, who broke away from ESPN in 2007 after 18 years to start his own syndicated radio show, heard locally on KLAC-AM (570) from 6-to-9 a.m., simulcast on Fox Sports West and DirecTV.

Motivation to keep “Occupy” moving within the “GameDay” crowd from campus to campus each week seems to be derived from the fact that ESPN sticks to a policy of refusing to allow employees to appear as guests on Patrick’s show.

Here, Patrick’s fans can stick it back.

“It’s more than four years (since leaving ESPN), and I must be doing something right,” said Patrick. “But when the kings of promotion won’t allow their people come on my show? It must be deeper rooted on their side than mine.

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“They can be so sensative, as if they control the universe. They’re not beyond reproach. I hope someday to move past it, but I don’t think it will happen with current management.”

ESPN spokesperson Keri Potts said: “We effort to keep the GameDay signs in our set location college football- and college sports-themed. We try to prevent any call to action or promotional signs as the show is not an avenue for outside advertisers or the general public to promote their causes or interests.”

She also said that ESPN’s policy about radio interviews is not to book ESPN talent with any direct competitors to stations that carry ESPN Radio programming, so it is not specific to Patrick’s show.

Nonetheless, Patrick’s fans at “GameDay” go for deeply embedded show references, paying homage to him and his “Dan-ettes” support staff – Paul Pabst, Patrick “Seton” O’Connor, Todd Fritz and Andrew “McLovin” Perloff.

The first was a year ago outside Wrigley Field in Chicago before an Illinois-Northwestern game, with a “GameDay” sign referring to “passion bucket,” a phrase that came from UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel and latched onto by Patrick and his audience.

In Oregon recently, a fan was able to get “I (Heart) DP” sign up long enough to get on air. Nine photos with Patrick-related messages were snapped by listeners (or members of “DanNation”) and posted after the “GameDay” show’s last appearance in East Lansing, Mich.

Someone named DJ emailed Patrick’s show this week looking for the spelling of “Jenny Batsche.” That’s the name of Patrick’s former high school girl friend.

Look for that sign Saturday.

“Privately, I think some of the ‘GameDay’ folks are fine with it, because of the fact it adds to the bigger audience and brings more eyeballs, but then you see how the ‘mothership’ (ESPN) has people wrestle them away as if they’re contraband,” said Patrick, in L.A. with his family Friday and Saturday for his son’s birthday before jetting back to New York to do NBC’s “Football Night In America” studio show Sunday night.

As long as his campus-crazy audience respects the “GameDay” show, does nothing mean-spirited and has fun with it, Patrick doesn’t expect any trouble.

“This is where, as the parents of two college-age kids, I’m glad their educations are well spent,” he said.

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