Larry Kahn, center, and son Brandon, left, are in the booth with analyst Dan Fouts prior to a Sports USA radio NFL broadcast in Seattle.
There’s something to be said about the Sports USA syndicated radio network carrying its 300th NFL game this Sunday.
We’ll let the company’s founder and lead play-by-play man, Larry Kahn, say it himself.
“It’s pretty amazing, considering where we started . . . really, pretty amazing,” Kahn allowed himself to admit from his Simi Valley office and studios this week.
“Honestly, I never was looking past my next game when I first started, let alone two years or five years or 10 years down the road. That’s crazy to look that far. We got into this at the right time. I always felt I could compete with anyone. The key is just keeping it quality first and foremost.”
Here’s a case where David has not only caught Goliath from behind, but he’s been standing toe-to-toe, calling him for the last few years.
In its 10th season of NFL games, Sports USA has become the largest independent syndicator of live sports play-by-play in the country, the main competitor of syndicated radio broadcasts to the giant Westwood One (now Dial Global). Twice, Sports USA was nearly granted the league’s prime-time, post-season and Super Bowl package.
The volatile business of corporate ownership and constant downsizing doesn’t often see these kind of entrepreneurial success stories stay on the radar.
When the 56-year-old Kahn decided to start his own Pacific West Radio Sports network out of his Simi Valley home in 1998, the primary focus was college football games. Kahn was just a couple of years removed from his first real business venture – buying the rights to carry USC football, basketball and baseball games in the mid ’90s, and then broadcasting the events himself.
That alone was quite a leap for the L.A. native from Fairfax High who grew up on the broadcast side of the business, spending much of his earlier sports radio days in L.A. covering the Dodgers and Angels for the old KMPC-AM (710) and as an anchor at KNX-AM (1070).
“I think we’ve all been in that position in our jobs – If I was in charge, I’d do it this way,” Kahn said. “I had to find out if I could do it, through the trials and tribulations, taking a deep breath, not over reacting, taking it a step at a time.”
His dream job since he was 3, he says, was to do play-by-play.
But now he been calling his shots as a businessman, taking the financial risk upon himself, figuring out how to set up a network, create a sales department and take meetings.
The renamed Sports USA network in 2002 ventured into carrying nine NFL games in the second half of the season on a trial bases for about 25 affiliates. It must have worked. Today, there are more than 300 stations carrying his games, including WFAN in New York, WEEI in Boston and KNBR in San Francisco.
Kahn has maintained a weekly Saturday college games to go with two NFL Sunday games, all with a staff of six full-time employees and about 50 part time that include game broadcasters such as former USC coach John Robinson, Dan Fouts and Gary Barnett and studio anchors Brian Golden and Ted Sobel.
“Look at how many businesses seem to fail in California these days, and the state’s economy is falling off the cliff, but here’s a friend of mine for more than 30 years who I can’t be more proud for all the success he’s had with this,” said Golden, a longtime sports columnist at the Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale. “I feel as much joy for him as a friend as I do looking at him as a boss.”
Two months ago, Kahn ventured off onto a new idea, creating a new syndicated show for Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, many of which are available on the website (www.sportsusaradio.com). He’s also aligned with Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com for pregame information.
But Kahn, who will call Sunday’s Baltimore-Seattle contest with Robinson and Troy West for the network, heard locally on KABC-AM (790), is in no rush to grow beyond his means and create a debt situation that he can’t afford to maintain.
“It’s always been a family thing here,” said Kahn, whose wife Nanci is the company’s payroll and travel coordinator and son Brandon gets to make a few road trips on the weekends. “We do things you can’t do in corporate America. We’re in the business of having fun.
“But being here this long, to me – there’s no business model, it’s just a lot of common sense. Companies that over-expand lose their focus. And I know we’re really good at what we do right now. We do it better than anyone else.
“Did I ever expect all of this? No, but it’s worked. As a broadcaster and a businessman, I’m always trying to maintain our credibility first. I won’t take a fast buck to compromise the broadcast. Quality comes first, and the business end will take care of itself.”
Every once and a while, a TV network’s sports division will make a deal with the devil.
The deliverance of over-the-top ratings are far too tempting to ignore when pitched by some snake-oil retailers.
Take NBC’s leap into bed with Vince McMahon and his grand scheme for the XFL a decade ago. Dick Ebersol, who pulled his network out of NFL negotiations because he thought it was overvalued, thought he had captured the anti-NFL sentiment in a rebellious move. With the talent sub-par, and everything else so over-the-top, no one bought in. It barely lasted a year.
The latest apple offered up for networks to bite into is mixed martial arts.
An activity that recently has been fostered through off-the-beaten-path cable channels, feeding into a pay-per-view audience, continues to surge among younger viewers who have no connection to boxing’s history and shorter attention spans.
CBS thought it had an in with a Triple-A MMA organization three years ago, bringing octagonal combat fighting to a Saturday night audience whose graying demographic was more inclined to having a slice of peach cobbler with their “48 Hours Mystery” than a heaping helping of Kimbo Slice trying to make others bleed.
A new tipping point in measuring the public’s appetite was reached recently by Fox with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a seven-year, $700 million deal that officially starts in January but will launch loudly with a welcome-mat card from Anaheim’s Honda Center on Saturday night.
With it comes some the typical warning signs of a decision that some on the over-the-air TV side may regret down the road. But that’s to be ignored at this moment.
The legitimacy and track record of UFC appears to give Fox a fighting chance for a lucrative partnership. That matters most today to the same Fox execs who not so long ago displayed public disgust for the entire barbaric art form.
The fact Fox can promote the heck out of it during mainstream sporting events – there were promos all week during the Kings’ NHL telecasts on Fox Sports West, for example, and prior to that, saturating Fox’s World Series and NFL coverage – appears to give it more legitimacy. But it also exposes Fox, which plans to have four of these things a year (plus six more annually on FX), if all this breaks badly somewhere down the road.
UFC boss Dana White watched CBS’ first attempt at MMA coverage, a live event with shaky production values that went an hour over its allotted window and provided little action, and called it “a (bleeping) joke. . . . Did it set us back? I don’t know. (But) what happened last night should not be on (bleeping) television, especially network television.”
The inference was that the public should have demanded something more than an inferior product. Better punching. More arm-twisting. Stronger kicks to the groin.
White promises only top-notch action during Saturday’s first card, rigidly set to spotlight a heavyweight bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos from 6-to-7 p.m. (and a replay from 9-to-10 p.m.). Fox’s FuelTV and its Spanish-language channel with weight-ins and red-carpet specials leading up to and wrapping up the bout, and Fox Radio will also carry it live (on 570-AM).
Fox’s Curt Menefee and MMA enthusiast Jay Glazer will be part of the ancillary programming to help soften the blow. Mike Goldberg (of Lingerie Football League fame) and Joe Roggin (of “Fear Factor” fame) will call the UFC bout.
They say it’ll end well before a pay-per-view boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manual Marquez takes place in Las Vegas, for those crossover viewers.
“We are ready for prime time, and we’re going to show everybody on Saturday night,” White said earlier this week. “Either you like combat sports or you don’t. If you like it, watch. If you don’t, don’t.”
Fox Sports chairman David Hill, one of those who publically stated disdain for MMA not to long ago, doesn’t expect any chorus of discontent.
“I’m not expecting any backlash whatsoever,” he said. “If you look at the popularity of the sport, it’s moved from niche to mainstream, which is why we’re so pleased we could put this together.”
Will viewer discretion be advised?
“Definitely,” said Hill. “We’ll be advising America not to try this at home.”
That’s a very nice devil-may-care way of looking at it.
In the recently released book, “Pride of the Lions: The Biography of Joe Paterno” ($24.95, Triumph Books, linked here), author Frank Fitzpatrick goes into depth and detail about the life and times of the Penn State football coach, obviously not knowing he would be fired from the position Wednesday night.
In flipping through the 256-page bio, there are a few things, when looked at in a new context, that could raise some red flags about the way Paterno ran the program, protected his players, and commanded respect for his position of authority.
There is little, if any, insight about his relationship with or the contributions of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the focal point of the child abuse allegations that has led to the events over the last couple of days.
But there is the interesting side note, however, about a time when Paterno nearly moved from State College, Pa., to work at USC.
He was working on the staff of head coach Rip Engle, who guided the Nittany Lions football teams from 1950 to 1965. Engle had turned down offers to go to various NFL teams, and Paterno had also decided to stay loyal to Engle at Penn State rather than take other assistant jobs, particularily with the Baltimore, where Weeb Ewbank, Engle’s onetime assistant, was the head coach.
On page 88 in “Pride Of the Lions,” Fitzpatrick notes:
“In the late 1950s, Paterno had been disappointed when Engle rejected an offer from Southern California.
“Paterno had wanted to go along to Los Angeles. When the head coach polled his eight assistants on how they felt about a possible move there, Paterno was the only one in favor of relocating. Not only was USC a more glamorous name in college sports, but a move to the West Coast would have allowed him to experience a new challenge, a new atmosphere. And from spotlit L.A., he knew, landing a head-coaching job would be a cinch.
“When Engle decided to stay put, (former Penn State assistant J.T.) White recalled, ‘Joe was furious.’”
Engle left after a 5-5 season in 1965, at age 60. Paterno replaced him, taking a $20,000 salary, at age 39.
Key college football TV games in L.A. for Week 11 (all games Saturday unless deoted by an asterisk):
== USC vs. Washington: Coliseum, 12:45 p.m., FX, with Gus Johnson, Charles Davis and Tim Brewster == UCLA at Utah: 3:30 p.m., Prime Ticket, with Bill Macdonald, J.J. Stokes and Chris McGee
== Oregon at Stanford: 5 p.m., Channel 7, with Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit & Erin Andrews (and ESPN “College GameDay” on the Stanford campus for the first time, 6 a.m.). Note: The kickoff for next Saturday’s Oregon-USC game in Eugene, Ore., moves to 7:15 p.m. and is on ESPN if Stanford wins this game; if Oregon wins, the kickoff stays at 5 p.m. and is on Channel 7. If there’s a tie, well, they gotta keep playing until someone fumbles. == Arizona State at Washingtion State: 7:30 p.m., Versus, with Ted Robinson, Glenn Parker and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila == Oklahoma State at Texas Tech: 9 a.m., Channel 7, with Bob Wischusen and Bob Davie == *Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech: Thursday at 5 p.m., with Rece Davis, Craig James, Jesse Palmer and Jenn Brown == TCU at Boise State: 12:30 p.m., Versus, with Paul Burmeister, Shaun King and Anthony Herron == Rutgers vs. Army at Yankee Stadium: 12:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network, with Gary Thorne and Randy Cross. Former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, paralyzed from the neck down during a game more than a year ago, will join the broadcast team as an analyst in the third quarter. == Notre Dame vs. Maryland at Landover, Md.: 4:30 p.m., Channel 4, with Tom Hammond and Mike Maylock == Nebraska at Penn State: 9 a.m., ESPN, with Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman, Urban Meyer and Tom Rinaldi (with Meyer being mentioned as an odds-on favorite to be the next Penn State coach) == Michigan State at Iowa: 9 a.m., ESPN2, with Beth Mowins and Mike Bellotti == Michigan at Illinois: 12:30 p.m., Channel 7, with Mike Patrick and Craig James == Florida at South Carolina: 9 a.m., Channel 2, with Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman. == Auburn at Georgia: 12:30 p.m., Channel 2, with Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson == Tennessee at Arkansas: 3 p.m., ESPN2, with Mark Jones, Ed Cunningham and Jeannine Edwards == Alabama at Mississippi State: 4:45 p.m., ESPN, with Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe == *Houston at Tulane: Thursday, 5 p.m., CBS Sports Network, with Dave Ryan and Doug Chapman
The NFL TV games in L.A. for Week 10 (all games Sunday unless deoted by an asterisk):
== *5:30 p.m., Thursday, NFL Network: Oakland at San Diego, with Brad Nessler and Mike Maylock == 10 a.m., Channel 2: Buffalo at Dallas, with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms (instead of Pittsburgh-Cincinnati, Houston-Tampa Bay, Tennessee-Carolina, Denver-Kansas City and Jacksonville-Indianapolis) == 10 a.m., Channel 11: New Orleans at Atlanta, with Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa (instead of Arizona-Philadelphia, Washington-Miami or St. Louis-Cleveland) == 1 p.m., Channel 11: N.Y. Giants at San Francisco with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (instead of Detroit-Chicago. CBS also has Baltimore-Seattle in this window) == 5:15 p.m., Channel 4: New England at N.Y. Jets with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya
Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
Boxing: Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez, Saturday at 6 p.m., pay-per-view ($64.95 HD/$54.95):
It’s all over the YouTube: Manny Pacquiao and Jimmy Kimmel singing a duet on “How Deep Is Your Love” for Kimmel’s late-night show audience and the TV world last week. This is how pound-for-pound Pacquiao prepares for a big-production fight, by pounding out a Bee Gees tune for those who have trouble sleeping? Yes, because of the karma. That was Pacquaio’s fifth appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” prior to a world championship bout, going back to his first U.S. network TV debut two years ago before he KO’d Miguel Cotto to claim the welterweight title. He’s won every time he’s had the Kimmel mojo.
All in all, since his last bout in May against Shane Mosley (a 12-round unanimous decision), it’s been a crazy summer for Pacquiao. Not only did he release another another single — a cover of Dan Hill’s syrupy 1977 ballad, “Sometimes When We Touch,” with Hill on it, which reached the Top 10 — but he also signed endorsement deal to put his face on every bag of broccoli sold by one of the world’s largest vegetable distributors (as Kimmel also talked about last week on the show, left). It’s a wonder why the lone representative of the Sarangani province in the Philippines even bothers stepping foot into Hollywood’s Wild Card Gym with trainer Freddie Roach to defend his WBO welterweight title and put his 53-3-2 record up against Mrquez for a third time. “This is our last fight,” says Pacquiao, admitting he’s insulted by Marquez’s insistence that he won their first two fights — a draw in 2004 and a split decision for Pacquiao in 2008. Marquez even traveled to the Philippines to plead his case to the public, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with: “We Were Robbed.” Which was different from the other T-shirts he’d been wearing, proclaiming victory in the two previous meetings.
Pacquiao knocked Marquez down three times in the first round of the first fight, and he floored Marquez once in the rematch, but Marquez rallied both times. “I don’t see Manny even touching gloves (with Marquez),” said Alex Ariza, Pacquiao’s conditioning guru. “He has a disdain for the guy, and I’ve never known him to dislike anyone. … Manny is still a nice guy and everything, but there’s something very Third World about him when he wants to be. He can be merciless. I’ve seen it, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that. Usually he lets guys off the hook. He isn’t letting anybody off the hook.” Ariza said on one of the HBO “24/7″ episodes that he doesn’t see Marquez making it past the third round. Roach said he doesn’t think the fight will go six rounds. Still want to put up the cash? How deep is your love for Manny?
NHL: Kings at San Jose, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
Maybe we go back to Sweden and start over again. A four-game losing skid is on the line in Sharkland. After a 5-1-1 start, the Kings are 1-3-2 in their last six games.
NFL: Chicago at Philadelphia, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
Eagles tailback LeSean McCoy, who came into Week 9 second in the NFL with 754 yards on 135 carries, leads the league’s No. 1 rushing offense (179.9) into this one. But then, the Bears have Matt Forte, who has put up 1,091 yards from scrimmage to lead the league (419 receiving, 672 rushing).
College basketball: 2K Sports Classic: William & Mary at St. John’s, 4 p.m., ESPNU; Valparaiso at Arizona, 6 p.m., ESPNU:
The early-season basketball tournament to benefit the Coaches vs. Cancer takes on some extra meaning with St. John’s coach Steve Lavin trying to come back from prostate cancer surgery he had on Oct. 6. He’ll be watching this game from his home in Manhattan as he continues to recover. In Lavin’s absence, the show has been run by top assistant Mike Dunlap, the former Loyola Marymount standout who also played at Pierce College, coached at Cal Lutheran and was a USC and LMU assistant. Rico Hines, who Lavin coached at UCLA, is another key assistant. This tournament continues Wednesday when Lehigh faces St. John’s and Duquesne is at Arizona, and then ends with Arizona facing St. John’s in New York on Nov. 17.
NHL: Kings vs. Nashville, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
Another sellout? Probably. Last Saturday’s 18,118 was the 23rd in a row, going back to last season. The last time the Kings sold out 23 straight regular season games was from Dec. 11, 1993 to March 30, 1994.
World Series of Poker, final table, 6 p.m., ESPN:
It’s almost live from Vegas: A 15-minute delay is in place so someone watching doesn’t send signals to the final three left at the table. Someday, it’ll be completely live. “We’d love to get to that point,” said Doug White, ESPN’s senior director of programming and acquisitions. “That’s a goal we’d love to achieve. Hopefully, one day, we’ll get there.” Added main playcaller Lon McEachern. “The one problem we’d have is that Norman (Chad, the co-host) who swears like a sailor.”
Golf: Emirates Australian Open, first round, 5 p.m., Golf Channel:
A 72-hole event in Sydney is, for some of the field, a tuneup to next week’s President’s Cup. Will Tiger Woods and Aussie native Adam Scott be in the same pairing? Stevie Williams may not hope so. Other Presidents Cup participants are Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Geoff Ogilvy, Bill Haas, David Toms, Jason Day, Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley and captains Fred Couples and Greg Norman. Golf Channel has live coverage each day (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) at 5 p.m. until 10 p.m., with a replay the next morning.
College football: Miami (Ohio) at Temple, 5 p.m., ESPN:
Something has to replace NBA coverage.
NFL: Oakland at San Diego, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:
The league-supported network launches its first Thursday night game of the season, pitting the AFC West rivals together and affording Carson Palmer’s O.C. peeps to come see him in person.
NHL: Kings vs. Vancouver, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
The Canucks’ hangover from losing last season’s Stanley Cup final seems to be lingering longer than they’d figured.
College football: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 5 p.m., ESPN:
Technically, Georgia Tech should have an edge. The Yellow Jackets (7-2, 4-2 ACC) have played an ESPN Thursday night game for 19 consecutive seasons now. They’re coming off that 31-17 win over Clemson and are 5-0 at home this season. However, the Hokies (8-1, 4-1) have won 11 in a row on the road.
College basketball: UCLA vs. Loyola Marymount, L.A. Sports Arena, 7:30 p.m.; USC vs. Cal State Northridge, Galen Center, 8 p.m., USCTrojans.com:
So much for no Lakers or Clippers. The Bruins get a chance to get use to playing home games at the musty dump that the Trojans used to call their home. LMU and CSUN, meanwhile, are happy just to be playing before than a couple hundred.
College basketball: Michigan State vs. North Carolina in San Diego, 4 p.m., ESPN:
On Veteran’s Day, here’s something you probably never thought you’d see: A basketball game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego harbor. The No. 1 Tar Heels take on the Spartans in what’s called the Carrier Classic, a brainchild of Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, with former Lakers greats James Worthy and Magic Johnson as the honorary captains for their alma maters. Some 7,000 seats will be arranged on this aircraft carrier, most recently used to ship the body of Osama bin Laden for his burial at sea in North Arabia. Save a seat for President Obama — he’ll be there, along with many servicement. And both teams will wear camoflague uniforms, while North Carolina plans to have the letters “U.S.A.” where the player names would normally be above the numbers on the back. Just don’t chase that loose ball into the crowd too far. Life preservers optional.
College football: USC vs. Washington, Coliseum, 12:45 p.m., FX:
We know where running back Chris Polk and quarterback Keith Price are on the field. Scan the bench for Erik Folk? Still eligible? The former Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks kicker and younger brother of New York Jets kicker Nick Folk has reached his senior season with three years of varsity experience — and two years experience of crushing the Trojans’ spirits. A year ago at the Coliseum, Folk’s 32-yard field goal with no time left pushed Washington past USC, 32-31. “I love that stuff, man,” Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, the former top Trojans assistant, said of the drama. In 2009, Folk’s 22-yarder with 3 seconds left gave the Huskies the 16-13 win over the No. 3 Trojans and Pete Carroll, who had to use Aaron Corp over the injured freshman Matt Barkley for that one.
College football: UCLA at Utah, 3:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:
Utes offensive coordinator Norm Chow could still be on the UCLA payroll. The man who UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel once allowed to call his offensive plays can’t take much glee in the in the fact that 5-4 Utah sports just a 2-4 conference mark, but the two wins have come in the last two weeks. UCLA, also 5-4, is on its first two-game win stumble of the season, and somehow has co-leadership in the Pac-12 South, with a crazy shot at getting to the conference championship game against either Oregon or Stanford, depending on …
College football: Oregon at Stanford, 5 p.m., Channel 7:
Strength of Pac-12 schedule doesn’t get much stronger in the BCS rankings system after this one’s decided between the Ducks (7-1, 5-0) and Cardinal (9-0, 7-0). USC can’t help but watch since the Trojans travel to Eugene, Ore., to face the Ducks next week.
UFC: Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos, Honda Center in Anaheim, 6 p.m.:
And why would anyone schedule a UFC bout up against a Manny Pacquaio fight? To prove there’s two different fight fans these days — one who believes in boxing and will pay for it, and another who’ll take a freebie. In the first of Fox’s over-the-air UFC telecasts, a heavyweight championship bout with Velasquez defending his title is the best they could do. The two were reportedly slated for the UFC 139 card next week, so maybe it was moved up to help the free TV ratings. One of only three undefeated fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight vision, Velasquez is also the first-ever Mexican fighter to win a world heavyweight championship in a combat sport. He’s the son of an illegal immigrant who supported his family by picking lettuce, crediting his parents for instilling in him extraordinary work ethic, stamina and will to win at a young age.
Drag racing: NHRA Auto Club of Southern California finals, Pomona, 4 p.m., ESPN2:
The 2011 season is back to where it started in February to finish off the NHRA’s year-long 60th anniversary celebration. May John Force be with you. The qualifying is Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN2, delayed).
NASCAR: Kolbalt 500, Avondale, Ariz., noon, ESPN:
One more in the Chase after this one. Finally.
NFL: Detroit at Chicago, 1 p.m., Channel 11:
If the Lions, 4-0 on the road so far and coming off a bye, are really legit, now’s the time to prove it.
NFL: New England at N.Y. Jets, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4:
The Patriots already won the first meeting, 30-21, on Oct. 9 in Foxboro, Mass., on the strength of BenJarvis Green-Ellis’ career-best 136 yards rushing and two TDs.
All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival organizer Pat Battistini, left, with Pete Rose before the screening of “4192″ at the 2010 event in Manhattan Beach.
What’s included in this week’s offering on the sports media (linked here):
A look at how sports documentaries continue to be a popular choice among film makers when getting a “real” story across to the masses — particularily, with the third annual All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival coming up Nov. 11-13 in North Hollywood. We also covered with the return of the documentary “Elevate” to a West Hollywood theatre today (showtimes, linked here).
What’s not included: The Tuscaloosa News reports that ESPN’s “GameDay” is in a day earlier — Wednesday, instead of Thursday — to set up all their gear before Saturday’s LSU-Alabama game. Which ESPN isn’t even covering (it’s on CBS, 5 p.m.). “GameDay” producer Lee Fitting says: “This game has taken on a life of its own. It’s rare where we come in on a Thursday and do coverage a day, day and a half early. It probably happens one or two times a year, but this was an easy one.” “GameDay” co-host Chris Fowler also said the game is “so big we’re all in here doing College Football Live and giving it the Super Bowl treatment … These analysts are so pumped up about this game, we could do a four-hour special.” On just the signs alone that’ll be over Erin Andrews’ shoulder that somehow get through ESPN security, like the one at last week’s USC-Stanford carnival that had a penis drawn (not to be confused with the clever lad who spelled “penis” four times using the letters in ESPN).
Alison Riddle, the former USC women’s water polo player and L.A. County Lifeguard who racked up a few more titles at the recent national championships, reminds us that her fourth annual Breathe Deep L.A. 3-mile walk kicks off from the Manhattan Beach pier on Saturday at 10 a.m., raising funds for lung cancer reseach.
Proceeds benefit the LUNGevity Foundation, the nation’s leading private supporter of lung cancer research. Last year, more than 300 people participated in the walk.
Since losing her then 20-year old sister Adriane eight years ago to lung cancer — she, too, played water polo, and never smoked — Riddle has volunteered to raise awareness of the need for lung cancer research. During the day, she works as a pharmaceutical sales rep for the company that manufactured the drug her sister used during her battle with lung cancer.
“Anything I do is obviously inspired by my sister,” says Riddle. “My sister’s chances of survival would have been greatly increased had we known about it much earlier.
“There’s such a negative stigma attached to lung cancer. People assume it always has to do with smoking and it turns into a kind of blaming the victim. I wanted to let people know that the demographics of lung cancer are much different that what they assume.”
Sometimes it starts or ends at a San Fernando Valley-centric location. Like, at the Amgen offices in Thousand Oaks, after a jaunt through Agoura Hills.
Or at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Or somewhere in Santa Clarita.
They like to mix things up, those race organizers. Keep it fresh.
This morning, we’re told that the host cities for the 2012 Amgen Tour of California will be taking a 750-mile path less traveled from May 13 to 20.
The committee says it reviewed more than 100 city submissions hoping to be named the start, or finish, spot, so if you didn’t make the final 13 cut, don’t be too bummed out.
“Our goal for the Amgen Tour of California has always been to create a route that not only provides a challenging race for the world’s top cyclists, but one that highlights the beauty and diverse terrain that make up the great state of California as well,” said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the Amgen Tour of California.
“Every year we challenge ourselves to raise the bar once again and create a route more challenging than the last, but that’s the great thing about planning a race in California, there is so much from which we can choose. From epic climbs to fast and flat stages to rolling hills and thrilling finishes by the sea, California has it all.”
That said, Stage 1 will be in Santa Rosa — hometown of three-time Amgen Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer.
Stage 2: San Francisco, with the Golden Gate bridge in the background. Nice photo op.
Stage 3: San Jose, which has been part of this thing all six years, to Livermore — a whole new section of the state we haven’t cycled through before.
Stage 4: Sonora, another newbie, with a sprint to Clovis.
Stage 5: A time trial in Bakersfield. They’ll be looking at their watches likely wondering when they get to leave Bakersfield.
Stage 6: From Palmdale to Big Bear Lake, with a new climb thrown in there.
Stage 7: Ontario, another new site, all the way to the top of Mt. Baldy. It’s 10 miles longer than last year’s leg.
Stage 8: The closer will be back at L.A. Live. Party time.
“This race is special because it takes place in one of the most beautiful places in the world – California,” said Chris Horner, 2011 Amgen Tour of California champion. “The Host Cities are always so welcoming and the crowds are always great, not to mention, they provide some of the toughest racing terrain around! I’m looking forward to racing in California again and defending my title in 2012.”
Stanley Stalford Jr., sent out an email this afternoon to anyone who signed up as a member of his OwnTheDodgers.com website.
“Today is a GREAT day to be a Dodger fan, and hopefully, a future owner!” he wrote. “NOW THE FUN BEGINS.”
If he can get 2 million shares sold at $500 a pop within the next few weeks, the 47-year-old owner of a boutique real estate development company in Beverly Hills has no doubt he can provide MLB Commissioner Bud Selig with an all-cash, debt-free payment to purchase the Dodgers and move ownership into the brave, new world of citizens dominion.
“Sitting and waiting has been the most frustrating part, but now we’re ready, willing and able to get an offer,” Stalford said after hearing the news Tuesday night that Frank McCourt had agreed to put the Dodgers up for sale.
Stalford’s OwnTheDodgers.com push, along with a Facebook and Twitter presence, emerged six months ago when talk of a public ownership of the team was bounced around in the media.
Stalford recruited some friends and business partners to form the first organizing committee, with him as the chairman. Attorney Robert Burke and CPA Barry Goldstein are among the key members about to facilitate the next step in getting the business model in working order followed by the information on how fans can purchase stock in the company.
Stalford’s plan is to have a local bank provide a revolving line of credit and keep it as much L.A.-centric as possible.
He’s also got a gameplan on what he’d like to see changed.
“We insure that the great players we already have, we keep for the long term,” Stalford said. “We’re also going to heavily invest in the farm system. And we’re going to embark on a five-year capital improvement of the stadium.”
He’s also planning a team-owned TV channel where it keeps 100 percent of the ad revenue.
“We need to return to an era of quality over quantity, of customer service and treating everyone to what is the class of Major League Baseball,” said Stalford, who shares field-level season seats with some of his friends right behind home plate.
Those currently signed up on OwnTheDodgers.com will be kept apprised on what the next steps are in buying stocks – most likely, Stalford said, involving another website formed with FCC financial disclosure forms.
“I think the only impediment is that people don’t think it can happen,” Stalford said. “They’ll say, ‘That’s a great idea, it won’t happen, but if it does, put me down for five shares.’
“We think that the on the Monday when we put out a full-page ad in all the major newspapers about what we’re offering, we’ll have the $1 billion by Friday of that week. And if we have to sweeten the pot a little, we can do that, too.”
Stalford, who lives with his wife and son in Hancock Park, notes that MLB rules do not specifically have a rule against citizen ownership, only the NFL does, but the share-holder owned Green Bay Packers were grandfathered into it. He also thinks that Selig will understand this ownership bid when compared to others — the Milwaukee businessman used to sit on the Packers board of directors.
“All I’m asking is give us a shot at the bidding process,” said Stalford, who is committed to leaving his job for a year or longer to make this happen. “I’d like to be in the room with Ron Burkle and Dennis Gilbert and say, ‘We have no debt,’ and let them argue why we aren’t the best option.”
By Friday, Stalford expects to have a timeline in place, waiting for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to finalize a schedule on how the Dodgers’ sale will take place.
For the package deal of the team, stadium and parking lot, Forbes has it valued at about $800 million – almost twice as much as what Frank and Jamie McCourt paid for that bundle in 2004. Others put the price tag at north of $1 billion. If it’s true that McCourt got an unsolicited $1.2 billion cash offer from a group financed by the government of China, connected to L.A. Marathon founder Bill Burke, then the actual value depends on who’s paying for it.
How long will this process take?
There’s been no timetable established, but rule of thumb is at least a couple of months for any Major League Baseball ownership change. But considering that Commissioner Bud Selig would want this on the fast track, if it’s all straightened out by Opening Day 2012, that would make everyone happy. However, Selig best take as much time as possible for due diligence, based on how he rubber-stamped McCourt ownership some seven years ago based on a recommendation by News Corp. If that makes the proceedings go longer than normal, it’s in everyone’s best interests.
How does this affect the media rights deal?
The new owner only has to assume the current Fox deal that’s in place through 2013 – Prime Ticket carrying some 100-plus games a season, plus KCAL-Channel 9′s over-the-air package. But then again, anything past that depends on who buys the team. If Time Warner or Fox bought in, either would be in position to start their own Dodger channel, something McCourt only dreamed about. If it’s someone else, the 13-year, $3 billion deal that Fox had on the table with McCourt could still be in play. Selig rejected it only base on the circumstances of how McCourt already seemed to have the money spent on his personal bail-out program.
How does this decision affect free agency?
The window for most of the bigger names out there will only last a few months, so without an owner setting a budget, it depends on who gives direction to GM Ned Colletti. He’s been much more creative in building a team around home-grown talent, stung in the past with over-priced free agent busts. For example, his plan is to re-sign Juan Riviera as his left fielder. If he goes after Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols to play first, he can’t move James Loney to the outfield. McCourt gave Colletti a budget for 2012 that was supposedly larger than 2011, but that’s not saying much. Colletti’s philosophy might be to first lock in players like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw before he looks for a new value-friendly third baseman or more starting pitching, then do more reconstruction work at the July 31, 2012 deadline, something like he did with obtaining Manny Ramirez a couple of years ago.
How could this affect ticket prices?
The team just announced lower prices on 96 percent of all the seats in Dodger Stadium. Jack up the other four percent (behind the backstop and in the luxury suites bought by corporations) and who’s really going to notice? The key is getting attractive packages together to lure back the season-seat holders who abandoned the team over the last two years. If they start using their seats again to generate parking and concession sales, the new cheaper prices should hold up well.
How does this all affect the Bryan Stow case?
It’s not going away yet. The family of the San Francisco Giants fan attacked in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on March 31 has said in a lawsuit against McCourt and the Dodgers that they expect his medical bills to exceed $50 million. The Dodgers have also sued the two suspects in custody by the LAPD. This is a lawsuit that follows McCourt where ever he goes. McCourt was likely advised by the MLB that proceeds from the sale of the team could help him quickly reach an out-of-court settlement before any trial starts.
What happens now to Frank McCourt?
He’s a 58-year-old bachelor who still owns the Los Angeles Marathon. He won’t just disappear depending on how fast someone can give up their airline miles and arrange to have him shipped one way back to Boston. Perhaps he can trademark his name and find a future in writing novels?