Play It Forward: March 26-April 1 on your sports calendar

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

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

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(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher, right, talks with new teammate Nick Collison before his first game last Wednesday against the Clippers.

NBA: Lakers vs. Oklahoma City, Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., TNT:

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That Thunder down under will be coming from the OKC’s new 37-year-old point guard, wearing No. 37, who just might have enough incentive to prove to the L.A. crowd that the Lakers deserve a little payback for trading him away at the deadline two weeks ago to Houston, only to have the Rockets release him. Still, Derek Fisher’s return with the top team in the Western Conference couldn’t have been better timing. He may be Russell Westbrook’s backup now, but he’s front and center in the minds of those who saw him for 12 of his 16 NBA seasons and was part of five NBA championships — but deemed expendable by the current roster restrictions. Thunder coach Scott Brooks knows that the addition of Fisher to his young team goes beyond his average of 8.7 points and 3.1 assists a game, as he’s posted during his career. It’s more about the 209 playoff games and 13 postseason trips. “He has winner all over his DNA,” Brooks said. “You can never have enough winners in your locker room, and we have a locker room full of them. He just gives us one more winner.” Fisher also says he took No. 37 to send a message to anyone willing to read between the lines: “Especially, this season, it seemed to be a negative thing that I was 37,” Fisher said after his Thunder debut –five points in 19 minutes of a rout of the Clippers. “So I just wanted to send a message that the Thunder organization and I see it as a positive that I’m a guy that can still help a team be successful and compete for a championship at the age of 37.” Message received.

MONDAY

NBA: Clippers vs. New Orleans, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Considering the body slam that Jason Smith put on Blake Griffin when the two teams met last week (a seven-point Hornets win), you gotta wonder if New Orleans has bounties out for certain players. Former Clip Chris Kaman had 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in that N’Orleans victory.

NHL: Kings at Vancouver, 7 p.m., FSW:

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The Kings and Jonathan Quick beat Roberto Luongo and the Canucks in a shootout back in mid January, and they’ve won two of the previous three meetings this season against the leaders of the Northwest Division, who’ve already secured their fourth straight division title. Vancouver doesn’t expected to have All-Star forward Daniel Sedin (far left, with brother Henrik) — he’s got a concussion. But the Canucks do have a 5-0-2 mark in their past seven regular-season home games against the Kings.

NFL: Tim Tebow arrives in New York press conference, ESPN, 9 a.m.:

“Why is he having a press conference,” the wife asks. “Don’t we already know he got traded to the Jets?” Well, yes, but … never mind. ESPN kept promoting it during its OKC-Miami game coverage on Sunday.

TUESDAY

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(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson dunks in front of New Orleans Hornets forward Jason Smith in a game at New Orleans last week.

NBA: Lakers at Golden State, 7:30 p.m., Channel 9:

Since the Warriors traded away Monta Ellis, rookie Klay Thompson has tried to pick up the scoring load, hitting a career-best 27 points in a win over New Orleans last week. The son of Lakers’ broadcaster Mychal Thompson is “a heck of a player, and he’s going to be that for a long time,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “We love and respect Monta Ellis. Part of the reason that made the trade easier is because we had a guy behind him who was ready to play and perform.”

WEDNESDAY

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MLB: Oakland vs. Seattle from Tokyo, 6 a.m., MLB Network:

Ichiro makes another triumphant return to Japan for the first two games that count in the standings — including Thursday’s contest, which the MLB Network will put on delay (also replaying at 7 p.m. each night), using the Mariners’ home TV feed.

NBA: Clippers vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Without Steve Nash and Grant Hill, the Suns still rallied from a 12-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to beat the Clippers by four at Staples Center in their last meeting on March 15. For what it’s worth: The Suns have beaten the Clippers in 13 of their last 14 meetings.

NHL: Kings at Calgary, 6:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network:

The Flames have won the last two encouters, including 1-0 on Feb. 18, but the Kings posted the 4-1 win at Calgary back on Jan. 14 in the game when Mike Cammalleri rejoined the Flames. That was Calgary’s first regulation loss to the Kings at home since Dec. 21, 2005 (10-1-1).

THURSDAY

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Golf: LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championships at Rancho Mirage, first round, 3:30 p.m., Golf Channel (delayed):

Stacy Lewis was the one who got to jump into Poppy’s Pond last year after winning this first women’s tour major — she (second from left) was joined by caddie Travis Wilson (far left), sister Janet (center), mother Carol (second from right) and father Dale. Find any water-logged Titleists down there? The final two rounds are live on Golf Channel (Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.)

Golf: PGA Shell Houston Open, first round, noon, Golf Channel:

Tiger Woods will make the most noise coming into this one. But then again, Phil Mickelson, coming off his 2010 Masters win, shot a 7-under 65 for a three-stroke win in the final round here a year ago, trying to sound a warning shot that he intended to defend his title at Augusta the next week. Eventual Masters champ Charl Schwartzel was 14 strokes back of Lefty, if that matters. The final two rounds are on NBC (Saturday and Sunday at noon on Channel 4)

College basketball: NIT championship, 4 p.m., ESPN:

Washington and Stanford, which couldn’t even make it to the final of the Pac-12′s championship game, could instead play for the 75th NIT title if each survives its semifinal challenge at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Huskies, who outsted Oregon in the quarterfinals, has to take on Minnesota while the Cardinal faces UMass on Tuesday (4 and 6 p.m., ESPN2). Meanwhile, in the College BasketbalI Invitational (yes, a real event), Washington State remains the other Pac-12 team alive, facing Pitt in the best-of-three series starting Monday, continuing Wednesday and possibly finishing Friday.

FRIDAY

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Movie: “Goon,” opens in theatres:

Get your arms around Seann William Scott, aka Stifler from the “American Pie” movies, as Doug “The Thug” Glatt, the enforcer for his semi-pro hockey team, and the price he pays to do his job.

NBA: Clippers vs. Portland, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime, ESPN:

Portland’s Nicolas Batum scored 15 points in the first quarter against the Clippers last time they met on Feb. 17. He then scored four points the rest of the way in the Blazers’ 74-71 loss, where the Clippers won despite shooting 38 percent from the floor and 2-for-17 from 3-point range. Portland held an 18-point advantage early in the third period but scored just 28 second-half points.

NHL: Kings at Edmonton, 6:30 p.m., FSW:

When Ales Hemsky scored three goals in the Oilers’ 6-3 win at Nashville last week, it marked the fifth different Edmonton player to record a hat trick this season, following Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oct. 15), Taylor Hall (Nov. 19), Ryan Jones (Nov. 19) and Sam Gagner (Feb. 2).

SATURDAY

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College basketball: Men’s Final Four at New Orleans, Kentucky vs. Louisville, 3 p.m., and Ohio State vs. Kansas, approx 5:45 p.m., Channel 2:

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An eposide of CBS’ “Blue Bloods” has broken out, and it has nothing to do with Tom Selleck’s family solving crimes in Chicago. A couple of rematches may forshadow what’s happening here. Back on New Year’s Eve, then No. 3 Kentucky was Judd-irific as it topped then No. 4 Louisville 69-62, with 18-year-old freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scoring 24 points with 19 rebounds and fellow freshman Anthony Davis adding 18 points, all in the second half, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Russ Smith led the Cardinals with 30 points. And on Dec. 10, then No. 13 Kansas topped then No. 2 Ohio State 78-67 in Lawrence, Kan. Tyshawn Taylor had a career-high 13 assists despite a torn meniscus and sprained MCL in his right knee for the Jayhawks, while the Buckeyes were missing Jared Sullinger, out with a back injury.

NBA: Lakers vs. New Orleans, Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., FSW; Clippers vs. Utah, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

The Hornets, after playing the Clippers on Monday in L.A., had to go off to Golden State and Portland before coming back here for their matchup with the Lakers. And they’ll be back here one more time on April 9.

NHL: Kings at Minnesota, 5 p.m., FSW:

Jonathan Bernier blanked the Wild in Minnesota during the Kings’ last visit, 4-0, on Feb. 28. That may have been his las great accomplishment for the season.

MLS: Galaxy vs. New England, Home Depot Center, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Network:

The third straight home game to start the season for the Galaxy, who’ve had two weeks off since their 3-1 win over D.C. United.

SUNDAY

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College basketball: Women’s Final Four in Denver, 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., ESPN:

Baylor’s Brittney Griner scores on a layup now, and it’s a bit anticlimatic. The top-seeded Bears (37-0) must get past Tennessee (27-8) in the Des Moines regional on Monday to get this far.

Exhibition baseball: Dodgers vs. Arizona in Glendale, Ariz., 1 p.m., Prime; Angels vs. Chicago Cubs in Tempe, Ariz., 1 p.m., FSW:

Warning to Juan Uribe: April Fool’s Day is a notorious one for managers to bring a player into his office and tell him he’s been released or traded. Although in Uribe’s case …

NBA: Lakers vs. Golden State, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., FSW:

No April Fool’s: It’s more Groundhog Day, as they play again after already facing off against each other on Tuesday.

NASCAR: Sprint Cup Goody’s Fast Relief 500 from Martinsville, Va., 9:30 a.m., Channel 11:

Relief from the rain would be a start for Sprint Cuppers.

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Weekly media column version 03.23.12

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What’s included in this week’s sports media column (linked here): How Michael and Darrell Waltrip have taken their brother act to Fox’s NASCAR Sprint Cup pre-race show, which continues this weekend from Fontana for the Auto Club 400.

What’s not included: More reaction from the Waltrips about other NASCAR related issues.

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Darrell, on how the L.A. market factors into the success of NASCAR as a league and a TV event: “It’s obviously huge to our sponsors, to our sport and that’s why it’s always an important part — whether it’s Sonomoa or Fontana or Riverside or Ontario — in the success of the sport. Look at the number of drivers – 10 or 12 are from California. It’s important to them to be go back and race in front of their fans and friends and exposure we get. Fox is headquartered in L.A. All the sponsors have connections to L.A. We have to be there. And we need for it to be as successful and big as it can possibly be because it’s so important to everyone part of the sport.”

Darrell, on whether NASCAR ever goes back to having two events in Southern California per season instead of just one: “You know I’m not sure about that. I think sometimes one great big healthy event is a whole lot better than two events that are kind of mediocre. You kind of put all your eggs in one basket and grow that and use that for your platform. Sometimes two events actually end up hurting a race track than helps them. So I like one big event, and I like the fact it’s shortened to 400 miles, it makes it more exciting. It’s a beautiful facility. There’s not another one on the circult that’s any nicer. Or well run. It’s right where we need to be. The airport (in Ontario) is right there. There’s a whole lot of great things about that area that should make this race one of the best on this circuit.”

Michael, on how he’ll spend his weekend in Fontana focused on being a team owner and broadcaster: “I have great sponsors who love the fact we’re in Southern California and are passionate about racing, so when we come here, we bring our show to them and they can enjoy what NASCAR is all about. And I’m with Darrell: One race, a lot of energy. It’s important to our industry and also fun for the drivers and team to come West and see some Hollywood life. It’s something different. It energizes the teams.
“My role has certainly diversified with ownership and still driving some, but mainly when we head West my job is to entertain and interact with sponsors and help them use this investment they have in the cars to exploit that when we’re out there.”

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Michael, on whether he has any advantage as a car owner being able to sit in the Fox studios and watch the races on all the TV monitors, and then radio information to his pit crew: Every (owner) goes about it differently. People ask, ‘How can you get to be a car owner like Rick Hendrick if you’re not with your team but in the TV booth?’ Well, guys like Hendrick and Penske, they don’t come to every race. They figure out their schedule and have smart people in charge of their teams that run the deal day to day and they’re there for support, making sure those guys have all the tools to run the show. How I’m able to watch and interact with my team, once the race starts and they say go, we’re mainly out of the broadcast and so I’m getting information via my team radios and scaning all the teams, and sometimes I’ll hear things other teams are saying that I can share with my team.

Darrell, adding to how Michael operates in the studio truck: “Here’s something you gotta remember: We don’t have anything that anybody else doesn’t already have. Everyone has access to all the TVs we have, and the scanners. In fact, we don’t have all the information a team owner would have. We don’t know what they’re texting or emailing each other. Strategywise, we just have a scanner like everybody else has. There’s no huge advantage from where Michael’s sitting than he’d have over any other owner. They could sit in a truck and watch a race like Michael sits in the (studio) hotel and watches the race. From that perspective, there’s no big advantage. At best it would be equal to what everybody else is doing.”

In other news:

== Fox announced it will team with the MLB Network in bringing back a half-hour pregame show for its Saturday afternoon games this year, using MLB talent such as Matt Vasgersian, Harold Reynolds, Mitch Williams, Eric Byrnes and Kevin Millar. In previous years, Chris Rose and Jeanie Zelasko had hosted a “Fox Saturday Baseball” show, using Byrnes, Millar, Eric Karros and/or Kevin Kennedy in the mix. The first new Fox/MLB show airs April 7.

== CBS will keep Clark Kellogg teamed with Jim Nantz on coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament’s South Regional games tonight in Atlanta – Baylor-Xavier and Kentucky-Indiana – rather than spring him free to watch his son, Nick, play for Ohio in its Sweet 16 game against North Carolina in St. Louis’ Midwest Regional. Kellogg said he never asked CBS to let him watch Nick’s game, and CBS wasn’t going to assign him to the Midwest Regional to exploit that connection. As Bob Raissman in the New York Daily News points out: “It’s not like CBS would have to scramble to find an analyst to replace him (with Nantz in Atlanta). . . the absence of Kellogg also won’t cost CBS a single ratings point during the Kentucky-Indiana telecast.” Heck, taking Kellogg off the rest of the tournament would actually be fine by us.

== A happy belated 60th birthday to Bob Costas (linked here)

== Bill Seward has the call for Universal Sports Network and the NBC Sports Network in their coverage of the Sevens World Series rugby from Hong Kong this weekend. In addition, UniversalSports.com has live streaming of the event for $4.99 or the full season for $29.99. Coverage starts at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC Sports Network and 9:30 a.m. on Universal.

== The final installment of Tennis Channel’s “Top 100 Players of All Time” has the top 10, airing today at 4 p.m. Who’s No. 1? We can’t say, but the network released the top 10 list, in alphabetical order. As you may suspect, it includes: Bjorn Borg, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Roger Federer, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King, Rod Laver, Rafael Nadal, Martina Navratilova and Pete Sampras.

== And the latest sign of ESPN overkill: The network will give Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith a prime-time debate show tonight (that is, for the East Coast) with a “special” called “First Take – #TebowTakesManhattan.” The show airs at 4 p.m. The New York Observer decided Bayless was worthy of a piece in its Wednesday editions, quoting Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch as saying that Bayless, as a member of ESPN2′s “First Take” team, is a “self-proclaimed television truth-teller simply pushing his own brand of dime-store demagoguery. … People tell me he’s a nice guy off the air. If so, that’s even more disappointing, because few in sports television come off more loathsome on the screen.” Bayless says of his image: “It’s not an act. It’s not a character. It’s the real me. I’m not a shock jock. I never ambush anybody. I just speak my mind and my heart and my soul.”

== And finally:
A new ABC reality show called “Ball Boys,” from the producers of the cable hit “Pawn Stars,” debuts with episodes Saturday at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Channel 7. The premise focuses on the sports memorabilia business at Robbie’s 1st Base in Baltimore, run by Robbie Sr., Robbie Jr., Sweet Lou and Shaggy. There are 12 hour-episodes that show the negotiation process that happens with sports merchandise at the store and off site. In the first episode entitled “Lord of the Ring,” owner Robbie Sr. is searching for a special Notre Dame gift for a client’s husband on his birthday.

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On Saints, and issued bounties, baseball style

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The indepenent St. Paul Saints of the American Association are going bounty hunting. Here’s a press release that the team issued today, explaining how they plan to go about it:

ST. PAUL, MN – A year-long suspension. A $500,000 fine. Loss of draft picks. None of these penalties have deterred the Saints from instituting a bounty system for big hits during a game this season.

“This is going to be the biggest game of our season and we’re going to go out and lay the wood on them,” said a source from the Saints organization. “We’ll be SHARPER than them and we will deliver big hit after big hit after big hit.”

On Saturday, September 1, the one year anniversary of Minnesota’s youth concussion law going into effect, the St. Paul Saints will be gunning for the opposition and plan to PAY a TON of money for a worthy cause.

Continue reading

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McDonnell & Krikorian: The legendary boys are back in town, starting April 9

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The latest incarnation of a Joe McDonnell and Doug Krikorian sports talk show is set to launch April 9 from a Long Beach sports bar and via an Internet web link, but those who’ve come to know the pair from their years of banter on local L.A. radio should expect to simply pick up the conversation where it last left off.

“I think sports-talk in L.A. is at an all-time low and we have a chance to revolutionize sports talk on the Internet, and I can see us doing this for quite a long time,” said McDonnell. “I’m really pumped up about this.”

This 3-to-5 p.m. show from Legends will be accessible through the restaurant’s website (www.legendssportsbar.com). The start date coincides with the IRL’s Long Beach Grand Prix annual visit.

This legendary pair had its “McDonnell-Douglas Show” platform off and on for 14 years, from 1991 to 2005.

It started with the L.A.’s first all-sports station, the old KMPC-AM (710), as the midday team. It moved over to KMAX-FM, relaunched as a Sunday night show on KABC-AM (790) and segued into five years at KSPN-AM, the current ESPN affiliate.

McDonnell last did an L.A.-based sports-talk show on KLAC-AM (570) from 2005-08.

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“I really think this is the future (of sports talk) and it can be huge,” said McDonnell. “There’s no buzz about sports talk in this town anymore. No one has done anything to put the heat on sports talk.”

McDonnell, who lately has been writing for FoxSportsWest.com while doing weekend sports anchoring at KNX-AM (1070), was approached by Legends sports bar owner John Morris about reviving the show when the two attended Krikorian’s retirement party two months ago.

Krikorian, 68, left the Long Beach Press Telegram last October. He had been there since 1989, after the closure of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, where he had been the previous 22-plus years.

“It’ll be a lot of fun, no pressure,” said Krikorian, who lives in the nearby Naples area of Long Beach. “It’ll be just like we were before.”

McDonnell, 55, said he and Krikorian have talked over the years about “having one more chance” to do their show again, and “I’ve been stunned by the response we’ve got so far from social media. A lot of listeners really have missed us.

“I know I didn’t realize how much I missed something until it’s taken away, and that’s how I’ve felt the last couple of years. Maybe I was kind of burned out on the show a little, but really, this is what I do. It’s what I love. For a long time, I didn’t want to admit that to myself.

“The two of us have a lot of knowledge and history in this town, but there are no two people who keep in the forefront of sports here and are a contemporary. Doug maybe known as a journalist and columnist, but he did 15 years on radio and he understands how it works. He’s been very relaxed and has enjoyed himself during the recent run-throughs for the show.”

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McDonnell said the show will be ad-supported, have a call-in element and be purely live, without a delay. The language can go in whatever direction they want to take it, but cursing won’t come as a gratuitous part of the show.

“We’re cognizant of who’s listening and we aren’t going to say things just to offend anyone,” he said. “People trust us to know we won’t do anything harmful. But if it falls into the regular conversation, language won’t be a barrier. We have a certain amount of freedom because of who we are.

“We’re just Joe and Doug, and that’s who we’ve always been. There’s never been any kind of pretentiousness. I think people became attached to us over the years because they could relate to us if we were having a bad day. We let everyone into our lives.”

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A murder at the Final Four? Drexel’s involved? And a dead sportwriter? Get a clue … it must be fiction

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Wes Drexel is the nom de plume of a Chicago area lawyer, journalist, author and hoops fan named Steve Fiffer who has written for the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Inside Sports and other publications. And now he has a mystery book out.

“Murder At The Final Four” focuses on Jimmy Bishop at Central Prairie U., whose team made it to the NCAA finals. But he’s in trouble. Hours after he threatened to kill Alan Sternberg, a New York Times sportswriter, for doing a book on him called “A Year On The Edge,” the writer turned up dead.

(You’re now supposed to make the connection that Bob Knight is stil upset at John Feinstein for his writing “Season On The Brink,” and eventually, Feinstein ends up deceased.)

The title game in Chicago only 48 hours away, so Bishop has to figure out a way to keep himself out of jail, prepare his team and solve the murder.

From there, an episode of “Scooby Doo” breaks out — a beautiful young lawyer named Lydie Wynn agrees to help Bishop follow clues that lead to blackmail, adultery, backstabbing at the Times, and more.

What does it say about the state of college athletics? We’ll have to see when someone reads this and turns it into an episode of “Law & Order.”

For now, “Murder at the Final Four” (not to be confused with the title of a book written in 1987, linked here) is available on Amazon eBooks (linked here)

Here’s the way the book begins in Chapter 1 (via Smashwords.com, linked here):

Jimmy Bishop coached the last six minutes of the NCAA basketball semi-final between Central Prairie University and the UCLA Bruins dressed as a prairie dog.

“I knew there was a reason I turned down the Notre Dame job,” Bishop told his nephew Martin, the usual inhabitant of the Central Prairie mascot’s costume, as he struggled to get his 6’3″, 230-pound body into the furry outfit in the team’s locker room. “There’s no goddamn way I could pull this off if I had to play a leprechaun.”

The idea to disguise himself as a rodent so he could get back to courtside had been, like many of Bishop’s decisions, a spontaneous one. Leaving the floor to the jeers of the Bruins partisans and the cheers of the CPU faithful, Bishop had felt a furry paw on his neck and heard Martin say, “That’s okay, Uncle Jimmy. We’ll get ‘em without you.”

Damned if you will,” Bishop replied. Then the inspiration: “You hightail your ass into the locker room with me right now, Martin.”

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Why Orel Hershiser isn’t (completely) done dreaming about his Dodger ownership chances

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Orel Hershiser, who had aligned himself as a potential Dodger owners with a group that included Steve Garvey and Natual Balance Pet Foods president Joey Herrick , explained a little today about why their bid ended last January in the first round of vetting by Frank McCourt’s company handling the bankruptcy auction of the team.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dodgers’ 1988 Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP isn’t completely done dreaming about it.

On an ESPN conference call with reporters this morning, Hershiser, joined by “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast partners Terry Francona and John Shulman, answered our questions about sheding a little light on why his group’s bidding ended early.

“We were knocked out at the $1.2 billion range and then we weren’t able to go any higher,” Hershiser said. “We raised capital for $800 million-to-$1.2 (billion) and we felt it was important to put it in at the highest point at that time. But we didn’t go any further.

“I still had some talks with people who are still in the (bidding) game and I look forward to seeing new ownership there. … I really don’t want to talk about the process or any of the internal conversations that have happened yet because it’s still going on.”

Hershiser said he goal to possibly be in the Dodgers’ ownership group is “why I chased that dream, and that dream is probably not possible now with the ownership.” He said he has been “getting feelers as far as employment (with the team),” but unless it’s part of an ownership situation, he would rather stay at ESPN working on the “Sunday Night Baseball” crew. He starts his third season in that role and has been with ESPN since 2006.

“But if someone ever gave me an opportuinity to be a part-owner of a ballclub, and to have a large impact, that would be the community I’d want to have the impact,” he added.

Hershiser said he still thinks McCourt will “be able to leave with his head held high and he’s done some good things there. But the organization has struggled on the field a little bit.” He said the team’s 82 wins in 2011 should be considered an achievement considering “the chaos of last year” and if the Dodgers of 2012 are in the mix at midseason, “I wouldn’t look at that as someone who isn’t going to acquire players. I’d look at them as a shopper when we get to that point because new ownership will want to show the fans: We’re in this to win and turn it around. It would be good for all of baseball if the Los Angeles Dodgers started creeping back closer to the top.”

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How do the NFL’s TV partners profit from Manning going to Denver? Just pull up a virtual cart at ESPN Shop, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, NBC Sports …

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It can’t be more than 18 hours since Peyton Manning declared that he’d be the newest Denver Bronco. Yet every NFL TV partner already has sales on their network website front pages touting the same of Manning No. 18 Bronco gear.

Maybe we just noticed it first on ESPN (linked here) and then CBS linked here), with T-shirts going as much as (cough) $32. It doesn’t even look as if they’ve actually been printed yet — a photoshopped name and number on a blank orange shirt is the best they can do on short notice.

Yet, it doesn’t preclude FoxSports.com (linked here) from also offering Manning stuff. Or NBCSports.com’s online shop (linked here) from also putting a banner on their home page, making it a quick click to get right to it.

Not as if it’s some of get-rich-quick scheme, but it reinforces the idea that when you’re in bed with the NFL, everyone shares in money laundering for ready-made laundry.

Sure, the NFL.com store also touts its new Manning gear at its site (linked here), slanted more toward jersey sales.

Stay tuned for how quickly the new Tim Tebow/New York Jets apparel comes out in the next few hours — with it destined to lap anythig Manning related.

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Where art thou, Rulon? Back in the gym, apparently

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We didn’t even realize that Rulon Gardner, the champion Greco-Roman wrestler who won an Olympic gold in 2000 and a bronze medal four years later, had a “controversial walk-off” from the NBC reality series, “The Biggest Loser,” a while back. Must not have been all that controversial.

These days, we understand the 40-year-old Gardner “wants redemption, and one more shot at the Olympics,” according to an NBC press release, touting his appearance with Harry Smith at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs that will appear on the next installment of “Rock Center with Brian Williams” (tonight, 10 p.m., Channel 4).

Will Gardner, who once survived a plane crash, a broken neck and nearly died in the Wyoming wilderness, have the resolve to make weight and make the U.S. team? Once up to 474 pounds, and losing 160 on the reality show, that’s the dilemma he apparently grapples with daily.

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Tennis Channel’s attempt to rank the Top 100 players … of all time … M and F combined

Jennifer Capriati, Bobby Riggs, Tracy Austin, Kim Clijsters and Lindsay Davenport were among the interesting names that made today’s episode of the Tennis Channel’s “100 Greatest of All Time” (it repeats at 10 p.m.), hitting those who made the list from numbers 41-to-70.

The five-episode series works toward the overall No. 1 by revealing 40-to-21 on Wednesday (4, 5 and 10 p.m.), 20-to-11 on Thursday (4, 5 and 10 p.m.) and the top 10 on Friday (4, 5 and 10 p.m.).

Tennis Channel recruited an “international panel of tennis experts” to make up the list.

Combined with Monday’s release of the numbers 71-to-100, here’s what they’ve got so far (with ranking, name, gender and nationality):

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