USC’s pursuit of fifth straight NCAA men’s water polo title comes with home-pool advantage

USC’s turn to host to the NCAA men’s water polo final four for the first time this weekend comes with one caveat – visitors may get dunked.

Wet weather is also expected for the weekend anyway, but having survived the gauntlet of competition to capture the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title, the 27-0 Trojans can point toward an unprecedented fifth straight NCAA championship with a seemingly easier path.

As the No. 1 seed and top-ranked team in the country, USC has only to dispose of No. 4 seeded /No. 10 ranked Air Force (19-10, the Western Water Polo Association winner and automatic qualifer) in the first semifinal today (1 p.m., McDonald’s Swim Stadium) to set up a probable rematch against rival and No. 2 seed/No. 2 ranked UCLA (27-4), which faces No. 3 seed/No. 11 ranked St. Francis of Brooklyn (16-8, the Collegiate Water Polo Association  Eastern Championship winner and automatic qualifier) in the other semifinal at 3 p.m.

The Trojans outlasted the Bruins, 7-4, in last year’s NCAA title game but didn’t have to face their crosstown rivals in the recent MPSF final – also played in USC’s home pool — because No. 3 ranked Cal knocked off UCLA in the semifinals, while the Trojans were stopping No. 4 ranked Stanford.

USC coach Jovan Vavic expects his team’s focus to be on Air Force instead of looking ahead.

“We have been in similar situations this year in tournaments where we’d play a lower seed early, so we know how to prepare, scout the opponent, know its strengths and weaknesses,” said Vavic, who has won seven national titles with the USC men and three with the Trojans women water polo teams.

“There are no letdowns when you go to a national championship round. In sports, anything in possible. No one expected the U.S. hockey team to win gold in 1980, right? But they did, and they were a much bigger underdog than Air Force is against us.”

For the eighth straight year, USC leads the nation in defense, averaging 5.67 goals-against per game. On offense, Vavic’s son, junior Nikola Vavic, has a team-best 79 goals, and USC’s 14.3 goals a game average leads the MPFS.

USC, 11-0 at home this season, has a 27-game home win streak going back to October, 2010.

A win over Air Force will put USC into its eight consecutive NCAA title match, never accomplished before in men’s water polo.

== The latest NCAA men’s water polo rankings
== The MPSF home site

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Channeling the ‘Beckham Effect’ on the MLS’ big picture


David Beckham smiles while looking at the Staples Center scoreboard screen while sitting courtside at Tuesday’s Lakers-Pacers game. Those expected to see him play in his final Galaxy game Saturday include the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

If we’re trying to measure this from a media standpoint, what kind of impact did the Galaxy’s David Beckham make during his six-year stay in L.A., in so far as bending more viewers to check in on Major League Soccer?

The raw data makes it look somewhat minimal.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

ESPN/ESPN2 has maintained a consistent 0.2 rating each year since it began paying rights fees to the league in 1996. It did have its best overall viewership in 2012, up 6.5 percent, but mostly because it moved games from ESPN2 to ESPN.

A June 24 game between Portland and Seattle was the most-watched at 888,000 — still far below what happened on July 21, 2007, when Beckham made his Galaxy debut, a friendly against Chelsea FC when he actually sat most of the way with a bad ankle but was coaxed into playing the final 16 minutes so that 1.4 million viewers (947,000 TV homes) could see him. And that is only generating a 0.9 rating — yet it was the most-watched game involving an MLS team to date on the network.

ESPN had the Galaxy on 14 times this season, drawing 352,000 average viewers, which was well ahead of the 276,000 average for all 29 matches (regular season and playoffs) that it had in 2012.

NBC Sports Network, in the first year of its MLS coverage, had seven regular-season and one playoff game for the Galaxy, averaging 160,000 viewers – a bump from 31 percent over its regular-season average. Two of the top three MLS games on NBCSN involved the Galaxy. NBC Sports Network carried 40 MLS games and did almost 80 pecent better in ratings than when the MLS was part of Fox’s Soccer Channel deal a year earlier. NBCSN’s top game wasn’t involving the Galaxy — it was Dallas-Portland on Aug. 5, which drew 405,000 viewers.

And for those who report that the MLS had no rights fees at the time and was paying to have their games on TV, ESPN had been on board from before Beckham’s arrival, an $8.5 million deal that was from 2007-2014 and included U.S. men’s and women’s national teams and FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Alexi Lalas, the Galaxy’s GM at the time of Beckham’s arrival, says you have to look past that data to understand the full Beckham as he plays in his final game in Saturday’s MLS Cup against Houston (ESPN, 1:30 p.m.)

“Yes, he pushed the needle in some ways, but his impact was not so much more than TV-wise — it’s more of measuring the arrival of players to the MLS, making the league relevant around the world, building new stadiums here … there’s a correlation there,” said Lalas, who played on the Galaxy’s first MLS championship team 10 years ago and will be part of ESPN’s studio crew covering the final.

Continue reading “Channeling the ‘Beckham Effect’ on the MLS’ big picture” »

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Weekly sports media column version 11.30.12

What made it into this week’s sports media column:

The deadline is here for the Dodgers and Prime Ticket to come to an agreement … are they pushing it back as talks get close to a resolution? Or does that just make Time Warner Cable all the more antsy?

What didn’t make it in but could have:

== Fox beefs up its college football A-team of Gus Johnson and Charles Davis, plus sideline reporter Julie Alexandria, by adding Petros Papadakis in covering both the UCLA-Stanford Pac-12 Championship from Palo Alto, Calif. (tonight, 5 p.m., Channel 11) and then jetting out right afterward to call the Wisconsin-Nebraska Big Ten Championship from Indianapolis (Saturday, 5 p.m., Channel 11). “I expect the overnight flight from the Pac-12 game in the Bay Area to the Big Ten game in Indianapolis to be half-slumber party and half-cram session for the next game,” said Papadakis. “I won’t sleep a wink — I will have my iPad out either way studying the Big Ten game notes or playing Angry Birds.”

Continue reading “Weekly sports media column version 11.30.12” »

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Your prep football divisional championship TV guide


Former Dodgers play-by-play man Ross Porter will call two games and Clippers radio play-by-play man Brian Sieman will do one among the 13 that Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket and the online Prep Zone have in this weekend’s CIF Southern Section high school football championship games, while Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet has its first L.A. City Section final between Narbonne and Crenshaw from East L.A. College.

Sunday, Time Warner Cable SoCal 101 has the CIF regional bowl games selection show live at 2 p.m., determining which teams will play in the high school football state championship games to air on TWC SportsNet on Dec. 14-15.

Here’s how the weekend games stack up:

Inland Division: Centennial (Corona) at Vista Murrieta, 7 p.m., FSW, with Justin Alderson, Tony Moskal and Michelle Yu.
Western Division: Chaminade at Serra, 8 p.m., Prime, with Brian Sieman, Jay Schroeder and Courtney Jones.
Eastern Division: Serrano at Citrus Hill, 7 p.m., Prep Zone, with Paul Westphal and James Washington.
East Valley Division: Ontario Christian vs. Rim of the World at Citrus Valley High, 7 p.m., Prep Zone, with Ross Porter and Ryan Miller.
Mid Valley Division: Paraclete at Monrovia, 7 p.m. Prep Zone, with Dennis Ackerman and Chris Hale.
Northeast Division: Mission College Prep at Rio Hondo Prep, 7 p.m., with Jeff Friedman and Chris Galippo.
Southwest Division: Edison vs Villa Park, 7:30 p.m., Prep Zone, with Fred Salas and JJ Stokes

L.A. City Section Division I: Narbonne vs. Crenshaw at East L.A. College., 7 p.m., TWC SportsNet, with John Shrader and Danny Farmer.
Pac-5 Division: Long Beach Poly vs Mater Dei at Angel Stadium, 7:30 p.m., FSW, with Justin Alderson, Tony Moskal, Jay Schroeder, Courtney Jones and Michelle Yu.
Southern Division: Garden Grove vs Corona del Mar at Angel Stadium, 2 p.m., Prep Zone, with Fred Salas and JJ Stokes
Central Division: Kaiser at Rancho Verde, 7 p.m., Prep Zone, with  Dennis Ackerman and Chris Hale.
Northern Division: West Torrance vs Palos Verdes at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach, 7 p.m., Prep Zone, with Ross Porter and Ryan Miller.
Northwest Division: Nordhoff at North Torrance, 7 p.m., Prep Zone, with Jeff Friedman and James Washington.
Southeast Division: Downey vs La Serna at Cal State Fullerton, 7 p.m., Prep Zone, with Paul Westphal and Chris Galippo

L.A. City Section Division II: San Fernando vs. Canoga Park, 11 a.m., tape delayed, TWC SportsNet.

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David Courtney: 1956-2012

Photo courtesy L.A. Kings

David Courtney, the long-time public address announcer for the Kings, Angels and Clippers, died this morning from a pulmonary embolism. He was 56.

Courtney was en route to working  Wednesday night’s Clippers-Timberwolves game at Staples Center but was having shortness of breath and went to a local hospital to have an angiogram, which he mentioned on his Twitter account @sportsvoiceLA.

Courtney remained hospitalized overnight. His wife, Janet, called Kings play-by-play man Bob Miller early today to inform him of the news of his passing.

“It’s really a shock, any time when it’s someone that young,” Miller said from his West Hills home. “I think he was one of the top public address announcers in all of sports. He had a very distinctive voice and played it down the middle, which worked well in this city. It’s very sad, especially after he was able to see the team finally win the Stanley Cup.”

“When I didn’t see him at the game last night, that has happened from time to time and maybe nobody thought much about it,” said Clippers TV play-by-play man Ralph Lawler. “It is very sad news. He was a good and gentle man who loved being at the games. Angel and Clipper fans will miss him. We will all miss him.”

Courtney worked longest at the PA job for the Kings, starting in 1989 at the Forum. He was with the Angels at Angel Stadium since 1994 — having been part of the team’s 2002 World Series run. Courtney was in his fifth season doing Clippers’ games at Staples Center.

“The Angels family is deeply saddened to hear of David’s passing,” the team said in a statement. “He was a gentle soul, a consummate professional and an unforgettable voice tied to several professional Southern California sports teams. Over the past 18 years, his love, dedication and passion for the Angels was evident every time his voice rang through the ballpark. Our thoughts and prayers go out to David’s family at this difficult time.”

Courtney, born in New York, moved to L.A. in 1963 when his father, Alan, became president of MGM Television.

He began working for the Kings starting as a 14-year-old out of Beverly Hills High in the team’s public relations department and began announcing the youth hockey games that came after Kings games.

Courtney became the backup PA for the legendary John Ramsay at Los Angeles sporting events and also did three years of Los Angeles Rams game in Anaheim before the team moved to St. Louis. He has announced at least one game for the Lakers, Dodgers, Raiders, USC football, UCLA basketball and the Pac-10 basketball tournament. He did both the 2002 NHL All-Star Game at Staples Center and the 2010 MLB All-Star game in Anaheim.

Courtney was also heard daily doing traffic updates on several local L.A. radio stations. His movie work included voice roles in “Tooth Fairy,” “Angels in the Outfield” and “61*”

Courtney was recently married and he and wife Janet lived in Mission Viejo.

Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille called Courtney a “tremendously passionate about the Kings, our fans and the game of hockey. …  In the arena he was an institution – he was the voice of the Kings – and his work added so much to the live, in-game experience for our fans as it did for the Clippers and Angels as well.  

“Next season would have been David’s 35th year with our franchise, and on behalf of the entire Kings organization and AEG we are incredibly saddened by this news and we send our deepest condolences to his wife Janet and the rest of the Courtney family.”

Kings TV analyst Jim Fox called Courtney “a kind, generous, intelligent man who always gave so much of his time, no questions asked, to so many other people. I am proud to have worked beside David as he taught me so much about life.  My wife Susie and I send our condolences to Janet and the entire Courtney family.  The Kingdom has lost a truly great King.”

Courtesy of Angels

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