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

 

NCAA.com

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.

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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.”

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Your prep football divisional championship TV guide

UPDATED: Friday AM:

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:

FRIDAY:
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

SATURDAY:
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

SUNDAY:
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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Mike Tyson reading from ‘The Book of Mormon’ … now that might work

Consider yourself warned:

Mike Tyson’s one-man play called “Undisputed Truth,” a Spike Lee production written by Tyson’s current wife, Kiki, and something that promoters have tried to pass off as having a “highly successful bout on Broadway,” will come out swinging for a three-night run in L.A. as part of a 10-week, 36-city nation-wide tour next year.

It shouldn’t have a puncher’s chance at succeeding, but this being Hollywood, why not do it if only for the shock value.

The Pantages Theatre is offering this from March 8-10, 2013, sandwiched appropriately between a run of “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Catch Me If You Can.” The producers also are required to inform you that this runs 90 minutes, no intermission, and is recommended for mature audiences (no one under 5 will be admitted).

But we know what you’re really wondering: Back in the day, when you’d commit to putting up $50 for a Tyson pay-per-view bout, it would often end in less than two minutes. Is this the same?

If only …

The New York Times’ recent review pointed out that the “incongruous, almost childlike Tyson charm pokes through occasionally and makes you momentarily forget how ham-handed and manipulative the show it. .. But by the end of ‘Undisputed Truth’ you may at least be willing to grant that it would be swell if Mr. Tyson has finally found a nondestructive way to exist in the world.” The Hollywood Reporter reports that there “are more missed punches than knockout blows in this self-serving if weirdly fascinating one-man theatrical tell-all.”

This is not your drunk uncle’s Jake LaMotta stage show.

Tyson, the youngest ever heavyweight champ best known for (fill in the blank, and that can include “The Hangover” and “The Hangover 2″) starts his tour in Indianapolis on Feb. 12-13 and also takes a bite out of Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and Washington D.C.

His quote from a press release: “After a successful run at the MGM in Las Vegas and on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre with Spike Lee, I’m excited to take ‘Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth’ on tour and share it with my fans across the country,” said Tyson.  “’Undisputed Truth’ is my stor –  I’m giving my all.”

The promoters point out that a “limited number” of VIP packages (from $300 to $500) that include a post-performance meet and greet with Tyson are available. More information: BroadwayLA.org or 800-982-2787.

We’re thinking you might do yourself better by renting the 2009 James Tobak documentary “Tyson,” to avoid the awkwardness lingering in the air of a live performance. Plus, you can pause it to laugh at inappropriate moments.

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Five things we learned from the past weekend: Nov. 23-25


Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick, right, and wide receiver Luke Massa, left, celebrate after Notre Dame defeated USC on Saturday night at the Coliseum to remain unbeaten. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Just a little help staying ahead of the sports world learning curve heading back into the work week:

1. Notre Dame, 12-0, yet far from perfect. Just ask the folks at Stanford who won when the two schools met on the football field a short while. But do the Irish have a prayer in the world to capture the BCS title sometime early next year against either Alabama or Georgia – or whatever SEC team is thrown in there to keep the streak of six national championships for the conference in a row? Plenty of them, especially if every series ends in a goal-line stand. Because Notre Dame won’t stand for it, as USC reluctantly figured out  Saturday night in a 22-13 grind-it-out loss. From South Bend to South Beach, after that detour in South Central, Notre Dame’s luck isn’t going to run out any time soon. They’ll sell tons of school logo apparel during the Christmas season, ring in the new year in Miami, and ride this wave through the recruiting season. Lucky them? “Everyone calls it luck but I think we’re a very good team,” said Irish defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore after Saturday’s win. That’s good as gold.

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Play It Forward: Nov. 26-Dec. 2

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

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

MLS CUP: Galaxy vs. Houston, Home Depot Center, Saturday at 1:30 p.m.,ESPN:
Nope, we probably haven’t seen the last of 37-year-old David Beckham. Not unless we stopped looking at billboards, TV ads or magazine covers. But his  six years of staying power in Hollywood adjacent has given Major League Soccer a major boost that will end today as he calls it a career playing in his third and final MLS Cup game in the last four seasons with the Galaxy. In this 17th edition of the league championship – and they said it wouldn’t last — the fifth seed from the Western Conference is looking for a sequel to its title moment from a year ago, when it outlasted these same Houstonians, 1-0, on the Carson pitch.
Becks gets the showy sendoff, but it’s really been Robbie Keane’s show during this playoff run, with his five goals. Landon Donovan is expected back from hamstring soreness. Houston came all the way from a fourth-seed in the East to scramble back into title contention, without much fanfare. “I don’t think we’re the prettiest of teams,” Houston manager Dominic  Kinnear said of his undynamic Dynamo squad that has been to four MLS Cups in the first seven years of its existence. “We’re not glamorous. We don’t hoot and holler and talk about ourselves too much. We just go about our way.” Yeah, kinda like Beckham.

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Weekly sports media column version 11.23.12

http://pumabydesign001.com

What constitutes this week’s media sports column: The annual Dubious Dozen of the Sports Media. Sorry. It had to be done.

We came close to putting this thing out of its misery, pulling the plug in part because we aren’t sure what constitutes “dubious” much in these multi-media “fire, aim, ready” climate. Websites like Deadspin.com have become over diligent not at just compiling media faux pas almost as they happen, but also blowing them out of proportion.

Take the latest involving Peter King and his cellphone number getting out in a tweet unintentionally. Really?

We considered other mix-and-match muffs to include in this year’s list as well. There was a recent open-mike slip by ESPN’s Neil Everett. A meltdown by a reporter who got himself canned for being a little too honest in his assessment of his employers. A San Diego sportstalk host who was fired (not Lee Hamilton), and the San Diego columnist who was let go because he didn’t agree with the agenda of the new publishers. Terry Bradshaw made some mangled reference to fried chicken, Cris Carter was singled out for doing a lame “C’Mon Man” reference to the South Carolina kicker who wears glasses, Samantha Steele isn’t hiding a relationship with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, a bunch of websites perpetuated a typo about where the World Series was headed, HBO had to cancel its series “Luck” because of, well, some bad luck on the race track involving the star attractions, and a kid covering the University of Kansas football team was put into an awkward position to not ask questions at Charlie Weis’ weekly press conference.

And Lane Kiffin somehow had nothing to do with it.

Not to mention the KCAL-Channel 9 new sports anchor, Kristine Leahy, reading the story last month about the passing of promiment boxing trainer Emanuel Steward, noting that he was once connected with Oscar de la Renta. She did correct herself — it was Oscar De La Hoya.

New York Times

So there it sits in a post-Thanksgiving seat of honor, as a reminder that credibility and reputation are things that too often get damaged in the pursuit of being first on a story, whether it’s one transmitted via Twitter, text, email, Facebook or whatever non-traditional forms are acceptable thse days.

And sorry if any of the links above were switched by accident with a recipe on how to properly roast acorn squash. Toggling between the two websites could have caused even more dubiousness in prepping for the Thanksgiving day dinner.

Meanwhile, the other media notes that are worth paying attention to:

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Five things we learned from the past weekend: Nov. 16-18

Just a little help staying ahead of the sports world learning curve heading back into the work week:

1. UCLA has a victory T-shirt already for sale at its student store. “Celebrate Good Times” it says, with the final score. For 18 bucks. If I want it standard flat ground rate – we’re guessing a few business days — that’s $6.95 added for shipping. But what if I want it before Thanksgiving? One-day shipping is $26.95. Two-day shipping: $16.95. But then, if I want it delivered to me at my Pauley Pavlion seat, it’s only a $100 charge. Even better since there’s not another game at Pauley until next Sunday. Gotta go with that option. It makes the most sense.

2. Not sure what we’re supposed to take away from Johnathan Franklin’s throat-slash gesture after he scored his game-clinching touchdown for UCLA against USC on Saturday. We’re inclined to go along with what Patrick O’Neal of Fox Sports tweeted out on Sunday: “Johnathan Franklin established himself as greatest running back in #UCLA history but hurt chances for mayor of LA w/ throat slash.” Considering he is serious about that mayoral campaign as some point, this could come back to an otherwise upstanding citizen, especially with the way things can be interpreted in Los Angeles.
We give him the benefit of the doubt in that the throat slash is the way those who play in the video game “Mortal Kombat” signal that their opponent is finished. Except there was a story last month about a Chicago fan who came into a Jacksonville bar to watch a Bears-Jags game and died after he had his throat slashed. About 10 years ago, the NFL issued an edict that it would start to fine and suspend players who did the throat slash. The league called it “an unacceptable act of violence.” The gesture had been used by, among others, the New York Jets’ Keyshawn Johnson. ”I like to come up with something new every week,” the USC grad said at the time after doing it during a “Monday Night Football” game. “I just try to be original.” Originally, we didn’t think much of it. But now we’re wondering if Franklin even know what he was doing. The only thing the officials could do Saturday was flag him for an unsportsman-like conduct penalty. We’ll leave the Pac-12 to see about any further reprimanding, and the voters of L.A. to see how short their memory can be.

Galaxy players protect themselves as Seattle Sounders’ Fredy Montero takes a penalty kick during the second half of Sunday’s game in Seattle. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

3. Gotta hand it to the Galaxy — their return to the MLS Cup, clinched by Robbie Keane’s penalty kick goal that came as a result of a pass somehow catching the hand of Seattle defender Adam Johansson in the penalty box, makes David Stern-type conspiracy theories sound reasonable for the pro kickball circuit. The league’s glamour team has made it in after a season where it barely made the playoffs then somehow did its best imitation of the Kings to man up during the post Supporters Shield celebration. Their rematch with Houston, the No. 5 seed from the East – on Dec. 1 at Home Depot Center would hardly move the needle during the regular season. But now that the Galaxy have one more chance to win a title before David Beckham likely hangs up his boots (that’s the correct term, right?), AEG might as well start mapping out another parade route. Short, and sweet.

4. Eight Pac-12 teams are bowl eligible – neither of them are Utah nor Colorado — and there’s a spot for all of them if they’re not careful. Still, some more BCS befuddlement. Not only has USC fallen out of the BCS standings, but Kent State is in.
At No. 23. A notch higher than Arizona and two up on Washington. The 10-1 Golden Flashes, who clinched the MAC title, has one win against a ranked team — 35-23 against No. 15 Rutgers in late October. No. 10 Florida State, which is as high as No. 5 in the coaches’ poll, did not even rate a ranking spot in the Kenneth Massey computer, one of six used to factor into the BCS rankings.

Ryu Hyun-jin, the South Korean pitcher who is negotiating with the Dodgers, watches fans dance to “Gangnam Style” by musician PSY during Sunday’s Lakers-Rockets game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

5. Mike D’Antoni might not call it a knee-jerk reaction, but as long as his knee replacement continues to take time healing, no need to speed up the replacement process as long as Bernie Bickerstaff’s babysit produced wins four times out of every five contests.

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