Weekly media column version 02.08.13

What made it into today’s weekly media column: Gus Johnson talks about his future as the U.S. voice of kickball, and why the MLB Network reality show “The Next Knuckler” could come back to bite the Dodgers in the NL West.

Both are versions of blog posts from Thursday afternoon, in case you’re wondering. Scroll below as well to see more on Bill Walton’s latest night in Westwood, the best ESPN graphic on how UCLA has passed USC in recruiting, and why NFL Films creator “Big Ed” Sabol doesn’t think he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

What didn’t make it:

== Wait, is Gus Johnson really that terrible?

== Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown and Doris Burke have the Clippers-Knicks game from Madison Square Garden on Sunday (10 a.m., Channel 7), followed by Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Lisa Salters on the Lakers-Heat game from Miami (12:30 p.m., Channel 7). Tirico is then forced to circle back to do ESPN’s coverage of San Antonio at Brooklyn (5 p.m., ESPN) with analyst Jon Barry.

Breen and Van Gundy are also on ESPN’s coverage of tonight’s Clippers game in Miami (5 p.m.).

Continue reading

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Walton giveth UCLA punishment, then he giveth praise to Drew II as well … must be a tough-love message

What do you make of this sequence that ESPN’s cameras picked up after UCLA’s Larry Drew II hit a buzzer-beater to lift the Bruins over Washington at Pauley Pavilion?

In the top frame, that’s ESPN analyst Bill Walton with his arms extended and a huge smile while sitting at the broadcast table, once he sees Drew come his way after the game.

Drew follows by pointing at Walton, and Walton points back. Right back at ya….

A Bruin love fest? Not so much during the game. If you missed any of Walton’s running commentary mostly unflattering toward the home team, included was this gem: “This isn’t Seattle. This is Los Angeles. … The best and the brightest of our young people. It’s 49-43 with five minutes to go?”

Later: “Where’s the style, the electricity of the UCLA Bruins? We’re in Los Angeles, the entertainment mecca of the world, a one point game, and the crowd just sitting in their seats.”

Earler: “Arizona is at home watching this and saying to themselves: ‘We lost to this (UCLA) team?’”

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Gus Johnson, the fixer

The gripping saga earlier this week that made headlines across the soccer world concerned allegations of match-fixing, all of them tied to hundreds of games in Europe back to 2008.

Listen, we’re all for fixing soccer.

And if the guys who run the Fox Soccer channel have any suggested adjustments, Gus Johnson may be the best tool in their box to do it.

The 45-year-old Johnson, best known for his bombastic calls of college basketball during his CBS’ “March Madness” days but lately packaged as the headliner to Fox’s college football coverage, has a new kind of football prep work to kick around.

With Fox having recently won the TV rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, it made a bold statement this week in committing to  Johnson as their rise-and-fire soccer voice in training.

His first major assignment comes Wednesday when he’ll actually be at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, calling Manchester United against Real Madrid in a Champions League Round of 16 match (Fox Soccer Channel, 11 a.m.). Then it’s to London for an Arsenal vs.  Bayern Munich match in the Champions League on Feb. 19. Then a Premiere League game featuring Johnson’s new favorite team, Chelsea, against Manchester City on Feb. 24.

That all funnels into Johnson doing Fox’s coverage of the May 11 FA Cup final and May 25 Champions League final – on site, not from a studio somewhere in L.A.

What qualifies Johnson over any of the other U.S.-centric broadcasters who have tried and somewhat famously failed in their attempts to draw an American audience into the so-called “beautiful game,” especially when it involves the world stage and not just another MLS contest?

“I’m a professional broadcaster. Period. It’s what I do for a living,” he said Thursday from his home in New York.

But he’s smart enough to call himself a novice in the sport. Continue reading

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The payback for the D’backs may be finding a knuckleballer for their rotation …. from a knucklehead like John David Booty, perhaps?

By the end of this month, we may find out that former USC quarterback John David Booty is a viable candidate to be the No. 3 starter in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rotation this season.

Then again, it could be Doug Flutie.

Or . . . wouldn’t it depend on whether these guys can actually harness the art of the knuckleball first?

The MLB Network has come up with its first reality series competition called “The Next Knuckler,” starting Wednesday and Thursday with the first two episodes and finishing up on Feb. 20 and 21. In the end, one of five former Division I college football quarterbacks asked to compete will get an actual invite to the D’backs’ spring training camp. Continue reading

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The Garv has some stuff you might want, too

Yesterday, it was the Juliens Auction house announcement about former Lakers great Elgin Baylor clearing out his attic.

We’re hearing now that former Dodgers All-Star Steve Garvey has done some house-cleaning, too.

Roberto Baly at VinScullyIsMy Homeboy.com breaks in today with info about the Garv selling off his 1981 World Series ring and player trophy, his 1974 NL MVP trophy, nine of his 10 N.L. All-Star rings, his 1974 Gold Glove, the ’74 All-Star game MVP trophy, as well as other things related to his football days at Michigan State and things he collected while with the San Diego Padres.

These items are in the Orange County-based SCP Auctions’ April catalog, according to AuctionReport.com. SCP handled the sale for Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series memorabilia a year ago.

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Ed Sabol didn’t ‘give a damn’ about his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction … really?

Ed Sabol, who created NFL Films in 1960 and ran it for years with his son, the late Steve Sabol, will say on tonight’s “60 Minutes Sports” with Armen Keteyian that neither he nor any other non-players deserve to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The show airs at 10 p.m., after the final episode of “Inside the NFL” and its coverage of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
Ed Sabol, now 96 years old and a World War II vet, was inducted into the Hall in 2011, but says:
“I didn’t give a damn about the Hall of Fame. I don’t think that anybody that didn’t play the game should be in the Hall of Fame…And you got a lot of men in there because of their politics, because they’re owners, they’re in the Hall of Fame. … What the hell did they do for football?  Supply the money. Very important, but not the Hall of Fame.”

Ed Sabol retired 17 years ago, leaving Steve Sabol to lead the organization. After Steve died last fall from brain cancer, the Sabol family agreed to talk about his life and legacy for what they say will be the last time. Keteyian also speaks with Steve’s mother, Audrey, and his sister, Blair.

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How graphic was UCLA’s recruiting over USC?

Don’t need any billboards to show how much UCLA has leaped past USC in the high school football recruiting world.

This is the chart that they created today on ESPNU to compare how USC went from having what was considered the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation back on Nov. 8 based on verbal commitments — with UCLA around No. 18 — down to where the lines have been crossed after the list of de-commitments have come to fruition.

ESPNU has UCLA ranked No. 12 in its list of recruiting classes, with 10 of their top 300 players committed. USC is No. 14. It also had Washington at No. 18, Oregon at No. 26 and Cal at No. 30.

“UCLA knows — they’ve got a window here,” said Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s national recruiting director. “There’s a window that is taking place — and don’t it’s just UCLA, they just happen to be in close proximity of USC — that Oregon and Washington are trying to take advantage here.”

If FoxSportsNext.com were to create a chart, it would look more dramatic. The latest rankings from that service has UCLA No. 4 behind Ohio State, Michigan and Alabama, with USC suspiciously at No. 17.

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What might interest you in an Elgin Baylor yardsale?

Elgin Baylor’s 1971-72 Lakers NBA championship ring is estimated to be worth between $40,000 and $60,000. And he’s done with it.

That piece of jewelry, as well as his 1959 NBA All-Star game co-MVP trophy and his gold NBA lifetime pass to games are among the items from his personal collection up for bidding hosted by Julien’s Auctions on May 31, the Beverly Hills-based company announced today.

It may be easy to understand why Baylor may not be so attached to the ring (above). He retired from the NBA in the middle of that season — and then the Lakers went on a 33-game win streak and knocked out New York for the championship.

The former Lakers star who eventually became the Clippers general manager also has stuff available to rummage through if you’re so inclined, such as: Continue reading

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Gus Johnson on Fox kickball? Because you’re not making Joe Buck do it.

What’s Gus Johnson doing in Chelsea gear? It’s because he lives in the Chelsea area of New York, stupid. (Photo from Gus Johnson’s Twitter feed via www.kckrs.com)

Gus Johnson, referred to in a Fox press release this morning as “one of America’s most distinctive and dynamic sportscasters,” will be put on a Fox Soccer match calling a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 meeting between Real Madrid and Manchester United, live from Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu at 11 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

(That’s channel 619 on the DirecTV menu. Just looked it up. So these are the die-hard viewers, not those who stumble on the Fox over-the-air network after an NFL pregame show runs its course and the net has no games to fill in the 10 a.m. window).

This is the first of a bunch of soccer games that Johnson has been relegated to, including the FA Cup (May 11) and UEFA Champions League Finals (May 25).

“Over the past 20 years Gus has cemented himself as an iconic American sports broadcaster, and we’re thrilled to welcome his style to the world soccer stage,” said David Nathanson, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Fox Soccer. “Gus has spent the last year-and-a-half getting ready to call what is a new sport for him, and I applaud the work, study and time he’s devoted to his preparation. He respects how passionate and knowledgeable the soccer fan is, and while his education continues, he’s ready to lend his classic American voice to the world’s biggest sport.” Continue reading

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Why Staples Center’s move to sell tickets through its own AXS will improve access and eliminate Ticketmaster frustrations

To streamline ticket-buying for those who frequent Staples Center, cut down on unwanted service charges and improve the fan experience inside the building, AEG announced a new process today that will eventually eliminate Ticketmaster as its main entrance-pass provider for its facilities.

AXS (pronounced “access”) Ticketing, developed, owned and operated by AEG, will be the primary point-of-sale distributor moving forward. The company will also advance the technology on how a seat-holder with a smart phone can navigate through food lines, enter without a printout, and be alerted to seat upgrades on the day of a game.

The multi-use service is one that AEG has already installed in 24 of its venues across the work over the last 18 months, including London’s The 02 arena.

Fans of the AEG Sports-owned MLS Galaxy have already seen the AXS service in use at Home Depot Center. Next up is bringing the Kings into the fold, starting with Staples Center tickets issued this summer for the 2013-14 season.

AEG has a minority stake in the Lakers, but that team, as well as the Clippers and Sparks, will ultimately have to decide if their seats will continue to sue Ticketmaster or eventually come over to AXS.

No decision has been made by those teams yet, nor has one been determined by ESPN for its X Games events that are often in and around Staples Center each summer.

Concert goers at Staples Center, LA Live, the Nokia Theatre and Club Nokia will see AXS used first with the sale of tickets to the June 26-28 concerts that Beyonce has set for Staples Center. Those go on sale Feb. 11. Continue reading

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