Gumbel manages a takedown of the Blade Runner, along with DHoward, Ryan Braun, Te’o and Armstrong, in a couple of breaths

What you’ll hear at the end of tonight’s HBO “Real Sports” when host Bryant Gumbel has his final say:

“Finally tonight, as last week’s tragic shooting in South Africa would suggest, the business of myth-making in sports isn’t going very well this year. Charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius is just the latest celebrated athlete to recently show that the was more flawed than fabulous.


Whether it’s Manti Te’o and his imaginary girlfriend, Lance Armstrong and his half-hearted apologies, the drug evasions of baseball’s Ryan Braun, or the endless alibis of basketball’s Dwight Howard, stars in a variety of sports in recent weeks have not only shown themselves to be less than perfect, but in many cases – far from decent.


While it’s tempting to believe the problem is simply that we know too much about our sports heroes nowadays, a bigger problem might well be that we demand too little of athletes before we deify them. Yes, the toys of modern media make it difficult to hide the flaws of even the best of people. But when you consider who’s being promoted, and why they’re being lionized, you get the feeling that the bar is often being set too low to begin with.


As a result, fans who routinely lead with their hearts are being ill-served by those eager to build a pedestal for people they barely know and rarely challenge. In the end, it may be simpler to see athletes as either heroes or villains. But as the adage holds, there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future. I forget who first said that but I’m guessing it wasn’t a sports fan.”


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Dr. Jerry Buss: 1933-2013

Associated Press photo

UPDATED: 6 p.m.:

Dr. Jerry Buss might best be called the accidental owner of one of the greatest franchises in professional sports history.

Having grown up in the Depression-era, coal-mining badlands of Wyoming, he discovered he had a head for numbers and wanted to be a chemistry teacher.

After venturing into the Southern California aerospace industry working on the study of rocket fuel, somehow he got pulled into buying and selling apartment complexes to supplement his income.

How Buss ended up buying the Lakers in 1979 for some $16 million, watching them soar to beyond $1 billion in worth is remarkable enough.

The way he was eventually inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame for combination of starting the “Showtime” era with Magic Johnson’s career and collecting 10 NBA championships in 16 trips to the final over the last 34 years is a journey few could have envisioned in a classic rags-to-riches story.

When Buss died Monday morning at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center from kidney failure after an 18-month bout with cancer at the age of 80, he left the future of the team entrusted in the hands of two of his six children, Jim and Jeanie Buss. But in reality, his personal DNA will remain as part of the franchise’s genetic code for decades to come.

“We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community,” the family said in a statement.

“(He) showed his amazing strength and will to live.  It was our father’s often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy.”

Because Buss’ passing came after an extended period, reaction all day Monday from the sports world focused on his legacy of creating one of the most undeniably successful franchises by learning the business and delegating authority, all driven by his desire to win. Continue reading “Dr. Jerry Buss: 1933-2013” »

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Five things we learned from this last weekend: Feb. 15-17

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

Charlie Beljan misses a birdie putt on the 18th green as fog rolls in and darkness brings an end to the first round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Turns out, he took a bogey on that hole instead of a better shot at par if he just returned on Friday to finish it up. How big does that look now? (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

For a guy who once had an anxiety-relate meltdown during a PGA Tour event last year, but somehow came back to win it, Charlie Beljan looked the least star-struck during the final couple of rounds at the Northern Trust Open. The Big Waffle outplayed Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els in Saturday’s third round. His final round charge from the third-to-last group Sunday swaggering in with a birdie on No. 18. In the two-man playoff with John Merrick, he may have missed a par putt on No. 10 to force a third extra hole, but it’s hardly any shame. Beljan got himself a 40-foot motor home and driving event to event with his wife and 5-month old to relieve some of the anxiety. He spent this weekend at a Malibu RV park during the tournament. “He’s been trying to change his diet and all kinds of things to keep the anxiety down,” said CBS analyst Gary McCord. “A career change would probably help,” said CBS partner David Feherty. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods played golf in Florida on Sunday with President Obama. Continue reading “Five things we learned from this last weekend: Feb. 15-17” »

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Play It Forward: Feb. 18-24

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


UFC 157: Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche, 7 p.m. Saturday, Honda Center in Anaheim, pay per view ($44.95, or  $54.95 high-def):
It was in the 2012 ESPN “Body Issue” where Ronda Jean Rousey, all 5-foot-6 and 135 pounds, showed up without any clothes. Her hands wrapped up in pink tape covered her chest, her long blonde hair covered much of her face – except for a smile. We could see her naval piercing, her Olympic rings tattoo high up on her left thigh – and we could see that the mixed martial artist, all of 25 years old, had come out on the other side about once having mixed emotions about what she was made of: “When I was in school, martial arts made you a dork, and I became self-conscious that I was too masculine. I was a 16-year-old girl with ringworm and cauliflower ears. People made fun of my arms and called me ‘Miss Man.’ It wasn’t until I got older that I realized: These people are idiots. I’m fabulous.”
So it’s “Rowdy” Rousey’s turn to come over from Strikeforce and try to become the next UFC superhero, arm-bar style. She’s been handed the bantamweight champion belt before she enters the Octagon in the first women’s main event, taking on Liz Carmouche.  “I’m fighting to win, and I’m fighting to keep women in UFC,” Rousey has said. “And I’m not entertaining the idea about what will happen if I lose because I’m not going to lose.” The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo has won all six of her pro bouts in the first round with the arm-bar submission. Carmouche, who spent five years in Marine Corps, shouldn’t frighten easily. As a helicopter electrician, “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche has done three tours of duty in the Middle East. She’s won eight of her 10 pro bouts but says: “The only person who can beat me is myself.” Hope she doesn’t beat herself up too much if Rousey wins this as all the promoters expect.
Also: HBO’s “Real Sports” has a feature on Rousey, so-dubbed “Blonde Ambition,” where reporter Jon Frankel visits her at home in Venice and at her Big Bear training camp to talk about her life’s journey. The piece airs Tuesday at 10 p.m.

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading “Play It Forward: Feb. 18-24” »

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The writing on (and off) the wall: That beautiful old sycamore at No. 16? It’s resting comfortably at Riviera

PACIFIC PALISADES – This is a gnarly, mangled, beautiful sycamore tree behind the 16th tee at Riviera that deserves all the support it can get.

It went sideways long ago. It probably would have been easier to retire it in some arbitrary arboretum for iconic foliage, but thankfully the greens keepers at this country club have stayed classy and kept it as one of the true relics left in Rustic Canyon.

Four four medal posts in various stages of height and rustiness keep what’s left of it propped up. Not as a Hollywood prop, but as a reminder that we don’t need to discard things so quickly just because they seem to be in the way.

Maybe it provides no shade. The base is hollowed out, allowing the marshal at this par-3 hole to store his jacket and lunch for the Saturday afternoon.

But then, a large black-and-orange butterfly came fluttering out of one of the trunk’s knots. Too quick to capture with any Shutterfly account, too daring considering another morning group was about to tee off.

There’s another famous sycamore way over near the 12th green, where Humphrey Bogart used to sit and watch others scratch their heads in frustration. But why this one at 16 is closer to our heart is part of the reason why Riviera has withstood the test of time, an irrepressible element in the annual array of PGA Tour stops.

“I like everything about this golf course,” says defending Northern Trust Open champ and current leader, Bill Haas, after shooting 7-under 64 in the third round. “The grass. Just how it’s old-school style. Walking in the locker room, seeing the pictures of all those champions on the wall.” Continue reading “The writing on (and off) the wall: That beautiful old sycamore at No. 16? It’s resting comfortably at Riviera” »

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