Five things we learned last weekend (March 8-10): Numbers may lie for the Lakers, Liberty and the pursuit the Amazing Race

To help you get through the water-cooler talk back at the start of a new work week:

The Lakers’ ability to climb two games above .500 and win eight of 10 since the All-Star break already has Magic Johnson on the TV set challenging them next to climb up and nab the No. 6 spot. Hang on a sec. We just finished reading Peter Keating’s “The Numbers” piece in the latest ESPN magazine (it’s been on the ESPN.com site since March 6), and we’re not convinced all this adds up to the Lakers hanging on long to this No. 8 spot in the West as it is. Keating’s crunching based on the research by Indiana University professor Wayne Winston exposes a huge hole in Mike D’Antoni’s philosophy when it comes to putting the right combo of players on the floor together. Without Pau Gasol these days,D’Antoni may be limited in what he can do anyway. But with Gasol and Dwight Howard both in the lineup at the same time, the data shows huge inefficiencies. Same when D’Antoni takes both Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace off the floor at the same time. “Smart teams find ways to rest their key guys instead of just putting lineups on the floor,” Winston is quoted as saying. “D’Antoni hasn’t done that. And it’s really hurting the Lakers.” The only thing D’Antoni says these days about the injured Gasol is that he’s “coming on” and “if there are no setbacks, he should be back” before the end of the regular season. Unless D’Antoni finds a way to screw it up. Continue reading

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What could be crazier than Felix Baumgartner falling 24 miles to Earth? Maybe landing an award for it …

Felix Baumgartner seems to be one of those guys willing to go to any extreme for attention.

Today, the Austrian skydiver is in Rio de Janeiro after speaking engagements Saturday in L.A. and Salt Lake City — reports are he took a plane to each stop but stayed on board the entire time. His presence was requested by the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation, as he’s up for its World Action Sportsperson of the Year award given out Monday night.

Nominees for Laureus Awards include Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, Allyson Felix, Missy Franklin, Lindsey Vonn and Serena Williams.

That group, however, is part of the honorees for the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year. Baumgartner didn’t quite break into that category, but he’s humbled just the same.

Felix Bumgartner shows off his right forearm  tattoo — Born To Fly — during a press conference today in Rio de Janeiro, where he’s attending the Laureus Foundation Sports Awards. (Photo by Christopher Navalta/Special to the Daily News)

“It’s a tremendous honor to be nominated,” he said during a press conference today. “I’ve always looked up to the guys who have won in the past – some of the world’s best athletes. I always wanted to be like them, but it never happened.”

What did happen to him, if you’ll recall, has to do with a 24-mile leap of faith he took last Oct. 14. Continue reading

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Not that the 2024 L.A. Summer Olympics would fail … it’s just that …

As it did in 1932 and 1984, the Coliseum would hold the Opening Ceremonies for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Or would it?

Just 92 years after the original blockbuster and 40 following the sequel, Los Angeles insists it’s game-on to stage the climax to its own five-ringed trilogy and bid up the rights to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

Infrastructure considerations aside, don’t overlook the fact SoCal Olyfest III comes with a $10 million entry fee and an estimated operations expense of $3 billion. There’s no guarantees this time that the Guggenheim Group could somehow rescue it from bankruptcy and overpay to have it happen based on projected TV rights.

L.A.’s celebration will also in all likelihood come at the expense of Scandinavia and Siberia – two places where scientists predict will have the perfect climate and 24-hour daylight access due to the latest global warming trends.

So right away, the rest of the world be hating on us for being greedy.

Patrick Rishe, a Forbes.com writer on sports and business, came out with a piece Friday endorsing L.A. as the most “logical, cost-effective and practical choice” for this task.

“Only managerial incompetence or a penchant for excess” could doom L.A.’s chances, he added.

Have you met us? Continue reading

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How Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and Bob Miller influenced generations of L.A. play-by-play men, and continue to do so

Photographer Jon SooHoo captured this ironic portrait when Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and Bob Miller were all part of the Fox Sports Net broadcasting team in the 1990s.

What made it into this week’s strung-together paragraphs:

Who were the greatest influences on L.A.’s play-by-play men growing up in this town? You can’t help but top the list with a Chick Hearn, Vin Scully and Bob Miller.

But the road must include Dick Lane (left) as well as Fred Haney, Jaime Jarrin and Dick Enberg — all who are rightly in the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Our top 10 list (plus one) is open for interpretation, depending on how you’re influenced by it. Let’s hear who we’ve left out, but more, why those on the list influenced your careers — be it broadcasting or otherwise.

(Without them, I’d have nothing productive to write about, for one).

What’s also included is our latest rankings of the play-by-play/analyst game pairings in Southern California.

What didn’t make it into today’s column: Continue reading

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Weekly media column version 03.08.13

Photographer Jon SooHoo captured this ironic portrait when Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and Bob Miller were all part of the Fox Sports Net broadcasting team in the 1990s.

What made it into this week’s strung-together paragraphs:

Who were the greatest influences on L.A.’s play-by-play men growing up in this town? You can’t help but top the list with a Chick Hearn, Vin Scully and Bob Miller.

But the road must include Dick Lane (left) as well as Fred Haney, Jaime Jarrin and Dick Enberg.

Our top 10 list is open for interpretation, depending on how you’re influenced by it.

What didn’t make it into today’s column: Continue reading

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The 10 most influential broadcasters in L.A. sports history

At the dedication of the Chick Hearn Press Room and Bob Miller Press Box at Staples Center, Vin Scully joined in the fun.

There are many ways to be influenced by dictionary definitions available for the word “influence.”

The one we’re most drawn to involves “a power affecting a person, thing or course of events, especially one that operates without any direct or apparent effort.” There’s an additional way of defining the word that concerns “factors believed to be caused by the changing positions of the stars and planets in relation to their positions at the time of one’s birth.”

Over the last half-century plus in the sports media world of Southern California, we’ve been blessed with a unique list of star-driven play-by-play men, somehow aligned in a galaxy to exert a gravitational pull that has affected the course of events in a young broadcasters’ career.

“I always tell people that growing up in Southern California, I feel like I went to a de facto ‘Sportscaster School’,” said John Ireland, in his second year of calling Lakers games on the radio. “Chick Hearn did the Lakers, Vin Scully had the Dodgers, Bob Miller with the Kings and Dick Enberg was with the Angels.

“Anyone who grew up in Los Angeles had a huge head start just by listening to those guys every night.  It was invaluable. I didn’t know what a bad announcer was until I left the market to start my career.”

An informal poll among a handful of the home-town play-by-play men working in the business today trying to mine the richness of Southern California influences that washed over them as they grew up produced a remarkable Top 10 list.

We could easily include people like Al Michaels and Keith Jackson – part of the region’s heritage who made their mark mostly on the national stage. But if we focused solely on those who called sports in the L.A. and Orange County markets and took it back as far as the memory could go, our Sportscasting 101 honorees would have to include, in no particular order: Continue reading

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The Top 10 (and more) L.A. sports game broadcast teams for 2013

In past attempts at this, we’ve separated the play-by-play men from the analysts to create a Top 10 and Bottom 5 list. For the first time, we will put the two together in one stealth maneuver.

The caveat, of course, is understanding Vin Scully’s longtime ability (and desire) to work alone on Dodger games for TV (Prime Ticket and Channel 9) and radio (the simulcast for three innings on 570-AM KLAC), which will automatically eliminate him from this exercise.

One could easily make a case that Scully, a capella, has enough juice to top this list. (Consider pairing up with Mike Piazza, and we’ll squeeze ‘em in).

But for now, we’ll stick to this two-for-one premise and see how it falls together:

1. BOB MILLER and JIM FOX, Kings TV Fox Sports West:
The fact L.A. missed hearing this team of 23 seasons call Kings’ Stanley Cup playoff games from the middle of the second round all through their historic Game 6 final is testament to the quality of their conversation and teachable moments. They’ve had an unprecedented run in L.A. sports. “Isn’t this fun?” said Miller, in his 40th season with the team, during the Kings’ game Tuesday night against St. Louis – and it sound that way for the pair who’ve grown to be inseparable as the Hall of Fame play-by-play man with the former player. Just watch ‘em open up a box of hockey cards.

Continue reading

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How to siphon off programming and start your own national network, looking out for (FS) No. 1

Equipped from the start to provide some kind of competition to ESPN, L.A.-based Fox Sports officially unveiled the Fox Sports 1 network today  with a strategy, in the words of network co-president Eric Shanks, of being an “alternative to the establishment.”

The essential rebranding of the Fox Network’s racing-centric Speed Channel to FS1 will automatically provide access to 90 million homes when it launches on Aug. 17.

The network told a group of advertisers at the so-called up-front presentations in New York about the channel that had been rumored to be in the works for nearly a year now.

But as sports channels do these days, it’ll come at a cost. Continue reading

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The official Fox Sports 1 announcement … you can exhale now

Keith Olbermann is inquiring again about a job  in sports.

While ESPN hesitates,  Fox Sports 1 should be the one offering him immediate forgiveness and a place to call home again.

Even if Regis Philbin apparently beat him to the No. 1 billing.

Already being touted as a direct competitor to ESPN, there are several ways you can categorize the Fox Sports Media Group’s final announcement today that they’re going to rebrand the Speed Channel into the Fox Sports 1 Network — and somehow include Philbin in the mix because he’s in such high demand.

It all starts Aug. 17, and it depends on how much you think $1.25 a month is worth. Because, according to most media reports, that’s what Fox wants to charge your local cable and dish operators to carry it. Continue reading

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Five things we learned from last weekend: March 1-3

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

Magic Johnson had decided that when he waves a million bucks at LeBron James, the Miami Heat star is supposed to say “how high do you want me to jump?” Magic decided that the NBA’s mid-season slam dunk contest has gotten so lax, he’s going to spice things up — after the fact. On ESPN’s NBA pregame show Friday, Johnson said he’d pay $1 million to James — or anyone who can beat him in the dunk contest. He did it without putting his pinkie to his lips and imitating Dr. Evil.
“Please, LeBron, get in the dunk contest. I’m going to put up a million dollars. A million dollars from Magic to LeBron. Please get in the dunk contest. I go every year. I want to see you out there. A million to the winner.” Johnson explained further Sunday that he “would like (James) to own NBA All-Star weekend, like Jordan did. He’s only owned the All-Star game itself.” James said Sunday he’s heard the offer, but isn’t sure what to do about it. Because, in the grand scheme of things, there’s probably a million other things he’d rather be doing that weekend than proving he can dunk. Continue reading

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