Play It Forward: Feb. 17-23 on your sports calendar — fire off the final skyworks for Sochi, with hockey pucks ablazin’

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

During the Opening Ceremonies of the Sochi Winter Games on Feb. 7, fireworks could be seen over the Olympic Cauldron. What's in store for the Closing Ceremonies?  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

During the Opening Ceremonies of the Sochi Winter Games on Feb. 7, fireworks could be seen over the Olympic Cauldron. What’s in store for the Closing Ceremonies? (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

XXII WINTER OLYMPICS: CLOSING CEREMONIES:
Sunday at 8 p.m., Channel 4 (delayed):

President Obama has dispatched tennis legend Billie Jean King with former Olympic speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden as part of the U.S. delegation for the final celebration. Ralph Lauren has also whipped up a new sweater design for the American athletes to wear when they march in for the last time — something a little less garish than those opening-ceremonies garb.olympicsweater_closeup
The build up to Putin’s closing number could be heightened by a few circumstances that play into how the Americans are viewed as they wave goodbye and good riddance –  such as whether Jonathan Quick and his U.S. men teammates figure out a way to make it clear to the hockey gold medal game (Sunday, 3:30 a.m., Channel 4), if there’s a U.S.-Canada final again in the women’s hockey gold-medal contest (Thursday at 9 a.m., Channel 4) and if Gracie Gold polishes up a sparkling performance in women’s figure skating (Wednesday at 7 a.m., NBC Sports Net; 8 p.m., Channel 4 delayed). If Bob Costas is around to see it through, all the better. If he plays his cards right, he could even get to carry in the U.S. flag if he’s gained enough sympathy from those who’ve missed him during his first-week eye issues.

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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Weekly media column version 02.14.14: My valentine to you — a whole lotta nothing

From RadioLive.com blog post of the 11 worst Valentine's Day cards ever.

From RadioLive.com blog post of the 11 worst Valentine’s Day cards ever.

Sweet nothings, if you must.Ongoing coverage at the PGA’s Northern Trust Open has my heart-filled attention this weekend, so nothing new to complain about NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage (I may have seen as much this week as Bob Costas has with his good eye), TNT’s pending NBA All-Star Game coverage (Sunday, 5 p.m.) or even the way Golf Channel and CBS have this pro golf event on their radar.
If something comes up, please do bring it to our attention. Otherwise, give someone a hug and carry on.

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With Costas on the DL, NBC brings in Lauer to lighten things up

Bob-Costas-eye-swollen-due-to-pink-eyeBob Costas’ bothersome left eye, obvious since he started the NBC coverage of the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia on Thursday night, has become so narly that he’s backed off from hosting tonight’s prime-time coverage and will relinquish his seat to “Today” show co-host Matt Lauer.
“As a practical matter, I simply couldn’t do my job because my eyes had become so blurry, watery and sensitive to light,” Costas said this morning in a statement released by NBC. “I’m hopeful the symptoms will improve in the next couple of days and I can return to the broadcast. Also, the last thing I want is to go through the rest of my life owing Matt Lauer a bunch of favors.”Lauer announced the decision on this morning’s “Today” show, and had Costas, officially down with a diagnosis of conjunctivitis, or pink eye, make an appearance via phone to discuss the matter.
Lauer asked Costas for any tips.
“Just remember, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov,” Costas said slowly. “There’s your Russian dancing pair.”

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Two Padres seasons later, TWC finally picks up Fox Sports San Diego

snoopy-missing-youIt only took full seasons of missing games, but subscribers to Time Warner Cable in the San Diego region will finally have access to Padres games on Fox Sports San Diego as the stalemate has ended.

In August, 2011, the Padres ended their agreement with Cox Communications Channel 4 after 15 years and agreed to the new FSSD deal. At first, only Cox and DirectTV picked it up for the 2012 season. Toward the end of that season, AT&T signed on. In 2013, Dish satellite service added it.

Time Warner Cable said in a press release FSSD will be available starting March 30, with a channel position to be decided.

“We’re happy for the many Padres fans who are Time Warner Cable customers who now will be able to follow their hometown baseball team on TV all season long,” said Henry Ford, Senior Vice President and GM of FSSD.  “With this agreement, Padres baseball will now be available in more homes in San Diego than ever before.”

“We’re pleased to have reached a reasonable long-term agreement for Fox Sports San Diego, and we look forward to launching this network in the near future,” said Jennifer Chun, the Senior VP of Content Acquisition for Time Warner Cable.

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Play it Forward: Feb. 10-16 on your sports calendar: Something to wedge into your schedule, Riviera style, even if some of the big names won’t

interior-image-large-1THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

GOLF:
PGA TOUR NORTHERN TRUST OPEN

At Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades; Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel and Channel 2:

Chris Condon / Getty Images.

Chris Condon / Getty Images.

Defending champion John Merrick, the UCLA grad out of Long Beach who pulled off the thrilling playoff triumph, is certainly coming back. Two-time winner Phil Mickelson, though, has decided to park the private jet this week. Maybe it’s just too taxing. Fred Couples, the 1990 winner who has played this event 31 times, has managed to swing another sponsor’s exemption, and will make an appearance. Tiger Woods? Absent, as usual. Same with Rory McIlroy.
Past champs Bill Haas, Charles Howell III, Aaron Baddeley, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas and Mike Weir are clear. There’s 1999 champ Ernie Els, too, mixing it up with Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Retief Goosen, John Huh, Matt Kuchar and Matt Kuchar. Fourteen of the 30 who made it to the 2013 Tour championship are in this event, as are 23 of the top 30 players in the current FedExCup standings. But only two of the top 10 are here.

Jordan Spieth finishes play on the 10th hole during the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course in Pebble Beach. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Jordan Spieth finishes play on the 10th hole during the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course in Pebble Beach. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Yet, without Woods, Mickelson and McIlroy — and Justin Rose as the highest-ranking golfer available — the main attraction if you’re gallery surfing could easily be Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old who shared the second-round lead at the recent AT&T Pebble Beach Open until a rash of bogeys pushed him down the leader board in round three — yet the Dallas native still finished tied for fourth, boosting his career earnings already to past $5 million in 36 events. In his only other Northern Open appearance, he missed the cut at 5-over. Hey, he was only 18 at the time in 2012.
Of all the young guns on the Tour, Couples said the “easy one” to be most excited about is Spieth. “I picked him for the Presidents Cup (last fall), I felt like he deserved it.” The tournament, now No. 13 on the new 2013-14 overlapping calendar schedule, has a purse of $6.7 million to split up, save the $1.2 million set aside for the winner, along with 500 FedEx Cup points. It’s not as if we need the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore on hand for up-to-the-pitch-shot updates this time, even as rain is often the issue this time of year. The forecast, however, looks lovely – sun all week, just partly cloudy on Sunday, in the mid 70s. So even if it’s foggy in your parts, it’s clear with a zero percent chance of precipitation. Now, if there was just more participation.
rivieraAlso:
Wednesday’s pro-am begins at 6:40 a.m.
Thursday and Friday rounds begin at 6:40 a.m. (Golf Channel coverage from 2 to 5 p.m.. each day)
Saturday and Sunday rounds begin at 8 a.m. (Channel 2 coverage from noon to 3 p.m. each day; Golf Channel coverage each day is from 10 to 11:30 a.m.)

THE BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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Q&A: Leigh Steinberg scripts his return to the world of a gentleman agent

More than 30 years ago, Leigh Steinberg, right, had to convince Steve Young to attend a press conference that involved his signing a $42 million deal to join the USFL's Los Angeles Express. Young went on to have a Football Hall of Fame career after NFL success. Steinberg is now coming back into the agent world after a recent bout of personal issues.

More than 30 years ago, Leigh Steinberg, right, had to convince Steve Young to attend a press conference that involved his signing a $40 million deal to join the USFL’s Los Angeles Express — rejecting the NFL. Young went on to have a Football Hall of Fame career after NFL success. Steinberg is now coming back into the agent world after a recent bout of personal issues.

Leigh Steinberg may have been recently sidetracked, but he hasn’t lost sight of his ability to be an agent of change.

Despite a personal spiral and gradual recovery that had his name in the news for all the wrong reasons – other than making one of his athlete/clients one of the richest at their position — the West L.A. native and Newport Beach-based negotiator is in a rebuilding mode, rehabilitating his image, reconnecting with old clients and friends.

The Steinberg Sports and Entertainment group spells out its commitment to keeping true to the lessons taught to Steinberg by his father, a former L.A.’s Hamilton High school teacher and principal, who treasured relationships and stressed finding a way to make a difference in the world.

theagentThe difference is now, the 64-year-old Steinberg appears thankful for a new perspective, evident in the pages of his new book, “The Agent: My 40-Year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game,” with Michael Akrush (St. Martins Press, $25.99, 302 pages).

Before a recent appearance at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in Redondo Beach, Steinberg explained the motivations for the release of his new book, and even how it might even be the stuff for a movie script. Except this time, there’d be far more depth than how people still associate him with the inspiration for the Tom Cruise character in “Jerry Maguire,” which came out some 18 years ago.

Q: Is there a purpose or goal for coming out with your life story – to date – that isn’t obvious based on your recent struggles with alcoholism, bankruptcy, and other personal matters? Is there a cathartic nature to it? Was there any cautionary tale you wanted to tell?

A: I’ve loved everything that’s involved in being an agent – getting a 60th-round draft pick signed as much as having half the starting quarterbacks in the NFL at one time. That was all fun.

Personally, I sort of withdrew from the world for a couple of years so I wanted to explain where I had been – dealing with the death of my father, my two boys diagnosed with an incurable eye disease, having a house flood and mold develop so it had to be knocked down, and finally a divorce. I don’t want to relive all that, but it’s what happened. It might help someone. It all led to drinking, I needed help and I’m glad to say that next month, I will be four years clean and sober.

I also wanted to do a template for the thousands of young people who are thinking about sports as a career, and talk about the whole concept of refuting situational ethics – you can’t be nice to cats and dogs and then do heinous things in the work place. You can succeed conventionally, with integrity. Continue reading

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Updated weekly media column version 02.07.14: A leap of faith, and a quip from Costas, launch the NBC X Games/Winter Olympics

Shaun White takes a jump during a Snowboard Slopestyle training session Tuesday in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics.A day later, White pulled out of competing in the event that began with qualifying Thursday.  (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Shaun White takes a jump during a Snowboard Slopestyle training session Tuesday in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics.A day later, White pulled out of competing in the event that began with qualifying Thursday. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

What made it into this week’s collection basket:

The NBC slope-style coverage we anticipate for the Winter Olympics is supposed to draw in a younger demographic. But will that really happen if the network keeps dancing around the real dangers of these kind of X Games-added event while the athletes competing in them aren’t too keen about the slopestyle course set up? Also, a viewers’ guide to the Games is here.
The website media notes include a revision of the past blog posts about distribution issues that face SportsNet L.A., changes in leadership at Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket, and the debut of the Los Angeles Rebels as a potential video-on-demand series.

Meanwhile, what didn’t make it in but could have:

Notes updated Friday at 9 a.m.:

== The Sports Business Daily reports NBC had an overnight rating of 11.8, best for the network on a Thursday night since the NFL season-opener in September with Baltimore at Denver, and the most-watched network in prime time. How soon before you think NBC starts asking about stretching the Winter Games from 18 days to 24?

== Vin Scully offers up his remembrances of Ralph Kiner for SNY … mostly as the Hall of Fame player he was for the Pirates in the 1950s, when Scully first started with the Dodgers, and not so much as a WOR broadcaster for the Mets.

== Nice move by FoxSports.com to add added longtime baseball columnist and author Rob Neyer as a senior baseball editor, starting next week. After 15 years at ESPN.com, Neyer was at SB Nation the last three years. He started as a research assistant for Bill James and later was at STATS, Inc. Neyer has written or co-written six baseball books, including Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Legends, Feeding the Green Monster, and The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers.

== An update to this note: ESPN/ABC apparently can’t get its deposit back on a pre-season commitment to televising the Lakers and Chicago Bulls contest Sunday at 12:30 p.m. from Staples Center, so it’s going all the way in with Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Lisa Salters as the crew calling it for Channel 7, Alvaro Martin and Carlos Morales on ESPN Deportes, and Kevin Calabro with Jon Barry for ESPN Radio, lest anyone mistakes this for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Leading into this, ABC has Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown and Heather Cox has fewer apologized to offer for taking the New York-Oklahoma City game (10 a.m., Channel 7).
ESPN then announced today that it would actually add another broadcaster to the game — former NBA referee Steve Javie, on board to discuss pertinent NBA officiating topics throughout the game. Most likely when the game appears to be getting uninteresting and someone wants to know how the Lakers managed to pull off that victory in Cleveland earlier in the week with just four eligible players.

== HBO has decided that as part of February’s Black History Month, it would replay the 2008 documentary, “Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football,” on Monday at 10:20 a.m. Part of the doc includes the Sept., 1970 game when USC traveled to Alabama and created the legend of Sam “Bam” Cunningham. This is the documentary that inspired former exec producer Ross Greenburg to focus just on that game as its own film when he joined CBS Sports and created “Against the Tide” for Showtime that first aired last fall.

BfuAgXlIMAAZLGI== Who are the best folks to follow on Twitter during the Winter Games in Sochi? The Sports Business Daily also offers up a list that includes NBC production chief Jim Bell (@jfb), Sochi 2014 president Dmitry Chernyshenko (@DChernyshenko), Wall Street Jouirnal’s Moscow correspondent Paul Sonne (@paulsonne), NBC “Olympic aggregator” and former USOC employee Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi), and Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter (@hannahteter), “because the selfie she posted from atop a mountain in Russia may be the best athlete photo to surface from what some are calling the ‘Selfie Olympics.’”

Other notes posted Thursday afternoon: Continue reading

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Why TWC’s SportsNet L.A.’s launch may stay in a holding pattern … can you wait until early April?

Vin Scully sits behind the desk at the new studios created in El Segundo for the Time Warner Cable SportsNet L.A. Channel, due to launch Feb. 25. (Photo by SportsNet L.A.)

Vin Scully sits behind the desk at the new studios created in El Segundo for the Time Warner Cable SportsNet L.A. Channel, due to launch Feb. 25. (Photo by SportsNet L.A.)

Less than three weeks out from the official launch of the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A., and, for one reason or a few, only Time Warner Cable, its multi-billion dollar business partner, is the only one committed to carrying it. On a channel number it still hasn’t announced.

The delay in other cable and dish systems climbing aboard is both typical business practice and likely disconcerting to fans who worry themselves over how these things play out while trying to balance the pros and cons of keeping their current provider.

The reported $5 per subscriber fee for SportsNet L.A. that’s been knocked around the media won’t not be confirmed by Dodger team sources, who are confident that TWC, in charge of working the distribution deals, will handle the fair value of the channel in deals they plan on cutting.

Other reports is that fee could rise to $8 a few years into the agreement, making it by far the most expensive regional sports network. MSG, which has both the NBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers, charges about $5 for both of its channels.

The Yankees’ YES network, which is shares with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, goes for just $3 a sub.

TWC’s major bargaining hurdle may be in trying to get this Dodgers channel on an  expanded basic cable and not put on a separate sports tier where customers can pay more for the products offered.

If there’s any blue print for how this will play out — TWC’s launch of the current TWC SportsNet, which came on just weeks before the Lakers’ first regular-season game, went right up the wire with most cable and dish providers before they relented.

The Dodgers have a month’s worth of spring training games starting Feb. 26, with a break for a trip to open the season in Australia on March 20. Consider missing that three-game series a real indication that a cable or dish provider is really standing its ground. After the Dodgers return for the three-game exhibition series in Southern California against the Angels, the regular season resumes Sunday March 30 in San Diego.

Regular season games resume with two more in San Diego before the home opener against San Francisco on Friday afternoon, April 4.

Dodgers executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen would only say the team was in “active negotiations with all distributors” and it’s an “ongoing process,” while directing fans to the www.INeedMyDodgers.com website for the time being.

You know, to make their voices heard. Because added agitation always works well in this situation.

“The excitement and immense support we’ve had has been remarkable for the channel,” Rosen said. “We have faith in choosing Time Warner Cable are our partner and we know know Dodger fans will be clamming for all the content that will be offered on fair terms.”

The team has dressed up a truck to take around to “caravan” events this winter, including the Dodgers Fan Fest last Saturday at the Dodger Stadium parking lot, giving out hot dogs and passing out info on SportsNet L.A.’s existence.

The Dodgers have already announced that former stars Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra will be involved in broadcasting games and studio shows, as well as being paired with Rick Monday on radio coverage. Charley Steiner is the play-by-play man who will go on the road to do games with either Hershiser or Garciaparra when Vin Scully stays home. Former KABC-Channel 7 John Hartung will host a nightly studio show.

Meanwhile, Scully visited the Time Warner Cable studios in El Segundo on Wednesday to meet with employees.

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Introducing, your Los Angeles Rebels, with a clause

rebel-yell-5096f6614104aLadies and gentlemen, your Los Angeles Rebels football team.

The Seattle-based Amazon Studios may make it happen, with or without a stadium built for them.

Among the 10 show pilots that Amazon.com it is offering to its “prime” viewers for their feedback is one called “The Rebels,” where the wife (Natalie Zea) of the owner of this pro football franchise inherits it after he dies and tries to figure out how to move on in her own ex-cheerleader kind of mindset.

(Please, hold off comparisons to the old HBO series, “1st and Ten,” the Delta Burke take off on Georgia Frontiere that somehow lasted from 1984 to 1991)

The Hollywood Reporter says the Fox’s Michael Strahan and rapper/actor Ice Cube are part of the creative producers involved.

Amazon Instant Video put the half-hour pilot up on its service today and it already has favorable viewer reviews mounting. If enough like it, expect to see a series ordered to be made available for viewing on the video-on-demand website.

If only Rebel Wilson could be cast in this thing somehow …

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CBS the surprise winner in a new Thursday night NFL game package

How about “Thursday Night Football on CBS?

3091918_GThe network found out this morning it was the winning bidder in a package of eight Thursday night NFL regular-season games in 2014, and announced it will use Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the broadcasts that are also to be simulcast on the NFL Network. NFL Network had been using Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock as its broadcasting team.

The NFL Network will be exclusive for six Thursday night and two Saturday night games in the second half of the season. CBS will produce all 16 games.

The agreement  for the 2014 season has an NFL option for 2015.

Fox, NBC, ABC and Turner Sports were all said to be involved in bidding for this new package of game. Reports were that the networks were starting at $200 million for the rights to the package.

“NFL Network built Thursday into a night for NFL fans,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “Our goal is to bring these games to more fans on broadcast television with unprecedented promotion and visibility for Thursday Night Football on CBS.”

CBS Sports chief Sean McManus said: “To add a primetime NFL package to our successful Sunday AFC package further strengthens our position in the sports marketplace.  We look forward to having Jim and Phil and our top production team showcased in prime time on Thursday nights.”

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