Play It Forward: June 30-July 6 on your sports calendar

United States' Jozy Altidore walks back to the team bench after questioning a call on the pitch during the group G World Cup soccer match between the USA and Germany at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, Thursday, June 26, 2014. Left is United States' head coach Juergen Klinsmann. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

 Jozy Altidore walks back to the team bench after questioning a call on the pitch during the Group G World Cup soccer match between the U.S. and Germany last Thursday. Left is United States’ head coach Juergen Klinsmann. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

FIFA WORLD CUP: U.S. vs. BELGIUM
Details/TV: At Salvador, Brazil, 1 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN:

Soccer’s version of the Sweet 16 looks like a real knock-down, drag-out, knockout round as long as Team America stays visible — something for which the American sports TV networks are most thankful, even if it’s a midday start on an otherwise dormant day of the week. Assume this is probably the last week we’ll all have together, though. According to Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com — which we assumed was the name of some kind of trend-setting player alignment on the pitch — the U.S. has about a 42 percent chance of beating Belgium based on a match-prediction algorithm he devised called the Soccer Power Index rating. Consider, too, that since ties are no good anymore in this round, if the U.S.-Belgium game went beyond regulation, the Americans’ chances would sneak up to 46 percent if there was some overtime, sudden death or penalty kicks involved. And how does the return of striker Jozy Altidore factor into this? The hamstring injury he suffered in the Americans’ opening-game match seems to be healing and coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he is optimistic about Altidore being available. Should the U.S. get past the Belgians, it would face the winner of Tuesday’s 9 a.m. Argentina-Switzerland game, a quarterfinal match set for Saturday at 9 a.m. While Silver gives the U.S. just a 20 percent chance of beating Argentina, it would be even money against the Swiss. But then again, since the U.S. advanced all the way to the semifinals in the first FIFA World Cup in 1930, it has only been to the quarterfinals once (in 2002). So if you go by this Silver lining playbook, bet wisely.

Other events this week: The men’s and women’s finals at Wimbledon, the start of the 101st Tour de France, and the Fourth of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Find them at this link.

 

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Play It Forward: June 23-29 on your sports calendar

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

Jermaine Jones, center, celebrates scoring the first U.S. goal against Portugal on Sunday.  (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Jermaine Jones, center, celebrates scoring the first U.S. goal against Portugal on Sunday. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

NO. 1: FIFA WORLD CUP:
UNITED STATES vs. GERMANY
Details/TV: In Recife, Brazil; Thursday at 9 a.m., ESPN:
There are times during the U.S. team practices when players such as Jermaine Jones, Julian Green, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson and John Brooks converse with each other in German. Those five have dual citizenships — all were born in Germany to fathers serving in the U.S. military there. The 32-year-old Jones, the hard-nosed starting midfielder who lives in Encino, recently told Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated that there is no conflict for him to represent the U.S. despite what others may think as this important Group G matchup finally happens. “I will always have the half-side of Germany in my heart, but all of us ‘half’ players – and the coach, too – we will try to win this game for America. We want to get to the next round.”  The coach, of course, is Jurgen Klinsmann, the 1990 World Cup star for West Germany, living in Newport Beach and recruited to coach this American squad in a way that may not please everyone. The subplots for this one run deep even among the fans, so much so that Forbes reports that the average price for tickets to this game is about $900 or three times more than what tickets were going for with the U.S.-Portugal meeting on Sunday. Following that 2-2 U.S.-Portugal outcomes, the Americans can go to the next round with a win or draw against Germany.

ALSO THIS WEEK:
NBA 2014 DRAFT
Details/TV: At New York, Thursday at 4:30 p.m., ESPN:
lakers-gm-mitch-kupchak
By the time the Lakers get to pick over the what’s available at not-so-lucky No. 7, the smart move might be Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart. Or, maybe they really dig Creighton’s Doug McDermott or the free-falling Kansas center Joel Embiid. There’s also three UCLA guys waiting to hear their names called – Zach LaVine, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. Then again, maybe Mitch Kupchak will trade it on a whim as he has every other Lakers first-round pick the last seven seasons. Meanwhile, the Clippers, picking at No. 28 here, can make some positive news for a change.

TENNIS: 128th WIMBLEDON CHAMPIONSHIPS
Details/TV: Opening rounds, Monday at 4 a.m., ESPN:
Murray-Holds-wimbl_2611178b-460x288
Now that England has vanished from the World Cup radar, the nation can focus on its singular grass hero, Andy Murray, who defends his men’s title starting Monday against 104th ranked David Goffin of Belgium. If Murray stays on track, he’ll meet Rafael Nadal in the final. But then again, Nadal and Roger Federer were early exits a year ago. On the women’s side, favorite Serena Williams, who made only a brief appearance at the French Open, is seeded to meet up with Maria Sharapova in the final. Sharapova hasn’t defeated Williams since the Wimbledon final 10 years ago. Camarillo’s Bob and Mike Bryan, who won the men’s doubles last year, return as the No. 1 seeds. ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS have about 140 hours of combined coverage through the men’s final on July 6.

MLB: DODGERS vs. ST. LOUIS
Details/TV: Thursday-Sunday, SportsNet L.A. and Channel 11:
michael-wacha-vs-pirates-595x396
Flash back to last year’s NL Championship Series, when the Cardinals needed six games to wipe away the Dodgers’ plans for a World Series appearance. Remember when rookie Michael Wacha beat Clayton Kershaw twice, Hanley Ramirez couldn’t do much with injured ribs, and Yasiel Puig was making a bigger mess of things in right field? The 22-year-old Wacha (5-5, 2.49), scheduled to pitch Friday in this four-games series, has been running out of gas lately, sporting a 4.24 ERA in June, and the team is trying to make sure they don’t overdo it with him. With the playoff atmosphere in place, the Dodgers will counter by giving away Brian Wilson bobbleheads during Thursday’s opener.
The series: Thursday and Friday at 7:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.; Saturday at 4:15 p.m., Channel 11; Sunday at 1:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.

More of the week ahead at this link

 

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Play It Forward: June 16-22 on your sports calendar

Ranking top 10 sports events of the week:

Jurgen Klinsmann juggles a soccer ball before an official training session the day before the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Jurgen Klinsmann juggles a soccer ball before an official training session the day before the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

NO. 1: FIFA WORLD CUP:
U.S. vs. GHANA
Details/TV: Monday at 3 p.m., at Estadio das Dunas, Natal, ESPN

U.S. vs. PORTUGAL
Details/TV: Sunday at 3 p.m., at Arena Amazonia, Manaus, ESPN:

Believe what you want. Jurgen Klinsmann has said the U.S. team no realistic chance of winning this event. So why bother playing? “This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I don’t agree with Jurgen,” said Landon Donovan, the all-time U.S. leading scorer and Galaxy star left off this year’s roster in another controversial move. Donovan, who’ll be an L.A.-based analyst on the event during ESPN’s coverage, isn’t included in the network’s latest “I Believe We Will Win” promos, where people like Kevin Costner, Whoopi Goldberg, Ice Cube and Jon Hamm are riffing on this chant that is supposed to inspire one to tweet out #IBelieve and be part of the “American Outlaws” alliance. Well, whoopee-do and cupcakes, too, right? “As someone who has been in the locker room with these players, we believe in the ‘American Outlaws’ that we will win,” Donovan continued. “One point I want to make is if we’re really expected go out and beat Portugal and beat Ghana and beat Germany (the last pool play opponent on June 26) – and Germany is one of the best teams in the world – if you can beat Germany, why can’t you beat anyone else? It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but I believe it and I think all of America believes we can do it.” Many believe that for the U.S. to advance past Group G, it has to rack up a large-margin victory in the opener against Ghana – which thwarted the Americans in 2006 and 2010 by 2-1 scores –, then at least tie Portugal before meeting up with a German squad that by then will have locked up a spot and may be easing back on the throttle. It’s a strange series of events that need to happen, but …. This is why they play the games.

Also Monday:
KINGS’ STANLEY CUP CHAMPION PARADE
11 a.m., FSW

The double-decker buses go down Figueroa Avenue again, starting at 5th Street and ending up where most of the fans will be gathered at L.A. Live. If we learned anything from 2012, it’s to have the seven-second TV delay ready for whenever Jonathan Quick is near a microphone.

The rest of the Top 10 list at this link

 

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From his field of vision, Dwier Brown senses the dream all dads and sons have to connect remains very much alive

If you build up the courage to approach Dwier Brown, it may still feel as if you’re about to have some kind of out-of-body experience.
The actor who played John Kinsella along side Shoeless Joe Jackson and a host of other baseball ghosts in the 1989 classic “Field of Dreams” may have only had about five minutes of screen time — most of it in the final poignant dialogue before having a catch with his son, played by Kevin Costner, as the sun set in an Iowa cornfield.
Yet, that scene remains as golden as few others do, 25 years later, especially on Father’s Day.
As Brown has discovered, people who meet him today go through almost the same routine: They think they know him, they finally recognize him and the role he played, then they have a story to tell him about their own relationship with their dad. Sometimes, it gets pretty emotional.
“They are like confessions,” says the 55-year-old Brown, who looks pretty near the same now as he did as when he was 30, “and I start to feel like a priest when those moments happen.”
5321d2bdb85a3.preview-300Through that process, Brown added those kind of personal stories into his new autobiography, “If You Build It … A Book about Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams” (Elsie Jean Books, 261 pages, $18.95), interspersed with revealing memories about his own father who died just a month before Brown made the film.
Little known fact: The catcher’s mitt that Brown uses in the movie belonged to his dad. He brought it as a tribute to him.
On this Father’s Day weekend, more than 5,000 are expected to converge Dyersville, Iowa for a “Field of Dreams” reunion that included a movie screening Friday night, celebrity games on Saturday and Q-and-A’s hosted by NBC’s Bob Costas and Matt Lauer. Before Brown left his home in Ojai with his 15-year-old son Woody to attend the festivities, he gave us some insights behind the cathartic experience he had in writing the book:

Q: Does Father’s Day have a new, fresh meaning for you after going through this process – remembering your dad, having two kids of your own (including 21-year-old daughter Lily), going back to Iowa?
Dwier smile brown shirtA: I guess it really reminds me how precious this time is. My father died suddenly, as I wrote about, and I hope the book will make people appreciate that relationship while it is still here. I had the good fortune of making good in my relationship with my dad after some difficult times but I think a lot of people don’t get that opportunity. I would have been hard-pressed if I hadn’t been able to do that with my dad, to make amends and all that. This whole process has been a little harder for me to see as a father. I was very confident in my role as a son and in my dad’s ability to be a dad, but the job description is rife with self-doubt. My son is a great kid, good grades, very funny, but there are so many times I want to tell him: Just don’t make that mistake, I can save you the grief of that, you know? Maybe my father is gone but I know I’ll be thinking of him while we’re at the field in Iowa.
I did get to tell him as he was dying what a great dad he was, and fortunately I was at that age, 29, when you’re done sowing your wild oats and fighting your oedipal battles and then you see the wisdom. I mean, my dad was really a great dad, particularly considering how poorly his dad had done with him. He really put forth the effort and succeeded and I regret somewhat I was so hard on him during those years. I wish I could have had more time to re-enforce how good a father he was. I could have done with another 15 or 20 years of patting him on the back. You feel like Father’s Days are going to go on forever. People from my dad’s generation, they were so sturdy and constant, then he’s gone in an instant. You can’t imagine that happening until it does. And then it’s too late. For people whose fathers are still around, say those things and do those things that may seem awkward or uncomfortable because you’ll be grateful you did. You know, we all pass on. No matter how many years you get, you’ll never say, ‘Gosh, I hugged him too much’ or ‘I told him I loved him too much.’

Photo: Universal Pictures

Photo: Universal Pictures/Melinda Sue Gordon

Q: You had the presence of mind to bring your dad’s mitt with you when you did “Field of Dreams.” Would you have done that anyway had he not passed away so near that day?
A: You know, I don’t know if I would have. Obviously I was emotionally wrought at that time. The thing that was strange to me, I wasn’t feeling grief. It was more on some level my dad had been released and I had just felt him around so much. I have a feeling that was motivated by the fact it was my carrying him to the field. … I wish there was that magical thing where you slip on your dad’s mitt and know who he is, where he’s coming from and what he’s trying to convey to you so you don’t have to go through all that head-butting stuff that all boys and their fathers tend to go through. Continue reading

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Play It Forward: June 9-15 on your sports calendar — The Kings’ bandwagon is more like a roach coach, going coast to coast

http://michaelkonik.com/our-unusual-species/

http://michaelkonik.com/our-unusual-species/

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

STANLEY CUP FINAL
GAME 3: KINGS at N.Y. RANGERS
Today, 5 p.m., NBCSN:
Your L.A. Cockroaches really are starting to bug a lot of folks. Maybe you can pick it up on the NBC broadcast from the New York-based commentators who always search for how the Rangers can’t get a break here, need to find a way to fight back there. Ever consider a can of Raid instead of a stick and blocker in the hands of Henrik Lundqvist at this point? “Cannot kill the Kings,” tweeted out sports-talk show host Jim Rome on Saturday, followed by “#Cockroaches.” It’s as simple as that, and the sentiment goes back to the Kings-Blackhawks Western Conference final. Actually, when the Kings came back to tie series at one win apiece. Columnist Cam Cole of the National Post, Canada’s English-language newspaper in Toronto, wrote: “Who are these guys … who refuse to be eliminated, who fall behind but resist all attempts to get rid of them? Why, they are Las Cucarachas, the cockroaches of the National Hockey League postseason. Hardy, deceptively fast, pesky, stubborn, resourceful, capable of swarm behaviour, known for group-based decision making, able to survive decapitation … OK, maybe not that last one.” Again, this was before they out-resisted the Blackhawks in seven games and followed it up by overcoming 2-0 first-period deficits in Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center to take this ridiculous 2-0 series lead heading to New York, where cockroaches seem to thrive. Look at it this way. If the Kings go through another seven-game series and actually win, they’ll have a playoff record of 16-12. The only thing close to this was the 2011 Boston Bruins, who went 16-9 before winning their title. The Kings would match that if they swept the Rangers, based on already having lost nine games in the first three rounds. But surviving.
The series continues this week:
Game 4 at New York, Wednesday at 5 p.m., NBCSN
Game 5 at Staples Center, 5 p.m., Friday, Ch. 4

BEST OF THE REST INCLUDES:
The 114th U.S. Open golf tournament in North Carolina, Thursday-Sunday
The start of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, on Thursday
The NBA Finals Game 3, on Tuesday
Read more here …

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