Play It Forward: Sept. 1-7 on your sports calendar — the NFL starts with Seattle fans getting misty again, thanks to the real-deal Sherman

MaddenNFL15_WhatsNew_OpenFieldTackling2THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

nfl-season-2013NFL WEEK 1:
Details/TV: Thursday at 5:30 p.m., Channel 4

Details/TV: Sunday at 10 a.m., Channel 2

Details/TV: Sunday at 10 a.m., Channel 11

Details/TV: Sunday at 1:25 p.m., Channel 11

Details/TV: Sunday at 5:30 p.m., Channel 4:

20140704212441!Madden_15_Cover_Featuring_Richard_ShermanNow who’s talking about Richard Sherman? For starters, anyone who’s seen him as the Seattle Seahawks’ 26-year star cover back ad the cover boy for the new Madden NFL 15 video game. The Compton Dominguez High alum wasn’t all that happy three years ago to find out he’d received an overall rating of 52 in the Madden NFL 12 game. But when the latest updated version came out last week, Sherman had been bumped up to a 99 — making him the best at his position in the league. “He’s (also) ranked 91 in speed, so he’ll be able to run with just about any receiver in the game downfield,” Steve Gibbons, a veteran Madden gamer and EA Sports consultant told the Seattle Times’ “Take 2” blog. For that matter, Gibbons concluded that the Seahawks “are the No. 1 team to use in the game … they’re pretty much the perfect team and they make playing Madden a lot of fun this year.” Apparently, the defending Super Bowl champions are poised to win forever in Madden and real life as long as Pete Carroll stays in charge. With Sherman, Russell Wilson, Percy Harvin … so what if the last two Super Bowl champs failed to make the playoffs the following season? And so what if there’s the belief that the dreaded “Madden Curse” will eventually strike down upon Sherman’s dreadlocks?
Watch all of Seattle get misty as the Seahawks take on the Packers in the now-traditional Thursday night opener, likely to remind many of the last time they met in 2012 that ended with the “Failed Mary” replacement refs controversy.  The Seahawks go in as the 6-to-1 co-favorite according to Vegas Insider to win Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. The other co-favorite is the Denver Broncos, who lost the title game last year to the Seahawks and spotlight the second part of NBC’s weekend bonanza package against Indianapolis, who others are picking as the AFC representative in the next Super Bowl based on the fact it has the easiest regular-season schedule based on opponents winning percentage from a year ago.

Also this week:
w300-7aefe1e8ddf8b8ad336780796ef6664fWeek 2 of college football has USC traveling to Stanford (Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 7) while UCLA has its home opener against Memphis (Rose Bowl, Saturday at 7 p.m., Pac-12 Network), with the game of national importance pitting Michigan State at Oregon (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Channel 11). The Dodgers start a three-game series against the National League’s hottest team, Washington, on Labor Day at Dodger Stadium, the Angels are on the road to start a 10-day, four-city trip, and the women’s champion will be figured out at the U.S. Open (Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 2). More details at this link.


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Media column version 08.29.14: If a story is too good to be true, do you push it out before others steal your thunder? USC thought so with Josh Shaw

USC's Josh Shaw has frequently been a go-to player for post-game interviews.

USC’s Josh Shaw has frequently been a go-to player for post-game interviews, here after USC defeated Fresno State in last December’s Las Vegas Bowl.

What made it into today’s column:

On the website where the original story of senior defensive back Josh Shaw’s heroic exploits were once documented, the link produces this message now: “We’re sorry, this page does not exist.”
Fact is, what exists is a messy aftermath that’s hardly forgotten.
In this week’s column, we go straight to USC professors Dan Durbin and Jeff Fellenzer and USC Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone about how the story that was too good to be true started and how it may serve as another lesson for journalism students.

1409182997000-C03-SHAW-0828-66752050Other things of note best suited to included here:
== We asked a few Fox Sports college football guys about the ramifications of the Shaw saga undermining the USC’s opener against Fresno State at the Coliseum.
=Stewart Mandel, the Fox Sports college football “insider,” said that as a writer he has always appreciated USC’s openness with reporters “with the rare exception of Lane Kiffin’s situation last year. Here they were trying to get out in front of a story and actually put it out there why he was injured. So many would have just said he injured himself in practice. Or maybe not disclose the details. Here they are, telling us, and it backfires in a major media market like L.A. where it only gets magnified. I can’t see how it’s not going to be a distraction. It’s not just sports media at the practices now, but entertainment show reporters and what not. That’ll continue to be a soap opera that hovers the program.”
=Charles Davis, the analyst for Fox’s game coverage (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Channel 11)with play-by-play man Gus Johnson. “Here’s a senior leader, spoke at the graduation last year, and all of the sudden the story is ‘what? what?’  … Sark knows it’s going not away until this gets resolved.”
=Joel Klatt, a studio analyst on the Fox pregame show, added: “Whoever you believe, the lessons USC has to learn from all this they’re not trying to cover anything up. The coverup is always worse than the crime. Them at the forefront trying to protect their program and support their kid, that’s the utmost importance. I was at Colorado during on the most tumultuous times any program has been through with Gary Barnett in the spring of ’04. He was suspended. There were allegations all around us. The best place to be through all that as a player was in the locker room and on the field. They can’t wait to get to the Coliseum and make it go away. College football players are some of the most resilient players on the face of the planet and I know that through personal experience.”
=Dave Wannestedt, the one-time USC defensive line coach some 30 years ago and now part of the Fox pregame show: “I’ll say one thing – the quickest way to be defeated is to be distracted.”

As for other angles on this:
== The ESPN guy who moonlights on “Wipeout!” calls USC a “clown college.” Consider the source.
== A reporter’s mea culpa on how it played out on his watch.
== Piecing the Shaw timeline through other media sources.
== Is USC in “crisis management” situation again?
== Does this story just summarize the way the media is in 2014?

More to consider:

PaulTracy== Paul Tracy, the four-time Long Beach Grand Prix winner who ended up doing 10 Indy Racing League events on NBCSN this season in his first year as a non-regular driver, credits the fact that the network has seen a 35 percent increase in viewership this year over last because of much higher visibility.
“Since the initial contract with Versus (in 2006), this network has done a much better job promoting and commercializing the sport with the NBC affiliation,” said Tracy, who’ll be on the broadcast of Saturday night’s IRL finale from Fontana, the MAVTV 500, on NBCSN at 6 p.m. “I think people are more familiar with the more common name than it was. It’s easier to want to want it. It doesn’t seem so obscure. People know where to find the channel better. And the TV production is really good and we’re able to see a lot more of the personalities.”
NBCSN has had an average of 390,000 viewers through the first 11 races in 2014, compared to 288,000 in 2013.
Saturday’s pre-race coverage from Fontana will include Tracy sitting down with Team Penske owner Roger Penske for a discussion about the success of his team’s Will Power and Helio Castroneves, are are first and second in the standings as part of the Penske team.
The 47-year-old Tracy, who drove for Team Penske earlier in his career that started in the mid 1980s, said he “wasn’t super keen at first” getting into TV analysis work because of the thought that once you do it, you’re racing career is done.
“I wasn’t ready to let go of that sliver of hope of getting back into the car, but I had to realize that no one was beating down my door to get me back on a team. I’d never done TV before but I have a good knowledge of how the races can unfold, the psyche of the driver and all that. I watch all kinds of races — Indy, NASCAR — and I can spot things most people dont’ see. It was nerve-wracking at first, but I’m getting much more comfortable with it.”

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How the Helms clearance sale provided $1 mil-plus to LA84 non-profit

Sir John MooresAccording to, Sir John Moores was one of the first three inductees into the British Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
His Hall bio explains that while he was best known in British sports for chairing the Everton Football Club, Sir John “was instrumental in creating baseball’s golden era in England, during the 1930s.”
Yes, Britain not only has a Baseball Hall, but it had a golden era of a game that some contend was a mere knockoff of the more popular form of cricket.
What happened was when Sir John convinced 18 teams in Liverpool to start playing by American baseball rules, a movements started — well before the World Baseball Classic.
Convinced he had enough players up to speed, Sir John created a series of games between a team from Great Britain and one from the U.S. in 1938, made up mostly by semi-pro, high school and college-aged players.
The Brits won, four games to one, and received the John Moores Trophy, donated by Sir John himself. Cuba was added to the tournament and won it the next two years. Even a team from Hawaii won it eventually.
How much is that 4-foot tall sterling silver trophy worth today?
John Moores Trophy - Lo-resAccording to a SCP Auction last week that helped raise money for the LA84 Foundation, some $195,072.
The trophy belonged to the Hall of Fame collection that once was the star attraction of the Helms Athletic Foundation back in its L.A. hey day. It was eventually absorbed by the Amateur Athletic Foundation, which  became the LA84 Foundation in 2007.
The sale last week of the John Moores Trophy, as well as more than 250 other sports artifacts at the special auction, exceeded expectations and brought in more than $1.1 million to the LA84 Foundation to continue its work helping youth sports in Southern California.
So with that, anything else left in the Hall’s attic worth picking over for future purchases? If we’d known earlier, we might have saved up some cash for a sale just like this.
Other pieces that went in the auction were a circa 1955 Heisman Trophy replica honoring winners from 1935 to 1954 ($75,205); Bill Tilden’s 1921 U.S. National Championship Men’s Singles 15K Gold First Place Medal ($69,184); and a circa 1893 Cy Young autographed Cleveland Spiders Pifer & Becker Cabinet Photo ($66,734).
Full auction results are available at

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Play It Forward: Aug. 25-31 on your sports calendar has UCLA, USC kicking off ’14 season


NCAA Football: UCLA at Southern CaliforniaNO. 7 UCLA at VIRGINIA
Details/TV: Saturday at 9 a.m., ESPN

Details/TV: Coliseum, Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Ch. 11

51Z-hsIko5L._SY300_Sift through all those college football preseason prognostic publications and you may come across the one that took the initiative to put a list together of the 100 impact players of the 2014 season. Not surprisingly, UCLA and USC are well represented. One valid reason why the Bruins start the year so high in the rankings without having played a game yet is the presence of quarterback Brett Hundley (above). The No. 14 most impactful player on BecketSports preseason magazine has thrown or rushed for a touchdown in each of his 27 career games going into his junior season, completing nearly two-thirds of his passes for 6,700 yards over a two-year career, and piling up 53 TDs compared to 20 picks. Then there’s Myles Jack, No. 31 on the list, the offensive and defensive freshman of the year last season by accounting for eight TDs — seven as a running back and one returned after an interception. The Bruins’ opening act toward possibly repeating as the Pac-12 South champs starts way out in Charlottesville, Va., against a school that went 2-10 a year ago and lost its last nine.
hi-res-7944706_crop_northThe Trojans have a much more familiar dance partner to start their season — the one they ended it with last year. And they’re doing so with five players on that top 100 list, all underclassmen as well. Junior defensive end Leonard Williams (No. 11), junior running back Javorius “Buck” Allen (No. 41, right), sophomore safety Su’a Cravens (No. 55), junior quarterback Cody Kessler (No. 68) and junior receiver Nelson Agholor (No. 73) were part of a Trojan squad that ended a scattered 2013 season with a 45-20 win over Fresno State in the less-than-infamous Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. Allen ran 27 times for 86 yards and two TDs, while game MVP Kessler completed 22 of 30 passes for a career-high 345 yards and four TDs, two of them to Agholor (5 catches, 94 yards).

As for the rest of the week: The IRL season ends in Fontana on Saturday night, the U.S. Open tennis tournament starts Monday in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., the Angels and A’s have four more to play in Anaheim, the Dodgers are in Arizona and San Diego for those wanting to take an end-of-summer roadie, and the NFL exhibition season finally ends. Here’s more details.

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A sports fantasy that for some is enough to quit their day jobs

Fantasy sports enthusiast Cory Albertson poses for photos at New York's High Line Park. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Former professional poker player Cory Albertson is so good at fantasy sports that he has hedge funds and option trading desks talking to him about wanting to invest in his system. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

By Tim Dahlberg, The Associated Press

Cory Albertson was cruising at 30,000 feet and, like others on the plane to Detroit, taking care of some business on his laptop.

His spreadsheets contained names familiar to anyone who follows baseball. Pitchers, catchers, maybe a center fielder Albertson thought might be due for a home run or two.

Albertson’s business on this day was trying to outsmart a few guys in one game, maybe a few thousand in another. Crunching numbers to enter some 500 fantasy sports contests before the first pitch of the day, he was hoping for a score before the night was out.

“I didn’t look exactly, but I think I had about $22,000 invested for the day,” he said.

It was just another day in baseball for Albertson and his partner, Ray Coburn. Football will be another story, with more than $100,000 of their bankroll in play on any given Sunday this fall.

Million dollar paydays. Big wins. Vegas junkets. Those are just some of the prizes offered online, where a hybrid of the traditional season-long fantasy leagues played by an estimated 41 million Americans has morphed into something quite different. Continue reading

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Media column version 08.22.14: A Mo’ne that’s a media work of art

mone-davis-had-an-amazing-answer-when-asked-who-she-pitches-likeWe’re going with this as the lead item:

SicoverSo you had a Sports Illustrated cover with Mo’ne Davis on it this week?
Here’s what showed up in our mail box.
The bottom line is that Davis, the 13-year-old Little Leaguer who wants to play college hoops at UConn someday, stole the headlines for most of this week. All she needed to do was take the Ice Bucket Challenge and be named the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback to really make herself a media sensation.
We look at the impact she had from a media standpoint in this week’s column.

And as for other things we wanted to add:

== Among the best media pieces we saw this week related to Mo’ne Davis:
= Anything from columnist Melissa Isaacson, starting with the idea of how much is too much attention at the Little League World Series, her friendship with Canada’s Emma Marsh, and this one on why Davis matters to other girls.
= The New York Times’ Jere Longman on how Davis has handled the attention.
= The Chicago Tribune’s Philip Hersh, on whether Davis is only great in defeating boys
= SI explains why she’s on their cover this week (in some regions, apparently not L.A.)
= A New York Newsday editorial
= Some people were selling her autograph on eBay? Yup, and still are.

== And there’s this NBC clip from 1989 when Vicky Brucker made headlines as a girl playing in the Little League World Series as she represented Eastview Little League in San Pedro. Notice how the media treated it back then versus today. Continue reading

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Why Dan Patrick’s life is in ‘Jeopardy!’

danmagesDan Patrick spent a week away from his nationally syndicated morning radio show (heard locally on KLAC-AM 570) by taking his daughter to college — and then taping 15 episodes of the new “Sports Jeopardy!” series at the Sony studios in Culver City.

“I thought taking my daughter to school was the challenge,” he said Thursday afternoon during a break of taping five shows over a 10-hour period. “That was easy. This is like landing planes at LAX.”

The concept for a first-of-its-kind, non-video-game sports version of the long-running TV game show “Jeopardy!” came to light when the producers at the Sony-owned, famous these days for the on-demand episodes of “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld, announced they had signed Patrick up for this project last April.

More than 30,000 potential contestants went online to apply for a test and audition, which have been taking place in various cities since June before the actual taping started this week.

“I really do have a new respect for Alex Trebek,” said Patrick of the “Jeopardy!” host who joined his radio show a couple of weeks ago in New York to give him some pointers. “There’s no fear of me ever taking his job. I’m just trying to consume all this information without taking Adderall or Riddlin. They did offer me a B-12 shot before the shows today and that would have helped if I didn’t have a phobia of needles. Maybe I could take it as a suppository?”

The “Sports Jeopardy!” series launches Sept. 24, and Patrick’s plans in L.A. this week are to tape 10 more episodes over the weekend before heading back to Connecticut, then do 12 more plus a two-day championship in January before seeing where it goes.

One of the people on his staff Howie Schwab, the former ESPN information know-it-all who at one time had his own gameshow “Stump the Schwab” a few years back.

“Even Howie will see a question here and go, ‘Now, that’s hard’,” said Patrick. “I consider myself upper-tier in sports trivia, but this will really humble you. So sometimes it’s good to have cold water splashed in your face to remind you of that. I’m getting my own ice bucket challenge here this week.”

More information at

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Play It Forward: Aug. 18-24 on your sports calendar — Who’s playing possum in the AL West?


Details/TV: Friday-Sunday, FSW and ESPN:
For whatever reason, the Angels continue to believe the magic of their Rally Monkey, going on more than a decade. Lately, the Oakland Athletics may have a stronger tie to their own new Rally Possum. Back on August 4 at the decrepit Oakland Coliseum, a place where sewage often backs up in the dugouts and rats hold conventions, a small possum appeared scurrying around on the warning track by the A’s bullpen. It held up the game, tied at 2-2 in the 10th inning, before vanishing under the stands just as the A’s Sam Fuld was coming to the plate. Fuld got a hit. Two more batters walked. And then with two outs and two strikes on him, Derek Norris pulled off the game-winning hit to beat Tampa Bay. Within minutes, fans were tweeting about the #RallyPossum.
080914_oak_possum_twitter_tiyozfoeFive days later, the possum made another sprint onto the warning track, just the A’s were amidst defeating the Twins, 9-4. Coincidence? “We’ll get behind anything,” said A’s first baseman Brandon Moss. “I love that kind of stuff … but then again, I’m kind of ADD … If the people in Anaheim aren’t sick of that rally monkey, I guess nothing gets old.”
mockup1Jeff Smardzija, obtained by the A’s from Chicago on July 4 to bolster Oakland’s staff, has benefited most from the possum appearances during his outings. “He knows when to show up – at the down times in the game. He must have a little ego on him, which I don’t mind. We’re going to have to give him a name, get him a jersey. We’ve got to keep feeding him.”
The Angels are hardly playing possum in the AL West race, finally catching up last weekend with some 40-odd games to play. The A’s have already won six of the first nine meetings, and there are four more to play in Anaheim at the end of this month, plus three more in Oakland in late September to really make this interesting. For this series, the climax on Sunday should put the A’s latest star pitching acquisition, Jon Lester, up against the Angels’ Jered Weaver. The series goes Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (6 p.m.) on FSW and Sunday (5 p.m.) on ESPN.

Before that, the Angels have to take a red-eye to Oakland after playing four in Boston. The Dodgers have a home series against San Diego and the New York Mets this week. The rest of the time we’ll see a Clippers Fan Fest on Monday, the conclusion of the 75th Little League World Series on Sunday, and in between, the Sparks start the WNBA playoffs, the Pacific Classic runs at Del Mar and the movie “When The Game Stands Tall” comes out about the Concord De La Salle football team, starring Jim Caviezel, below right, as coach Bob Ladouceur, left. Here’s a link to everything else.


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Media column version 08.15.14: How Ted Lasso loosens up the lackadaisical U.S. soccer folk

In the hopper for this week posted here:
We’ve not seen the last of Ted Lasso.
The Jason Sudeikis characterization of a former U.S. football coach who tries to revolutionize the English Premiere League has been expanded into a new NBC Sports marketing vehicle as the network’s coverage of the sport ramps up again on Saturday. We’ll look at what’s behind the campaign with some of Lasso’s “punditry” and how it continues to draw attention in this week’s column.

What could have been in there but will be more than happy to just exist here instead:

nbc-epl-topps== Don’t let your mom throw these away: Topps trading card company has partnered with NBC Sports to do a card package of EPL commentators. The “Season Starter Kits” have cards for Ted Lasso, as well as Arlo White, Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino and Robbie Mustoe.

== Also note that NBC has snatched the “Men in Blazers” show featuring Michael Davies and Roger Bennett, who started popping up during ESPN’s World Cup coverage earlier in the summer. The two will have a weekly Monday night show on NBCSN.

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Play It Forward: Aug. 11-17 on your sports calendar


Kerri Walsh Jennings and Whitney Pavlik celebrate their 2013 Manhattan Beach Open title.

Kerri Walsh Jenning, right, and Whitney Pavlik celebrate their 2013 Manhattan Beach Open title.

Details/TV: Men’s and women’s final, Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS Sports Net:
2013 Manhatttan Beach Open - ball and logo
Kerri Walsh Jennings, despite having won three Olympic gold medals and becoming the face (and body) of beach volleyball the last decade-plus, still has some work to do. She may have more career victories than any other female beach player in history. She could become the all-time leader in wins, male or female, and if that happens, it would be right around the time when the 2016 Rio Olympics take place. As for the Manhattan Beach Open – the most prestigious and longest-running tournament in the sport – she has won it four times. Pretty snappy, but that’s only fourth all-time on the list of women champs behind Linda Hanley (eight), Nina Matties and Kathy Gregory (seven each). With partner Whitney Pavlik, Jennings won last year’s MB Open, made all the sweeter because her husband, Casey Jennings, took the men’s title with Matt Fuerbringer in an upset over Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser. The Jennings family will get their bronze plaques put up on the Manhattan Beach pier in a ceremony Thursday that leads into the weekend competition for this 54th event, all the more special since the family lives in Manhattan Beach. This year, Kerri Walsh Jennings will be with current teammate April Ross and should be the top seeds. As the 39-year-old Matt Fuerbringer has gone back into retirement, Casey Jennings has been partnering with Avrey Drost, and the two had a nice showing at the recent FIVB event in Long Beach. Dalhausser-Rosenthal may not play this weekend because of a Dalhausser injury, but it will be a game-time decision. John Hyden and Tri Bourne will likely be the men’s top seed, with Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson seeded second.

The rest of the week includes the U.S. men’s national basketball team trying to get itself together with an exhibition in Chicago against Brazil (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN), the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship in Georgia, the start of the Premiere League and WWE SummerSlam at Staples Center. Read more here.

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