What made it into the main event this week:
During the course of 2014, we’ve hit on some of the more intriguing sports-related books that we’ve actively sought out to write about. That includes the recent Al Michaels autobiography, new books by Dirk Hayhurst, about Nolan Ryan and Walter O’Malley, and the pursuit of the truth about Babe Ruth’s Called Shot from our annual 30 baseball book reviews last April, and there are even more we didn’t get around to mentioning.
Aside from those previous endorsements, here are the 12 suggestions we have for media-related gifts from this past year that we think will enhance the moment for someone dreaming of a sports Christmas, Hanukkah or Festivus for the rest of us:
From the print book world:
== “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” by Laura Hillenbrand:
If it’s not broke, there’s nothing to fix here — grab any of the versions that’ll be out now (original, adapted young adult, large print, audio) of the beyond-real life account of Louis Zamperini, four years after the first edition. It may have the “now a major motion picture” sticker on the cover — which will be accurate when the PG-13 movie version made by Angelia Jolie comes out on Christmas Day. If you can track down a signed copy from the late Torrance High and USC Olympian, cherish it more. His signature phrase before his autograph was “Be Hardy.” And if you want another accounts of his life, how about one first-person: “Devil At My Heals: A Heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II” which first came out in 1956 but has been reissued in paperback about 10 years ago. There’s also the 2014 book, “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In” with David Rensin.
== “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances,” by Matthew Inman, AKA The Oatmeal:
From the guy who also wrote, “How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You” has put together a cartoonist’s guide as to why obesity is plotting to kill you unless you stop the process of treating your body “like a fast-moving dumpster” and eventually get inspired to ultra marathons as he did. Mark Remy, an editor at Runner’s World, says of this: “All runners wonder, at some point or another, why we do what we do. Mr. Inman’s explanation is the best I’ve ever seen. And the funniest. Because he is clinically insane.” There shouldn’t be any other words necessary to force you to run and find this book. Literally, run.
== “The Golf Book: 20 Years of the Players, Shots and Moments That Changed the Game,” by Chris Millard:
This may coincide with The Golf Channel’s existing for 20 years, but the purpose is also to give those who’ve covered the game a chance to explain the pros and cons for how the sport has embraced all these things like iPhone GPS, high-def TV graphics, the abolishment of metal spikes, hybrid clubs and even advanced agronomy (that would be the uniform condition of the turf, including ways the fairways are groomed). Funny, but so many of the stories seem to circle back to Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book.
In other words: Keep it simple, stroker. That should include advice to Tiger Woods, prominently featured.
== “Eleventh Heaven: Ed O’Bannon and the 1995 National Basketball Champions UCLA Bruins,” by Rob Miech:
In the court of law, O’Bannon’s decision to right a wrong – and winning his five-year anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA for its rules that prohibited athletes from being paid for use of their names, images and likeness — has raised his stature again. Twenty years after the Wooden Award winner lead the Bruins to their only non-Wooden coached national title, O’Bannon’s actions are viewed again through Miech, who writes: “For someone born and bred in Los Angeles, the timing of the title was poignant for Ed O’Bannon. His gargantuan role in restoring UCLA to prominence came during a dearth on the Southern California sporting landscape.” Miech also calculates that team played only a combined 640 games in the NBA, nearing just $9.1 million. O’Bannon accounted for half those games and a third of the money.
== “I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever,” by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster:
Others have tried this kind of buddy trip before, with vary degrees of success. But this is the one that should be adapted into a screen play. You’ve got two recent Harvard graduates (they worked together on the famous “Lampoon” and already have impeccable credentials on their resume) who want to do this thing for different reasons — Ben is the Red Sox fan who loves the game; Eric is the L.A. native who wants to see the country for what it’s worth and isn’t much of a baseball fan. They’re also analytic guys who set up various algorithms to make sure they complete this car trip in 30 days. But then there are weather issues. And time zone conversions they overlooked. Plan A becomes Plan X. Game 20 was in Anaheim to see the Angels, after leaving Arlington, Tex., and driving 21 hours in a 26-hour window, with a stop in Long Beach to visit Eric’s father and grandfather. Game 23 is at Dodger Stadium, coming down from Seattle on I-5 (on a trip that somehow had them heading back to Seattle at one point by accident), to capture what became a Yasiel Puig moment. A race that started in Yankee Stadium ends Toronto. On Canada Day. Fittingly, we guess. That’s the great American trip.
From the print photography world:
== “John Severson’s SURF” (Damiani/Puka Puka, 212 pages, $45). The founder of Surfer Magazine in 1960 started selling his oil paintings and prints about the California and Hawaiian surf culture at Long Beach State way back when, and now he has a place to publish his photographs and original art work. Now we also get to see surf posters that he did to accompany the movies he made 50 years ago. Wrote Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times SundayStyles section: “The book serves as a dual purpose as a celebration of a Zelig-like life to envy and as an implicit slap across the cheek of those status-conscious, white collar elements that are getting even fresher in their advances upon the wave-riding lifestyles that he helped start in the 1950s.”
== “Chasing Epic: The Snowboard Photography of Jeff Curtes,” (AMMO books, 84 pages, $39.95). The scenery is one thing, the athletes like Shawn White who look Photoshopped on to it are even more spectacular. To be fearless in this pursuit of pushing the snow-flaked envelope is something that someone like Curtes has to be as well in how he captures the moments, framing the mountainside against the sky and using the sun as the natural spotlight. It’s almost too perfect.
From the film world:
== The Los Angeles Kings 2014 Champions Blu-ray:
You’d think we would have rushed out to get this by now, eh? The NHL-produced 90-minute highlight reel from the Kings’ Stanley Cup run last summer was out in late July for $29.99. We’ve seen them lately in the $18.99 range. Are we already jaded because we ran out and bought all the stuff related to the 2012 championship? Maybe so, but it’s time to rectify the situation.
And for what it’s also worth: Track down the Kings’ official 2014-15 yearbook called “Sweet Sixteen,” a recap at every win that led up to the 2014 title, written by Jon Rosen and produced by the team’s staff led by Jeff Moeller and published by Professional Sports Publications.
== The collection at RareSportsFilms.com based in Naperville, Ill.: We constantly comb this for something new of something old. The latest one restored and released on DVD: The first two innings (45 minutes) of a black-and-white version of Vin Scully calling a Dodgers-Giants game on Memorial Day 40 years ago at Candlestick Park off a KTTV telecast. There’s also the Dick Enberg call of a complete Angels’ game in Milwaukee on July 16, 1972 from a KTLA telecast (the 1-0 game features two complete games in an hour and 50 minutes). Both are $29.95, plus $4 for shipping.
From the graphic art world:
== “Futbol is Art … Be an Artist” is a stunning silk-screen unisex $29.99 T-shirt created by L.A.-based American Apparel and offered by SendaAthletics.com, a Berkeley-based fair trade soccer ball company that operates under the ethically-enhanced business model of guarantying living wages to the adult artisans around the globe who create the products. This shirt, according to Senda, is “inspired by the magic that happens on pick-up courts every day, and our view of soccer as a way to bring joy, friends, and good times into our lives.” American Apparel, by the way, articulates on its website of a vertical integration that insures its factory workers are the “highest paid worldwide for the manufacturing of apparel basics, and significantly more than California’s minimum wage … For them, higher pay is often a path to the American Dream for their families.” All purchases also help Senda contribute to helping non-profit partners (http://sendaathletics.com/senda-ambassadors/our-nonprofit-partners/). As for the Senda balls: The come from Pakistan, where 70 percent of soccer balls are made. But you can know these are far more ethically produced. More info: sendaathletics.com/sweatshop-free/.
From the multi-media art world:
== African Trash Art is the label under which some of the most creative use of recycled spark plugs and metal wiring come together as striking sculptures of athletes playing basketball, golf, tennis and weight lifting. The fairly-paid artisans from Burkina Faso created these pieces that go to about 7 inches tall and run $24 on the SwahiliModern.com website. Full disclosure as well: The statues are avallable for sale at the new Ten Thousand Villages store in Redondo Beach. This is a fair-trade, non-profit store that I helped launch, giving up the full-time writing position with the Los Angeles News Group to become the store manager. I am no longer a paid employee of the store, working only on a volunteer basis. My wife is the board chairperson. All profits and donations go toward paying the rent, a couple of staff employees and what’s left is for buying new product — such as these pieces of art.
== A Dodger Stadium blueprint: Maybe not the original etchings, but an 11×17 inch retro creation by Blueprint Place, an Etsy.com store that seems to do a reverse engineering process on famous places with ammonia activate paper “on mid-century technology machines” to give it that amazing finish. At $14.99, there’s a cool blue print of the Dodgers’ blue home can be found using the search engine at www.etsy.com.
== For those who missed Dick Enberg’s oh-my moment from a San Diego press conference after he was named the Ford Frick Award winner by the Baseball Hall of Fame, tear up as you listen to the great former San Fernando Valley State professor and once-glorious Angels play-by-play man describe it.
Here’s a link to video where Enberg is getting a congratulatory phone call from Vin Scully, one of committee voters for the award and a recipient some 32 years ago. And from the San Diego Union-Tribune story, which may now get buried by Matt Kemp news.
Also congrats to the Detroit News’ Tigers beat writer Tom Gage for his selection as the 2015 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, putting him into the Hall’s writers’ wing. Gage, on the beat for 36 years, won in a vote that the Baseball Writers Association of American says was the closest since the mail-balloting process started in 2002. The late Furman Bisher from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution finished second, with Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy third.
== That reference to “A Vin Scully Christmas” on last Sunday’s “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” episode of “The Simpsons” (Season 26 Episode 9) did not escape our amusement, shown as a graphic as Marge Simpson was flipping through the TV options of what kind of Christmas music to play in the background during her decorating. Along with it, of course, came the Harry Shearer imitation of how the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster could work in a version of “The Night Before Christmas” into a broadcast: “And the baseball exclaimed as it flew out of sight: This ballpark is shorter in left field than right. … Martinez swings and misses. (Laughs) Yes, I’m recording this during a game.”
== Number crunching at the Sports Business Daily came up with more than 1.6 million viewers taking in ESPN and UniMas coverage of the Galaxy’s MLS Cup championship over New England last Sunday. ESPN (964,000 in 2014 vs. 505,000 in ’13) and UniMas (678,000 vs. 517,000) both had sizeable increases over the title game a year ago in a game marking the career-ender for Landon Donovan. It was ESPN’s largest MLS Cup game since 2011 (featuring the Galaxy and Houston, drawing 1.04 million, David Beckham’s first championship in L.A.). Boston (3.2) and Providence (1.9) were the top two ranked cities for the MLS Cup based on ratings, with L.A. coming in third at 1.7.
== Fox Sports says it has added former UCLA star goalie<strong> Brad Friedel</strong> back as a studio and game analyst for UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and England’s FA Cup coverage as well as the MLS, U.S. men’s national team matches and the FIFA Women’s World CUp in 2015. The 43-year-old Friedel, currently playing for the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur, worked at the network in the 2012 and 2013 UEFA Champions League Finals and did BBC work for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “I’m looking forward to this next phase of my career,” he said. “I enjoy the media work and analysis, and the Fox Sports bouquet of soccer rights is compelling.”
== The International Olympic Committee’s announcement this week that it approved the creation of a year-around Internet-based channel as early as 2015 brought a statement from Universal Sports Network president Scott Brown: “As the year-round home to Olympic sports programming in the United States, Universal Sports Network welcomes the IOC’s desire to bring more international TV exposure to these sports and athletes. The IOC’s vote to create a digital over-the-top channel is a positive development in our space. Their announced complementary content to the athletic competitions we broadcast on an annual basis will amplify the spotlight on Olympic sports outside of the Olympics themselves and ultimately bring them more deserved attention and help them grow.”
Universal Sports channel, owned in part by NBCUniversal, goes to about 60 million U.S. homes who have access to DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS, Cox Communication and Bright House Networks. However, the net isn’t on Comcast Cable, which is the NBCUniversal parent company.
== In the third quarter of last Sunday’s Fox Seahawks-Eagles game, play-by-play man Joe Buck read a promo for the upcoming Franklin Templeton Shootout that came with a pop-up graphic of two golfers. “I even know who those guys are,” said Buck. He better. He’s joining Greg Norman in the 18th tower on Saturday in Naples, Fla., to call the first Fox network pro golf event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also in on the event for the broadcast are Brad Faxon (at 17), Steve Flesch (at 16), Scott McCarron and E.A. Tischler (on-course reporters) and rules analyst David Fay. Norman hosts the team scramble/alternate shot/better ball level event that he helped create 14 years ago on the course he helped designed, but he won’t be playing in it this time. In recent years, NBC and Golf Channel carried this event. players. Fox, of course, is using this as a warmup for its USGA championship coverage starting in 2015. By the way, Buck is scheduled to fly cross country over night and join Troy Aikman in Seattle to cover the Seahawks hosting the 49ers in the 1:25 p.m. game on Sunday for Fox.
== ESPN will send Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox to the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl (Oregon-Florida State), while Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe have the prime-time Sugar Bowl (Alabama-Ohio State) later that day. Fowler, Herbstreit, Cox and Tom Rinaldi will have the Jan. 12 national championship game from Dallas. Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack and Samantha Ponder have the USC-Nebraska Holiday Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 27 for ESPN, while Joe Tessitore, Brock Huard and Shannon Spake have the UCLA-Kansas State Alamo Bowl on Friday, Jan. 2 for ESPN.
== FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films have a new 10-film digital short series called “The Collectors” that launched Wednesday, focusing on the stories of people who obtain and interpret data — including official scorers at baseball games. That episode, however, isn’t among the first that will come out. Stay tuned.
== Remember the night when the Rams’ Flipper Anderson set an NFL single-game receiving record? FiveThirtyEight.com does in a story posted Tuesday this week, complete with all the background data.
== One more FiveThirtyEight.com reference: Did you know 1 out of every 14 adult men in the U.S. do not watch one minute of nationally televised sports? “Those men aren’t occasional viewers,” writes Mona Chalabi. “They’re men who … don’t watch a minute of any sports telecast (be it a sports event, commentary or sports news) either live or from a DVR within seven days of the original broadcast. … The figure is the same for women: On average over the past four quarters, 7 percent of adult women in the U.S. said they hadn’t watched any sports on TV.”
== Steve Quis and John Jackson will call the CIF state Division I and II regionals this weekend and next week’s Open Division championship from StubHub Center for TWC SportsNet and TWC Community channel. The nine games produced by TWC will also stream live on www.CIF.org. Chris Fisher calls Friday’s Div. IV regional and Sam Farber has Saturday’s Div. III game.
== Rob McGlarry was promoted to become the new president of MLB Network to succeed Tony Petitti, who was recently given the title of the MLB’s COO. McGlarry had been the network’s executive vice president of content and started with the launch of the channel in 2009 as the senior VP of programming and business affairs. He also worked in the MLB offices from 2003-08 as the VP of Broadcasting Business Affairs and helped negotiate the league’s broadcasting rights deals as well as create the MLB Network launch.
== Apple’s annual App Store Best of 2014 included the all-digital, live streaming 120 Sports (launched last June) and MLB.com At Bat was the top grossing sports app for the sixth consecutive year. The 120 Sports app was developed through a new technology platform build by MLBAM. The MLB says it will make the At Bat premium subscription at a discounted purchase for the holidays at $19.99 by going to MLB.com or texting “GIFT” to 31826.