UPDATED: Friday at noon:
What will make it into this week’s sports media column:
Replay addiction has in many strange ways impeded the presentation these days of college football, the NFL, tennis and, lately, Major League Baseball.
Tony Verna wanted no credit, or blame, for that.
It wasn’t at all what he had in mind when he created the first sports TV “instant replay” in the 1963 Army-Navy game — a fact that rightfully belonged in the first paragraph of Verna’s obituary that came out Sunday following his death at age 81.
An extended New York Times obit appeared Wednesday.
Verna wasn’t hoping that league officials could have it as a tool to second-guess their own referees or umpires. As it turned out, it was Tex Schramm, the CBS boss who hired Verna and monitored him through the initial replay process 50-plus years ago before becoming the Dallas Cowboys general manager and NFL exec, who championed the use of replays during pro football games.
“Today, the guys are overusing instant replay in football,” Verna said in 2008. “I think they’re trying to nail the officials. They’ve got so many damn angles. They’re coming back showing they can see better than what’s going on on the field.”
He also told the New York Times a couple of years ago that its evolution was inevitable to having it incorporated into life games: “You can’t have a Super Bowl and get the call wrong. Fans demand that. It’s like the light bulb. It had to be invented. That’s it. And I expect it to get better and better and better.”
It appears that it has come to a point where replay not only gives today’s viewers more “correct” calls, but it forces a lot of extra scrutiny.
After that 1963 experiment, Verna wasn’t really able to do more with the replay idea until the 1964 Cotton Bowl, isolating cameras on Texas wingback Phil Harris to show how he would line up just outside the ends and race downfield. Play-by-play man Pat Summerall was the one credited with calling it “instant replay” during that game.
A few years later, Verna’s replay system was eventually re-purposed by the Federal Highway Administration in monitoring busy traffic intersections and investigating collisions.
When Entertainment Weekly did a special list in 1999 of the “100 Greatest Moments in Television,” Verna’s first replay was No. 33.
Verna was most often on the CBS NFL crew that included Vin Scully during his time doing the sport for the network in the 1970s. And Verna’s Emmy-Award winning career wasn’t limited working five Super Bowls, 12 Kentucky Derbies (including Secretariat’s run for the Triple Crown), NBA championships, NHL Stanley Cup Finals or the L.A. Olympics that he did at CBS and ABC. He started creating syndicated shows like “Great Sports Legends,” and later handled many complex global feeds of charity concerts like Bob Geldolf’s Live Aid and Pope John Paul II’s “Prayer for World Peace.” The Directors Guild of America gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports in 1995, and he wrote a book about his career in 2008 called “Instant Replay: The Day That Changed Sports Forever.”
One of the last things Verna tried to develop on a larger scale was a “talking replay,” which he first tried out in an 2008 L.A. City High School football championship game at the Coliseum. Randy Rosenbloom got to present it to the viewers (see video below) as Lindsey Nelson once did to the TV audience who didn’t know anything about “instant replay.”
In this week’s “SoCal Prep Report” show (it has been airing on LA36 and will appear on KLCS-Channel 58 at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Friday), Rosenbloom gives Verna a final shout out for how his innovation worked on even the most primitive level.
In our column this week linked here, we acknowledge Verna’s contributions and thank him for his ongoing conversations about how sports and TV continued to expand and experiment.
Other notes we have that must be content in this space:
== One of the last emails we got from Verna was in September, 2012, after he watched Baltimore edge New England, 31-30, on Justin Tucker’s 27-yard field goal that just stayed inside the right upright as time expired.
Why wasn’t the kick reviewable on replay, Verna wondered? Because you cannot determine when exactly the ball is directly over the pole, he answered his own question.
It said it reminded of him of a replay experiment he tried in the 1964 NFL season. He had been asking with referee Jim Tunney what he thought about his idea of developing a “still-frame analysis” – freeze the ball as it went over the uprights. In those days, the uprights were much shorter and there was just one field judge under the crossbar.
Verna started the idea by asking broadcaster Pat Summerall to go down to the basement of Yankee Stadium and started taking Polaroid shots of him from a camera attached to a TV monitor as the former star kicker booted away.
“Pat wasn’t happy with the assignment, to say the least,” said Verna.
As Verna was getting better with the process of the “freeze frame” replay, a Packers-Colts divisional playoff game in Green Bay on Dec. 26, 1965 took place — one that Verna was directing for CBS. Tunney called good a 22-yard field goal by the Packers’ Don Chandler.
“After the game, Don Shula, who was the Baltimore Colts coach at the time, came into the truck, and asked me what it looked like on TV,” said Verna. “I told him the kick sailed wide-right, but it was so high above the upright it was too hard to tell.
“But when one of Steve Sabol’s NFL cameras later confirmed that the ball had sliced right, the league added 10 feet to the goal posts’ verticals, and they put a second official under the goal post — which now would be painted bright yellow.”
== Of the tributes we came across, we enjoyed his one in a SVG story from current CBS producer Bob Fishman — who put Verna in the class of Sandy Grossman and Frank Chirkanian.
== To support a documentary that has been at least two years in the making about the famous L.A.-based summer Drew League, former UCLA and Clippers guard Baron Davis launched an Indegogo.com campaign Tuesday that he hopes will raise the $100,000 by the Feb. 19 deadline.
The crowdfunding effort to make “The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce” a reality as well as give more exposure to the league also allows Davis, the director and producer of the project, a chance to personalize his story about how it affected his career growth as a youngster.
The league started in 1973 at the Charles Drew Jr High School gym on the corner of Compton and Firestone, and has since moved to King Drew High School. Aside from Davis, others who grew up in the league included Byron Scott, Nick Young, Paul Pierce and James Harden. During the 2011 NBA lockout, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant participated in games.
“I often feel people sugarcoat basketball and the way we grew up in South Central, but I want to give the real perspective,” said Davis in a statement. “My life in The Drew began in eighth grade, and it changed my life. It’s had the same impact on other players. The Drew is a close-knit community that has grown to become an invitation-only league.
“This is not just a sports documentary, it’s a story about family, community, perseverance and the life lessons we’ve learned through basketball. Throughout my time in the league, I’ve heard from many people who are curious about the life of a basketball player, as well as the inner workings of a film production. Through the Indiegogo campaign, this is an opportunity to get both – exclusive access to The Drew documentary as well as unique experiences and swag only offered through supporting this effort.”
The perks to making a sizable donation to the project can include attending a Clippers game with Davis to being an assistant coach on Davis’ 2015 Drew League team.
Since retiring from the NBA as a member of the New York Knicks in 2012, Davis has production credits on Emmy-nominated documentary “Crips and Bloods: Made in America,” and is working on a documentary called “Sole Man” for ESPN.
== For as much as ESPN loaded up on Duke basketball games the last few weeks, as well as special documentary that revisited the entire career of coach Mike Krzyzewski, the first opportunity to capture his somewhat elusive 1,000th career victory falls instead into the lap of Fox, which has its Big East contract wrapped around this game. Sunday’s Duke-St. John’s meeting (Channel 11, 11 a.m.) at Madison Square Garden even includes Coach K going up against a former ESPN game analyst in coach Steve Lavin. Another former UCLA coach, Ben Howland, is part of the Fox studio coverage from L.A. with Kevin Burkhardt, Donny Marshall and Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski, a former Duke player and assistant under Krzyzewski. Gus Johnson and Jim Jackson call the game with Molly McGrath on the sidelines. The Fox Sports GO app also has fixed up a “Coach K Cam” focused on Krzyzewski available to those who use the contraption. Meanwhile, Bill Raftery did a sit-down with Coach K that will serve as the network’s half-hour lead-in, but airs Friday at 2 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
Fox landing this game is quite accidental in the grand scheme of ESPN’s maneuverings to capture this moment. ESPN or ESPN2 had carried the three games leading into Duke-St. John’s, and, looking at the last 12 games of Duke’s regular season schedule after this one, ESPN/ESPN2 is scheduled to do 10 of them, with one taken CBS (vs. Notre Dame on Sat., Feb. 7) and another on the ACC Network. ESPN also has the ACC post-season tournament.
== ESPN Films and NFL Films has combined to produce a piece called “Keepers of the Streak,” about four photographers who have worked all 48 Super Bowls to date, airing Friday at 4 p.m. on ESPN (with a re-air on Saturday at 9 a.m. on Channel 7). John Biever, Walter Iooss, Mickey Palmer and Tony Tomsic are the veterans of Super-sized photos, as renowned photographer Neil Leifer directs and chronicles the project.
“Having spent a good portion of my life on the sidelines photographing NFL football, nobody can appreciate more than I just how incredible this streak is,” said Leifer. “Making this film was truly a labor of love for me as I have known these photographers for at least 50 years and understand how difficult it is to have accomplished what they have done and continue to do.”
It’s also kind of crazy to think this documentary comes out as Sports Illustrated decides to lay off its entire staff of photographers.
Our curiosity would lead us to wanting to know more about the dwindling number of sports writers who have covered the previous 48 games — starting with the first one retroactively called Super Bowl I at the L.A. Coliseum in January, 1967 — and plan to be there for No. 49? And where can we hear their stories?
As of 2006, there were four of them — the Newark Star-Ledger’s Jerry Izenberg, Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald, Jerry Green of the Detroit News, and former Star-Ledger writer Dave Klein. The L.A. Times’ Bob Oates has been the fifth member. He died at age 93 in 2009 having covered 39 in a row. By 2011 it was down to three and stayed that way in 2014 as Pope missed the one in New York, not among the 6,329 media members who had credentials to SB XLVIII.
In a 2005 interview with the Florida Times-Union, Pope was asked: Of those in your group who have covered every Super Bowl, which will end up with the longest streak? He replied: “You would have to ask God.”
Pope was also asked if he ever nearly missed a game.
“Not really, although I did miss the kickoff at IV. Jim Murray and I had behaved ourselves all week, but Saturday night we overserved ourselves in the press room — back then the media coverage was much smaller, and it was friendlier and more fun. Anyway, Jim and I and Blackie Sherrod and a few others had a fine time in the press room, and Jim and I overslept Sunday morning. I met Jim in the hotel lobby and we got a cab to old Tulane Stadium, but had to walk a mile or so to the stadium. Somehow I had injured my arm the night before — possibly from thinking I could fly from one level to another on a staircase in the Fairmount Hotel — and I was having trouble carrying both a briefcase and a portable typewriter. So Jim insisted he carry my typewriter, which I considered the essence of irony since I never could have carried his typewriter. As we struggled closer to the stadium, I said, ‘My God, we’re going to miss the kickoff,’ and Murray said the truest thing I’ve ever heard around a Super Bowl: ‘Hey, Eddie, if you’ve seen one kickoff, you’ve seen them all.’ We got there about halfway through the middle of the first quarter, and he was right.”
== A clip below that HBO didn’t include in its “Real Sports” HBO portrait of NBC’s Cris Collinsworth, but posted online instead, allowing him to explain to Mary Carillo what he thought of the moment when he had to replace John Madden on the network’s NFL telecasts as the lead analyst (a job that includes doing the upcoming Super Bowl):
== If ESPN was taking its own advice, it wouldn’t over-think how to promote Sunday’s coverage of the NFL Pro Bowl. Instead it has been running promos with alumni captains Cris Carter (an ESPN employee) and Michael Irvin with the tagline “Don’t Overthink It” in how the draft the two rosters. ESPN says its ad campaign was developed in collaboration with creative agency Wieden + Kennedy New York. They must all be proud. ESPN’s Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Lisa Salters will call the Pro Bowl (Sunday, 5 p.m.) with a promised booth appearance by Frank Caliendo — if only to crack Gruden up with his impersonation of him, to his face.
== ESPN may also be overthinking its NBA schedule. It announced Thursday that it would add the Lakers game at Staples Center hosting Oklahoma City on Sunday, March 1 at 3:30 p.m., co-existing with the TWC SportsNet coverage. This replaces the previously scheduled Lakers-Knicks game from New York that was to have been on Super Bowl Sunday at 11 a.m. on ESPN.
== YouTube programming may be the 2015 answer to what was once the Lingerie Bowl during your upcoming Super Bowl halftime entertainment.
== Sports Illustrated wondered if we were in a “golden age” of sports films, based on “Foxcatcher” coming out in 2014 … but if looking ahead to 2015, it’s not real golden.
== “Manny: Untold Story of Boxer Manny Pacquiao,” an hour-and-a-half documentary on the boxer’s life, opens in theaters Friday but is also available via video on demand for $6.99 the same day. Liam Neeson narrates the piece directed by Ryan Moore, with the help of Leon Gast (who did “When We Were Kings”). It debuted at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival. More info at this link.
== The headline says: “The Dodgers’ TV situation is likely to be unchanged for the 2015 season” Unchanged? Meaning, no SportsNet L.A. all season? Well, not really, despite this simplistic rewrite of the L.A. Times story from a week ago that really didn’t shed much light past Opening Day and only had Dodgers ownership concerned.
And if they were so concerned, why haven’t they taken ownership in fixing the issue?
== As the PGA Tour begins the weekend of the Humana Challenge in La Quinta on Golf Channel, we’re reminded that the network celebrated its 20th anniversary last week, chronicled here by the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson.
== NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Figure Skating championships in Greensboro, N.C., includes the pairs’ free skate and free dance (Saturday, noon, Channel 4), the ladies’ free skate (Saturday, 8 p.m., Channel 4, delayed) and the men’s free skate (Sunday, 1 p.m., Channel 4). Terry Gannon hosts it with Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir commentating. The network also said Thursday that Lipinski and Weir would take their show to Glendale, Ariz., for Super Bowl XLIX pre-game show coverage to give us “their unique take on the big game and events surrounding it.”
== Not sure if Richard Sherman is tuning in, or out, on Jim Rome during these commercials. Reaction?
We already know what the mother of Comedy Central’s “@Midnight” host Chris Hardwick thinks of Rome. She said it on TV the other night, so it must be true (at the 2:44 mark).
== Greg Anthony’s suspension from CBS and Turner for the rest of the NCAA basketball season has led to speculation as to who might replace him for the upcoming March Madness run by both networks. Bill Raftery? Hardly. Why not Reggie Miller? The Final Four was on TBS in 2014, and will be again this March. But in 2016, the championship game is on TBS, with the Final Four on CBS.
Anthony replaced Clark Kellogg in the main analyst role before the 2014 season. Steve Kerr, who left to coach the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, was not going to be replaced in ’15. Jim Nantz remains the main play-by-play man.
== It doesn’t have the Pac-12 Network, or SportsNet L.A., but DirecTV has announced the addition of the Longhorn Network, starting Wednesday, because of a larger agreement between the satellite dish company and the Walt Disney Company. You can find it on Channel 677 for those who have the sports pack. The channel launched in 2011.
== Curling? Yup, curling. NBCSN and Universal Sports Network has decided to go with “Curling Night in America,” launching Friday at 8 p.m. with the first of six episodes on the first U.S. Curling Grand Prix circuit. The format is eight international teams, comprised of four men’s and four women’s teams from rinks in the U.S., China, Japan and New Zealand. The event took place from Dec. 4-6 last year in Blaine, Minn.
== The 24th annual Southern California Sports Broadcasters awards luncheon takes place Monday at the Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake. Tickets for $75 to see Pete Arbogast inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame can be purchased at the door. The program begins at 11:45 a.m.
== A reminder that the one-man play Dick Enberg wrote about his former NBC college basketball partner Al McGuire will be revived for two nights, Feb. 9-10, at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. Enberg and actor Cottor Smith will do a Q-and-A with the audience after each performance.
Dan Patrick earlier this month did his own Q-and-A with Enberg for his radio show: