UPDATED: FRIDAY, 1 p.m.:
No weekly column in print or online for the LANewsGroup, but these items that have dashed across the high-speed sports wire may be worth examining, just for the record:
== You may not have noticed the subtle tribute that ESPN has been paying this week to senior vice president and director of news Vince Doria, who is retiring Friday after 23 years with the company. They’ve pulled out some of the “This is SportsCenter” commercials where Doria appeared as himself — including one (above) where he had to fire the Angels’ Rally Monkey.
Tough job. For Doria, and the chimp. No rally here.
The former Boston Globe sports editor and executive editor of The National Sports Daily decided to join the company in 1992, and served as executive producer for a couple of years on ESPN Classic. The best summation of what he’s meant to ESPN came from the company communications man Josh Krukewitz, who noted in a piece for the company website noting that Doria was part of launching the ESPY Awards, then helped get ESPN2 up and running.
But his most noteworthy contributions were in setting the tone for ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” making sure ESPNEWS did what it was supposed to do, and then, for the last 15 years, steer news coverage.
At a time when ESPN’s longtime heavyweight execs Al Jaffe and John Walsh have also recently retired, Doria’s departure signals another time to wonder where the network will go from here.
One of the things we respect about Doria: He was given a Twitter account, but never used it, he told Ed Sherman at Poynter.org.
“One of the things about social media is that there is the potential to make a reporter lazy,” Doria told Sherman. “I see all these stories based on tweets. The context is not fully understood. There’s no ability for follow-up questions. The current nature of media is if you have something, get it out there. It may not be fully vetted, but if it sounds interesting, let’s do a post. I’d like to see more context than here’s what an athlete tweeted last night.”
From his lips to our editors’ ears.
“We’re talking about an editorial and journalistic lodestar, a titan in his profession – the man who guided us through mighty accomplishments and through occasional choppy waters,” said ESPN’s Bob Ley. “And with the other side of his facile brain, he has fired a monkey on television … Clearly, a Renaissance man.”
== And then there’s Keith Olbermann, one of Doria’s delirious dilemmas over the many years, and maybe one who should reconsider his own use of Twitter.
I apologize for the PSU tweets. I was stupid and childish and way less mature than the students there who did such a great fundraising job.
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) February 24, 2015
Olbermann decided to tweet that out, which explains why ESPN decided it would be best to bench him for four days (excluding Monday) because of a Twitter fight he couldn’t win with Penn State students.
The news he created for ESPN.com was enough to merit (?) a piece on the front page of USA Today on Wednesday under the headline “Broadcasters Go Wild — Again,” tying him to another outbreak of stupidity by Fox New’s Bill O’Reilly.
Again, we know Olbermann often can’t get out of his own way, and it leads to more speculation that this could be the next beginning of the end in another career implosion.
This is the ying/yank package you get with the explosive genius and ESPN has to know this by now. You take the very good with the somewhat maddening stuff.
Although, you’d think they’d assign someone to at least babysit him, just to make sure he doesn’t play with matches.
Is Jack Haley around?
It’s more difficult for those of us who admire his work to watch this all from the sidelines, wondering if this could all break bad in this type of heightened media atmosphere. Did he pick a stupid fight to get involved with? We are … not surprised.
Is Olbermann really a “smug elitist” who may not be all that wrong about the Penn State students that he was criticizing? That’s giving him a little more credit on this.
Some are writing open letters to him in the media.
One would like him to cease and desist being an embarrassment to Cornell grads.
Another would just be grateful if he didn’t screw up this latest opportunity that ESPN has given him.
But this one was much more proactive. It came in the middle of January, from a Penn State grad who asked Olbermann to debate what problems he had with the Penn State situation. Apparently it never happened. Too bad.
Olbermann could always participate in that dance marathon that seems to help fight cancer with the Penn State fraternity and sorority kids. Or donate the salary the he supposedly made this week while not working.
Or just let it go.
This would be our simple open letter to KO:
“We’ve noticed that you’ve been using a photo of the late KTLA Channel 5 news reporter Stan Chambers as your Twitter avatar. I know you were quite fond of the legendary reporter when you worked together at the station many years ago. This is a nice tribute. So how about next time you react to something you read on Twitter, you think of it this way: What Would Stan Do? Maybe say a little prayer over that and see what happens.”
== Olbermann isn’t the reason why ESPN keeps losing viewers, is he? == One more ESPN star retiring Friday: Chuck Pagano, the net’s executive vice president of technology since 2005 and chief technology officer since 2011 for all of the Walt Disney Company. Under his leadership, the Los Angeles production center was built at LA Live.
“Quite simply, Chuck Pagano personifies ESPN – its entrepreneurial spirit, its creative passion and its focus on the people who make it all happen – and we would not be what we are today without him,” ESPN president John Skipper said about Pagano last April. “I am personally grateful for his contributions and insights, and I join all ESPNers in offering an enthusiastic thank you for all he has meant to our company.”
John Walsh, Vince Doria, Chuck Pagano retiring from ESPN. Lot of credit due to these guys for making the 4 letters what it is today.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 27, 2015
== An optimistic note about how ESPN’s L.A.-based Shelley Smith has been battling breast cancer the last four months — including shaving her long red locks — and with her daughter plans to participate in the March 7 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, hoping to raise $5,000.
== Considering what Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck wrote about Riviera Country Club this week in relation to how the field for the PGA’s Northern Trust Open came to its knees last weekend — “Riviera no longer has those kinds of glittering Hollywood connections, but that’s just as well. The course is the real star” — maybe someone will be paying attention and suggest making the course a place for a U.S. Open or PGA Championship site as we wrote in Monday’s editions.
== More Kobe Bryant exposure: He’s the featured guest with Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose for the “Grantland Basketball Hour” that has already made a couple of ESPN2 airings, but is also on Saturday, noon, Channel 7 — before the “Kobe Bryant’s Muse” 90-minute documentary finally premieres with back-to-back showing on Showtime (Saturday, 9-10:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.-midnight).
== As epic as the EPIX four-part series was covering the Kings-Sharks outdoor game in Santa Clara last week, we’re partial to this Super 8-filmed “home movie” piece by the “Kings Vision” crew that just posted.
== Another defection from KSPN-AM (710): Operations manager and on-air Lakers pregame host Dave Shore is leaving to become the new program director at Detroit’s WMGC-FM (105.1), the flagship home of the NBA’s Pistons.
== And what’s with all these open letters … like this one by the Huffington Post blogger Jeff Polman to Vin Scully (and the Dodgers, in particular) in hopes it speeds up the SportsNet LA-DirecTV negotiations? The Dodgers start playing exhibition games in Arizona on Wednesday, March 4. SportsNet L.A. will televise 31 games, but Scully will only do four of them — March 27 against San Francisco in Glendale, Ariz., and the three Freeway Series games against the Angels on April 2-3 in Anaheim and April 4 at Dodger Stadium. As if he needs the practice.
== The Angels’ spring training schedule on Fox Sports West (with some on Prime Ticket) includes 29 games from Arizona, starting Thursday against Milwaukee at noon. It includes games against the Dodgers on March 19 and March 28, plus the April 2-4 Freeway Series. Terry Smith and Jose Mota are on the call for all the Arizona-based games, until Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza jump in.
== The more Bill Walton talks, the more media he attracts, this time, SI.com, which expands a bit on the “Who’s Dave Pasch?” routine he was working on when we talked with him in the middle of January — actually, it was more about how Pasch survives week to week with Walton.
== If you haven’t had a chance to pick up the book, “Wooden & Me: Life Lessons from my Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help ‘Make Each Day Your Masterpiece,'” then author Woody Woodburn will be at the UCLA Store BookZone signing copies from 4-to-6 p.m. on Sunday prior to the UCLA-Washington State basketball game (6:30 p.m., Pauley Pavilion, Fox Sports 1, not with Walton, but with Kevin Burkhardt and Sean Elliott).
== What are people watching on the Pac-12 Network, if not football and men’s basketball? Try gymnastics. If they can actually access the channel, of course.
== We never really got a chance to see the Back 9 Network. And now it appears it’s too late.
== Check out a new series of short documentaries called “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports” that Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris has cranked out for ESPN starting Sunday at 6 p.m., following its coverage of the Lakers-Oklahoma City game. After these docs debut, they’ll be available on Grantland.com. One of the docs that will premiere on March 6 is called “Chrome,” about California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn, who explains why he let his emotions get the best of him after his horse lost the Triple Crown at the Belmont.
== On that note, the latest in the “30 for 30 Shorts” series called “An Immortal Man” tries to better explain how Ted Williams’ head has ended up in a cyrostasis facility in Arizona — and it actually makes a lot more sense now. The link to the 15 minute piece is here.
== An ESPN segment on Sunday’s “SportsCenter” looks at how University of Texas women’s basketball player Imani McGee-Stafford has found the power of poetry to get her through some tough times. McGee-Stafford is the daughter of former USC All-American Pam McGee and the sister of current Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee. A preview clip is at this link.