Weekly media notes version 03.24.16: A Champion move by ESPN, and we’ll see if TWC, HBO come out as champs with SNLA, ‘Hard Knocks’ plays

What’s planned for Sunday’s media feature:

IMG_5550Bill Walton.
New book.
Out this week.
“Back From The Dead.”
Or as the lyrics go in “Touch of Grey” by the Grateful Dead: “I will get by, I will survive …”
We attempt to survive a Q&A.
Just to see where it goes.
With hopes that the book lives long and prospers. As well as Walton.

What’s worth posting here and now:

Cari Champion on the set of SportsCenter (Photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

Cari Champion on the set of SportsCenter (Photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

== No need to ask Cari Champion twice about whether she’d be intrigued by a return to Los Angeles as an ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor.
The 40-year-old out of Pasadena High who got an English degree from UCLA, where she also studied mass communications and wrote for the Daily Bruin, is heading back to L.A. as the co-host of a new bi-coastal 9 a.m. PDT/noon EDT show that she’ll continue to do with current co-host David Lloyd.
As Lloyd stays in Bristol, Conn., Champion will be in the LA Live studios starting April 5. Her last show in the ESPN East Coast studios is Friday, April 1.
“When Rob King (ESPN’s senior VP of ‘SportsCenter’) asked me if was interesting in moving to L.A. for this new coast-to-coast show, I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Champion said Thursday afternoon. “This is what I’ve always hoped to do.”
What makes the move even more special is allowing her to be closer to her 86-year-old grandmother, Estelle, who lives in West L.A. and is described by Champion as the biggest Lakers fan that exists.

Champion on the onsite set of SportsCenter during coverage of the 2016 college football national championship in Glendale, Ariz. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

Champion on the onsite set of SportsCenter during coverage of the 2016 college football national championship in Glendale, Ariz.
(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

Champion said her grandmother played basketball in the segregated South as a school girl, and when the family moved from Arkansas to Los Angeles, “she connected with the Lakers and growing up around her. It was a rite of passage to take the bus with her to the Forum and watch the Lakers and have her teach me the game. She taught me the game. So now this has come full circle.”
What makes this coast-to-coach version of “SportsCenter” work is acknowledging there are two different types of viewers for this particular episode: Ones who may still be getting up in the West and need a review of the night before, and those ready for lunch in the East and looking forward to the day ahead, as well as the news that has already happened.
“It’s all about updates and story-lines, conversation and making sure we cover all the topics and issues,” said Champion.
The former co-host/referee of ESPN2’s “First Take” also notes this show is “about conversation, not debate. This about talking to the viewers, now down at them, and having the freedom to be ourselves. There’s not a lot of prompter reading.”
The visual of Champion, who estimates that she stands about 6-foot-1 in her heels, and the 5-foot-8 Lloyd did make for some interesting TV as they both would be on the set mostly standing and talking together.
With the new setup, maybe they’ll actually get to have more eye-level contact from 2,000 miles apart.
“That’s the beauty of it, right?” laughed Champion.

Chaminade's Melissa Wright goes for a rebound against Sierra Canyon's Spencer Vinson and Shivon Ganther in the state regional semifinals. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Chaminade’s Melissa Wright goes for a rebound against Sierra Canyon’s Spencer Vinson and Shivon Ganther in the state regional semifinals. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

== Barry Tompkins and Casey Jacobsen (with Kelli Tennant) have the call on both of Saturday’s CIF State Open Division title games — the boys’ Chino Hills-Concord De La Salle contest at 8 p.m. and the girls’ Chaminade-Miramonte game at 6 p.m. — for TWCSportsNet.
With no conflicting programming from the Lakers or Galaxy, all 12 games in the Thursday and Saturday event will be on TWC SportsNet as well as on TWC Community Channel website.
On Saturday, Quis-Murphy-Shiller have Division IV girls (Antelope Valley-Cardinal Newman) and boys (Harvard-Westlake vs. Palma, noon), and Division II girls title games. Tompkins-Jacobsen-Tennant have Division II boys (Long Beach Poly-Junipero Serra, 4 p.m.) as well as the Open Divisions.
For the rest of the Thursday’s games, Steve Quis has the Division I boys (Crespi-Berkeley) and girls title games at 8 p.m. and 6 p.m. respectively, as well as the Division III boys championship, with Jacobsen and Tennant. Tompkins has the Division V boys (St. Bernard-St. Joseph Notre Dame, noon) and girls championships and the Division III girls title game (Village Christian-Eastside College Prep) with Mary Murphy (and Drew Shiller sidelines).

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski watches during a practice at Honda Center in Anaheim on Wednesday. Duke plays against Oregon tonight in the West Regional semifinals. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski watches during a practice at Honda Center in Anaheim on Wednesday. Duke plays against Oregon tonight in the West Regional semifinals. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

== We now resume the NCAA men’s basketball tournament already in progress:
= Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel (with Allie LaForce) is the team in Anaheim covering the West Regional semifinals and final, starting Thursday with Oklahoma-Texas A&M (4:30 p.m., TBS) and followed by Oregon-Duke (approx. 7 p.m., TBS).
(Did you know: LaForce, in her fourth year at this event on the Lundquist team, is married to Angels’ pitcher Joe Smith. And she won’t have to deal with UCLA’s Tony Parker).
Meanwhile, Jim Nantz, Grant Hill and Bill Raftery (with Tracy Wolfson) are in Louisville for the South finalists — Villanova-Miami (4 p.m., Channel 2) and Kansas-Maryland (approx. 6:45 p.m., Channel 2).
Friday’s games: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner (with Lewis Johnson) are in Chicago for the Midwest Regionals with Virginia-Iowa State (4 p.m., Channel 2) followed by Syracuse-Gonzaga (approx. 6:45 p.m., Channel 2). Brian Anderson and Steve Smith (with Dana Jacobson) are in Philadelphia for the East Regionals with Notre Dame-Wisconsin (4:20 p.m., TBS) and North Carolina-Indiana (approx. 7 p.m., TBS).
The two Elite Eight games on Saturday from the West and South air on Channel 2 at 3 and 5:30 p.m. The other two on Sunday from the Midwest and East on TBS at 3 and 5:30 p.m. (CBS, meanwhile, has the final of the Minnesota-Boston College NCAA women’s hockey final at 11 a.m.)

imrs.php== Craig Sager, the 62-year-old TNT sideline reporter who had been part of the NCAA tournament coverage a year ago, had this statement released on Tuesday if you missed it, related to the piece that HBO did on him for its current “Real Sports” episode:
“I’m grateful to HBO for telling my story and I’d like to thank everyone for their ongoing support.  I have acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive type of cancer. The typical prognosis is 3-6 months to live, but I would like to stress that is for a patient who is not receiving treatment.  Fortunately, I am receiving the best treatment in the world and I remain fully confident I will win this battle.  
“Again, I would like to thank everyone for your generosity and encouragement.  I sincerely appreciate it and it means so much to me and my family.  I look forward to continuing my work on the sidelines for Turner Sports.”

(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN)

(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN)

== Holly Rowe, the 49-year-old ESPN sideline reporter also in the recovery process from cancer, is with the team of Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke calling UCLA’s third-round game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament against Texas (Saturday, approx. 10:30 a.m., ESPN) in the Bridgeport, Conn., regional.
That regional final, if UCLA advances to likely play top-ranked UConn, would be Monday at 4 p.m. on ESPN with the O’Brien-Burke-Rowe team.
ESPN reports that the women’s first- and second-round games averaged 343,000 viewers, up 46 percent from a year ago but not quite where it was in 2013 (398,000). Los Angeles was not among the top 10 rated markets, which was led by Hartford, Conn. (a 2.0 average rating) and Louisville (1.0).

CN2xHugUEAAet5H== As for this latest development in the Time Warner Cable PR strategy in the distribution of the Dodgers’ SportsNet LA:
As we discussed this AM with Doug McIntyre on his “McIntyre In the Morning” KABC-AM (790) show, consider this is a situation where your toddler daughter is in tears because she bumped her elbow, even though there’s no apparent injury. You put a Hello Kitty bandage on it, kiss it for good luck, and she’s smiling again.
Dodgers fans without SportsNet LA access find themselves hopeful because a 30 percent reduction in the monthly rate of SportsNet LA, all hinging on this being Vin Scully’s final season, has been offered.
They need only to look at the response by AT&T/DirecTV in the immediate aftermath.
Silence.
Predictable silence. Why would it suddenly change?
This has been the company’s stance before and after it’s ginormous merger. It has no response. There are more deep-seeded issues here than just dropping a fee from $4.90 per subscriber to $3.50 as a token gesture. Is it a deal breaker? Keep wishing.
If you want to keep peeling back this onion: Check your monthly cable or dish bill. If you’ve gone paperless, this will probably go by you without much notice. There’s likely a charge in the $6.50 range for something called “broadcasting TV and sports programming surcharge.” It’s a rate the company can inflate or deflate as it wishes. No matter what it charges on one end for the channel, it can make up for on this charge if it wishes — based on the concept that all of today’s sports-related channels are increasing as rights fees with teams and leagues increase.
But that’s a whole other thing to get red in the face about.
Meanwhile, of course Scully has to have some embarrassment in being publicly dragged into this for any side of the argument. It’s probably the only thing everyone can agree on, as we’ve pointed out in columns about this subject back in 2014 as well as recently.
But without his retirement status, where would we have urgency?
On that note, Scully arrives in Glendale, Ariz., to call Good Friday’s Dodgers-Giants exhibition on SportsNet LA. As if the 86-year-old needs a warmup. He’ll then do the three Dodgers-Angels Freeway Series exhibitions next week prior to the regular-season opener in San Diego.

== More on that note: Yahoo!Sports writer Jeff Passan summarizes what’s happening here: “This is the free market at work. If there were enough demand to make it worth DirecTV or any other company’s while, they would subscribe to SportsNet LA. There isn’t, not yet, not at this price, no matter how much sweet talking the cabal does to make it seem like it’s on the right side. They’re simply businessmen frightened their business plan is about to blow up, and that will send anyone scrambling.”

== Why the Dodgers’ Spanish-language Hall of Famer Jaime Jarrin will apparently always be on call.

== It only took 11 seasons of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” NFL training camp show to get the Rams involved. Why? It should be obvious.
Process of elimination. And humiliation.
600x360-Hard-Knocks-Untitled-1They don’t have much to sell as far as compelling players, coaches or owners. Now they apparently do with the much-hyped news this week that they’ll be the focus of the five-episode docu-series that begins Aug. 9 and ends Sept. 6.
“This was the perfect team at the perfect time,” said NFL Films Coordinating Producer Ken Rodgers in a press release. “It’s such a historic moment in NFL history, and one that NFL Films hasn’t really documented in the past.”
Truth be known, the Rams were one of only six teams that were “eligible” to be on this series based on an agreement the NFL created in 2013. The others included  Oakland and San Diego. Then there was Jacksonville, Buffalo, New Orleans and Chicago.
The Rams and Saints were the two teams up for discussion at the NFL owners’ meetings this week before the decision was announced. The Rams appeared to have made the most compelling pitch to get themselves on it as a marketing tool.
Yawn.
If anything, it allows the Rams to promote something palatable:

Someone also figured out that while the cameras could be a distraction, the “past six teams to appear on the show have equaled or improved their record in the regular season after appearing on the show, and four teams went to the playoffs after being featured,” according to the team.
Some have noted that perhaps one of the more sell-able pre-storylines is following Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the assistant who was suspended all of 2012 for his role in the Saints’ “Bountygate” issue.
Too bad the Rams have already dumped Chris Long, the son of Fox’s Howie Long. He’d have been the star.
As a sidenote, NFL reporter Howard Balzer, whom we’re not even sure why he remains relevant while at a St. Louis radio station, decided to make some news by citing sources on his Twitter account who said back in 2014 the NFL “agreed not to have” the Rams on “Hard Knocks” if they drafted defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL draftee. The Rams supposedly said they didn’t want “Hard Knocks” with our without Sam. Balzar eventually posted the story on the station’s website.
Regardless of how this goes down, there’s already been a suggestion posted as what can be used as the opening montage:

 

== Suggested read: Scott Miller’s piece for BleachReport.com on the life and times of Tommy Hanson.
Also hop on this one posted by Dan LeBatard about how the U.S. baseball game in Cuba this week brought back a lot of painful memories.

== More Pac-12 Network live events this weekend worth noting:
= Ann Schatz and Tammy Blackburn call UCLA’s softball game against visiting Washington on Thursday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
= Kevin Barnett and Don Shaw are on USC’s men’s volleyball match at Stanford (Thursday, 7 p.m., only on Pac-12 L.A. regional)
= Kevin Danna and Chris Dorst have UCLA’s women’s water polo match at Cal Friday, 5 p.m.) and back home against Washington State (Saturday, 11 a.m.). The two also call Long Beach State’s women’s water polo match at Cal (Sunday, 2 p.m., Pac-12 L.A. regional).
= Jim Watson, Tom Feuer and Elizabeth Moreau have the USC “Cardinal and Gold Challenge” track and field meet against Ohio State, Florida and Texas on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
= Christian Miles and Kara Lentz have USC women’s lacrosse against visiting Oregon (Sunday, noon)

== Not to overlook the passing this week of Joe Garagiola, “a catcher who called a better game on TV,” according to the New York Times:

Getty Images

Getty Images

= A reflection from Vin Scully:
“I was very fortunate to know and work with Joe Garagiola. Boy did he surprise me as a broadcaster. Joe was always a funny and decent man, but he was a big surprise to me. When we got together in the booth, he was very serious. The part that surprised me was how well prepared he was for each and every telecast. Joe didn’t just rely on his experience as a player, but he did his homework, and all of us benefited from his knowledge and research.
“I will miss his laughter and his love for the game, but most of all, I will miss a deeply religious man who had a great sense of humor.”
(In 1988, The Los Angeles Times’ Jim Murray did a piece on how Scully and Gargaiola called a game … masterful … both the two of them, and the column … It was a pairing good enough to be spoofed on “Saturday Night Live” with Billy Crystal as Garagiola)

= From former NBC Sports colleague Bob Costas:
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“Joe Garagiola led a truly extraordinary American life. From growing up on The Hill in St. Louis with Yogi Berra, to getting four hits in a World Series game for his hometown team in 1946, to becoming one of the most prominent baseball broadcasters and popular television personalities of his time, and too much more to list.
“It’s not enough to merely say that Joe was a Hall of Fame baseball announcer, although he was. Beyond that, he had a genuine impact on the craft. He was among the first to bring a humorous, story-telling style to the booth. He didn’t fit any one category. He was a very good play-by-play man, but no matter his role, he was always both anecdotal and analytical.
“But Joe’s profile went beyond baseball. With his engaging personality and easy way with people, he wound up as the long-time co-host of TODAY and a frequent guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. He was versatile enough to also host game shows, the Rose and Orange Bowl parades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and even the Westminster Dog Show.
“I truly can’t think of anyone whose primary profession was sports broadcaster who did as many different things on a national basis; and was, at the peak of his career, any better known by sports fans and non-sports fans alike. He was also a passionate and warm-hearted man who it was my pleasure to know and call a friend.”

= A statement by Baseball Hall of Fame chair Jane Forbes Clark:
“The National Baseball Hall of Fame has lost a dear friend with the passing of Joe Garagiola, the Museum’s 2014 Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award winner and the 1991 Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence. The Board was so pleased to recognize Joe in 2014 as the third recipient of the Buck O’Neil Award for his lifelong dedication to enriching the game he so loved. Joe left an indelible impact on baseball and American culture, through his work as a beloved broadcaster and through his tireless efforts as one of sport’s most gracious humanitarians. Joe was one of baseball’s brightest ambassadors, beginning with his major league debut in 1946, displaying his love for the National Pastime at every opportunity throughout his life. We extend our condolences to his wife, Audrey, and the entire Garagiola family.”

It should not go unnoticed that Garagiola, after leaving NBC in 1988, spent one season calling TV games for the Angels in 1990 for SportsChannel L.A., with Reggie Jackson as the colorman (as Joe Torre also did KTLA Channel 5 play-by-play for the team). This was the one year after Bob Starr left and prior to Ken Wilson coming in with Ken Brett.

== And one last footnote:
= Our favorite Twitter post of the week — it’s not about semantics, it’s more proper labeling:

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