Sports media notes version 06.07.17: Chargers strike twice with surprise radio broadcaster picks, and more

What’s worth posting before the weekend rolls in:

Josh Lewin, left, and Nick Hardwick, working for the Chargers in 2016. (Photo: www.chargers.com)

== Several layers of surprises unfolded with the Chargers’ decision, in concert with new media partner iHeart, to reconfigure the radio broadcast team heading into their first year back in L.A. this fall.
The formal announcement came Monday morning: Matt “Money” Smith had been slotted into the play-by-play role and Nick Hardwick was returning as the analyst.
As a result, Josh Lewin, doing play-by-play for the franchise the last 12 years, and now based in San Diego with his wife so he could near his new football and basketball radio job with UCLA, has been replaced.

Also for the record, Lewin says: “I understand and respect their desire to brand the broadcast with an established L.A. voice, and they made the perfect choice with Money. He’s a quick study and great talent, and he’s also a friend. I will do whatever I can to help him and the team move forward.
“The Chargers will always be part of who I am.  I was honored and thrilled to have served them and their fans for all that time, and I hope I helped create some happy memories for people to enjoy. That’s what this job is all about, capturing excitement and stamping the memorable moments. I wish the team and their supporters nothing but the best always.”
However, Lewin is said to be more frustrated that he was not asked for input on how he might overcome some physical logistics that dictate he wouldn’t be available to do appearances in L.A. this summer — he continues his job on New York Mets radio, every April-to-October since 2012.
An industry source told us: “I think Josh is surprised that the train left the station without him. I know he would have loved the chance to state his case for why he and the team should have all grown old together. Regarding the Chargers, he was loyal to a fault.”
The Chargers’ decision makers don’t want to paint this as a Smith-over-Lewin choice, or that one was leveraged over the other.
But their way of thinking hinges on that they want someone in Southern California to do appearances, work in their studios on digital programming for the team’s website and host a half-hour shoulder programming on KABC-Channel 7 as part of the team’s exhibition season broadcasts.
(Spero Dedes and Dan Fouts will do those three of the four broadcasts on Aug. 13 and  20 in Carson and Aug. 31 at San Francisco).
Smith, an iHeart employee on his weekday afternoon-drive show with Petros Papadakis on KLAC-AM (570), checks off those boxes. He also has national NFL play-by-play experience for Compass Media Network radio and does studio work for the Culver City-based NFL Network.
The Chargers games set for a simulcast on KFI-AM (640) and KYSR (ALT 98.7) are part of the iHeart L.A. family.
Smith, living in Los Alamitos and close to the team’s Costa Mesa facilities and their new temporary home at StubHub Center in Carson, was one of many who didn’t think the team would replace Lewin when moving up from San Diego.
“I love him, and he’s a great guy; it was my impression that he would stick around,” said Smith. “Then iHeart signed up, and I thought if they were going to make a change, I might have had a shot based on knowing people there and knowing they’ve heard my work.”
That would include some fill-in roles on the Pac-12 Network and Fox’s NFL regional coverage. With Compass, Smith did up to three Chargers national radio broadcasts a season.

Tuesday afternoon, A.G. Spanos, the Chargers’ president of business operations who oversees marketing, sales, PR and digital media, called Lewin a “complete professional and he did a great job for us, calling some of the most memorable games in our history. He’s part of the Chargers’ family. The door is always open for him as he has this hectic schedule and is in high demand — because he’s worth it.
“But we had a lot good options, and I think the more we learned about Matt, he was uniquely positioned to fill this roll. With all the programming we have planned, Matt’s location in L.A. full time fits us as we go into this new market. Listening to what folks are saying and evaluating all the parts, the stars just lined up for Matt. For a city as diverse as L.A., he has a skill set that’s equally as diverse and a knack for connecting with L.A. sports.”
The Chargers’ move somewhat parallels what the Lakers have with radio play-by-play man John Ireland also doing his weekday afternoon sports-talk show with Steve Mason on the team’s flagship station, KSPN-AM (710).
It means a daily dialogue of the team — good and bad — which is something Smith knows about as he did Lakers pre-and post-game show for KLAC-AM several years ago before they switched stations.
“If you’re complementary, they call you a homer; if you take some shots, then …” said Smith. “I told the Chargers I won’t be mean and malicious but I won’t sugar-coat anything either. The team just said to be fair, which is perfectly fine for me.

“I’ve always loved being involved with a team,” Smith said. “When the announcement was made, I wasn’t ready for how big a job it is in the eyes of others. I spent about 3 1/2 hours (Monday) responding to Twitter and more than 2,000 messages. You don’t realize how much you’re a connection to the people and team and that’s very cool and exciting.”
In an interesting twist, newly named Chargers vice president of public relations Josh Rupprecht is together with Smith. When Rupprecht was the UCLA athletic department director of communications, he championed Smith to be hired as the new UCLA play-by-play voice last summer as the spot became open when Bill Roth decided to move back East after one season.
Lewin won out over Smith and others, as Bruins’ rights holder IMG had a larger say in the hiring.
Rupprecht is a former Lakers communications employee who has known Smith for many years and Smith expects Rupprecht had “a major part” in him getting this Chargers position.
And then there’s former Chargers center Hardwick, who not so long ago was talking about he was “not interested” in joining the team’s move north because “I’m no longer a Chargers fan” after they left San Diego, who somehow circled back, reconnected with the team’s front office, explained himself, and will keep his gig.
The Chargers and Hardwick are framing it as a case where Hardwick was simply showing his “passion and authenticity” in his blow-up. Now that things have settled down, he has reconsidered, and the team is apparently all OK with it.
“Emotions were very high and raw (when the team decided to move) and he was on the radio at the time that morning,” said Spanos. “I reached out to him, and my brother (John, the team’s president of football operations) and my dad (Dean, the team’s president and CEO). “Nick can speak better about the process he went through but we are excited to have him back. He’s great at what he does, and he knows the team inside and out.”
Hardwick told the San Diego Union Tribune on Monday: ““I’m just really thankful that my family accepted me back, as a former player, and one of the alumni, as a family member who lashed out. I was emotional, I was upset, I was scared. I was confused by the whole situation.”
Money — the kind you put in your bank account, not the investment in your new broadcast partner — wasn’t a factor, Hardwick added: “A lot of soul-searching went into it, a lot of reflection.”
Hardwick, a member of the Chargers’ 50th Anniversary team, also was appreciative of Lewin’s impact on his broadcasting start as it began in 2015 as a sideline reporter.
“Josh was so good for my career,” said Hardwick, who also co-hosts a morning sports-talk show for iHeart’s KLSD-AM (1360) XTRA Fox Sports in San Diego. “We spent a lot of hours not just at the game but doing boot-camp type work and letting me know about the business. He really allowed me to succeed in my first year in the broadcast booth.”
Ultimately, Spanos and senior VP and chief marketing officer Ken Derrett gave final approval of the change from the Chargers’ side while iHeartMedia senior VP of sports Don Martin and iHeartMedia market president Kevin LeGrett were on the radio side of the partnership.

NEWSWORTHY

== A three-part, five-hour ESPN “30 for 30” project called “Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies” begins with the first two episodes airing back to back on Tuesday, June 13, at 5 p.m., with the finale on the next night at 5 p.m., all on ESPN. Ice Cube and Donnie Wahlberg narrate, with Jim Podhoretz as the director and Jonathan Hock as the exec producer. The trailer is at this link.

== Documentarian Charlie Minn, who in December 2014 put together a piece called “Voice of the King: The Bob Miller Story,” an 80-minute piece that got a theatrical release, has a special screening of it again Wednesday at the Laemmle NoHo 7 in North Hollywood ( 5240 Lankershim Blvd.) at 7 p.m., where Miller is scheduled to attend and take questions afterward. Minn says the reason for the showing is simple: “It’s just to honor Bob’s career,” he said.
And a shoutout to KABC: The doc might be new to you, but …

== Fox Sports has added former NFL Senior VP of officiating Dean Blandino as another “rules analyst” for the network’s college football and NFL coverage this fall, joining Mike Pereira. The two began working together at the NFL office in 1998.

== NBC’s coverage of the French Open finals, with Ted Robinson, John McEnroe and Mary Carillo, go with the women’s championship Saturday and the men on Sunday, both at 6 a.m. on Channel 4. The women’s semifinals are on tape-delay Thursday at 11 a.m., but the men are live Friday at 8 a.m. on NBCSN.

== ESPN coverage of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field championships from Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., includes the men’s finals on Friday (5:30 p.m., ESPN) and women’s finals on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPN). Semifinals coverage starts Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

== NBC reports that Monday’s Game 4 of the Pittsburgh-Nashville Stanley Cup Final had 5.737 million viewers, up 34 percent over last year’s Game 4 (Pittsburgh-San Jose), which seems pretty impressive since neither Pittsburgh (23) nor Nashville (29) are a Top 20 TV market size wise. Research shows it was the second-most Game 4 on record (since 1994) when NBC had Boston-Chicago in 2013 (6.459 million). Through four games, the Final is averaging 4.231 million viewers, up 24 percent from last year.

SPORTS ON FILM

== Among the sports-related entries in the L.A. Film Festival that begins Wednesday, June 14 and runs through June 22 are two documentaries from Mike Tollin – “Morningside 5” and “CounterPunch.”
The first is a piece where Tollin followed five members of the Morningside High of Inglewood team that was going after its second straight state basketball title in 1992, showing the ups and downs of life that came afterward with college, family, working and everything else. Stais Boseman was the star of that team who went to USC. Tollin made the original doc, “Hardwood Dreams” in 1993 and a follow up called “Hardwood Dreams: Ten Years Later” in 2004.
“Morningside 5” airs June 21 at 7 p.m. at the ArcLight Santa Monica 3 and is hosted by ESPN Films.
“CounterPunch” (trailer above) follows three boxers in three chapters of their career who are determined to turn around the fate of the sport. “CounterPunch” airs at the L.A. Film Festival on Thursday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the ArcLight Culver City 4 before debuting on Netflix on Friday.
Others worth noting:
“The Classic” (Thursday, June 15, 8:15 p.m., ArcLight Santa Monica 8) about the battle of East L.A. football schools Garfield and Roosevelt by director Billy McMillin.
“Roller Dreams” (June 18, 12:10 p.m. ArcLight Santa Monica 8) about roller dancing in Venice in the 1980s.
“Skid Row Marathon” (June 17, noon, ArcLight Santa Monica 8) about how L.A. Superior Court judge Craig Mitchell started a running club at the Midnight Mission to empower those fighting their way out of homelessness.
“Two Four Six” (June 19, 8:50 p.m., ArcLight Culver City 3) about Haitian basketball prospect Pierre Valmera who now mentors players in his native country.
Tickets are most often $17 purchased on line. More info: www.lafilmfestival.com

LINKS WORTH LOOKING AT:

== Is Hank Williams Jr. singing an NFL theme song again really that big a deal?
== ESPN PR is ready for Kenny Mayne’s return in Bristol … co-anchors beware.
== Wasn’t sure if this Q&A in Marie Claire on Rachel Nichols wasn’t so much about her but about the author trying to compare herself to her. Count how many “I”s are in the first couple of paragraphs.
== The Hollywood Reporter has info on an HBO project about the Jerry Sanduski/Penn State scandal, with Al Pacino playing the role of Joe Paterno.
== The HR also has another Q&A with Hank Azaria as he talks more “Brockmire” and how Season 2 will have more of Joe Buck included in the storyline. “Joe in particular was like a virtuoso (in the first season). We were shocked. We wrote a lot for him, and were like ‘I hope he can do it, we’ll see.’ We designed it all to be fairly cut-able if it didn’t work, but we ended up keeping everything because he, no pun intended, knocked it out of the park over and over again. Joe’s gotten so busy, as we all know, that we weren’t so sure we’d be able to get him schedule-wise on there. So the plan B was to hire an actor to play a Joe Buck-type. We were thinking the upside to that is, ‘It’s a bummer if we don’t get Joe, cause that’s so cool, but it won’t be so bad to have a professional actor come in and doing that.’ I swear, within two scenes we were like, ‘No professional actor we would have hired would have been anywhere near as good as Joe is being in this.’ The guy’s got genuine chops, it’s amazing.”
== Jay Privman of The Daily Racing Form and Ed McNamara of Newsday are honroed by the New York Racing Association.

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