Sports media notes version 07.19.17: The Best of times, the worst … we’ve seen how this ends

What’s worth posting at this point in time leading into the weekend:

There’s a sweet, silly and, in context, rather sad scene in the recent 2017 movie “T2 Trainspotting,” the sequel to the original 20 years later, with Ewan McGregor, Kelly Macdonald and Johnny Lee Miller. They are reliving a well-told urban legend about Manchester Untied soccer star George Best, but it ultimately leads into the question: Where did it all go wrong?
The question continues to be asked, but perhaps it has more clarity.
“George Best: All By Himself” makes its U.S. TV debut on ESPN on Thursday at 5:30  p.m., strategically leading into the network coverage of Manchester United vs. Manchester City friendly held in Houston (7 p.m., ESPN).
A short scan of YouTube will turn up previous BBC documentaries done on the subject, including “George Best: The Belfast Boy,” and “The Best Intentions: The Story of George Best.
But what sets director Daniel Gordon’s effort apart from those is more in-depth footage of Best, especially with interviews where he acknowledges his own shortcomings when it comes to dealing with drinking, depression and stress due to media coverage.
Here’s the trailer:

Gordon, speaking Tuesday from England, said that while he never saw Best play in person, only through videos, he had a chance to work with him at Sky Sports some 20 years ago and “was aware of his legend and his play … and also what brought him down. What I guess attracted me to this is I never felt the story was told properly. There are plenty of TV documentaries that dealt with maybe one or two elements, but never really examined the darker side.
“As a kid, I would see him as glamorous and sexy, but never really understood.”
Most of the piece, of course, deals with the England version of Best, the ManU star at age 17, former Footballer of the Year, known as El Beatle … but one who always was his worst enemy.
In 1976, tired of the British media coverage and recovering from a breakdown, Best came to the U.S. and accepted a job for three seasons to play for the L.A. Aztecs of the North American Soccer League, with home games at the Rose Bowl. It helped that Elton John was a co-owner of the team and could help with any culture change.
Best scored 23 goals in 54 games from ’76 to ’78, but ran himself out of town as the team traded him and his issues to Fort Lauderdale (two more seasons), which then let him go to the San Jose Earthquakes (1980).
During Best’s L.A. existence, he discovered the party and drinking scene of Hermosa Beach, in particular gatherings at the old Fat Face Fenners Falloon on Hermosa Ave., just south of the pier. Soon he and some of his friends decided: If we’re making this place rich and famous by spending all our money here, why not open our own bar?
They launched Bestie’s Bar and Restaurant, just north of the pier, also on Hermosa Ave., which, aside from late-night carousing, it also became a hangout for those who wanted to eat bangers and mash and watch early morning overseas soccer games on these new satellite dishes it had in place.
“I can understand why (he would buy the bar), and it’s a classic thing as a bloke to have such a place and plaster it full of your memorabilia, but in hindsight and in context, that’s the craziest idea,” said Gordon. “Why would you want to do it? But it was the 1970s. It was just a few years removed from when he was a saint at Manchester and it was enamoring to have money and disposable income. George is in the club! Eveyrone may have a suit and tie but he could walk in with a tie-dyed T-shirt. And he continued to do that into his late 50s.”

George Best, 1976 (Colorsport/Stewart Fraser)

Through interviews with his two former wives, and former players, agents, teammates and media people who have spoken about Best in the past but perhaps not as much in depth, we realize the title comes from first-wife Angie Dangerfield meeting George Best for the first time. She thought he had invited her to a party, so she arrived all dressed up. As she met him at a bar, “he was all by himself.” She asked why he was here in Hermosa when he could have the same sort of beach lifestyle in perhaps Spain. He said it was because the media couldn’t find him here and “that was what made him the happiest.”
Former agent Bill McMurdo says that Best “had this habit of going off the rails when things were in the good times,” not just in bad times.
What always sold him to another team was the he could always produce a moment of magic on the field. The promise of magic always followed Best — in particular, a stellar goal scored while in San Jose in 1981 that some believe was the greatest they’ve ever seen.
As Best ironically won the NASL “Budweiser Goal of the Year” for it, he celebrated by going on a 22-day drinking binge after many thought he had cleaned himself up.
“I feel we let him down,” says a friend, Malcoml Wagner. “We needed someone to say, ‘Let’s do this.’ There was no one he respected enough with the right plan.”
The pressure from the UK media, especially the constant tabloid headlines, were both intoxicating and detrimental to Best’s life. The climax was where the exclusive rights to Best on his deathbed were sold as a “world exclusive,” with his agent taking the photograph and later saying he regretted doing so. It was the last photo taken of him alive.

ESPN

Gordon wanted to document how Best was one of the first athletes to really get the saturated tabloid media coverage.
“And right to the end, the tabloids pursued him and tortured him,” said Gordon. “But he always looked at is as if, if they’re going to print the story, you might as well cooperate. But there was a real hypocrisy there. Maybe he didn’t always want the attention, but when he didn’t get it, he craved it. Such a paradox. He wanted to be left alone and remembered for what he did. But he struggled. It’s a cautionary tale, but it’s been repeated a lot since then.”
Since Gordon released the film in 2016 in Europe, and the “Trainspotting” sequel came afterward, there was no way to include even a reference to it in “All by Himself.” But Gordon understood how that antidote about Best had been famous about him, but “no one knows the truth .. the place and the numbers change. You just have to remember the punchline: Where did it all go wrong, George?
“And his quotes are everywhere like that. There’s even a popular song, ‘Spirit in the Sky’ (a one-hit wonder from 1969 that is still used at sporting events and in pop culture) where the lyrics were changed when it’s sung on bars from ‘When I die and they lay me to rest, gonna lie on the pitch with Georgie Best.’ It may seem funny in a drinking culture, and you laugh at it, but if you only knew what what drinking did to him.”
Reairs of “George Best: All by Himself” after Thursday’s debut are tentatively scheduled for Saturday (3:30 a.m., ESPN2), July 29 (3 a.m., ESPN2) and August. 27 (noon, ESPN2)

SOCCER

== The FS1 lineup for coverage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup this week as Rob Stone and Alexi Lalas are in the L.A. Fox studios with Aly Wagner, Fernando Fiore and rules analyst Dr. Joe Machnik:
= John Strong, Landon Donovan, Stu Holden and Jenny Taft have the U.S.-El Salvador quarterfinal game from Philadelphia on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Keith Costigan and Eric Wynalda have Costa Rica-Panama in the other Philadelphia quarterfinal at 3 p.m.
= JP Dellacamera, Brad Friedel and Francisco X. Rivera call Mexico vs. Honduras in the Thursday quarterfinal from Glendale, Ariz., at 7:30 p.m., after Glenn Davis and Cobi Jones call Jamaica-Canada at 4:30 p.m., both on FS1.
FS1 has the semifinal from Arlington, Tex., on Saturday at 6 p.m. as well as at the Rose Bowl on Sunday at 6 p.m. No announcements yet as to what broadcast groups will be calling those games or the final on July 26 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

BASEBALL

== ESPN says it will add the Dodgers’ Aug. 6 game in New York against the Mets to its Sunday Night Baseball schedule.

GOLF

== NBC plans “the most live hours from a major”– about 50 of them — when it tackles the 146th British Open, beginning early Thursday morning. A reaction from the network for losing its coverage of the USGA events to Fox? Perhaps a bit of oversell on this, but its to the viewers’ benefit.
NBC plans to be live
One method to this madness is using its split-screen commercial breaks (with audio) all four days.
The NBC broadcast crew starts with Mike Tirico (featured in the NYT last Sunday) as the host (he has done it for 21 straight years, going back to his ESPN days) as well as Terry Gannon and Dan Hicks; former champions Johnny Miller, Mark O’Meara, Nick Faldo, Justin Leonard and David Duval as analysts with Colin Montgomerie; manning the towers will be Gary Koch, Peter Jacobsen, Frank Nobilo, Steve Sands, Curt Byrum and Tom Abbott, on the course with David Feherty (who will also have his new “Theory of Fehertivity” vignettes) is Roger Maltbie, Jim Mackay, Mark Rolfing, Notah Begay, Jerry Foltz and Billy Ray Brown; Jimmy Roberts and Todd Lewis doing interviews with Sands, and even the implement ion of “The Men in Blazers Show” co-hosts Michael Davies and Roger Bennett for some feature stuff, mostly on Golf Channel’s shows.
Golf Channel also adds about 30 hours of news coverage and starts its live event coverage Wednesday and Thursday night for the first two rounds at 10:30 p.m. PDT/6:30 a.m. local time, running through to 1 p.m. PDT/9 p.m. local time. It also has third round coverage starting early Saturday at 1:30 a.m., leading into NBC’s coverage live at 4 a.m. through to noon PDT (replayed at 1:30 p.m. Saturday).
Sunday morning, Golf Channel is also live from 1-to-4 a.m., with NBC taking over from 4 to 11 a.m.
DirecTV also has is “mosiac” that has featured holes, the marquee group and other leaderboard features.
Also: NBC Universo will air Sunday’s final round in Spanish with Edgar Lopez and Miguel Gurwitz.

ALSO

== Chris Marlowe, Kevin Wong and Dain Blanton have the NBCSN coverage of either the men’s or women’s live final from the AVP Hermosa Open on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
== Final stages of the Tour de France — not to be confused with the new HBO mockumentary “Tour de Pharmacy” — come together for NBC and NBCSN leading to Sunday’s Stage 21 (7:30 a.m., NBCSN). The Saturday Stage 20 is both on NBCSN at 4 a.m. and then on KNBC-Channel 4 at noon.  Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen call it for their 32nd Tour together.
== It’s not as if WorldTeam Tennis will get a bump in viewership based on interest generated by the recent two weeks of Wimbledon, but the ESPN3 coverage that started this week and runs through the Aug. 5 final (on ESPN2) has some appeal in that it worked a deal to have players wearing wireless microphones during action for the first time. A Quantum5X QT-5100 PlayerMic has been created to be used through this run, which includes Thursday’s Washington Kastiles-San Diego Aviators match that will have Bob and Mike Bryan playing doubles for the Kastiles and a Monday match where Venus Williams joins the Kastiles against Sloan Stephens playing for Philadelphia. There is also the Orange County Breakers, with Maria Sharapova and Steve Johnson, on the rotating roster playing out of the Palisades Tennis Club.

IN PASSING

== Obits on New York sportscaster Bob Wolff from N.Y. Newsday and the New York Times, along with “an appraisal” by the NYT’s Richard Sandomir.
Wolff, who died at 96, was the only sportscaster to call play-by-play of championships in all four major North American professional team sports. He was also cited by the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest consecutive run as a broadcaster at 78 years — from 1939 on WDNC Radio when a student at Duke University to 2017 when he did a sports commentary on News 12 Long Island and hosted the Con Edison Scholastic Sports Award program on WHUD Radio in Westchester.
His link to Vin Scully: They shared a Nov. 28 birthday. Wolff was born seven years before Scully.
One more great remembrance piece posted at Knicks.com by Dennis D’Agostino, now an L.A.-based author and statistician: “Bob Wolff was, without question, the most accessible big name that sportscasting has ever known. There is no way to tell how many young people he mentored, how many fledgling announcers whose careers he guided, or, most important, how many thousands of on-the-street fans he would meet, chat up, share his life with.”

LINKS WORTH LOOKING AT

== “Is Your Obsession With Watching Live Games What’s Ruining Sports Channels?” And if your aunt’s daughter was your uncle’s nephew …
== “Media coverage of female athletes is getting more sexist,” according to ThinkProgress.com
== Will Michael Phelps defeat a shark in a 100-meter swim? “Hell no,” says Ryan Lochte. In that case, we’ll be on Phelps when it airs Sunday on Discovery Channel at 8 p.m.

OUR FAVORITE TWEETS OF THE WEEK

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