Media column version 01.30.15 — What are the odds NBC’s Al Michaels gets into compromising position with Super Bowl XLIX prop bets?

What will be in this week’s media column:

Already, some media TV types are expressing a disdain that deflated footballs are hijacking their Super Bowl conversations.

On Tuesday’s NFL Live ESPN studio show, Herm Edwards barked: “This is an embarrassment for the league. You’re talking 5,000 media members (the number of credentials issued by the NFL for this game). And we’re talking about a situation that happened about a football. We shouldn’t have to discuss this anymore.”

B7_iCpLCAAA5LeaESPN’s Tom Jackson added: “I am like the Patriots, I am tired of talking about it. I am through talking about it for the rest of the week.”

What if someone was putting money down that you would talk more about it all?

When NBC’s Al Michaels parked himself between Jimmy Kimmel and Edward Norton last Thursday and mentioned that he’d been given information that Vegas bookmaker Bovada.lv had a unique prop bet, his eyes lit up a bit.

“There’s a proposition that asks how many times will Michaels and (Cris) Collinsworth say ‘deflated balls’,” Michaels mentioned. “The over and under is 2-and-a-half. Bet the over. We can control that.”

Or can he?

We’re going to look more into that proposition, and others, in this week’s column.

What else we wanted to get to:

== How about the odds that Michaels can make it to every media outlet in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl?

Before he paid his latest visit with the BS Report  — taped last Friday, released this last Monday, appearing above — he logged in a piece with NRP’s “Fresh AIr” (Dave Davies in for Terry Gross) and endured Q-and-As with MMQB.com and Rich Eisen‘s smarm-cast.

david-feherty-al-michaels_t620Back in July, in his Brentwood home backyard, he invited David Feherty over for a chat — and that finally that aired on the “Feherty” Golf Channel show this past Monday, too. The same day, Michaels was on live with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, a day before he arrived on Dan Patrick’s show.

What did we miss?

By the way: If you’re not sure how to contact Michaels for your own private sit-down, dial some numbers on your telephone and follow this prompting:

== Michaels and Collinsworth were the clear-cut favorites on the final AwfulAnnouncing.com 2014 NFL announcer rankings. “Often times your fondness of an announcer boils down to whether you’d want to have a beer with them or not,” it stated. “Somehow in that environment, Michaels and Collisnworth still received almost 60% in ‘A’ votes … perhaps it’s fitting that Michaels and Collinsworth call another Super Bowl together this Sunday.”
In the same list, CBS’ No. 1 team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms landed at No. 10 (“Simms leads the world in giving his analysis of what just happened, then changing his mind once he sees the replay”), Fox’s No. 1 team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman coasted in at No. 6 (“Buck has won many of us former doubters over with his work that is more energetic and engaging”) and ESPN’s No. 1 team of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden was at No. 5 (” I like that Gruden stays authentic to who he is”).
All of which begs the question: Who could be at numbers 2, 3, 4, 7, 8 or 9? CBS’ Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts rank second. The rest you’ll have to look up.

== A profile on how Collinsworth preps for the Super Bowl is on the money, via the Wall Street Journal.

== More on the time and talent behind the NBC Super Bowl telecast, from USA Today.

== Need a live video stream of the game? Go here.

== The NFL Network’s Michael Irvin said it during the week-long buildup to the Super Bowl, about Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and his media interaction: “The more and more I look at him, the more and more I realize just how brilliant this guy is … Beast Mode understands the power and what he’s doing and he’s wearing the Beast Mode hat. That tells me you are using the media … He has figured it out.”

== Boycotting Skittles may be the thing to do, then. As if we ever ate the sugar-on-sugar candy anyway. Not everyone agrees that’s the best way to proactively reduce the effects of Lynch’s media manipulation, as the boycott organizer Ed Sherman writes.

Radio-Boy== From Norman Chad’s “Couch Slouch 49th annual Super Bowl viewing guide” column this week: “Actually, most people outside of the Pacific Northwest don’t like the Seahawks and most people outside of New England don’t like the Patriots. Frankly, the game is unwatchable. So follow my lead — at your Super Bowl party — radio only!” That would be KFWB 980-AM in these parts, using the Westwood One feed of Kevin Harlan and Boomer Esiason. No Dan Fouts? (It’s also on KLSD-AM 1360 in San Diego, KTDD-AM 1350 in Riverside and KVEN-AM 1450 in Ventura)

== TV milestones since the NFL and CBS signed their first contract 50 years ago, as presented by AwfulAnnouncing.com. And note the 1970 Monday Night Football intro, sponsored by Marboro smokes. (TNT once had NFL games? Goodness).

== ESPN would rather have you see Chris Paul facing a 7-10 split than the Kobe-less Lakers facing the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday morning. ESPN originally had the Lakers-Knicks contest on their to-do list but dumped it last week, subbing in “CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational” at 11 a.m., where Paul gets together with Nick Cannon, Chris Hardwick, Terrell Owens and some PBA Tour stars like Pete Weber for a two-hour charity event taped back on Jan. 8 at the AMF Bowl-O-Drome in Torrance.

== As for some major guard-changing at ESPN The Company: With Feb. 1 being the last day for beloved executive and network architect John Walsh, they’re also letting it known that Friday is the end for talent-seeker Al Jaffe after 28 years. It was his call to seek, find and hire ESPN notables as Linda Cohn, Rece Davis, Mike Greenberg, Suzy Kolber, Kenny Mayne, Robin Roberts, Stuart Scott and Mike Tirico.

vandykengoinghomev== Seven months after an ATV accident left six-time Olympic gold medalist and former Fox Sports Radio personalty Amy Van Dyken-Rouen paralyzed from the waist down, she is coming back to work for the first time, part of the Pac-12 Network’s broadcast of  Friday’s swim meet between Cal and USC at 2 p.m.
The former Colorado State and University of Arizona star started walking for the first time last September. Now she’s ready to roll back into a TV role.
“It makes you feel like a grown up again,” the 41-year-old Van Dyken told USA Today. “It really does. It kind of symbolizes the fact that I am doing really well, and it’s only seven months out. That’s a tribute to the people I work with on a daily basis, my husband, my friends. They’ve gotten me ready to go and do this.
“I feel really lucky. I feel like I’m a grown-up again. I say when I drive my car, I don’t feel paralyzed. When I get in the booth, I won’t feel paralyzed. I’ll get right back to feeling ‘normal,’ which is really all I’m aiming for right now.”
She also got a new home renovation covered by NBC’s “Today” show.
A video link to a piece on here that the Pac-12 will present on the telecast.

== Starting Feb. 7, DirecTV will raise its rates 5.7 percent as a result of sports channels with higher rights fees … This Washington Post story asks what we have been probing for  years: For providers and customers, the creeping prices amount to a test — at what point will viewers decide it isn’t worth paying for cable anymore?
Meanwhile, this SNL Kagan report proves that sports channels are the most expensive out there with an average cost of $1.03 each, but that range is as log as 4-5 cents for Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel to $6.04 for ESPN.

== And why wouldn’t Oscar de la Hoya want to launch his own TV network?

== The passing at 81 this week of legendary San Diego sportscaster Jerry Gross reminds us of the own words he once used to describe his carer: “My problem was I talked with my heart instead of my head.” Still, he was a man that Chick Hearn once described as ““the finest play-by-play basketball announcer I’ve ever heard in my life.”
The coincidence is that, also this week, Frank Sims, part of the Padres’ original radio team, died at age 91.

PGA TOUR ON CBS== The CBS’ coverage starting this week at the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., is minus Peter Ooosterhuis, who after 20 years with the network decided last week to retire from broadcasting.
“Golf has been a big part of my life ever since I was a little boy growing up in England and I thank CBS and Golf Channel for allowing me to continue in the sport after my playing days were over,” said Oosterhuis in a statement late last week. “I feel it is the right time to step away to focus on things in life that I have always wanted to do.”
Oosterhuis joined CBS Sports’ golf team full time in 1998, but had already been working for Golf Channel since 1995 when it launched, covering the first two events to ever air on the network. His 11 years on the PGA Tour came during a time when he was also on six European Ryder Cup teams.
CBS this week named Frank Nobilo as its new analyst on “select tournaments,” including the Masters and PGA Championship. The New Zealand native has been a Golf Channel analyst since he retired in 2002 and will continue in that role.

== A new book about the late Stuart Scott of ESPN, written with Larry Platt, is set for a March 10 release. The ESPN.com excerpt last week.

== The truth is, truTV has apparently ordered a pilot for a half-hour sit-com show with the working title of “Shaq Inq.,” based on the Shaquille O’Neal’s business life. Mike Tollin has signed on as the executive producer, working for Mandalay Sports Media. Shaq stars as himself, with those around him acting the fools, trying to juggle his schedule and angle for Shaq’s affection.

== Truth also is that ESPN should be pushing the College Football Playoff organizers to have the national semifinals on Saturday Jan. 2 instead of Friday, Dec. 31.

keep-calm-and-just-be-the-best-you-can-be-3== Piecing together information about who won what at last Monday’s 24th annual Southern California Sports Broadcasters awards: The Kings’ Bob Miller was voted best TV play-by-play, with partner Jim Fox as the best TV game analyst. UCLA’s Chris Roberts, retiring at the end of this basketball season, won for radio play-by-play as a nice sendoff. Radio talk-show host went to KSPN’s John Ireland. Fox Sports/Prime Ticket anchor Patrick O’Neal was named “TV pre/post game” winner. The Dodgers’ Rick Monday won best radio game analyst. The KNX-AM (1070) team was best sports anchor staff on radio, while the KCBS/KCAL team won for TV anchor staff. In the foreign-language department, the Dodgers’ Jaime Jarrin was best radio play-by-play while his son, Jorge Jarrin, was best TV play-by-play. Jose Mota (Angels TV) and Fernando Valenzuela (Dodgers radio) were named best color analysts.
The Dodgers plan this season is to have father and son Jarrins work together on the Spanish-language radio booth for KTNQ-AM 1020. It means that Pepe Yniguez, who had been doing radio with Jaime Jarrin, will move over to TWC’s SportsNet Deportes channel to do play-by-play.

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Play It Forward Jan. 26-Feb. 1: How Patriotic would it be to mess with game balls on a Super Sunday?

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, greets Seahawks coach Pete Carroll after their 2012 regular-season game in Seattle. The Seahawks won 24-23 in Russell Wilson's rookie season.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick greets Seahawks coach Pete Carroll after their 2012 regular-season game in Seattle. The Seahawks won 24-23 in Russell Wilson’s rookie season. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

 
SUPER BOWL XLIX: SEATTLE vs. NEW ENGLAND
Details/TV: At Glendale, Ariz., Sunday at 3:30 p.m., Channel 4

Official game balls for Super Bowl XLIX sit in a bin before being laced and inflated at the Wilson Sporting Goods Co. in Ada, Ohio last week. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski) ORG XMIT: OHRO103

Official game balls for Super Bowl XLIX sit in a bin before being laced and inflated at the Wilson Sporting Goods Co. in Ada, Ohio last week. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

We feel cheated.
For the 49th edition of the Super Bowl, we were all pumped up for an appearance by the 49ers. Instead, they miss the playoffs and run their coach off – what’s their deal? (They’ll host Super Bowl 50, so now’s the time to refocus). Then, consider how much electricity there would have been in the air-conditioned University of Phoenix Stadium if the AZ Cardinals and Carson Palmer had been able to stay healthy and wealthy, and could have claimed a home-desert advantage. The Rams deflated our hopes long ago – not just as a franchise, but in pretending they might come back to L.A. So in the end, the NFC West team that merits our attention is Pete Carroll’s crew, which guarantees that we’ll have a ball – at the proper PSI requirements, of course.
Maybe the Seahawks are a slight underdog to win their second consecutive title, but it’s perfect timing to become their 12th, 13th and 14th man right now – if that’s within the rules. Should Carroll pull off back-to-back Super Bowl wins, we will be far more impressed than when Bill Belichick did it 10 years ago with the ’04 and ’05 Patriots. And those, friends, are the last Vince Lombardi trophies that Belichick has hoisted, thanks to bad karma. (See: Spygate, 2007). Carroll’s Seahawks will have polished off the AFC’s No. 1 seed two years in a row if they win here, and his redemption will come against the franchise that lost faith in him back at the turn of the century.
20superbowl2-articleLargePatriots owner Robert Kraft said firing Carroll in 1999 after just three seasons (and a 27-21 record) was one of the toughest decisions he has had to make since buying the team: “A lot of things were going on that made it difficult for him to stay, some of which were out of his control. And it began with following a legend (in Bill Parcells).” So who replaced Carroll at New England? Belichick, who went 5-11 his first season there in 2000. Kraft has only hired two coaches on his watch as the Pats owner: Carroll, who left the NFL and started his nine-year run at USC in 2000, and Belichick, who has since become the winningest coach in postseason history. “It’s a little bit personal because we were there and it’s a great place and I have great respect for what they have done, the family, what they have pulled off over the years,” Carroll said this week about facing the Patriots. “The Kraft family, they’ve done amazing things, historic things in the league and in the last 15 years or however long it’s been … They’ve been the best of the best and they’ve proven it. So we’re fortunate to get a chance to get to play a team like this and a club like this.”

richard-sherman-tom-brady-u-mad-bro-1Whoever wins this game has to do it fair and square – like when the Seahawks stunned  the Patriots, 24-23, back in October of 2012, as rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw for two TDs in the last eight minutes to overcome a 23-10 deficit. Tom Brady’s career-high 58 pass attempts weren’t enough, and it led to that inspirational picture of him with Richard Sherman and the “U MAD BRO?” tweet.
If things aren’t on the up-and-up this time, there’s could be a lot more madness. Things could get blown out of proportion. A Super Bowl that’s ready for its AARP card certification might not have the patience to withstand that. Just like a regulation football, it needs to have the utmost bladder control.

THE REST OF THE WEEK:

IMG_2865Since we frequently hold conversations with Siri on our iPhone, we had cause to ask the simple question: What is your favorite NBA team? Without much of a pause, she  responded …. well, you can read it yourself here. Siri could show up with a bag over her head in Madison Square Garden when the Lakers face the New York Knicks on Super Bowl Sunday (11 a.m., TWC SportsNet) and still be pretty much incognito. How soon does she switches allegiances to the Lakers? … The Clippers hit the road for eight straight on Wednesday, including a stop in San Antonio (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN) against a Spurs team they haven’t figured out the last four meetings … The Kings come back from the All-Star break playing host to Chicago (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN) and then go on a five-game road trip, beginning in Boston (Saturday, 4 p.m., FSW) … UCLA has its hands full with Utah (Pauley Pavilion, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN2) and Colorado (Saturday, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Network) … Tiger Woods promises to appear at the PGA’s Waste Management Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., (Thursday-Sunday) right in the heart of the Super Bowl crowd … The rest of the week linked here.

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Ranking the L.A. sports media best and worst … do we dare? Here’s the SoCal Sports Broadcasters’ cheat sheet

Microphone-GuyMonday’s 24th edition of the Southern California Sports Broadcasters is set for Monday at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake. You can actually attend if you come up with the $75 at the door. Just dress appropriately.

The annual awards given out — cover your screen if you want to be surprised — include inducting USC’s Pete Arbogast in to the SCSB Hall of Fame, giving L.A. Times columnist and former sports editor Bill Dwyer the President’s Award, noting “Outstanding Achievement” by the Kings, Galaxy, Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout, handing Ned Colletti a “Special Achievement” honor and bestowing a “Prep Sports Award” to Barry McKeever.

Then come the other categories that must be exhausted with more trophy giveaways. Who, pray tell, will win ….

Continue reading

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Media column version 01.23.15: Some day, Tony Verna’s legacy could include us talking more about talking video replay again

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.

ibndexVerna 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: Continue reading

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Play It Forward Jan. 19-25: If you’re just skating through life at this point, why not go with Citizen Gold

Gracie Gold 3THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS: LADIES FREE SKATE FINAL
Details/TV: At Greensboro, N.C., Saturday at 8 p.m., Channel 4 (tape delayed)

espnw_headliners_gold_08The Los Angeles Sports Council last week announced that Gracie Gold, who last year won the U.S. Figure Skating championships in Boston and then claimed a bronze medal in the team event the Olympics in Sochi, Russia before placing fourth overall in the individuals, was more than qualified to claim the organization’s 2014 Sportswoman of the Year honors. But don’t you have to be an L.A. citizen to qualify? Gold, who was born in Massachusetts and raised in Missouri and Illinois, has lived the last year-plus in Redondo Beach to train at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo with coach Frank Carroll. And there’s no ignoring how the So Cal celebrity lifestyle has caught up with Gold. Just the other day, she was hanging out on Catalina Island with her new pal, Taylor Swift, who also invited actress Jaime King, singer Lorde and the group Haim.
tumblr_n412jtCM4E1tq9x4fo1_500According to NBCSports’ OlympicTalk website, Swift invited Gold on the excursion, and “I said, duh, of course I’d love to,” replied Gold, who had a morning skating session that day. The story reports that the gang “yachted, ate lunch and had ice cream cones. Then they went back to Los Angeles to hang out.” Or as Gold said: “It was just one of those whimsical things. Just a casual text from Taylor Swift, no biggie.”
Well, Good night, Gracie.
Before she can pick up her new LASC trophy on the March 15 ceremony at the Beverly Hilton, she’s got to figure out a way to defend her U.S. title because Ashley Wagner, the 2012 and ’13 U.S. champ, goes into this event as a co-favorite. Maybe you recall that Wagner finished just fourth at last year’s nationals but still made the U.S. Olympic team over third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu based on her performances leading up to that event. Of course, this competition also has the men’s free skate, highlighted by Jeremy Abbott, Max Aaron and Jason Brown, which goes Sunday (Channel 4, 1 p.m.). The pairs and free dance is Saturday (Channel 4, noon). Terry Gannon, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski are on the call.

THE BEST OF THE REST:

The Clippers take on Boston (12:30 p.m., Prime Ticket) and the Lakers head to Phoenix (7 p.m, TNT) as part of the 12-game MLK holiday where the NBA takes over Monday …  The whole thing is linked here.

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Media column version 01.16.15 — Where Walton intersects with Pasch, the illusion become reality

ESPN’s Bill Walton and Dave Pasch get a visit from USC Athletic Director Pat Haden  before they called the USC-UCLA game at the Galen Center on Wednesday. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

ESPN’s Bill Walton and Dave Pasch get a visit from USC Athletic Director Pat Haden before they called the USC-UCLA game at the Galen Center on Wednesday. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

What made it into this week’s column:

We corralled both Bill Walton and Dave Pasch before Wednesday’s USC-UCLA game, made them stand next to each other, and were intent on invalidating the myth that the two don’t get along.
19c32r07kwarpjpg“Dave, his name is  Dave?” Walton continued to ask me, as he often does on the air with Pasch sitting right next to him. “Please introduce me to him.”
Walton wasn’t helping here.
Pasch not only knows Walton, going back to when they did NBA games for ESPN in 2006, but Pasch said during a game earlier this year at San Diego State, he finally got to visit Walton’s home and sit in his backyard teepee, put on a tie-dye shirt and shoot some promos.
Pasch said he admires all the prep work Walton puts into a game with his iPad out and an array of notes spread out across the table at courtside, information procured from practices and often right up to the time when players are warming up.
“If anything, Bill is prepared to do a six-hour game,” said Pasch. “If we ever did a game that was six overtimes, we’d never run out of material. However, if we had been doing that UCLA-Kentucky game (a CBS broadcast on Dec. 20, where the No. 1 Wildcats won by 39), that might have been bad for both our careers with so much time to fill and what we know of Bill’s thoughts on his alma mater.
“But really, there’s no other Hall of Famer out there in broadcasting with his personality. He’s played the game at the highest level and won championships, yet he has the passion to talk about things that have nothing to do with basketball, and not afraid to do it. He can get away with it. A lot of others can’t.”
The story is here after our own investigation as to how these two ever came to be a couple.

What is relegated to notes, for the record, in this place and time:

pbcnbc_1000== NBC’s announcement this week that it was ready to leap back into the boxing prime-time world — 20 live shows this year — interestingly drags along Al Michaels for the ride as the host of what will be called “PBC on NBC.” The first Premiere Boxing Championships series show is Saturday, March 7. If only Marv Albert and the fight doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, could be around for this. The time-buy series, under the promotion of Haymon Boxing in Las Vegas, will have five cards in prime time and six on Saturday afternoons, with nine other shows on NBCSN. Will it work? The experts have a better idea than we do. But we’re in the same ring of thinking that just because Michaels is involved, and Sugar Ray Leonard is supposed to be the analyst on “some” fights, who’s going to watch if the contenders aren’t much more than what ESPN might put on its weekly Friday night card? Continue reading

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Play It Forward Jan. 12-18: Why a Ducks’ 46-33 win over the Buckeyes in the first CFP title game wouldn’t be a first

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

Oregon's Bob Anet accepts the first NCAA basketball championship trophy (from Big Ten Commissioner John Griffin), while Ohio State's James Hull, the Most Outstanding Player, holds his trophy after the 1939 championship game.

Oregon’s Bob Anet accepts the first NCAA basketball championship trophy (from Big Ten Commissioner John Griffin), while Ohio State’s James Hull, the Most Outstanding Player, holds his trophy after the 1939 championship game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIP:
OREGON vs. OHIO STATE
At Arlington, Tex., Monday at 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

usa-today-7988899.0Not that we remember, so we looked it up: The first NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament took place in 1939 – eight teams were invited to the single-elimination event. Lo and behold, Oregon knocked off Ohio State, 46-33, for the championship. In this inaugural NCAA men’s Division I football championship, it must be some kind of destiny that the Ducks’ and Buckeyes’ victories in the Jan. 1 Rose and Sugar bowl semifinals brings them here. As well as the predictions that they’ll repeat that same basketball score 76 years later?
110117tall_firs_headlines1 “On paper, I think so,” said ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said of the teams that share 13-1 records. “But if you look at the championship games from recent years, with all the buildup, and hype and nerves, the scores end up being a whole lot lower than you’d think. That was when teams had 40 to 45 days to get prepared for each other. Now, it’s three weeks before the semifinals and 11 days later, they’re here.” ESPN play-by-play man Chris Fowler quickly did the math: “A 46-33 score means 79 points, and that’s not much different from the over-under in Vegas (many sports books have it at 75). But then, the last time Oregon went into a championship game, we were thinking it would be 52-50, and Auburn ended up beating Oregon 22-19 (in 2011) with both defenses playing better than they had all season. Personally, I’d hope it’s not like 22-19, but I like to think that if both offenses execute, they’re capable (of 46-33). That 52-50 may be a bit much again.”
What if a 26-17 outcome is more realistic? That’s what Ohio State, behind game MVP QB Terrelle Pryor, managed in a win over Jeremiah Masoli-led Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl, even though the Ducks were a five-point favorite. There’s also that 10-7 score from the 1958 Rose Bowl, when the No. 1-ranked and Woody Hayes-coached Buckeyes, a 19-point favorite, held off the unranked Webfoots (as the Ducks were called then) to claim the No. 1 UPI ranking (and share the national title with AP No. 1 Auburn).
Another thing to consider: Michigan State is a common opponent for the Ducks and Buckeyes in 2014. Oregon beat the Spartans by 19 at home in early September. Ohio State beat the Spartans by 12 at East Lansing, Mich., in early November. Those were the only two games MSU lost all season.

ALSO THIS WEEK:
NBA: LAKERS vs. CLEVELAND
Details/TV: Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., TNT:
NBA: CLIPPERS vs. CLEVELAND
Details/TV: Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN:
LeBron JamesWe’ve seen more video lately of LeBron James Jr. on the court than his dad – the old man has missed the Cavs’ last eight games dealing with back and knee strains, yet he headed out on this currents West Coast road trip in hopes the warmer weather will thaw him out a bit quicker. With that, the Cavs target this game against the Lakers as his possible return. James’ 25.2 points a game ranks second in the league, but the recently-turned 30 year-old has yet to bring any magical powers back to Cleveland, a team that Vegas had down as to win 58 games before the season but has struggled to stay above .500 and recently lost a home game to the 76ers. The drama continues as first-year coach David Blatt tries to save his integrity integrating new acquisitions J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and James, whenever he’s back to participating.
The Lakers’ week includes a home game versus Miami (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.) and at Utah (Friday, 6 p.m., FSW) around the Cavs’ visit. The Clippers’ week includes games at Northwest Division-leading Portland (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN) and at Sacramento (Saturday, 7 p.m., Prime).

NHL: KINGS vs. DUCKS:
Details/TV: Staples Center, Saturday at 7 p.m., FSW, Channel 13:
384538The Ducks retired Teemu Selani’s No. 8 on Sunday night, so don’t get defensive that the Kings waited until this date to officially retire the No. 4 worn by Rob Blake, the recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and franchise leader in games played, goals, assists and points by a defenseman. Why did this take so long to honor Blake, the current assistant GM and the sixth King to have his jersey hung from the rafters? The Kings and Ducks split a home-and-home Freeway Faceoff adventure back on Nov. 12 and 15. The Ducks won a shootout at home and, three days later, the Kings prevailed at Staples Center in OT. The Kings used Jonathan Quick in both those games, but the Ducks had ex-King Jason LaBarbera in goal for their win and Frederik Andersen in the loss. Now, veteran Ilya Bryzgalov has circled back to join the roster as Andersen’s backup and could see action here on the second of a back-to-back night. The teams have two more regular season meetings on Feb. 27 and March 18, both in Anaheim.
This week, the Kings and Ducks face Toronto and New Jersey at home leading up to their meeting. Toronto, which just fired coach Randy Carlyle, meet the Kings on Monday and the Ducks on Wednesday. New Jersey, trying out some kind of co-coaching rotation with Adam Oates, Scott Stevens and GM Lou Lamoriello since firing Peter DeBoer, are at the Kings on Wednesday and the Ducks on Friday.

billwaltonCOLLEGE BASKETBALL: UCLA at USC
Details/TV: Galen Center, Wednesday at 6 p.m., ESPN2:
ESPN sends wandering Bill Walton through the weeds, with the hope he can bike over to call this one between the two programs struggling to stay out of the Pac-12 basement. Walton’s Grateful Dead basement tapes may provide more courtside entertainment. UCLA won both meetings last season, by a total of 44 points. The Trojans haven’t defeated the Bruins at home since Jan., 2011, which at the time marked their fourth straight win over their rival.

THE REST OF THE WEEK:

Gonzaga, up to No. 3 in the national polls, makes its SoCal swing by playing at Pepperdine (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.) and at Loyola Marymount (Saturday, 1 p.m.) … The NFL’s NFC and AFC title games have their TV spots picked out Sunday on Channel 11 at noon and Channel 2 at 3:30 p.m. …   The rest of the week linked here.

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It’s Out of the Question: The chances of Randy Johnson ever making the Pro, College or Newspaper Football Hall of Fame? None. … The Baseball Hall? You know how that played out

The 1982 Daily Trojan newspaper flag football team. Back row: Randy Johnson. Middle and front row: No IDs necessary.

The 1982 Daily Trojan newspaper flag football team. Back row: Randy Johnson. Middle and front row: No IDs necessary.

Randy Johnson?
Hmmm, yeah, the name sounds familiar.
Have a look at this photo uncovered from 1982. That’s a definite ID on the guy. Back row to himself, all 6-feet-10, trying to look unassuming.
You can’t blame him. How was this 19-year-old – or anyone else really – supposed to know that he’d become one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in big-league history, a four-time Cy Young Award winner, second all-time in strikeouts and just this week voted near unanimously into Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame, just 30-something years after this snazzy group photo was snapped?

The rest of the journalists-wannabes from the USC Daily Trojan newspaper staff filling out that frame – including me, sporting the Trojan helmet in the front row, for example – were only certain after this particular autumn day that we would never see Johnson’s bust in the Pro Football Hall in Canton, Ohio.
Actually, the Randy Johnson we thought we knew way back then was really someone we hardly knew. Know what I’m saying?

A full-ride scholarship member of Rod Dedeaux’s Trojan baseball team  (along with this other pitching prospect named Mark McGwire), Johnson’s interest in photography would occasionally bring him to the student newspaper office, as well as the school’s Sports Information Department, to see if there were any assignments he could shoot. The advantage he had was obvious — no need for an extended tripod for the future-named “Big Unit.”
So now it can be told, hopefully without fear of the retribution of a fastball thrown at our dome: Someone had the inspired idea to recruit Johnson as something of a ringer to play for the Daily Trojan flag football team in the annual “Blood Bowl” game against UCLA’s Daily Bruin. If we used him as a towering tight end, it would be such an easy target for the quarterback Casey Wian (now reporting news at CNN) and Jon SooHoo (who would become the Dodgers’ longtime official team photographer) to hit over the middle.
If only Johnson could catch an actual pass.
That wasn’t known until the game started.

Those who try to piece together the facts of what happened that day start with the ridiculousness of a wet, sloppy, muddy mess of the Bruins’ practice field next to Pauley Pavilion.
Getting any kind of traction was tough for anyone. Johnson looked like a newborn giraffe.
In a fierce-hitting game (even though it was just flags) recorded as a controversial 12-0 UCLA victory aided and abetted by the Westwood  referees, Johnson’s most memorable contribution involved the lone USC touchdown that wasn’t a touchdown. The 80-yard play pulled off by Paul Vercammen (now a CNN reporter) was called back because of an illegal downfield block. It was called on Johnson, the  human broomstick who was probably just looking for someone to grab so he wouldn’t fall over. He couldn’t have blocked anyone if he tried.
But the Legend of Randy Johnson merely started that day. Who could forget all that he meant to the team after that?

kahnjpg-3a0de25482da667bAnd as a side note, there was another question that needs to be addressed: Whatever happened to the quarterback of that UCLA team?
David Kahn, whose career path started in sports writing but recently ended with him the ex-director of basketball operations for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, has been on a professional trajectory that may be more Ripley’s-related than what happened to Johnson.
If Kahn had any special basketball no-how, he might have tried to lure Johnson into playing for his height-challenged T-wolves and saved his job.

So what’s the moral of whatever this story has become? Pay attention to those kids you hang out with in college who may not always be the gangly, useless knuckleheads you think they’ll turn out to be. Because years later, when you try to reconnect with them, they’re likely to easily forget you ever existed.

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Media column version 01.09.15: If not an appreciation for Stuart Scott, a better understanding and respect

What made it into this week’s column:

The 15-minute video that ESPN aired on Sunday just hours after the passing of “SportsCenter” anchor Stuart Scott was nothing short of brilliant. SI.com’s Richard Deitsch explained how it was started in July, when Scott made his speech at the Nokia Theater at LA Live during the ESPY Awards, and finished in mid-September, as staffers hoped it would never have to air.
espn_sscott_08On his radio show Monday, Dan Patrick, a former Scott partner on “SportsCenter,” asked another one, Steve Levy, if Scott would have wanted to see that tribute piece. Their conversation was excerpted in the current edition of Sports Illustrated.
“I think he’d say, ‘Bring it’,” said Levy. “President Obama? Are you kidding? LeBron James. Tiger Woods. Michael Jordan.”
Patrick also talked about how he remembered when Scott was pushing the envelope at ESPN, the “management was trying to prevent another Chris Berman … and they didn’t do a very good job. But thankfully, they didn’t do a very good job because Stuart was able to be himself and give you a voice you had never heard before.
“There were times when I anchored with him when I didn’t know what he was saying. But I knew there were those who did know.”

The tributes continue for the anchor who died from the latest bout with cancer at the age of 49. L.A. graffiti artists tweeted out their latest on Thursday (above).
Having had a few days to listen to discussion on Scott’s impact and absorb their meaning, we felt compelled to offer up our own observations and expressions, sad in a way that all this explanation of what Scott meant and did came out after he was gone rather than while he was still here. For all the times I really didn’t get what Scott was saying, it may have been no different than if I was watching the X Games and had no clue what the commentators were talking about. Again, it depends on what audience you’re trying to connect with.
The column is posted here.
We also wanted to make note of the piece Michael Wilbon wrote for ESPN.com about Scott’s impact on sports language:
“I was brought up in a buttoned-up world of traditional journalism where the person reporting/commenting/analyzing didn’t call attention to himself. Stuart, very deliberately and without much fear, was in the process of taking us to a new world of sports coverage, one where you let your emotion come pouring out much of the time, where personality would infuse the coverage.
“It wasn’t just that a Scott-delivered story sounded ‘blacker’ — and it did, it sounded younger, and hipper, had greater edge and connected with an entire population of viewers who had been ignored. … More than anybody working then or now, Stuart Scott changed the very language used to discuss sports every day. He updated it, freshened it, made it more inclusive. And he took hell for it. . . . There is now an entire generation of young media folks, black and white, male and female, who don’t feel the need to conform, and that is an enormous and admirable part of his professional legacy.”
(And how did “boo-yah” go forward? Slate.com picks some L.A. connections).
Among the various ESPN tributes about Scott this week, people like Andy Katz were saying on “Outside the Lines” that Scott was “a model not just for African Americans but for all broadcasters who seek to find their own voice and can sell it well without the content being compromised.”
Then there was this essay by Keith Olbermann on his Monday “Olbermann” ESPN2 show:

The funeral arrangements for Scott are for a service at the Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday morning. A larger memorial will be held at a later date, ESPN said.

== Expanding on what Dr. Todd Boyd, aka the Notorious Ph.D. from USC, told us this week about Scott’s legacy:
B6ppnerCYAAeS9t.jpg large“Stu wasn’t the first African American sportscaster. Those pioneer battles were fought long before he arrived. This was a black guy on a national network who would not be square pegged into a round hole. The significance is ESPN allowed him to do his thing.
“In one era, it’s important to have black representation. But in another era, it’s not just representation, but being allowed to represent someone in a culturally-specific way. That’s beyond face recognition and tokenism. We could see how ESPN had hired black sportscasters, but it wasn’t until many years later that style and how you talked sports went to another plateau. Over time, what may be controversial is common place.”

==  Sports Business Daily data shows that ESPN was the most-watched U.S. cable network in primetime in 2014 with an average of 2.32 million viewers (up five percent from 2013), knocking the USA Network (2.12 million, down 20 percent from 2013) out of the No. 1 spot for the first time in nine years. Among all cable channels on a total-day basis, ESPN was No. 7, up three spots from 2013.
ESPN2 was the second-most watched prime-time sports cable channel at an 469,000 average, ahead of the NFL Network. Fox Sports 1 was fourth, up 38 percent in prime time from 2013.
TNT, meanwhile, the home of many NBA telecasts, was No. 3 in prime-time viewers of all cable channels with 1.99 million.

== ESPN itself, meanwhile, reported its most-viewed week in its 35-year history from Monday, Dec. 29, 2014 to Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, when it had an average of 4.119 million viewers. During that week, the network had both the Ohio State-Alabama Sugar Bowl in prime time (28.7 million viewers) and the Oregon-Florida State Rose Bowl (28.1 million viewers) on Jan. 1, as well as its first NFL playoff game, Arizona at Carolina (21.6 million viewers) on Jan. 3. Also, ESPN2 had an average of 6.4 million viewers for the Wisconsin-Auburn Outback Bowl that went into overtime on Jan. 1, the greatest telecast on that network’s history.

== ESPN also announced its 20th season of Major League Soccer coverage will launch on March 8 with two expansion teams — Orlando City SC vs. New York City SC from Orlando’s Citrus Bowl. The league and the network recently did an eight-year deal that goes through 2022. The ESPN/ESPN2 deal for 2015 has 29 of the 33 matches on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Of the 34 Galaxy matches, five are on ESPN (including April 26 when they visit the N.Y. Red Bulls) and five on Fox with four on Univision in Spanish.

== How the power of Al Michaels’ words led to a San Fernando Valley couple to move to Pittsburgh to improve their quality of life.

== That tweet that Jim Rome sent out on New Year’s Day (and sense deleted) about marching band “dorks” didn’t sit well, as we suspected when we first saw it. Even the Army responded. And a former Texas player who played in the Texas band, with his uni on and did actually look dorky.

== How did a group in Bakersfield get Vin Scully to speak at their fund raiser? They moved the up to mid-March, apparently.

== Why doesn’t Olbermann, or Bob Costas, or Brian Kenny have a Baseball Hall of Fame vote? It doesn’t make much sense considering some who do along with an outdated policy that excludes TV and radio members from the BBWAA.

== The NFL playoff game lineup this weekend:
= Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya have Baltimore-New England (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 4)
= Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch and — look here — Pam Oliver, have Carolina-Seattle (Saturday, 5 p.m., Channel 11)
= Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and — you guessed it — Erin Andrews, have Dallas-Green bay (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11)
= Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson (whatever happened to Steve Tasker?) have Indianapolis-Denver (Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 2)
ESPN’s counterprogramming on Sunday: The PBA world championship live from Las Vegas (Sunday, 10 a.m.). It’s the first PBA world championship using the “blue oil” lanes so viewers can see the patterns of the rolls. The five finalists – Stuart Williams, Todd Book, Ronnie Russell, Mike Fagan and Wes Malott — actually qualified back in November. They’ll do the traditional stepladder format to determine the winner, with Malott in at No. 1 in the title match.

== The NFL Network has the 15 finalist named for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class today (Thursday) at 6 p.m. Chris Rose hosts the one-hour show from the NFL Net studios in Culver City.

== According to this count, the Dodgers have five living Baseball Hall of Famers: Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton,  Tommy Lasorda, Vin Scully and Jamie Jarrin. The Angels have four: Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Bert Blyleven. The criteria is a player is counted with the team if he played/managed at least four seasons with them. Joe Torre was the Dodgers manager for three years, so he’s counted among the 10 living Yankees.

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How today has become National Bobblehead Day, and why it should matter to you

This, to us, is still the most unusual bobblehead idea created by a baseball team: Honoring Roy Campanella Night at the Coliseum from 1959, the Dodgers issued this bobblehead of Pee Wee Reese and Campanella, in his wheelchair. There are rare versions of this with Campanella's name inscribed on both characters.

This, to us, is still the most unusual bobblehead idea created by a baseball team: Honoring Roy Campanella Night at the Coliseum from 1959, the Dodgers issued this bobblehead of Pee Wee Reese and Campanella, in his wheelchair. There are rare versions of this with Campanella’s name inscribed on both characters.

There are nine days to go in a Kickstarter.com campaign that aims to get a National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum launched someday in the greater Milwaukee area. Don’t be alarmed too much that the pledge amount total isn’t really close to matching the $250,000 hoped for in this effort.

Embrace the fact that at least 200-plus people think it’s worth happening.

With that, today marks the inaugural National Bobblehead Day. Museum co-founders Phil Sklar and Brad Novak got the Registrar of the National Day calendar to designated January 7 of every year as National Bobblehead Day “to celebrate all spring-connected head bobbing figurines, according to their press release.

“We were surprised to learn that bobbleheads didn’t already have a National Day of their own” said Sklar. “This is the perfect day to jump on board. Since Kickstarter is all-or-nothing, we really need the public’s support to make the Hall of Fame and Museum a reality.”

In the month between writing about this Museum/Hall effort a month ago, I’ve procured a few more bobbleheads for my growing collection, thanks in part to requests at Christmas that were fulfilled by St. Nick.

$T2eC16J,!z!FJ1ZdKW-HBSfoCl()JQ~~60_35There’s still more I want/need/beg for, but haven’t had the gumption to go out and get. I know there’s that Angels hula girl giveaway bobblehead from 2012 that I still haven’t pulled the trigger on, that BobblesGalore.com has marked down to $34.95 and ….

OK, just ordered it. Next.

As part of the National Bobblehead celebration, the Museum/Hall curators have giveaways to promote. Such as: For a limited time, fans can collect a digital trading card set on the Topps BUNT app that honors bobbleheads and the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame. BUNT is available on iOs in the App Store and Android in the Google Play Store.

new ambrinus-BobbleheadPabst Brewery has also released a limited edition (500) King Gambrinus bobblehead, honoring the fictitious King of Beers. Some can be ordered at
http://www.bobbleheadhall.com/king
for a priority purchase.

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