Sunday Q&A: 25 years later, why we trust Bob Ley, ESPN’s “OG,” to keep coloring outside the lines

Bob Ley, left, meets with John Barr, Tom Farrey and Mark Fainaru-Wada in ESPN’s newsroom prior to the network's 25th anniversary show for "Outside The Lines." (ESPN photo)

Bob Ley, left, meets with John Barr, Tom Farrey and Mark Fainaru-Wada in ESPN’s newsroom prior to the network’s 25th anniversary show for “Outside The Lines.” (ESPN photo)

Without Bob Ley, it might be easy to envision ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” going off the tracks.

That won’t happen anytime soon, the 60-year-old Ley told us this week. Almost a month, he agreed to a contract extension because of his enjoyment and challenge in hosting and moderating the discussion of the six-days-a week, half-hour news-driven show.

(Rich Arden/ESPN Images)

(Rich Arden/ESPN Images)

It celebrates its 25th anniversary with a special set for Tuesday at 4 p.m. on ESPN where Ley and crew look back in its impact coming from a monthly test program in 1990 to where it continues to break news today.

To help frame this silver anniversary properly, we enjoyed this golden conversation with Ley, who remains the longest-tenured ESPN on-air employee holding down a show that has produced nearly 2,000 daily episodes and 800 more on Sundays, according to the network’s count:

Q: Does 25 years of OTL sound about right?
Ley:
Well, we won’t know until the autopsy is taken (laughing). Yes, it sounds about right. It was one of those, ‘Oh, you’re right’ moments last fall when we were talking about when it all started – ‘1990? ’91? Oh, man, that’s 25 years.’ It was an organic realization by the staff, and they’ve all been there as long as me because, you know, I can’t find real work. So it was like, ‘Hey, we ought to do something like a television show (about the anniversary).’ We had a meeting about this during the depths of a terrible winter and I tried to set a tone: Let’s all resolve that we are embarking on an impossible task. We cannot synthesize and present 25 years in a one-hour show, which is really 50 minutes once you boil it down. At the end of the day, we’ll all cry about something that wasn’t in the show. But we can try our best. When you get around TV for a long time, you can get blasé and jaundice about it, but when we were in the studio the other day looking at some of the things we covered and seeing how this show will look, we were saying, ‘This is pretty good.’ We’re really proud of all this. We really are. Continue reading

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It’s Out of the Question: Does the PGA of America trump Trump’s Grand Slam at his “L.A.” course?

A Donald Trump piñata is on display at a workshop in Reynosa, Mexico. (Daniel Becerril/Reuters)

A Donald Trump piñata is on display at a workshop in Reynosa, Mexico. (Daniel Becerril/Reuters)

All Donald Trump has done is speak in perfect inflammatory English about his views on Mexican migrants. And all anyone wants to do in return is pound him like a piñata on Cinco de Mayo.

22ebb50786734edbb391adfb43836d8cThink of all the greens keepers, chefs and other key staffers who keep the Trump National Los Angeles golf course and luxury restaurant in Rancho Palos Verdes functioning as a thriving business – and the ones who could never afford to play the course or eat at his table. They proudly classify themselves as Latino, Hispanic or Mexican-American and have been gainfully employed by The Donald.

How proud they must also be to have their very own gatekeeper say such flattering things in hopes that it catapults him into becoming the President of the United States next year.

You may wonder: At what point did Donald Sterling morph into Donald Trump, or are they actually the same cat coughing up different furballs?

In the latest triumphant move against Trump’s stumping for the Republican Party’s Commander in Chief nomination, as reported in today’s Los Angeles News Group, the Galaxy Foundation has pulled its annual charity golf tournament from Trump National, even though the MLS franchise has been successful in the past there raising money to benefit the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. It continues a trend of companies and individuals trying to distance themselves, make their own statements and run to higher ground as Trump’s tongue continues to tie up his business dealings.

The next step? It seems far too easy.

pga_professional_480x288_1The PGA of America has to seriously do the same with its Grand Slam of Golf scheduled for October at the Trump estate. Along with it, yank the PGA Junior League Golf Championship set to happen as the lead-in event. And put him on notice that they’re about to rethink the 2022 PGA Championship that’s scheduled to be played at his self-named New Jersey course.

Just don’t expect it to happen this Fourth of July weekend. Golf moves slowly, methodically, cautiously. On the course and in the boardrooms. It can gracefully give Trump a mulligan for things he’s said, knowing all he’s done to keep their sport viable at a time when the Tiger Woods Effect is closing more courses than it once built in the last 20 years.

trumpscotland084247-300x300They know that for all his business sense and his bluster, Trump has a freedom of speech that can play into his favor as the media continues to document his every insane word. And he carries the threat to sue his way back into upholding business contracts that have been broken.

Did he not anticipate some kind of calculated blowback when he referred to Mexican migrants as those who are criminals, rapists and drug smugglers? Does he believe he’s more fearless than the sport of golf when continued remarks to the Golf Channel this week that the golf world is giving him “tremendous support” because “they all know I’m right.”

It all plays into his game (whether he plays fairly or not, which is another topic).

He added: “I have Mexicans and South Americans working for me all over the country and believe me, they love me and I love them. I think they’re great. I’ve had great support and I haven’t heard one negative thing and frankly I don’t expect to.”

following_distanceThen he’s not been listening.

Or, frankly, could we have at least expected the PGA of America, the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and USGA – all partners with him — to offer up more than just a mealy-mouth joint statement that they “feel compelled” to say Trump’s words “do not reflect the views of our organizations” and are “inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf”?

Probably not. Even if more affirmative action is presumably warranted.

Consider golf’s measured steps of the past. How long did it take the Augusta National Golf Club to finally admit a female member? it still hasn’t hosted a women’s event. How long did it take the PGA Tour to allow a physically disabled player to get an exemption for an electric cart?

The game that values sportsmanship and self-regulation of rules – written or otherwise — still can’t put the pencil to the scorecard until it fully gauges how its sponsors will react. That’s just how business, and life, really works.

Trump_National_Golf_Course_-_Los_Angeles_-_Trump_National_358890You can be upset with Trump’s comments about immigration. You can also know that recent stories have also pointed out how land barons like Trump, who owns more than a dozen courses around the world, is also causing huge environmental issues with how they maintain their properties.

If the Grand Slam of Golf happens at Trump this fall, you can decide whether or not to support it. And Jordan Spieth, who has already qualified — twice — can decide whether or not to boycott it.

Meanwhile, before an act of God pushes the 18th hole back into the Pacific as it once did on the RPV Trump track, consider a better way to spend the $280 green fee that’s currently required for a round on this public course. Why pay that price, and then have another three sleeves of balls go missing into a nature preserve that really isn’t equipped to have any kind of presentable golf course there in the first place. Continue reading

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Weekly media notes version 07.02.15 — Is Fox vindicated for the investment in FIFA Women’s World Cup?

POST UPDATED at 4:30 p.m. THURSDAY:

IMG_3663The plan for this Sunday’s weekly media column:

fox-sports-wwc-logoBefore the top of the fifth inning in Wednesday’s Angels-Yankees telecast on FSW, Alex Curry showed up in the right-field seats to promote the fact that Fox’s parent network would be carrying Sunday’s FIFA Women’s World Cup final on Sunday from Vancouver (Channel 11, 4 p.m.)
The fans chanting “U-S-A” didn’t even know who the opponent was going to be at the time. Why would that matter? Seems everyone has soccer fever.
Or is just proud to have something to root for on this July Fourth weekend?
We intend to dive more into how Fox has planned for this event, and how their execs and analysts view the entire tournament to date.

What’s worth getting out there now before the holiday weekend:

Bob Ley went to Vietnam for an "Outside The Lines" show “Made in Vietnam: The American Sneaker Controversy" in 1998. (Photo: ESPN)

Bob Ley went to Vietnam for an “Outside The Lines” show “Made in Vietnam: The American Sneaker Controversy” in March, 1998. (Photo: ESPN)

== Save the date: ESPN plans a one-hour special to mark the 25th anniversary of “Outside The Lines” on Tuesday at 4 p.m., putting Bob Ley in the host chair to look back at the body of work they have put together as the most thoughtful news-generated shows that the network has stuck with over all this time.
“I would like congratulate Bob Ley — and the whole team — on 25 spectacular years of OTL,” said ESPN President John Skipper in a statement. “He has established himself as nothing less than the Walter Cronkite of sports journalism, clearly the leading sports news host of the past quarter century. The range and quickness of his intellect, his ever-present curiosity and his persistent search for truth distinguish his work for ESPN and makes OTL a must watch.”
No matter what time they try to bury it on the weekend. At least, the Sunday-Friday show  has become a sustainable must-watch half hour that extends important conversations about the day’s breaking news and creating investigative piece as well (i.e.: The latest in the Pete Rose betting scandal that showed he placed wagers while as an active player, despite his denials).
We have lined up an interview with Ley prior to the launch of this show to talk more about it and his career to this point. Meanwhile, check out the hour-long piece that SI.com’s Richard Deitsch did with Ley back in mid-June.
Rose, meanwhile, reappeared today on FS1’s “MLB Whiparound” (4-to-5 p.m.) but didn’t address his latest re-entry point in the news. Host Chris Myers said Rose spoke live earlier and the video here on FoxSports.com would suffice as his reaction.
In the “FS1 exclusive” clip of eight minutes, Rose said he couldn’t talk about the ESPN report because of his pending reinstatement meetings with commissioner Rob Manfred, “and I’m sure those questions will come up” when the meetings happen “sometime in August, I hope.” Rose says he “wants to” answer those questions.
Today’s episode: The Angels front-office mess as we’ve been tipped off by this tweet:

== And as long as we’re reading outside or between the lines: What’s happening leading up to Keith Olbermann’s August contract renewal? Has he been asked to dial it back or else?

Continue reading

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Play It Forward June 29-July 5: Before Team American gets to that Women’s World Cup finale, Germany has a say

Carli Lloyd looks toward fans after the United States defeated China 1-0 in a quarterfinal match in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer tournament last Friday. (Adrian WyldThe Canadian Press via AP)

Carli Lloyd looks toward fans after the United States defeated China 1-0 in a quarterfinal match in the FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer tournament last Friday. (Adrian WyldThe Canadian Press via AP)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP SEMIFINALS:
UNITED STATES vs. GERMANY
Details/TV: At Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Tuesday at 4 p.m., Channel 11
JAPAN vs. ENGLAND
Details/TV: At Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Wednesday at 4 p.m., Fox Sports 1

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:
Details/TV: At BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Sunday at 4 p.m., Channel 11:

A United States fan watches during the first half pf the team's quarterfinal match against China in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Adrian WyldThe Canadian Press via AP)

A United States fan watches during the first half pf the team’s quarterfinal match against China in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Adrian WyldThe Canadian Press via AP)

We circle back and see how some tried to get their heads around this global event, predicting its outcome before artificial turf burns or burning-hot red cards came into play. For instance, there’s Julie Foudy, the Stanford-educated, two-time World Cup winner who captained the American squad for 13 years before retiring in 2004. She wrote in a piece for ESPNW.com that “the U.S. women will overcome finishing second in Group D to hoist the Cup in Vancouver on July 5.” Even if the U.S. really wound up winning that first-round foursome, Foudy tabbed Team American’s opponent in the grand finale as France. That won’t happen.
In Grant Wahl’s Sports Illustrated preview back in early June, France also went down to the U.S., but it was in the semifinals. He had the Americans triumphing over Brazil. A country, like France, didn’t actually make it that far.
Then there’s the predictability of thoughtful slicing and dicing from the website fivethirtyeight.com, which uses its Women’s Soccer Power Index (WSPI) to combine game-based offensive and defensive ratings to estimate a team’s overall skill level. Going in, Germany (95.6) and the U.S. (95.4) went in as almost equal favorites. But as time went on, the site predicted: “The U.S.’s slight advantage over Germany — despite Germany’s stronger power rating in our model  — is because Germany is more likely to face a very strong French side in the quarterfinals.” As Die Nationalelf did in a 1-1 tie determined by penalty kicks before a pro-French crowd in Montreal. At last glance, the site gives Germany, led by Celia Sasic’s six goals, a 43 percent chance of winning the whole tournament, with U.S. second with a 30 percent chance, perhaps weighted down based on its meager 1-0 win over China in the semis where it didn’t have Lauren Holiday or Megan Rapinoe available. Neither Japan (18 percent) nor England (9 percent) stand much of a chance against the U.S.-Germany winner to claim the overall title.
Whatever happens, the Americans have at least one more game after Tuesday’s semifinal. It could be the third-place game Saturday in Edmonton (1 p.m., FS1). Or, it’s the bigger deal on Sunday, perhaps a rematch against Japan to possible avenge their penalty kick loss in the 2011 tournament final played in Germany.

ALSO THIS WEEK:

The Dodgers hit the halfway part of the season — Game No. 81 — with Friday’s first game of a homestand against the New York Mets … More New York invasion into Southern California with the Yankees’ visit to Angel Stadium on Monday-Wednesday … Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams go into the first week of Wimbledon as the men’s and women’s favorite … The 102nd Tour de France starts Saturday in, where else, but the Netherlands … More to see at this link.

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Magic apparently doesn’t happen overnight in the NBA, when looking a draft ratings

Yeah, you’d think so.
ESPN’s numbers that came out this morning showed that the L.A. and New York  markets, which had a vested interest in the future of the slumbering Lakers’ and Knicks’ franchise for the first time in a long while during this televised draft era, barely did better than the national average.
The telecast between 4 p.m., and 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night PDT had 3.1 overnight rating from the metered markets that Nielsen monitors.
The L.A. market, second in the nation (5.6 million homes, or 4.9 percent of the population), did a 3.6 rating, which was 14th best; New York, the largest TV market in the country (7.4 million homes, or 6.5 percent of the population), came in at 3.2, ranking 22nd.
Magic Johnson’s prediction that Celtics fans would also come through didn’t come through — Boston was 20th in the rankings with a 3.4 rating.
Louisville, apparently enthralled by where all the University of Kentucky players would scatter, had the best market rating of 8.0. Louisville is the 48th largest TV market.
ESPN said that 3.1 mark matched last year’s draft as the network’s highest-rated of all time. It also said the telecast of the draft peaked between 5 and 5:15 p.m., with a 4.2 rating. At that point, the Lakers had already made D’Angelo Russell the No. 2 overall choice, with New York salivating that Jahlil Okafor could be falling to the No. 4 spot.
Philadelphia, whose 76ers had the third overall pick, was tied for second in the market ratings with a 5.0 mark (same as Greensboro, N.C.), the highest of any market with an NBA team. Philadelphia is the fourth-largest TV market in the country (2.9 million homes), behind Chicago (3.4 million).
Because a ratings point today equals more than it did, say, yesterday, the Thursday show will go down for now as the “most-watched” draft in history with an average of 3.7 million viewers, or eight percent more than 2014.
UPDATE: ESPN reported later Thursday that the draft had an average 2.4 household rating across the country (metered markets, plus all others), up four percent from last year.
ESPN has carried the NBA Draft since 2003, and it has been on TV going back to 1994.

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