Play It Forward: July 28-Aug. 3 on your sports calendar

DSC00402THIS WEEK’S BEST BETS:
NFL: HALL OF FAME GAME: BUFFALO vs. N.Y. GIANTS
Details/TV: At Canton, Ohio, Sunday at 5 p.m., Channel 4:
NFL: PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY
Details/TV: At Canton, Ohio, Saturday at 1 p.m., NFL Network:
The Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies that just took place mark a time to pause and reflect on the specialness of the game at midseason. The Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies, and subsequent exhibition game, that will happen a week later remind us that fall isn’t far away. And we notice some even drooling for it. After seeing more stories lately about the possibility of a team coming back to Los Angeles despite a 20-year absence, catching some of the Dallas Cowboys’ visit to Southern California to limber up in front of hundreds of gawkers, and a growing menu of ESPN programming set up just to allow fans to watch their team’s practices, we believe it’s time to yield to the powerful pull of the National Football League at this moment. So it’s back to Canton, Ohio,  where fame isn’t fleeting, and time to give props to guys like punter Ray Guy, the former L.A. Raiders specialist whose job was damage control when the offense couldn’t get things moving. For that, he’s now a certified legend in the game. Let’s see how far he can kick his bronze bust. New morning TV darling Michael Strahan gets honored as well with Derrick Brooks, Claude Humphrey, Walter Jones, Andre Reed and Aeneas Williams on Saturday afternoon. The next day, they’ll play an exhibition game on the local high-school football field, and Al Michaels will make it sound real.

The rest of the week lays out with the Dodgers playing at home against Atlanta and Chicago, the Angels heading on the road to Baltimore and Tampa, the International Surf Festival on the South Bay beaches and some more soccer, WNBA and even women’s indoor football. Go figure. It’s all here at this link.

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Media column version 07.25.14: The art of the UFC, by Art Davie, and how he sold it to a TV audience some 20 years ago

UFC_Creator_Art_DavieThe book is called “Is This Legal? The Inside Story of The First UFC From The Man Who Created It,” and we thank Art Davie for giving us some time to talk more about all that went into the event more than 20 years ago that spawned what is now the MMA explosion of TV programming.
51-WynqNOcLDavie’s adventures with rejection letters from ESPN and Prime Ticket, as well as from HBO and Showtime, are all part of the process that he reveals with plenty of relish. Davie says he’ll be showing on the Spike TV broadcast of the Bellator fight card from Temecula (Friday, 6 p.m.) to talk about the book with his co-author and MMA play-by-play man Sean Wheelock.

While this is the subject of this week’s media column, other notes worth noting here:

== Erin Andrews, not on Fox’s college football anymore? At least there is some residual effect to her knocking Pam Oliver out on the lead NFL sideline gig.
== It’s Tom Verducci, on Roger Angell, thankfully a link provided via Ed Sherman.
== It’s still a bit of a surprise that the Stanley Cup champion Kings will be getting as much NBCSN exposure for the 2014-15 season — 12 appearances — as Philadelphia, Washington and (ahem) San Jose. But still not as much as Chicago (20), Pittsburgh (19), Boston (17), Detroit (15) or the N.Y. Rangers (14).
== Is it true that the L.A. Times’ Bill Dwyer conveniently left out in his remembrance of Jim Healy this week the fact that Healy used to call him “Journalist Bill”?
== How ESPN plans to cover the 2015 Special Olympics from Los Angeles.
== We always had a bad feeling about teams that named themselves after bad things.

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Play It Forward: July 21-27 on your sports calendar

emily-day-edchan-WSOBV_span7THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
ASICS WORLD SERIES OF BEACH VOLLEYBALL
Details/TV: At Alamitos Beach in Long Beach, final matches on Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 4:
ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball LogoThis is where SPF number indicates the Summer Party Festival level on your keg of Coppertone. This version of the Long Beach Grand Potpourri follows up on last year’s inaugural event with even more juice — a six-day festival starting Tuesday, kicked up a notch as the FIVB-sponsored tournament attracting more than 120 of the top players in the world going after $1 million in prize money. That includes the usual bump-and-thump American headliners like Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross, Brittany Hochevar, Sean Rosenthal, Todd Rogers, Phil Dalhausser and Casey Jennings, all of whom are trying to calibrate their games as the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil comes more into focus. Throw in all kinds of live musical acts, junior and college competition, co-ed four- and six-person events and the mandatory bikini contest with a $1,000 grand prize, and it’s proof again that the signature sport of Southern California has arrived for its mid-summer fling thing. Or go with what promoter/organizer Leonard Armato calls “the most extraordinary beach volleyball event in the history of the planet.” If parking hassles around the Pike or Convention Center aren’t appealing, Channel 4 also has either a men’s or women’s semifinal match on Saturday (1:30 p.m.), with NBCSN and Universal Sports carrying matches all weekend. More info: www.wsobv.com.

mlb_g_torre_200Also this week: The Dodgers’ road trip continues to Pittsburgh and San Francisco, the Angels are home against two of the hottest teams in baseball — Baltimore and Detroit — the Baseball Hall of Fame has six inductees and the Galaxy get friendly against Man U. at the Rose Bowl. See the rest of the week at this link.

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Media column version 07.18.14: Enough ‘truthiness’ in SportsNet L.A. negotiations

truthinessdefWe fear that we can handle the truth.
It’s just that, five months into this Dodgers-owned SportsNet L.A., we’re still trying to decode what exactly are the reasons why a company like Time Warner Cable can’t get full distribution, as it has been hired by the team to accomplish, and why another company like DirecTV continues to refuse a product that seemingly everyone in Southern California would want.
At the right price.
The “truthiness” of what’s out there and what we believe to be true is what we’ve decided to attack in today’s media column, linked here.

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Play It Forward: July 14-20 on your sports calendar

la_g_puig_kh_600x600THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
85th MLB ALL-STAR GAME
Details/TV: At Minneapolis, Minn., Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., Channel 11:

Mike-TroutA well-intentioned lad at something called RantSports.com decided to produce a Top 5 list of reasons why we need to watch this annual exhibition game that continues to mistakenly gives World Series home-field advantage to the league that wins it. Reason No. 5: It’s a major sporting event “that carries a social obligation to care.” Uh, not to get off on a rant here, but that just doesn’t cut it. We’ll give you that it’s Derek Jeter’s last All-Star appearance — the 40 year old playing in his 20th season is making his 14th trip. But what if potential NL starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw faces AL leadoff hitter Mike Trout to star the game. And Trout launches a ball over the head of right-fielder Yasiel Puig, who leaps to try to make the catch and hurts himself. Trout circles the bases for a potential inside-the-park homer, but he’s called out for not sliding. Replay reverses the call. Bud Selig calls it a draw.(Didn’t this already happen in spring training?)
570x375x2014-MLB-ASG-Logo.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Ci6hzeOawVThat’s enough reason to set the DVR. And it also assumes Puig actually plays in the game after his participation in the 29th MLB Home Run Derby (Monday, 5 p.m., ESPN), where there’s plenty of reasons available for him to pull a rib cage when trying to match longballs with Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Bautista, Yoenis Cespedes and Adam Jones. There’s a reason why Trout, Miggy Cabrera and Jose Abreu aren’t participating in one exhibition but will be there for the other.

golf snapAmong the other things going on this week: The 143rd British Open golf tournament at Royal Liverpool (without a Beatles reunion concert), the Dodgers resume the second half of the season starting a nine-game road trip in St. Louis (with two games carried nationally), Del Mar starts its summer thoroughbred season, the Baseball Reliquary holds another Shrine of the Eternals induction, the Arena League’s Kiss plays its final home game, and the ESPY Awards won’t go away. See more of this on the website.

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Media column version 07.11.14: Aligning the stars, to a point

Vin Scully prepares to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on April 4 before the season home opener at Dodger Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY)

Vin Scully prepares to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on April 4 before the season home opener at Dodger Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY)

In a recent column for the Chicago Tribune, Paul Sullivan listed seven things he’d like tinkered with to improve the 85th annual MLB All-Star Game, which Fox will televise on Tuesday from Minneapolis (Channel 11, 4:30 p.m.).
Skipping down to No. 7: Have Vin Scully call the game for Fox. We get enough Joe Buck on baseball and NFL games all year. It’s time to honor the best there ever was.
Buck, in a refrain he’s sang several times before when this topic has come up, would be among the first one to second that emotion.
“Personally, I could consider (yielding to Scully) a career highlight,” Buck said this week. “I once did a radio game with Ernie Harwell when I was about 3 years old, did a game with my dad (Hall of Famer Jack Buck) when I was 4. Getting a chance to say I was a part of a broadcast with Vin and hand over my headset … you’re talking to a guy who gets it and knows that generation of broadcasters. I’m in that age bracket. I realized back when I heard him and Joe Garagiola do the Game of the Week, and I realize now how brilliant the man continues to be to this very day. It would be awesome today (to have Scully come into the Fox booth), but I don’t get the sense he’s jumping to get involved.”
True enough. And that’s what we’ve focused on for the column we’ve pieced together for Friday’s editions.

In addition, we shall note:

== The St. Paul Pioneer Press uncovered Scully’s call of the 1985 All-Star Game, which was played at the old Metrodome. Continue reading

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Play It Forward: July 7-13 on your sports calendar

Two men pose for a photo with a cutout of Brazilian striker Neymar, on the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday. Still coping with the loss of its biggest star, Brazil is trying to find ways to remain upbeat about its prospects at the World Cup. The medical helicopter that took Neymar home with a back injury also carried away much of the country's hopes for a sixth world title, but the tournament isn't over yet and Brazil is just days away from a difficult semifinal against Germany. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Two men pose for a photo with a cutout of Brazilian striker Neymar, on the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday. Still coping with the loss of its biggest star, Brazil is trying to find ways to remain upbeat about its prospects at the World Cup. The medical helicopter that took Neymar home with a back injury also carried away much of the country’s hopes for a sixth world title, but the tournament isn’t over yet and Brazil is just days away from a difficult semifinal against Germany. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
FIFA WORLD CUP:
Final: At Rio De Janeiro, Sunday at noon, Channel 7
What kind of heck is going to break loose if host country Brazil meets up with rival Argentina in an all-South American final for Match 64 of this month-long carnival ride? They’ve faced each other more than 100 times since first squaring off for the first time 100 years ago. Argentina hasn’t been to the Final Four since 1990 when Diego Maradona was the big kicker wearing No. 10. Brazil, with Pele’s presence in its midst, is nearly assumed to make it all the way to the final. “Argentina and Brazil consider each other as the cream of South American football and that fuels huge sporting rivalry,” Raul Bernal-Mezza, professor of international relations at Buenos Aires University, told the Malay Mail, Malaysia’s English-language media organization. “All Argentinians want Brazil to lose and all Brazilians want Argentina to lose.” The two soccer giants may have seven World Cup titles between them – Brazil won it in 1958, ’62, ’70, ’94 and 2002, while Argentina has ’78 and ’86 – they’ve never reached the semifinals in the same World Cup before this.  “To win the final with Brazil at the Maracanã is something like the ultimate dream for any Argentine fan,” said Ezequiel Fernández Moores, one of Argentina’s best-known sportswriters, in an interview with the Washington Post. “It would trump all World Cups and be an eternal postcard image.” Added Newton César de Oliveira Santos, author of the 2009 book “Brazil-Argentina: Stories of the World’s Greatest Football Rivalry,” when asked by the Post: “The Argentines would love to play football as fancy as the Brazilians, and the Brazilians would love to play with the drive and will that the Argentines have. The rivalry exists, but it hides a big admiration that each has of the other.”|
The semifinals:
At Belo Horizonte, Brazil: Germany vs. Brazil, Tuesday at 1 p.m., ESPN
At Sao Paolo, Brazil: Argentina vs. Netherlands, Wednesday at 1 p.m., ESPN
The third place game: Saturday at 1 p.m., ESPN

Also this week:

Clayton Kershaw works against the Colorado Rockies in a July 4 game in Denver, where he pitched eight scoreless innings. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Clayton Kershaw works against the Colorado Rockies in a July 4 game in Denver, where he pitched eight scoreless innings. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Clayton Kershaw has 36 innings down and 24 to go to pass Orel Hershiser for the MLB record of consecutive scoreless innings, and the streak is on the line when Kershaw faces San Diego in the first of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium on Thursday (7:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.). This is after the Dodgers stop in Detroit to play two against the Tigers on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Read more of Play it Forward at this link.

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Play It Forward: June 30-July 6 on your sports calendar

United States' Jozy Altidore walks back to the team bench after questioning a call on the pitch during the group G World Cup soccer match between the USA and Germany at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, Thursday, June 26, 2014. Left is United States' head coach Juergen Klinsmann. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

 Jozy Altidore walks back to the team bench after questioning a call on the pitch during the Group G World Cup soccer match between the U.S. and Germany last Thursday. Left is United States’ head coach Juergen Klinsmann. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

FIFA WORLD CUP: U.S. vs. BELGIUM
Details/TV: At Salvador, Brazil, 1 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN:

Soccer’s version of the Sweet 16 looks like a real knock-down, drag-out, knockout round as long as Team America stays visible — something for which the American sports TV networks are most thankful, even if it’s a midday start on an otherwise dormant day of the week. Assume this is probably the last week we’ll all have together, though. According to Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com — which we assumed was the name of some kind of trend-setting player alignment on the pitch — the U.S. has about a 42 percent chance of beating Belgium based on a match-prediction algorithm he devised called the Soccer Power Index rating. Consider, too, that since ties are no good anymore in this round, if the U.S.-Belgium game went beyond regulation, the Americans’ chances would sneak up to 46 percent if there was some overtime, sudden death or penalty kicks involved. And how does the return of striker Jozy Altidore factor into this? The hamstring injury he suffered in the Americans’ opening-game match seems to be healing and coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he is optimistic about Altidore being available. Should the U.S. get past the Belgians, it would face the winner of Tuesday’s 9 a.m. Argentina-Switzerland game, a quarterfinal match set for Saturday at 9 a.m. While Silver gives the U.S. just a 20 percent chance of beating Argentina, it would be even money against the Swiss. But then again, since the U.S. advanced all the way to the semifinals in the first FIFA World Cup in 1930, it has only been to the quarterfinals once (in 2002). So if you go by this Silver lining playbook, bet wisely.

Other events this week: The men’s and women’s finals at Wimbledon, the start of the 101st Tour de France, and the Fourth of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Find them at this link.

 

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Play It Forward: June 23-29 on your sports calendar

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

Jermaine Jones, center, celebrates scoring the first U.S. goal against Portugal on Sunday.  (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Jermaine Jones, center, celebrates scoring the first U.S. goal against Portugal on Sunday. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

NO. 1: FIFA WORLD CUP:
UNITED STATES vs. GERMANY
Details/TV: In Recife, Brazil; Thursday at 9 a.m., ESPN:
There are times during the U.S. team practices when players such as Jermaine Jones, Julian Green, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson and John Brooks converse with each other in German. Those five have dual citizenships — all were born in Germany to fathers serving in the U.S. military there. The 32-year-old Jones, the hard-nosed starting midfielder who lives in Encino, recently told Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated that there is no conflict for him to represent the U.S. despite what others may think as this important Group G matchup finally happens. “I will always have the half-side of Germany in my heart, but all of us ‘half’ players – and the coach, too – we will try to win this game for America. We want to get to the next round.”  The coach, of course, is Jurgen Klinsmann, the 1990 World Cup star for West Germany, living in Newport Beach and recruited to coach this American squad in a way that may not please everyone. The subplots for this one run deep even among the fans, so much so that Forbes reports that the average price for tickets to this game is about $900 or three times more than what tickets were going for with the U.S.-Portugal meeting on Sunday. Following that 2-2 U.S.-Portugal outcomes, the Americans can go to the next round with a win or draw against Germany.

ALSO THIS WEEK:
NBA 2014 DRAFT
Details/TV: At New York, Thursday at 4:30 p.m., ESPN:
lakers-gm-mitch-kupchak
By the time the Lakers get to pick over the what’s available at not-so-lucky No. 7, the smart move might be Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart. Or, maybe they really dig Creighton’s Doug McDermott or the free-falling Kansas center Joel Embiid. There’s also three UCLA guys waiting to hear their names called – Zach LaVine, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. Then again, maybe Mitch Kupchak will trade it on a whim as he has every other Lakers first-round pick the last seven seasons. Meanwhile, the Clippers, picking at No. 28 here, can make some positive news for a change.

TENNIS: 128th WIMBLEDON CHAMPIONSHIPS
Details/TV: Opening rounds, Monday at 4 a.m., ESPN:
Murray-Holds-wimbl_2611178b-460x288
Now that England has vanished from the World Cup radar, the nation can focus on its singular grass hero, Andy Murray, who defends his men’s title starting Monday against 104th ranked David Goffin of Belgium. If Murray stays on track, he’ll meet Rafael Nadal in the final. But then again, Nadal and Roger Federer were early exits a year ago. On the women’s side, favorite Serena Williams, who made only a brief appearance at the French Open, is seeded to meet up with Maria Sharapova in the final. Sharapova hasn’t defeated Williams since the Wimbledon final 10 years ago. Camarillo’s Bob and Mike Bryan, who won the men’s doubles last year, return as the No. 1 seeds. ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS have about 140 hours of combined coverage through the men’s final on July 6.

MLB: DODGERS vs. ST. LOUIS
Details/TV: Thursday-Sunday, SportsNet L.A. and Channel 11:
michael-wacha-vs-pirates-595x396
Flash back to last year’s NL Championship Series, when the Cardinals needed six games to wipe away the Dodgers’ plans for a World Series appearance. Remember when rookie Michael Wacha beat Clayton Kershaw twice, Hanley Ramirez couldn’t do much with injured ribs, and Yasiel Puig was making a bigger mess of things in right field? The 22-year-old Wacha (5-5, 2.49), scheduled to pitch Friday in this four-games series, has been running out of gas lately, sporting a 4.24 ERA in June, and the team is trying to make sure they don’t overdo it with him. With the playoff atmosphere in place, the Dodgers will counter by giving away Brian Wilson bobbleheads during Thursday’s opener.
The series: Thursday and Friday at 7:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.; Saturday at 4:15 p.m., Channel 11; Sunday at 1:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.

More of the week ahead at this link

 

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Play It Forward: June 16-22 on your sports calendar

Ranking top 10 sports events of the week:

Jurgen Klinsmann juggles a soccer ball before an official training session the day before the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Jurgen Klinsmann juggles a soccer ball before an official training session the day before the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

NO. 1: FIFA WORLD CUP:
U.S. vs. GHANA
Details/TV: Monday at 3 p.m., at Estadio das Dunas, Natal, ESPN

U.S. vs. PORTUGAL
Details/TV: Sunday at 3 p.m., at Arena Amazonia, Manaus, ESPN:

Believe what you want. Jurgen Klinsmann has said the U.S. team no realistic chance of winning this event. So why bother playing? “This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I don’t agree with Jurgen,” said Landon Donovan, the all-time U.S. leading scorer and Galaxy star left off this year’s roster in another controversial move. Donovan, who’ll be an L.A.-based analyst on the event during ESPN’s coverage, isn’t included in the network’s latest “I Believe We Will Win” promos, where people like Kevin Costner, Whoopi Goldberg, Ice Cube and Jon Hamm are riffing on this chant that is supposed to inspire one to tweet out #IBelieve and be part of the “American Outlaws” alliance. Well, whoopee-do and cupcakes, too, right? “As someone who has been in the locker room with these players, we believe in the ‘American Outlaws’ that we will win,” Donovan continued. “One point I want to make is if we’re really expected go out and beat Portugal and beat Ghana and beat Germany (the last pool play opponent on June 26) – and Germany is one of the best teams in the world – if you can beat Germany, why can’t you beat anyone else? It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but I believe it and I think all of America believes we can do it.” Many believe that for the U.S. to advance past Group G, it has to rack up a large-margin victory in the opener against Ghana – which thwarted the Americans in 2006 and 2010 by 2-1 scores –, then at least tie Portugal before meeting up with a German squad that by then will have locked up a spot and may be easing back on the throttle. It’s a strange series of events that need to happen, but …. This is why they play the games.

Also Monday:
KINGS’ STANLEY CUP CHAMPION PARADE
11 a.m., FSW

The double-decker buses go down Figueroa Avenue again, starting at 5th Street and ending up where most of the fans will be gathered at L.A. Live. If we learned anything from 2012, it’s to have the seven-second TV delay ready for whenever Jonathan Quick is near a microphone.

The rest of the Top 10 list at this link

 

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