Play It Forward: Nov. 10-16 on your sports calendar — Steve Alford’s season on the brink isn’t Year 2 at UCLA, is it?

UCLABruins.com

UCLABruins.com

THIS WEEK’S BEST BETS:

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: 2014-15 SEASON OPENERS:

UCLA vs. MONTANA STATE
Details/TV: Pauley Pavilion, Friday at 9 p.m., Pac-12 Network:

USC vs. PORTLAND STATE
Details/TV: Galen Center, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network:

CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE at SAN DIEGO STATE
Details/TV: Friday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports San Diego

LONG BEACH STATE at BYU
Details/TV: Friday at 4 p.m.

LOYOLA MARYMOUNT vs. S.E. MISSOURI
Details/TV: Gersten Pavilion, Friday at 6 p.m.

PEPPERDINE vs. FRESNO STATE
Details/TV: Firestone Fieldhouse, Friday at 7 p.m.

Steve Alford turns 50 years old later this month. And with that, a lot of us are feeling just a little bit older right now. For a simple reference point, flip back to the late ‘80s when John Feinstein’s book “A Season on the Brink” included the process by which Indiana coach Bob Knight tried to recruit the  hot-shot high school sophomore Alford. Now that the baby-faced Alford enters his 20th season as a Division I basketball coach, it this a make-or-brink moment for Year 2 at UCLA? He molded a 28-9 record and a Pac-12 Conference tournament championship in his first year, and that turned out to be pretty sweet – as in an eventual Sweet 16 appearance. But missing from this year’s roster are Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine and the Wear twins. Alford’s replenished with five freshmen, including Kevon Looney, who had a team-best 12 rebounds in an exhibition win over Azusa Pacific the other night, and 7-footer Thomas Welch, from Redondo Beach out of L.A. Loyola High. On the opening night of college hoops – where No. 1 Kentucky risks its credibility hosting Grand Canyon,  No. 2 Arizona stays home for Mt. St. Mary’s and Louisville’s Rick Pitino coaches against his son, Richard, the head coach at Minnesota, in Puerto Rico (ESPN, 4 p.m.) — the Bruins saddle up with the Bobcats of the Big Sky Conference for a tip-off so late, it’ll already be Saturday night in the East.
reggie-theus A few hours earlier,  Cal State Northridge will take on a much more challenging task. Coach Reggie Theus, also starting his second year, decided to measure his team up against No. 16 San Diego State, and follow that by going to Tucson to face the Wildcats (Sunday, 4 p.m., Pac-12 Network). This Matadors team will end up playing at Oregon and at Louisville this season. Their Big West rivals at Long Beach State, where coach Dan Monson recently agreed to a five-year contract extension, put UCLA and Kansas State on its schedule early on as well. But for starters, the 49ers go to West Coast Conference challenger BYU in Provo, Utah, hoping their core group led by Mike Caffey, Nick Faust and Tyler Lamb are up for the challenge.
532a5d9b5b291.imageAs for the region’s WCC teams, Loyola Marymount turns to alum Mike Dunlap for his first year when the Lions host their own LMU Classic against SE Missouri and Boise State on back-to-back nights. Pepperdine, with alum Marty Wilson starting his fourth season as coach, take on Fresno State, which went 21-18 a year ago. The next night, there’s USC, a miserable 11-21 last season, going without a senior and with 11 sophomores and freshman. Andy Enfield’s  second season begins a matchup against the Big Sky’s Portland State.

THE REST OF THE WEEK:

dm_140826_mlb_braden_on_kershaw_trout1103USC goes Thursday night against Cal at the Coliseum (6 p.m., ESPN) as the prelude to facing UCLA and Notre Dame … The Baseball Writers Association of America is expected to give out its AL and NL MVP Awards to the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw on Thursday (3 p.m., MLB Network) … The Clippers have to wonder if Gregg Popovich is going to put out all his veterans when they meet San Antonio (Staples Center, Monday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket) … The Kings and Ducks have to play each other five times in the regular season, but they’re going to knock out two of them in one week (Wednesday at Honda Center, 7 p.m., NBCSN; Saturday at Staples Center, 1 p.m., FSW, Prime) … John Force is in position again to win another Funny Car title when the NHRA’s 50th Auto Club Finals happen at the Pomona Fairgrounds (Sunday’s finals start at 3:25 p.m.; qualifying begins Thursday) … Oh, right, the Lakers … they’re going back-to-back in Memphis (Tuesday, 5 p.m.) and New Orleans (Wednesday, 5 p.m.) before coming home for San Antonio (Friday, 7 p.m.) and Golden State (Sunday, 6:30 p.m.). You’ve been warned …. And there’s even more at this link.

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It’s Out of the Question: If a hunger to win won’t be satisfied by these Lakers, then where do we get our fill?

His friends at TNT are already projecting what Charles Barkley's weight will look like as he waits out the first Lakers win of 2014. (Photo: TNT)

His friends at TNT are already projecting what Charles Barkley’s weight will look like as he waits out the first Lakers win of 2014. (Photo: TNT)

Charles Barkley has made a solemn vow that he won’t eat another meal until the Lakers win a game. And you thought Tommy Lasorda on Slimfast was cruel and unusual self-inflicted punishment?

Kobe Bryant sits on the bench after rookie  Julius Randle breaks his leg in the Lakers' opener on  Oct. 28, (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Kobe Bryant sits on the bench after rookie Julius Randle breaks his leg in the Lakers’ opener on Oct. 28, (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

On the “Petros and Money” sports talk show, they’re holding a “Lakers Win Watch 2014” prediction contest. Kinda like “Storm Watch,” only it affects more people in L.A. Bill Macdonald, the Lakers TV play-by-play man, picked this coming Wednesday in New Orleans. He was laughed off the AM dial.

Over on the Lakers’ home station, Colin Cowherd likened the team to “the circus that comes through town, doesn’t treat the elephant well and makes everyone uneasy.”

Easy there. It all could be fixed in a jiff by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, knowing how the league can fix things when it needs to.

The man who has already made Donald Sterling disappear said this week he’d raise the minimum age for any player entering the league from 19 to 20 years old if he could. By the executive power vested in him by all the TV partners, can’t he automatically raise the minimum win total for the Lakers to a dozen by April, 2015?

Lawrence Tanter_ credit-Gary Friedman  Los Angeles Times  March 23, 2011This could be the point when Lawrence Tanter tantalizes the Staples Center crowd by introducing tonight’s starting lineup “for your Los Angeles Losers” with a microphone that loses its power. And if you’re trying to divert your attention from the scoreboard, check out those “Loser Girrrrrrls.”

The black jersey didn't help Kobe Bryant and the Lakers scare off the Clippers in their first meeting of the season on Halloween night.  (AP Photo/Christine Cotter)

The black jersey didn’t help Kobe Bryant and the Lakers scare off the Clippers in their first meeting of the season on Halloween night. (AP Photo/Christine Cotter)

It’s more and more appropriate that these lakers – and let’s go with the lower-case “L” at this point, because there are too many of these scarlet letters to count at this point — be con- demned to wear their black alternate jerseys, the ones with the sleeves. So when the Black Mamba is wearing his black armband, it’s not too noticeable.

There has to be a tipping point soon when Nike asks Kobe Bryant to film a commercial where he gets the entire city of Los Angeles to huddle up and “be relentless.”

Sorry, is that slogan taken?

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Media column version 11.07.14: There’s documentation of how to live, and still chase, a career dream in the sports media world

Kane County Chronicle sports writer Kevin Druley works on his story in the Kane County Cougars' press box after their game. (Photo provided by Patrick Lile)

Kane County Chronicle sports writer Kevin Druley works on his game story from the press box while covering the Single-A  Kane County Cougars, outside of Chicago. (Photo provided by R. Patrick Lile)

The focus of this week’s media column posted here:

In the span of an 18-minute documentary, R. Patrick Lile and Kevin Druley are linked for a lifetime. Where things end up, both are anxious to discover.
All-Sports-Logo960x360-v5Lile, a filmmaker who just turned 34 last week, created the thought-provoking piece entitled “Sportswriter,” one of the 50-plus entries in this weekend’s All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival.  The sixth annual event begins Friday and ends Sunday at the Regal Cinemas LA Live Stadium 14 near Staples Center.
Druley is the focus of “Sportswriter” as he narrates his own story — a 28-year-old covering minor-league baseball and high school events for the Kane County Chronicle, just west of Chicago.
Will he still be doing this, for the love of the games, in five years? Will the newspaper industry as we know it still be what he wants to be in? Will he connect for a career with his hometown St. Louis Post-Dispatch?
Both Lile and Druley are living their dream, and chasing it as well, in the sports media.
The film airs as part of the first session for the festival (Friday, noon to 1:45 p.m.), included in a block with six other shorts. Lile has also made it available for the time being to watch at this link.

What else is worth noting:

== What Druley wrote in the Kane County Chronicle last November about the experience of seeing himself in a documentary about his life.

== From an email exchange with Lile, now working as a program assistant at Northwestern University’s School of Communications in its Radio/TV/Film department, we asked what he thought about Druley’s chances of making it in the newspaper world and satisfying his career goal: “Having read a lot Kevin’s articles and also being an avid reader of other sports columnists, I’m not sure what separates him from the guys writing for Sports Illustrated, ESPN or one of our Chicago sports pages. Kevin wrote an article about Cubs prospect Albert Almora that’s so good the Chicago Tribune should have been knocking on his door begging him to write for them. And even beyond the minor league baseball beat, Kevin gets to do some really interesting articles on everything from amateur wrestling to high school sports.  Ultimately I’m not sure what separates the Rick Reillys, Mike Wilbons and the other big names from guys like Kevin.  Sometimes it is just an opportunity and someone getting a chance.
“As for reaching that satisfying career goal, Kevin mentions during the film that he has found more fulfillment with his personal life.  When your dreams go from being only about your professional life and suddenly you dream about having a family, that ultimate career goal might change a little. You find more appreciation in your personal life. That’s certainly true for myself as I have started a family and have 8 month old twins since making the film.”
We also asked Lile if it’s difficult to separate his own emotions from the subject as he’s making his documentary, especially this one: “As I was making ‘Sportswriter’, I was also working with Kartemquin Films, the social issue documentary company that produced ‘Hoop Dreams,’ ‘The Interrupters’ and ‘Life Itself.’  Working with those very accomplished filmmakers on those very accomplished films, there is a constant reminder that you’re making films about people, not about subjects. On other films I have had to put down the camera to allow a person to grieve, give them their space. If you’re doing your job as a filmmaker, you should be connecting with the people you’re making a film about because it is a very collaborative process. It’s hard to separate your emotions as your making a film, because in the end you really do care about these people. Unless you’re doing some sort of burn piece or an exposé, you have to care in order to be an effective filmmaker.”

Art created by DeviantArt.com.

Art created by DeviantArt.com.

== More highlights of the All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival: “The Hank Gathers Story,” included in Sunday’s 2-to-3:30 p.m. block, is part of a “Memorable Moments” series from Yahoo.com Sports documentary executive producer Alan Springer, with this 10-minute doc directed and produced by Jackie Pepper. The series has been around for five seasons and 42 episodes. Last month, it won an Edward R. Murrow award for “Best Sports Journalism”  for a Loyola-Mississippi State piece about how that basketball game in 1963 helped change sports history.

== The festival ends with a screening of “The 25,000 Mile Love Story,” which has been winning festival accolates going back to its release a year ago. It was the “Feature Audience Favorite” of the 2013 Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles. An L.A. Times review here of the film and the book after it came out.
The film airs Sunday at 6 p.m., with the awards ceremony starting at 8 p.m.
Friday’s opening night is highlighted by the L.A. premiere of “Out of Nothing,” about four men who try to break the motorcycle land speed record on their homemade machines. Actor/comedian Ryan Stiles produced the film that will be shown at 8:15 p.m., with friend Drew Carey expected to attend.

== Next in line for ESPN’s “30 For 30″ documentary series: “Rand University,” about the early life and times of former NFL receiver and current Fox Sports 1 analyst Randy Moss (Tuesday, 5 p.m., ESPN).
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Think of the Clippers as the first to dive into Google TV … or Netflix … or whatever Steve Ballmer dreams up

Then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, left, shakes hands with former NBA players Bill Russell, right, and "Downtown" Freddie Brown during an NCAA college basketball game between Washington and Oregon State in Seattle. Now that Ballmer is owner of the Clippers, what's the next step in him renewing the team's media-rights deal that can justify spending $2 billion to buy the team?  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) ORG XMIT: NY155

Then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, left, shakes hands with former NBA players Bill Russell, right, and “Downtown” Freddie Brown during an NCAA college basketball game between Washington and Oregon State in Seattle earlier this year. Now that Ballmer is owner of the Clippers, what’s the next step in him renewing the team’s media-rights deal that can justify spending $2 billion to buy the team? (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) ORG XMIT: NY155

There may be nobody better suited to lead sports television into a new era than a former Microsoft CEO who seems to live by a motto of “hard-core energy.”

Though he may not relish being saddled with the responsibility, Steve Ballmer could be the perfect candidate at the perfect time to capitalize on his latest investment.

After shelling out $2 billion to purchase the Clippers this past summer, money may be enough to motivate a diversion from the eroding conventional cable model in an effort to begin recouping the largest sum ever paid for a professional sports franchise in North America.

Particularly because of the proximity to the Dodgers, whose latest TV contract may have burst the country’s regional sports television bubble, and the Lakers, who had trouble partnering with Time Warner Cable to launch their own regional sports channel, the ripple effect could move the Clippers to get creative in selling its media rights to a new technology.

But when the Clippers’ modest $20 million per year TV contract with Fox Sports West’s Prime Ticket expires after the 2015-16 season, the conventional options for the NBA franchise appear limited. Which may play right into Ballmer’s wheelhouse.

Read more at this link ….

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Q&A: CBS NFL analyst Tony Gonzalez says he’ll take a pass on NFL, even if they keep calling

gonz5Tony Gonzalez admits his body thanks him every morning now for leaving the NFL playing field after 17 seasons. His wife and kids thank him for being around the house this  time of year. CBS is thankful to have him on its NFL pregame show every Sunday.

tony-gonzalez-game-worn-forever-collectibles-bobblehead-3336281So why would he even consider the thankless job of returning to the league for one last, last, last chance to join a team that might have the goods of making it to the Super Bowl and potentially winning a title – something he’s never experience as a 14-time Pro Bowl tight end?

Thanks, but no thanks.

“I’m still getting a couple – I can’t tell you who they’re from, but they’re still asking,” Gonzalez said about the number of teams that have called about his playing availability as the last two months of the season are here.

And you are telling them . . . ?

“I’m not going anywhere,” he clarifies. “All I have to do now is stand on the sidelines of a Thursday night game, and I can see why I no longer play this game. These guys are comin’, hittin’, all the work that goes into it . . .

“Plus, I’ve lost so much weight now. If teams saw me without my shirt on – let’s just say it ain’t what it used to be.”

Tony Gonzalez, right, with Falcons teammate Matt Ryan.

Tony Gonzalez, right, with Falcons teammate Matt Ryan.

He’s already locked down league career records at his position with receptions (1,325), yards receiving (15,127), touchdown catches (111) and 100-yard receiving games (31), spread out over a dozen years in Kansas City and five in Atlanta. The toughest routes that the 38-year-old Gonzalez must navigate now have to do with efficient air travel from Orange County to New York to make it for CBS’s “NFL Today” appearances.

Born in Torrance, and a resident of Long Beach, Manhattan Beach and many Southern California points in between before returning to his Huntington Beach beachhead, Gonzalez has put his NFL work ethic into play as he makes this latest transition. Some can do it seamlessly. Others struggle. Gonzalez, as a TV rookie, has ended up on a tight learning curve:

Q: You’ve made it look pretty smooth move on the CBS set half way through the first season. How much more polishing is there still to be done?
gonz1A:
The way I’ve approached this whole thing is to ask a lot of questions, maybe annoyingly so. I’m surrounded by such a great group of guys who have been there, done that. JB (James Brown) sits right next to me, coach (Bill) Cowher, Boomer (Esiason) – I’ve been picking their brains. CBS even hired me a coach to teach me the mechanics of TV (Arthur Joseph, of VocalAwareness.com), and he’s done wonders for me. I’m good friends with (Pro Football Hall of Famer and Fox NFL studio analyst) Michael Strahan, so I’ve pestered him a lot about how he does it. And then I practice a lot – I talk to myself a lot. I’m working my butt off to make sure I’m good at it.

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Play It Forward Nov. 3-9 on your sports calendar: Could this be the end of L.A. kickball (and Donovan) as we know it?

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, right, and  Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes, left, look on after a save in the first half during their MLS Western Conference semifinal, first leg playoff match Saturday in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, right, and Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes, left, look on after a save in the first half during their MLS Western Conference semifinal, first leg playoff match Saturday in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

NO. 1: MLS PLAYOFFS: WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
GALAXY vs. REAL SALT LAKE
Details/TV: At StubHub Center, Sunday at 4:30 p.m., ESPN2:

The Galaxy's Landon Donovan and Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil (21) battle for the ball in the second half of their Western Conference semifinal playoff game in Utah on Saturday.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan and Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil (21) battle for the ball in the second half of their Western Conference semifinal playoff game in Utah on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The sport of kickball hasn’t coaxed as many distressing headlines in L.A. since Johan Cruyff and George Best were at their not-so-best. First, Chivas USA disbands. Then something call the LAFC comes out of nowhere with a star- studded ownership group – not including David Beckham, and it won’t be in full force until 2017. Now, if the Galaxy misses a beat, this really could be the last dance for Landon Donovan. The Galaxy’s “First to Five” postseason campaign will fold up unless they claim a win against the Salt Lakers, who benefit most from a scoreless tie these two had in Utah last weekend on the first leg of the home-and-home series. What does it all mean? “We have to win the (second) game, it’s that simple,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. The reason is because, if this ends in another tie, Salt Lake advances since it would have scored more road goals, so no penalty kicks will be necessary. If you need a reference point, the Galaxy outshot RSL 27-9 in their 2014 season opener at StubHub Center but still lost, 1-0, on March 8 – a full eight months ago. The Galaxy ended up going unbeaten (15-0-4) the rest of the home schedule, including a 1-0 win over RSL at StubHub on July 12 thanks to a goal by Hawthorne Leuzinger High grad Gyasi Zardes. Remember, a year ago, RSL eliminated the Galaxy from the MLS first round by losing the opener, 1-0, but winning the followup at home, 2-0.

THE BEST OF THE REST OF THE WEEK:

UCLA takes coach Jim Mora back to his alma mater for the first time as a head coach when the Bruins go to Seattle to face Washington (Saturday, 4 p.m., FS1); the Clippers play their fourth game in the five nights to start the season when they play host to Utah (Monday, 7:30 p.m., Prime) before a higher-profile game at Golden State (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket and ESPN); the Lakers may have their best shot at ending their first 0-4 L.A. start by playing host to Phoenix (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet) and Charlotte (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet);  the Kings finally end their five-game road trip in Dallas (Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., FSW) before coming home to face the N.Y. Islanders (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., FSW); Bernard Hopkins faces Sergey Kovalev in a light heavyweight unification title bout in Atlantic City (Saturday, 10:45 p.m., HBO), and they’re going to try to set another NCAA single-game regular-season attendance record at the Coliseum when USC’s women’s soccer team plays host to UCLA (Friday, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network). The whole week ahead is linked here.

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Q&A: Would Nik Wallenda ever consider crossing the 405 at rush hour? That may not blow him away as much as the Windy City walk Sunday

If you’re putting it into sports terms, Nik Wallenda is looking for a wire-to-wire victory Sunday night in Chicago.

By all true measurements, the 35-year-old high-wire wonder performs professional athletic feats of endurance, strength and agility on his game day. He just may trick you into thinking he’s got a dare-devil-may-care attitude, which is completely counter to his faith-based way of living and training.

He’s already done a live TV crossing over Niagara Falls in 2012, and then traversed 1,500 feet over the Grand Canyon in 2013. Wallenda’s latest multi-million-viewer challenge (Discovery Channel, 4 p.m.) starts with walking over the Chicago River on a 15-degree incline, the steepest angle he has ever tried. He estimates that will take about 12-to-15 minutes, depending on the Windy City winds and how long he really wants to enjoy the view. The second part is a blindfold walk, a two-to-three minute pace on a 100-foot wire that is some 500 feet high.

WALLENDA-CST-091814-5.JPGThe last two TV performances were visually stunning, but lacked one interesting element that this one adds – a good ol’ crowd of folks below and in neighboring buildings able to cheer (or jeer) him on, as if he was at Wrigley Field. City officials have asked for complete cooperation from the spectators, including an ordinance not to have barbeques on the balcony while all this is going on.

“That’s no fun, I was going to stop by as many barbeques as I could on the way up,” Wallenda said. “There are all these restrictions about making noise, and such, and I appreciate that, but we’re in a city and I expect to hear sirens, and cars and crowds screaming.

“I get goose bumps thinking about the roar of the crowd. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. It’s not like I need complete silence. I’d probably be a bad golfer. I don’t know, I’ve never tried.”

Retiring to a life on the links someday isn’t in the Wallenda DNA. The seventh-generation acrobat who describes himself as an “Extreme Funambulist” on his Twitter account, doesn’t plan to be doing any social media while he’s above the Chicago skyline. Although, that added element of don’t-walk-and-text didn’t come up in our Q-and-A:

Q: Are safety nets over rated? In your line of work, and in general? What do you consider your safety net in life?
A: I’ve been walking on the wire since I was 2 and was trained without a net, harness or tether. Therefore undertaking this walk with a harness would actually be more dangerous for me than doing it the way I’m trained. I would definitely consider my ‘safety net’ my faith too. Faith is just another extension of my life, a huge part and probably the most important thing in my life.  Most dear to me is my faith. Continue reading

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Media column version 10.31.14 — Fox best find new serious dance partners for 2015 Series

Erin Andrews re-tweeted this photo  -- kids dressed as her interviewing Seattle's Richard Sherman. Andrews called it "awesome!"

Erin Andrews re-tweeted this photo — kids dressed for Halloween, one hass her interviewing Seattle’s Richard Sherman. Andrews called it “amazing!” We’re kind of spooked that a parent would allow this as an acceptable way to scare away evil spirits. The whole thing appeared on the Washington Post’s website, and included a costume for a kid who wanted to be Bob Costas with pink-eye during the Winter Olympics.

What made up this week’s sports media column, linked here:

B1Knv3DCIAAeO1q.jpg largeIs that John Smoltz warming up in the Fox bullpen, hoping to get a start by the 2015 MLB season? Or our binoculars as out of focus as Harold Reynold’s anaylsis?
After all the stuff we’ve digested during the just completed 2014 World Series, the Fox and baseball friends network might want to reconsider its deployment of a) Harold Reynolds and b) Erin Andrews, or else c) just run the whole event on Fox Sports 1 so fewer can find it. Go the link above for more brilliance on that topic.

What was decidedly more noteworthy in this particular spot:

== Our best Twitter keepers when it comes to instant analysis of Reynolds’ analysis during Fox’s World Series coverage: Continue reading

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Play It Forward: Oct. 27-Nov. 2 on your sports calendar — Clippers are the visitors against the Lakers in the first regular-season meeting, so where does Ballmer sit?

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer throws T-shirts into the crowd during the team's exhibition game at Staples Center last week against Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer throws T-shirts into the crowd during the team’s exhibition game at Staples Center last week against Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
NBA: CLIPPERS at LAKERS
Details/TV: Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Prime Ticket, TWC SportsNet:

Adam Silver’s silver lining to swapping out Donald T. Sterling for Steve Ballmer in the NBA hierarchy is that everyone wants a piece of the new guy now in a good way. During an appearance on Jim Rome’s Showtime show recently, Ballmer tried to explain why he’s trying to get fans to commit to arriving early and helping the players get all geeked up before the game starts, even if there’s this tradition of arriving late because of difficult traffic around Staples Center:
“We’re comin’ baby – we’re committed, we’re focused, we’ve got one of the most outstanding teams and we have one of the most outstanding coaches, we’re gonna support this team, starting with me and through the fan base, we’ll be the best can be and we’re gonna get after it totally, 100, 200, 600 percent – boom – and we will have the best year we know how.”
image001There has been no rebuttal posted from the current Lakers ownership family – maybe only a subtle reminder that this is a Lakers’ home game, so not even Ballmer will get that customary courtside seat he’s been getting used to in the preseason. Ballmer’s $2 billion payoff may be personal – it’s allowed him to squeeze into a Clippers jersey (with a heavily bandaged right shoulder) and get on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine under the headline “Basket Ballmer.” Get it? The 6-foot-5 Detroit native may not be ready to ask Doc Rivers for some playing time – at 58, he’s no doubt a little Microsoft on defense. So let’s see how many Clippers fans come to this one on Halloween night dressed up as him.
The rest of Staples Center is convinced they’ll see Kobe Bryant dressed as the Black Mamba. “I think Kobe is going to have an unbelievable year,” said TNT analyst Greg Anthony. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a player whose skill set has evolved as well as his has. You go back before his injury and he had his most efficient season ever. He’s at a state in his career where he can match his intellectual talents with his athletic ability to compensate for what he’s lost individually. He is up there in years, but his skill set will offset what he has lost athletically.” So if the Lakers open against Dwight Howard and Houston on Tuesday (Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT), you’d guess Bryant would sit out the next night in Phoenix (Wednesday, 7 p.m., TWC SportsNet) before this first of four meetings with the Clippers during the regular season. This game turns out to be on the wrong end of a season-opening back-to-back scheduling trap for Ballmer’s ballers, after they start Thursday against Kevin Durant-deficient Oklahoma City (Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT).

Among the national opening night matchups of note:
Dallas at San Antonio: Tuesday at 4 p.m., TNT
Chicago at New York: Wednesday at 4 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma City at Portland: Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN
New York at Cleveland: Thursday at 5 p.m., TNT

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REST OF THE WEEK:

Even though both are 3-year-olds, California Chrome and Shared Belief have never raced against each other, but they will finally do so in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita (Saturday, 5:35 p.m., Channel 4) … UCLA matches up against Arizona at the Rose Bowl (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN) while USC goes to Washington State (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network), and then the first College Football Playoff committee Top 25 poll comes on (Tuesday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN) … The Kings start a nasty five-game road trip in Philadelphia (Tuesday, 4 p.m, FSW) that includes stops in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Carolina … UCLA is told it can use Pauley Pavilion finally for an exhibition basketball game (Friday, 7:30 p.m. vs. Azusa Pacific) … and  its year three for the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix, in Austin, Tex.

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It’s Out of the Question: The NFL’s interest in L.A. (again) is on a need-to-know basis

Remember about 10 years ago, when one of the plans to bring the NFL back to L.A. included a modernized Coliseum? Neither do we. What happened to that plan?

Remember about 10 years ago, when one of the plans to bring the NFL back to L.A. included a modernized Coliseum? Neither do we. What happened to that plan?

No one questions the National Football League’s intent here — some way, some how, some day, it wants to transplant a franchise back into lucrative Los Angeles, supplement every current owners’ retirement nest egg and apologize for losing the key to this major-city restroom stall that hasn’t been occupied in two decades.

The question here has do to with its long over-due diligence.

how-to-take-a-testCheck your spam file. You may be one of the unlucky ones asked to waste valuable college football viewing time to answer an NFL-commissioned a questionnaire emailed out to a reported 2,000 “potential customers” to gauge their inner-most dreams, fears, fantasies, turn-ons and turn-offs.

Maybe Victoria Secret should have been behind this instead of Roger Goodell?

It’s a survey that, frankly, is too vague. A bit condescending. And, if you read between the lines, leaves more questions about how of a financial commitment we’re going to be blindsided with down the road.

Before we even think about taking this eHarmony relationship back to the any next level, we have some more pertinent questions: Continue reading

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