Sunday media Q-and-A: Chris Marlowe keeps his feet in the sand and the heart of ‘The Lion’

Chris Marlowe watches the action on a monitor while providing commentary of the men's final of the Manhattan Beach Open for NBC Sports last Sunday. (Photo by Mark Dustin for Los Angeles Daily News)

Chris Marlowe watches the action on a monitor while providing commentary of the men’s final of the Manhattan Beach Open for NBC Sports last Sunday. (Photo by Mark Dustin for Los Angeles Daily News)

Chris Marlowe didn’t yield to pier pressure.

76marloweplaque76A stellar collection of former Manhattan Beach Open beach volleyball champions came together last Sunday for a “legends” game prior to the men’s and women’s final – Singin Smith, Randy Stoklos, Tim Hovland, Mike Dodd, Steve Obradovich and Jim Menges.

But Marlowe, who turns 64 next month, wasn’t the least bit tempted to budge from the umbrella-protected NBC TV booth as he prepared for the upcoming broadcast. Even if he belonged there as much as anyone, having partnered with Obradovich to win the ’76 event, and with Menges to repeat in ’77.

77marlowe77It was no knee-jerk decision.

“I would play in that, but I have a bad knee, and it’s very difficult to run and jump,” Marlowe admitted. “For me, right now, I’m a little past the point of playing and I don’t want to embarrass myself. Maybe if I could be the designated server …”

Back to serving up this weekend’s Long Beach FIVB Grand Slam event for the NBC networks, including Sunday’s finals (Channel 4, 11:30 a.m.) and Saturday’s semifinals (Channel 4, 1:30 p.m.), Marlowe, a Southern California native who captained the 1984 U.S. gold-medal winning indoor team at the L.A. Summer Games, has re-engaged with the sport as he enters his 11th season calling Denver Nuggets games for Altitude TV.
He enjoyed a chance to reflect on where the sport has come since he played and broadcast its formative years:

Q: Part of this Long Beach celebration is marking the 20th year since beach volleyball entered the Olympics stage as a medal sport. You were there at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. What do you remember about that moment when the sport went to this next level after all you’d been so close to it as a player and broadcaster the previous two decades?
10_MarloweSutherland_span7A:
When Paul Sunderland and I were there for NBC calling indoor volleyball, I don’t think anyone really realized how big the beach event would become from that particular tournament. It has certainly zoomed up the radar, especially internationally. The U.S. has fluctuated a little bit with the AVP tour, coming back strong lately with the new ownership and Donald Sun. But having beach volleyball in the Olympics has been a God-send to the sport in making it legit — uniforms, rules, officials, medals. NBC continues to make the volleyball an Olympic priority, so that still makes it an exciting time to be in beach volleyball. The advent of sand volleyball for women in the NCAA – now they’re going to start calling it “beach” volleyball – has been a boon to the sport. The only drawback so far is there is no men’s beach volleyball in college at a time when the American men are getting older and could use that pipeline.

Q: How do you gauge the momentum generated by this Long Beach event over the last several years?
A:
I remember the first international event held in Los Angeles, putting sand on the UCLA tennis courts in 1997, it was about a half-filled stands and the organizers were somewhat disappointed. Leonard Armato and the organizers have promoted this event year around, making it a volleypalooza. It’s turned into a terrific event.

Q: Prime Ticket still shows a lot of the classic games from the ‘80s and ‘90s, where you and Sunderland called the matches. Do you think of that as a golden era of the men’s game because of the circumstances?
A:
It was a fantastic time in the sport of volleyball. Not only was the U.S. up and coming in the indoor game with Karch and Dusty Dvorak, Pat Powers, Steve Timmons and Craig Buck, but the beach had a fantastic array of stars. I think that was one of the greatest groups of players the United States has ever had, indoors or outdoors. Indoor volleyball right now is at that same point it was then with great young players, and they’ll be good the next 10 years. The difference is they won’t be playing on the beach.
The reason why that was a great era of outstanding volleyball and personalities is you wanted to see Hovland and Dodd play Smith and Stoklos. The players didn’t get along. There were good guys and bad guys. It was Santa Monica against South Bay. The fans had people to root for. One of the only downsides of the beach volleyball today is the players travel together, they share sponsors and agents, and they all get along. Those rivalries don’t seem to be there today. Maybe some of the guys coming up will have that attitude – like the Crabbe brothers from Hawaii, or Casey Patterson. It’s just that others are more business-like. We could use a few more entertainers.

Q: How can you as a broadcaster inject some of the entertainment back into the game? You’ve always had your own lingo and terminology, like what Chick Hearn did for the NBA.
A:
When I call matches, I try to investigate and find story angles, look for rivalries, maybe one player was dumped by another partner. In the international game, some U.S.-Brazil rivalries are as good as it gets in beach volleyball. Both have been premiere countries for talent going back to 1996. They teams may be cordial but they don’t like each other. When I talked to Kerri Walsh Jennings about Brazil teams, she will say, ‘Yes, they’re very good.’ But then she gets a big smile on her face and says, ‘But they’re beatable.’

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It’s Out of the Question: As Scully waits to decide, another artist hopes he’s not drawing any conclusions

Vin Scully legacy posterThe annual story that’s not news until it’s actually breaking news is starting to break down our defenses.
Why hasn’t Vin Scully announced yet whether he’s coming back to call games for the Dodgers in 2016?
Because. It’s his prerogative. The biggest name in Dodgers’ history always has that right of way. We yield. …
Humphrey, RIckIt’s easy to get caught up in hand-wringing about why many still can’t hear Scully call games on the Dodgers’ new TV channel for the last two season. But there is Rick  Humphrey, a graphic artist living in Torrance who grew up in near Palos Verdes’ Lunada Bay and has worked for years at an aerospace company in El Segundo — just a short toss away from those SportsNet L.A. offices.
He has channeled his talents into something much more creative and productive. This illustration above serves as an illustrious tribute to Scully, that Humphrey would like to see raise money for the Dodgers’ Dream Foundation and give resources back to the inner-city in Scully’s name.
More of the story here …

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Weekly media notes version 08.21.15: On televised volleyballs, soccer balls and who’s dropping the ball at “The Undefeated”?


Glory Days: It’s Chris Marlowe and Paul Sunderland calling the 1992 Manhattan Beach Open (above)

What we have planned for this weekend’s edition:

c_marlow2Chris Marlowe wasn’t the first voice of Olympic beach volleyball when NBC brought it into the gold-medal area some 20 years ago at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
NBC had assigned him and Paul Sunderland, teammates on the U.S. gold-medal-winning 1984 team at the L.A. Summer Games, to the indoor volleyball venue.
Instead, it was two other SoCal based broadcasters — Randy Rosenbloom, with former beach legend Kirk Kilgour — who planted the flag at that beachhead. Bill Walton was there, too, as a sideline reporter.
Considering all that Marlowe and Sunderland had accomplished as a broadcast team in delivering the sport as a TV commodity to that point with their stellar and colorful Prime Ticket coverage in the 1980s and ’90s, it’s easy to assume they’d have been there to help usher the sport into this new TV era.
“I don’t think anyone really realized how big the beach event would become from that particular tournament,” said Marlowe, who, since then, has called the beach game during the 2000, ’04, ’08 and ’12 Games, and is already signed up to do the 2016 event in Rio.
In an extended Q-and-A we’ve done with Marlowe, who a week after doing the AVP’s Manhattan Beach Open is back to call this weekend’s Long Beach World Series of Beach Volleyball and the FIVB Grand Slam finals, he reflects on when the sport stepped up its game to become an Olympic-quality TV experience.
Many of the top men’s beach players at the time were involved — Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes were the first gold-medal winners, with Mike Whitmarsh and Mike Dodd taking the silver and Singin Smith out of the medal round — but others who brought the sport into this Olympic realm were either past their prime or not interested. For that matter, the U.S. women didn’t even gain a medal in 1996, but now it supports one of the strongest pools of talent in the world.
Marlowe, who won a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Games in L.A. as captain of the U.S. national indoor team, talks about how that transition went:

Chris Marlowe and Jim Menges won the 1977 Manhattan Beach Open.

Chris Marlowe and Jim Menges won the 1977 Manhattan Beach Open. Photo: BVBInfo.com

Many of those players back then had a choice of playing on the beach in the summer or devote their time to the U.S. national indoor team, which was basically a full-time job. Some of the greats of all time didn’t get a chance, sure. They were at the tail ends of their career and you always wish some of the older guys from the ‘60s and ‘70s had made it. I’ll never forget Ron Von Hagen telling me the difference between beach volleyball players of today and yesteryear. Those today are called “professional” because they make money. Those from long ago are “beach bums” because they didn’t make the money.
The sport has certainly changed. The way players go about it is much more professional with trainers, accountants, coaches. All in all, it’s been a very good progression. The reason there isn’t a great pipeline in men’s volleyball is the most outstanding players are overseas indoors or on the U.S. men’s national team. They can make so much money in places like Russia or Italy or Korea, some getting half-million dollar contacts. They can’t afford to pass that up. Some U.S. national team players could be on the beach today, as the prize money and sponsorship is coming back. But now, it’s just not as strong as it was in the 1980s and ‘90s. It’s starting to regenerate. It’s headed in the right direction.

What’s worth serving up to the masses at this point in the week:

Chris Marlowe, right, with Kevin Wong open the NBC coverage of the Manhattan Beach Open last Sunday.

Chris Marlowe, right, with Kevin Wong open the NBC coverage of the Manhattan Beach Open last Sunday.

== The complete TV schedule for the Long Beach World Series of Beach Volleyball goes this way as Marlowe works with Kevin Wong and Dain Blanton:
Saturday’s women’s and men’s semifinals are on Channel 4 at 1:30 p.m. (replayed on Universal Sports at midnight, 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.).
The women’s bronze medal games is on Universal Sports Sunday at 10 a.m., with the gold medal game at 11:30 a.m. on Channel 4. The men’s bronze medal game is at 1:30 p.m. on Universal Sports on Sunday, with the men’s gold medal game at 3 p.m. on Universal Sports.
Universal Sports also replays the women’s final (Sunday, 11 p.m.) and NBCSN replays the men’s final and third-place game (Tuesday, 4 p.m.)

Adrian Healey has been the voice of the MLS for ESPN since ....  (Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images) - 20120312_MLS_SC1_4876.jpg -

Adrian Healey has been calling soccer at ESPN since 2003 and primarily on MLS games since 2011. (Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)

== If you’ve bought into the premise that Sunday’s MLS match up between the Galaxy and the expansion New York City FC (noon, ESPN) is, on paper, the most start-studded contest in the league’s 20-year history, you won’t get play-by-play man Adrian Healey to contradict that.
And not because he’s paid to be the one giving the match all the context it needs for those who may not understand the financial repercussions of these two rosters.
“It’s hard not to argue that, in terms in genuine star power on both sides,” said Healey as he arrived in L.A. to begin prep work having been to Seattle and Chattanooga, Tenn., to call matches for the network prior to this trip.
There are six Designated Players in this one – the Galaxy’s Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Giovani Dos Santos, going up against the New Yorkers’ David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampart – with a combined salary of $29 million. Considering all are healthy.
The closest thing Healey can compare this two was in 2011, when he called matches between the David Beckham-led Galaxy (who also had Landon Donovan and Keane) and the New York Red Bull with Thierry Henry.
“But this one has taken it to a whole new sphere with all the stars involved — six of the top 13 paid players in the entire league.”

Galaxy forward Robbie Keane (7) drives past San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch (18) to score in 2012.

Galaxy forward Robbie Keane (7) drives past San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch (18) to score in 2012.

Other MLS teams, and fans, may be tuning in just to hope the two super teams fail. Can someone watch this with a twinge of jealousy?
“In any sport and league, when New York and Los Angeles meet, you expect big stars,” said Healey. “Every team has the opportunity to do what these franchises have done, but they just don’t have the financial resources.It is a bit of a double-edge sword, but in a league with a tiny salary cap, you’d hope they recognize that the rising tide lifts all boats and this makes it an important matchup on the national scene.”
If one were to consider this a possible MLS Cup matchup in December, that would mean a lot of team chemistry improvement takes place over the next few months.
“The Galaxy is much closer to the finished article, and Bruce Arena has been doing this for eight years and has an amazing track record for melding superstars with the rank and file,” said Healey. “Nobody does a better job of that with him. NYC is a totally different situation starting from scratch. Jason Kreis knows how to win and has done it before, but a successful year for NYC would be just to have a presence in the postseason. That would be their mission accomplished.”

IMG_3588== The latest with ESPN’s “The Undefeated” website? The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir has circled back to sadly note that two months after the removal of Jason Whitlock as its founding editor: “The current plan is to post one piece a week until a launch that may not happen for several more months. Many, including those inside and outside ESPN, have begun to wonder if it will happen at all.”

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Are you dialed into Eddie Gaedel Day in South Pasadena on Wednesday?

eddie-gaedel-dugoutWe’ll keep this one short:
“Few men have made an initial splash into the world of baseball as Eddie Gaedel did in August 1951,” wrote Brian McKenna for the Society for American Baseball Research’s historical biography project.
It was something of a tiny splash, of course. Gaedel was just 3-foot-7. He wore the number 1/8. And he drew a walk in his only official MLB plate appearance for the St. Louis Browns on Aug. 19, 1951.
To mark the 64th anniversary of that plate appearance and what it a big deal it has become for people over the years, the L.A. Chapter of the Eddie Gaedel Society and the Baseball Reliquary will observe “Eddie Gaedel Day” on Wednesday from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Griffins of Kinsale, a traditional Irish pub in South Pasadena.
You may even get to see Gaedel’s athletic supporter. For real.
Here’s more info.
Stop by and raise a pint to Gaedel. Or even just a half pint.
(Our remote connection to Gaedel? We share the same June 8 birthday. And he died just 10 days after I was born. And I continue to have a phobia of … “little people” … is that the proper term? I’m trying to overcome it).

1961 Nu Card Scoops Eddie Gaedel

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Play It Forward Aug. 17-23: Long Beach’s World Series of Beach Volleyball takes on a Rio flavor

Kent Steffes, left, and Karch Kiraly acknowledge the U.S. national anthem after winning gold in the first Summer Olympic beach volleyball competition at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Kent Steffes, left, and Karch Kiraly acknowledge the U.S. national anthem after winning gold in the first Summer Olympic beach volleyball competition at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
FIVB $800,000 LONG BEACH WORLD SERIES OF BEACH VOLLEYBALL GRAND SLAM FINALS
Details/TV: At Los Alamitos Beach across from the Long Beach Arena, Sunday at 1:30 p.m., Channel 4:
The celebration off Shoreline Drive has amped up to become one of the most anticipated six-day events of the Southern California summer, after things begin Tuesday, this year’s celebration takes on a distinctive Rio flavor as anticipation mounts for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Amidst the competition, Friday has been set aside for a Brazilian-themed barbecue and a party that commemorates 20 years of beach volleyball as an Olympic sport. The four gold medalists from the Atlanta 1996 Summer Games – Team America’s Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes as well as Jackie Silva and Sandra Pires from Brazil – will be the guests of honor. In last year’s event, Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal won the men’s division, but this year, Dalhausser has recently teamed up with Nick Lucena – winners of Sunday’s Manhattan Beach Open — as they pursue an Olympic qualifying spot.

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross celebrate their 2014 Long Beach World Series of Volleyball title.

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross celebrate their 2014 Long Beach World Series of Volleyball title.

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross won on the women’s side last year, and Jennings says she’s rested up from recent a shoulder separation that kept her from defending her title at the Manhattan Beach Open, and she will be shooting for her fourth straight championship in Long Beach. In addition to the top-notch play of the professionals, this also celebrates the men’s and women’s six-person game, the four-person co-ed teams, the college game and youth leagues. The Long Beach event is one of five important FIVB Grand Slam tournaments this year, and Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson are the only U.S. team, men or women, to win one as teams from Brazil have dominated both divisions. Lucena is the only American to gain any traction in 2015 as far as overall points as he and former partner Theo Brunner finished fourth at the FIBA World Championships last July in the Netherlands.
The men’s and women’s gold-medal matches take place Sunday, with the quarters and semifinals on Saturday (11:30 a.m., Channel 4).
More info on schedule: www.WSOBV.com

THE REST OF THE WEEK:

The Angels play host to the newest World Series favorite, the Toronto Blue Jays, with three games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday on FSW, while the Dodgers go on the road to face the AL West’s Oakland and Houston … The Galaxy’s Sunday home contest (noon, ESPN2) becomes a star-studded affair against the new New York City FC … The 69th Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., has Sweetwater Valley near San Diego as the West Region representative, starting Thursday … the 115th U.S. Amateur Open at Olympia Fields in Illinois includes recent British Open challenger Paul Dunne … More information at this link.

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