2016 sports books for the holiday season: Football, soccer, kickball … it’s not all the same game

Kick these suggestions around:

FOOTBALL:

51dyhwbzql== “Hollywood’s Team: Grit, Glamour and the 1950s Los Angeles Rams,” by Jim Hock with Michael Downs, Rare Bird Books, 384 pages, $24.95 (will be released Dec. 6). The blurb: Hock, the youngest of seven by the late Rams offensive lineman John Hock, takes us back to when Norm Van Brocklin, “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Bob Waterfield, Dick “Night Train” Lane and a PR man named Pete Rozelle figured out how to make pro sports work in L.A. before the Dodgers’ arrival. Hock’s contention is they were the first modern sports franchise — which leads, of course, to moving to another city, then coming back, then finding you aren’t the big fish any longer. At least we have these memories.

== “The Yucks: Two Years in Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL History,” by Jason Vuic, Simon & Schuster, 256 pages, $26 (released Aug. 30). The blurb: Vuic once wrote a book, “The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History,” but his lifelong love of the Bucs since their expansion birth is more of an accident waiting to happen. It starts with the franchise hiring USC’s John McKay to be its head man, and bringing along star running back Ricky Bell. What could go wrong when suited up as orange Push-ups? The team lost 26 in a row, from the launch in 1976 through the next-to-last game in ’77 — a road win over Archie Manning and the New Orleans Saints, who immediately fired their head coach, Hank Stram. McKay’s dry humor was the only reason to bother following the team at that point — no matter that in 1979, they were playing the Rams in the NFC title game.

81gtj0sy1tl== “Snake: The Legendary Life of Ken Stabler,” by Michael Freeman, Dey Street Books, 272 pages, $27.99, (Released Nov. 15). The blurb: We found our dog-eared paperback copy of “Snake,” which listed Stabler as the author (with Berry Stainback) and came out in the late ’80s with the subtitle “The On- and Off-the-Field Exploits of Football’s Wildest Renegade,” and included an illustration of a Raiders helmet filled with beer cans and a pair of female legs hanging out of it. Who wouldn’t want to be Stabler back then? Freeman, whose previous books have included a look at the life of Jim Brown, an expose called “Bloody Sunday,” and an “uncensored history” of ESPN, lands it again with the caveat that Stabler, who died in July, 2015 of colon cancer, was also very affected by CTE brain disease. The book comes out now, with his current wife’s blessing, as well as Stabler’s recent Pro Football Hall induction, all after his life ended. Continue reading

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2016 sports books for the holiday season: Top-shelf contributions from hockey

Where the quality of writing is simple and straightforward:

41ru1fy7gul== “The Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club: Official Centennial Publication: 1917-2017,” by Kevin Shea and Jason Wilson, Penquin Random House of Canada/McClelland & Stewart publishing, 384 pages, $50 (Released Oct. 18). The blurb: It’s all about the “honour, pride and and courage” that came with the creation of the Maple Leafs at the brink of WWI and documented with text by two Canadian historians. The Leafs, with 14 championships in their 100 years, may be in a Stanley Cup holding pattern having not been able to celebrate a title since 1967, the last year the league had only six teams. As the Kings fans know, the Leafs were one series away from the Cup finals when they were eliminated in the ’93 Conference championship. That’s all covered in the final chapter here called “Hope: 2015-16 and Beyond.” the final season in which the NHL was a six-team league. Still, that  49-year stretch is the longest of any NHL franchise currently. The last graph: “The Toronto Maple Leafs management has earned the patience of Leafs Nation. There is great optimism that, one day soon, promise will translate into deliverance.” Until then, they have the team’s glorious history of decades ago to hang their suspenders on. Frank Mahovlich would be proud.

51aw2vgnwl== “Captain: My Life and Career,” by Darryl Sittler with Mike Leonetti, McClelland & Steward books, 224 pages, $32 (released Oct. 25). The blurb: As much as he was the face of the Maple Leafs through the 1970s and early ’80s, the franchise’s all-time goals and points leader, a record night of six goals and four assists against Boston in 1976, a five-goal playoff game two months later, an OT goal to beat the Czechs in the first Canada Cup tournament, Sittler was a very humble player who appreciated all that happened to him. This is a reflection of all that. (As well as another interesting story about how his first coach, Red Kelly, believed so much in the mystic power of the pyramid that the night Sittler scored five goals in a playoff game, Kelly had put a pyramid under the team bench.)

51j1h91aial== “One Night Only: Conversations with the NHL’s One-Game Wonders,” by Ken Reid, ECW Press, 240 pages, $17.95 (released Oct. 11). The blurb: Brock Tredway, whose only NHL appearance was for the Kings on April 19, 1982, brought up because Jim Fox was fighting an injury, refers to himself as “Moonlight Graham,” after the one-game MLB player made famous in “Field of Dreams.” Tredway ended up in the financial world eventually and says “I would not trade my life for anything … there are so many guys who would give their eyetooth for just one little game. … even one shift.” It’s a beautiful idea carried out in a sensitive, yet investigative manner by Reid, knowing there are more than 300 people out there with just one NHL game to their resume, and he’s talking here to 40 of them — including one-time Kings Jack Stanfield (who ended up in the cable TV business) and Brandy Semchuk. The final chapter is on … wait for it … Don Cherry. Continue reading

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It’s Out of the Question: When CFP means Contradiction, Flim-Flam and Pomp

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

You’ve got this College Football Playoff thing figured out?
God bless you, and God bless this mess.
With all the efficiency of the DMV, the realization continues that no matter how impatient everyone gets waiting for their number to be called, only to then be scrutinized by someone behind a pane of glass acting as if we’re the ones trying to pull a bank heist, this process will continue to drive everyone off the road, down the embankment and experience nightmares waiting in the dark of night for a tow truck.
Oh, and your Auto Club card expired, too.
The CFP stands as another perfect example for college kids: In a world when you let grownups organize your play dates, it will always be undermined with Contradiction, Flim-Flam and Pomp.
More at this link …

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Weekly media notes version 12.01.16: Rushing to a Mt. Rushmore judgment on L.A. sportscasting royalty?

Vin Scully has a playful moment with Chick Hearn as they posed with Bob Miller for a rare photo shoot at the old Prime Ticket studios in 2000. This was one of the favorite shots that Dodgers team photographer Jon SooHoo passed along in his tribute to Scully recently at www.insidesocal.com/tomhoffarth

Vin Scully has a playful moment with Chick Hearn as they posed with Bob Miller for a rare photo shoot at the old Prime Ticket studios in 2000. This was one of the favorite shots that Dodgers team photographer Jon SooHoo passed along in his tribute to Scully recently at www.insidesocal.com/tomhoffarth

Following up on a column that posted Wednesday about Eric Dickerson and the media-related situation he finds himself in with the Rams, here’s what’s worth posting right here and right now:

Circling back to the column last Sunday that used Chick Hearn’s 100th birthday anniversary as a launching point to give thanks to all the Southern California play-by-play men who have made news this past year and reflect on how this changing of the guard is taking place.

Vin and Sandi Scully attend Chick Hearn's memorial service in 2002. (Michael Owen Baker/Daily News)

Vin and Sandi Scully attend Chick Hearn’s memorial service in 2002. (Michael Owen Baker/Daily News)

We connected Chick Hearn to Bob Miller, and then to Vin Scully’s and Dick Enberg’s retirement honoree tour.
If we’re chiseling out the proverbial Mt. Rushmore of SoCal sportscasters, there is of course room for only so many to get a piece of the rock.
That’s where readers chimed in for their loyalties.
Jeff White of Palmdale said he always appreciated the classic calls of Bob Starr on the Rams and Bill King on the Raiders when both teams were going head-to-head for L.A. attention decades ago. And if we’re expanding the Southern California boarder, the Padres’ Jerry Coleman deserves recognition.
There was more than one nominee for Nick Nickson, the Kings’ radio man and recent Hockey Hall of Fame honoree. And for Ross Porter, after his long run with the Dodgers and then agreeing to do games for Cal State Northridge baseball.
Then there’s perhaps the biggest unintentional bypass: Dodgers Spanish-language broadcaster and Baseball Hall of Famer Jaime Jarrin, who agreed to extend his contract with the team to where he plans to soon enter his 60th, and perhaps, final season. “The Latino Vin Scully,” as a headline in The Guardian proclaimed earlier this year, is not lost on the Los Angeles landscape of the team connecting with the fanbase.
We are thankful, again, for the breadth and depth of what we have, what we once had, and what we have coming up. We embrace the idea of an extended group hug.

Scully, Hearn and Miller, at the Staples Center ceremony honoring Miller. (Getty Images)

Scully, Hearn and Miller, at the Staples Center ceremony honoring Miller. (Getty Images)

== Stu Lantz, who still keeps Hearn’s final press pass in his wallet, has almost been doing Lakers games as long without Hearn as he did with him after Hearn passed away in 2002. Lantz was very honest with our Mark Medina about his memories: “He did a remarkable job of letting me be me. We butted heads every once in a while. But that’s a part of everything. You don’t always have to agree with somebody. But you can at least respect their opinion. That’s how it turned out with Chick. He didn’t always agree with me. I didn’t always agree with him. But boy did we respect each other’s opinions. I owe quite a bit to Chick.”

== It was not lost on some listeners of Chicago’s WGN broadcast of the Kings-Blackhawks game last Saturday: As the camera focused on the Kings’ booth of Miller and Jim Fox, Blackhawks broadcaster Pat Foley commented about Miller’s recent heart surgery, and also made a comment about Hearn: “Chick is no longer active.” Well, sure, since Hearn passed away about 14 years ago. Foley may be familiar to those NHL followers who once tore apart former Blackhawks defenseman Alexander Karpovtsev during a broadcast that some say should have gotten him fired. A few years later, Kapovtsev was killed in a plane crash with other hockey players in Russia.

== How did Scully end up landing five minutes of interview time with host John Dickerson on CBS’ “Face the Nation”? Continue reading

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NFL Week 13 in the L.A. TV market: What a Dickerson move

Eric Dickerson, with LeRoy Ervin, during the Los Angeles Rams All-Access Gala event in the Coliseum on June 16. (Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News)

Eric Dickerson, with LeRoy Ervin, during the Los Angeles Rams All-Access Gala event in the Coliseum on June 16. (Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News)

This should be the week Fox calls an audible and hires Eric Dickerson as a game analyst.
Cue the jheri curl as everyone on the Rams curls up into a ball.
The problem is obvious: Not many would understand what he’s saying. If you watched (and tried to listen) to him when KCBS-Channel 2 bunched him up with Andrew Siciliano and Marshall Faulk on those three TV exhibition games, it’s painfully obvious. As it is when Dickerson takes to the airwaves to do interviews this week in addition to the hours he soaks up on KLAC-AM (570) for his Monday headline show.
Dickerson has had plenty of time to vent about how the Rams have wronged him. Instead, Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch and Pam Oliver are dispatched to Foxoboro, Mass., for the Rams-Patriots game on Sunday at 10 a.m., carried by KTTV-Channel 11. That broadcasting group was first exposed to this edition of the Rams in Week 9.
Fox has the doubleheader and goes rouge without considering the San Diego secondary market baloney. CBS has one of five games to pick from and it really has no other choice here but to go Raider strong.
How the weekend shakes out:

Thursday:
= Dallas at Minnesota, 5:25 p.m., Channel 4, NFL Network (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Heather Cox). Expect more Cowboys-related ratings even on a weeknight.
Sunday:
= Rams at New England, 10 a.m., Channel 11 (Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver). Because of this Rams’ commitment, Fox won’t be showing us the early Detroit-New Orleans, Philadelphia-Cincinnati or San Francisco-Chicago in this window. And because there’s more interesting in seeing if Tom Brady sets an NFL record for most career wins by a quarterback, and if Jeff Fisher moves into sole possession of No. 2 on the NFL’s list of coaching losses, this has the most at stake anyway. Some 36 percent of the nation will see it — which seems to be the highest percentage of any Rams game this year outside the Monday Night Football opener.
= Buffalo at Oakland, 1:05 p.m., Channel 2 (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts). The other CBS games that can’t air here anyway because they go up against the Rams: Houston-Green Bay (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms), Kansas City-Atlanta (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green), Denver-Jacksonville and Miami-Baltimore.
= N.Y. Giants at Pittsburgh, 1:25 p.m., Channel 11 (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman). Surprise? San Diego’s home game against Tampa Bay goes to only those two home markets (5 percent of the country), knowing the Giants-Steelers (now going to 85 percent) is far too good a national matchup to have corrupted by NFL TV guidelines. Also bypassed here: Washington at Arizona.
= Carolina at Seattle, 5:30 p.m., Channel 4 (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)
Monday:
= Indianapolis at N.Y. Jets, 5:30 p.m., ESPN (Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)
Bye week (but won’t really be missed): Cleveland, Tennessee

Sunday’s DirecTV “NFL Sunday Ticket” lineup:
= Channel 705: Kansas City-Atlanta
= Channel 706: Miami-Baltimore
= Channel 707: Houston-Green Bay
= Channel 708: Denver-Jacksonville
= Channel 709: San Francisco-Chicago
= Channel 710: Philadelphia-Cincinnati
= Channel 712: Detroit-New Orleans
= Channel 714: Washington-Arizona
= Channel 716: Tampa Bay-San Diego

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