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 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.
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.
The 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
What made up this week’s sports media column, linked here:
Is 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
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.”
There 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.
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.
Check 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
What made it into this week’s column, linked here:
So there was Lakers president, governor and valued Buss Family Values member Jeanie Buss at the crack of dawn this morning, invited onto “SportsCenter” and “The Herd” and “First Take,” to give a counter-point to the ESPN piece that Henry Abbott negotiated about the life and times of the franchise as it relates to Kobe Bryant’s self-centered existence.
“Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser and I’m glad they wouldn’t come to the team,” she said in one felled soundbite. “I read the story, I don’t agree with any of it. If there is somebody that’s on our payroll who is saying things like that, I’ll soon get to the bottom of it and they won’t be working with us any more. That is an unacceptable comment, especially when it’s anonymous. I don’t buy any of it, I don’t agree with any of it and I have no doubt that Kobe will make people regret every saying (those things)..
“I don’t like reading that kind of stuff, I don’t want to hear about it. The Lakers fans know what Kobe is about and they quickly defended him as did many other people.”
What will be content with being included in this list of noteworthy achievements:
== ESPN’s justification for putting Chicago’s Derek Rose, not Bryant, on its NBA preview issue (but note the misleading headline refer at the bottom of the cover).
== Remember when Bryant was a staple for ESPN magazine covers (including the very first one in 1998, with Alex Rodriguez, Kordell Stewart and Eric Lindros? What happened there?): Continue reading
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
110th WORLD SERIES:
GAME 1: KANSAS CITY vs. SAN FRANCISCO
Details/TV: Tuesday at Kansas City, 4:30 p.m., Channel 11:
Before the 2014 MLB season even launched, Vegas Insider had the Kansas City Royals at a generous 50-1 odds of winning the World Series. A pre-season preview by BleacherReport.com was a bit more generous: 35-1. “The Kansas City Royals’ last World Series title in 1985 was also the last time the team reached the postseason,” the post read. “If they can avoid the offensive struggles that plagued them in the first half last year and someone steps forward at the back of the rotation, they have an outside chance to snap that playoff drought in 2014.” They struggled offensively, no one stepped up in the back of the rotation … and here they are. The Giants were 25-1 World Series favorites by Bleacher Report, but just 20-1 by Vegas. “The good news is that Matt Cain looked like an ace once again in the second half (last season) … a bounce-back season from newcomer Michael Morse could be enough to make the offense a legitimate weapon. There are a lot of questions, but if nothing else, it’s an even-numbered year, and the Giants have done pretty well in those of late.” That last assessment, at least, turned out to be legit in describing how the Giants survived without the injured Cain or Morse. All in all, a double wild-card World Series is a first since the Angels knocked out the Giants in 2002.
This is also the first time two teams have been in the final round without 90 regular-season wins (in a non-strike-shortened season). There could be something to the fact that they played each other – a three-game series Aug. 8-10. The Royals, right in the middle of winning 12 of 13 from July 30 to Aug. 11, beat Madison Bumgardner 4-2 the first night, had James Shields pitch a four-hit, 5-0 shutout against Tim Hudson the next night, and capped it off with a 7-4 win over Tim Lincecum – with Greg Holland saving the first and last games. The average attendance for that weekend series: Just more than 30,000 in the 37,901-seat Kauffman Stadium. Maybe they should move this to nearby Arrowhead Stadium (79,400). Oddsmakers have made the Royals a 5-6 favorite, perhaps because of the home-field advantage afforded them by Mike Trout’s All-Star MVP performance in leading the American League to victory. So you can’t say the Angels, who helped ushered the Royals through their 8-0 playoff run, haven’t played a major part in this.
The series continues (all on Channel 11):
Game 2 at Kansas City: Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
Game 3 at San Francisco: Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Game 4 at San Francisco: Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
If necessary: Game 5 at San Francisco: Sunday at 4 p.m.
THE REST OF THE WEEK INCLUDES:
USC, now the only Pac-12 team with four conference wins, hits the road to Utah (Saturday, 7 p.m., FS1), as the 5-1 Utes come off a double-OT win at Oregon State last week … UCLA shouldn’t get altitude sickness in a game at Colorado (Saturday, 11 a.m., Pac-12 Network) … The Kings end a six-game home run with contests against Buffalo (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.) and Columbus (Sunday, 1 p.m.) … and the last of the NBA exhibitions are over when the Lakers face Sacramento in Las Vegas (Friday, 7 p.m.) and the Clippers are at Staples Center against Portland (Friday at 7:30 p.m.). Here’s how it lays out.
The Dodgers just bought the farm.
It’s in the form of a spectacular quickclaim deed, poaching a Wall Street whiz who, with a magical hoe, will begin his plan of transforming Chavez Ravine back into a cavern of champions by calculating the best method of crop-dusting a dagnabbit dormant farm system that would have been producing bushels of pennants already if there wasn’t this water shortage issue.
By the way, if possible, could you avoid spraying weed killer on the previous general manager who’s just been put out to pasture in the process?
Apparently, your 2015-and-beyond Dodgers, the richest baseball conglomerate on the planet, are crafting Phase $$ of the Kasten Plan, where the emphasis is on raising their own playoff drought-resistant soy beans, succotash and shortstops.
Plan A no longer leans on overpaying at the trade deadline for rickety outfielders at the Red Sox R Us outlet mall, even with a credit card limit just short of infinity. Not when there’s the proven track record of how an organic crop of home-grown Rookies of the Year translates to trophies, just like the Dodgers’ Karros-Piazza-Mondesi-Nomo-Hollandsworth teams back at the turn of the century.
Breathe deep here. Smell the fertilizer?
The stuff that will be remembered for minutes, maybe even days, from this week’s media column posted here:
Colin Cowherd has a thought about the difference between a USC and a UCLA fan.
And he’ll even share it.
“I’ve always felt UCLA was international — engineering, medical school — and USC was the wealth center for kids in L.A.,” the ESPN Radio weekday morning host said from the KSPN 710 L.A. studios across the street from Staples Center. “It always felt like a USC kid was part of a Southern California family. Or at least domestic. UCLA was Pacific rim.
“Now I will say because of private donations over the last decade, USC is really elevated as an international school in the business field, communications, film schools. Reading U.S. News and World Report, it feels like USC has made big strides. The people who went there say they couldn’t get into USC now.
“So, if you take both schools by the sports, USC football guy has a lot of East Coast passion in him. He’s more willing to call and yell. L.A. may not be a ‘fire the coach’ town, but even when Lane Kiffin was here and with all the chaos, they still won 10 games because the university is uniquely imbedded in the community. UCLA basketball maybe used to be that way. You don’t get that sense of urgency at UCLA. People are very satisfied with Mora at UCLA. Even the losses are pretty good.”
Surely, he’s said this before in the course of his show, but having him assess it while on L.A. turf, outside his Bristol, Conn., surroundings, seems to make it a little more relevant.
We had some time with Cowherd during his visit this week, which ends with a show on the USC campus Friday morning — and he’s heading out before Saturday’s USC-Colorado homecoming game, because TV shows that he has to host beckon.
The stuff we’ll post here, in hopes it lasts at least a quarter of a 24-hour news cycle:
== One more Cowherd-related take, as it pertains to critics of his work, and how it may become a chapter in the new book he’s working on these days, as a follow up to the one he released last year: “You know, they’re really your best friend. Most of them are educated and are looking for an elevated experience, and the truth is, I’ve used critics through the years to become a better broadcaster. I do have thick skin. I don’t take things personally. But we’re all human. I don’t think people like reading criticism. When I was a kid, Howard Cosell was my favorite sportscaster and I decided early in life I was not going to let the media dictate what the truth is to me. Now I’m supposed to think Conan O’Brien is funny. I think Jimmy Kimmel is funner. I will use critics as a way to prove myself, too. ‘Really, you think I’m this? I’ll prove it.’ I tell young broadcasters: Believe in yourself and use critics as motivation. Don’t curl up and don’t ignore them.”
We could be critical of that comment, but …. why? Continue reading