Play It Forward: March 2-8 on your sports calendar — Luc Robitaille, you’re lucky statue No. 7

w640xh480_REU_115172THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

NHL: KINGS vs. PITTSBURGH
Details/TV: At Staples Center, Saturday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports West:
We’ve never really thought of Luc Jean-Marie Robitaille as a statuesque figure in Los Angeles sports history. But even with our artistic eye, maybe we missed something. They’ve already got a half-dozen bronze beauties scattered about in Star Plaza outside of Staples Center, and some of them actually performed inside that arena that opened in 1999.
img_5157There’s the likenesses of former Lakers stars Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West. And the Kings’ great one, Wayne Gretzky. None of them created Staples Center memories, though. Boxer Oscar De La Hoya actually fought inside the place. Once. And lost. The late Chick Hearn called plenty of games for the Lakers there, so, sure, give him his due. But the lucky recipient of statue No. 7 – or “Luuuuuuuuuuc” as the fans will chant – may finally be the most worthy. In 14 years with the Kings, spread out over three entry points in his 19-year career, he became the franchise leader for goals with 577, and the NHL record-holder for a left-winger with 668 goals and 1,394 points. The Hockey Hall of Famer was just a ninth-round draft pick in 1984 – more than 100 spots after the Kings thought that eventual Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Tom Glavine was a better prospect. But Robitaille ended doubts about his skating ability when he won the Calder Trophy (as the top rookie) in 1986, scoring 45 goals in 79 games. His career-best 63 goals came in the Kings’ Stanley Cup Final run of 1992-93, when he acted as the team captain.
nhl_a_robitaille_d1_576Just last month, Robitaille turned 49 – you’d never guess by looking at that baby face – and since he has taken over as the franchise president of business operations, the team has won its first two Stanley Cups. Maybe it’s his mom who is really behind all this.
So now, here’s someone who played at least a few seasons at the end of his career in the facility. Julie Rotblatt Amrany, Omri Amrany and Itamar Amrany, the sculptors who had a hand in the prior six statues, will unveil their 19-foot, 2,500-pound piece they did on Robitaille in a ceremony that starts at 6 p.m. prior to the Kings-Penguins game.
This has also got us to thinking – why aren’t there any L.A. female athletes honored yet? Remember Lisa Leslie?
The Kings’ road trip continues at Edmonton (Monday, 6:30 p.m., FSW) before they are back home against Robitaille’s boyhood favorite team, Montreal (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., FSW)

HORSE RACING: 78th SANTA ANITA HANDICAP
Details/TV: Saturday at 4 p.m.
SharedBeliefLosAlamitosDerby2014_8BEN298_1_r620x349It’s been 75 years since Seabiscuit won the 1940 Big Cap, and ever since then, this $1 million 10-furlong event for horses four years old and up has stayed true to Hollywood endings ever since. Three of the last four event were claimed by Game On Dude, who set the record a year ago by running it in 1:58.17. But now that he’s retired, who’ll step up? It’s our belief that Shared Belief shouldn’t have any trouble winning this one. Mike Smith rode the 4-year-old past rival California Chrome in the Feb. 7 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita in a rematch of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Chrome was on the entry list for this event as of last week, but most believe he is prepping for a run in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28 instead.

ALSO THIS WEEK:
NLWTMNRIIMXGHYH.20150220164218USC and UCLA have two meetings set up — in basketball (at Pauley Pavilion, Wednesday, 6 p.m., ESPN2) and in baseball (at Dodger Stadium, Sunday at 3:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network) … The defending MLS champion Galaxy open the 33-game regular season already — Friday at StubHub Center against Chicago — unless a players’ strike delays everything, as has been reported  … The Dodgers (Wednesday, 12:05 p.m., SportsNet L.A. vs. Chicago White Sox) and Angels (Thursday, 12:05 p.m., Fox Sports West vs. Milwaukee) start the MLB exhibition season in Arizona … The Clippers’ trip to Golden State (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7) ,ay not look much like their previous Christmas Day encounter (a 100-86 win over the Warriors at Staples Center) .. the rest of the week at this link.

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Media column version 02.27.15 — As the ESPN world tosses, turns, churns … and sometimes gets burned

UPDATED: FRIDAY, 1 p.m.:
No weekly column in print or online for the LANewsGroup, but these items that have dashed across the high-speed sports wire may be worth examining, just for the record:

== You may not have noticed the subtle tribute that ESPN has been paying this week to senior vice president and director of news Vince Doria, who is retiring Friday after 23 years with the company. They’ve pulled out some of the “This is SportsCenter” commercials where Doria appeared as himself — including one (above) where he had to fire the Angels’ Rally Monkey.
Tough job. For Doria, and the chimp. No rally here.
The former Boston Globe sports editor and executive editor of The National Sports Daily decided to join the company in 1992, and served as executive producer for a couple of years on ESPN Classic. The best summation of what he’s meant to ESPN came from the company communications man Josh Krukewitz, who noted in a piece for the company website noting that Doria was part of launching the ESPY Awards, then helped get ESPN2 up and running.
But his most noteworthy contributions were in setting the tone for ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” making sure ESPNEWS did what it was supposed to do, and then, for the last 15 years, steer news coverage.
At a time when ESPN’s longtime heavyweight execs Al Jaffe and John Walsh have also recently retired, Doria’s departure signals another time to wonder where the network will go from here.
One of the things we respect about Doria: He was given a Twitter account, but never used it, he told Ed Sherman at Poynter.org.
“One of the things about social media is that there is the potential to make a reporter lazy,” Doria told Sherman. “I see all these stories based on tweets. The context is not fully understood. There’s no ability for follow-up questions. The current nature of media is if you have something, get it out there. It may not be fully vetted, but if it sounds interesting, let’s do a post. I’d like to see more context than here’s what an athlete tweeted last night.”
From his lips to our editors’ ears.
“We’re talking about an editorial and journalistic lodestar, a titan in his profession – the man who guided us through mighty accomplishments and through occasional choppy waters,” said ESPN’s Bob Ley. “And with the other side of his facile brain, he has fired a monkey on television … Clearly, a Renaissance man.”

== And then there’s Keith Olbermann, one of Doria’s delirious dilemmas over the many years, and maybe one who should reconsider his own use of Twitter.

Olbermann decided to tweet that out, which explains why ESPN decided it would be best to bench him for four days (excluding Monday) because of a Twitter fight he couldn’t win with Penn State students.
The news he created for ESPN.com was enough to merit (?) a piece on the front page of USA Today on Wednesday under the headline “Broadcasters Go Wild — Again,” tying him to another outbreak of stupidity by Fox New’s Bill O’Reilly.
Again, we know Olbermann often can’t get out of his own way, and it leads to more speculation that this could be the next beginning of the end in another career implosion.
This is the ying/yank package you get with the explosive genius and ESPN has to know this by now. You take the very good with the somewhat maddening stuff.
Although, you’d think they’d assign someone to at least babysit him, just to make sure he doesn’t play with matches.
Is Jack Haley around?

Continue reading

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Play It Forward Feb. 23-March 1: Rousey’s Cat fight shouldn’t give her a bad rap

Ronda Rousey got to kick it in the Gulf of Mexico on a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition shoot.

Ronda Rousey got to kick it in the Gulf of Mexico on a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition shoot.

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

UFC 184: RONDA ROUSEY vs. CAT ZINGANO
Details/TV: At Staples Center, Saturday at 7 p.m., pay per view (suggested retail price: $60 high definition/$50 standard definition):
With a snazzy 10-0 record in the octagon, more new movie deals coming up and a SI swimsuit appearance showing off her talents, the only rap on Ronda Rousey at this point in her career must be . . . maybe we’ll just Eminem rap about it. On the first track of his latest album “Shady XV,” Eminem is “throwing shade” as the kids say with some lewd references to the UFC women’s bantamweight champ, capped off with call her “a slaughterhouse in a blouse.” Is that the kind of stuff that ups her street cred at all?

“I feel like getting rapped about by Eminem is like getting armbarred by me,” Rousey recently said on a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show. “It might not be so pleasant if you’re on the other side of it, but it’s so skillfully done you have to be honored.” So maybe that’s the song she’ll have to pick as she marches into the octagon to take care of business against Zingano, the No. 1 contender with a 9-0 record and a personal friend of Rousey.
ufc-utopia-ranking-the-15-best-fights-between-ufc-181-and-ufc-184_513493_OpenGraphImage Because the UFC middleweight title fight between champion Chris Weidman and Vitor Belford was canceled because of Weidman’s injury, the Rousey-Zingano bout becomes the co-main event with former boxer Holly Holm (7-0) making her UFC debut against Raquel Pennington. Rousey will be fighting in Southern California for the first time since she retained her title with a first-round arm bar submission on Liz Carmouche in UFC 157 at the Honda Center back in February, 2013. That was last time the UFC was in Southern California. Staples Center last hosted an event in August, 2012, and had been scheduled to have UFC 176 last August, but it was canceled due to injuries.
The first bout begins at 3:30 p.m. The prelims are at 5 p.m. The event will also be carried live in movie theatres that have deals with Fathom Events. Other bouts include Lake Forest’s Jake Ellenberger against Fresno’s Josh Koscheck, L.A.’s Alan Jouban against Australian Richard Walsh, Ventura’s Tony Ferguson against Hawaii’s Yancy Medeiros and the so-called “Filipino Wrecking Machine” Mark Munoz, from Lake Forest, against Brazil’s Roan Carniero.

ALSO THIS WEEK:
The Kings and Ducks meet in Anaheim (Friday at 7 p.m., Channel 13, Prime Ticket) having split their first two contests, one on a shootout and the other in OT … The Kings and Ducks have home games against Detroit and Ottawa before this encounter. …. The Clippers have to face Memphis twice — Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center (Prime Ticket) and then Friday at Memphis at 5 p.m. (Prime Ticket). Their only previous meeting was back on Nov. 23 – a 107-91 loss at Memphis when Marc Gasol scored 30 points with 12 rebounds. … UCLA hangs out at Pauley Pavilion for Washington (Wednesday, 8 p.m., ESPN2) and Washington State (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., FS1) … Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine meet at Firestone Fieldhouse for the last West Coast Conference game of the regular season (Saturday at 3 p.m., TWC SportsNet) … more at this link.

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Media column version 02.20.15 — KSPN-AM (710) cuts news update staff because … (sorry, no more reporters left to collect the facts)

Are-You-Always-This-Stupid-Best-Demotivational-PostersApologies, but no media column online or in print this week. So what else is worth including in this part of the show:

ESPN radio reporter Beto Duran listens in on a Dwight Howard Lakers press conference in 2013 covering for KSPN-AM (710). Photo by Brad Graverson 2-27-13

Beto Duran listens in on a Dwight Howard Lakers press conference in 2013 covering for KSPN-AM (710). (Photo by Brad Graverson/LANG)

== Another stupidiotic sign of the media times, or a sports radio station that has ill-fated plans believing no news is good news:
KSPN-AM (710) program director Mike Thompson has done some questionable cool sculpting of his own on (tr)Ash Wednesday by eliminating the sports update positions that were held by Beto Duran, Dave Joseph and Pete Fox, leaving Jeff Biggs as the lone survivor, according to sources. The philosophy has to do with what else is going on at ESPN Radio, where the Colin Cowherd show and Mike Golic-Mike Greenberg shows eliminated their national update person, apparently deciding that anyone who needs scores and news can get them from their mobile phone, computer or yelling at the guy in the car next to them at the red light who is listening to another L.A. all-sports station. Those valuable extra minutes are then folded back into the current show and granted back to the hosts to address anything that’s breaking, in the hope it can be fixed.
More local programming also appears to be on the horizon for KSPN as part of this decision, giving credence that the Kamenetsky brothers may be accumulating more air time, as well as Biggs, a former Angels talk host at KLAA-AM (830). Reports are also that Kelvin Washington and Travis Rogers have been hired to work a 5-to-9 a.m. shift at the station — the first two hours on the radio leading into Cowherd with the second two audio streaming.
funny-stupid-people-images-pictures-bajiroo-fun-photo-gallery-world-25You can’t upgrade the station’s energy output with your feet firmly planted in a puddle of water. Sending away these particular three reporters who have been the direct conduit to local teams by attending press conferences and providing live updates only short circuits the flow of information. It may look electrifying when you crunch salary numbers to please the accountants, but it only delivers a weaker message to listeners. Employees like Duran (who we profiled here in 2013), Joseph and Fox — as well as the recently released Mark Willard — add value that a station can’t mark up as collateral damage when parceling out air time.

radio_1921== Add to that, the Jan. 2015 ratings for Southern California radio, as released by Don Barrett’s LARadio.com, notes that all-sports  KSPN-AM (710) was tied for 28th at 1.3, fairly decent considering the Lakers’ woes. When compared to the rest of the field, it’s actually at the top of the heap. The Dodgers’ and UCLA’s KLAC-AM (570) was at No. 38 with 0.6. The Kings’ new home, KABC-AM (790), is 35th at 0.7.
KFWB-AM (980) holds down last place in the book (41st overall) with a 0.2 rating and “continues to struggle with its format flip last fall” and a name change to “The Beast” despite airing Clippers games. LARadio.com notes today that program director Owen Murphy, who helped put the thing on the air, has left the station already.
With all that, neither the Angels’ KLAA-AM (830) or ESPN Spanish language affiliate KWKW-AM (1330) made the ratings list.
In at No. 1 overall was KOST-FM (103.5) at 5.6.

2015-ss-sj_rendering_960x540== Guess we shouldn’t feel slighted — again — that NBCSN will dispatch Dave Strader, with Eddie Olczyk and Brian Englom, to call the Kings-Sharks NHL outdoor game from Levis Stadium in Santa Clara on Saturday night. Kathryn Tappen will also host a studio show on site, and Carolyn Manno has been added as a reporter.
Strader and Engblom also called the Kings’ game in Colorado for NBCSN on Wednesday — meaning it’s two straight games where the Kings’ Bob Miller and Jim Fox won’t provide the TV soundtrack.
So why wouldn’t NBC have recruited the dean, Doc Emrick, on this special game?
They have him slotted to call Boston at Chicago in the middle game of an NBC network triple-header on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Thing is, Olczyk is also going to be there with Emrick and Pierre McGuire, apparently leaving San Jose on a red eye to get there in time.
NBC’s “Hockey Day in America” telecast Sunday starts with Washington at Philadelphia (9 a.m., Channel 4, with Chris Cuthbert and Anson Carter) and ends with Minnesota-Dallas (5 p.m., NBCSN, with Gord Miller and Bret Hedican). NBC’s studio show emanates from Lake Placid, N.Y., with remembrances of the Miracle on Ice game 35 years later.

== FYI: Fathom Events also has the Kings-Sharks game live in selects L.A. movie theaters — Regal L.A. Live near Staples Center, the Howard Hughes Center Cinemark near Westchester and the AMC Puente Hills 20. Reserved tickets run $15 for adults and $8 for children and are best purchased online to secure the best seats. Continue reading

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Play It Forward Feb. 16-22 on your sports calendar: Can Bubba bubble up to the top at Riviera again?

8262488-850x560THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

GOLF: PGA NORTHERN TRUST OPEN
Details/TV: At Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Thursday-Sunday, Golf Channel, Channel 2:
1392593457000-USP-PGA-Northern-Trust-OpenSo there was Bubba Watson, nine shots out and tied for 40th going into Saturday’s third round of this classic L.A. tour stop a year ago. Ever since his breakthrough win at the Masters in 2012, the 34-year-old had developed a nice gallery of followers, but hadn’t rewarded them with much. But then the most recognized lefty not named Michelson, with his big pink-shafted driver, put down a 64 for round three, finishing his back nine in 30 that included a bunker shot out of the par-3 fourth hole that woke the crowd up. For Sunday’s final round, Watson charged hard from the start — four birdies in six holes, and a birdie putt from 15 feet at No. 8 suddenly gave him sole possession of the lead. He didn’t give it up. Somehow, he put up another 64, and as the only player to shoot bogey-free all weekend, the tournament was his at 14-under. Watson’s march was two strokes better than Dustin Johnson, who closed with a 66, and he also outlasted local favorite Jason Allred, the Pepperdine grad who somehow qualified for the event on the previous Monday and shot his own 64 in the second round.
00003475476538As Watson celebrated his fifth PGA event to end a 41-tournament drought, there was Allred, a longtime junior golf friend, one of the first to fist-pump him. Allred’s $388,600 payday for finishing tied for third was more than he had made in his previous 58 PGA events combined. And he wasn’t even sure if he’d finish the event since his wife was due to deliver their third child. “I’ve known him since, man, we were 14 or 15,” Watson said. “I was cheering him on, probably his biggest fan, especially inside the ropes. I want to see a friend like that do well.” Inside the ropes, Watson went on to win the 2014 Masters by three and hit a high of No. 3 in the world golf rankings. The year played out pretty nice for Allred, too. His daughter arrived healthy. He made the field in eight other PGA events after that. And Pepperdine inducted him into its Athletic Hall of Fame last October. Since Allred still doesn’t have his PGA Tour card, and he didn’t get a sponsor’s exception, he paid his fees and will go back to Monday’s qualifying event at Industry Hills (along with former World No. 1 David Duval and 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman) to see if he can squeeze back in at Rivera again. All the best.
Golf Channel has Thursday and Friday coverage starting at noon; Channel 2 has the CBS coverage on Saturday and Sunday starting at noon.

NHL: KINGS vs. SAN JOSE
Details/TV: At Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Saturday at 7 p.m., NBCSN:
B87QES0CQAEVhP5.jpg largeThe sight of Katy Perry’s now-famous “left shark” at the recent Super Bowl halftime show inspired Kings’ mascot Bailey to tweet out during the telecast: “Finally, the San Jose Sharks make it to a championship game,” along with a photo of it helplessly flapping its fins. Roar to that. Whatever evil lurks within the mascots’ minds for this first-of-its-kind NoCal outdoor meeting is worth watching here. No two NHL teams have faced each other more times since the 2010-11 season than the Kings and Sharks — 41 meetings, including extended playoff encounters the last three seasons. The Kings’ outdoor experience consists of a 3-0 loss to the Ducks at Dodger Stadium last season. The Sharks have a 68,500-seat football stadium to fill, and don’t plan to tank. Maybe next year, let’s send these two to Las Vegas, eh?
The Kings, winners of four straight and four points behind the Sharks in the Western Conference, start the week with a home game versus Tampa Bay (Monday, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket), whom they defeated 4-2 earlier this month, and then go to Colorado (Wednesday, 7 p.m., NBCSN).

ALSO THIS WEEK:

UCLA’s game at No. 7 Arizona in Tucson (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN) has piqued the network’s interest as it decided to send its basketball version of “College GameDay” crew to Tucson – the show begins 11 hours before tipoff. The Bruins (16-10, 8-5) have won five of their last six but are just 2-5 on the road in conference. …  The Clippers return from the All-Star break against San Antonio at Staples Center (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., TNT) ….   Matt Kenseth is the defending champ at the Daytona 500 (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11), but soon-to-retire Jeff Gordon starts on the pole … Early-exit UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has his shot to impress the NFL teams at the scouting combine (at Indianapolis, Wednesday-Saturday) … More at this link.

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