The $1 billion bracket has been revealed, and it’s free (you’re welcome)

3c36c3500a42bd60883a91e605ee594b3ab2c9f555c80ee14b96cdc2cbe7f667There are more than a bajillion reasons why you’ll never pick a perfect NCAA college basketball tournament.

It matters not how many blank bracket sheets you go through, or by what excavation methods you dig through Doug Gottlieb’s gobbly goop on TV.

But this year, there are a billion reasons why you’ve got at least make one half-cocked attempt at it.

buffettWarren Buffett, without putting his pinkie finger to the corner of his mouth, has put up $1 billion of his own cash (estimated net worth: $53.5 billion), betting that you can’t go to a legal loan shark’s website and produce a flawless forecast of how 63 games will play over the next few weeks.

The odds are stacked in his favor, as usual. Anyone attempting this feat with some willy-nilly strategy has a 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 of getting it right. And if you actually do know something about the sport, the odds are greatly reduced to 1 in 128 billion – or not as good as flipping a coin 37 times and having it come up heads in each instance.

Read more of this column on the Daily News website.

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Play It Forward: March 17-23 on your sports calendar — That UCLA-Tulsa NCAA Tournament opener 20 years ago sets the stage for this Steve Alford-Danny Manning matchup

tulsa_ok_1920THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

NO. 1: COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT:
UCLA vs. TULSA:
At Viejas Arena on San Diego State campus, Friday at approx. 7 p.m., truTV:
O'BannonIn the book, “The Bruin 100: The Greatest Games in the History of UCLA Basketball,” the contest that UCLA played against Tubby Smith’s Tulsa team in the opening round of  the 1994 NCAA Tournament is ranked No. 17 of all time. Greater than the 1970 NCAA championship win over Jacksonville (which is No. 18), the 1967 NCAA championship win over Dayton (in at No. 19) and the 1972 NCAA championship win over Florida State (which is No. 20). Just not “great” in the way you’d think it would be. As author Scott Howard-Cooper writes, that was “the day the Bruins learned the exact location of Tulsa.”  The Golden Hurricane’s 112-102 trouncing of the Bruins will have taken place most 20 years ago to the date when the two schools meet in the opener of the 2014 tournament in San Diego, and it provides a mysterious back story. Junior Ed O’Bannon said before the contest: “To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know Tulsa was in Oklahoma.” UCLA, which had been ranked No. 1 during the regular season when it started 14-0, had come into the tournament as a fifth seed and had to play this Midwest Regional contest against Tulsa in Oklahoma City, just 65 miles from their backyard. The Bruins trailed 46-17 at one point. It was 63-38 at halftime. It was the most points surrendered by a UCLA team in tournament play.
jim_harrick “It wasn’t a bad dream,” coach Jim Harrick said. “It was a nightmare.” As for O’Bannon, he had 30 points and 18 rebounds as UCLA cut the deficit to 12 with 12 minutes left, but the rally faded. It should be noted, UCLA did win the national title the very next year, as O’Bannon took charge. At least this current Bruins team, and coach Steve Alford in particular, should know that Danny Manning-coached Tulsa (21-12), winners of Conference USA, started this season 0-4 with double-digit losses to Wichita State and Creighton (their only games against a ranked opponent) then finished on an 11-0 run.
If the Bruins win, their second-round game Sunday would be against either Virginia Commonwealth or Stephen F. Austin. We could give an educated guess as to what city each of those schools are located, but our Mapquest app just shut down, thinking we were joking.

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How the Forum wrestles with its sporting future, while Russia takes Ukraine to the mat

A mural painted outside the refurbished Forum in Inglewood harkens back to its sports-related glory days.

A mural painted outside the refurbished Forum in Inglewood harkens back to its sports-related glory days.

Jordan Burroughs played the Forum on Saturday.

“I’ve seen a lot of pictures in the entry ways of all the people who’ve been here,” said the marquee man of the U.S. wrestling team, stripped down to expose his ridiculous upper-body structure while standing in the hallway out of the bright spotlight.

“It seems like it’s a breeding ground for celebrities. They’ve let us hang out in one of the artists’ dressing rooms, that’s where they put us, so to be in the same place as the Eagles, Prince, Eric Clapton . . . .we’re feeling like celebrities this week in such a prestigious venue. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Yup, the Forum still has some fabulousness left in it.

2014_01_FORUM-220Spiffed up and reopened as a music venue a couple of months ago after years of somewhat neglect after the Lakers and Kings moved out in the summer of 1999 to go to the downtown Staples Center, this place in Inglewood hadn’t been revived for any kind of sporting-type event until this weekend’s FILA Freestyle Wrestling World Cup.

A 10-nation dual-meet tournament continues to try to emphasize a rebirth of an Olympic sport that, for some time last year, was on the verge of getting pinned to the mat for archaic methods of operation.

It has the added intrigue of the U.S. team paired up in pool play against Iran – which didn’t happen a year ago when the country left early before a similar multi-country event at the L.A. Sports Arena – and Russia’s powerhouse taking on a group from the Ukraine at a time when the two nations are discussing the pros and cons of redrawing their boundaries amidst public protests and United Nations interventions. There’s also a vote Sunday in Crimea over whether to break away from the Ukraine and join Russia.

Politics aside, this also sets the stage as kind of a test run for other sports-related activity that could find its way into this iconic building again. Bob Arum, for example, has been talking about bringing championship boxing back – he’s friends with new Forum part-owner Irving Azoff.

Step back inside the rusty-red place Jack Kent Cooke originally built for his NHL expansion team in the late 1960s – between the spacious Inglewood Cemetery and now-abandoned Hollywood Park Race Track on Prairie and Manchester, a building that Jack Nicholson used to call “the giant ashtray” – and the senses are fooled a bit. Continue reading

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As the U.S. sled hockey team takes on Russia for Paralympic gold, a SoCal Kings contingent pushes forward with interest

LA Kings Sled Hockey team manager Todd Jenkins, right, makes adjustments to Larney Johnson's sled during practice at LA Kings Icetown in Riverside. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

LA Kings Sled Hockey team manager Todd Jenkins, right, makes adjustments to Larney Johnson’s sled during practice at LA Kings Icetown in Riverside. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

The U.S. team faces Russia again in the gold-medal game Saturday for the Paralympic sled hockey title (Channel 4, 9 a.m. live from Sochi). A local sled hockey team is rooting them on.

Christie Jenkins, left, helps xxxxx bring her son, xxxx, onto the ice for sled hockey practice. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

Christie Jenkins, left, helps Maria Estabrooks lift her son, Ethan,  onto the ice for sled hockey practice. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

The L.A. Kings Sled Hockey program, started five years ago by Todd and Christie Jenkins as something their son, Nick, could participate in, has been steadily getting more and more participation as those with disabilities consider whether the sport is something they want to try.

Here are the links to our story and photo gallery on the inspiring group.

In the meantime:
== Info on the Kings Sled Hockey team can be found at SoCalSledHockey.blogspot.com, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SoCalSledHockey and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LAKingsSledHockey
==  A recent Fox Sports West piece on the team can be viewed here.
== The hour-long PBS documentary “Ice Warriors” can be viewed at the PBS website.
== The Kings Icetown Riverside facility is at 10540 Magnolia Ave., in Riverside off the 91 Freeway.

Sled hockey players Wes Barrientos, of Bakersfield, left, Joshua Swope, of Lakewood, and Nicholas Jenkins, of San Bernardino, share a laugh as they get ready to play at LA Kings Icetown in Riverside. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

Sled hockey players Wes Barrientos, of Bakersfield, left, Joshua Swope, of Lakewood, and Nicholas Jenkins, of San Bernardino, share a laugh as they get ready to play at LA Kings Icetown in Riverside.
(Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

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Weekly media column version 03.14.15 — A Pac-12 Network standoff with DirecTV does no one good this time of the year

Updated notes 10:15 a.m. Friday:

What made it into this week’s media column:

222176The Pac-12 Network has held onto  eight of the dozen games from its men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas — with Fox Sports 1 taking one quarterfinal, one semifinal and the title game. Is that any way to expose the conference to the rest of the country, especially since DirecTV isn’t on board with carrying the channel?
We’ve also got notes on how TNT’s Reggie Miller views UCLA’s post-season journey, Chris Fowler talking about his new ESPN contract that will put him on the ABC Saturday night prime-time college football game of the week, and more backlash to the Dodgers-SportsNet L.A. launch.

What didn’t but maybe should have:

Updated notes:

== While NBCSN has the closing ceremonies for the Paralympics from Sochi, Russia at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the U.S.-Russia gold-medal sled hockey game is the most anticipated event. NBC announced today that KNBC-Channel 4 will air the contest live at 9 a.m. Saturday (not 3 p.m. delayed as originally scheduled). Also look for a story about the L.A. Kings Sled Hockey team coming in Saturday’s editions.

== In addition to our conversation with Chris Fowler on Thursday about ESPN’s decision to extend his contract and allow him to do both the “College GameDay” Saturday morning show in addition to play-by-play on the Saturday ABC prime-time package, Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch is quoting ESPN VP of programming and production John Wildhack as saying he became convinced having Fowler double on Saturdays could work after multiple conversations with Fowler and the game broadcast producer Bill Bonnell.
A reminder: Fowler, Darren Cahill, Mary Joe Fernandez and Pam Shriver are at Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open final weekend, concluding with the women’s and men’s final Sunday at noon on ESPN2. A men’s quarterfinal (1:30 p.m.) and women’s semifinal match (8:30 p.m.) are covered Friday on ESPN2, with a men’s semifinal (noon) covered Saturday on ESPNEWS.

== SportsOnEarth.com has Leigh Montville on the move to move Brent Musburger off the prime-time package and Will Leitch on the Fox “safe move” decision to add Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci to the MLB A-team in place of Tim McCarver.

== The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir focuses on ESPN’s Stuart Scott and his battle with cancer.

More notes:

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Play It Forward: March 10-16 on your sports calendar — After all the hoopla in Vegas, does UCLA get dressed down heading to the formal dance?

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

bracketologyCOLLEGE BASKETBALL:
PAC-12 MEN’S TOURNAMENT
MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Wednesday-Saturday, Pac-12 Network and FS1

NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT BRACKET:
Sunday at 3 p.m., Channel 2:

99129_1_If you’re judging it simply on style points, UCLA’s basketball team didn’t necessarily dazzle anyone with last season’s first Vegas-hosted Pac-12 Tournament. Although the Bruins came in as the regular-season champs and the top seed, and then made it to the tournament final shorthanded only to lose to Oregon, who can overlook the way it all started – a sluggish win over Arizona State wasn’t as distracting as the new “impact camo” uniforms that Adidas forced UCLA’s roster wear. While it wasn’t the full blue T-shirt and crazy striped pants ensemble that had alums and students writing letters of desperation athletic director Dan Guerrero, a less gaudy white version had the Associated Press nonetheless refer to it as something that “looked like pajamas.” The unis were retired after that game, and eventually, so was Ben Howland, whose team lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Minnesota.
99185_1_Gearing up for this year’s post-season festival, the Bruins are back in some new Adidas garb, something the company calls the “most advanced uniform system and basketball apparel technology so they can take on the challenges and intense play of March.” Seems like an unfair advantage for Steve Alford’s bunch, doesn’t it? These navy and gold T-shirt tops are “inspired by the Los Angeles skyline at night,” the Adidas folks say. That’s all fine, as long as the Bruins don’t get caught up in the nightlife.
MjAxMy0wMjc1ZmI1ZjYxOGQ3OTM1UCLA (23-8, 12-6) may have finished with the No. 2 seed, but it isn’t scaring anyone after a head-scratching loss at Washington State in the final conference game. The Bruins start the Pac-12 event on Thursday (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network) against either Oregon or Oregon State. USC (11-20, 2-16) end up as the No. 12 seed and open the tournament Wednesday against Colorado (2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network). A UCLA win puts it in Friday’s semifinal (8:30 p.m., FS1), targeting Saturday’s final (3 p.m., FS1).
The Pac-12 Tournament is expected to produce a No. 1 seed for the 68-team NCAA event, even as Arizona (28-3) lost its regular-season finale to Oregon. The Wildcats are also hoping to land a spot in the West bracket that opening in San Diego and goes through to the regional finals in Anaheim. Other probable No. 1 seeds stand with 34-0 Wichita State (which clinched the Missouri Valley Conference tournament), current No. 1 ranked Florida and then it’s a toss up among Villanova, Virginia, Kansas or Wisconsin. With more of a rooting interest in how San Diego State lands – and always trying to find out where Duke lurks — we’ll wait to see how the brackets break out, then listen to the experts who told us so.

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Weekly media column version 03.07.14 — Why would Dodgers suddenly pull the signal on over-the-air coverage when so many L.A. TV homes rely on it?

What made it into this week’s media column:

Bh6xQQkCEAIaBEFThe Dodgers’ launch of their own SportsNet L.A. reinfoces the shameful reality that not only those with access to any cable or dish provider outside of Time Warner Cable are cut off, but so too are those who rely on the antenna over-the-air signal — 13 percent of the 5.7 million homes in Southern California’s TV market. The Dodgers have no plans of making any of their SportsNet L.A. games accessible to a local carrier, such as KCAL-Channel 9, which had 50 games last year. Meanwhile, those customers of DirecTV, Comcast, Cox, Verizon FiOS and AT&T Uverse sit and wait. And wait.
“It’s like we’re all being held hostage by billion-dollar companies, and as fans, we know it is what it is, we’re going to see our bills go higher, but why can’t they just get it done?” said Roger Arrieta, a 41-year-old graphic designer from West Covina who came up with this piece of work (above) to depict what Dodgers fans are going through while he chronicles it for his DodgersBeat.com blog.
More notes are included on the KTLA-Channel 5 coverage of the L.A. Marathon, NBC Sports Net’s plans for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games from Sochi, Russia and why Fox decided to go with Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci as Tim McCarver’s replacement on its national MLB game broadcasts.

What didn’t but could have made it in: Continue reading

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Who’s who 50 years later: The Koufax-Kershaw connection continues

kershawWith all the comparisons made between Dodgers’ Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax, maybe this one presents a tangible visual that links the current to the past.

Those of us who grew up awaiting the arrival of the “Who’s Who in Baseball” ink-drenched paperback that listed every current big-leaguers most basic of bios, complete with a year-to-year statistical breakdown (majors and minors) and then the list of lettered references to times spent on the disabled list along with transaction comments, it pretty much signaled the arrival of the season.

$T2eC16RHJGMFFpcQV,r(BSKTCTf0jg~~60_57Track down the latest issue of “Who’s Who” at the local newsstand, and flash back to the cover 50 years prior. Maybe this is what they mean by coming full circle.

To contrast and compare: They’ve kept basically the same type faces, spot color and size. It’s only gone up from 60 cents in 1964 to $9.95 — maybe because there are almost 275 more players to catalog.

It is still published by the Who’s Who in Baseball Magazine Co., in New York. What’s new for Who’s Who: It’s now available in digital form as an iTunes app for smart phones and iPads.

The last page of the current edition also trumpets the arrival of the 100th edition in 2015, allowing you to pre-order it now for $11.95. In stock are also copies from the 2000s decade ($35 each), most of the ’90s ($35) and ’80s ($70) and a few from the ’70s ($85).
This 1964 cover of Koufax comes via several eBay.com sales, some of which are buy it as-is for $19.95. One issue available goes back to 1940, the eighth edition, currently listed at $70.

This is the only year we can find with Koufax by himself on the cover in action; he shared the cover as a mugshot in ’66 and ’67 (a year after he retired). This is also the first time Kershaw is on the cover in full form. Don Drysdale was on the cover in 1960 with an extended mug shot, and full pitching form in 1963.

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Play It Forward: March 3-9 on the sports calendar — how fast can you run away from traffic caused by the L.A. Marathon?

marathon-dodgersTHIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

NO. 1: 29th LOS ANGELES MARATHON:
Details/TV: Sunday at 7 a.m., Channel 5:
asics-la-marathon-logo_verticalThey say the field is ultimately limited to 25,000, and still more get in. Inside that mass of shoe laces, there’s another group at 185 strong and, regrettably, shrinking. The “Legacy Runners” who have competed in every Los Angeles Marathon since the first one in 1986 plan on being there for the 29th edition for the race that starts at Dodger Stadium, ends near the Santa Monica Pier, and passes by iconic L.A. landmarks such as City Hall, the Pantages Theatre, Hollywood and Vine, Rodeo Drive and Palisades Park along the way. At the race’s official website – lamarathon.com – you can read some of the “Legacy” stories. Aimee Wyatt, for example, is the youngest legacy runner at age 44. That’s because she started as a 16-year-old — when the legal age allowed to enter was 18. “Our father agreed it was a fine idea,” she says. “Our mother doesn’t remember us fudging our ages a little, and now I see kids that look about 12 doing it – go, kids, go!” Al Allen of Inglewood, who will turn 69 next month, has been running to raise money for breast cancer since his oldest sister, Ina, died of the disease the first year of the marathon. Arlene Fichman, a 59-year-old registered nurse from Brentwood, almost had her streak end because of her battle with Graves Disease, a thyroid condition. With a quick medication adjustment, she ran the 2010 race in under four hours, second in her age group. And Rick Wallace, a 56-year-old raised in Woodland Hills, a graduate of Simi Valley High and Pepperdine University and a Malibu realtor, says what lured him to the race originally was getting to cross the finish line near the Coliseum.
laMarathonThat site for the start/finish line has is ancient history, as this 26-mile-plus direct route from downtown to the beach has caught on to be more popular. Maybe the greatest challenge for all these legacy runners – as well as for those in it for the first time – is they’ve decided to hold this thing as daylight savings begins. Meaning, the clock springs forward, so there’s an hour of lost sleep to deal with. The full-field start, along with the men’s elite runners, is at 7:25 a.m. The women’s elite field begins at 7:10 a.m., after the competitors in the wheelchair (6:55 a.m.) and hand-cycle (6:50 a.m.). More important, do you know about street closures?

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Q and A: Jeff Pearlman shows how the Lakers’ “Showtime” still resonates 30 years later

SportsIllustrated.com

SportsIllustrated.com

When Jeff Pearlman began doing research on a book he wanted to write about the Lakers’ “Showtime” era of the 1980s – it involved a two-year-process and about 300 interviews – someone asked him about whether the state of the current Lakers would make any difference in how the project was received.

Meaning, would it be better if these Lakers were pointed toward another NBA title or if they were on a lull and about to miss the playoffs.

jeff-pearlman“This was right after the Lakers got Dwight Howard (in August, 2012),” said Pearlman, the former Sports Illustrated writer and author of several New York Times’ best-selling books. “My thought was that if the Lakers were playing great, everyone would be celebrating how great this team was, and might overlook the book.

“But, still, I didn’t want them to be this bad. This is kind of ridiculous. It doesn’t seem right that the Lakers are this terrible. It’s hard to watch.

“It’s so funny how a team can go stale so quickly. There’s Lakers jerseys hanging in the store now that look so stale. Even the Kobe jersey looks like something for a retired player, right next to the Steve Nash jersey.”

Pearlman was admitting as much as he sat in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in L.A. Live on Friday night, as fans dressed in their purple and gold – some of them in Bryant jerseys — were heading over to Staples Center to actually witness a game between the Lakers and Sacramento Kings.

Even with the Lakers’ 126-122 triumph, they still trailed the Kings at the bottom of the Western Conference.

So, anyone want to call a time out and relive some “Showtime” now?

For the record, Pearlman does, and did, with an excavation process that would have made the scientists at the La Brea Tar Pits even relive some goose-bump moments.

Screen-shot-2013-06-27-at-10.22.34-PMIn “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” (Gotham Books, 482 pages, $30, released Tuesday),” Pearlman polishes off some gems we don’t believe we’ve read before, or couldn’t have known at all had he not traveled around the country to meet up again with those who lived it first hand.

Pearlman explains not just the process, but how the final product produces a whole never level of understanding about that Lakers’ run that produced five NBA titles between the time Jerry Buss took over the team from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 until Magic Johnson’s first retirement in 1991:

Q: How did someone like you, a kid growing up in New York in the 1980s, view the Lakers and “Showtime” from all those miles away? Was it as big as a Springsteen concert would have been during that period in his heyday?
A
: I think of Michael Jackson, doing the moonwalk for the first time, and we’re all watching it on some awards show and we’re like, “Oh, my God.” To me, that’s what it more like. Dazzling. The Lakers to me, it’s kinda weird – I grew up in a very white, sheltered town and everyone there like St. John’s over Georgetown, because it was the “white team.” But I was in a very liberal, hippy-dippy house where we could root for the athletes with the big Afros, the colorful names, players like Garry Templeton, Ken Griffey Sr. And the Lakers, to me, were better to root for than the “white” Celtics because they were cool, Magic was the coolest guy ever, a 6-foot-9 point guard, looking right, looking left, passing . . . Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes . . . they were fancy, snazzy to me, exciting, explosive and dynamic. Besides, I was a fan of the New Jersey Nets, and they were terrible. I remember when they drafted Pearl Washington, and that was a big deal. With Otis Birdsong and Darwin Cook and Mike Gminski. Continue reading

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