11.12.18: Five things you should plan for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

The college football gods have determined that the 88th edition of what we once declared to be “The Hood vs. The ‘Wood” — USC (5-5, 4-4) taking it upon themselves to go to the Rose Bowl and have an extended tailgate with UCLA (2-8, 2-5) – shall begin at 12:30 p.m., and be televised by Fox (KTTV-Channel 11).
While not officially the “can’t miss” game of Week 12, it certainly comes very early in the calendar year that we can remember for one of the nation’s top rivalry contests. For the record, only four other times has this been played on a Nov. 17.
USC leads the all-time series with 47 wins, 37 losses and seven ties, even after vacating wins in 2004 and 2005. USC has also won the last three in row, including 28-23 at the Coliseum last Nov. 18 when Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen decided to participate against each other.
There’s more anniversary games to savor at this link, which also includes info on the week ahead for the NFL, the local college hoops, the Lakers and Clippers, the Kings and Ducks, and NASCAR’s final race of the season.

A sign of the (L.A.) Times: What Smoltz, what chokes

By Tom Hoffarth
Maybe you don’t get enough “how the sausage is made” explanation about a sports media column.
Let’s grind a few things out for you:
One: We have deadlines. We have opinions. We have story ideas. Sometimes, in that order. It needs to mesh. With experience, it works. Occasionally, we wish we had little bit of a do-over.
simpsons-sabermetricsNot that this piece that ran in the Los Angeles Times, posting Monday night and appearing in the Tuesday print editions, leaves us with any major regrets.
It just proves that once you  get an idea out there, a conversation starts. From that, new thoughts and revisions come out.
So, if the end of this column seems a little harsh — John Smoltz seems to be more on a “bitch count” than a pitch count — it started as a place-holder paragraph, was left in because the deadline happened, but there are a few more thoughts on this subject twe have tried to share on our Twitter thread.
(Note: Not an endorsement of Twitter as the place to hold drill-deep discussions. But a starting point as the Post-It-Note for cyberspace).

So what if …
* Fox put a second analyst/third broadcaster in the booth. A manager like Terry Francona. Or Mike Scioscia. Or Buck Showalter. Someone who can give first-hand strategy of what’s going on with the decisions about defensive shifts, non-bunting, perhaps-stealing bases, vaguely moving runners over, the bullpenning theory. All the stuff Smoltz never had to think through. Smoltz’s focus as a pitcher was how to out-think the hitter, and he gets to describe that scenario nearly flawlessly every time he goes at it.
If hitters are paid to make big swings, it plays into the pitcher’s ability to get him out. If the batter is trying to make contact, it changes so much, as does a runner on base forcing a pitcher to go into a stretch, worry about balls in the dirt, etc.
But when he starts a sentence, “I hate to bring this up again, but …” Stop right there. Or go to a second voice.
All else fails, bring Alex Rodriguez in. He proved his worth on ESPN during the Sunday night package.
* Fox gave another channel — FS2, for example — and made that a Statcast-driven program. Joe Davis might be the perfect guy on play-by-play for that. Rob Neyer could be an excellent resource. Because it teaches, rather than preaches.
Check out this Wednesday post by the great Joe Posnanski about the value he found in the Statcast broadcast that ESPN did on ESPN2 during its AL wild-card game. A perfect example of what we’re saying again. Again, a day later.
* That final paragraph, the one that seemed to draw far more attention than the points made in the previous dozen paragraphs, could be adjusted:
“Because when all is said and done, Smoltz might be better off relieved by someone else not just because of a pitch count. It’s really more about the perception that he’s all about a bitch count.”
Again,  I’ve enjoyed Smoltz, especially during the regular season. But this is a different time of year. Smoltz can stay, but he needs some balance. We talked about that as well in our recent TheDrillLA.com Morning Briefing podcast here.
Also:

We’ve tried to listen to the Dodgers’ radio broadcast during these playoffs from time to time. We regret the exercise because it only leads us toward the temptation to do a piece that’s probably long overdue about the Charley Steiner-Rick Monday booth. More on the former. Expect to see more soon.
Onward and upward.

A SIGN OF THE (L.A.) TIMES: CAN YOU GET INTO THE CONVERSATION WITH WOMEN ON NFL GAMES?

By Tom Hoffarth
Andrea Kremer
has a grasp of best practices when it comes to the art of a conversation.
“We all know there’s a language and code of football — Cover 1, RPOs, jet sweep,” she said. “But as Al Michaels said to me, 99% of the people probably don’t know what it all means.
“I’ve always fancied myself as an Xs and Os geek. But during my career, where I’ve done reporting and storytelling, a lot of it is really just conversation. Read more

HOW RANDOM: LOVED OR HATED, ‘ARLI$$’ RECALLS THE B.S. OF THE TRUMP DEAL ALL THESE YEARS LATER

By Tom Hoffarth
Robert Wuhl
wasn’t making a true confession over a plate of eggs benedict and a side of oatmeal at John O’Groats Restaurant. But, yes, since it was brought up, it can now be told: Donald Trump inspired the comedic framework of his HBO show, “Arli$$.”
“If you remember the opening credits, and I say, ‘My name is Arliss Michaels, I represent athletes, these are my stories,’ and this book spins into the picture,” Wuhl says.
The book is a mocked-up cover of Wuhl, as Arliss Michaels, titled The Art of the Sport Super Agent.
Sound familiar?

“This is around 1995,” Wuhl continues between bites, looking at Mike Tollin, sitting next to him and working on a stack of pancakes at the Westside diner.
“I had read [Trump’s book] The Art of the Deal [from 1987] and I thought — remember, this? — I said, ‘This is total, 100 percent bullshit. You gotta read this, Mike. He’s saying stuff that I don’t believe a fuckin’ word of it. He’s telling you what happened, but I want to see what really happened.'” We can use this, as Arliss the sports agent telling you what happens, and then we prove he’s full of shit and show what really happened.”
And now there’s Trump, in the White House, dealing with much bigger issues.
“Who would have figured that?” says Wuhl.
HBO had a big-deal, seven-season, 80-episode run of Arli$$ from 1996 to 2002, feeding off the hypocritical irony of the sports world of that era, augmented with hundreds of cameo appearances by the biggest athletes of the day.
It comes back into focus more than 15 years because, after figuring out a way to re-introduce it to a new era of bingewatching and maybe as a reminder this was going on long before HBO’s “Ballers” and “Entourage,” the entire series is now available on HBO Go and HBO Now.
Our Q&A with Wuhl and Tollin appears in The Hollywood Reporter at this link.
Some more of it, of course, ended up on the cutting room floor.
Stuff like this: Read more

A SIGN OF THE (L.A.) TIMES: HOW MARCELLUS WILEY WALKED THE TALK FROM ESPN TO FOX

By Tom Hoffarth
Speaking for himself, Marcellus Wiley says there are weird moments talking the talk at Fox Sports’ Century City studios after walking away from a broadcasting career in ESPN’s L.A. Live facility near Staples Center.
913PNQUiUDL“Kind of like having the ex-girlfriend living next door, isn’t it?” Wiley said with a laugh while driving from his Manhattan Beach home to do the Monday episode of the revised “Speak For Yourself” on FS1 with Jason Whitlock, a TV partnership officially formed Sept. 10.
“When I was at the Chargers-Rams game Sunday, I even went over to the ESPN radio guys and sat with a lot of my former bosses. I’m not about burning any bridges. Nothing but love and respect.”
So no evil backstory as to why the light-up-the-room 43-year-old switched allegiances. He said it’s just “pretty standard operations with an expired contract,” something he dealt with regularly over a 10-year NFL career as an All-Pro defensive end that included three seasons with the San Diego Chargers.
Read more at this link about Wiley’s move to Fox as well as how Kings fans will have to get used to a new way of listening to Nick Nickson and Daryl Evans on the audio feeds.

THOMPSON’S TAKE: WHERE THE WIND BLOWS, SERENA WILL BALK

As Jim Thompson writes on ThompsonSportsArt.com: “Serena Williams is the best to ever play women’s tennis. She’s also a diva who, when losing, tends to blame everything and everyone within a tennis ball’s throw. Remember when she threatened to stuff a ball down a linesman’s throat. I hate to break the news but great athletes can be great big jerks. …” Read more

Where do we retire Ralph Lawler among the L.A. sports play-by-play pantheon? Grab a six-pack and we’ll walk up this mountain …

By Tom Hoffarth
So you’re playing that game called “Mt. Rushmore” — commission four stone-carved faces up on the side of a mountain that represent the most important people for your (fill in the blank: team, profession, presidents of your neighborhood watch committee). Who would they be?
If the baseline was Los Angeles sports play-by-play men since the beginning of time – and L.A. really ain’t that old – the obvious first three in lineup are Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and Bob Miller.
All are in their respective sports’ Hall of Fame broadcast wing. They have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They introduced their sports to an L.A. market that hadn’t seen it before, and then fell in love with it.
Now, who finishes up this foursome?
Without Dick Enberg, it seems imperfect.
Without Tom Kelly, it seems inadequate.
Without Ralph Lawler, it sorta seems incomplete.
We’re happy to be featured on the Sports Broadcast Journal website today, per the request of broadcast historian David J. Halberstam, to give our perspective of Lawler’s body of work as he’s announced this will be his 40th and final season with the team.
See more at this link …

THOMPSON’S TAKE: ‘IT HURTS WHEN I SEE EXPLOITATION FOR PRURIENT REASONS’

There is a very small circle of sports illustrators left in today’s media. Especially effective ones. We’re fortunate enough to know one and have worked with him for years, supporting his craft as it remains impactful and important as a vehicle of commentary.
So when a cartoon depicting Serena Williams throwing a fit in the final of the U.S. Open started to circulate and elicit a strong reaction, we immediately asked our expert, Jim Thompson, to give us his thoughts about something creating such a buzz.
The buzz, by the way, wasn’t in a good way.
We alerted him to this USA Today story, which was followed up by this New York Times piece. Thompson went to the drawing board and collected his words for his own website piece called “Clueless DownUnder.
To highlight:
“I think this cartoon was all about the international reaction he knew he’d get. And, apparently he has an editor who backs him up. Bottom line – a tabloid got what it wanted – millions of eyes on a garbage cartoon and it sullied my profession. I don’t need to repeat the vast condemnation I’ve seen – it’s well deserved.
“I am proud of the work I do and it hurts when I see exploitation for prurient reasons.”

A SIGN OF THE (L.A.) TIMES: PICTURE A PHOTOGRAPHER IN THE BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME … KOBE CAN

By Tom Hoffarth
We’ll admit it’s kind of cool when Kobe Bryant tweets out a story you’ve done. Even sweeter when the Hall of Famer is quoted liberally and accurately in the piece … and he’s not talking about himself. He’s giving props to Andrew Bernstein, the longtime NBA photographer who was recognized with the Curt Gowdy Award for media impact of his career. We have reaction from Bryant, Jerry West, Doc Rivers and the Basketball Hall of Fame CEO, as well as why this is an important moment for those shooters to get their recognition.
Follow the link here from this Bryant tweet to the L.A. Times story:

THE VODCAST: DAVID DAVIS IS THE O.G. OF DEEP DRILLING IN L.A.

There are few writers who know their way around Los Angeles and its history than David Davis, and fewer yet who have the full admiration of Steve Lowery and Tom Hoffarth for this longtime freelance journalist who has his hands in many things.
It has taken awhile, but we finally coordinated our schedules to have him down the Carson compound to talk about: Read more

A SIGN OF THE (L.A.) TIMES: JIM ROME AND THE LOCAL ACCESS NARRATIVE

By Tom Hoffarth
Jim Rome
takes one of his trademark pronounced pauses, measuring a way to make sure the server at the high-end Costa Mesa restaurant doesn’t take offense to what he is about to say as the seared ahi salad is set in front of him.
“I think the phrase I’m looking for here is … this pisses me off,” the 53-year-old sports-talk show host says.
The server doesn’t flinch. Read more

THOMPSON’S TAKE: MORE GAVEL-TO-UNRAVEL DODGERS COVERAGE

It almost looks like something out of Charlotte’s Web.
There was the forlorn spider, spinning words into her web that trumpeted up her friend in the barn stall. Like “SOME PIG.”
That was also the T-shirt design that surfaced a couple of years ago with the graphic logo “SOME PUIG,” in reference to this rookie hot-shot who was playing right field like a wild horse broke loose from stable. Read more

GO (AWAY) BEACH: WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY DAYS AT CAL STATE LONG BEACH

Editor’s note: This essay, first posted on June 20, is available as an audio read by the author at www.gametakes.com at this link.

By Steve Lowery

This marks the 29th year since I arrived at Cal State Long Beach, the start of five of the most uneventful years of my life.

In that time, nothing much happened except that one time, I got a really good parking space and that other time, an English professor punched me. That was about it. Read more

A SIGN OF THE (L.A.) TIMES: THE LEBRON VS. KOBE MEDIA COMPETITION

By Tom Hoffarth
The official arrival of LeBron James in Hollywood, versus simply living in Brentwood and commuting to Cleveland, has taken on a new dynamic that we have covered in recent weeks.
Back in early July, we wondered if James would take that awful next step and remake “Space Jam,” with him in the role of Michael Jordan. But it got even a little crazier. Read more

WANTED: INDECISIVE CLIPPERS STAT-CRUNCHER NOT LOOKING FOR A COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE

By Tom Hoffarth

80718CP000__44596.1489697301It’s not like we want to keep checking what’s been posted in the want ads.
But when we come across something as highly unclassified as this — the Clippers are looking for an analyst — we first check our resume to see if things line up, then we  immediately over-analyze everything.
The franchise with 48 seasons to its tax credit and a 1,562-2,326 win-loss record seeks a well-respected yet historically-naive numbers person to make it competitive. Read more

THOMPSON’S TAKE: ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR A BUCKEYE LEADER OF MEN?

According to former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy, Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer was not completely honest last week when asked at Big Ten Media Day about his knowledge of a 2015 report of domestic abuse between assistant coach Zach Smith and his now ex-wife. Smith remained employed by Meyer both at Florida and OSU for almost 10 years as allegations dating back to 2008 were revealed. Meyer fired Smith 10 days ago. Read more

BREAKING NEWS: ALL-SPANISH SPECTRUM DEPORTES OUT AUG. 15, ENGLISH ALL-NEWS CHANNEL IN

By Tom Hoffarth

246x0wEl Segundo-based Spectrum Deportes, the nation’s only 24/7 Spanish-language Regional Sports Network that airs Lakers and Galaxy games as a fully-distributed channel in Southern California, will shut down Aug. 15, citing research that shows a lack of viewership, a Charter Cable network spokesperson confirmed Monday.

TheDrillLA.com broke the news of this on Twitter earlier in the day Monday.

Spectrum Deportes was launched as Time Warner Deportes in October, 2012, coinciding with the arrival of Time Warner SportsNet, now known as Spectrum Sportsnet. It has been the main regional TV home for the Lakers after the team left Fox Sports West and KCAL/Channel 9.

The timing of the move may seem strange as the Lakers have made global news with the signing of LeBron James to the roster, and the Sports Business Journal recently reported that 30-second TV ads on Spectrum SportsNet would fetch $14,000 — double the previous season, or even higher if the team’s ratings exceed expectations. Read more

Q&A: Bob Costas flies national on his trip to Cooperstown as an honoree

By Tom Hoffarth

Part of Bob Costas’ experience growing up with a radio to his ear included a few years in Redondo Beach in the early 1960s — and hearing Vin Scully.
Scully received the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame, from a vote of baseball historians and broadcasters, in 1982, with a speech for the ages.
Costas, 66, receives the award this weekend in the Cooperstown, N.Y., ceremony. He talked about it in a Q&A we did with him that appears today online with the Los Angeles Times at this link.
The San Diego Union-Tribune has also published it. Read more

The Business Drill: How MLB Network marks 30 years since Kirk Gibson’s World Series HR and Rob Reiner getting past third base

By Tom Hoffarth
Now it can be told even if we’re not sure we want to know all the details:
When Rob Reiner met Michele Singer, it was as he was making the film “When Harry Met Sally.”
On a fateful Saturday night in mid-October 1988, the Hollywood writer, director and producer invited the photographer to his home in L.A. to watch NBC’s coverage of Game 1 of the World Series, which happened to feature his David-esque Dodgers against the heavily favored Goliath Oakland A’s. Read more

HE LIVES AMONG YOU: A BLOKE SHOWS HOW TO SNEAK INTO DODGER STADIUM

The video has 1.3K likes. It should have more than about a 100 thumbs down.
This UK lad who goes by Simon Wilson seems to be bored enough that instead of buying a ticket into an otherwise non-descript Monday, May 28 Dodgers-Phillies game, he finds it more of a fun challenge to talk his way in by confusing a bunch of green-jacketed ticket-scanners at the top of the park.
Bravo. Read more

THE DODGERS JUST WANT TO ASK A FEW QUESTIONS … YOU GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE?

By Tom Hoffarth
The email dropped in among the other spam, but with this heartwarming preamble:
“The Dodgers have the best fans in sports, which is why we want to hear from you! Please take a moment to fill out this quick survey so the Dodgers and our 2018 partners can better serve you going forward. The Dodgers and our 2018 partners thank you in advance for your time and participation.”
Read more

A SIGN OF THE (L.A.) TIMES: TRYING TO GET IN-N-OUT WITH DROP-IN ADS CAN BE NUTTY

By Tom Hoffarth

Angels fans may have been going nuts listening to an inconsequential late-September game in Oakland, one that would end in a 21-3 loss. Right about the eighth inning, an Angels hitter fouled a pitch off, breaking his bat, and there was a long pause as he walked back to the dugout to find a new stick.
Wonderful.
Actually, it was. Read more

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