By Tom Hoffarth
Profound sadness and bittersweet hope filtered through song and testimony during the recent Kobe and Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life event at Staples Center.
Yet as they experienced all that firsthand, a group of students, coaches, and faculty at Bishop Mora Salesian High School harnessed that energy to propel its boys basketball team on a historic run.
Some 50 members of the Salesian basketball family were invited to attend the Bryant memorial on Feb. 24, a fruit of the relationship forged by the college-prep school of some 400 boys with Lakers executive Tim Harris, the team’s chief operating officer and senior vice president of business operations.
The inspiration the group of boys took away from the memorial is something team members are crediting with uniting their focus on the basketball court: the small but defensive-minded roster captured the CIF-Southern Section 3AA championship on Feb. 29, four days after the memorial. It’s the first title in the 60-plus-year history of the East L.A. school just minutes away from Staples Center.
Here’s more from our story in Angelus News.
By Tom Hoffarth
Cheryl Miller was, by all measurements, the greatest women’s basketball player. Not just in her time — the 1980s with USC — but for all time.
Skillful, explosive, matching it all with a bit of a showboating display she never ran from.
In all estimates, she was …
“She was a bad … mother … fucker,” says Doris Burke at one point in the new HBO documentary “Women of Troy.”
We include the quote not for shock effect. It seems there are some who can handle the language, and others who care to change it, or alter it, so that the meaning is diluted.
Our latest piece for the Los Angeles Times goes over the HBO doc and what makes it a compelling watch. Read more
It was just a moment. It came after the blousy material dropped to reveal a statue of basketball legend Hank Gathers, located just outside of Loyola Marymount’s Gersten Pavilion Feb. 29. It came after the faintest beat of a gasp was immediately followed by applause and cheers, broad smiles and — this being 2020 — selfies.
Still, there was a moment when, Chris Knight said, amid the laughter and hugs he shared with former teammates who played with Gathers, that he suddenly, in a fleeting space of silence, “could hear Hank’s mother crying above it all.”
For Angelus News, Steve Lowery walks us through the moment when the Gathers statue was unveiled 30 years after his death on the court, right before Easter, and the incredible run the Lions went on with the NCAA Tournament in his honor.
This is a tearjerker and breaks your heart all over again.
Tom Hoffarth and Steve Lowery worked hours together last week, with editor Pablo Kay in Rome, not long after reports about a helicopter crash in Calabasas, to produce this cover story for the Feb. 7 edition of Angelus News.
Bryant took his Catholic faith serious. He was at his home parish, Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Newport Beach hours before he left from John Wayne Airport in the final trip to a youth basketball game in Thousand Oaks.
Where did his faith come from? Did it help him come to terms with his rape trial in Colorado? Did it help him reconcile his marriage?
In 2001, Bryant married his wife, Vanessa, herself a Catholic, at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Dana Point. Father Sallot at OLQA said that he and Kobe had chatted about his desire to receive the sacrament of confirmation in the future.
We try not to judge, but report the facts.
RIP, Kobe, Gianna and all their friends, parents, coaches and families.
By Tom Hoffarth
Jim Hill rushed into the KCBS-Channel 2 studio in suit and tie and had Magic Johnson on the phone while other local TV crews were scrambling to do fan-on-the-street reactions. That was impressive but not unexpected.
Liz Habib’s voice cracked before she had to stop and wipe away tears, abandoning a KTTV-Channel 11 live standup. That felt appropriate.
ESPN and ABC continued to televise the NFL’s Pro Bowl in a simulcast, a meaningless exercise, while pushing its live coverage of events to ESPN2. That was beyond awkward, bordering on disrespectful.
Media outlets trying to disseminate what TMZ first reported Sunday morning as a helicopter crash in Calabasas that took five lives, including that of retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant, ignited the comprehension, disbelief and misinformation anxiety that often permeate the first 24 hours of a news cycle.
More in our weekly Los Angeles Times piece here…
== Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post: “If the media world were ruled by thoughtfulness, rigor and ethics, TMZ wouldn’t have broken the news about Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others before all the families were notified.”
By Tom Hoffarth
The Sports Media Misery Index moves into the fringes of a 2020 landscape and lives to see a new way of looking live at Super Bowl LIV:
== Fox Sports’ fluid investment into the burgeoning age of legalized sports wagering, yoked with a pledge to make Sunday’s NFL championship game in Miami a national unifying moment, gives us an odd family bonding experience. Read more
Our latest L.A. Times sports media piece focused on the 20 things that would be nice to occur in 2020.
What we edited out:
== KABC-Channel 7 sportscaster Ashley Brewer finds a fulfilling role on the next incarnation of “Wheel of Fortune.”
== SportsNet L.A.’s Alana Rizzo comes to the realization she isn’t a reporter. She just plays one on TV.
== With all due respect to our elders, a moratorium on getting “Steinered.”
Here is the rest of what got in. And if Bill Walton wants to eat peanut butter while he’s on NBC’s Olympics telecast, all the better.
By Tom Hoffarth and Steve Lowery
Our latest for the Long Beach Post celebrates the baseball life of Tampa Bay Rays senior advisor for scouting and baseball operations R.J. Harrison, who has had 44 years in the business, 30 years as a scout and the last 25 years with the American League East team that he helped stockpile for a run to the 2008 World Series.
The Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation will honor him at their annual fundraising gala at the Beverly Hilton, amidst many baseball luminaries. If you want to rub some elbows, it’s not too late to crash this big-time party. We have connections.
By Tom Hoffarth
Whether it was the retirement of Vin Scully, the lagging distribution of SportsNet LA, or LeBron James’ “Decision” that launched his career as a media-content producer, the decade of 2010-’19 made some waves in Southern California, and created ripple effects elsewhere.
In addition to this Top 10 list we compiled for the Los Angeles Times, we thought of a few others worthy of note:
== Aug. 19, 2017: Jose Mota becomes the first to broadcast an MLB game as an English and Spanish play-by-play man as well as an English and Spanish analyst. His scorecard made it to Cooperstown as noted in this L.A. Times piece. Read more
The start of the 83rd Winter/Spring season of Santa Anita won’t start as scheduled on Dec. 26 — it’s been pushed back already to Saturday, Dec. 28 because of pending rain.
Rain has been the pain of issues at the track for the last 12 months, and is the reason why we felt it was necessary to look into how the thoroughbred race track planned to stay in business with our latest piece for the Los Angeles Business Journal, now on newstands, and also at this link. Read more