By Tom Hoffarth
Here’s an illustration of Bill Walton from the esteemed Jim Thompson, who drew it up to help set the tone for a piece we did on the former UCLA star and broadcaster in 2016 entitled “Bill Walton’s long, strange trip inside his reconstructed soul”
It was right about the time his new book, “Back From The Dead” came out — if you’re wise you’ll get the audio version read by the author. He revealed how he almost ended everything because the pain in his back was too much to bear.
You see him now with photos of outstretched arms, embracing the world … like above.
“It’s because I can now do that,” he said then. “For so many years, I couldn’t even lift my arms because my spine was so bad. It is a very celebratory pose that people use when things are going great. And right now I’ve never been better or busier. Or this healthy since I was 13 years old. Both ankles are fused. Got a new knee. A new spine. I never thought I would be pain free. I’m lucky.”
We are lucky to have a pipeline into Walton’s world, and we reconnected for a story about how, whenever he’s on an ESPN or Pac-12 Network telecast, the social media world embraces him, often in very opposite ways.
Some call him insufferable.
We align with those who refer to him as a “national treasure” and example of “a sonic voyage … of cosmic exploration.”
As we talked to Walton recently, he was in the passenger seat of his car with his wife, Lori, doing the driving. We asked if he was aware of the volatile social media debate he sparks every time he’s on TV.
“Lori, do I pay attention to social media?” he asked.
Probably not a good time to ask. As they were driving from Death Valley to Westwood on Interstate 15, a dust storm was amidst and visibility was limited.
After a long pause, Bill came back on the line: “Lori says no!”
He seemed to be howling in concert with the winds whipping outside his window.
“The world we live in now .. for so long, we have had dreams, and worked hard and tried to be intelligent about them,” he continued. “Today, if you have a thought, in literally the shortest period of time, that nano second, it becomes reality and part of a larger collaborative community. I take my responsibility very serious and take pride in it.”
We could fill a whole new post with just the outtakes from that discussion. But for now, here’s the piece we had in the L.A. Times about Walton’s social media experience that we swear most times he’s just messing with us …
Let us help you help us …
The latest revival of the Drill L.A. Morning Briefing podcast, after some retooling and a focus on how to make this something you can take and enjoy on your morning drive to work, is best found on the GameTakes.com app.
It is also available online at GameTakes.com, if you just search and find us.
We started this months ago with the idea of giving you a morning briefing on what happened the night before in L.A. sports, what’s ahead, and giving it all some context from two sportswriters with L.A. roots.
The plan is always to revive the YouTube.com vodcast version of the show as well with upcoming special guests.
We appreciate your feedback on what we’re doing, what you like to hear, and where we can take this. So perhaps put this back on your radar:
The Dec. 3 Monday edition is here.
The Dec. 4 Tuesday edition is here.
The Dec. 5 Wednesday edition is here.
The Dec. 6 Thursday edition is here.
The Dec. 7 Friday edition is here.
More to come ….
When the White House announced last week Babe Ruth would be a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony this Friday, Jane Leavy couldn’t help but tweet out: “ ‘Bout time. Only been dead 70 years.”
Comparably, it took Leavy just eight years of ruthless research, reflection and refinement before her 600-plus-page book entitled “The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created” started thumping itself down in best-seller lists and renewing conversation about how media-based star power can be construed over the last century span.
Historical tomes about the Ruth as recently as Leigh Montville’s “The Big Bam” in 2006, playing off Robert Cremer’s “Babe: The Legend Comes to Life” in 1974, were not able to exhume as much about his true childhood or debunk mythology as much as Leavy could do with modern forensic techniques.
Did this book’s well-received publication bring new veritas toward some Trump-endorsed recognition? If anything, it confirms Leavy’s refreshed narrative of how we continue to learn and marvel at Ruth’s launch angle for athlete/entertainer more than 100 years later.
Here’s the rest of the story we posted at the L.A. Times.
* Here’s also more Q&A we have with Leavy at FartherOffTheWall.com.
* A special historical-based piece for the Long Beach Post
* And here’s an excerpt of the book from SI.com.
Also did you know: Barnes & Noble has a special edition/signed copy of “The Big Fella” that includes an essay after the index about Leavy’s relationship with the late, great Red Smith. Order that one here or visit your local store.
Not much gets lost in translation during a Kings Spanish-language radio broadcast.
Especially on a call like the one Francisco X. Rivera delivered on KWKW-AM (1330) during the second period of last Thursday’s Kings-Philadelphia Flyers game from Staples Center:
“Kovalchuk con el pase, el disparo que es interceptado, una vez mas Carter, otra vez Carter y el gol! Gol … Gooooool … Gooooool … anotado por Jeff Carter … Y que bonito se siente cantar el gol de los Kings!”
Got it? In the span of a couple of seconds, Ilya Kovalchuk takes a pass, a shot is blocked, Jeff Carter shoots again, then another shot, and Carter … puts the biscuit in the basket, right?
So there’s no confusion, Rivera holds that final note in an extended primal punctuation that mirrors Andres Cantor during a World Cup soccer match.
Listen to the full call here, and then read how Rivera explains the thinking behind it with our latest L.A. Times sports media column story.
At some point, even the Hollywood sign sighs.
C’mon, do we have to spell this out for you — the nine giant white letters propped up in the Santa Monica Mountains don’t define Southern California. Nor does a glamour shot of Rodeo Drive. Nor something edgy like a Venice Beach skateboard park/tattoo parlor adjacent to an outdoor basketball court.
Sunday played out under the headline of Los Angeles’ “Sports Equinox”, and a lot of people across the country saw a lot of L.A. cultural touchstones if they were paying attention on TV.
Fox Sports, based in Century City, also stepped up its game.
For all it could control with its coverage of World Series Game 5 from Dodger Stadium, following its Rams-Packers NFL game from the Coliseum, the hometown network looked as if it wanted to flip the script for all those other cliché-laden visuals that others recycle in setting the stage for what they believe conveys L.A.
“Obviously, with people who live and work here knowing the ins and outs, we can show off this city in its true environment and not what a TripAdvisor might tell you about the top 10 spots to visit,” said Judy Boyd, Fox Sports’ senior vice president of production. “It’s not the Hollywood Walk of Fame or pop culture celebrities or what others may think.”
Here’s more from our L.A. Times piece in coordination with the conclusion of the World Series media coverage …
By Tom Hoffarth
We’ve had plenty of interesting feedback to our L.A. Times’ piece on Dodgers radio/TV play-by-play man Charley Steiner, with a generous amount of support in his favor.
We’ve also had plenty more examples submitted about things he’s flat-out misinformed listeners to from his past.
As we also do daily stories on the World Series coverage for the Times, we wanted to revisit this Steiner story because, frankly, he’s not in the equation when we assess how we’ll consume a game, with the Fox TV feed, the ESPN Radio audio and even a live computer recreation.
That said… One more Steiner story from a reader:
A few years ago I recall a game when Travis Shaw was playing for the Red Sox, and the Dodgers were playing them in an interleague game. Charley, clearly reading from the media guide, says: ‘Travis Show hails from Washington Courthouse, Ohio.’ Then after one of those long silences, he says, ‘If I’m not mistaken, that’s the same hometown as former Dodgers closer Jeff Shaw.’ The emphasis wasn’t on the last name — leading me to believe it didn’t even dawn on him they had the same last name. He certainly had no idea that Travis Shaw was Jeff’s son! A little basic research would be nice in that spot.
So it goes …
And then there’s his bizarre reaction:
What if we told you there was a pro football league that existed more than 30 years ago, contrived as a complimentary spring exercise to the NFL’s fall season, but then one owner in particular based in New York couldn’t help himself, drove it off the cliff at the expense of his supposed business partners, and later would be doing the same things in the White House.
We could also tell you this particular story was already an ESPN original “30 For 30” doc called “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL.”
Nevertheless, we booked Jeff Pearlman on TheDrillLA.com vodcast based on his book: “Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL.”
Crazy, sure. It’s been discussed on shows as diverse as NPR to ESPN’s “Outside The Lines”. From NESN to the Peter King podcast ...
From FS1’s Colin Cowherd to DirecTV Audience Network show host Rick Eisen. Plus, it has been featured in Forbes and The Christian Science Monitor, and The Associated Press Sports podcast.
We have a different spin.
A true spiral.
One inspired by a left-handed Mormon who made the Los Angeles Express something we still look fondly back on.
The Southern California-based Pearlman, the former Sports Illustrated writer now working for The Athletic who did the incredible Lakers’ book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s“ in 2014, carves out some time here to spend with us.
More context: Chris Dufresne of TMG Media Sports.com, which focuses on college football coverage, was the Los Angeles Times beat writer for the L.A. Express starting with their 1982 birth up until the final courtroom drama that ended with a jury agreeing that the NFL did in fact monopolize pro football, but the USFL was owed just one dollar in damages.
Add to this: Tom Hoffarth covered the Express for several years as well for the South Bay Daily Breeze.
And … Steve Lowery and Steve Vanderpool were part of the Express public relations team and knew all the ins and outs of what went on in the offices.
They got the band back together.
Here is an hour of discussion that Pearlman said in a parting Twitter DM that “was preposterously fun” to do … hope he has the same feeling after watching it here (and where in the world is Bob Rose these days?):
In 2013, Pearlman prepped us by writing this for Sports Illustrated.
And here’s more on Pearlman’s website linked here.
And an excerpt here on Bleacher Report.