Category Archives: Featured

CTRL+ALT+DEL: A capitalistic re-direct with the Dodgers-AT&T-DirecTV PR “news flash” … details not on SportsNet LA

By Tom Hoffarth

The story was big enough to be on the front-page of Thursday’s Los Angeles Times print edition: “Dodgers’ channel finally plays ball: TV standoff ends and games to be available in almost all of L.A.”

In a tight, one-column piece of real estate allotted to this business announcement that somehow wedged its way into everything far more life-and-death in today’s world, maybe the headline was restricted in what it could actually convey. Regardless, it rang hollow.

The online story could couch it a different way: “After six years, the Dodgers’ channel will be available in L.A. What happened?

91333642_512922749651069_6497779441197098395_nTruth is, nothing substantial has happened.

Other than DirecTV viewers now find Dodgers’ classic reruns on the team-owned SportsNet L.A., arriving on Channel 690 for the time being. Whatever else is streaming on the AT&T  platforms is another element if you’re looking for silver linings.

Without games going on, what’s to celebrate?

More importantly, and to be accurate, is that SportsNet L.A. launched just prior to spring training for the 2014 Major League Baseball season, has been “available” for the last four-plus years throughout Los Angeles — since Charter Communications bought Time Warner Cable in May, 2015 and the combined territory covered about 90 percent of the Dodgers’ TV region.

A good many just choose not to drop one system and pick up another to get it. Many of them were DirecTV customers.

Based on years of following and reporting on this back to when the red flags came up when it announced in 2014, and with our current contacts in the business, here’s what we can conclude about all this:

== A two page press release from Spectrum landed in the email box at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Often we get a heads up. Nothing this time. The Dodgers released the same information about 10 minutes later.

Considering this was April 1, we waited. Seriously.

You’ve waited six years for something like to happen, and now it’s April Fool’s Day, 2020, in the middle of a horrible pandemic, and this is when the geniuses decide they’ve captured your full attention? It’s a lesson out of Public Relations 101 on what not to do if you want to be taken seriously.

There were clumsy quotes from Spectrum senior VP Dan Finnerty, Dodgers president Stan Kasten, and even L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, who certainly had bigger things to focus on. Maybe Garcetti had this quote tucked away in his files for years and asked his staff to finally release it.

Again, the timing of this couldn’t be more non-transparent.

== Since this all started, DirecTV, a satellite dish system that not everyone can access because of some housing structural limitations was in a predicament from the start, wasn’t going to pick up SportsNet L.A., for whatever price was negotiated, for whatever egos were getting in the way. It was payback time for Time Warner Cable, for all the previously negotiated channel deals they claimed were too expensive. As long as DirecTV held out,  there would be no other cable system compelled to take this Dodgers exclusive regional outlet.

And with that, the narrative of “70 percent of Los Angeles can’t see” the Dodgers’ channel was rooted, accurate or not, and continued for half a decade.

Spectrum became the “bad cop” in this scenario, and the Dodgers were already secure with the $8.5 billion, 25-year deal, leaving the creators of this El Segundo-based venture do what they say they do best and figure out the distribution. It would change its name from Time Warner/Charter to shed that branding stigma. It could have benefited from a national Department of Justice antitrust investigation about collusion. There was  local political hand-wringing. Occasional yarns about how the team was “missing a generation of fans” as each year rolled over with no distribution increase.

The Dodgers didn’t think they were being treated fairly in the media. All it did was complete a business deal in its favor, and supply the product. It was frustrated by its business partner, but officials weren’t allowed to publicly complain any longer, for fear of mucking things up more.

Ownership of El Segundo-based DirecTV, just blocks away from the Spectrum headquarters down Aviation Blvd., never needed to have a power lunch meeting and budge from its position.

The bottom line was not enough subscribers were leaving DirecTV, for whatever reason.

Then the threshold started to hit. Enough DirecTV subscribers canceled. Some got Spectrum. Some just gave up on the Dodgers, who wouldn’t even allow video streaming of the Spectrum feed for those who wanted it, and would have paid separately for it.

 

2016 Thompson

== Over the years, we saw potential tipping points, and brought in business experts to talk about it — experts now extracted by other media sources to become their go-to quote machines.

We suggested a media intervention with the big mucks who might force change.

The entire process of how this was negotiated sounded a warning for others (the Chicago Cubs) who were about to step into the same quagmire.

But Wednesday’s announcement now comes at a time when AT&T is fattening the DirecTV pig for sale at the media country fair. It needs to strike now.

Ever since AT&T paid some $49 billion for DirecTV in 2014 (with FCC approval granted in July, 2015), there was the “enterprise value” of $67 billion on it.

Since then, the media business changed. More were not only cutting chords to cable operators, but flipping off satellite services (including Dish Network), and the bar charts tell the rest. Subscribers are bailing as AT&T’s attempt to bundle customers with wireless, etc., wasn’t working. AT&T’s debt grew, even more with a Warner Media deal.

What could AT&T do, aside from stop sending satellites up to support the DirecTV mission back in late 2018? By late last year, they were already loudly dropping hints they wanted to cut loose DirecTV.

DirecTV’s deal with the NFL over “Sunday Ticket” expires, and the league moves it elsewhere. “NFL Sunday Ticket” has been DirecTV’s drug for sale for many years. It needs a new a dealer, as far as the league can see it. With it goes “The Red Zone Channel.”

It wouldn’t be a surprise of DirecTV finally adds the Pac-12 Networks for the same reason. That’s a channel competitor Dish Network already has, though. So if Dish wanted to scoop this up, based on FCC approval, it wouldn’t have to keep SportsNet L.A. Again, because we have no idea what the length of terms has been verified.

== Looking again at the press release about the DirecTV/SportsNet LA deal, there is no time frame to speak of. The likelihood of this “good faith” ending when some other media buyer comes along and decides SportsNet LA costs too much and starts stripping DirecTV for its parts is a practical business matter, with a long history.

This is AT&T seizing a PR moment with nothing of substance recorded. A deal of convenience as we’re led to believe.

It comes six weeks after DirecTV’s lead negotiator was let go. It had already cut loose Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen’s shows. DirecTV doesn’t all of the sudden have a change of heart. It has a chance of financial direction.

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== So the hostage crisis is over?

By the time we started to believe Wednesday’s announcement/fraudulent reason to celebrate, others were beyond all that and just wanted to bask in the moment.

A moment of what? There are no games, of course, and the entire 2020 season could be wiped out.

Sure, the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke was more spot-on about what was already missed. But we can’t lament the past, when the future may be even more a house of cards. No one is talking beyond the talking points in the press release.

There is more logic in the analysis from Phillip Swan, aka TVAnswerMan (and a must follow):  “I keep thinking that it simply doesn’t make sense that after six years, AT&T and DIRECTV suddenly saw value in SportsNet LA that they didn’t see before. It only makes sense if Charter lowered the price, and it only makes sense for Charter to lower its price for 2020. So, Dodgers fans, rejoice in yesterday’s news. But don’t be shocked if the celebration is short-lived.”

Until then, we’ll challenge headlines like this — listen, there was never a “blackout” but … go ahead and write whatever fits at this point, right?

New baseball reads for 2020: A safe place to find book recommendations

bca420371def8d13bff3052aee412a74By Tom Hoffarth

When will there be good news?

(OK, look at the book Stephen King is reading while attending a game at Fenway Park. … From a guy who wrote “Misery”?)

Our 2020 spring baseball book review has taken a new turn.  We are springing forward.

As the reviews continue three times a week on fartheroffthewall.com we will have the updated list here.

*Day 1 (March 17): “State of Play: The Old School Guide to New School Baseball,” by Bill Ripken.

xe4uGf6Q*Day 2 (March 19): “The Incredible Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League,” by Anika Orrock

*Day 3 (March 20):  “The Hidden Language of Baseball: How Signs and Sign-Stealing Having Influenced the Course of Our National Pastime,” by Paul Dickson

*Day 4 (March 23): “Buzz Saw: The Improbable Story of How the Washington Nationals Won the World Series,” by Jesse Dougherty

STEALING HOME2*Day 5 (March 24): “Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught in Between,” by Eric Nusbaum

*Day 6 (March 25): “The Cactus League,” by Emily Nemens

*Day 7 (March 26): “The Baseball Book of Why: The Answers to Questions You’ve Always Wondered About from America’s National Pastime,” by the late John C. McCollister

*Day 8 (March 31):“Swing Kings: The Inside Story of Baseball’s Home Run Revolution,” by Jared Diamond

91bQ7s2k28L*Day 9 (April 1): “The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife,” by Brad Balukjian

*Day 10 (April 2): “The Cup of Coffee Club: 11 Players and their Brush with Baseball History,” by Jacob Kornhauser

Remembering Hank Gathers: A statue at LMU 30 years later, and the force of nature returns … along with the tears

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.

 

The side of Kobe Bryant you may not know about

EP8onAVU8AA_4ojTom 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.

 

Let’s (Long Beach) Post up: The power of the Pyramid at 25 years young

By Tom Hoffarth/Steve Lowery
Our latest for the Long Beach Post sizes up how far the Long Beach State campus Walter Pyramid has come a quarter century after its open — a Top 25 list of events we’ve decided to rank based on hindsight and proper context.
(With apologies to Kobe Bryant, slipping from No. 1 to No. 2 based on how this really has to be a Long Beach State-heavy-duty list).
Considering how many centuries other pyramids have survived, it has a lot of history to catch up on.
Jordan Lance. Pyramid. 2015As an inspiration for artistic interpretation, illustrator Jordan Lance, who graduated from the CSULB art program in 2015, feels it belongs with a series he was once commissioned to do on city’s prominent touchstones along with the Breakers Hotel, Villa Riviera, the International Tower and the Queen Mary.
Jordan.Pyramid. illustration2“I know the Walter Pyramid well from my long walk from lower campus parking to the upper campus where all the art building are located,” Lance says.
“I think it’s a great symbol for such a unique place as Long Beach. Of course, the other landmarks are great because they also feel incorporated into the city’s character as buildings people know and encounter every day and have affinity for beyond just their architectural qualities.
“But I’ve lived and worked in Long Beach for a long time and felt happy to include it in a city I was born in and call home.”

Among the things we’d also like to spotlight:

THE SUCCESS OF THE PYRAMID
Height: 18 stories
Perimeter: Each of the three sides is 345 feet wide
Weight: 81 tons
Square footage: 38,000
Seats around the main court: 4,200
Uniqueness: Believed to be the largest space-frame structure in North America, its infrastructure utilizes 18,000 steel tubes and connection modules, joined by more than 160,000 three-quarter inch bolts. If the tubes were laid end-to-end, they would form a pipe span 26 miles long. Its cantilever system lowers seating into place using hydraulics.
Address: 6000 E. Atherton St., Long Beach 90815
Exterior: Dark blue corrugated aluminum
Designed: Don Gibbs
Construction: Neilson Construction of San Diego
Cost: $22 million

IMG_7991

It’s not just a recycling bin. It’s one shaped like a pyramid, of course.

Other comparable “true” pyramid-style structures in the U.S.:
= Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tenn., former home University of Memphis, from 1991 to 2004. The NBA’s Grizzles were to play in it but it needed significant upgrades after a flood. Reopened in 2015 as a Bass Pro Shops megastore. It stands 321 feet on each side.
= The Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas opened in 1993. Includes inclined elevators that travel at a 39-degree angle. It stands 350 feet on each side.
= The San Diego Innovation Center opened in 1992 (cost: $45 million) as a six-story glass office building 150-feet high

IMG_7983RETIRED NUMBERS IN THE RAFTERS
Long Beach State men’s basketball
42 == Ed Ratleff, 1969-73
20 == Glenn McDonald, 1970-74
30 == Lucious Ware, 1989-93
32 == Byron Russell, 1990-93
Long Beach State women’s basketball
4 == Penny Toler, 1986-89
15 == LaTaunya Pollard, 1980-83
53 ==Cindy Brown, 1983-87
Long Beach State women’s volleyball
5 == Misty May, 1995-98
14 == Tara Cross, 1986-89
7 == Antoinnette White, 1989-91
2 == Danielle Scott, 1990-93
Long Beach State men’s volleyball
15 == Brett Winslow, 1988-91
7 == Brett Hilliard, 1990-93

CHAMPIONSHIP BANNERS
49ers women’s volleyball: AIAW Champions 1972, ’73. NCAA champions 1989, ’93, ‘98
49ers men’s volleyball: NCAA champions 1991, 2018

 

 

A sign of the (L.A.) Times: Fore more years of Trump? Rick Reilly would be lying if he said he wanted that, for golf’s sake

By Tom Hoffarth

Rick Reilly’s course of action isn’t to cheat the audience.
The former L.A. Times, Sports Illustrated and ESPN writer sized up the room of about 30 bunched into the center of an independent book store in Manhattan Beach the other night and declared: As a golfer, your president is all about unplayable lies.
“If he’s making America great, he’s made golf gross,” Reilly exclaimed.
It’s all there on the cover of the book Reilly is promoting — “Commander In Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump” (Hachette Books, $28, 244 pages), hacking its way up all sorts of bestseller lists.
Drawing upon his journalistic DNA, Reilly dedicated this book to “the truth … it’s still a thing.” In his acknowledgements, he thanks “every reporter out there who keeps pursuing the truth head-first into the worst hurricane of lies, insults and Constitution-trampling I’ve ever seen in my 40 years in the business. You inspire me.”
More at the L.A. Times website linked here.

Also: 
= Excerpts from the book in Esquire magazine.
= Reilly’s piece about the book for The Atlantic
= Reilly on CNN via RealClearPolitics.com

The vodcast: Pearlman, Dufresne, Vanderpool, the USFL … preposterous fun, ready on two …

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.
Egads.
We could also tell you this particular story was already an ESPN original “30 For 30” doc  called “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL.”
51cgUKUBGuLNevertheless, 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.

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