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The Top 30 sports shows of all time? From SportsCenter to Garbage Time, we helped shape this list … any objections are welcome

By Tom Hoffarth
When Barrett Sports Media floated the idea to mirror this week’s NBA Draft 30 choices with an exercise that might be entertaining in trying to identify and justify the best sports shows in TV’s existence, we had the time and an appreciation of the attempt to join in.
Jason Barrett even provided a list of about 70 shows that were acceptable, and the list was limited to studio shows: No scripted shows, docs, reality shows or sitcoms.
First, not everyone was asked, apparently:

John is as good as it gets in today’s sports media journalism field.
Ahem …
We were assigned the 24th pick, but we created our own Top 30 list to see how it could compare before hand. In order of the shows we felt carried the most importance, impact and created a legacy:
1. ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”
2. ESPN “Sports Center”
3. HBO’s “Real Sports”
4. TNT’s “Inside the NBA”
5. CBS’ “NFL Today”
6. ESPN’s “College GameDay”
7. ESPN’s “Up Close”
8. ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption”
9. The syndicated “This Week in Baseball”
10. The Jim Rome array of shows from “Talk2” to the current “Jim Rome Show.”
The final BSM list is at this link.
Really. … Will Leitch took “Garbage Time” …
We wanted to add to the list, but …
* “Monday Night Football” in its initial version was really more of a sports variety show that happened to have a game attached to it. Where else do you get the halftime highlights idea spun into a SportsCenter format?
DRqN6p6V4AAzCZf* We could not get enough of the Saturday airings of the Dick Enberg-hosted “Sports Challenge” and “The Way It Was,” but doubt many others didn’t remember this game show and a history lesson that spun off into a talk show.
* “The Superstars” on ABC … then “The Super Teams.” Glorious.
* “Battle of the Network Stars” anyone? Just a kid from the ’70s who wanted to see Adrienne Barbeau, Linda Carter and Farrah Fawcett get interviewed by Don Drysdale.
* We adored Chick Hearn on “Bowling For Dollars.” Wasn’t that something worth considering?
* Remember when Norman Chad and Jeff Cesario would sit in a theater and talk about an old sports movie that ran on ESPN Classic? Those were “Reel Classics.” Revive that immediately.

Whatever the verdict, here is the blurb we submitted at Pick No. 24, before it was edited down for space reasons:

On my personal Top 30 list, this Roy Firestone “Up Close” staple was No. 7, and I figured it would be long gone before my 24th pick. I was expecting, and actually hoping, to snag the Jim Rome franchise of shows – from “Talk2” in the early ‘90s all the way to “The Jim Rome Show” today, spanning ESPN2, ESPN, Fox Sports, ESPN again, CBS Sports Net and a stop in there on Showtime. Rome and I go way back to his San Diego radio days and I have a lot to document about his importance to the medium.
But there’s the rub: Rome was once a guest on “Up Close,” when his syndicated radio career was getting launched, because Firestone targeted him as a compelling guest. And even threw out a question about his late father that tried to make Rome do the quintessential “Firestone cry.”
Some quick history: “SportsLook” is the original title of the show that started in 1980 on the USA Network, then moved to ESPN as “Up Close,” with Firestone, a former sportscaster at the local CBS affiliate in L.A., as the host for 13 years. It was taped in L.A. so he had access to everyone coming and going. It was a simple premise: Firestone sits on the right, the guest is on the left, and they talk about all sorts of things about their sporting life. It relied on Firestone’s curiosity and research and what buttons to push.
Many tried to replicate the template to other shows with other hosts – there’s maybe no Bob Costas’ “On the Record” or even a version Rome was asked to launch with ESPN2 in the early ‘90s. It all connects to the importance of Firestone creating a trustworthy space to show emotions – important especially with strong male athletes – knowing Firestone would calmly talk you through it and expose a side of yourself that wasn’t readily available in pre-social media times.
If you need any sort of cultural reference, go to 1996’s “Jerry Maguire,” where Cameron Crowe knows enough to bring Roy Firestone as himself, with the “Up Close” set, and “interview” Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and create the climactic scene. Yes, Gooding won an Oscar for that. Assist to Firestone. Here’s the clip:

“Up Close” stayed for a couple of years after Firestone left – most notably, Chris Myers did a sit-down with O.J. Simpson in 1995 after his murder acquittal. The “O.J.: Made in America” Oscar-winning documentary included an interview Firestone did with Simpson on “Up Close” just two years before the murder that became an example of how the media had become so apologetic for Simpson’s previous domestic abuse charges. Chris Connelly took it over the show in the late ‘90s before he milked his own show out of it.
“SportsLook” and “Up Close” were so important that the L.A. 84 Amateur Athletic Foundation kept a videotaped library of every show for researchers to access. Take a tour of YouTube today to find the history and see people like Muhammad Ali, Pete Maravich … look ‘em up.
David J. Halberstam, the sports media historian, did a nice followup on with Firestone on his career, during a 2018 interview, that also best explains the importance of where this show started and what it begat.

 

A sign of the (L.A.) Times: What chance does the XFL have in 2020? Depends on who you’re betting on … (bet on Joe Cohen)

By Tom Hoffarth
In last weekend’s ESPN.com story post about the perceived viability of the XFL relaunching in the spring of 2020, USC professor of sports business and principal of The Sports Group David Carter offers up a quote:
“Anybody that thinks that there’s an unquestionable market for spring football is delusional. There have been some credible people throwing time and resources at it without the result they anticipated. While you can step back and say that XFL 2.0 — with all of its changes, all of the learnings and the takeaways from over the years to include their own missteps — is positioned far more favorably than anyone else, it’s certainly not a guarantee.”
No one is guaranteeing anything. But with Vince McMahon’s second shot at this, 18 years after his first try with NBC as its partner and now using ABC/ESPN and Fox as his wingment, we asked the same sort of questions to cable industry pioneer and McMahon longtime business partner Joe Cohen in our latest Los Angeles Times sports media column.

 

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

So much for Woj bombs going easy on the NBA’s newly minted off season. Before the Toronto Raptors could even have their victory parade, nuclear summer began. The Lakers’ trade-in-place with New Orleans to make Anthony Davis a household name in Southern California again you’re your dad about the USC running back who should have won the Heisman in the 1970s) has rocked things off the hinges to where the Lakers are rid of their No. 4 overall pick they landed in the lottery and just gave away prior to the NBA Draft that grows in Brooklyn on Thursday (4 p.m., ESPN), which is about 10 days before the free agent signings can start to apparently not happen as one may have originally anticipated. Just follow ESPN Senior NBA Insider (that’s all caps) Adrian Wojnarowski’s verified Twitter account (@wojespn ) for more tea-leaf readings as things seem to now change hourly.
As for the draft, according to the consensus aggregation:
New Orleans takes Zion Williamson of Duke overall.
Memphis takes Ja Morant of Murray State second.
New York ends up with R.J. Barrett, also of Duke, as No. 3.
The rest of the week includes the U.S. Women’s National Team finishing group play against Sweden in the Women’s World Cup before the Round of 16 starts; the Dodgers home against San Francisco and Colorado (with three national TV airings); the Sparks struggling to move on from a 4-3 start, and Santa Anita finishing its season on the brink. It’s at this link.

Can you hear me, Long Beach? Episode 2 of the podcast on this weekend’s Dew Tour, a qualifying event for the 2020 Olympics and why Long Beach is Skate City USA.

That’s Steve Lowery, second from left, with Tim Scanlan (Long Beach Skate Co.),  Mark Hibdon (Dew Tour creative director) and Adam Cozens (Dew Tour General Manager) as they get ready to talk on the Long Beach Post’s podcast at this link, gearing up for this weekend’s Dew Tour. Here’s the event schedule.
Local band Asi Fui also stops by to talk about the release of their first album, a Friday night show at Alex’s Bar, their connection with Ikey Owens and what was going on in those giant paper machete bear heads? Listen to more with Lowery,  Tim Grobaty and Asia Morris.

A SIGN OF THE (L.A.) TIMES: WHEN CLAYTON KERSHAW WANTS TO EXPOSE CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING, ESPN BECOMES EMBEDDED

By Tom Hoffarth
It might not be the ideal time or place to look into the window of Major League Baseball’s soul. But if a lugubrious subject like children sex trafficking fits into a conversation on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” telecast, would everything be cool if Clayton Kershaw and his wife Ellen were the driving force behind it?
When the Dodgers face the Chicago Cubs on the upcoming Father’s Day national telecast from Dodger Stadium, there’s a decent chance this topic will come up.
Please don’t balk.
ESPN baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza found herself embedded on a trip to the Dominican Republic in January with Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, a learning tour about what actually happens in this lurid criminal world far beyond a baseball diamond.
The result is this video and our account of it in the weekly L.A. Times media piece:

 

The Aly Wagner Way: Fox Sports soccer analyst reflects on making history in Russia, watching more happen in Paris, and future of the U.S. women’s game … back in L.A.?

By Tom Hoffarth

No matter what trajectory the favored U.S. team might take during the Women’s World Cup, the smart investment is on Aly Wagner soccer stock the next four weeks.
The Fox Sports analyst will call her fifth global soccer event since 2015, this time with JP Dellacamera. It started with France’s 4-0 win over South Korea on Friday and continues with all U.S. games and others of importance heading toward the July 7 final in Lyon, France.
In our weekly Los Angeles Times sports media piece, we used Wagner, the former USWNT midfielder from Santa Clara, as the entry point into how Fox and Spanish-language Telemundo plans to cover this.

Read more

A SIGN OF THE (L.A.) TIMES: WHEN MEDIA COMPANIES MARRY UP WITH MONEY/GAMBLING/VEGAS … ESPN CROSSES THE LINE AGAIN

By Tom Hoffarth

Some day, someone will try to convince us that John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success has been actualized by the iconic Luxor Hotel and Casino sitting proudly on the Las Vegas Strip. Where sports and money and the sports media now seem to have a more-than-normalized relationships.
That’s what happens when you put all your frogs in a kettle of luke-warm water and just keep the flame going.
This week’s Los Angeles Times sports media rant goes at the core of why ESPN is all in with Caesars Entertainment and will put a studio inside the Linq Hotel and Casino in the Vegas Strip just in time for the NFL’s prison transfer of the Raiders to Vegas.
It continues a troubling relationship that, not so long ago, all shied away from but now embrace like a crazy ex-wife. You already know why. But why sacrifice credibility and trust? The power of the green-tainted pool.

 

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