Monthly Archives: June 2017

Authors search for fresh stories to retell biggest moments in sports

If his new book “Showtime” accomplishes anything, Jeff Pearlman said, he hopes that it will give Jack McKinney proper credit for his contribution to basketball.

McKinney had devised the high-tempo offense that had 6-foot-9-inch Magic Johnson as its flashy playmaker. But 19 games into his tenure as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, McKinney suffered severe head injuries after toppling over the front of his bicycle while taking a spin on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. He remained away from the team, recovering while the Lakers captured the championship that season.

The Lakers won the first of five titles in the 1980s, all won using that pizazz that McKinney had first built in to the Lakers’ style of play. McKinney would never coach again, but players Pearlman talked to said that he deserved to be credited as the architect.

On a Sunday panel at the Festival of Books, Pearlman, a former Sports Illustrated writer who has written six books about sports, joined John Rosengren and Andy McCue in discussing their travels back in history to unearth the proper context surrounding sports stories.

Rosengren learned that a single ugly incident from a 1965 baseball game was more than just bad blood between two rival teams.

When San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal lifted his bat to swing at the head of Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro — a moment captured in an iconic photo that paints Marichal as the villain — he was already emotionally charged from the United States occupation of the Dominican Republic, his home country. Similarly, Roseboro was worried about his family back in Los Angeles, where the Watts riots were raging.

The stress on both players combined with some in-game grievances set off a brawl that left Roseboro bleeding from the head and Marichal suspended. “It’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about what’s won or lost,” said Rosengren, who wrote “The Fight of Their Lives.”

McCue wanted to clear up misconceptions about former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, who became a polarizing figure when he moved the franchise from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. He said documents were key to writing his book “Mover and Shaker” — not interviews — because many close to O’Malley would not talk.

Rosengren had similar issues in writing his book. He couldn’t get Marichal to discuss his role in the brawl, and Roseboro had died.

When Pearlman first approached Magic Johnson, Johnson’s agent said he wouldn’t talk and suggested that Pearlman give up on his efforts to write the book. Even if he couldn’t get Johnson, Pearlman wasn’t worried because his stories were already out there.

“Magic has done a gazillion interviews … and written books. So has Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. It’s about getting the guys who were there but haven’t told their stories,” said Pearlman.

For all three panelists, digging into decades-old sports stories was complicated by the passage of time, but motivated them to keep finding new sources to talk to.

“A lot of these guys are about to pass away, and take their stories with them,” Rosengren said.

Ratings Lakers take tumble this season on SportsNet

Ratings for the Los Angeles Lakers on SportsNet have taken a dramatic tumble this season, along with the team’s win-loss record.

According to Nielsen, Lakers games have averaged a 2.15 household rating on Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet this season. That translates to 122,000 households and is a 54% drop from the previous season and is believed to be a new low for the franchise. The team’s season ends tonight in San Antonio against the Spurs.

The previous low for Lakers games was a 2.71 rating for the 2004-05 season, when the team was on Fox Sports West.

Despite the woes of the Lakers, it’s still their town. The rival Clippers are headed to the playoffs, yet their audience remains much smaller.

This season, Clippers games averaged a 1.27 rating, which translates to 72,000 households. Last year, the Clippers averaged a 1.57 rating, or 88,000 households.

Despite the ratings decline, the Clippers still managed to close the ratings gap between the two teams to the closest ever.

ESPN’s ‘June 17, 1994’ recalls a fateful day in sports

Is Brett Morgen’s tone-poem documentary about a day in the life of American sports and heroes of sport. It was the day that Arnold Palmer played his final, fraught round at a U.S. Open, the day the World Cup began in Chicago, that the New York Rangers got a ticker-tape parade for winning the Stanley Cup, that the Knicks and the Rockets played the fifth game of the NBA finals. Most famously, it was the day that, with former teammate Al Cowlings at the wheel, O.J. Simpson, charged with the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, took his slow ride around the freeways of Southern California in a white Ford Bronco, holding a gun to his head.

The film, which premieres Wednesday as part of ESPN’s anthology series “30 for 30,” is made entirely of archival news footage, some of it in raw, unmediated form, never meant to be seen; there are no talking heads, no present perspective apart from a few final title cards briefly sketching subsequent events. We go into the relative past, to glimpse a young Simpson and Palmer in the full flush of their powers and fame, but time within the film ends with the end of that eponymous Friday. There is no backward look, no summing up, no thoughts recollected in tranquility or continuing anger, only the emotion of the moment. We know no more than what was publicly known by the end of that day. There is no Kato Kaelin here, no Johnny Cochran. The Knicks still might win the championship.

Morgen (whose credits include the Oscar-nominated 1999 boxing documentary, “On the Ropes,” the 2002 Robert Evans biography ” The Kid Stays in the Picture” and Sundance Channel’s wonderful high-school basketball series “Nimrod Nation”) juxtaposes the events of that day in a kind of associative round robin, finding points of contrast and commonality, of similar action and visual consonance, on which to turn his film. But he offers no other, more remote perspective; this is not a summing up of events, but rather a meditation, of an elemental sort, not just on sports but on the way of the world.

I can’t swear that this is what the director had in mind, but these are the sorts of things I thought about while watching his film and afterward: time — the blank future, the fatal moment, the irretrievable past. How life is made into ceremony, the public intersects with the private, and men turn into myths and back into men again, as Simpson’s suicide ride becomes itself a kind of spectator sport, with fans and sensation-seekers lining the streets and freeway bridges, while Palmer’s last round, though fraught with bad shots, becomes a loving communion of athlete and crowd.

It is also, on an even more elemental level — as an object that itself physically exists in time — about shapes moving through space, about chaos and patterns, the random and the formal, seen up close and from high above: bodies on a basketball court, crowds on a golf-course, the unpredictable line of a quarterback cutting through his opposition, the stately procession of a white SUV leading a fleet of police cars down a Southern California freeway.

Mercedes confirms all-new AMG GT sports car

After months of whispers and quiet speculation, Mercedes-Benz has confirmed it is working on a new high-performance sports car, dubbed the AMG GT.

One the eve of the 2014 New York Auto Show, Mercedes on Tuesday night revealed two interior shots of the forthcoming sports car and said little else about the successor to the popular SLS AMG.

“The new Mercedes AMG GT proves that we will be positioning AMG as a dynamic sports car brand even more strongly and aggressively than before,” Tobias Moers, chief executive of Mercedes’ AMG division, said in a statement. “Following the global success of the SLS AMG, the new GT is the second sports car developed fully independently by Mercedes AMG.”

Though the two-seat car will succeed the $200,000 SLS AMG, the new AMG GT will be less expensive and smaller. When it debuts — probably around the Paris Motor Show in early October — the GT will be more of a direct competitor to higher-end Porsche 911 models.

It will also be more of a high-performance machine than the gull-winged SLS. Although that model certainly was no slouch on the tarmac, it leaned more toward an eager grand tourer than an outright sports car.

A more compact and agile package in the GT will help it better keep up with the likes of a 911, Audi R8, Nissan GT-R or Chevy Corvette Z06. Powertrain details haven’t been disclosed, but expect a hand-built V-8 that probably uses turbocharging.

Which wheels will move the car is unknown. Although the SLS was rear-wheel drive, much of Mercedes’ AMG lineup has switched to all-wheel drive. And with the exception of the Corvette, all of the aforementioned competitors come in all-wheel drive configurations.

The AMG GT’s design is another unknown, but don’t expect the SLS’ gull-wing doors to carry over. The inside of the car was inspired by aviation, with various shapes and lines invoking wings or air scoops, Mercedes said.

“Designed to set the driver’s and front passenger’s pulses racing even while at a standstill, it provides an enticing hint of the superlative dynamic performance the new GT is capable when its AMG V-8 comes to life,” Mercedes said.

We’ll see just how hard our pulses race in the coming months as Mercedes reveals more info on the car. And count on getting a first-hand look at the 2014 L.A. Auto Show in November.