My Olympic motto: Faster, Higher, Sillier

PyeongChang 2018 emblemWe really need the Winter Olympics right now. Actually, it seems like we need the Olympics every time they come around. The world is like that more and more. We need some peace, and every two years the Games — Winter or Summer — come along to give it to us.

And the great thing about the Winter Olympics in particular is just how much silliness there is to them. There are just so many winter sports where the casual observer is left to wonder, “Who was the person who decided this would be a good idea?”

Bobsled was a crazy enough notion back in the 1920s and ’30s, let alone the 85 mph speeds there have been at Pyeongchang this week. But as we’ve gone along, we’ve gotten even crazier.

People started luging. They became lugers. No matter how you write things about what people do with the luge, it makes them look like deviants: “We caught these people luging, your honor.” “Bailiff, lock them up immediately.”

Somehow, someone first decided it would be a great idea to take a tiny little sled, lie down on it and go down a curvy piece of ice feet first. Frankly, it appears the strongest muscle on these athletes is the neck muscle that they use to prop their head up to see where in the world they’re going. Or to see that path of white light right before they enter the Great Hereafter.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they decided to go down an even smaller sled even faster. And oh, yeah, headfirst. It’s called skeleton because that’s all that’s left of you when you finish.

Snowboarders have become a big part of the Winter Olympics. Everything they do puts them just an inch away from breaking their neck. The halfpipe is extraordinary to watch, but it’s also incredibly scary. Still, I suppose it could be worse. It could be the fullpipe.

Remember when ski jumping seemed like the very craziest thing you could so on skis? Well, right on the heels of snowboarding is freestyle skiing. Essentially it takes all the thrills and chills (literally; it’s really chilly out there) of snowboarding and makes it even more insane. Seriously, whoever thought skiing sideways down the handrail of a staircase should be made to ride nothing but elevators for the rest of his life.

All this makes ice hockey seem like ballet.

Figure skating, speaking of ballet, looks so graceful, but it’s also dangerous. It’s all fun and games until a flying sequin puts somebody’s eye out. Figure skating is very deceptive. It’s so elegant, but also has a move known as the death spiral.

Don’t be misled. These spinning skaters could throw up at any time.

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s singles figure skating competition and each time he skated, hundreds of Winnie the Pooh dolls were thrown on the ice afterward. Fortunately, there were no Pooh Bear concussion catastrophes and, as you can see here, Hanyu handles the gifts very well.

Speedskating is an exciting sport, especially when you get a bunch of guys on the short track for the 1,500 meters. It’s kind of like dirt-track auto racing, except there are a lot more crashes. In fact, a lot of people watch speedskating just to see them crash.

I want to be clear. There are more sedate sports at the Winter Games, such as curling.

At first you may think this involves cosmetology, but put your curling irons away. At the Olympics, curling involves stones, houses, skips, brooms and hacks. The skip sends the stone down the ice and then the sweepers use their brooms to guide it. There’s a lot of yelling by the skip to keep the sweepers — and the spectators — from falling asleep.

This sport isn’t called Chess on Ice for nothing.

It’s actually a lot more like shuffleboard on ice — similar to what they were playing on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

Cross-country skiing would generally not appear to be very exciting either. It’s like regular skiing, just without the hill. Well, to be honest, there are hills; it’s just that some of them go up.

Cross-country skiing has been used as transportation as far back as the 13th century. As a sport, think of cross-country skiing as Nordic rush hour.

Now for those of you who can’t view the Olympics as a success unless the United States is wiping out all other nations and leads the medal count, these Games may not be for you. Through Sunday, the U.S. was tied for sixth in the medals race with 10: five gold, three silver and two bronze. There were also a couple of gold-wrapped chocolate medals found in someone’s backpack. Norway leads with 28 medals overall, followed by Germany with 20, Canada with 17 and the Netherlands with 13.

That’s the way it should be. Those guys have a lot more ice than we do anyway. And besides, if you’re all wrapped up in who’s winning medals, you really aren’t watching the Olympics the right way.

Embrace the silliness.


NBC’s Winter Olympics will be largely live to all time zones

If you’re watching the Winter Olympics from your sofa here in sunny Southern California, here are two things to remember: First, it may be warm here, but it’s cold there. It won’t be above freezing for the first week in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Second, nearly all of the prime-time events you’ll see on TV here will be live. And even if it isn’t, you still could watch it live online.

Winter OlympicsThere is a 17-hour time difference between South Korea and the U.S. West Coast, so when a daytime event is going on there, say at 1 p.m. their time, it would be 6 p.m. in Los Angeles. NBC plans to run its prime-time show live in all time zones — 8 p.m. in the East and 5 p.m. in the West — so, when you get home from work, the Olympics will be waiting for you, live.

And even if you can’t get to it live, it’ll be replayed at a more traditional West Coast prime-time hour at 8, and even then there will be live updates. These figure to be the most West Coast-friendly Olympics from another continent ever shown on TV.

For the first time, NBC will stream the Opening Ceremonies live in the overnight hours of Thursday/Friday before showing them Friday night in prime time. Mike Tirico, who replaces Bob Costas as prime-time host, will be joined by Katie Couric for the ceremonies.

There will be many veterans among NBC’s commentators, such as Mary Carillo and Jimmy Roberts. But along with Tirico, there will be some newcomers, too. On figure skating, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who have captured a following at recent Games, will take over as top analysts, replacing Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic. Terry Gannon returns on play-by-play.

Weir said this week he and Lipinski won’t be afraid to criticize skaters — or judges.

“The great thing there is that the American audience has Tara and I to call the judges out if it’s the wrong call,” he said.

Former Olympic skier Bode Miller will be an analyst, as will speedskater Joey Cheek.

NBC also has some fairly off-the-wall talent to give the audience their view of the Games, such as Leslie Jones of Saturday Night Live, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and restaurateur David Chang.

However, popular NBC hockey announcer Mike Emrick, with the NHL not participating, will not make the trip.

NBC isn’t expecting as many viewers as the Olympics have been known to draw in the past; there are just too many other TV offerings available. At the same time, other networks aren’t exactly surrendering unconditionally.

While many weekly TV programs will put reruns up against the Winter Games, there are ways to present alternatives. CBS will premiere Big Brother: Celebrity Edition (although the word “Celebrity” is dubious) and ABC will have The Bachelor Winter Games, which features winter sports-themed contests between members of the Bachelor franchise.

“At a certain point, everyone gets a little bit of Olympics fatigue, so this is a nice alternative to that,” ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey told Adweek.


NBC earned a 47.4 big-market overnight rating and a 70% share of the audience for Super Bowl LII. That figure was 3% lower than last season, but still the lowest for the event since 2010. The game was No. 9 all-time among Super Bowls, according to the network.

SB52_Primary_RGBThe game peaked at 52.2/74 during the fourth quarter (7-7:15 p.m. PST). The halftime performance by Justin Timberlake (5:15-5:30 p.m.) had a 48.1/70 overnight rating.

The game averaged 103.4 million viewers, marking the 10th best audience for any program in TV history. The 41-33 victory by the Philadelphia Eagles over the New England Patriots ranks behind the 1983 M*A*S*H series finale among all U.S. shows.

This will be the first time a TV network has broadcast both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics in the same year since CBS in 1992.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, 27 million viewers saw the This is Us episode that followed the game, the highest number for an NBC scripted show in 27 years. The Super Bowl edition of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was seen by 8.4 million, for Fallon’s fourth most-watched Tonight Show.


The NCAA Selection Show will move from CBS to TBS on March 11, the networks announced. Their contract states that whichever network carries the national semifinals and final can also show the Selection Show. TBS did not exercise that right two years ago, but will this year. The semifinals and final return to CBS in 2019. … Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi has joined MLB Network as a studio commentator. It’s not his first time as an analyst. Following his career as a player, Girardi was part of ESPN Radio’s coverage of the 2003 National League Division Series and later worked for the YES Network in 2004 and 2007 as well as with Fox Sports in 2007.

At 4 p.m. Thursday (an hour before NBC’s first night of Winter Olympics coverage), NBCSN will show Calgary ’88, a documentary on the figure skating competition from that year. Rob Lowe narrates the film, featuring Brian Boitano of the U.S. and Brian Orser of Canada for the men, and Katarina Witt of East Germany and Debi Thomas of the U.S. for the women. … Atlanta Rules: The Story of the ’90s Braves, another documentary, will be on MLB Network at 6 p.m. Tuesday. …

Another Winter Olympics alternative this weekend is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at 1-4 p.m. Saturday and noon-3:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS. Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Robert Iger told CNBC the forthcoming ESPN+ streaming service will cost $4.99 a month.

Dungy: Eagles in fine hands with Nick Foles

Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison (left to right) will be the primary faces seen on the Super Bowl LII pregame show Sunday on NBC. (Jeffrey Beall photo)

There may have been some people worried when stellar Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was lost for the season with an injury and had to be replaced by Nick Foles, but Tony Dungy was not among them.

Dungy, the former NFL coach and NBC analyst, will be on the network’s Super Bowl pregame show starting at 9 a.m. PST Sunday. The Eagles will play the New England Patriots at Minneapolis. Game time is at 3:30 p.m.

When Wentz tore knee ligaments in a game against the Rams in Los Angeles, Dungy quickly said on the air that Eagles fans shouldn’t give up hope.

“There were two things for me,” Dungy said this week in a call with reporters. “No. 1, the Eagles have a very good football team and everyone was focused in on Carson Wentz because he was having a great year, but they had defensive stats that were at the top of the league. They had four running backs that could go in there and do different things. They had three tight ends that were making plays for them. They had wide receivers that were making plays. It was a talented team.

“And then I look at Nick Foles. I had the chance, my son played at Oregon, so I saw him play in the Pac-12 [for Arizona]. I saw him play under Chip Kelly because I’m good friends with Chip and I watched him, and I know Nick Foles’ character. He was not a rookie that was going to be afraid. He’s a strong Christian young man who had plenty of belief that he was there for the right reasons and I just thought he would play well. I thought with their team, they would do well and I’m not surprised they’re here.”

Foles has shined in the playoffs, completing 49 of 63 passes (78%) for three touchdowns with no interceptions. Still, the quarterback has little postseason experience.

SB52_Primary_RGB“That will be the key and I think that’s what everyone wants to watch,” Dungy said. “Is this going to be the Nick Foles that we saw in a couple of end-of-the-regular-season games or the Nick Foles that we saw in the two playoff games? I think he has a lot of confidence. I think the fact that he has played some now and has a rhythm with his receivers is going to help, and I think he’s going to play very, very well.”

Dungy’s pregame partner, Rodney Harrison, played 15 years in the NFL, six with the Patriots. He says he’s impressed — and surprised — by the way New England coach Bill Belichick has managed to adapt to younger players.

“I think the thing that gets me excited,” Harrison said, “is I didn’t think that coach Belichick could change his personality to be able to adapt to this kind of new kind of generation of kids, and he’s done that.

“You see him, he’s a lot happier and he smiles a lot more. Maybe you don’t see it, but when I see him, he smiles a lot more and he knows how to relate to the players. I thought he would have a difficult time relating to the players because they’re so different. And when I say different, maybe I mean they’re not as tough as the old-school guys. But just the personalities and with the technology and everything, I thought Belichick has done a wonderful job of adapting to all the new players and their personalities.”

One pregame feature worth watching will be host Dan Patrick’s interview with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, expected to air in the final 40 minutes of the show.

“I sat down with Tom Brady on Monday,” Patrick said. “Got a chance to spend 30 minutes with him talking about a variety of things, from his summers spent here in Minnesota, to his mother’s health, to his legacy, to his relationship with Belichick, a variety of things that came out that I was proud of what we were able to do, and his willingness to open up.”


Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh will be part of NBC’s pregame, halftime and postgame Super Bowl coverage. It’s the second time the network has utilized Harbaugh; he worked Super Bowl XLIX when the Patriots defeated Seattle.

“John was a natural on our Super Bowl coverage three years ago in Arizona,” executive producer Sam Flood said. “We are excited to have him back to provide viewers with his insight and analysis as a Super Bowl-winning coach.”

NBC’s coverage will also have a strong NASCAR influence. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who will join the network’s NASCAR coverage next season), Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney will be involved in features, along with U.S. Olympic skier Bode Miller, Telemundo soccer announcer Andres Cantor and The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore.

All synergy, all the time.

SiriusXM Radio will once again offer a plethora of Super Bowl broadcasts. In addition to the Westwood One national feed, the Patriots broadcast and the Eagles broadcast, there will be feeds in Spanish, Chinese, German, French, Japanese and Hungarian.


Fox captured the rights to Thursday Night Football in a five-year deal beginning next season. The deal is worth a reported $550 million annually. Instead of two networks (previously CBS and NBC) splitting the schedule, Fox will be the only broadcast network, along with NFL Network simulcasts. According to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS and NBC paid $45 million per game for a deal valued at a combined $450 million annually for 10 games also simulcast on NFL Network. … Variety reports YouTube TV has a deal for exclusive rights to Los Angeles Football Club MLS games. It’s the first time a streaming service of any kind has made such a deal with a U.S. pro sports team. The deal is for approximately 18 LAFC games. The rest will be nationally televised on ESPN or Fox Sports 1.

A great alternative to Super Bowl pregame coverage is the Phoenix Open on CBS (noon-3 p.m. Sunday). It’s the rowdiest crowd in golf. … With Tiger Woods’ return, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines earned a 2.6 rating and 4.1 million viewers on CBS, according to Sports Media Watch. The numbers were up 30% and 32% respectively over last year and were the highest since 2013. … The NFL Pro Bowl took a 5.3 rating on ABC and ESPN on Sunday, up 25% from the 4.2 when the game was only on ESPN. … Meanwhile, the NHL All-Star Game had a 1.2 rating on NBC, according to SMW, down 8% from last year’s 1.3, despite go head to head against the Pro Bowl. … Saturday night’s Celtics-Warriors NBA game on ABC was seen by 4.7 million viewers, up 44% from the comparable Warriors-Clippers game last year. …

Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones will be part of NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage, much as she was for the Rio Summer Games in 2016.

NBC would enjoy another close Super Bowl, please

NBC would absolutely love it if Super Bowl LII turned out as well as the last three it has televised.

nbcsports11In Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, Pittsburgh defeated Arizona 27-23. In Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, the New York Giants beat New England 21-17. In Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, New England topped Seattle 28-24.

Three games, each decided by four points.

For those of us who remember the Super Bowls of the 1970s and ’80s, when nearly every game was decided by a blowout, this has been a welcome trend. And the ultimate was achieved in last year’s game, where the New England defeated Atlanta 34-28 in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.

With the Patriots once again playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis against the Philadelphia Eagles (and favored by 4½ points), NBC would be ecstatic if something similar happened this time around.

Al Michaels will be calling his 10th Super Bowl. (NBC photo)

Play-by-play man Al Michaels, who will call his 10th Super Bowl, understands he has been blessed by his recent assignments.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” he said Tuesday in a call with reporters. “We had Arizona-Pittsburgh, which featured two of the most iconic plays in the history of the Super Bowl: James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return — and ironically, he will be in the game on Sunday — and Santonio Holmes’ catch in the end zone to win it. And then we did the Giants against the Patriots three years later and that game ended with [Tom] Brady launching one to the end zone for [Rob] Gronkowski that fell incomplete as the Giants beat them for the second time in four years. And the last time out we had the Seattle-New England game three years ago and that featured the Malcolm Butler interception at the end of that game to seal it, and he’s in the game [Sunday]. So we have Harrison and we have Butler, probably the two most iconic defensive plays in the history of the Super Bowl.”

Michaels had one of his bucket-list items taken away last year, so he’s replaced it with another.

“We always had hoped to do the first overtime Super Bowl, but the Patriots took care of that last year [with a 34-28 win over Atlanta], so the only thing I’m rooting for this year is triple overtime and the longest game in the history of football.”


Speaking of rooting, network announcers never root for anything other than a good game and big ratings. No matter what you may think, they are not pulling for one team over another. It just doesn’t happen. No way, no how.

Objectivity in his analysis has led many viewers to think that Cris Collinsworth hates their team. (NBC photo)

But some people just don’t believe that. Eagles fans on Sunday completely expect NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth to not only be pulling for the Patriots, but to be hating the Eagles.

“It’s probably the most asked question I get in every city,” Collinsworth said. “I know the Eagles fans think they’re unique by asking that question. I think the Patriots fans think they’re unique, the Cowboys fans think they’re unique. Even the Bengals fans think they’re unique [Collinsworth played eight years for Cincinnati] by asking me that question. I have probably heard that question, I’m going to guess, in my lifetime, about 1,500 times.

“Usually, I just give a traditional answer, you know: ‘It’s my job to critique the players and I really don’t hate these guys, blah, blah, blah,’ just go down the list. And then sometimes, if a guy is particularly obnoxious, I’ll just turn to him and go, ‘I don’t know. I just hate ’em.’ It’s a bizarre world. I think I spend 98% of my time saying glowing, nice things about people in a broadcast and yet I know there’s another 2% [where I say] ‘They stink.’

“I’ve had my son play college football. I’ve heard him be critiqued on the air and it’s no fun. And obviously with these two [Super Bowl] teams, they’re so good and they’ve come so far, they become a bit of the family for the neighborhood of the local team, but I really, honestly expect my next question to be why do I hate the Patriots so much?”


For NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, Super Bowl LII is a home game; she lives in Minneapolis (where the high for Sunday is expected to be 11 degrees and the low to be zero). Tafoya says that even though the hometown Vikings just missed playing, Minnesota is still ready to be a gracious host.

Michele Tafoya is enjoying having the Super Bowl in her hometown of Minneapolis. (NBC photo)

“It’s neat having the Super Bowl in your hometown,” said Tafoya, who grew up in California and has lived in Minnesota since 1994. “… I can tell you that the state and the cities have been preparing for it since they’ve known it was going to be here. There was all kinds of Minnesota nice and Minnesota excitement. They love the winter here in Minnesota. They embrace everything about it and so there’s a lot of fun going on around town. Even though the Vikings came really close and it’s been a major disappointment, I think still the fans here are ready to embrace the game as it stands.”

There are critics who think sideline reporters are a waste of time, that nothing good ever comes from them. But Tafoya may well be the absolute best of all.

“There’s nobody better than Michele,” Michaels said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with her in basketball as well with the NBA [on ABC] about 14 years ago. You can always count on her and sometimes she’s in a very difficult spot. I know we were doing a game in Houston about four years ago. Gary Kubiak was the [Texans] coach and he suffered what appeared to be a heart attack and collapsed on the sideline. And there was Michele right there. I mean, that’s as tough as it gets, to get the information in the craziness going on all around you.

“… I’ve also watched her in a situation where a player’s brother had died earlier that day in a motorcycle accident and able to do it both journalistically and with a great deal of compassion. No matter what the situation is, she is up to it. She has never missed a beat.”

Tafoya and her husband Mark Vandersall have two children and she says she is pulling double duty this week as reporter and as mom.

“It kind of cuts both ways,” she said. “It’s a luxury in that I get to spend extra time at home and that is a premium to all of us who are on the road all season long. We miss a lot of stuff. … I have a hired assistant. His name is Mark Vandersall; I married him about 17 years ago. He has always held down the fort when I have to go to work. This week is no different in that regard, but we are going to try to enjoy it, too.”

Scoreboards tell more than the score; they tell history, too

This photo shows the Yankee Stadium scoreboard on Friday, June 6, 1969, two days before a Mickey Mantle tribute on June 8.

I love scoreboards. Yes, I know it’s a rather weird obsession and a rather weird confession. I have other obsessions too, but I have no plans to confess any of those just yet.

I’ve been enamored with scoreboards for as long as I can remember. I suppose for most people, a scoreboard is simply a device, perhaps almost a necessary evil, for showing what the score is, how much time is left, what quarter, inning or period it is and, to a lesser degree, down and distance, where the ball is, how many timeouts remain, if a team is in the bonus, how much time is left in the power play, etc., etc., etc.

I’ve recently started a Twitter account and a Facebook group called Vintage Scoreboards that I’d like to invite you to follow or join (or whatever verb is appropriate). I really didn’t expect much reaction out of either of them, except maybe from my immediate circle of Facebook friends and whatever lunatic fringe I might attract on Twitter.

However, the response has been rather surprising, especially on Twitter. For about a week, the only two people following the account were me and my son Mark. Then I plugged it on my own Twitter page and it took off pretty well, if you call 73 followers pretty well, and I do. Even Keith Olbermann follows it. So … that’s something.

As the name implies, I concentrate mostly on older scoreboards, i.e., pre-1990. This is primarily before every scoreboard became a videoboard. So we’re talking light bulbs, not LEDs.

The Dodger Stadium scoreboard setting the scene just before Kirk Gibson’s game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

The thing I like most about scoreboards is they record history. Sometimes it’s a no-hitter, sometimes it’s a big home run. Most of the time it’s nothing at all, but even then, they’ll show players who eventually became Hall of Famers or remind someone of a favorite player from back in the day (as the kids say — or said, back in the day).

So I started collecting photos of scoreboards through this big thing they call the Internet. A lot of these photos simply snapshots, taken on film a long time ago. Many times the scoreboard in the shot isn’t even the primary subject; it just happens to be in the background. As such it still serves to communicate what was going on at the precise moment the photo was taken.

Ebbets FieldMay 21, 1952
Ebbets Field in 1952. You can see how the “H” and “E” on the Schaefer beer sign could be lit to signal for a hit or an error. The Dodgers scored a major league-record 15 runs in the first inning. Also, you can see the out-of-town scoreboard showed only National League games — except for the Yankees on the very bottom part of the scoreboard. And why does the right column of scores have room for 10 innings, but the left column only has room for nine?

It wasn’t always abundantly clear what old-time scoreboards were trying to communicate. This was especially true in baseball. There were more doubleheaders back then, so you’d often see a column with the heading “1G” or “F” on it. That was to show the score of the first game during the second game. Want to know if the play you just saw was a hit or an error? In some ballparks, you’d have to look at the advertisements for Schaefer or Rheingold beers. They’d light up the “H” in each beer’s name if it was a hit or the “E” if it was an error. I kid you not.

A big thing in baseball was the out-of-town scoreboard. In those pre-Internet and even pre-TV days, there was no better way to find out what was going on in other games around the majors. Some old scoreboards put the entire score by innings for out-of-town games and made you add it up. A lot of boards would put up the uniform number of the pitcher in the game for each team. The way you would find out what number went with which pitcher was to buy a program. Some boards cared only about the league the home-town team played in, so you might see only the National League games at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.

And by the way, there were a lot of out-of-town scoreboards that had no idea how to abbreviate Cincinnati. The most logical (and correct) way was “CIN” but you’d often see “CINN” or “CINCY” or “CINCI.” When the Giants moved to San Francisco, teams weren’t content to simply put “SF.” A lot of them put “FRISCO” or “S FRISCO.” Of course, “Frisco” is one of the biggest insults you can give a San Franciscan, but who knows? That might have been the very reason they did it.

Yankee Stadium football 1958
The Yankee Stadium football scoreboard during the overtime NFL championship between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts.

During the era of multipurpose stadiums, converting scoreboards from baseball to football wasn’t always elegant. In the 1950s, around the time of the NFL’s “Greatest Game Ever Played” between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, they would put it in an additional scoreboard at Yankee Stadium, given that you needed a clock for football. I remember reading that the Football Giants radio broadcasters used to announce from inside the baseball scoreboard, where it was either freezing or roasting.

Scoreboards for pro basketball and hockey have been fairly interchangeable, going from personal fouls to penalties and from timeouts remaining to shots on goal.

I’ve had the opportunity to run a few smaller scoreboards. These days, scoreboards run on wireless connections, add the score for you, synchronize with TV graphics and compute time remaining down to the tenth of a second.

But being a nostalgic kind of guy, I like the old-fashioned type better, back when a degree in hieroglyphics helped quite a bit.

Super Bowl storylines are already wearisome

SB52_Primary_RGBWe’re more than a week out from Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis and already I’m sick of the storylines we’re going to hear on TV and radio.

I don’t care about whether players kneel for the national anthem or not and neither should you. It’s not the law, it’s not even a rule, it has nothing to do with the military and the players who choose to kneel as a sign of protest are within their rights to do so.

While I disagree with this form of protest and wouldn’t do it myself, I support their right to do it.

Next will be how the TV ratings for the Super Bowl are down 9% this season and last week’s conference championship games were down 8%. Some of this may have to do with the whole kneeling thing, some of it may have to do with the continuing concussion controversy (which is still the NFL’s elephant in the room). But be that as it may, the NFL is in fine health, especially when it comes to TV. NFL games are still the highest rated and most watched programs on television and the price for a 30-second commercial is still north of $5 million.

Finally, it’s going to be cold in Minneapolis. The high is predicted to be 11 and the low minus-2. It doesn’t matter! You’re not going! You’re going to be in your mancave (or at least what will serve as your mancave for the day), cozy warm and stuffed with nachos. And besides, it’s an indoor stadium. The game won’t be affected at all. You’re not going to be tailgating outside the stadium, so hush.


The conference championships were seen by an average of 43.2 million viewers, according to SportsBusiness Daily. The AFC title game with New England defeating Jacksonville was seen by 44.1 million on CBS, while the NFC game with Philadelphia downing Minnesota had an audience of 42.3 million. It’s impressive when your numbers can be down 8% and you’re still averaging 43.2 million viewers.

NBC plans to show an unprecedented 11 hours of unauthenticated Super Bowl streaming (“unauthenticated” meaning viewers won’t have to be subscribers of a cable or satellite TV provider). Streaming will begin at 9 a.m. PST with pregame, followed by game, halftime and postgame coverage, and even the This Is Us episode scheduled for afterward. However, contractual restrictions prohibit mobile streaming.

Rather surprisingly, NBC’s coverage plans do not include Bob Costas, and he’s just fine with that. He told SBD his enthusiasm for football has been waning.

“The decision was mutually agreeable, and not only do I not have a problem with it, I am actually happy about it,” he told the website in an email. “I have long had ambivalent feelings about football, so at this point, it’s better to leave the hosting to those who are more enthusiastic about it.”

In addition, Costas has been vocal about the league’s concussion problem in the past couple of seasons.

Dan Patrick and Liam McHugh will host the pregame show with Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Mike Florio and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“The broadcast is in good hands, and they don’t have an appropriate role for me, or compelling reason to use me,” Costas said. “All involved are fine with that.”

As usual, the network showing the Super Bowl will originate many of its regular programming from the host site. NBCSN will even show its NHL Live pregame and postgame show from Minneapolis next week. The Feb. 2 Vegas-Minnesota game will be shown on NBCSN.

While NBC plans to have “nearly 100 hours” of TV and radio coverage from Minneapolis, ESPN is set to originate more than 60 hours.

Meanwhile, the Pro Bowl, the all-star game no one asked for, will be at 11:50 a.m. on ESPN and ABC from Orlando, Fla.


The NBA All-Star Game isn’t until Feb. 18, but the event made news when the starters and reserves were announced on TNT. The Clippers are the host team at Staples Center, but there are no Clippers on the team. No Lakers, for that matter. Many particularly thought Lou Williams of the Clippers would make the West team.

“The Clippers, all of their best players have been out,” TNT’s Baron Davis said. “[Williams] is the best player on the team. He’s a playmaker, he evolved, he put up 50-point games … I think he deserved it.”

Coming sooner is the NHL All-Star Game, running head to head with the Pro Bowl, at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on NBC from Tampa Bay. The network plans to use “4DReplay,” a system with 100 high-speed cameras mounted in the arena — 50 placed on each side of the ice — to provide immediate replays of the action from a 360-degree perspective. Also utilized will be “JitaCam,” a 360-degree jib camera, mounted on a truss 40 feet above the ice.


Alex Rodriguez will take Aaron Boone’s place and Matt Vasgersian will take over for Dan Shulman on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball next season, joining holdover Jessica Mendoza. Rodriguez will remain as a postseason studio analyst for Fox while Vasgersian will continue as a studio host and announcer for MLB Network. … Speaking of MLB Network, a documentary on Tony Gwynn, MLB Network Presents: Mr. Padre, will premiere at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. … HBO’s Real Sports (10 p.m. Tuesday) will include segments on tennis legend Margaret Court and the St. Brown family of Southern California, whose three football-playing sons are everything basketball’s Ball family is not. …

The Southern California Sports Broadcasters presented former Kings announcer Bob Miller with its Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted Lakers analyst Stu Lantz and race announcer Trevor Denman into its Hall of Fame. … Tiger Woods’ return to Torrey Pines should give CBS good ratings for the Farmers Insurance Open this weekend — provided he makes the cut. Golf Channel has the first two rounds. … Golf Channel, incidentally, reached an agreement with International Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees technicians after a 1½-week strike. …

Tom Hoffarth, longtime columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Southern California News Group, was one of many laid off this week. Hoffarth is a great writer and as good as they come in the newspaper business. He has been second to none in covering L.A. sports media for decades.

Patriots and Eagles — teams only their mothers could like

One thing about the New York Post. It doesn’t mess around in letting you know what it thinks.

The day after the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles became the teams to play in Super Bowl LII, the front page of the Post’s sports section summed up its feelings perfectly:


With the subhead: Patriots vs. Eagles is a N.Y. nightmare

No need to be so provincial, Posties. A lot of the rest of us aren’t all that crazy about it either.

post(By the way, the Post, being a tabloid, puts its sports in the back and works its way in from there. So Monday’s sports front page says its NFL coverage is on “Pages 53-48.” It’s like a bizarro universe.)

The NFL, even with two teams now back in Los Angeles, holds only limited attraction for me. No, it has nothing to do with kneeling or not kneeling or concussions or whatever. I just get tired (as apparently does the New York Post) of having the same teams in the Super Bowl.

OK, actually, I get tired of having the same team in the Super Bowl. I am so tired of the New England Patriots, of Bill Belichick, of Tom Brady, of Rob Gronkowski, of Robert Kraft. They are going to be in their record 10th Super Bowl. Out of 52. That’s almost one out of every five. They are the New York Yankees of pro football and I’m not too fond of the Yankees either.

Then there are the Philadelphia Eagles, and more important, their fans. These are the fans who marched down Broad Street on Sunday night and caused damage just for getting to the Super Bowl.

These are the fans who prompted the police department to grease down street light poles to keep inebriated fans from climbing them. The police officers who got this duty quickly dubbed themselves “Crisco Cops.”

These teams have some of the worst fans in sports. They each have a sense of entitlement. You kind of understand it with the Patriots: They’ve been to the Super Bowl so often, they should just rename it the Patriot Bowl and be done with it.

With Philadelphia, this will be their third Super Bowl after appearing in the 1980 and 2004 seasons. When they were babies, most Eagles fans’ first word was “Boo.” They boo their own team, they boo the other team, they boo the officials, they even once booed Santa Claus (I think he threw an interception or something).

And it isn’t just booing. Here’s an example from Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings from The Associated Press:

Jana Hokinson of Manson, Iowa, was one Vikings fan who traveled to Philadelphia for the game. She told Minneapolis’ WCCO-AM radio that she walked into the stadium with a group of other Vikings fans. Suddenly, two men in the front of the group were hit in the head with something and bleeding.

“One guy had a cracked forehead and the back of his right ear was just bleeding. The other guy, it was his left ear,” she said.

She said that security told their group there was nothing they could do.

Once she got to her seat, the fans around her were giving her group some good-natured grief at first, but after the Vikings scored, one of her sisters got spit on by Eagles fans, and another sister had food thrown at her.

She said she left after the third quarter and “security escorted us out because I got beer cans thrown at me.”

Hokinson said they were escorted to the car, but they had promised to give a man from Minneapolis a ride to the airport. Security had to go back and retrieve that Vikings fan from his club seat because Eagles fans were blocking him and wouldn’t let him leave.

“It was crazy,” she told the radio station.

The Vikings team bus was pelted with beer cans after the game.

To say Philly is a tough town is like saying Tom Brady leads a charmed life. It doesn’t even begin to describe it. Bradley Cooper tried to make us like Eagles fans in 2012 with Silver Linings Playbook, a movie about winning a dance contest as the Eagles defeat the Dallas Cowboys. Or something. I’m not sure what exactly.

Eagles fans have this feeling of destiny this season. Nick Foles leads the Eagles at quarterback after Carson Wentz, an MVP candidate, was injured Dec. 10 against the Rams. Foles has exceeded expectations in his backup role and has emboldened Philly fans to think he can lead them over Brady and the Patriots.

You go with that, Eagles fans. You’ve got two weeks until kickoff.

Meanwhile, Patriots fans were wondering if Brady’s charmed life was beginning to fade. Tom Terrific suffered a cut on his throwing hand during practice last week and even he wasn’t completely sure of how effective he would be Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Brady did not practice Thursday and was limited Friday, but by the time Sunday night rolled around, he had only some tape protecting his stitches and completed 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’ve had a lot worse,” Brady said. “I didn’t know that on Wednesday. It was a crazy injury. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday was a little scary. Then I started getting some confidence and today we did just enough to win.”

It was Brady’s eighth AFC championship and he’ll be going for his sixth Super Bowl win with the Patriots, a team mark that would match the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Adding to the Patriots’ injury concerns, tight end Rob Gronkowski left the game with a possible concussion. But Danny Amendola stepped in and caught both TD passes in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles are 5½-point underdogs to the Patriots for the Super Bowl, but that’s the way it’s been throughout the playoffs.

“You know, everyone was against us,” Foles said in true us-against-the-world style. “Coming out here and stick together and come away with an amazing victory against a great team.”

The Eagles have not yet begun to know true underdog status. That 5½-point spread? It’s way low.


Now, just a few more first-glance tidbits about Super Bowl LII:

  • The Associated Press’ style directive toward the Super Bowl now says writers should not use Roman numerals the way the NFL has with every Super Bowl since III in 1969. Instead, it mandates this year’s game, if you absolutely must use a number at all, should be Super Bowl 52. What’s the fun in that? Romans are aghast.
  • Ticket demand for the Super Bowl, to be played at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, has dropped — a little. ESPN reported online ticket prices went up to $5,400 when the Vikings scored the first touchdown Sunday against the Eagles. By the time the game ended and Philadelphia had won 38-7, the price had gone down to $4,525 because the hometown Vikings were out of it.
  • If the Vikings had won Sunday, it would have been the first time a Super Bowl team had played in its home stadium. The only times a team came anywhere close to having a “home” game was in Super Bowl XIV when the Los Angeles Rams played at the Rose Bowl and in Super Bowl XIX when the San Francisco 49ers played at Stanford Stadium.
  • The Patriots are likely to lose both offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to be head coaches of the Indianapolis Colts and the Detroit Lions, respectively. Meanwhile, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is expected to become head coach of the New York Giants.