L.A. fans staying away from Rams, Chargers in droves

Surprised? How could anyone be surprised by football attendance in Los Angeles over the weekend?

DJ91pM3W0AIg6UQ
The USC-Texas crowd in Los Angeles last weekend was bigger than the Rams and Chargers combined. (Twitter: @SportsCenter)

The Rams’ game against the Washington Redskins was attended by 56,612 at the Coliseum. The Chargers’ game against the Miami Dolphins was attended by 25,381 at the StubHub Center.

For the Rams, it was their second straight home game after a lopsided win over the Indianapolis Colts the week before. For the Chargers, it was their first game in their new home. Well, strictly speaking, it was their old home since the Chargers started out in L.A. in 1960. Well, strictly, strictly speaking, the Chargers don’t play in L.A., they play in beautiful Carson, California — Gateway to Gardena.

But for these purposes, we’ll continue to think of these Bolts as being in L.A. Otherwise, we’ll go crazier than we are already.

At least, the Chargers drew better in this L.A. opener than they did in their first. On Sept. 10, 1960, the Chargers defeated the Dallas Texans 21-20 before 17,724 at the Coliseum.

And that was their third best crowd of the season, in a year where they played for the first American Football League championship. The Chargers’ average home attendance that 1960 season at the Coliseum was 15,768.

In no game that season did the Chargers even come close to Sunday’s attendance figure of 25,381. Their best mark was 21,805 against the Houston Oilers on Nov. 13. Their worst: 9,928 against the Denver Broncos on Dec. 10.

The Rams, meanwhile, dropped from 60,128 in their opener against the Colts to their 56,612 against the Redskins. It really wasn’t all that surprising. Even though the Rams blew out the Colts, 46-9, it wasn’t all that awe-inspiring. The Colts are dreadful, especially missing quarterback Andrew Luck, and are now 0-2 for the fourth straight year.

Many took glee in pointing out that Saturday’s epic USC-Texas game at the Coliseum drew 84,714 — more than the Rams and Chargers combined.

But no one should be surprised by the relative few going to NFL games in Los Angeles so far this season. Sure, the Rams drew 91,046 in their first regular-season home game in 2016. That figure was down to an “announced” 80,729 by the end of the season, but there were actually much fewer in the stands to watch a 44-6 loss that ended the Rams’ season at 4-12.

The sheen of having the Rams back in L.A. has been tarnished by a team that fired its coach in the middle of last season and shows all the signs of continued mediocrity.

The Chargers are, frankly, in a much worse situation. Although they will one day share a glamorous stadium with the Rams in Inglewood, that one day remains in the not-too-near future. Until then, the Chargers are stuck in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center in Carson, the stadium so small, in the locker rooms the players have to go outside to change their minds.

Rim shot, anyone?

The Chargers not only followed the Rams into Los Angeles once, they did it twice. They were smart enough the first time, under original owner Barron Hilton, to move to San Diego after one season. But they were dumb enough the second time, under current owner Alex Spanos, to move back to Los Angeles.

The NFL had been gone from Los Angeles 20 years when the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders moved back to Oakland. Angelenos had gotten along perfectly fine without it. They could watch the best games on TV every week, whether they had that Sunday Ticket thingy or not. So when the Rams decided to come back last season, it was interesting and there was definitely some pro football buzz, but by the time the season ended, everyone had long since moved on.

The Chargers had to have seen all that from Mission Valley. But they decided in January to put San Diego in their rearview mirror and move back up the coast. Spanos is spending tens of millions of dollars to put the Chargers in L.A. Imagine if he had put that much money into helping to build a new stadium in San Diego.

But here the Chargers are. Maybe they’ll be a better draw when the Inglewood stadium is finally built, but for now, they’re in a stadium that holds only about 8,000 more than Staples Center, where the Lakers and Clippers play, and they’re not even selling that out.

Maybe Spanos was crazy like a fox. Maybe he knew his team wouldn’t draw very many people early on and knew the optics of nearly filling StubHub Center would still look a lot better than the optics of the Rams only half-filling the Coliseum.

The man’s a genius.

Advertisements

Ohlmeyer made an impact in every part of television

There have been only a few television executives who have not only had an impact on one part of a network they’ve worked for, such as entertainment or news, but also on another, such as sports.

Ohlmeyer 1
Don Ohlmeyer, left, sits next to ABC Sports president Roone Arledge in the control room at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. (ABC Photo Archives)

Don Ohlmeyer was such an executive. He was one of the first producers of Monday Night Football on ABC, executive producer for NBC Sports, the creator of his own production company which brought viewers offerings like the Skins Game golf exhibition as well as entertainment programs, the president of NBC’s entertainment division where he oversaw such series as Seinfeld and Friends, and finally back to MNF for one year for ABC where he hired comedian Dennis Miller to be an analyst.

Ohlmeyer 2
Don Ohlmeyer talks to analyst Dennis Miller before a Monday Night Football game. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Ohlmeyer died of cancer Sunday in Indian Wells at the age of 72. Al Michaels, a longtime friend, announced Ohlmeyer’s death on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

“With great sadness, I have to report on the death of a great pal, a man who was one of a kind, Don Ohlmeyer,” Michaels said. “Don [was] the original producer of Monday Night Football when he was in his 20s. He made NBC an entertainment powerhouse in the ’80s and ’90s, a must-see during that particular time. He came back and produced Monday Night Football in 2000. … Our thoughts and prayers to [wife] L.J. and Don’s four boys. He was truly special and one of a kind.”

Under Roone Arledge, Ohlmeyer also worked on the ABC’s Olympics coverage, which included during the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by terrorists in 1972.

Ohlmeyer had the task of managing Monday Night Football’s three-man booth: egotistical curmudgeon Howard Cosell, mischievous former quarterback Don Meredith and play-by-play straight man Frank Gifford.

In 1977, Ohlmeyer left for NBC, where World Series and Super Bowl telecasts highlighted his work. But he was disappointed that the 1980 U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics wiped out NBC’s telecasts.

He started his own company, Ohlmeyer Communications, in 1982, which briefly owned a 20% stake in ESPN. He then returned to NBC in 1993, this time as president of the entertainment division. It was Ohlmeyer who coined the phrase “Must See TV” as the network showed series such as ER, Frasier and Will & Grace as well as Seinfeld and Friends.

Ohlmeyer did a stint for alcohol abuse in 1996, according to Variety. He reportedly had Norm Macdonald removed as anchor of the Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live in 1998 after repeated jokes calling O.J. Simpson, a friend of Ohlmeyer’s, a murderer.

After his retirement, Ohlmeyer was a professor of television communication at Pepperdine University and served a stint as ESPN’s ombudsman.

NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt had a statement on Ohlmeyer:

“Don Ohlmeyer was a towering figure in sports and entertainment who had an indelible impact both on NBC and our industry. His legacy will live on not only because he is directly responsible for some of the biggest hits in television … but also because he brought NBC to a new level of classy, sophisticated programming of the highest quality which we all still aspire to achieve today.”

And there was this assessment from ESPN president John Skipper:

“Don Ohlmeyer was an unsurpassed creative force in all forms of television as well as a brilliant and visionary executive — a truly unique combination. His involvement with ESPN spans many years and we are unquestionably better for it in ways that go well beyond his impact on Monday Night Football. He was a believer while sitting on our board in the early days, and as an effective ombudsman, he made us think. He leaves an indelible imprint on how millions consume entertainment to this day.”

WHERE’S JOE DAVIS THIS WEEKEND?

The Dodgers will be without Joe Davis this weekend at Washington as he announces the Army-Ohio State football game on Fox at 1:30 p.m. PDT Saturday.

It’s not as if Davis would have had a lot to do this weekend anyway. Saturday’s Dodgers-Nationals game is going to be exclusively on Fox at 10 a.m. (Why didn’t they just have him do that game instead?) and Sunday’s game is on ESPN at 5 p.m.

Other national MLB games this weekend include Cardinals-Cubs, 11:20 a.m. Friday, MLB Network and 11:20 a.m. Sunday, TBS; Mariners-Astros, 1 p.m. Saturday, Fox; and Royals-Indians, 4 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports 1.

PIGSKIN PRODUCTIONS

There are only two ranked-vs.-ranked college football games on Saturday: No. 3 Clemson at No. 14 Louisville at 5 p.m. on ABC and No. 23 Tennessee at No. 24 Florida at 12:30 p.m. on CBS.

No. 4 USC hosts Texas at 5:30 p.m. on Fox and No. 25 UCLA is at Memphis at 9 a.m. on ABC.

In the NFL, the Los Angeles market will see Eagles-Chiefs at 10 a.m. and Redskins-Rams (going to 10% of the nation rather than Cowboys-Broncos to 81%) at 1:25 p.m. on Fox, and Dolphins-Chargers in the Chargers’ first L.A. game at 1:25 p.m. on CBS. Thom Brennaman and Chris Spielman are calling the Rams game and Greg Gumbel and Trent Green are doing the Chargers.

The Sunday night game is Packers-Falcons at 5:20 p.m. on NBC. The Monday night game on ESPN is Lions-Giants at 5:15 p.m. Next Thursday, the Rams and 49ers will be on KNBC (Channel 4) and NFL Network at 5 p.m.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

Beth Mowins on ESPN’s Monday Night Football and Tony Romo on CBS both received rave reviews for Week 1 in the NFL.Sunday Night Football’s opener (Giants-Cowboys) was seen by 21.7 million viewers, up 6% from last season. … The L.A. Kings announced their Fox Sports West TV schedule of 70 games this season. Alex Faust will be the Kings’ new play-by-play announcer following the retirement of Bob Miller, with Jim Fox staying on as analyst. The remaining 12 games will be on national TV. The season opener is Oct. 5 against Philadelphia on NBCSN. …

CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves said the sports streaming service CBS plans to start will be more newsy and less opinionated than ESPN or Fox. “I’m turning on ESPN a lot and seeing people shouting at each other. I want to see the scores,” Moonves told an investor conference, according to Variety.

After being suspended by WFAN Radio from his Boomer and Carton show (simulcast nationally on CBS Sports Network), Craig Carton has resigned. Carton had been arrested for his part in a fake concert ticket scam. A replacement is being sought to join co-host Boomer Esiason. … After ESPN’s Jamele Hill tweeted that President Donald Trump was a “white supremacist,” she later made a statement: “My comments on Twitter expressed my personal beliefs. My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light. My respect for the company and my colleagues remains unconditional.” The network followed saying, “Jemele has a right to her personal opinions, but not to publicly share them on a platform that implies that she was in any way speaking on behalf of ESPN.”

Worried about the Dodgers? You should be

This has gone beyond all explanation.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that for 4½ months could scarcely do anything wrong, now can scarcely do anything right.

20170718_Dodgers-WhiteSox_Pedro_Baez_on_the_mound
Relief pitcher Pedro Baez has been the recent subject of boos at Dodger Stadium. (TonyTheTiger photo)

Fans knew this was going to be a record-breaking season, but few of them would’ve guessed it would be exactly this way:

The Dodgers are the first team in major league history to win 15 out of 16 games and lose 15 out of 16 games in the same season. They have lost 10 in a row after twice winning 10 or more in a row.

The Dodgers will sleepwalk their way to San Francisco on Monday night for the first game of a three-game series. The Giants are in last place in the National League West, 37 games behind the first-place Dodgers and have long been eliminated from the race.

That means nothing now. The Dodgers can seemingly beat no one and wouldn’t the rival Giants just love to keep L.A.’s misery going?

It’s as if the Dodgers used up their entire season’s quota of runs, hits, home runs and good pitching by the middle of August. It’s like they were a bunch of playboy spendthrifts rolling into Vegas for a week and by Thursday morning they were broke and wearing barrels.

The gunslingers have ridden into town, shooting the place up, but suddenly are all out of bullets just as the marshal shows up.

At first, the Dodgers just tried to explain away the whole thing. Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger were injured, they said. We’re just resting a few guys, they said. Everyone still has the same preparation, the same attitude, they said.

Manager Dave Roberts has tried to keep a steady countenance during this free fall, but finally, after the Dodgers’ 8-1 loss to Colorado, which resulted in a second straight series sweep, third baseman Justin Turner vented his frustration.

“Just sitting back and saying we’re still the best team in baseball isn’t the answer,” Turner said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Because regardless of what the record says, right now we’re the worst team in baseball. What we did three months ago doesn’t mean a whole lot right now. No one in this league is going to feel sorry for us. No one in this league is going to show up and be like, ‘Oh, poor Dodgers.’ There are a bunch of sharks in the water. We’re bleeding a little bit right now. I think teams are smelling the blood.”

Wow. When an actual Dodger repeats what I said two weeks ago, you know it’s bad.

It isn’t just that the Dodgers, who have the best run differential in the NL, aren’t scoring runs. It isn’t that the Dodgers fielders are playing sloppily. It isn’t just that the starting pitching has gone kaflooey. It isn’t just that the relievers are throwing jellyballs to the plate. It’s all of these things.

Some nights it’s one thing. Some nights it’s another. Some nights it’s everything. Friday night against the Rockies, the Dodgers scored four runs in the first inning, led 4-1 and news bulletins went out all over the Internet. Of course, they gave up four runs in the fifth and lost 5-4.

The rockin’, feel-good atmosphere at Dodger Stadium has turned into a chorus of boos. You know things are in the dumpster when fans boo at Dodger Stadium. They like to cheer, but they are seldom passionate enough to boo. You’re just plain awful when Dodgers fans boo.

Reliever Pedro Baez has been the most individual subject of boos. Before the All-Star break, Baez’s ERA was 1.43. Since then, it’s 4.66 and he’s given up five home runs and nine walks in 19 innings.

In three appearances in the recent homestand, Baez allowed four hits, including two homers, in the first outing without retiring a batter. He walked his first two batters and was charged with the loss in his next stint. He walked the first batter in his third appearance before striking out the side.

Trades the Dodgers made at the deadline haven’t panned out well either. Outfielder Curtis Granderson is batting .114 since he was acquired from the Mets. Starting pitcher Yu Darvish has a 5.34 ERA, allowing 13 runs in 12⅓ innings.

This has gone beyond the idea that the Dodgers are just going through the same kind of slump that every team goes through. No other team in baseball has lost 10 in a row or 15 of 16 this season. For the first time since July 21, the Dodgers’ lead in the NL West is down to single digits. For most teams, a nine-game lead would be wonderful. Not when you led by 21 games just 17 days ago. Twelve games lost in the standings in 2½ weeks. They were an incredible 91-36 then and on pace to win 116 games, tying the all-time record. They’re a much differently incredible 92-51 now and on pace to win 104, if they’re lucky.

Seriously, I’m telling you, this has Bobby Thomson and 1951 written all over it.

Only days ago, Roberts and the Dodgers were thinking about things like playoff pitching rotations and home-field advantage. Maybe now they should be making contingency plans for the wild-card game.

First, however, are the Giants. The last-place Giants. To whom the Dodgers have already lost six of 13 games this season.

Yikes.

NFL — warts and all — ready for Week 1

The vast behemoth that is the NFL begins play this weekend, beginning Thursday night with the champion New England Patriots hosting the Kansas City Chiefs at 5:30 p.m. PDT on NBC.

NFL_Shield_mark_rgbFor the first time in more than two decades, Los Angeles will have two NFL teams. The Rams start the season at home, playing the Indianapolis Colts at the Coliseum at 1:05 p.m. on CBS with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts in the booth. The Chargers, who for reasons known only to themselves, decided moving out of San Diego was a good idea, will start 2017 on the road, playing the Denver Broncos. That game will be the second of ESPN’s Monday Night Football doubleheader, starting at 7:20 p.m. In addition to ESPN, the game will also be shown on KABC (Channel 7).

The Chargers-Broncos game will also be notable because Beth Mowins will do the play-by-play, becoming the first woman to call a nationally televised NFL game and the first to do any kind of NFL game since Gayle Sierens did a regional game in 1987. Mowins will be paired with analyst Rex Ryan, new to ESPN this season.

Also shown in the L.A. area on Sunday will be two games on Fox: Philadelphia-Washington at 10 a.m. and Seattle-Green Bay at 1:25 p.m. The opener on the ESPN MNF doubleheader will be New Orleans-Minnesota at 4:10 p.m.

The Tampa Bay-Miami game was postponed until Nov. 19 in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.

MORE PALATABLE

The NFL is fighting an image problem right now. Its players continue to have problems with the law. There continue to be violent concussions that are keeping youth from even taking the game up in the first place. Increasing numbers of players are protesting during the national anthem and no NFL team is willing to sign Colin Kaepernick, the player who started it all.

Still, a Washington Post/University of Massachusetts-Lowell survey showed 60% of Americans still say pro football is their favorite sport. Baseball is next at 45%, followed by basketball at 39%.

In the poll, 76% see head injuries causing long-term health problems as a major problem for the league and 59% see injuries caused by hits and tackling as a major problem. Domestic violence (61%) and violent crime (60%) caused by players were also major problems. Players, such as Kaepernick, speaking out on political issues was seen as a major problem by 36%.

The number of TV commercials was seen as a major problem by 31% and the number of penalties called by 20%. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday on Fox Sports 1’s First Things First the league is trying to address all of its problems.

“We had a very busy off-season this year,” Goodell said, “focusing on a lot of changes for the game presentation and how we make the game better on the field and off the field.

“We focused a lot on officiating: centralizing replay and also adding full-time officials, also spending an awful lot of time on the game presentation: how do we make the game experience better for the fans in the stadium and also at home, and reducing the commercial time and trying to make sure we reduce the interruptions. I think all those things are going to make a difference for our fans this year.”

OLD COLLEGE TRY

The best college football games are always when two ranked teams are playing each other and there are four on Saturday, headed by No. 5 Oklahoma visiting No. 2 Ohio State at 4:30 p.m. on ABC. You’ll need to switch back and forth or have a second screen to see another big game going on at nearly the same time: No. 13 Auburn at No. 3 Clemson, kicking off at 4 p.m. on ESPN. NBC will show No. 24 Notre Dame hosting No. 15 Georgia at 4:30 p.m.

USC will also get into the act as the No. 6 Trojans host No. 14 Stanford at 5:30 p.m. on Fox. UCLA, which took a remarkable come-from-behind win over Texas A&M last weekend, hosts Hawaii in a matchup of unranked teams at 2 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.

In terms of ratings, ESPN and Fox bickered back and forth a little bit through news releases over which of them had the better college football numbers last weekend.

From ESPN:

“ESPN/ABC generated the largest audiences across all networks throughout college football’s kickoff weekend, as the two networks combined to air the five most-watched games. Among just cable networks, ESPN was the clear leader, airing the two most-watched matchups. Factoring in the full slate, ESPN and ABC combined to air 11 games throughout the five days, averaging 4,400,000 viewers, 189% greater than seven game average on FS1/Fox.”

Fox, which said more than 3 million saw the UCLA comeback, said:

“Sunday night’s instant classic provided the exclamation point to a thrilling opening week of college football. With top games featuring the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences, college football enjoyed its best opening week ever on Fox and FS1 in terms of viewership, with an average audience of 1,522,000 across the networks’ seven games. Fox and FS1 are up a combined 15% over 2015, the last time an opening-week game aired on Fox, while the competition saw year-over-year decreases.”

The biggest game of the weekend was the Florida State-Alabama game on ABC with 12.5 million viewers.

SPORTSNET LA GOES KAFLOOEY

The Dodgers, who have lost 11 of their last 12 (thank goodness for Clayton Kershaw) going into Thursday’s start of a four-game series against Colorado, will be on national TV at 1 p.m. Sunday on TBS. It’s a chance for those who don’t get SportsNet LA to see the Dodgers. But how many really want to these days?

Speaking of SportsNet LA, the Dodgers-Diamondbacks telecast Tuesday, which was simulcast on KTLA (Channel 5), went kaflooey, forcing some drastic measures.

First, there was briefly nothing, just a black screen. Then the picture came back with crowd noise but no announcers (not the worst thing in the world), no graphics and no replays. Then the announcers came back. Then, strangely enough, the whole telecast shifted over to the Fox Sports Arizona feed. Finally, it was Dodgers announcers Joe Davis and Nomar Garciaparra and the Fox picture and graphics. A bizarre night.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

ESPN Radio host Ryen Russillo returned to his show Tuesday and apologized to listeners and to his employers for his arrest last month in Wyoming for which he was suspended. Meanwhile, Craig Carton of the Boomer & Carton show on CBS-owned New York’s WFAN (which is simulcast on CBS Sports Network) was arrested this week by the FBI, according to the New York Post on charges he defrauded customers in a fake concert ticket scam netting $2 million dollars that he used to cover gambling debts. …

U.S. Open tennis ratings were at 0.6 for ESPN and ESPN2 through Tuesday, a 20% increase from the 0.5 at that point last year. Streaming is up 45% over 2017. … CBS has extended it contract with Army through 2022. The deal arranges for CBS Sports Network to continue to show all Army football games. The network will also have the option to televise additional football games through the Patriot League, as well as select Army lacrosse and basketball games.

USC, UCLA come away as winners with work to do

USC and UCLA left the football field last weekend feeling good about themselves. Makes sense: They both came away with come-from-behind victories at home.

They were both very fortunate to do so as both teams showed they still have a lot of work to do.

Pac-12 logoUCLA’s 45-44 win at the Rose Bowl over Texas A&M on Sunday night was remarkable. Quarterback Josh Rosen threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Lasley with 43 seconds remaining after faking a spike to help the Bruins overcome a 34-point deficit and stun the Aggies. That was the good news. The bad news was that UCLA had to score on five straight possessions after trailing 44-10 with 4:08 to play in the third quarter.

USC’s 49-31 triumph at the Coliseum over Western Michigan on a sweltering Saturday afternoon ended on a happy ending. The Trojans finally broke open ties of 21-21 and 28-28 by outscoring the Broncos 21-3 in the last 6:57. But it was all USC could do to stop Western Michigan’s rushing game in the first half.

Both Los Angeles schools have big-time QBs who can take their teams a long way and both could receive serious Heisman Trophy talk. Sam Darnold at USC should compete with Rosen for crosstown attention.

It was Rosen who had the more spectacular game last weekend. He was 35 of 59 for 491 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Darnold completed 23 of 33 for 289 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.         USC was saved by running back Ronald Jones II, who ran for 159 yards on 18 carries for three touchdowns. But the offenses won’t mean much if the defenses don’t tighten up quickly.

It was the ground game that nearly spelled doom for both the Trojans and the Bruins. Western Michigan rushed for 263 yards at USC and Texas A&M put up 382 against UCLA’s 70.

USC, ranked No. 4 before its opener, hosts No. 14 Stanford next Saturday night and the Trojans know what’s coming.

“I’ve been playing Stanford for going on four years now,” safety Chris Hawkins told The Associated Press. “I know what they are going to come do. We all know what they are going to do. They are going to run the football.”

UCLA, meanwhile, can afford to be sky-high all week after topping A&M. The Bruins host Hawaii next Saturday. While the Rainbow Warriors will be looking for their first 3-0 start since 2007, their wins so far are against the likes of Massachusetts and Western Carolina.

With Rosen commanding the offense, UCLA’s defense may have an easier task than USC’s.

THE WEEK JUST PAST

Coliseum thermometer
The Coliseum thermometer started at 100 degrees before USC’s football game, stayed there throughout it and will probably remain there until next Saturday’s game.
Now, while still trying to rehydrate after seeing Saturday’s USC game at the 99-degree Coliseum, here’s a look at the week just past:

  • I really don’t think the Coliseum thermometer has worked in decades. I think someone just manually puts the needle where it’s supposed to be at the start of the game. It never seems to move from that spot.
  • According to ESPN Sports & Information, the last team before UCLA to overcome a 34-point deficit was Michigan State on Oct. 21, 2006, defeating Northwestern.
  • ESPN pays a lot attention — probably too much —to win probability. Texas A&M’s win probability was 99.5% as late as 4:21 left in the game.
  • Also from ESPN S&I: Rosen’s 491 passing yards is No. 3 in UCLA history, behind Cade McNown (513, 1998) and Drew Olson (510, 2005). Rosen tied McNown with his 11th career 300-yard passing game.
  • The Pacific-12 Conference went 12-0 for the weekend, which is no mean accomplishment for any conference. The only blemish the Pac-12 has so far is Oregon State’s 58-27 loss to Colorado State on Aug. 26. The Beavers defeated Portland State (barely) on Saturday. Everybody else is 1-0.
  • Just as good as UCLA’s win Sunday was No. 21 Virginia Tech’s over No. 22 West Virginia. The Hokies won 31-24 for their first season-opening win in 11 games against an AP-ranked team.
  • The feel-good moment of USC’s win without question was the Trojans having Jake Olson snap the ball for the point after their final touchdown. Olson was adopted by former coach Pete Carroll eight years ago after he lost both of his eyes to a rare form of cancer. He joined the team as a walk-on long snapper three years ago. He had previously snapped at Orange Lutheran High.
  • One hero of Olson’s snap was umpire Mike Stephens, who steadied Olson beforehand and made sure he knew when the ball was about to be whistled ready for play. Another was Western Michigan coach Tim Lester, who had agreed not to rush a PAT attempt snapped by Olson.
  • The Dodgers seem to be an entirely different team right now than they have in the last 4½ months. And not in a good way. That 2017 World Series may not be as much of a shoo-in as you thought.
  • It’s likely the Dodgers would play the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series, the same Diamondbacks who swept them last week and the same Diamondbacks who come to Dodger Stadium for a three-game series starting Monday.
  • The only good things about the Dodgers’ weekend series in San Diego, in which they lost three of four, were 1.) Clayton Kershaw’s win Friday night (even though the Dodgers managed only one run) and 2.) Cody Bellinger homering on both Saturday and Sunday to break Mike Piazza’s club record for home runs by a rookie. Outside of that, the series was a stinkeroo.
  • What do you suppose will ever happen to Joc Pederson? Sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Aug. 19, Pederson has hit only .125 in 12 games with one extra-base hit. He hasn’t been brought back up with other roster expansion players and now that Oklahoma City’s season is over, the word is Pederson may go to Double-A Tulsa or Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. Pederson has hit only .215 for the Dodgers this season with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs and .156 with two home runs since the All-Star break.
  • Dia de los DodgersCreepiest-sounding promotion of the year: The Dodgers are calling Tuesday night “Dia de los Dodgers.” It’s sort of like the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), in which people gather to pray and remember family and friends who have died. The Dodgers promotional blurb — which comes with a skeleton-looking batter drawing — says, “Honor the spirit and memories of those loved ones who shared your love for Dodger baseball.” The skeleton looks like the Dodgers offense these days.
  • Meanwhile, the Angels continue to battle for an American League wild-card spot. They are 1½ games behind Minnesota for the second spot, tied with Baltimore. The Angels’ relief pitchers were named AL Bullpen of the Week after allowing seven earned runs and 21 hits in 30⅓ innings with 30 strikeouts and 15 walks. Closer Blake Parker had three saves.
  • Stacy Lewis played in Portland, but won for Houston. Lewis won her first LPGA tournament since 2014 at the Cambia Portland Classic in Oregon and the Houston area native donated her entire $195,000 in winnings to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Her two biggest sponsors also helped out with Marathon Oil donating $1 million and KPMG matching Lewis’ donation.

Mayweather-McGregor brings a PPV record — but some had trouble seeing it

I’m always surprised by the people who watch pay-per-view boxing. It attracts people you wouldn’t ordinarily think would purchase such a thing. Some of the gentlest, sweetest people I know spent the $99.99 and watched the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight last Saturday night.

However, in some cases, they couldn’t watch it right away.

Mayweather-McGregor
The fight between Conor McGregor (left) and Floyd Mayweather was purchased by more 5 million pay-per-view customers, a record. (Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime)

The main event at Las Vegas was delayed until after 9 p.m. PDT because of problems with the PPV feed. There apparently were so many people who wanted to see the fight, some of the servers became overloaded.

Kind of sounds like what happens when a party of eight dines at Outback. The servers become overloaded. Thanks. I’ll be here all week.

Those trying to watch via the Showtime or UFC Fight Pass apps complained about delays and missing the first few rounds, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Things were so bad, according to The Hollywood Reporter, one fan, Zack Bartel of Portland, Ore., filed a class-action suit against Showtime “for unlawful trade practices and unjust enrichment, alleging the network rushed its pay-per-view streaming service to the market without securing the bandwidth necessary to support the scores of cable-cutting fans.”

Showtime said this week it would issue a $99.99 refund to any viewer who purchased the fight through Showtime’s app and was unable to see the fight. It said those who purchased it from UFC or from a cable or satellite provider must request a refund from that operator.

In any event, Showtime is going to replay the fight (as it planned all along) on its regular channel at 9 p.m. EDT/PDT Saturday. It will be followed by All Access: Mayweather vs. McGregor Epilogue, showing the aftermath of the fight.

The fight had more than 5 million purchases, beating the previous record of 4.6 million for the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in 2015. Fox’s telecast of Saturday’s prelims was seen by an average of 2.4 million viewers, the network said with a peak of 3.1 million from 5:45 to 6 p.m.

HIRING MICHAEL VICK

Fox announced Sunday it has hired former NFL quarterback Michael Vick to be a studio analyst for Fox NFL Kickoff and studio shows on Fox Sports 1.

The network took some expected heat for the hire because of Vick’s involvement with a dogfighting ring in 2007. He spent 18 months in a federal prison and his NFL career came to a halt until 2009.

A petition came to Fox asking them to reconsider hiring Vick because the 60,000 who have signed it “do not believe that Michael Vick is repentant.”

“We absolutely and completely understand,” Fox Sports president Eric Shanks told USA Today. “It’s not a different reaction than what we had prepared ourselves for internally at Fox Sports. We discuss it. We talk about what happened then. What type of person is Mike is now? What debt has he paid to society? We still believe it’s the right thing to do.”

What Vick was involved with was reprehensible, no doubt. But he has paid his debt to society. The people who apparently think Vick should never be able to make a living again are wrong.

WHERE’S JOE DAVIS THIS WEEK?

Dodgers telecasts went through a few weekends earlier in the season when play-by-play man Joe Davis was away doing baseball games for Fox. Now it’s college football that will take Davis away from the SportsNet LA booth.

Davis is gone for an extended period of time this week because he is calling not one but two football games, both in the state of Oklahoma. He’s doing the Tulsa-Oklahoma State game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday on FS1 and the Texas-El Paso-Oklahoma game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox. His analysts are Brady Quinn and Bruce Feldman.

Charley Steiner is doing TV play-by-play this week for the Dodgers with Rick Monday going from analyst to play-by-play on radio. The provisional broadcast setup will have to deal with a day-night doubleheader Saturday at San Diego.

No word on if Davis plans to be back Sunday in time to work the series finale against the Padres. My guess is probably.

Meanwhile, it’s important to point out that seven of the Dodgers’ final 30 regular-season games will be on TV channels other than SportsNet LA, for those of you who can’t get the Dodgers’ network. Three are on KTLA (Channel 5), one on Fox, one on ESPN and one on TBS. The TBS game — Sept. 10 vs. Colorado — is especially rare because those games are usually blacked out in home markets.

Here’s the full list of non-SNLA games:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 5 vs. Arizona, 7:10 p.m. (KTLA)
  • Sunday, Sept. 10 vs. Colorado, 1:10 p.m. (TBS)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 12 at San Francisco, 7:15 p.m. (KTLA)
  • Saturday, Sept. 16 at Washington, 10:05 a.m. (Fox)
  • Sunday, Sept. 17 at Washington, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Philadelphia, 4:05 p.m. (KTLA)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 26 vs. San Diego, 7:10 p.m. (KTLA)

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Pete Rose will not return to Fox Sports after recent allegations that Rose had a sexual relationship with an underage girl in the 1970s. Fox declined to comment to THR. Stu Lantz, who has been a Lakers TV analyst for 30 years, has been selected for the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Ed Cunningham, an ESPN college football analyst and former NFL player, has resigned from the network “because of his growing discomfort with the damage being inflicted on the players he was watching each week,” according to The New York Times.

The Rams and Chargers both conclude their NFL preseason schedule Thursday night. The Rams are at Green Bay at 4 p.m. on KCBS (Channel 2) and the Chargers are at San Francisco at 7 p.m. on KABC (Channel 7). Also, the Oakland Raiders host Seattle at 7 p.m. on KTLA (Channel 5). … Saturday’s BYU-LSU college football game is still on for 6:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN, but the location was changed from Houston’s NRG Stadium to New Orleans’ Superdome because of Hurricane Harvey.

ESPN has signed contract extensions with four NFL commentators and reporters: Wendi Nix, Louis Riddick, Dianna Russini and Darren Woodson. Phil Simms, who was relegated from top CBS NFL analyst to the pregame show, will join Chris Russo on SiriusXM Radio. His first appearance will at 1 p.m. Thursday and then at 1 p.m. Fridays thereafter. … SiriusXM also announced it has hired Danny Kanell as a college football analyst for its new college football channel (84), now called ESPNU Radio.

Postseason can’t come too soon for struggling Dodgers

Call it nitpicking, call it being hypercritical, call it raining on the parade, call it whatever you want, but here’s the truth:

‪Right now, at this moment, the Dodgers are not the best team in baseball. Not even close.

I fully realize this may not even be a blip on the radar with a team that is leading the National League West standings by 19 games on Aug. 28, a team that is on track to win an astounding 114 games this season.

But the goal of any division-leading team is to get into the World Series and win it. That’s definitely the goal of these Dodgers, who haven’t been to the Fall Classic since 1988.

A 91-38 record is awfully nice (they need to finish no worse than 26-7 to surpass the all-time win record of 116; the 162-game National League record is 108). Also nice are all the home runs, excellent pitching and clutch defense. But there will be a lot of people, even on the team itself, who will look upon the 2017 season as something less than successful if the Dodgers do not get into the World Series.

A six-month, 162-game season is an awfully long time. It’s supposed to be. Baseball separates the good teams from the not-so-good teams better than any other professional sport. The dog days of summer don’t have that name for nothing. A team can look like world-beaters in the spring, but then wimp out in the summer heat of August.

This, I know, sounds ludicrous to some of you, considering I’m talking about a team that is 17-7 in August. But the Dodgers had a rough week and could be teetering a little in the summer heat.

This is a team that goes into its three-game series at Arizona on Tuesday averaging exactly five runs per game. That’s third best in the NL behind Washington (5.3) and Colorado (5.1).

But in their last five games, against Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, they scored 15 runs and five of those came in one game. The Dodgers were shut out in two of the other four games, only the sixth and seventh shutouts they’ve sustained all season and their first since June 26.

The Dodgers lost their series to Milwaukee over the weekend, the first time they’ve had a series loss since June 5-7, and they lost back-to-back games for the first time since July 20-21. Their hits-per-game average has gone from 8.6 for the season to 7.8 in the last five games.

So maybe I am doing a little nitpicking, but these games were against two teams struggling just to get into the NL wild-card race.

It was especially shocking Wednesday to see how the Dodgers were unable to score a run at Pittsburgh in 10 innings. It was even more upsetting because starting pitcher Rich Hill was pitching a perfect game. In the ninth inning, an error by Logan Forsythe, playing third base, ended the perfect game. Hill got through the ninth inning and even continued into the 10th with the game still scoreless and his no-hitter intact. However, Josh Harrison hit Hill’s 99th pitch into the left-field stands to win the game for the Pirates. The Dodgers had hits, eight of them, but left 11 runners on base.

The Dodgers were blanked again Saturday, 3-0 by the Brewers. Los Angeles scattered five hits and left five on base.

Los Angeles Dodgers Photo Day
The Dodgers are a much lesser team without Cody Bellinger.

Maybe what this does is really prove how valuable Cody Bellinger is to the Dodgers.

If you want proof as to how good an NL MVP candidate Bellinger is (as well as Rookie of the Year), the Dodgers were 10-12 before Bellinger first was called up April 25. Since being injured Aug.19, they are 4-4. The word is Bellinger will be back Wednesday and not a moment too soon.

Adrian Gonzalez has returned from the disabled list and has hit a homer, but is batting .184 since coming back.

Justin Turner still leads the Dodgers with a .329 average and is third in the NL, but is hitting just .205 in his last 11 games with only one extra-base hit.

Clayton Kershaw has definitely been missed. He and fellow starting pitcher Alex Wood have both been on the DL. Even though Kershaw has been out since July 23, he is still tied for the major league lead in victories with 15.

The Dodgers have managed a 23-7 record in Kershaw’s absence. But four of those losses have come since Aug. 20 and the Dodgers had to have a “bullpen game” Saturday with Ross Stripling, normally a reliever, starting and lasting only three innings. He was followed by five others.

Yu Darvish, who was acquired from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline, won his first two starts for the Dodgers, but gave up three runs in five innings Sunday against Milwaukee. Darvish has his moments, but doesn’t have as many of them as fans would like.

These days, once the regular season is over and the postseason starts, baseball is a much different game. The name of the game during the postseason is pitching — having at least two dynamite starters and a solid progression of relievers to seal the deal. The Dodgers need to get Kershaw and Wood healthy and the offense needs to provide support to them so that great performances like Hill’s are not wasted.

It’s been a remarkable, fantastic season so far for the Dodgers. The playoffs cannot come soon enough for them. Their fans hope they are the same amazing team then that they have been all year.