Sports Beat, 11-25-2012

Nikki Finke of is reporting that the Dodgers are close to a new TV deal with Fox that could pay $7 billion over 25 years.

The deal will pay approximately $280 million a season, or roughly $100 million more annually than the deal Frank McCourt had agreed to with Fox early last year. That doesn't include the $385 million that McCourt needed from Fox upfront to pay off debts and make payroll. I think we're all glad those days are behind us.

The contract validates the $2.15 billion that Guggenheim Baseball Management spent on the team. It explains why the Dodgers have been able to spend like drunken sailors recently, but we knew that anyways. But in addition to making McCourt look bad, this deal also makes News Corp look a little silly.

As Finke points, Fox spent $350 million to buy the team in 1998 and then sold it to McCourt for $430 million in 2004. Now they're going to pay $280 million a year just to air Dodger games on cable. Finke quotes "one newspaper pundit" who says "someone in News Corp's accounting department with a long memory will probably be rolling his eyes".

In the meantime, expect all Dodgers regular season games to be aired on Fox Sports Net, with the exception of the occasional Fox network or TBS game. Also, expect your cable bill to go up a little.

At some point in the future, TV viewers are going to force cable providers to offer ala carte channel programming. Personally, I'm happy to pay for Fox Sports Net, Time Warner Sports Net, the Pac-12 Network, and six ESPN channels. But I don't particularly want to pay for the Oprah Winfrey Network, the Style Network, or Fox Business Network. I know some people feel the opposite way though. With the rising cost in cable bills caused partially by escalating TV rights, one wonders how long the status quo can remain.

* * *

We've learned a few things by watching the Lakers' first few games with Mike D'Antoni as their head coach. First, Pau Gasol doesn't fit in the system at all. He's often relegated to the perimeter, where's not a good shooter. Right now, Antawn Jamison is a better fit in D'Antoni's system. Perhaps Steve Nash can figure out how to get Gasol going in the offense. But if he can't, then expect loud calls for the Lakers to trade Gasol. It won't be easy, considering he's still owed $19 million next season.

Second, we've learned that the Lakers struggle against young and athletic teams like Memphis and Sacramento. When the Lakers played up-tempo on Friday night, they played right into the hands of the younger and more dynamic Grizzlies.

It's not fair to judge this team until Nash comes back at full strength. It's very possible that he'll get the ball moving the right way. But watching the Lakers against Memphis and Sacramento, I couldn't help but wonder how well they'd play in the triangle under Phil Jackson. They would slow play to a half-court game against these teams, and we know that Gasol is effective in that system.

* * *

USC's loss to Notre Dame has to rank as one of Lane Kiffin's worst coached games of all time. Not only did Notre Dame expose USC's lack of toughness, but Kiffin's play-calling was atrocious. Much has been written about Kiffin's poor calls near the goal line late in the game, when the Trojans should have been throwing to preserve the clock.

Still, USC ultimately lost the game because Notre Dame's offensive line dominated USC's defensive line. The Irish held a huge advantage in time of possession and slowly and methodically ran the ball down USC's throat. USC clearly had more athletic skill players, and the strong arm of Max Wittek coupled with the speed of Marqise Lee and Robert Woods kept the Trojans in the game. But at the end of the day, they were just beat up in the trenches.

It appears set that Kiffin will remain USC's coach next year. But if he returns, then expect some changes. First off, while I think defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has gotten a little bit of a bad rap, I expect him to either "retire" or find an NFL assistant coaching job this offseason. Lane Kiffin will then hire a new defensive coordinator, and I'll float out the name Gene Chizik as someone who might fit the bill. Chizik was one of the best defensive coordinators in college football before becoming a head coach at Iowa State and later Auburn, where he won a National Championship and was just fired. There are plenty of other coordinators out there though who might be effective.

Additionally, Kiffin needs to figure out how to toughen up the Trojans without putting his sanction-depleted squad at risk of injury. Perhaps he can take a page from Jim Mora and hold training camp in San Bernardino next year.

More by Phil Wallace:
Recently on Native Intelligence
New at LA Observed