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October 31, 2007

Caltech Hoops

Many local sports fans aren't aware that Caltech has a basketball team. They do, but it's not very good. The Division III Beavers have lost 259 consecutive conference games. But Caltech doesn't have too much to be ashamed of. After all, their team features more high school valedictorians (eight) than players with high school varsity experience (six). And of course, many of their players go on to have wonderful careers in science and technology.

The futility of Caltech hoops is featured in the upcoming documentary "Quantum Hoops," which chronicles the 2005-06 Beavers. The film, narrated by David Duchovny, will open Friday in Pasadena.

Here's one interesting quote from the movie:

"I didn't go there as a basketball player," former player Roger Noll says in the film. "I went there as somebody who was captivated by the Sputnik era and wanted to become a physicist to catch up with the Russians."

Now, I went to Columbia, and our basketball team went 2-25 during my junior year. But we didn't have any players who would say anything remotely close to that.

For those who think that Caltech sports is all about pranks at the Rose Bowl, this movie may show something new.

October 30, 2007

Sports Beat, 10-30-07

--The big news in LA today is Grady Little's resignation and Joe Torre's potential hire as Dodgers manager. The Torre speculation has also led to rumors about Alex Rodriguez coming to LA. Call it LA-Rod if it happens.

First off, many have been critical of the Dodgers' treatment of Grady Little. The Dodgers and Little both said the resignation was on the manager's own terms, although many on sports talk radio today have doubted that. For what it's worth, earlier this year I was informed that Little was actually considering retirement after the season. Then in September, someone in the baseball industry told me that Little would be fired for losing the clubhouse. I don't know what the real story is, but if I had to guess, I would say the truth is somewhere in between. Little probably had some desire to leave, but the Dodgers were also likely excited about the availability of Joe Torre.

While every sports media outlet is reporting that Torre will be hired in LA, I believe that MLB rules require the Dodgers to interview a minority candidate. There may be some kind of exception though, given the media attention that Torre is receiving.

Personally, I think that the Dodgers would be very fortunate to have Torre manage them. He's obviously one of the best in the game, and few managers command greater respect from their players. Both young players and veterans have flourished under his leadership, and the Dodgers have a talented mix of both.

As for A-Rod... that signing is far less certain. Yes, he's probably the best player in the game. But I'm not sure if any single player is worth the money he's rumored to be asking for, and it's difficult for one person to take up such a large portion of a payroll. If the Dodgers do sign A-Rod, then they would figure to shop Andy La Roche in a trade. I'm not sure what they would do with Nomar Garciaparra.

The Dodgers are hoping to top 4 million fans in attendance for their 50th anniversary season. Hiring Joe Torre would help with that goal. Signing Alex Rodriguez would make an even bigger splash.

--Baseball Prospectus has done as much work on A-Rod's value as any baseball media entity. Today, Nate Silver plays A-Rod Survivor and predicts that Rodriguez will sign with the Angels. (BP)

--As I write this, I'm watching the Lakers play the Rockets on Opening Night. The LA Times has a full-scale pro and college basketball preview today. (LAT) There have been a million rumors swirling around Kobe Bryant's future. Everyone from Phil Jackson to Charles Barkley has weighed in with their take. But Mark Heisler writes today about the reality that the Lakers don't want to trade Bryant, no deal is imminent, and there's no available deal that seems viable. So Kobe is a Laker... for now. If things continue to sour during the season though, then anything could happen.

--Lost in all the hoopla about Joe Torre, Alex Rodriguez, and Kobe Bryant was UCLA football. Athletic Director Dan Guerrero implied that the last four games of the season could affect Karl Dorrell's future as head coach.

"I will be very interested to see how we finish the season. And you can use that," Guerrero said.

If someone were to rank the quality of UCLA's eight opponents so far this season, they could argue that Utah, Notre Dame, and Washington State were their three weakest. Yet those three teams represent the Bruins' only three losses. Go figure.

--John David Booty is slated to start on Saturday for USC at quarterback as he's reportedly healthy. The Trojans' loss to Oregon temporarily muted the Sanchez-Booty debate, and made the decision to start the more experience QB more justifiable. That said, Sanchez played reasonably well against Oregon. He did throw two costly interceptions, but he stepped up and made some big throws that kept his team in the game.

With USC clearly weakened by injuries, Oregon looked like the better team. The Ducks' Dennis Dixon made a Heisman case with his performance, but the Trojan defense did an admirable job of containing him. Patrick Turner also made some spectacular catches. It was the first time I had really seen him realize his potential, and one wonders if that's a sign of things to come.

--Some exciting news on the NFL/LA front. Last week, we discussed a report that the NFL would explore a stadium site in the City of Industry. Today, TJ Simers reports that Ed Roski Jr. will meet with the NFL to discuss a potential stadium there. Roski's name brings a great deal of credibility to the project. He played a major role in getting STAPLES Center built and he's been involved with LA Live and other sites. Here's an excerpt from Simers' article:

"I wouldn't spend all this time or money if I didn't think the NFL wanted to have a team in the Greater L.A. area," said Roski, chief executive of Majestic Realty. "When the NFL categorically said recently it had no interest in the Coliseum, I put the second phase of a project I was developing in the City of Industry in abeyance and started to get this NFL project together."

Roski declined to specifically name the location for his new stadium until meeting with the NFL. It appears to be a vacant piece of land just beyond the intersection of the 57 and 60 freeways and adjacent to his industrial and retail Grand Crossing project.

"We own the land, have all the entitlements in place, and if you made a list of 100 things you would like to have with a new stadium, this probably has 90 of them," Roski said. "And working in the field that I do, I know something about location, and this is the perfect place for the Greater L.A. area -- located right in the middle of five counties."

October 29, 2007

A Conversation with Eric Sondheimer

Who was the better quarterback: John Elway at Granada Hills or Jimmy Clausen at Oaks Christian? Who's the current "It" prep athlete in SoCal? (Hint: he plays basketball at Fairfax High.) What was the effect of Title IX on girls sports?

The L.A. Times' Eric Sondheimer, the dean of high-school sports journalists, has all the answers in an interview I conducted for the most recent edition of "SportsLetter," the online newsletter published by the LA84 Foundation. This month's SL also includes my interview with Stuart Taylor Jr., a columnist at the National Observer and the co-author of "Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case" (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press).

October 26, 2007

West Coast Hoops

Yes, college basketball season is right around the corner. And the Pac-10 is where all of the hoops excitement figures to be this season. Today, the USA Today Coaches' Poll was released and six Pac-10 teams are ranked in the Top-25 -- more than any other conference.

Think about that for a second. The Big East has 16 teams and has five ranked teams, but the Pac-10 is the smallest of the "major" conferences, and 60-percent of its teams are ranked 21st or better. They are UCLA (No. 2), Washington State (No. 10), Oregon (No. 13), Arizona (No. 17), USC (No. 18), and Stanford (No. 21). I thought Washington had a chance of being ranked, but they're in the "Others Receiving Votes" category.

Locally there is much to be excited about. UCLA actually received the most first-place votes of any team, but North Carolina is slightly ahead on points. The Bruins may find themselves No. 1 in the AP poll. They return four of five starters from last year's Final Four team, and should be boosted by the presence of highly-touted freshman Kevin Love.

Across town, much has been written about USC prized recruit OJ Mayo. But the Trojans were already a team that made the Sweet 16 last season, and return Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett among others. Freshman forward Davon Jefferson could also be a difference-maker.

With all of this talent in LA, it's no wonder that Tim Floyd is hoping that the USC-UCLA basketball rivalry could one day be as big as UNC-Duke.

October 25, 2007

Coliseum Baseball

The LA Times reports that the Dodgers are considering playing at least one game in the Coliseum next season to celebrate the team's 50th season in Los Angeles. It could be a spring training game or a regular season game.

To this, I say "way cool!" I've heard stories from my father about watching the Dodgers at the Coliseum from 1958 to 1961, and I've always wondered what that would look like in person. The Coliseum is one of the most awkward venues to ever host a MLB game. But part of what makes baseball fun are the quirks of the different stadiums. Instead of "Moon Shots" maybe we'll see some "Kemp Shots" in 2007.

In other Dodger news, ESPN's Buster Olney is reporting that Joe Girardi is a candidate to manage the team. Girardi is well regarded by many in baseball and he won the 2006 NL Manager of the Year Award with the Marlins in his only season managing in the majors.

But something about this story just doesn't make sense. The Dodgers have already announced that Grady Little will return as manager for the 2008 season. Girardi has been available all season, so why would he suddenly become a candidate for a job that supposedly isn't open at the same time he's a finalist to replace Joe Torre in New York? If the Dodgers wanted Girardi to be their manager, then wouldn't he have been hired a few weeks ago? Either someone has the story wrong or there will be some more information coming out soon.

October 24, 2007

Sports Beat, 10-24-07

--The NFL is reportedly sending a staff to Southern California next month to investigate potential stadiums sites which do not include the Coliseum or Anaheim. According to the LA Times those sites could include Chavez Ravine and an undisclosed location in the City of Industry.

This is the first we've heard about City of Industry, but Chavez Ravine has been in and out of the LA stadium discussions for a long time. In a sense, Chavez Ravine seems like the perfect spot. It's accessible from three different freeways, it's relatively hidden from the general public, and it regularly accommodates crowds of over 50,000. To accommodate slightly larger crowds for football, an NFL team could offer shuttle service from Union Station. That being said, a Chavez Ravine football stadium has never been popular in City Hall for a ton of reasons that date back more than ten years. If the NFL wants to come to Elysian Park, then there would need to be some kind of political shift. As for the City of Industry... I'd love to see those plans and learn who's behind them.

--Great news for local WNBA fans. The Sparks have won the lottery! The WNBA Draft Lottery that is. Candace Parker of Tennessee is the early favorite to be the top pick, but there's still a full season of NCAA women's hoops to be played.

--Now we know why some NBA teams were hesitant to trade for Lamar Odom. He's hurt. Odom will miss at least the first three games of the season for the Lakers. Even when he returns, Laker fans shouldn't expect him to be 100-percent right away. If the Lakers are to get off to a good start, they'll need major contributions from someone else.

October 22, 2007

BCS Befuddlement

It's just about time to start arguing about the BCS rankings again this year. This week, the USC Trojans are ranked No. 12 in the all-important poll. No one expects USC to be ranked in the top-5 at this point, but there are a few bizarre items to take note.

The Trojans have an average computer ranking of 21st, and aren't even ranked in two different computer polls. USC may have lost to Stanford and struggled in wins over Washington and Arizona, but they're still 6-1. Shouldn't they be ahead of teams like UConn in the computer polls?

Also, it's perplexing to see West Virginia well ahead of both USC and South Florida. The Mountaineers have the same record as South Florida and lost to the Bulls, yet they're No. 7 and South Florida is No. 10. Virginia Tech is also a top-10 team, despite looking like anything but one in a 48-7 loss to LSU earlier this season. It's true that USC's nonconference wins over Notre Dame and Nebraska don't look as impressive as they might have 10 years ago, but it's not as if the Hokies have been challenged much in games against William & Mary and Duke.

This should all get sorted soon though, in what is proving to be one of the wackiest college football years in recent memory. The Trojans still have Oregon, Arizona State, and Cal to play on the road, and wins over there should help their computer ranking. If UCLA manages to stay in the Rose Bowl race, then a win over the Bruins (no gimme) would help a lot too. It's probably too early to get hot and bothered by all of this because USC still needs to play a lot better. But when one computer poll has the Trojans at No. 4, and two have them below No. 25, then you can't help but question why college football continues to use this system.

NFL to Coliseum in Jeopardy

Rick Orlov of the LA Daily News reports today that the NFL privately told LA officials that a return to the Coliseum is not viable. The NFL cited "significant economic risks," namely the estimated $1 billion cost of renovating the facility.

The NFL has long held strong reservations about having a team play in the Coliseum, partially because rowdy Raider fans made the area seem far less safe. While the area has proven more than fine for USC football, it's wishful thinking to expect the NFL will just fork over $1 billion for Coliseum renovations. It may be time for Los Angeles to consider other sites. Frank McCourt has reportedly been interested in building a football stadium at Chavez Ravine (which Peter O'Malley also wanted to do), while AEG had plans for a South Park stadium a few years ago. Expect Anaheim officials to step up their NFL efforts now, but it be great to keep the NFL in LA city limits.

Any other ideas?

Well, on October 5, 1996, TJ Simers of the LA Times interviewed former Lakers, Kings, and Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke about where he'd build a NFL stadium in LA. He had some interesting thoughts in his head. Here's the excerpt:

Cooke, 84, says Los Angeles must have a football team. But he added, "This stadium is the last building I am going to build."

But if he had the chance in L.A., what would he do?

"I'd go into the Valley and find the biggest piece of land I could find," he said. "I remember there's a piece of land by a huge reservoir--you have to have that land for parking. And I'd build a football stadium, and immediately adjacent to it I'd build an arena."

But what about all the hoopla surrounding the proposal to build a new football stadium within the shell of the Coliseum?

"I don't think that's right at all," he said. "No parking. Half the fun of going to these games is the tailgate parties. I'd find a piece of land that has parking for 25,000 cars.

"Southern California must have an NFL franchise or two. What a pity, what's happened. I dare say if you built a 76,000-seat stadium for football and soccer out there, the thing would be a raving success.

"I know Peter O'Malley Dodger owner is a first-class fella, and you would never catch him selling PSLs. And that would be the perfect spot for a football stadium."

So is it time for the NFL in the valley? Or at Dodger Stadium? It has to be a better proposal than Toronto, which is starting make its own noise about getting an NFL team.

October 21, 2007

Sports Beat, 10-21-07

--USC appears to be regaining form after a 38-0 thrashing of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. The Trojans are getting healthier and the defense was magnificent in the win. Still, it was absolutely shocking to see how far Notre Dame has fallen in such a short period of time. People expected this to a building year for the Irish, but no one expected a Charlie Weis-coached team to have the 119th-ranked scoring offense in the country. For the sake of USC's strength of schedule, the Trojans need Notre Dame to hold up its end of the rivalry.

In the meantime, Mark Sanchez's solid play has some calling for him to be the full-time starter.

--UCLA's sensational win over Cal goes to show just how much talent the Bruins really have. It also seems like UCLA is a different team with Patrick Cowan running the show. He may not be the most skilled QB in the world and he was playing hurt against Cal. But Cowan appears to have a charisma and a way about him that brings the best out in his teammates.

It's still amazing that this team got routed by Utah and lost 20-6 to Notre Dame.

--Bill Stoneman retired as the GM of the Angels this week, and he'll be replaced by Tony Reagins. Stoneman leaves an incredible legacy in Anaheim. He brought class and integrity to the job, and the Angels organization has as solid of a foundation as any in the game. Under Stoneman, the Angels were consistenly one of the best teams in baseball, and people forget that they have completely different roster now than what they had in 2002. Stoneman made very shrewd free agent signings, but he also developed a first-class player development system.

The person who oversaw that player development system, Reagins, now takes over the GM chair. Reagins' challenge will be to upgrade the Angels' offense, while identifying which young players are most expendable. But it's important for Angels fans to remember that big bats don't grow on trees. Few teams in baseball are just dying to give up their top sluggers, and with the sport enjoying unprecedented economic prosperity, clubs can now afford to keep their homegrown stars with long-term deals. It's not as easy for big market teams to add pieces as it was a few years ago, and many criticisms of big market GMs in this regard are unfair.

Also, while Mike Scioscia will reportedly have more influence over personnel decisions, don't mistake him for a GM-manager. It's not feasible in baseball to have "coach-GMs", which you might see football or basketball. In a 162-game season, there are so many demands placed on a field manager that there are simply not enough hours in the day for him to also negotiate contracts, manage scouting and player development departments, deal with agents, discuss potential trades at length with other clubs, and tackle so many of the other complex tasks that face modern-day general managers. Make no mistake, Tony Reagins is the GM. That said, Scioscia will certainly have an influential voice in the baseball operations department, as Arte Moreno indicated. It's been said that Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox exercises more influence in player personnel than any other manager in baseball, so it will be interesting to see how Scioscia's role compares.

--The Galaxy's remarkable late-season run fell just short, as Joe Thorrington scored in the 93rd minute to give the Chicago Fire a 1-0 win over LA. The return of David Beckham (in limted action) was not enough to propel the Galaxy into the playoffs. But with a healthy Beckham next year, LA should absolutely be better next year.

LA fans still have something to look forward to in the MLS playoffs. Chivas USA clinched the best record in the Western Conference after playing Houston Dynamo to a scoreless draw.

--For years, we knew it as the LA Open. Then it was the Nissan Open. Now, LA's golf tournament has been renamed the Northern Trust Open. While it has a new name, there are no plans for the tournament to leave Riviera Country Club.

--It may have been too much too soon for the kid. Earlier this week, the LA Kings sent promising young goalie Jonathan Bernier back to his junior team in Quebec League. The Kings still like Bernier's future with the organization, but apparently the 19-year old wasn't quite ready for the show. Jason LaBarbera made his case to be the Kings' starting goaltender in a 4-2 win over Vancouver on Friday.

--Last week we noted reports indicating there is interest among several Canadian businessmen to purchase the Buffalo Bills and move them to Toronto. This week, we learned that the Bills plan to play one preseason and one regular season game in Toronto as a means of expanding their fan base. You can interpret this story however you want, but if LA doesn't want to lose out to another city for an NFL team, it might be a good time for someone with money in this town to take the reigns of our football efforts. I'd do it, but I'm a few hundred million dollars short at the moment... unless anyone wants to lend me the money...

--After 10 years, the Dodgers have returned to KABC 790 AM. Doesn't that just feel right? Growing up, I always listened to the Dodgers on 790, and it felt natural to bookmark the station on my car radio memory a few days ago. The Dodgers will keep the same broadcasting crew.

October 20, 2007

Hoffarth, by the numbers

Tom Hoffarth is doing the dirty work so that you and I don't have to. Last Sunday, he started an all-time great sports roster by number - that is, a list of the greatest SoCal athletes by the uniform number s/he wore: Jimmy Reese at #50, Bo Belinsky at #36, Ann Meyers at #15, etc.

Hoffarth has encountered at least one numeric mystery: what digits did Jackie Robinson wear while playing baseball at UCLA?

Writes Hoffarth: "At UCLA, where he attended from 1939 to the spring of 1941, [Robinson] wore No. 18 in basketball, No. 28 in football and in baseball . . . no one's quite sure.

"He only played baseball one season -- 1940 -- sporting a .097 batting average. There are photos of him in uniform, but nothing to show his number.

"UCLA's sports information department can't find any evidence of it. The Dodgers, and Baseball Hall of Fame's research department in Cooperstown, N.Y., didn't produce anything. Neither did a dig through the Amateur Athletic Foundation [now known as the LA84Foundation] nor the Pasadena City library archives."

No word as to whether Hoffarth has found out what uniform number JR wore while playing baseball at Pasadena Junior College. Meanwhile, Hoffarth will soon unveil his list of the greatest SoCal athletes who didn't wear numbers: Tiger Woods, Oscar De La Hoya, Billie Jean King, etc.

October 14, 2007

Sports Week, 10-14-07

--USC looked absolutely listless for three quarters before freshman running back Joe McKnight ignited the Trojans, en route to a 20-13 win over Arizona. Decimated by injuries on the offensive line (Sam Baker, Zack Heberer, Kris O'Dowd, Charles Brown, and Chilo Rachal, and Matt Spanos still not 100%), at running back (CJ Gable out for the season, Stafon Johnson out with a foot injury), at quarterback (John David Booty), and on defense (Ray Maualuga and Kevin Ellison), the Trojans didn't appear to be doing any of the little things that propelled them to prominence in recent years. But when Joe McKnight began getting carries and returning punts, he lifted the spirits of the entire team, and the Trojans were finally playing with passion.

USC still has a great deal of work to do. While McKnight's play was encouraging, it's way too soon (and unfair) to call him the next Reggie Bush. It appears that Mark Sanchez is in line to start again next week, and while he did make some plays, his kamikaze style of playing quarterback makes him vulnerable to mistakes. Also, USC got virtually every break against Arizona, and teams like Cal, Oregon, and Arizona State can do more on offense than just throw screen passes. But with seemingly every highly-ranked college football program losing games these days, USC still has realistic BCS hopes.

--The Lakers looked awful in two preseason losses to the Warriors in Hawaii. Some are already pressing panic buttons. But while the team's play hasn't offered much reason for optimism, it's easy to forget that Phil Jackson-coached always look terrible in the preseason. Exhibition games don't matter.

In the meantime, Jackson defended his owner Jerry Buss against comments from Kevin Garnett. For whatever reason, Garnett claims he had a choice of going to LA (reports were that Minnesota that declined a deal with the Lakers), and the new Celtic questioned the quality of Lakers ownership. We all know that Kevin Garnett is a great player, but he's only won two playoff series in his life, whereas Jerry Buss has won 8 NBA championships (more than any other active owner in professional sports).

"Where did he get his information from?" Jackson said. "What does [his] statement mean? Does he even know our organization?. . . . I don't think anybody has a better winning record as an owner than Jerry Buss. . . . He doesn't want to win? I just kind of brush that off as not understanding the situation."

--People who have been hoping beyond hope that LA will get a football team (like me), remember 1999. That was the year Houston beat out LA for the right to get an expansion team. Eight years later, it's possible that LA has a new rival in the NFL sweepstakes. Toronto Argonauts (CFL) owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski are reportedly interested in buying an NFL team and moving it to Toronto. Additionally, last fall Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, announced he was teaming with cable entrepreneur Ted Rogers in hopes of bringing the NFL to Canada's largest city.

Much of the focus has been on the Buffalo Bills, whose 89-year old owner Ralph Wilson has said he won't sell the team in his lifetime, and he won't give the team to his kids either. Earlier this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in Buffalo for Monday Night Football, and he commented on the Bills situation.

"Mr. Wilson has done a great job of that and we're hoping he's with us for a number of years going forward," Goodell said. "But whoever owns the team is going to have to make sure the team stays viable here and that becomes the real issue how do we continue to keep the community support here?"

Asked what he'd tell Bills fans concerned that the team may eventually move, Goodell said: "Keep supporting the Bills because we believe they're great fans and their support will make certain that won't happen."

--Speaking of the NFL, many local football fans are upset that CBS is showing the Chargers-Raiders game in LA, instead of the Cowboys-Patriots game which is a potential Super Bowl Preview. Personally, I want to watch them both.

--A crowd of 5,000 at the Galen Center saw the first Midnight Madness for USC basketball since 2002. Across town, the UCLA Bruins, coming off of two-straight Final Four appearances, opted not to host a Midnight Madness. Bruin fans will need to wait a bit longer to catch a glimpse of highly-touted recruit Kevin Love.

--Edson Buddle came off the bench and scored in the 78th minute last night to give the LA Galaxy a dramatic 2-1 win over Toronto FC before a sellout crowd at the Home Depot Center. The Galaxy have come from nowhere to re-enter the MLS playoff race, and David Beckham may be healthy enough to come back and play in either Thursday night's home finale against New York or Saturday's regular season finale at Chicago.

LA's other MLS team, Chivas USA (which has the best record in the Western Conference), got some bad news yesterday. Chivas USA coach Preki announced that star forward Ante Razov will be out for four to six weeks with a knee sprain, meaning he may not play again this season.

October 11, 2007

Kobe Talk

Mike Bresnahan interviews a very candid Jerry Buss in today's LA Times. The Lakers owner admitted exploring the possibility of accommodating Kobe Bryant's pseudo-trade request in the offseason, but that no offer was close to good enough. He even claims to have told Bryant about these trade offers.

Additionally, Buss openly discussed the team's failed efforts at trading for Kevin Garnett, talked vaguely about other trade possibilities that arose in the offseason, expressed hope that Phil Jackson will stay as coach beyond this season, and once again stated his intention to ultimately give the team to his son Jim and daughter Jeanie.

This article underscores just how difficult it is to make anything big happen in the NBA today. The rules of the game have changed. There's a salary cap, a luxury tax, maximum player salaries, and rules that prevent uneven salary balances in trades. In today's NBA, teams win by drafting brilliantly, scouting internationally, developing young players quickly, and getting a little bit of luck. Relying on trades and free agency may be a quick fix, but has a lower probability of being a success or becoming a reality. The Lakers' inability to get another "big piece" to complement Bryant isn't due to lack of skill or effort. As Buss points out, it has as much to do with circumstances as anything. Since few teams are willing to send their all-star players to Los Angeles, the Lakers will need to be innovative to win with Bryant in the near-future.

October 9, 2007

Staying Alive

When David Beckham went down a few weeks ago, most assumed that the Galaxy's season was effectively over. In fact, not long ago, the Galaxy were 4-13-5, and many fans were looking forward to 2008 with a healthy Beckham.

Well a funny thing happened on the way to the end of the year. The Galaxy have now won four in row, they're now 8-13-6, and a playoff berth is actually possible. On Sunday, Gavin Glinton's goal in the 77th minute sealed a dramatic 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo, the defending MLS Cup champions.

The Galaxy have three games remaining -- two at home against Toronto and New York before finishing at Chicago -- and they may very well need to win all three in order to reach the postseason. The odds are against them, but it helps to finish the season against the Fire, the team they're chasing. And the Galaxy may get a boost from Beckham, who is hoping to return before the season's end.

Quarterback Quandaries

USC and UCLA are facing serious questions at quarterback right now due to both injuries and ineffectiveness.

At USC, backup Mark Sanchez took all of the first-team reps in practice yesterday while John David Booty nursed his broken finger. For now, the Trojan coaching staff will move forward, assuming that Booty won't play against Arizona. But if Booty is healthy enough, then it sounds like he will play.

USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was asked if Sanchez could ever play over a healthy Booty.

Booty has "done a lot for this program, he's played extremely well in big football games, and he had an unlucky second half, really," Sarkisian said, adding, "As always around here, competition is always open at every position. If he went out and struggled this week in practice and wasn't very good and Mark played good, then yeah, it might be a topic of conversation."

While it might be too soon for some people to think about 2008, this is worth considering: any playing time that Sachez gets this year, will give him a leg up on next year's competition with Mitch Mustain. You may remember that Mustain was the highly-touted Arkansas recruit who went 8-0 as the Razorbacks starter last year before transferring to USC after his high school coach and college coordinator was forced out of Fayatteville. Right now, Mustain is busy running the scout team as he's required to sit out this season.

At UCLA, the picture is much worse. Ben Olson will undergo arthroscopic surgery today on his partially torn lateral collateral ligament, and has been ruled out of the Bruins' Oct. 20 game against Cal. Patrick Cowan is still recovering from a partial tear of his MCL, and his status remains uncertain. McLeod Bethel-Thompson struggled mightily against Notre Dame, and Bruins fans would be nervous to see him drop back in the pocket again.

If Cowan can't play against Cal, and the Bruins decide that Bethel-Thompson isn't right for the challenge, then UCLA could go with Osaar Rasshan who had moved to wide receiver earlier this season. Another option, is freshman Chris Forcier, but UCLA wants to redshirt him this season. It's possible that Karl Dorrell will need to rethink that.

October 7, 2007

Sports Week, 10-7-07

Here's what happened this week in LA sports...

--USC's loss to Stanford was absolutely shocking. The Trojans are ridiculously talented, but it's very uncharacteristic of a Pete Carroll-team to play such a lackluster game two weeks in a row. I'm really surprised that this team hasn't gelled yet.

Some on campus are already calling for John David Booty to benched in favor of Mark Sanchez. I don't know if that's the answer. But I do know that it's awfully tough to throw a football accurately with a fractured finger.

And BTW... let's clear this up... USC does still have a chance for a national title. They have highly-ranked opponents ahead on their schedule, and it's no certainty that teams like Ohio State and Boston College will stay undefeated all season. That said, USC needs to focus on just playing good football right now. They can't look too far ahead.

If the Trojans want a trip to New Orleans in January, then they will need to win out, score major style points in all of their wins (especially against Cal and Oregon), and they need a little bit of help from the teams ranked ahead of them. It's possible, but it shouldn't be on their minds yet.

--I was at the Rose Bowl for UCLA's loss to Notre Dame. If someone could tell me why the Linda Vista and Orange Grove exits on the 134 were closed as well as the Arroyo exit on the 210, I'd love to know. It made for an adventurous drive on the way into the stadium.

As for the game, McLeod Bethel-Thompson seemed overwhelmed in relief of the injured Ben Olson, and his four interceptions killed the Bruins. Notre Dame didn't do a whole lot besides capitalizing off turnovers. UCLA became the first team to fail to score 30 points against the Irish this season, and it was also the first time Charlie Weis' struggling group managed 20 points in 2007. Now, it's possible that UCLA could turn to wide receiver Osaar Rasshan to play quarterback in their next game.

In other local college football news... I pointed this out a few weeks ago, but I'll point it out again. There were over 85,000 fans at the Coliseum for USC-Stanford at 4 PM, and over 78,000 fans at the Rose Bowl for UCLA-Notre Dame at 5 PM. Who says LA doesn't love football? Over 163,000 people in SoCal were attending a football game at the same time on Saturday.

--50 years ago today, the Los Angeles City Council voted to give Chavez Ravine to Walter O'Malley, paving the way for the Dodgers to move here. LA sports would be changed forever. The story of how the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn is fascinating, but it's filled with misconceptions. Steve Springer of the LA Times tells it accurately in the Sunday paper.

Springer also has a Q&A with Vin Scully, which is a must-read.

--The Angels were officially swept by the Boston Red Sox today, bringing their terrific season to a swift and disappointing end. There isn't a baseball team on the planet that could have hit Josh Beckett in Game 1. The Halos probably should have won Game 2, but let it slip into a tie, and then watched Manny Ramirez hit the longest walkoff homer I've ever seen. In Game 3, the Sox hitters flexed their muscles, and just like that, the season was over. Now, the big question is if the Angels (or the Dodgers) will make a run at Alex Rodriguez, should he be available.

--In light of the upcoming Colorado-Arizona NLCS, Jim Alexander of the Riverside Press-Enterprise wonders if the balance of power in the NL West has shifted from Southern California with the Dodgers and Padres to the Mountain Time Zone with the Rockies and D'Backs. In truth, all four teams are great, but it's worth noting that Arizona and Colorado have been successful because of their outstanding scouting and player development departments. Both teams have put significant trust in the phenomenal young players they've developed, and it's paying off now.

--The city of Oceanside backed out of a proposal to build a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers will now reportedly focus their efforts on getting a new stadium built in Chula Vista. Efforts for a stadium deal in National City failed earlier this year. The Chargers have long been on the short-list of teams that could possibly move to LA. If Chula Vista doesn't work out, then expect LA to make its way back into the conversation for the Bolts' future home.

--Finally, the Lakers are in Hawaii, and Kobe Bryant appears to be giving it his all for the Purple and Gold. This week, Lamar Odom said he wants to be a Laker for life, while legendary big man coach Pete Newell said he has been impressed with the development of Andrew Bynum. It's easy to forget that Bynum isn't even 20 years old yet, but Laker fans are expecting an awful lot of growth to happen very quickly.