There’s a quote from Homer that often rattles around in our head.
‘Twas Homer Simpson, not the more famous poet, who famously once remarked: “Hmmmmm. TV. The beautiful distraction from the certainty of death.”
The death of local TV sports news has been called for a few years now, since the ESPN “SportsCenter” took over the immediacy of highlights, and the time on the 11 o’clock report has been trimmed up to a tidy two minutes. If that.
It must still be relevant to someone, somewhere, at some point. Like those who still work there.
It’s OK if you haven’t seen it done in a while. We confess as much.
Maybe it was after that time we saw on a local sportscast where the anchor was getting excited about his three-minute piece on cupstacking.
The golden age may have gone, but there remains some holdovers, some who have bigger plans, others who can’t believe they’re still cashing checks.
Here’s what we have, and then we scoot on to other urgent matters:
CURT SANDOVAL/KABC Channel 7
If one still takes any of this seriously, realizing there is still some juice left in this medium, Sandoval is the one who reached out beyond that of a weekend anchor and thrives on going out in the field to do stories that matter. There is always something of depth and quality, going back to when he first came to the station in 1999 and has a couple of local Emmys to show for it, as well as a wife, Jeanne Zelasko, who makes them the power sports couple of L.A. Sandoval continues to raise awareness and funds for the Challenged Athletes Foundation by doing long-distance running/ironman competitions. We can only offer him a cup of water and a pat on the back for continued successes.
JIM HILL/KCBS Channel 2 and KCAL Channel 9
Now it can be told: Fifty years ago, when Hill was a second-year defensive back with the San Diego Chargers, he was recruited to join some teammates to make a Christmas holiday record, singing the usual stuff like “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells.”
We found this shot of Hill – check out the pants – during rehearsals. Seriously, does he look much different?
Today, the reverence that James Webster Hill still has at age 72 from a position of longevity – you don’t get to throw out a question as a live media press conference until Hill asks the first generic one – says enough about how his TV teammates respect his standings in the community. Then again, after he received another community award a couple of years ago, and the KCBS news team aired the banquet highlights, the anchor added: “On top of all his achievement, he’s really such a nice guy, too.”
Not too long ago, Hill seriously considered going over to the Dodgers’ SportsNet LA when it first launched to anchor their nightly news show (John Hartung eventually got it). Would that have changed his legacy? His broadcasting career started at KNX-Channel 2 in the early 1980s and, after a brief jump to KABC Channel 7 from 1988-’92, he’s been the KCBS sports director ever since. He was also No. 2,311 when it came to giving him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame some 13 years ago. All that said, no one cocks his head at the perfect angle when the newscasts ends, winks at Garth Kemp, and throws it over to the Stephen Colbert show.
FRED ROGGIN/KNBC Channel 4
The other longtime L.A. sports anchor – “The Dean” as some call him – has no reason to venture off into sports-talk radio, or continue to capitalize on creating shows like “Going Roggin” (it should actually be “Goin’ Roggin” … or “Goin’ South” to reflect whatever two two guests weekly submit to appearing) or “The Challenge.” But the 61-year-old keeps challenging himself after dozens of Golden Mikes and L.A. Emmys and his own production company that once did the L.A. Marathon. By the way, he did not get full price – asking $3 mil – for that Calabasas pad. Some things just don’t always break his way.
ROB FUKUZAKI/KABC Channel 7
He’s not at all in jeopardy of having his desk snatched away, no matter if you know or don’t know the home city of the Rose Bowl. A recent induction to the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame, his Heads Up Youth Foundation has already passed the 20-year mark in fundraising. Perhaps his most visible work now has been on the NBA Saturday night post-game shows, trying to corral verbiage out of Norm Nixon or Michael Cooper. Rob, too, has some recent real estate news (see a trend here?).
Seriously we can’t fill the final six slots with an “in memoriam” scroll, even if they’re still among us:
Thanks for the sorted memories, Tom Harmon, Gil Stratton, Dick Enberg, Ross Porter, Jim Healy, Bryant Gumbel, Jim Lampley, Keith Olbermann, Stu Nahan, “Fast Eddie” Alexander, Ted Dawson, Joe Fowler, Rebecca Hall, Vic Jacobs, Bret Lewis, Rick Garcia, Tony Hernandez, Rory Markas and Steve Somers.
Oh, right, and Bill Weir, Todd Donoho, Roy Firestone, Pat O’Brien, Ed Arnold, Gary Miller, Gene Washington, Jill Arrington, Kristine Leahy, Bill Seward, Mark Steines, Rick Garcia, Gary Cruz, Newy Scruggs …
If we missed you by this point, we really haven’t missed you.
Honorable mention: Derrin Horton and Steve Hartman, KTLA; Mario Solis, KNBC; Jamie Maggio, KCBS/KCAL, Kevin Cuenca, KCBS
LIZ HABIB and PABLO ALSINA/KTTV Channel 11
We last tracked this duo down during the local coverage of the Dodgers’ World Series appearance, noting their most notable contribution to the national telecast in a pre- and post-game capacity was the ability to complain about the coldness. Steve Garvey and Jose Mota were comfortably in studio. However, they’ve made more a mess of the fact they now pop up on a very rudimentary version of a pre- and post-game local window in connections with Rams’ games on Fox, and decide they’ve got more to say about Xs and Os than their guests, Vince Ferragamo and Jackie Slater (and Danny Trejo if one really wants to stretch this). Watching Habib scold them all for things they blurt out feels like something out of a “Green Acres” episode, with Zsa-Zsa Gabor crying out the window at Arnold Ziffle.
We also noted back in 2012, Habib had this habit of mispronouncing players names (Anze “Kopidoor” Kopitar and “Brady Doty” for Drew Doughty). It has not been fixed. It has only become more pronounced.
It might be beneficial to all to end the superficial attempt at supplementing national sports telecasts with this sort of local slant appeal. Just a suggestion. Unless they figure out how to get some TMZ reporters involved.
Oh, and that tweet above? Hang on. Let us write that down. It’s golden info.
ASHLEY BREWER/KABC Channel 7
We didn’t want to have to go here, but when TheBigLead.com released a list of the “19 Sports Media Talents Set to Break Out in 2019,” and forced us to click through to a Ashley Brewer post of where she’s taking a photo with Tiger Woods … does she get any PR advice over there at the Glendale offices? Ah, she was co-hosting a Celebrity Cup event with Woods at Riviera Country Club. This is fine. More likely here truer calling than reading scores and narrating highlights. But if she’s on the “fast-track to stardom” that will “manifest itself” because of her work on ABC’s “The Bachelor” (not as a contestant) that lead into her “crticially acclaimed work on ABC Los Angeles” (by whom?) then we aren’t sure how she will be “a name to keep an eye on for several sportscasting jobs on the national level with her contract expiring in a year.” Ah, there’s the end game. More power to her, if that happens. The experience in the local sports news biz is more of a networking exercise for a network gig. Many have done so before. May the force be with you.
If there are a fourth and fifth deserving to be here, we’ve run out of energy to even finish this off. Back in the day, it might have been much easier. Now …