NFLSunday, January 20NFC Championship: L.A. Rams at New Orleans, noon, FoxAFC Championship: New England at Kansas City, 3:40 p.m., CBS
After a gap of 22 seasons, long enough for any NFL fan to forget, people questioned if the Los Angeles Rams, the first pro team in town, could regain its status in a city it turned away from, twice.
It was a relevant question. In 1980, the team left the Coliseum for Anaheim Stadium, leaving west side and valley fans adrift. In 1995, they blew town altogether, taking St. Louis money and running.
But at least one person believed the Rams would regain their status, that the ties that had been severed would be revived simply because there was history at play: NBC NFL play-by-play ace Al Michaels.
When Michaels was 14-years-old and new to town after his family left Brooklyn, his dad took him to a 1958 Rams game at the Coliseum against the Chicago Bears. Attendance was 100,407.
The Rams beat the Bears, 41-35, with Jon Arnett earning 166 total yards on the day and Touchdown Tommy Wilson scoring three times.
“I grew up with Ram fans my entire life after my family moved west’’ Michaels said. “The Rams were always part of the city’s fabric. I mean, Southern California is 40 times larger today than it was then. So if you can draw 100,000 in 1958, you can’t tell me the Rams can’t draw 75,000 in 2019.’’
The Rams also won an NFL title in 1951, establishing themselves as the first professional champion years before the Dodgers and Lakers moved west.
“Even with their absence, they returned as part of Southern California’s past, and that wasn’t going to change. Some things are just always going to be the same. Lakers over Clippers. Dodgers over Angels. Kings over Ducks. Rams over Chargers. It’s history.
“The Cubs won a World Series (2016) and it ended a 100 years of not having won one, and it was such a huge things. It’s like people in Chicago didn’t care that the White Sox had won a World Series in 2005. Does anyone talk about the White Sox in Chicago?’’
“The Rams are playing in the Coliseum,’’ he added, which, crumbling or not, also has history, dating back to 1932, “`and the Chargers are playing in a soccer stadium. I think the Rams have already regained its fan base, especially this season since they have a chance at playing in the Super Bowl.’’
Here’s a salient point to consider. Fox had a choice to make this weekend in which game its No. 1 broadcast team, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, would work, the one between the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles and NFC top seed New Orleans, or the Rams and Cowboys game, two well-known teams’ years from their last postseason success.
They chose the Rams-Cowboys. “They kind of left it up to us,” Buck told Sports Illustrated last week. “It just felt like Cowboys-Rams had a feel to it … the potential of being a spectacle.’’ And also a toss to history. Aikman, the former Cowboy, thought his old team was capable of winning and reigniting the franchise’s status. Instead, it’s the other throwback.
The top broadcast teams will work the conference championships, Buck-Aikman for the Rams and Saints, and Jim Nantz-Tony Romo at CBS for the AFC title game.
BEST OF THE RESTCOLLEGE FOOTBALLJanuary 20
And here you thought it was over. The East-West Shrine game, one of several post-season all-star games for college seniors, will air on the NFL Network Sunday at noon. The game is being held in St. Petersburg.
Marcus McMaryion (Fresno State), Brett Rypien (Boise St.) and Easton Stick (North Dakota State) are the QBs for the West. Stick is someone to watch, having won two NCAA FCS titles for the same program that gave the NFL Carson Wentz. UCLA cornerback Adarius Pickett is also on the West team.
COLLEGE BASKETBALLJanuary 14, 19
ESPN has the Texas-Kansas game tonight (6 p.m.) and ESPN3 Wednesday’s Big West rivalry game between Long Beach State and UC Irvine (7 p.m.).
Saturday, ESPN has a SEC/ACC doubleheader, Kentucky-Auburn (1 p.m.) followed by top five teams Virginia and Duke (3 p.m.). The Pac-12 network has the USC-UCLA 1 p.m. game.
With so many games approaching 250 combined points per game, mid-season NBA games may be watchable after all.
TNT has the Lakers at Oklahoma City Thursday (6:30 p.m.), ESPN the Golden State-L.A. Clippers test Friday (7:30 p.m.), and ABC a Saturday doubleheader, OKC at Philadelphia (12:30 p.m.) and the Lakers at Houston (5:30 p.m.).
AUSTRALIAN OPENJanuary 14-20
The first Grand Slam of the season gets underway with lingering issues: Roger Federer is 37; can he stay atop the sport? Will Andy Murray’s retirement season at 31 be a melancholy affair? Will Serena Williams finally win her record 24th Grand Slam, or will she get upset again by some millennial, say Aryna Sabalenko, the current rage?
ESPN2 has continuous coverage starting with three air times – midnight for early action, then a mid-day session (starting at 9 a.m. Thursday-Friday and 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday), followed by a prime time slot that will begin at 6 p.m. most days.
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