A Mike Tirico Press Release

By T.J. Simers

Sam Farmer turned over his fluff reporting to the only man who could do better, the guy paid to hype the British Open on TV.

Ingenious. NBC-TV’s Mike Tirico does all the work and Sam maintains his reputation as the LA Times’ chief schmoozer.

The hype begins almost right away. Sam tells us by way of introduction that “In 25 years covering the Open Championship, the NBC golf commentator has seen his appreciation for this place only grow.”

He’s seen it, I’m happy for him, but why do I need to read about it? Hello, friends, isn’t it enough that we have to find the courage some weekends to watch golf with Jim Nance announcing?

In those 25 years that Tirico has covered the Open, this is only the fifth time they are at the Old Course because the tournament rotates from here to there. It is Tirico’s job to supply the reverential commentary to the TV pictures to help drive up the ratings. Next year the reverential whisper will come from Royal Liverpool.

I can’t say for sure if this is the first time the Times has struck a partnership with NBC to help its cause, but I know it has a deal already to promote ESPN by providing columnist Bill Plaschke regularly.

It is against the Times’ Ethics Guidelines for Plaschke to give his freelance insights to ESPN for financial gain. Unless, of course, the Times can benefit, the Times getting a TV camera from ESPN years ago to use on other projects in the Times’ newsroom.

Many years ago, vaunted baseball writer Bob Nightengale got fired for sending his work to SI.

Nightengale claimed the Times fired him for writing articles about racism in sports. He hired famed attorney Johnny Cochran, but the lawsuit never really gained traction. As someone who has been there and done that, it is an excruciating process.

Nightengale is presently a highly regarded baseball columnist for USA Today.

I found it interesting to read Nightengale’s Wikipedia page, which reads: “During his time at the (LA Times), he worked alongside baseball journalism contemporary Bill Plaschke.”

I had drinks with columnist Mike Royko at the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, and that beats working alongside Plaschke any day of the week so big whoop.

Now as for that ESPN camera, Around the Horn and Plaschke boosting the network’s rating, read that sentence again and tell me if that could possibly be accurate.

Plaschke replaced me on Around the Horn, and there is no question that was an upgrade. But the newspaper’s relationship with ESPN has always been hypocritical, the ESPN website a direct competitor of the Times and having Plaschke pass on his thoughts to the ESPN website every week would be a firing offense.

I can’t imagine watching Around the Horn, though, without Plaschke on it, and read that sentence again and tell me if that could possibly be accurate.

As for allowing NBC to tout the British open in the Times without paying for an ad, the newspaper is going out of business.

Mike Tirico works for NBC, but I don’t know if it is against the Times’ ethics to promote him, after all, he used to work for ESPN. I just know it’s a pretty good scam if you can get somebody else to write your story.

And Tirico has to just love the headline in the Times over his story: “FIRST PERSON—A SPECIAL SOMETHING.” I have never thought of Tirico as a special something. Salma Hayek maybe.

The headline continued: “Tirico, NBC’s broadcaster for the British Open, affirms exactly what makes the Old Course so revered.”

Shouldn’t a real golfer who has been out there whacking the golf ball affirm exactly what makes the Old Course so revered? Golfers have to play well to get paid and know every corner of the place; yapping TV heads just have to let the TV pictures tell the story.

I would have had Tiger Woods give us a FIRST PERSON story on the Old Course because he’s got nothing else to do the next couple of days. That would have really been A SPECIAL SOMETHING.

The Steady Thrum of Sam Farmer

By T.J. Simers

Sam’s back at it.

The LA Times sent Sam Farmer to England to cover Wimbledon, and now on to Scotland for golf. Keep in mind they won’t send a beat reporter with the Angels when they travel in California.

If I was still working at the Times, I would want to know what Sam has on the editors. We already know the Times’ editors aren’t the swiftest, a story this week on the front page of the newspaper recounting why the top two editors were fired a while back.

At first blush, an England-Scotland boondoggle sounds super-duper but that probably means Sam had to take his wife with him. It’s like an all-expenses paid getaway, and no offense, but a distraction unless most days you don’t have to interview the athletes.

I remember writing years ago, let’s see what kind of golfer Tiger Woods will be after he gets married and gets distracted by a wife chasing him and swinging a wedge over his head.

It’s the same way for a reporter, his work No. 1 while covering an event in Inglewood, overtime or not, writing his story and then going home late at night. But you go to England or Scotland with the wife in tow and it’s a vacation for her, and I’ll betcha the guys sitting on the copy desk back in the good old USA never get the chance to treat their wives the same way. I wonder if they hear about it?

But then if you take the wife to a strange and different land like Scotland, who is going to leave their wives wandering the taverns alone?

I’m beginning to understand why Sam gave us the life of a hawk at Wimbledon, the difference between fluffy and not-so-fluffy tennis balls followed by a report on an old-timer’s shoes. You knock those stories out early, and instead of hanging around to watch tennis matches, you can be back with the wife before the second-helping of strawberries and cream.

They were beautifully written stories, of course, if you are into hawks, balls and shoes; but for the guys sitting on the desk who have to explain to their wives Big Bear in the summer is just a fine vacation, I don’t like their chances of nibbling on crumpets or slurping tea.

As for Times’ readers, it’s not like the Times isn’t covering the golf tournament or the tennis. The newspaper had Doug Ferguson writing a real, legitimate golf story, and while the newspaper is trying to pull a fast one by using a “Doug Ferguson” byline, at the very bottom of his story it makes mention that Doug writes for the Associated Press.

Several others working for the AP reported on the tennis for the Times. Odd, because the reason big papers send their own writers to big events is to avoid having to use the Associated Press.

Water under the London Bridge, let’s fast forward to see what Sam is giving us from the golf tournament: A tent city and a picture Sam took of “Camp leader Tom Critchley.” Always wondered what Tom looked like.

“We are the largest hotel in Scotland this week,” Tom is quoted as saying, and that’s why I buy the LA Times’ sports pages to get information I could not get elsewhere.

He also gave us a picture of Simon, Elaine and daughter Emma sitting on the grass, and I’ll take Sam’s word that the patch of grass is in Scotland and not Brea.

Sam writes: “The sun is setting over the birthplace of golf, casting the majestic Old Course in rose gold.” That reads like a Plaschke column, only a month ago someone would have been killed on that spot.

“Massive grandstands are in place for the 150th Open Championship,” writes Sam, “And the flags atop them snap in the steady breeze. On a giant banner under the leaderboard, this year’s slogan: Everything has led to this.”

I have no idea what that means, and Sam doesn’t attempt to explain, but there’s no golf being played yet, no reason to check out the leaderboard and as Sam writes: “With the spectators gone for the day, the course is empty.”

And this is the main story on the first page of sports, no golf, no scores, no spectators. Read on: “But there’s a soft thrum of pop music in the distance, and, as you walk toward it, the happy chatter of kids playing soccer.”

What is it about the LA Times, and always soccer, a Dylan Hernandez column, a Kevin Baxter story and now Sam going to Scotland to cover soccer?

He does not tell us the score of this soccer game, and probably no one did score because it is soccer. But he writes about the tents that are there so people can sleep between matches, while offering his best line in two weeks: “Rest your head here and you have — in golf terms — an ideal lie.”

I’d like to see someone sitting on the copy desk trying to come up with that; that’s brilliant writing. Maybe that should be the LA Times motto: You want pretty writing, we’ll send our people all over the world to give it to you.

I know this, as hard as Sam has been working, he’s going to need a vacation.

Dining on Quail or Pigeon Parts

By T.J. Simers

I’ve tweeted about this twice today because when a newspaper like the LA Times hits rock bottom I think it should be noted.

Under the storied Times’ “Column One” logo on the very front of the newspaper, Sam Farmer writes about Rufus, the hawk. Be still my beating heart.

I’m sure the story is well-written, although tough to say while laughing so hard, but Rufus’ job, when not dominating the headlines from both sides of the ocean, is to hunt and viciously kill.

I have no idea if this has anything to do with Rafael Nadal withdrawing from Wimbledon, but if Rufus could be trained to take out .220 hitters in baseball the game might get a much-needed makeover.

More than Rufus, my concern is Sam. The Times sent him all the way to England to write about Wimbledon, but so far he’s given us a story about the Chargers’ coach who gee-whiz-golly-gee got to go to the tennis tournament. And now Rufus.

If the guy has such an aversion to tennis players, I share his feelings. I took a look online to see if Sam was writing about tennis athletes and found this: “One of the coolest things about Wimbledon, the best souvenirs, is you can buy the game-used balls after the matches.”

I’d ask for the Nadal balls since they probably weren’t used that much, but whatever, you don’t get coverage of Wimbledon like this anywhere else.

I found another Sam story online, so he’s been typing a lot. He wrote this: “You’re looking for a lack of fluff,” and I can’t say that I ever have, but he goes on to write, “Why Wimbledon uses 55,000 tennis balls a year. ”

That wasn’t a question I had, but he writes that, “Tennis balls age like a pitcher of cream in the sun.”

I probably don’t need to tell you Sam is the Times’ football writer, or why he was counting tennis balls in Europe while the USFL championship game was being played over here. How he knows how cream ages, I don’t know.

But Sam’s quest for anything but tennis in Wimbledon continues with a story on Chargers’ coach Brandon Staley, who got to sit in Pete Sampras’ seats at Centre Court presumably because Sampras wasn’t there or there were no big matches.

As for Rufus, who also had his story told at the same time in The Guardian by reporter Sirin Kale, Kale reported that Rufus was eating defrosted quail while Sam had Rufus eating pigeon parts.

Tough to say who really nailed it, but my subscription is on Sam, who probably tasted the snacks in the name of accuracy. Remember he’s a football writer, and as long as it’s free, he’ll eat anything.

Over the years I took my chances in writing off-topic while at a big event, the Times’ lawyers suggesting at trial that I did the newspaper wrong when I went to a cemetery on Mother’s Day instead of an Angels game. Had there been any sign of life with the Angels, I would have gone there.

I commend Sam on taking a chance to write about Rufus for a dying newspaper and will pass on the name and number of my lawyer.