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Jerry West’s Portrayal in ‘Winning Time’ Drawing Objections From Colleagues

The series has “done a grave injustice to Jerry… but a huge disservice to the show’s viewers, who will think that it’s a true and accurate portrayal of reality.” 

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Viewers of HBO’s Winning Time, a dramatized series about the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers and the evolution of their championship dynasty, might be surprised by the portrayal of franchise legend and NBA icon Jerry West.

Played by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Winning Time’s depiction of West is of a perpetually unhappy man prone to swings of anger and depression, consumed by a insatiable appetite for winning and control. Faced with the team drafting 6-foot-9 point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson, West is also slow to adapt to innovation, determined that a player that tall should be in the frontcourt.

Those accustomed to West’s public persona as a smart, fiercely competitive, but apparently gentle man will likely find the fictionalized version of West as a rage monster prone to breaking golf clubs over his knee, throwing trophies through windows, and secluding himself in his den as a shock. Also surely jarring was a sex scene involving West and a woman he picked up at a bar after winning the 1972 NBA championship and drinking alone.

Evidently, those who actually know West feel Winning Time‘s portrayal is entirely inaccurate. Longtime Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti told The Athletic’s Bill Oram that he was offered a role in the series but objected to how West was depicted in the script, calling it “a total mischaracterization.”

Former Lakers player and general manager Mitch Kupchak (who was the assistant GM under West) said the person shown on screen “is not the same guy,” and never lost his temper. Another former team executive said anonymously that the series has “done a grave injustice to Jerry… but a huge disservice to the show’s viewers, who will think that it’s a true and accurate portrayal of reality.” 

Those who spoke to Oram are consistent in their assertion that West didn’t show his temper, but probably internalized his emotions. He carried himself as a gentleman, not someone who was frequently angry and cursing around the Lakers’ offices.

Veteran NBA writer Marc Stein, whose coverage is now available on Substack, also objected to the portrayal of West.

“The West presented in Winning Time was absurdly, embarrassingly one note and left out any hint of the wisdom, leadership and charm that made him a franchise pillar for decades and one of the greatest Lakers ever,” Stein wrote. “The worst part: Younger fans of the Lakers and the NBA in general, who missed Showtime in real time and have turned to this series for an education, are bound to believe West was this unhinged.”

Prior to Winning Time‘s premiere on HBO, reports of dissatisfaction from the NBA, the Lakers, and several players portrayed in the series weren’t happy with the dramatization. After viewing the first two episodes, that view is understandable. Neither West nor Johnson are depicted very flatteringly.

While it should be understood that this isn’t a documentary, it’s a fictionalization that exaggerates, the concern that some might perceive this as the truth is a valid concern and open to criticism.

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Stugotz: ‘Sean McDonough Hates The Aaron Judge Cut-Ins’

“If you look at the numbers, if you look at the interest, if you look at the revenue that it generates for the networks, it makes more sense to have an Aaron Judge at-bat interrupted by an Iowa State field goal attempt than it does the other way around.”

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College football fans are not being shy with how they feel about Aaron Judge. Whether it is private conversations or social media posts, people are making their disdain for the cut-ins to college football games on ESPN networks when the Yankee slugger comes to bat known. On Monday morning, Stugotz added that it isn’t just fans that are unhappy.

The Dan Le Batard Show discussed the second straight week of cut-ins on Monday morning. Stugotz pointed out that one of ESPN’s primary college football voices sounds just as annoyed as fans are.

“Sean McDonough hates the toss to Aaron Judge,” he said. Hates it!”

Last week, ESPN and ABC cut into games when Judge was sitting on 60 home runs. This week, he was sitting on 61. A 62nd home run would be the most in American League history.

Stugotz added that has to be part of McDonough’s frustration.

“In his defense, what are we cutting in for? I have no idea if [Aaron Judge] is breaking a record, what record he’s breaking, if he’s clean. I have no idea!”

Producer Mike Ryan Ruiz said the fact that Judge is yet to deliver is making the cut-ins more frustrating for fans.

“I think what hurts the whole thing is that Aaron Judge has been terrible during these cut-ins,” Ruiz said. “He’s been God awful during these cut-ins. I haven’t seen a single home runs during one of these cut-ins. There was genuine fury at a watch party I was at. Fury! At Aaron Judge.”

A popular criticism of ESPN has been that this kind of attention would not be paid to Aaron Judge if he was chasing a mark that wasn’t the home run record if he played anywhere other than New York. According to Ryan, the mistake is bigger than that. Why would regular season baseball ever interrupt college football?

“If you look at the numbers, if you look at the interest, if you look at the revenue that it generates for the networks, it makes more sense to have an Aaron Judge at-bat interrupted by an Iowa State field goal attempt than it does the other way around.”

There are four games left in Major League Baseball’s regular season. You can bet college football fans will make plenty of signs for College GameDay if Judge cannot hit number 62 before the playoffs start.

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Terry Bradshaw Is Cancer Free

Bradshaw’s candor comes after struggling through a sentence during the September 25th edition of the show, in which Howie Long helped finish his sentence.

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During FOX NFL Sunday, Terry Bradshaw revealed he was diagnosed with two different forms of cancer in the last year.

However, after surgeries and treatments, Bradshaw said he is now cancer free.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer said he was diagnosed with bladder cancer in November of last year and surgery and treatments removed the cancer. Then, in March of this year, a tumor was found on the left-side of his neck. Bradshaw called it a “Merkel cell tumor”, which he had removed.

Bradshaw’s candor comes after struggling through a sentence during the September 25th edition of the show, in which Howie Long helped finish his sentence.

The 74-year-old has worked on FOX NFL Sunday since its inception in 1994. He will be inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame later this year.

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Sports TV News

Scott Van Pelt’s ‘Bad Beats’ Becoming 30-Minute Monthly Show

Van Pelt, alongside “Stanford Steve” Coughlin, recaps the toughest losses suffered by sports gamblers with unconventional final moments and unexpected outcomes as it pertains to the over/under or point spread.

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The popular “Bad Beats” segment from SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt is being turned into a monthly half-hour show on ESPN.

Van Pelt, alongside “Stanford Steve” Coughlin, recaps the toughest losses suffered by sports gamblers with unconventional final moments and unexpected outcomes as it pertains to the over/under or point spread, otherwise known as a “bad beat”. Generally, the segment lasts around 5-10 minutes. ESPN will repurpose the content from the show to package it into a half-hour edition.

The new monthly show debuted yesterday at 5:30 PM ET on ESPN.

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