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ESPN Series Gets More Critical Disclaim

Times Staff Writer

ESPN’s dramatic series “Playmakers” has been criticized by reviewers and the NFL for its unoriginal and stereotypical portrayals of professional football players as drug-abusers, womanizers and worse.

Now the Assn. for Women in Sports Media has protested a story line that revolves around a flirtatious female reporter who enters the locker room and touches a player suggestively.

The character is played by actress-real-life reporter Thea Andrews, who also appears on the ESPN2 program, “Cold Pizza.”

“You can have a fictional story with nonfictional entities,” said Jim Cohen, ESPN vice president and executive producer of “Cold Pizza” when asked to explain Andrews’ questionable cross-over role.

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“These days you see TV people playing themselves in fictional movies all the time. She wasn’t even playing herself. If she was playing herself, I think I would have a problem.”

Trivia time: The New York Yankees, as anyone who’s had to sit next to a Yankee fan at a game will tell you, have won 26 World Series championships, tops in major league history. Which team is second on the all-time list?

Ranting: Greg Blache, assistant coach for the Chicago Bears, colorfully defended cornerback Charles Tillman’s right to criticize the officials, as he did the last two weeks.

“I believe in the Constitution that gave people the freedom of speech, and it’s not my position to take that freedom away,” Blache said.

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“If [Tillman] has a comment he wants to make, and he feels good with it, and he can afford the fine the commissioner’s sending him, that’s his business. I’m not going to start putting gag orders on guys and say let’s be subservient and bow our heads and if you feel like you got kicked just bow your head and shuffle off. That’s not the way I want them to be. I like them to stand tall.”

Aging gracefully: Members of the 1948 City College of San Francisco football team, led by future NFL Hall of Fame running back Ollie Matson, are set to gather for their 55th reunion Saturday. Said Burl Toler Sr.: “I’m 75, and when I wake up every day, I say, ‘Man, I made another one.’ ”

For what it’s worth, Toler’s son, Burl Jr., was a linebacker at California in the 1970s and his grandson, Burl III, is a starting wide receiver on the current Golden Bear team.

Comfort food: Wesley Person, guard for the Memphis Grizzlies, said he enjoyed dining in Paris when the team played exhibitions there recently. “We found a McDonald’s,” he told a Memphis newspaper. “The best Big Mac I’ve ever had. The bread is great over here.”

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Trivia answer: The St. Louis Cardinals with nine, the last in 1982.

And finally: ESPN’s Internet site had to overturn voting in a poll to determine the best uniforms in sports, when it was learned that a Denver Bronco fan voted 71,465 times for his favorite team.

When ESPN tossed out that fan’s votes, the winner was the Michigan football team. Left unexplained: What sort of person would take the time to vote 71,465 times for his favorite team uniform?


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