Charles Barkley likes to talk, and if one takes the time to listen, he really does make sense.
The title of his last book -- “I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It” -- was mainly an attention-grabber. But it also was pretty accurate.
Barkley came to Los Angeles with the TNT pregame crew for Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals involving the Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
He had a day off Wednesday, and he had two choices how to spend it.
He could either fly to Las Vegas and play golf with his friend Tiger Woods, or he could stay in L.A. and do one of his regular guest spots on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” at the NBC studios in Burbank.
He chose the latter. He also invited a reporter to tag along.
On the way to the taping, he talked about his future.
There has been speculation that “Monday Night Football” might be in his game plan. Mike Pearl, ABC Sports’ executive producer who used to be Barkley’s boss at TNT, recently talked to him about an unspecified role.
“I really don’t need another job,” Barkley said. “And I don’t need the money. But I figured if it would help promote our TNT show, I might consider it. But I’ve decided I’m not going to do it.”
Barkley probably took himself out of the running anyway by what he said on Leno’s show: “All football is good for is betting on.”
Such a comment probably wouldn’t go over very well at NFL headquarters.
Said Leno: “I have a hunch they’re not going to make that offer again.”
Leno asked Barkley how much he bet on football -- "$20 or thousands?”
“Of course I bet thousands,” Barkley said. “What am I going to do with $20?”
Barkley also said he has made as much as $800,000 on a football bet.
His candor is one reason the Leno people love having Barkley as a guest. Another reason is because, in the sports world, he is probably a bigger name now as a television personality than he was as a player.
And he is funny.
About Woods, Barkley said, “He invited me to Las Vegas so he could work on my game. He should be working on his own game.”
Leno wondered if Woods’ engagement to Elin Nordegren had caused him to lose focus.
Barkley said, “No, I don’t think it’s her. Every man needs to be out of focus like that.”
Barkley, who gets a stroke a hole from Woods and still loses money, said he went to a golf hypnotist in an effort to improve his game. “All I got out of that was a good nap,” he said.
Asked why he continues to play golf, Barkley said, “After this series, I am going to be on vacation until November. So there is nothing for me to do except play golf every day. Either that, or gamble. And you’re always going to lose gambling.”
On why he gambles, Barkley said, “You can’t leave all that money to your freeloading family.... When it’s time for the Chuckster to keel over, I’ll be dead broke.”
On the ride from the Leno show back to his downtown hotel, Barkley talked more seriously.
“My No. 1 priority is to help poor people,” he said. “In this country, 90% of the money is controlled by 10% of the people, and that’s not right.”
Barkley doesn’t like to talk about it, but he has committed $3 million over 10 years to three schools -- his high school in his hometown of Leeds, Ala., the college he attended, Auburn, and an inner-city school in Birmingham, Ala.
Those schools have gotten $100,000 a year from Barkley for four years, and they will for the next six.
Originally, Barkley wanted the money to go to only black children. Then he realized that would be discriminatory, and he designated that it go to all “poor kids.”
“How could I talk about discrimination and then turn around and discriminate?” he said.
Barkley said he planned to be more involved in helping poor people, but as a business entrepreneur, not as a politician. He wants to follow Magic Johnson’s lead.
“Politics is too corrupt,” Barkley said. “You know how you can tell politics is corrupt? President Bush is going to raise $250 million for a job that pays $400,000. Now tell me there isn’t something wrong there?”
Barkley said he was working on another book with Michael Wilbon, who co-wrote “I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It.”
Barkley said the new book would be titled, “Why Do White People Hate Me?”
About the title, he said, “That’s just to get attention. It is going to be a positive story on race.
“Racism is the greatest cancer of my lifetime.”
Barkley believes he can do something about it. And he probably can.
The Lakers and Fox Sports Net announced Thursday they have reached an agreement on a long-term contract. The current contract was due to expire after next season. A source said the new deal was for eight years and runs through 2012.... Channel 9 is working on an extension of its Laker deal.
Game 3 of the Laker-Minnesota series Tuesday night was watched in 6 million homes nationally, making it the most-watched NBA playoff game on cable television.... ABC opened its WNBA coverage Saturday with the Phoenix Mercury at the Connecticut Sun and got a 1.0 national rating. That’s 43% better than the 0.7 for last season’s ABC opener.... The Mercury-Sun game was the first pro game in Connecticut for Diana Taurasi, the former University of Connecticut star. That might explain why the rating in Hartford was a 7.2, while the rating in Phoenix was a 0.9.
The Dodgers were on Fox’s “Saturday Game of the Week” last weekend, and this weekend it is the Angels. Announcing their game against the White Sox at Chicago will be Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons.... Fox Sport Net 2’s coverage of Monday’s Dodger-Milwaukee Brewer game will pay tribute to members of the armed forces serving abroad. Vin Scully will respond to e-mails from the men and women overseas, Dodger players will greet the troops, and there will be a feature on former players who served abroad.
Dueling races: ABC has the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, and Fox later in the day has the NASCAR Coca-Cola 500. The last two years, the NASCAR race has gotten a better national rating.... Fox Sports Net offers live coverage of AVP events the next two weekends from Huntington Beach and Manhattan Beach.
A new event, the World Club Championships, will be televised on the Golf Channel Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. It’s a competition involving 18 two-man teams from 18 private clubs from the U.S. and 12 other countries. It was held earlier this month at Jeju Island, South Korea. Dan Jennings and John O’Donnell represented the Los Angeles Country Club. Ben Wright serves as host of the telecast, which is produced by Terry Jastrow.
Here’s more evidence that the Angels may be more popular in Southern California than the Dodgers this season: The Angels averaged a 3.6 rating on Channel 9 during the May ratings sweeps period, compared to a 2.6 for the Dodgers on Channel 13. The 3.6 for the Angels is the highest May sweeps average in the nine years the team has been on Channel 9.