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Fox Sports steps up its game on one of L.A.'s biggest sports days

Fox Sports steps up its game on one of L.A.'s biggest sports days
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw warms up in the outfield before facing the Red Sox in Game 5 of the World Series. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

At some point, even the Hollywood sign sighs.

C’mon, do we have to spell this out for you — the nine giant white letters propped up in the Santa Monica Mountains don’t define Southern California. Nor does a glamour shot of Rodeo Drive. Nor something edgy like a Venice Beach skateboard park/tattoo parlor adjacent to an outdoor basketball court.

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Sunday played out under the headline of Los Angeles’ “Sports Equinox”, and a lot of people across the country saw a lot of L.A. cultural touchstones if they were paying attention on TV.

Fox Sports, based in Century City, also stepped up its game.

For all it could control with its coverage of World Series Game 5 from Dodger Stadium, following its Rams-Packers NFL game from the Coliseum, the hometown network looked as if it wanted to flip the script for all those other cliché-laden visuals that others recycle in setting the stage for what they believe conveys L.A.

“Obviously, with people who live and work here knowing the ins and outs, we can show off this city in its true environment and not what a TripAdvisor might tell you about the top 10 spots to visit,” said Judy Boyd, Fox Sports’ senior vice president of production. “It’s not the Hollywood Walk of Fame or pop culture celebrities or what others may think.”

She was talking from her car phone as she tried to navigate traffic from Dodger Stadium back to the network’s NFL studios late Sunday afternoon. So typical.

Traffic and freeways, for that matter, became the framework for a Sunday morning Fox Sports NFL pregame show piece about the L.A.-centic day ahead. Narrated by Eric Dickerson — the former L.A.-of-Anaheim Rams running back who demanded a trade out of town — the montage explained how the city differentiates its pro sports participants from its winners. It didn’t resort to a cheap Tinseltown narrative.

The three World Series games at Dodger Stadium to close out the Dodgers’ collapse also gave Fox plenty of opportunities to cleverly indoctrinate viewers about the City of Angels without making it come off as another “Saturday Night Live” skit of “The Californians.”

There was some beautiful video of Echo Park Lake framing the downtown skyline. Spectacular sunsets captured from the blimp. Then there was a drop-in video that followed a surfboard shaper as he applied decals of the World Series, Dodgers and Red Sox, finished the board off and then took a soulful paddle out into the ocean.

“People may think of the L.A. surf culture as something that’s not as strong as when the Beach Boys were a big deal,” said Boyd, who lives with her family in the South Bay and has been a Southern California resident since she was 9. “I know it is.”

She said capturing L.A. is no different from “finding a line editorially that will let someone in Kansas know approximately where the game is. We do that in Boston, or Green Bay, or New Orleans. We’re doing more of that in our college football coverage. It’s also finding the right director of photography and going deeper into the neighborhoods of the city.”

Every game in L.A., Fox also feasted on at least one cheesecake shot of the Santa Monica Pier.

“Life’s pretty good out here,” said play-by-play man Joe Buck as he saw the pier in Game 3.

Analyst John Smoltz replied: “I don’t know how you get anything done, seriously, with this weather.”

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We just sigh, and drone on.

Graphic details

The Fox TV graphic of the night: In nine games with umpire Jeff Nelson behind the plate, the Red Sox’s David Price had a 7-2 record with a 2.04 ERA — the most wins Price has had with any umpire. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw had Nelson only once, with no record.

“That’s an amazing stat,” acknowledged Smoltz, “just by the randomness of it.”

Down for the count

After battling with a sore throat, Dan Shulman told his Twitter followers early Sunday morning that he “can’t shake a care of laryngitis” and revealed that Jon Sciambi flew across the country today to call Game 5 for ESPN Radio from Dodger Stadium.

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