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The Sports Report: Greg Zuerlein is key for the Rams, but he hopes you don’t notice

NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints
Greg Zuerlein kicks a field goal against New Orleans.
(Sean Gardner / Getty Images)

Howdy everyone, and welcome to the Saturday edition of the Los Angeles Times daily sports newsletter. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m your host for the festivities. Subscribe to this newsletter by clicking here.

Let’s get to it.

Rams

The most important player for the Rams in the Super Bowl might not be Jared Goff or Todd Gurley or Aaron Donald. It might be kicker Greg Zuerlein. But he’d prefer if you don’t bother him about it.

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Zuerlein hates the spotlight, and was, in a strange sense, relieved when the controversial non-call on pass interference overshadowed his game-winning kick in overtime against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC title game.

“I like not to be the center of attention. And with the way everything happened in that game it worked out well,” Zuerlein said Saturday.

To read more about the kicker who doesn’t want the attention, read this story by Gary Klein.

Meanwhile, Sam Farmer takes a look at the video game obsession in the NFL, writing,

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“Video game obsessions are not unusual in the NFL, where the sounds of “Fortnite” and “Call of Duty” echo through the hallways of team headquarters. And the involvement goes beyond playing.

Rodger Saffold, starting guard for the Super Bowl-bound Rams, owns Rise Nation, a team that competes for tens of thousands of dollars in video game tournaments.

“It’s crazy, almost like a hidden community because they have so many viewers,” Saffold said. “In some of these leagues you’ll have like 200,000 people watching online. It’s incredible.”

“The Rams aren’t the only Los Angeles team Stan Kroenke owns; he’s also got the L.A. Gladiators, an esports team in the Overwatch League. Other NFL owners are heavily invested, too, among them Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots. JuJu Smith-Schuster, a former USC standout who is a Pro Bowl receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has said he might play video games professionally once his football career is done.

When is the Super Bowl?

It will be on Sunday, Feb. 3 at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.

Who will win?

The last polls we did were successful, so let’s do it again. Who will win the Super Bowl? Click here to vote. We’ll announce the results on game day.

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Dodgers

Saturday was Fan Fest at Dodger Stadium and guess who was there? Corey Seager! He used to play shortstop for the team years and years ago. He was asked about his return from injury, and, well you’ll have to read Jorge Castillo’s story to find out, or check out our next Dodgers newsletter.

Lakers

In an effort to try to gauge what talent evaluators around the NBA think of the Lakers’ young core, The Times spoke to five different scouts and front office people from the Eastern and Western Conferences, asking them to rank Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Ivica Zubac in terms of trade value.

“The aggregate value of their assets was much higher six months ago than it is today,” one Western Conference executive said. “And, for all of them, with the exception of Kyle Kuzma, that value is worse.”

Read what they all said here.

NHL

It was a tough night for Ducks goalie John Gibson, who gave up seven goals in nine shots as the Pacific team was routed By the Central, 10-4, in the NHL’s All-Star format.

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The Metropolitan All Stars prevailed by defeating the Atlantic division 7-4 and the Central division 10-5. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby was named MVP.

Kendall Coyne Schofield made history when she competed against NHL players in Friday’s NHL All-Star fastest skater skills contest, but overlooked by many was U.S. Olympic gold medal teammate Brianna Decker. got less attention because Decker demonstrated a skill without actually competing against the men, but Decker’s feat has won her some attention — and some money.

Decker was in the premier passing event, but was not an official competitor, which turned out to be unfortunate because she would have won. Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, who was three seconds slower than Decker, won the $25,000. Decker got nothing.

On Saturday however, equipment company CCM Hockey gave her $25,000. Good for them.

UCLA Basketball

Moses Brown got to meet Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and it seemed to inspire the rest of the Bruins to a 90-69 victory over Arizona.

Brown finished with 15 rebounds, 11 points and two blocks.

USC Basketball

Bennie Boatwright made the game-winning three-pointer with 14 seconds remaining to lead USC to a 69-67 victory over Arizona State.

Arizona State’s Remy Martin missed a three-pointer on the ensuing trip before Jonah Mathews got the rebound. Mathews missed the front end of a bonus and the Sun Devils called a timeout with 0.8 seconds remaining. Luguentz Dort missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Tennis

Naomi Osaka recovered after wasting three championship points and reasserted herself down the stretch to win the Australian Open for a second consecutive Grand Slam title, edging Petra Kvitova, 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4.

Horse Racing

Last year, Eclipse Award winning Accelerate lost only one of seven races, the Oaklawn Handicap to City Of Light. This year, in Accelerate’s last and only race, City Of Light did it again, winning the $9-million Pegasus World Cup, the richest race in North America.

Golf

Justin Rose has a three-shot lead in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines after are three-under-par 69 in the third round Saturday. He is three ahead of Adam Scott, who shot a 65, and four ahead of Jon Rahm, who shot a 68.

This date in sports history

1963: Sam Rice, Eppa Rixey, Elmer Flick, and John Clarkson are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1991: The New York Giants defeat the Buffalo Bills, 20-19, to win Super Bowl XXV.

Notable births on this date

1901: Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney.

1959: NFL Receiver/broadcaster Cris Collinsworth.

1987: Snowboarder Hannah Teter.

And finally

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me here. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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