Not many people get the chance to break into cable sports commentating at the tender age of 21 with no experience, but Ladera Heights resident George Griffin came within a weekend of doing just that.
Griffin, a May graduate of Cal State Northridge, saw an ad recently in a show business magazine for auditions for a commentator job on a cable network that will show Continental Basketball Assn. games this winter.
Griffin took a week off from his administrative job at Columbia Pictures and went to Denver, where he beat out 31 other hopefuls. Griffin joined finalists from 13 other regions in New York over the weekend. The youngest finalist in the group, Griffin did not make the final six but said the weekend was worthwhile.
Griffin and the others were given background on a game plus team statistics and league rules, then were shown four minutes of a game on videotape and were asked questions by a play-by-play announcer. The contestants had to provide color commentary without the aid of crowd reaction.
Griffin said that in the regional competition one of the judges, from the Denver Post, told him he beat out the other contestants "hands down." The format was the same in New York, but Griffin said he had trouble injecting enthusiasm into the videotape. "It wasn't much of a game. There wasn't a whole lot I felt I could get into. . . . I didn't do too badly but I know they wanted a little bit more Hollywood, more flair."
The winner was a 33-year-old lawyer from Philadelphia. Griffin said the group was a mixed bag, mostly people from other lines of work competing on a lark. Griffin said only he and one other finalist were interested in broadcasting as a career.
Griffin is a 1980 graduate of St. Bernard High School, where he played basketball and ran track. He is active in several minority groups and is a volunteer tutor at two Los Angeles high schools.
But he would be happy to be known merely as a voice. "I listened to Dick Enberg doing UCLA basketball so many years. I've wanted to do it so long."
He hopes that the contest has provided him with contacts and an eventual springboard into broadcasting. "I was the youngest guy there so I'm not unhappy. I was happy to make it to the finals. I met a couple guys along the way. And all along I'm sending everyone a thank-you note. If nothing else, I'm making my face familiar."
Ultradistance runner Lee Preble will mix business with pleasure during Christmas vacation when he attempts to break American records in his age group (50 to 54) for 24 and 48 hours on a track. He'll also be running to raise money for the building fund of West Coast University's Orange County center. Preble is a senior vice president at the school. He'll be running for pledges per mile.
Since the age group records are 134 1/2 miles for 24 hours and 153 for 48, he hopes to raise some big money--and set some records.
Preble, 51, a Torrance resident, will run over a 72-hour period at Cerritos College. Other long-distance running enthusiasts are expected to join him since the 72-hour total is a first and the run is sanctioned by the Athletics Congress. "Since the 72-hour duration is a first, new American marks will automatically be set by all age-group winners," Preble said.
Preble will begin at noon today. The gun will sound again each day at noon, with runners' totals being verified for each 24 hours. Preble said he has not decided how often--or when and where--to eat and sleep.
"The tactics employed are diverse and fascinating," said the retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. "When and where to sleep, what and when to eat, what to wear, how and when to clean up and change clothes, especially shoes--all those become part of intricate plans on how to run the race most effectively. Then something like the weather or an injury changes everything, so you need to be flexible."
Local Aces: Four South Bay golfers recently got holes in one at Harbor Park. Steve Kushner of Harbor City aced the par-3 eighth hole with a 9-iron and Gerald Iacono of San Pedro did it with a 7-iron. Paul Harris of Lomita and Keith Hayes of San Pedro aced the same eighth hole.