It was an evening that would have brought a smile to the face of Jack Haley. For those who care about professionalism behind the mike, however, it was embarrassing.
You remember Haley, a former NBA player with the Lakers and several other teams, who traded his uniform in for a Lakers cheerleader outfit when he went to work for the Fox Sports Network.
The spirit of Haley was alive and rooting on the FSN postgame show the night the Dodgers clinched the National League West. Sitting in their outfield perch, Steve Lyons, Kevin Kennedy and Jim Watson were literally toasting the Dodgers' achievement, openly celebrating while pouring freely from a bottle we were assured was alcohol-free cider.
Lyons even added an extra touch of homerism by wearing one of the division-champion caps handed out to the players. Guess he didn't have time to run down and get the full Dodgers uniform.
Our three amigos of the airwaves are along for the whole ride, part of the FSN postgame show that will follow the Dodgers in the playoffs.
So what's the problem? This is an L.A. team being covered by a locally based outlet. What's wrong with a little hometown loyalty?
Nothing, except a loss of credibility. Fans might love being fans, but they want to be informed fans. If they want inspiration, they'll go to a pep rally. If they want information, they go to the media.
But only if they think they'll get balanced analysis. Only if they think they can get an unbiased appraisal of their team. Telling us between gulps how great the Dodgers' chances are to raise the pennant doesn't result in much faith in the prognosis.
In the postseason, there is an alternative. Although the TBS studio show, with analysts Cal Ripken Jr., Dennis Eckersley and Curtis Granderson, is no threat to surpass Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith of TNT's NBA show on the excitement meter, it does offer a fair and penetrating look at the postseason from a national perspective.
FSN can compete, especially with a sharp baseball guy such as Kennedy on its roster. But he has to put down the bottle and do his job.
It's logical to assume that some media people who cover a team and spend more time with the players than with their own families become fans. But those feelings don't belong in a media report.
Does anyone doubt that, after 59 seasons on the job, Vin Scully is a Dodgers fan? But could you imagine him publicly toasting the team on the air? It's is Scully's consummate professionalism that has enabled him to remain the best in his business for six decades.
Local broadcasters Jim Hill and Patrick O'Neal were in the Dodgers' clubhouse during the wild celebration after the division title had been clinched. They waded into the flowing streams of champagne as they brought their audiences the sights and sounds of Dodgers delirium.
Fair enough. Every fan in Los Angeles wanted to be in that clubhouse.
Now, if Hill or O'Neal had handed one of the players his microphone in exchange for a bottle and started spraying the players himself, that would have been well over the line, the equivalent of Lyons and his friends partying.
Watson wasn't satisfied merely cheerleading for his team. He took time out from his beverage to castigate his media brethren who had not gotten with the program.
"I know who you are," he said. "I know the radio hacks in this town, the scribes."
Referring to the end of August, when the Dodgers trailed the front-running Arizona Diamondbacks by 4 1/2 games, Watson accused local media of "already moving on to Laker media day. . . . I remember who you were, talking about SC football. . . . I'm tired of you guys. Quit."
The nerve of those hacks, refocusing on two of the more meaningless franchises in this town, the Lakers and Trojans, while questioning the potential of a Dodgers team that had struggled all season.
Too bad Haley's no longer on FSN. He'd have been happy to run over and join the Lakers hacks. Might have even brought his own bottle of cider.
Farewell to a print giant
Nobody will ever call Jerry Magee a hack.
The 80-year-old sportswriter is retiring from the San Diego Union-Tribune after 52 years of pounding the keys. Magee is part of the almost vanished breed of sportswriters whose fingers first pounded typewriter keys.
Magee, who started with the old San Diego Union on Feb. 20, 1956, covered just about everything, including high schools, baseball, football, boxing and tennis.
It is for football, however, that Magee will be best remembered. He covered the Chargers for 25 years before becoming a national football writer and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Magee's award, he likes to tell people, "is right next to the men's room."
"Excuse me. This is where I get off," Magee wrote in Monday's Union-Tribune after covering the Chargers-Raiders game. "In Oakland. End of career, if what a newspaper guy does can be called a career. I would call it a joy."
For those fortunate enough to have read Magee over the years, it was both.