Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Dodgers, Olympics were top sports stories in 2017

The Dodgers were the best team in the National League last season, marching all the way to the World Series, where they lost in seven games to the Houston Astros. In most years, that would be enough to be the sports story of the year in Los Angeles but the Dodgers had to share the top news story with the 2028 Summer Olympics when the Los Angeles Sports Council honored the sports stories of 2017 Feb. 6 at the 13th annual L.A. Sports Awards at the Beverly Hilton.

An eight-person media panel picked the top 10 sports moments and for the first time in the 13 years of the award, the panel tied when it came to selecting the story of the year.

The third best moment of the 2017 sports year came on the second day of the calendar, USC’s 52-49 victory over Penn State in the 2017 Rose Bowl.

The fourth best moment was Justin Turner’s walk-off home run that won game 2 of the National League Championship Series over the Chicago Cubs Oct. 15.

Moment number five was the Rams’ overall season that saw the team improve from 4-12 to 11-5 and win the National Football Conference Western Division title.

Moments six through 10 were the Chargers move from San Diego to Los Angeles, the USC Trojans winning the 2017 Pac 12 football championship, Team USA winning the World Baseball Classis title last March at Dodger Stadium, sprinter Allyson Felix becoming he most decorated track athlete in World Championships history last August, and former Anaheim Ducks teammates Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame together in November.

The L.A. Sports Council also honored Los Angeles Dodgers Cody Bellinger as 2017 Sportsman of the Year, NCAA beach volleyball champions Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes of USC as Sportswomen of the Year, Rams head coach Sean McVay as the Coach of the Year and LA 2028 Chairman Casey Wasserman was named the top sports executive.

Renowned sportscaster Al Michaels presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award to retired Kings Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Miller.

The L.A. Sports Council is a nonprofit organization that uses proceeds from the annual awards banquet to further its mission of promoting economic development through sports in Southern California.

WHAT A GAME: For the most part, only die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fans felt their team had a chance to upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis Feb. 4.

The Patriots had five Super Bowl rings. The Eagles had none. The Patriots had head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. The Eagles had head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles.

But in one of the best Super Bowls ever played, the Eagles outplayed the Patriots to win, 41-33.

Brady threw for a record 505 yards in the game. And lost.

The two teams combined for 1,151 total yards, the most in any NFL game ever played. The record for total yards in a Super Bowl was broken by the time the third quarter ended.

The Eagles won the games with a 75-yard touchdown drive that ate up seven minutes of clock in the fourth quarter. Tight end Zach Ertz caught an 11-yard pass from Foles to put the Eagles up 38-33 with 2 minutes and 21 seconds left to play in the game and everyone watching at home said: “They left Brady with too much time.”

But Brady, who rallied the Patriots from a 28-3 third quarter deficit against the Atlanta Falcons last year, couldn’t do it this time. On the second play after the Eagles’ touchdown, Brady fumbled while being sacked by defensive end Brandon Graham. Rookie Derek Barnett fell on the ball and with 65 seconds left, the Eagles added a field goal to pad their lead to eight. And everyone watching at home said: “They left Brady with too much time.”

But with no time outs remaining, Brady couldn’t move the Patriots past midfield. On fourth-and-10, his “Hail Mary” heave toward the end zone was batted away and the Eagles’ celebration began.

The next time someone tells you defense wins championships, show them this game. The Eagles punted once. The Patriots never punted.

The teams combined for 54 first downs, the most ever in a Super Bowl.

The Patriots set records for most total yards and most passing yards in a Super Bowl. The teams combined for the most passing yards ever.

PICKING UP THE PACE: After losing nine games in a row between Dec. 22 and Jan. 5, the Los Angeles Lakers have won 11 of 15 and are within five of the 27 wins the team had last season.

The Lakers went 3-2 on a tough five-game road trip that ended Feb. 4, playing without rookie point guard Lonzo Ball in all five games.

The surge started when coach Luke Walton inserted Julius Randle into the starting lineup. Randle is now averaging 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.

Brandon Ingram is leading the team in scoring at 15.9 points a game, followed closely by rookie Kyle Kuzma at 15.7.

Guard Jordan Clarkson has adjusted to coming off the bench and is the Lakers leading bench scorer at 14.5 points a game.

All told, the Lakers have six players averaging double figures in points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope averaging 12.9 points a game and Ball averaging 10.2 points.

The Lakers’ third rookie, Josh Hart is making the most of his opportunity to start with Ball injured.

The rookie from Villanova scored 15 points and had 11 rebounds against Phoenix Feb. 6, his third consecutive double-double.

With the trade deadline coming up Feb. 8, it’s hard to see the Lakers making a move, unless some team makes a big pitch for Caldwell-Pope, Brook Lopez or (Magic Johnson’s dream trade) Luol Deng.

Deng is making $18 million in the second year of a four-year deal that Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak negotiated over the summer of 2016. He hasn’t played since opening night.

TOURNAMENT EXEMPTION: U.S. Walker Cup team member Cameron Champ has been chosen the recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption for golf’s Genesis Open, which will be played Feb. 15-18 at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

Tournament organizers have given a sponsor’s exemption to the tournament field to a golfer representing a minority background annually since 2009. The exemption was named in 2017 to honor the memory of Charlie Sifford, the first black player to compete on the PGA Tour.

The 22-year-old Champ is a Sacramento-area native who turned pro months after tying for 32nd in the 2017 U.S. Open. Champ starred at Texas A&M and was part of the U.S. team that defeated Great Britain and Ireland in the 46th Walker Cup at the Los Angeles Country Club last September.

Champ said receiving the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption “means a lot to me, as well as my entire family.”

“Mr. Sifford’s legacy has had a huge influence not only on why I play the game of golf, but also how I seek to use the game as a vehicle for positive change, the celebration of diversity and to make a difference in our communities — all examples that were unquestionably set by Charlie Sifford,” Champ said Jan. 31 after tournament organizers announced he would receive the exemption.

“It gives me great pride to play in his name at Riviera this year.”