Comcast Corporation has announced agreements with four new minority-owned independent networks.
After evaluating more than 100 proposals, Comcast selected four networks — two of which are majority African American-owned, and two that are majority Hispanic American-owned and operated and programmed in English. The networks will be distributed on Comcast Cable systems between April 2012 and January 2014.
“We are thrilled to work with such talented individuals to launch these new networks that will bring exciting and fresh content to consumers,” said David L. Cohen, executive vice president, Comcast Corporation.
“Comcast is committed to delivering programming that reflects the interests of our customers, and we look forward to integrating these great networks into our rich programming lineup.”
The two networks in the African-American category are Aspire and REVOLT.
Spearheaded by NBA Hall of Famer and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson in partnership with GMC TV, Aspire will deliver enlightening, entertaining and positive programming to African-American families, including movies, documentaries, short films, music, comedy, visual and performing arts, and faith and inspirational programs. The network will launch by summer 2012.
“Aspire will be a network that encourages and challenges African Americans to reach for their dreams and will appeal to all generations,” said Johnson.
“Aspire will celebrate our heritage, our groundbreaking achievements and the fearless talent that has shaped American culture. I’m most excited about Aspire creating opportunities for the new voices, new visions and the next generation of storytellers.”
Proposed by superstar entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs and MTV veteran Andy Schuon, the REVOLT network is designed to have programming inspired by music and pop culture. The network, which launches in 2013, will include music videos, live performances, and music news and interviews, and will incorporate social media interaction for music artists and fans.
“REVOLT is the first channel created entirely from the ground up in this new era of social media,” said Combs.
“We’re building this platform for artists to reach an extraordinary number of people in a completely different way. REVOLT will be live, like all great moments in television history. REVOLT will also be immediate, like today’s social networks. We know it was a highly competitive process and we want to thank Comcast for this opportunity to truly change television with REVOLT.”
The two networks in the Hispanic category are El Rey and BabyFirst Americas.
Proposed by Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures executives John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa, El Ray is designed to be an action-packed, general information network in English for Latino and general audiences that includes a mix of reality, scripted and animated series, movies, documentaries, news, music, comedy and sports programming.
The El Ray network will include programming that features Hispanic producers, celebrities and public figures. The network has entered into an agreement to launch by January 2014.
“This partnership with Comcast signals an important moment for the Latino community in this country — we are passionate about creating a wildly entertaining destination that we can be proud of by appealing to both Latino and mass market audiences,” said the principals of El Rey.
“We are engineering El Rey to address a burgeoning opportunity to deliver unique, high-quality and compelling content to a hard-to-reach demographic, and are excited to bring more opportunities to generations of talent, storytellers and dreamers through this special partnership.”
Proposed by Spanish language television veteran Constantino “Said” Schwarz, this network is designed for infants, very young children and their parents and emphasizes the importance of early development of verbal, math and motor skills. The network will launch by April 2012.
“We are thrilled to partner with Comcast and commend them for recognizing the importance of quality education for young children,” said Schwarz.
“BabyFirst Americas aims to bring the essential academic building blocks for kindergarten readiness into the home, making it accessible for families all across the U.S.
In 2011, Comcast made a series of public interest commitments in connection with the NBCUniversal transaction, one of which is to launch 10 new independently owned and operated networks over the next eight years.
Of the 10 channels, four will be majority African American-owned, two will be majority Hispanic-owned and two will be operated by American Latino programmers. These criteria were established based on several agreements Comcast entered into with leading diversity organizations.
Each of the 10 networks will be added on select Comcast systems as part of the digital tier of service.
“Today in America, 152 people will become infected with HIV. Half of them will be Black.”
The stark reality of this statement is brought to the forefront in “Endgame: AIDS in Black America,” a “Frontline” special presentation airing at 9 p.m. on July 10 on WHYY TV12.
Statistics show that every 10 minutes, someone in the U.S. contracts HIV, and of those individuals, half are Black. Thirty years after the discovery of the AIDS virus among gay white men, nearly half of the 1 million people in the United States infected with HIV are Black men, women and children.
The two-hour documentary explores “one of the country’s most urgent, preventable health crises. tracing the history of the epidemic through the experiences of extraordinary individuals who tell their stories; people like Nel, a 63-year-old grandmother who married a deacon in her church and later found an HIV diagnosis tucked in his Bible; Tom and Keith, survivors who were children born with the virus in the 1990s; and Jovanté, a high school football player who didn’t realize what HIV meant until it was too late.
The film also examines how fear and silence perpetuate the spread of the AIDS virus in the Black community. “Endgame” also brings to light the challenges faced by those who are born with the virus.
“AIDS is God’s curse to a homosexual life. I think it stinks in the nostrils of God,” one clergyman observes.
From Magic Johnson to civil rights pioneer Julian Bond, from pastors to health workers, people on the front lines tell moving stories of the battle to contain the spread of the virus, and the opportunity to finally turn the tide of the epidemic.
“I’m not cured, I’ve been taking my meds,” said basketball great Ervin “Magic” Johnson, who shocked the world when he announced that he was HIV-positive in 1991. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m living with the virus in my blood system and in my body.”
“We thought about AIDS as afflicting only white people, and then only gay white people,” said Julian Bond. “There were no gay black people.”
“Endgame: AIDS in Black America,” is directed, produced and written by Renata Simone, the producer of the 2006 award-winning “Frontline” series “The Age of AIDS.”
NEW YORK — As the crowd counted down, Magic Johnson pulled a large, silver lever jutting from a box labeled “ASPiRE.” With that, his new cable network went live.
Then stagehands whisked the contraption off the dais at Aspire’s gala premiere party Wednesday night. The switch was just a prop, of course, connected to nothing.
But Magic Johnson’s ties to the African-American community (not to mention sports history and contemporary culture) are direct and strong.
Now, the basketball great and business tycoon is leveraging his clout and good name to launch Aspire.
“We have a big platform for African-American work,” Johnson told the gathered. “Family driven content, positive images of African Americans — that’s what we want that platform for!”
Big aspirations, indeed, as Aspire makes its debut. Initially it’s available in about 7 million homes and in 16 of the top 25 African-American markets (including New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington). It can be seen by some customers served by Time Warner Cable Inc. and by Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable operator, which is introducing the minority-oriented Aspire as part of an agreement struck with the Federal Communications Commission when Comcast purchased NBC Universal.
Aspire’s reach will grow to 12 million homes by year’s end, to 20 million to 30 million homes by the end of 2013, and to 40 million homes within two years, according to Johnson.
“Focus groups told us African Americans want more family content on TV,” he said a few hours before the party. “If they would have told me, ‘We don’t need another channel, there’s not an opportunity for you,’ we wouldn’t be sitting here.”
Seated in a raised director’s chair whose exaggerated height seems made-to-order for the towering former L.A. Lakers point guard, Johnson is speaking with a reporter in an NBC green room during a busy day of meetings and media appearances.
“I wouldn’t get into this if I didn’t feel there was an opportunity,” he goes on. “That’s what I do. I look for opportunities.”
Johnson doesn’t dismiss the growing roster of other networks targeting Black viewers.
“BET dominates the young people and does a great job,” he says. “TV One skews a little older. We’re gonna skew older than both of them. Blacks want options; they want variety, like everybody else. There’ll be enough viewers for all of us. So everybody wins.”
He says Aspire is aiming for Black families with a slate of enlightening and positive programming — the sort of fare that everyone can gather in the living room to watch, “the way I grew up,” Johnson fondly recalls.
Aspire will air movies, documentaries, music and comedy, as well as faith and inspirational programs.
Initially, the schedule consists of acquisitions, including long-ago series like “The Bill Cosby Show,” “I Spy,” “Julia” and “The Flip Wilson Show.” The network promises documentaries chronicling real-life events, people and places that shaped Black history. Movies include “Shaft,” “Bird,” “Sarafina!” and “Lilies of the Field.”
Eventually, Aspire plans to create its own programming. For that, Johnson hopes to tap Black artists ranging from young up-and-comers to the likes of Spike Lee and Tyler Perry.
But what about a certain world-class star already on the payroll? Will Earvin “Magic” Johnson step in front of the Aspire cameras?
“I may do a show interviewing celebrities,” he says. “Or a business show. We haven’t planned it yet, but African Americans want to know how to build wealth. They want to know how to start a business or grow one. Home ownership. Having good credit. I think I’m going to have to go on and teach them that sort of thing.”
The principal owner of Aspire is Magic Johnson Enterprises, with the 52-year-old Johnson as the network’s chairman and CEO.
But Aspire is teamed with Atlanta-based GMC (formerly the Gospel Music Network), which, available in about 50 million homes, focuses on uplifting music and family entertainment. GMC is providing operational infrastructure (what Johnson dubs “the back of the house”) for Aspire, also based in Atlanta.
Johnson declines to say exactly what he’s investing in Aspire as its principal owner, but acknowledges “it takes $100 (million) or $150 million just to turn the lights on and really get it going — and we’re gonna be in that neighborhood.”
Already, Johnson has landed five blue chip “charter brand partners”: Coca-Cola Co., Chrysler, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., L’Oreal and Nationwide Insurance. He says his network is on track to be “almost break-even in a year.”
Johnson sees Aspire as the logical next step in his burgeoning media empire, whose holdings include 20 radio stations, Vibe magazine and the “Soul Train” brand.
But an almost dizzying array of other investments includes real estate, restaurants, a prepaid debit card he soon will introduce and, of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers, purchased in May for $2 billion by a group he fronted.
“I am SO proud of the Dodgers,” he grins when that subject comes up. “I’m like a little kid! To know I own the Dodgers is even blowing ME away!”
In short, Johnson’s career as an NBA legend and Hall of Famer is rivaled by his entrepreneurial efforts, which, along with his philanthropic and motivational work, largely cater to the Black community.
“I’ve been doing business almost as long as I’ve been playing basketball,” he says. “I bought a radio station when I was 19 years old, when I first got drafted by the Lakers.”
For now, despite his many business interests, he’s giving Aspire top priority.
“When you’re starting a business, you have to be more involved day-to-day,” he says. “I’m a control freak. Even though I allow people to do their jobs, I want to know everything, and I HAVE to know everything: It’s my brand, my name; everything is out there on the line.”
Looking to Aspire’s future, he points out how he always had two big dreams: to play in the NBA and be a businessman.
“I don’t know why God blessed me with this life, but I’m glad he did, and I love it,” Johnson sums up. “And I’m full steam ahead!” — (AP)
The pressure is on the Temple Owls.
As Philadelphia’s lone representative in the 2012 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, often referred to as March Madness, it’s up to Temple to beat the odds and win it all for a collegiate, basketball-crazed region. Temple, the regular-season Atlantic 10 champion, defied some prognosticators by being seeded fifth in the Midwest Regional. The Owls were upended in the first round of the A-10 tournament by the University of Massachusetts. No question being ranked No. 21 helped the Owls claim both the high seed and the at-large berth.
Temple (24-7) will play the winner of Wednesday’s first round game in Dayton between California (24-9) and South Florida (20-13) in the second round Friday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
The region has enjoyed NCAA tournament success, but there hasn’t been an NCAA national basketball championship celebrated in the city of Philadelphia since1985 when Villanova surprised defending champion Georgetown to end the reign of Hoya Paranoia. Villanova, when it presents itself, claims to be a representative of the City of Brotherly Love. Perhaps that explains why the parade had a short route and wasn’t widely attended.
Historically speaking, city and regional teams haven’t had the best of luck in the tournament. Temple has made 29 NCAA tourney appearances. The Owls are 32-29 with two Final Four appearances. The last “city” team to make it to the coveted Final Four was the University of Pennsylvania in 1979. The Tony Price-led Quakers were humbled by Magic Johnson and Michigan State, 101-67, in the semifinals, and lost to a talented DePaul team that featured Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings, 96-93, in the consolation final.
That was the Final Four, which also featured Larry Bird’s Indiana State team, created the March Madness phenomenon.
There was hope that Philly would have two city teams in this year’s tournament but Drexel (27-6) failed to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship and an automatic NCAA tourney bid. The NCAA tournament committee snubbed the Dragons, who had won 19 straight before falling to Virginia Commonwealth University, 59-56, in the CAA tourney final. In the end, Drexel’s RPI rating and strength of schedule did not impress the committee.
Drexel will now play the University of Central Florida (22-10) in the National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday March 14. The Knights finished third in Conference USA.
The Drexel-UCF winner will play the winner of the St. Joseph’s–Northern Iowa contest. The Hawks (20-13) are making their first postseason appearance since 2008 and were beaten in the quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament by eventual champion St. Bonaventure, 71-68. Northern Iowa is 19-13.
La Salle University (21-12) will play host to the University of Minnesota (19-14). The Gophers have won two NIT titles, in 1993 and 1998. Minnesota vacated its 1998 crown.
Penn didn’t make the NCAA or NIT but the Quakers (19-11) will play host to Quinnipiac University (18-13) in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational tourney Wednesday.
Temple has talent to win a few games, but making it past the first weekend of NCAA tournament play will be difficult. The Owls are making their fifth consecutive NCAA tourney appearance. Temple coach Fran Dunphy saw his 11-game tournament losing streak snapped last year when the Owls beat Penn State. Dunphy’s losing streak dated back to his days at Penn. He undoubtedly will be feeling pressured not to be bounced by a lower-seeded team.
College teams dream of doing the dance in March.
The Owls don’t have to dream. They know how to dance.
All they have to do is not stumble.
“Next Tuesday,” a 25-minute short film written and directed by local filmmaker Michael J. Dennis, has been selected to be a part of the new Black film anthology show “ABFF Independent,” broadcast on ASPIRE, the new African-American television network from Magic Johnson Enterprises.
“Next Tuesday” stars Damon P. Saleem as a father who decides to meet his son (Jarrod Gandy) for the first time after a 12-year absence. During the course of one day, both come of age, learning important lessons on responsibility, manhood and trust.
“‘ABFF Independent’ is the first original show that they have,” said Dennis, founder of Reelblack, an organization that vigorously advocates Black film and Black filmmakers. “Everything else that they’re showing is rerun or acquired. So this is the first original two-hour show. When they launched the network, they started with this show.
“Basically, Ralph Scott, who is executive producer of the show, and I go back almost 20 years. He was one of the first people to program my first film, and he’s been a big advocate for African-American filmmakers forever. When he was with BET, he had licensed the film “Next Tuesday,” and it’s just flattering think a film is almost 10 years old and they can still sell it. The film still has relevance.”
The soundtrack for “Next Tuesday” features music by Jazmine Sullivan, John Legend and Jazzyfatnastees, and Dennis said, “It’s a short film, but we used as much Philly talent as possible.”
ASPIRE is not yet available in the Philadelphia market, but Dennis says that viewers in the area can demand the network by visiting www.aspiretv.tv.
Magic Johnson has watched Andrew Bynum play a lot of basketball during his years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson, former Lakers star and Hall of Famer, knows that the Sixers biggest offseason acquisition will play a major part in how far the team goes this season.
Of course, Bynum has missed the entire preseason with right knee pain from a bone bruise. The 7-foot, 285-pound center, could miss the season opener on Oct. 31 against the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center. Nevertheless, Johnson seems to be pretty knowledgeable about his basketball skills.
“Well, the good thing is I don’t have doubts in his ability,” said Johnson, a basketball analyst for ESPN’s NBA Countdown. “I’ve seen Andrew dominate. I saw the game against San Antonio where he went and grabbed 30 rebounds. Andrew Bynum is our – right with Dwight Howard, talented –second talented most big man in the game today. And offensively he probably got—he’s got more moves than Dwight Howard. Andrew Bynum can play basketball.
“The problem with Andrew is when he gets down or when he has a confrontation with a coach or if he’s not feeling good about a teammate, then he lets that come to the court instead of leaving that in the locker room. He then goes out and gets five rebounds or he plays and is 10 and 5 or he pouts, and it not only hurts his teammates. So is he mature enough to handle the fact that now it is his team, he is the man. When it’s not going good, will he still come and play 150 percent?
“And then last but not least, will he be able to make his teammates better, because Andrew Bynum got all the talent in the world, and when he wants to dominate, he dominates; we’ve seen that. Shoot, every year he goes through a stretch of about I would say 10 to 15 games where he just dominates the league. I mean, it’s unbelievable the numbers that he puts up.
“But then after he reverts back to a guy we scratch our head about. So I’m just hoping that he just plays for 82 games, also stays healthy for 82 games, too, because he hasn’t been healthy every season that we’ve had him here in LA. But when he comes to play, he can play.”
Johnson is impressed with the Sixers offseason moves. He also likes Sixers guard Jrue Holiday and believes shooting guard Evan Turner should be more relaxed this season.
“Now, I think they did a wonderful job because Jason Richardson has been on fire,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen him three times in exhibition, and I think he’s going to be great. Jrue Holiday is just an incredible point guard who’s getting better and better every season. I thought the addition of Nick Young, Dorell Wright, shooters, so when Bynum is in there you can put a lot of great shooters around him.
“And so I think that Evan Turner now will have less pressure on him. It looked like he was forcing — he was trying to be a high draft pick instead of just relaxing and playing basketball, he was pressuring and he was playing under pressure.”
Johnson feels Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, will have to work with Bynum. He also believes Collins brings a lot of qualities, which should make the Sixers an even better team.
“Doug Collins, who I love and respect, is a great coach,” Johnson said. “And Bynum and Collins got to get on the same page. That’s another thing that has to happen for them to really excel.
“But I’m excited about the team. Athletic-wise they’re off the charts. They’re going to play defense because Doug Collins is about defense, and they’re going to play together, and so that’s — I see great things for them now but also in the future.”
Swarthmore College recently held a tennis clinic with tennis star James Blake with the kids from the Chester Boys and Girls Club. The tennis program was sponsored by the Philadelphia Freedoms and the Loomis Racquet Academy, organized by Jeremy Loomis, Swarthmore College women’s tennis coach.
Blake was selected to play for the Philadelphia Freedoms this season. The Freedoms are owned by Billie Jean King and compete in the World team Tennis League. The clinic provided the youngsters from the Chester Boys and Girls Club a chance to learn the game from Blake, who is one of the game’s terrific players.
Rodale Books acquires memoir by NBA legend Earl Monroe
Rodale Inc. recently announced the acquisition of NBA great Earl Monroe’s memoir, Earl The Pearl: My Story, written with bestselling author Quincy Troupe. The book will be published in April 2013 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Knicks’ last NBA championship.
Monroe, former Bartram High and Winston-Salem State basketball standout, is among the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players. He is a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame player whose style and flair made him a major attraction to younger players including Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. A sensational ballhandler who could break his man down with breath taking moves, Monroe changed the way the game of basketball is played and his influence can still be seen with today’s stars such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
Deadline for Lincoln Hall of Fame nominations extended
Lincoln University’s Athletic Hall of Fame has extended its deadline for nominations to July 31. The hall of fame induction will be a regular event to take place in conjunction with the football season. The first class will be inducted during halftime of the Lincoln-Johnson C. Smith University football game on Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. For more information, go to www.lulions.com
Cheyney ‘C’ Club to hold golf tourney
The Cheyney University “C” Club will hold the Wade Wilson Golf Tournament at Penn Oaks Country Club, 140 Penn Oaks Drive, in West Chester. The event will be held on August 27. Registration begins at 7 a.m. Tee time is at 8 a.m. The golf tournament is the club’s biggest fundraising event. The club is comprised of alumni athletic supporters that have shown a great commitment to the school’s athletic programs. For more information, go to www.cheyneycclub.com
Bobby Jordan named Drexel basketball assistant coach
James “Bruiser” Flint, Drexel head basketball coach, has named Bobby Jordan as assistant coach. Jordan has been on Flint’s staff the last two years as the team’s operation assistant. He replaces Ashley Howard who accepted an assistant coaching position at Xavier University.
Jordan has been around the Dragons’ program for the last six years. He stayed at Drexel following his playing career in 2010 when he took the operations position. He was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the office and assisted with team travel and academics.
He was a four-year letterwinner on the basketball court at Drexel. He originally walked-on the team as a freshman and eventually earned a scholarship. Jordan graduated from the school with a degree in sports management and is currently enrolled in graduate school, where he is working on an advanced degree in the same field.
Jordan was an All-Catholic League selection at Roman Catholic. He was also a Markward Award winner.
St. Joe’s women’s basketball adds Pierce as assistant coach
Saint Joseph’s has named Jada Pierce as assistant coach for the women’s basketball team. Spending the past two seasons at Army, Pierce brings more than 15 years of successful coaching including helping three schools earn NCAA tournament berths. Pierce played her scholastic basketball at Central High where she was an All-Public League star. She brings a lot of coaching experience to Saint Joseph’s.
Temple to open basketball season at Kent State
Temple will begin the basketball season playing on national television as the Owls will face Kent State on the road for a noon game on November. The game is part of the 2012 ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon which includes 11 men’s college basketball games all aired on ESPN.
When Derrick Rose went down with a season ending injury in the first game of the Philadelphia 76ers-Chicago Bulls best of seven first-round NBA playoff series, some people believed the Sixers would now cruise the rest of the way in this quarterfinal matchup. Rose, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player, has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and is done for the rest of this season and likely most of next year. His absence on the floor should help the Sixers, but fans should keep in mind the ability of teams to rally once they lose a star player.
If you’re a true Sixers fan, you remember 1980 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got hurt and missed Game 6 of the NBA championship series because of an ankle injury. Well, that’s the game when Magic Johnson, then a rookie, put on a magnificent performance. Johnson had 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 123-117 win over the Sixers. As a result, the Lakers ended up winning the league championship.
The only difference is that was one game. It would have been interesting to see how the Lakers would have responded if Abdul-Jabbar had missed the entire series. Nevertheless, Rose’s injury does change a lot of things.
Rose is one of the most explosive players in the NBA. The Bulls all-star guard averaged 21.8 points, 7.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds a game this season. He had 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in Chicago’s 103-91 victory over the Sixers on Saturday.
Now, the Bulls will have to play backup point guards C.J. Watson and John Lucas III against Jrue Holiday, Sixers 6-foot-4 playmaker. Holiday should have a big advantage against Watson and Lucas. However, Watson did play extremely well in an 89-80 victory over the Sixers on March 17. He had a game-high 20 points that night.
Without Rose, Chicago is pretty much left with a group of role players, which include 6-foot-7 Luol Deng, 6-foot-9 Carlos Boozer, 6-foot-7 Ronnie Brewer, 6-foot-7 Richard Hamilton, 6-foot-11 Joakim Noah and 6-foot-9 Taj Gibson. None of these players are superstars at this point in their careers. The Sixers should be able to matchup with Holiday, 6-foot-6 Andre Iguodala, 6-foot-7 Evan Turner, 6-foot-9 Elton Brand, 6-foot-1 Lou Williams and 6-foot-8 Thaddeus Young.
Holiday had 16 points and seven rebounds in game one. Brand was very impressive, scoring a team-high 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
The big thing with the Sixers is they have to do a better job on the boards and play better on defense. They have to force as many turnovers as possible. They need to get out and run whenever the opportunity presents itself. In spite of Rose not being there, the Sixers style of play shouldn’t change.
The Sixers will face the Bulls on Tuesday night, May 1 at 8 p.m. in what should be a very interesting Game 2 of this series. They could definitely use a win to shift the momentum with Games 3 and 4 at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, May 4 and Sunday, May 6.
Rose missed 27 games this season. The Bulls were 18-9 without him. They know how to win without Rose. The Sixers have to remember and come with the same intensity as if Rose were still there.
Last week, I observed Earvin “Magic” Johnson interviewed on a cable news station. During his days as a basketball player, Johnson was labeled a phenomenon. This interview devoted some time to his basketball career. I will never forget his exploits during the national finals against the 76ers in 1980, when in game six he moved from his traditional position as guard to center, due to an injury to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He played this position with the same skill and finesse as he did as guard. In fact, he played well enough for the Lakers to win the game and the championship.
But, on this day, it was not stories about his basketball career that impressed me most. My knowledge of his business acumen was limited, but the level of his accomplishments as articulated in this interview was quite impressive. I knew he was one of the investors and owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I did not know of his many investments through Magic Johnson Enterprises, investments that include fitness sport centers, restaurants, travel, real estate, media and entertainment, and food service and facilities management. I learned that his company also handles asset acquisitions, endorsements, licensing, personal appearances, urban marketing and business-to-business relationships. What jumped out at me as in this interview was his investment in a television channel called Aspire. The Philadelphia Tribune carried a feature story on Aspire last Sunday. What was it about Aspire that I found significant? It will focus on television shows for Black families. Regular followers of this column know the significance I place on the family structure. So, Johnson’s television channel immediately brought to mind an activity most of us participated in in the ’50s and ’60s. We gathered around our 12-inch Zenith black and white television to watch shows along with neighbors and friends. Johnson will provide original and acquired programming with movies, documentaries, short films, music, comedy, visual and performing arts and faith and inspirational programs in his television venture. Hearing about Aspire and reading additional details on Johnson’s website, I could not avoid thinking about the family-oriented television shows I watched with my family and friends, back in the day.
I recognize a number of you did not have television in your homes until the late ’50s and early ’60s. Some families experienced occasional viewing interruptions, because they had to feed the coin box on the side of the television. This was necessary to keep the set operating. This was how some people paid for their television. I have no doubt you have vivid memories of those shows you and other family members simply had to see — even though we are speaking of some 50 or 60 years ago. The favorite shows during our childhood and teen years contained no sex or profanity. Some of my colleagues identified their favorite shows as “Lassie,” “I Love Lucy,” “Jack Benny,” “Art Linkletter,” “Mr. Ed,” “Flipper,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Hazel,” “Red Skelton,” “Danny Thomas,” “Milton Berle,” “Dinah Shore,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It to Beaver,” “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” and “The Honeymooners.” Even action, mystery, police and detective shows were suitable for family viewing. Think back to shows in this category from the ’50s and ’60s such as “Dragnet,” “Ironside,” “Private Eye,” “Peter Gunn,” “Ellery Queen,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Hawaiian Eye” and “The Fugitive.” Others that probably kept you in front of your television were “Mission Impossible,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” “The Mod Squad,” “Hawaii 5-0” and the comedy detective show “Get Smart.” No, I did not ignore “I Spy;” how could I forget this show with Philadelphia’s own Bill Cosby? For most of us, what followed family dinner and doing the dishes was a trip to the living room to watch television. Back in the day, the living room was the place where we watched shows on those large black and white console television sets.
Mine was not the first family on my block to get television. I still have vivid memories of visiting my friend’s home on the same block, on Saturday mornings to watch “Frontier Playhouse.” Several kids would gather to watch this show. It had a variety of cowboys; a different one was featured each week. There were Tex Ritter, Bob Steele, Wild Bill Elliott, Buck Jones, Whip Wilson, the Cisco Kid Lash LaRue, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. I did not like the singing cowboys. I was a big fan of Johnny Mack Brown, but my all-time favorite was the Durango Kid; the cowboy who wore all black with a black mask and rode a white horse. Parents did not find it necessary to sit with their children to watch these movies. They knew they were clean Western shows. However, family members, often came together to watch shows like “Gunsmoke,” “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Maverick,” “The Lone Ranger,” “The Rifleman,” “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “Bonanza,” “Wagon Train” and “Cheyenne.” I know a large number of you just had to be in front of your television when “The Adventures of Superman” appeared.
Some television shows were produced specifically for children and they did fit into the category of family-oriented television. I cannot believe that some of you did not watch “The Musketeers” and “Howdy Doody.”
I know you still remember some of the personalities that were part of The “Howdy Doody” show: Buffalo Bob Smith, Mr. Bluster, WinterSpringSummerFall, Chief Thunderthud, and, of course, Clarabelle Hornblower. I still refer to the “peanut gallery” and sometimes find myself singing, “What time is it; what time is it? It’s Howdy Doody time; it’s Howdy Doody time.” Given my love for do wop music, I even sing these words in a doo-wop style. Am I the only one who watched “Willie the Worm” and “Kukla, Fran and Ollie”? As you entered your teens, I suspect many of you watched “The Little Rascals,” “The Dead End Kids,” Abbott and Costello and Laurel and Hardy.
There were other memorable television shows back in the day. They included science fiction and variety shows. Was “Star Trek” one you watched? What about ”Twilight Zone”? The most popular variety show was the Ed Sullivan show. Now, here is a question to test your knowledge of this show. What was its correct name? Give up? It was “Toast of the Town.” One other show I watched with my parents and I suspect few children watched was “What’s My Line?”
Black-oriented television shows did exist, but were limited. “Julia” was unique not only because of its Black main character, but also because Julia was a professional, a nurse. “The Mod Squad” and “I Spy” included Black characters. Nat King Cole and Flip Wilson had their own variety shows. While many Black Americans claim they did not approve of the ’50s’ and ’60s’ “Amos ’n’ Andy” show, a whole lot of them gathered around their television sets to watch it. Without a doubt, plenty of laughs were provided by that show.
Watching television is a big part of the lives of most people. Hours are spent in front of the set. During my childhood and young adult life, television embraced family values. Thus, I wish Johnson the utmost success with his Black-oriented television channel. By launching this channel, I know he recognizes the importance of infusing the lives of our children and adults with some positive aspects. While he has indicated his intention to include both new shows and old Black shows, I hope he will revisit and update some of our Black shows from the past, even shows like “Amos ’n’ Andy,” to provide us with a perspective of what Black television was like, back in the day.
NEW YORK — One Los Angeles institution is buying another.
A group that includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday night to buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record $2 billion.
The price would shatter the mark for a sports franchise. Stephen Ross paid $1.1 billion for the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 2009, and in England, Malcolm Glazer and his family took over the Manchester United soccer club in 2005 in a deal then valued at $1.47 billion.
Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would become the controlling owner.
The deal, revealed about five hours after Major League Baseball owners approved three finalists for an intended auction, is one of several steps toward a sale of the team by the end of April. It is subject to approval in federal bankruptcy court.
"I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles," Johnson said in a statement.
As part of the agreement, the Dodgers said McCourt and "certain affiliates of the purchasers" would acquire the land surrounding Dodger Stadium, including its parking lots, for $150 million.
"If they invested that much money, I'm sure they'll invest to get us a winner," said Tommy Lasorda, the Dodgers' retired Hall of Fame manager. "I wish them all the luck, and I admire them. I know both of them. I know Magic from the day he came into Los Angeles as a basketball player for the Lakers."
The acquiring group, called Guggenheim Baseball Management, has several other investors, among them Mandalay Entertainment chief executive Peter Guber, Guggenheim Partners president Todd Boehly and Bobby Patton, who operates oil and gas properties among his investments. Kasten is the former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.
"I am truly honored to have partnered with such talented individuals and to be associated with the Dodgers organization," said Walter. "We look forward to building upon the legacy of the Dodgers and providing long-term stability to one of the most revered franchises in baseball."
The 52-year-old Johnson played 13 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA championships and three MVP awards in a Hall of Fame career.
He retired from the NBA in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He briefly came out of retirement during the 1995-96 season and had a short stint coaching the Lakers. Since leaving basketball, he has been very successful in business, investing in movie theaters, a production company and restaurants.
He has also been an activist in the fight against HIV.
"I'm upset he didn't cut me in," current Lakers star Kobe Bryant said. "I'm going to have to talk to him about that."
McCourt paid $430 million in 2004 to buy the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that include the parking lots, from the Fox division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., a sale that left the team with about $50 million in cash at the time. The team's debt stood at $579 million as of January, according to a court filing, so McCourt stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars even after a $131 million divorce payment to former wife Jamie, taxes and legal and banking fees.
Kasten is expected to wind up as the team's top day-to-day executive.
The other two finalists were:
— Stan Kroenke, whose family owns the NFL's St. Louis Rams, the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids. He also is majority shareholder of Arsenal in the English Premier League.
— Steven Cohen, founder of the hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors and a new limited partner of the New York Mets; biotechnology entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong; and agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group.
It remains to be seen whether Major League Baseball will challenge the deal in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, where the case is before Judge Kevin Gross.
Under an agreement reached by MLB and McCourt in November, a private auction was to be held among the finalists and McCourt was to select the winner by Sunday. The sales agreement is to be submitted to the bankruptcy court by April 6, ahead of a hearing seven days later, and the sale completed by April 30, the day McCourt is to make a divorce settlement payment.
"This agreement with Guggenheim reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community," McCourt said in a statement.
The acquiring group would gain the ability to sell the Dodgers' local broadcasting rights starting with games in 2014. The Guggenheim group likely would use money gained from the rights sale — or from the team's own network with outside investment — and use those funds to pay down the acquisition debt.
"The amount of leverage is a big question," said Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based consulting firm Sportscorp, which is not involved. "The likely scenario is that they have a broadcasting deal in mind so that they pay up now and pay themselves down from a big broadcasting upfront payment.
"The problem with this strategy is that the more paid upfront by the broadcast deal, the less money is available for team operations. The more debt they take on, the more debt service is required, the less money that's available for team operations. With the only beneficiary being the man walking out the door. A challenging result that baseball tried to avoid."
The current record for a baseball franchise is the $845 million paid by the Ricketts family for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.
The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy protection in late June, just days before the team was expected to miss payroll. The filing came after baseball Commissioner Bud Selig refused to approve a 17-year agreement between the Dodgers and Fox's Prime Ticket subsidiary that would have been worth $2 billion or more. MLB feared McCourt would use about half of an intended $385 million cash advance to fund his divorce.
Los Angeles finished third in the NL West last season at 82-79, had just three sellouts and fell short of 3 million in home attendance in a full season for the first time since 1992. There was some concern among MLB officials about the financing of the Walter bid because some of the money was coming from insurance companies that are owned by Guggenheim. A person familiar with the baseball owners' teleconference Tuesday said several team owners voiced that during the call. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because MLB did not make any announcements.
"The problem there is a fundamental problem as you go into an auction, and that is the absolute reliance on other people's money," said Ganis. "It means a lot of regulators. It means either shareholders or, depending on which insurance companies it's coming from, the insured themselves."
Kasten was hired as legal counsel of the Braves and the NBA's Hawks in 1976, and three years later became the NBA's youngest general manager at 27. He was promoted to president of the Braves and Hawks in 1986 and also became president of the NHL's Thrashers in 1999. After leaving the Atlanta teams in 2003, he became president of the Washington Nationals from 2006-10.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti recently had dinner with Kasten in Glendale, Ariz., the team's spring training home.
"He's very successful, very driven, relentless in his pursuit of excellence," Colletti said. "He's seen a lot and he's won a lot."
The Dodgers have won six World Series titles but none since 1988, when they were still owned by the O'Malley family that moved the team from Brooklyn to California after the 1957 season. Fox bought the team in 1998, then sold it to McCourt.
Colletti, whose baseball moves appear to have been constricted because of the team's financial problems, says the sale announcement brings "clarity."
"It's time to turn the page and move toward a new chapter in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers," he said. -- (AP)