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LOS ANGELES -- Rita Vennari's corner office provides a striking panorama, Century City's skyline against a Pacific Ocean backdrop to the west and the Hollywood Hills to the south. Her office is where L.A. dreams may come true. SBV Talent represents actors for commercials and voiceovers. The work can be lucrative, but in many cases her agency offers a chance to find t…

Richie Incognito is a vulgar offensive lineman. Of his five college and pro football teams, the Buffalo Bills are the only one that didn’t chase him away. Tom Brady’s life is polished to a luster. He’s the face of the almighty New England Patriots, an NFL deity. While in NFL exile, Incognito vented by taking a baseball bat to his $300,000 Ferrari FF hatchback. …

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Sammy Watkins’ parents stood in the middle of Barker Boulevard and bickered the way a couple might quibble whether that’s the same actress from that thing they saw on TV that one time. “Right here is where Willie Fletcher was shot and murdered,” Nicole McMiller said, pointing to a spot near a speed bump. “Nah,” Mike McMiller said, “…

NAPA, Calif. – Khalil Mack wanted nothing to do with this story. He refused to be interviewed for it. Sandy Mack, his father, at first liked the idea of meeting me down in Fort Pierce, Fla., where Khalil is from. Then Sandy stopped returning text messages and voicemails. Khalil Mack gave the impression he’d rather shower with asbestos bodywash and stir three t…

For two reasons, people don’t like to talk about this. 1) Those in the industry would rather take an Aaron Rodgers pass in the windpipe than surrender their secrets. 2) Most who aren’t privy would have trouble understanding the convoluted concepts anyway. The world of football analytics is fascinating for those who explore it, aggravating for those who refuse …

Even after his foot has struck the ball, a kicker must keep his head down. Regardless of the field goal’s length, his follow-through technique is crucial. Before the snap, his eyes have to remain fixed on the spot. His head should be occupied by basic thoughts to avoid distraction. Then trained on that spot. Nothing but the blessed spot. Transfixed, he won’t see …

Sammy Watkins could have used a built-in excuse, pointed his finger at the easy target. Nobody would have blamed him. The NFL admitted the ruling was incompetent. An official clearly botched the end of Monday night’s loss to the New England Patriots. Watkins caught a pass along the left sideline as precious time dwindled. The Bills’ receiver, untouched by a defend…

NEW YORK – Sports gambling is evil. Forever has it been the most sinister threat to darken sports’ door. That’s what sports commissioners have warned us. Then they found a way to get in on the action. Federal legislation unwittingly permitted a daily fantasy sports eruption, bringing unforeseen sponsorship dollars and investment opportunities to leagues, …

NEW YORK – What does a king, one who fancies living encircled by a moat, do when his realm is under siege, his people attacked, his legacy threatened? He could fire flaming arrows at the horde through the castle’s window slits, catapult diseased animal carcasses in their direction or dump boiling tar down the murder hole. Or he could get totally medieval and summ…

BALTIMORE – There comes a time in Aaron Maybin’s artistic process when he needs to scrutinize his canvas. ¶ In a cluttered, paint-splattered studio – on the first floor of his three-story row house in the city’s gentrified Canton neighborhood – Maybin will pace this way and that. He will squint, cock his head, even climb halfway up the staircase in search of a f…

HENDERSON, Nev. – Rex Ryan was a trampled man. His New York Jets were 2-8 entering last November’s game against the Buffalo Bills, the one that was moved to Detroit because Ralph Wilson Stadium was buried under a snowstorm. An avalanche already had fallen on Ryan. He knew the Jets would fire him at the end of the season. Their micromanaging front office had squeezed…

When the Chicago Bears retired Mike Ditka’s uniform number last year, they declared he “revolutionized the tight end position.” The Baltimore Sun wrote of John Mackey’s death three years ago that “he will be remembered for revolutionizing his position.” A Cleveland Plain Dealer headline two years ago proclaimed the “NFL’s tight-end revolution began” wi…

OAKLAND, Calif. – This can be a ruthless town. Unlike the tourist attractions, chic shimmer and sophistication across San Francisco Bay, Oakland is known for its unapologetic grime. Oakland produced Clint Eastwood, John Lee Hooker, the Hells Angels, Bruce Lee and the Black Panther Party. And don’t try to knock Oakland by countering with pop rapper MC Hammer. This…

ORLANDO, Fla. – Those closest to Darryl Talley are terrified. His wife, daughters and former teammates openly cry for him. They lament what has befallen him. They dread what his future might hold. Talley’s life is in tatters. Loved ones say his mind is deteriorating. He’s begrudgingly starting to agree. He’s 54, but his body is a wreck and continues to crumbl…