Whoever the Mets choose as manager will probably elicit a collective big yawn from the fan base as new general manager Sandy Alderson seems determined to interview anyone whose name is not Bobby Valentine.
Don’t feel badly however for Bobby V; his profile and compensation will be elevated as he will be part of the new ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team along with Orel Hershiser and Dan Shulman. That triumvirate will be replacing Jon Miller and Joe Morgan who were unceremoniously booted by “The Sports Leader” after 21 years of service. Perhaps this is a minority opinion, but I found Miller & Morgan to be an informative and pleasant listen.
Wouldn’t it have been great if free agent Derek Jeter could have kept a straight face and told gullible reporters who were camped out in the parking lot of Chelsea Piers’ Pier Sixty Restaurant for the annual Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation that he had just received a tremendous offer from the Pirates and that it was always his dream to finish his career in Pittsburgh?
It has been 40 years since the most storied football coach in NFL history, Vince Lombardi, passed away. That milestone is being noted in a myriad of ways. With the financial backing of the NFL, “Lombardi” is currently a terrific Broadway play that stars Dan Lauria in the title role. On December 11, HBO Sports will present an hour-long documentary on his life. Finally, former CBS and Fox sportscaster Pat Summerall, who has written a book that has just hit the shelves, “Giants: What I Learned from Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry” (Wiley Publishing), in which he recalls his days as a tight end and place kicker for the New York Giants when both Lombardi and Landry were assistant coaches with Big Blue. The Giants elected to have Allie Sherman serve as their head coach in the 1960s and both Lombardi and Landry were forced to look elsewhere for head coaching positions. I am sure that the late Wellington Mara must have kicked himself for years over that decision.
The New York City Marathon doesn’t get any attention on WFAN but it does generate a ton of revenue for the area’s hotels, restaurants and stores as runners from all over the world descend on the Big Apple. Athletic shoe manufacturers can be counted on to showcase their latest light-as-a-feather shoes that claim to provide heel protection and reduce stress on the legs. Nike showcased its LunarGlide+2; Reebok touted its ZigTech sneakers whose soles look likes sound waves; New Balance played up two models, its 759 and 870; and finally, the renegade Spira Footwear, whose shoes are banned by nearly every world marathon sanctioning body because they have metal coil springs in the heels, debuted its latest sneaker on steroids, the Valencia.
The NYC Marathon is an intriguing mix of celebrity runners, corporate promotion, and charity. Former Giants wide receiver Armani Toomer was sponsored by Timex in his efforts to raise funds for worthy causes; dorky Subway spokesman, Jared Fogle, was naturally backed by his favorite fast-food chain; while recently retired tennis star and current Tennis Channel broadcaster Justin Gimelstob had a financial guardian in Zico, the coconut water brand that is fighting it out for market share alongside Vita Coco and O.N.E.
Gimelstob was one of a myriad of sports stars who gave generously of his time the following night at the annual New York City Starlight Foundation sports memorabilia auction that was held at Madison Square Garden. Justin was ecstatic that he won his $10,000 bet with Andy Roddick who bet that he would need more than 4:45 to finish the 26.2-mile course. He made it in a very respectable 4:09. “Andy called immediately to congratulate me. Knowing how much physical torture I endured probably made the bet worthwhile for him even though he now has to write a check to my foundation,” Gimelstob said with a tired smile.
Also appearing at the Starlight event were Nets shooting guard Anthony Morrow and Devils left winger Ilya Kovalchuk. Two nights earlier, the Miami Heat thought that they were the Harlem Globetrotters and that the Nets were the Washington Generals as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were more interested in creating high-flying passes and thunderous dunks that would make the Sportscenter highlight reel than they were in merely scoring baskets. Morrow was glad that fellow Nets guard Terrence Williams pushed King James into the stands while he got physical with Wade. “We’re not going to be pushovers,” he added.
Ilya Kovalchuk, who signed a lucrative contract extension with the New Jersey Devils that sent NHL executives into apoplexy because it was too lucrative for their stringent salary cap guidelines, said that he welcomes the pressure that comes with high compensation. He also guaranteed that the Devils would turn around their slow start.
Kovalchuk, who has both looks and intelligence as well as ability, is a blip on the radar screen for most New York area sports fans compared with say, fellow telegenic superstars as Derek Jeter and Mark Sanchez, because Devils boss Lou Lamoriello, who is renown for being a media-hating control freak, prefers marketing the team as a whole and detests promoting star players even if it hurts Devils’ owner Jeff Vanderbeek’s bottom line. When I asked Ilya his thoughts about this, he forlornly replied, “It’s Lou’s decision.” When I playfully suggested to him that Lou would have fit in quite well at the Kremlin during the Stalinist era, the native Russian had to bite his lip hard to break out from laughing.
The Mets get a lot of well-deserved criticism but they are great when it comes to helping out deserving non-profit organizations. Two weeks ago, they donated the use of the Caesar’s Club in Citi Field, as well as taking care of the food and drink, for the annual Nephcure Foundation fund-raiser that raised $600,000 this year. Nephcure funds research for a wide array of kidney diseases and assists families whose lives are upended by them. Former Mets star pitcher Dwight Gooden happily signed autographs. “My father died from kidney disease so being here is really special for me,” said Doc. Also appearing at the event was former Mets general manager, and now current baseball show host on Sirius XM, Jim Duquette, whose daughter, Lindsey, has been successfully battling kidney disease for the last five years.
On Monday, November 29, QB Mark Sanchez, linebacker and Freeport native, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and a slew of other Jets players will be helping left tackle Damien Woody raise funds for his philanthropy, the PROS Foundation, with a “Tear Up The Pierre” cocktail party and fashion show at that swank midtown hotel. The public is invited to purchase tickets. PROS is an acronym for People Reaching Out to Someone and its mission is to help a variety of groups that deal with helping impoverished kids. For more information, go to www.prosfoundation.org. Contributions are tax-deductible.
Perhaps the NBA is listening to Jimmy McMillan. The NBA Store on Fifth Avenue will close in February because the rent is too damn high.
It is always fun to visit Philadelphia which is less than a three-hour trip for many of us. My suggestion is to make a visit to the Wells Fargo Center (formerly the Wachovia Center) and catch a Flyers or 76ers game, particularly when your favorite team is the opposition. Even though it has been open for nearly 15 years, this arena looks as if it first opened its doors.
Philly’s newest attraction is the National Museum of American Jewish History that is located just off Independence Plaza. Among the artifacts here are a bat used by Hank Greenberg and a pitching glove used by Sandy Koufax. As they used to say in those old Levy’s Rye Bread ads, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy a visit here.
If you were not able to enter the aforementioned NYC Marathon because you did not win the New York Road Runners entry lottery, you still have options. In January there are a couple of marathons that may be of interest; the Phoenix Marathon on January 16 and the Miami Marathon on January 30.If nothing else, it is a good excuse to get out of the cold weather!
Spike TV’s satirical look at college football, “Blue Mountain State,” is back for its second season. It’s on Wednesdays at 11 PM.