NY Sports Day

Sportsbeat – 6-15-11

The news that Donnie Walsh will no longer be the Knicks general manager was greeted with hostility that was pointed at team owner James Dolan by both fans and the media.

While there is no argument that Donnie righted a very misguided ship, the bottom line is that the Knicks are Dolan’s toy and it’s his call as to who serves on his management team. No one knows how the negotiations between Walsh and Dolan went down, and what the dividing points were, although compensation and autonomy were the buzz words thrown around by the press after the Knicks issued a press release announcing Donnie’s departure.

HBO Sports always produces memorable documentaries and its latest effort, “McEnroe/Borg Fire & Ice,” is no exception. HBO sent camera crews to Johnny Mac’s childhood home in Douglaston and to the Port Washington Tennis Academy where he learned the sport.

The documentary nicely captures the nearly 35-year friendship between Johnny and Bjorn. The irony is that McEnroe, for all of his tantrums and outbursts over the years, comes off as better adjusted than the quiet and still handsome Borg. Borg quit professional tennis at age 25 and the documentary clearly infers that he suffers from some form of depression.

Sir Paul McCartney is certainly not showing any preferences when it comes to our local baseball teams. Two years ago he played the first concerts ever held at Citi Field. On July 15 he will make his Yankee Stadium debut. I hope that the fans don’t boo if he recalls his Beatles appearances at Shea Stadium.

Nets forward Kris Humphries could be the very few professional athletes to grace the cover of People before making it to the front of either Sports Illustrated or ESPN the Magazine. Humphries recently got engaged to Kim Kardashian.

Former Mets outfielder Shawn Green and one-time Giants linebacker Dhani Jones were in Bryant Park two weeks ago promoting their respective books, The Way of Baseball (Simon & Schuster) and The Sportsman (Rodale).

Green’s book is an intriguing mix of hitting theory, Zen philosophy, and career reminiscence. At the Bryant Park Q&A session Shawn stated that he believed that a good deal of Jason Bay’s frustrations at the plate stem from the pressure he places upon himself trying to put up stats that justify his lucrative contract.

“I went through the same thing in Los Angeles after I signed a big contract with the Dodgers in 2000. Because Jason plays in a tough hitting park (Citi Field) he probably presses too hard on the road to make up for his below par stats. That only makes things worse,” said Shawn.

Dhani Jones is not only a gifted NFL player but also a concert pianist, writer, and host of the Travel Channel’s Dhani Tackles The Globe,” a series in which he visits foreign lands to learn both about their cultures and to play their sports. In England he played rugby while giving cricket a try in Jamaica. “I would love it if everyone could get out and see the world,” Jones told the Bryant Park audience.

Going to Southern California may be pedestrian by Dhani’s standards, but it is always a fun summer getaway. The Mets will be in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers from July 4 to July 7 and then make a separate trip to San Diego to take on the Padres August 15-17. JetBlue flies to both locales from JFK. Both cities have plenty of hotels competing for leisure business in this tough economy so you can get some good deals at some first class properties. The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza located in trendy West Hollywood is equidistant to the area’s famous Pacific beaches to the west and Dodger Stadium to the east. In San Diego, the Hyatt Regency La Jolla has one of the best pools I have ever seen in a hotel and offers fantastic views of the area.  Another good option in the heart of La Jolla is the historic Grande Colonial located one block from the ocean. It’s a great place to watch the seals and to take in a sunset.

I ran into East Meadow native and legendary pitcher Frank Viola at an MLB Draft media event two weeks ago. Frank told me that he will be returning to the area this summer as the pitching coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones. “I’ve been living in Orlando for the last 28 years but my brother still lives in East Meadow. I am looking forward to returning to the old neighborhood,” he said.

Former Mets manager Davey Johnson was at the same event. He said that the Mets have not contacted him about a date to honor the 25th anniversary of the 1986 Mets team that won the World Series. Given Lenny Dykstra’s legal woes, Roger McDowell’s reprehensible remarks about gays, and Gary Carter’s battle with brain cancer, one has to wonder whether the Mets will choose to ignore that team’s silver anniversary. Of course if they do have a ceremony, they should retire Carter’s # 8.

Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon was the beneficiary of some incredible luck when the driver of the lead car, JR Hildebrand, crashed coming out of a turn just before the finish line. Still, Wheldon has great respect for the Indy Car rookie. “I am amazed that he was able to get 36 laps at the end without refueling,” Wheldon told me in New York three days after the race. With that kind of fuel efficiency under pressure, Hildebrand should give up auto racing and run the Department of Energy for the Obama administration.

Mets catcher Josh Thole may not be the  Johnny Bench but he has a very bright future. The media should stop worrying about his season-long batting slump and some occasional defensive lapses and let him learn his craft.

If you get nostalgic for past sports venues, check out Take Me Out to the Ballpark by Josh Leventhal (Black Dog & Leventhal) and God Bless the Spectrum from the Philadelphia Daily News (Camino Books). Both offer priceless photos and solid narratives.

Nearly everyone under 50 seems to exercise with an Ipod or some similar device in an ear. The problem is that the earbuds either become loose and fall out of one’s ear or they get full of sweat. A company called iLuv has solved the problem with sweat-proof ear-clips that are in the style of miniature bicycle helmets.

Sprains and muscle aches are inevitable when working out. TheraPearl is a pack of small blue beadlike circular pellets that miraculously relaxes and heals hurts. All you have to do is leave it in the freezer until needed.

Now we know the real reason the Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets. He scheduled the Nets Dancers to perform in Moscow on June 11 and 12.

Activision has just released NASCAR The Game 2011. Not only do video gamers race their cars around the oval, but are called on to works in the pits as well. You can even paint the car or change some of its physical features.

The recent sweltering weather has given a new appreciation for cold beverages. If you are looking for some novel choices to both quench your thirsty while staying healthy, try a bottle of blood orange juice from Italian Volcano or some fresh-pressed apple juice from Tree Top which is far superior to the mass-marketed concentrate variety from Mott’s. Even McDonald’s is offering healthier choices than soda with its mango pineapple smoothies and strawberry lemonade. If you want a slightly stronger drink, pick up a bottle of Masi Campofiorin, a rich red wine from northeast Italy that is great served chilled and costs under $20. Studies show that red wine helps lower bad cholesterol.

If you are looking for healthy munchies, try Stretch Island Fruit Strips. It reminds you of beef jerky but it is comprised of thin dried fruit such as apricots.


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