Sportsbeat 9/6/11

Granted, it’s hard to get worked up over NFL preseason games, but the September 1 stinker between the Jets and the Eagles in which each team’s third-stringers saw most of the action, was a complete travesty. I have seen better pickup games at Long Island parks.

The Jets’ two top picks from the 2010 NFL Draft, cornerback Kyle Wilson and offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse continue to be anything but impressive. Wilson was routinely beaten by wide receivers in the preseason, while Ducasse got called for three different holding penalties in the Eagles game. It looks like they both will be joining Vernon Gholston on the Jets’ all-time draftees bust list.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Met Life to have been the naming sponsor of where the Mets play instead of the New Meadowlands Stadium? Perhaps Mr. Met vetoed the deal in 2007 because he was worried that he would be replaced as the team’s mascot by Snoopy!

Can someone explain to me why the local media made such a big deal about the Mets putting David Wright on waivers? Wright himself was wondering about that considering that nearly everyone who has ever put on a big league uniform has had their name on the waiver wire.

Wright is the first Anglo athlete to win the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award that is given annually by the Hispanic Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association. Its chairman, Julio Pabon, cited Wright’s perennial willingness to sign autographs for kids and his accessibility to the media as the reasons for honoring him. Mets centerfielder Angel Pagan was also recognized for his philanthropic work at the August 30 Citi Field luncheon.

Hurricane Irene did not impress Pagan with its fierceness. “We get rainstorms harder than that all the time in Puerto Rico!” he told me the day after Irene passed through. Pagan’s understudy, Jason Pridie, who lives in Phoenix claims that the Arizona summer monsoons are worse. “The ground is so dry that it doesn’t take a lot of precipitation to cause a flash flood,” he cited. The two Mets players who grew up in Queens and still live with their folks, Whitestone’s Mike Baxter and Ozone Park’s Pedro Beato, said that Irene did minimal damage to them personally. Both told me that their basements did not flood. “I did see some downed trees on Rockaway Boulevard near 93rd Street,” Beato added.

There was always something about David Einhorn becoming a minority owner for the Mets that did not hit me as kosher. Perhaps it is simply the fact that he is a hedge fund guy, which is a fancy way for being a gambler with investments, that made me think that all of the stories of his rumored-to-be equity stake in the team was pure BS.

Besides postponing baseball and football games, Hurricane Irene forced the cancellation of a UFC viewing event on a Times Square Jumbotron. The UFC was hoping that a big turnout for its public spectacle would put heat on state legislators to allow mixed martial arts shows in New York. It does seem strange that gay marriage got legalized in the Empire State faster than MMA.

Three years ago Mardy Fish, as per custom, was bounced out of the US Open in the second round by some little-known opponent. At his post-match press conference, Fish became enraged when I asked him if he saw himself as merely a journeyman on the men’s (ATP) tour. “Are you trying to say that I suck?” Fish responded in front of the startled genteel tennis media. When I spoke to him after his second round victory at this year’s Open, Mardy graciously credited me for giving him the incentive to finally get serious and take a last stab at on-court glory. “I changed my diet, exercise routine, and finally went through with knee surgery that I had been delaying.”

On Labor Day Fish lost his fourth round match to France’s up-and-coming Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in five grueling sets. This past June Tsonga bounced Roger Federer from Wimbledon after coming back from two sets down so clearly this is a guy is no slouch. Don’t worry, Mardy, I haven’t lost faith. You’ll hoist the big trophy at Flushing Meadows in 2012.

Donald Young is another American tennis player for whom great things were predicted but little has materialized. Young, one of the few African-Americans in the sport, made his Open debut in 2005 at age 16. Now at age 22, he is finally showing signs of living up to some of the hype. I asked him if he thought that he thought that Americans were unfairly thinking that he was going to be the Tiger Woods of tennis and whether he chafed under that comparison. “There might be some truth to that but overall I think it is just that American tennis fans have seen so few champions in recent years that they were simply rooting too hard for me,” he said thoughtfully.

The Open’s #1 women’s seed, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, has been dating golfer Rory McIlroy who won golf’s US Open this past June. Caroline admitted that Rory put pressure on her to win this year at Flushing Meadows. “He’s got something that I want (a US Open victory) while I have something that he wants (a #1 ranking in a sport),” she said with a smile yet was totally serious.

Even if you didn’t know anything about tennis, you could probably tell its caste system by player endorsements. The elite “cool kids” as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and ice queen Maria Sharapova all wear Nike on the court while underdogs as Mardy Fish and Heather Watson, who gave Sharapova a first-round scare this year in a grueling three-set match, promote up-and-comer K-Swiss.

Incidentally, Sharapova was her usual sore loser self after dropping her third round match to Italy’s Flavia Pennetta. She refused to give her underdog opponent any credit as she attributed her loss as a case of beating herself.

Serena Williams came into the US Open ranked #28 on the WTA Tour. Williams admitted after disposing of #16 Ana Ivanovic that she is not obsessed with rankings since she is, after all, Serena Williams and she generally emerges victorious against her opponents.

Although few will recall this match when the 2011 US Open is discussed in the future, one of the best matches took place in the first week on the Grandstand as Israel’s Shahar Peer prevailed over India’s Sonia Mirza in a very tense three-set match. Both players admit that they understand that the hopes of their nations rest on their shoulders since they are the best tennis players (male or female) from their homelands. In a terrific example of brotherhood, Peer who is Jewish, and Mirza who is a Muslim, have frequently been doubles partners and are friends off the court.

As Joe McDonald reported here on NY Sports Day, both Cablevision and Verizon Fios dropped the Tennis Channel smack dab in the middle of the US Open when the two carriers would not agree to place it on its basic package instead of the premium sports tier in which cable customers have to pay extra to watch networks as Fuel, some Fox Sports regionals, and CBS College Sports.

The USTA works hard at the Open to keep sports scribes happy with a fairly good cafeteria that is operated by Levy Restaurants and a 6-8 PM happy hour sponsored by Grey Goose Vodka. I have to admit for completely selfish reasons that it would be great if Grey Goose could hold similar events for the press in the other sports.

Tennis Channel executives should take advantage of the US Open to hold a media briefing/cocktail hour with executives and talent to let the public know about the year-round programming. A little public pressure couldn’t hurt their negotiating posture with cable and satellite providers by making alliances with the sports media but Tennis Channel executives have to initiate the volley.

Jim Leyritz has written his autobiography titled Catching Heat (HCI Books). It is a quick but riveting read as he details the ups of his career and the Job-like downs of his life, including his arrest for DUI vehicular homicide (a charge on which he was acquitted), a troubled marriage, and having a son who will always require medical attention.

Derek Jeter will make a rare public appearance on September 19 at the New York Times Center when he is interviewed 92nd Street Y-style, along with Dave Winfield and Tino Martinez, by sports memorabilia king Brandon Steiner. There will be a Q&A session with those buying tickets as well.

If you are a fan who is looking for value when it comes to purchasing tickets in the secondary market and feel that you are being raked over the coals by StubHub, a California-based company called ScoreBig has introduced a Priceline-style bidding system for seats and lets you know immediately if your bid has been successful. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for ScoreBig to penetrate the Northeast.

Atlanta’s CJ Senter is a ten year-old who could be the Justin Bieber of exercise. His Workout Kid video, in which Senter plays Jack LaLanne for his prepubescent peers, has quietly become a big seller.

The Riviera Maya section of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, located about a 45-minute drive from Cancun, has quickly become one of the most competitive areas in the world when it comes to competing for the business of the amateur golfer. Nick Price, Greg Norman, Robert Trent Jones II and Nick Faldo have all designed golf courses for area resorts. The PGA Tour now makes a stop here in mid-February for the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Pepsi MAX has come up with an interesting “Field of Dreams” promotion. It is inviting fans to enter a contest that will allow them to field a team with their friends to take on a team of legends in their hometown. Have fun stepping into the batter’s box against Randy Johnson and good luck trying to get Ken Griffey, Jr. out.

Retailer Forever 21 is trying to take the place of the very much missed Steve & Barry’s by selling college tees and sweatshirts at prices lower than you’d find at the campus bookstore.

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