Sportsbeat – 12/23/11

      Bob Costas, who grew up in Commack, has earned a well-deserved reputation for being a probing interviewer. His skills were on display again when he conversed with Tom Seaver on the MLB Network’s “Studio 42″ program recently. Just when all of us thought we knew everything about the greatest player in Mets history, and the bizarre 1977 trade that sent him to Cincinnati for four marginal players, Costas was able to elicit some new information from “The Franchise.”

It was always assumed that Seaver was traded because Mets president M. Donald Grant did not want to renegotiate his contract. It turns out that was only one factor. According to Tom, Grant asked him if he was a Communist for serving as the team’s union rep, and then expressed disdain that a proletariat player as himself could join the tony Greenwich Country Club.

On January 9th  the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its newest inductees. My guess is that shortstop Barry Larkin will easily get more than 75% of the votes needed from the stodgy members of the Baseball Writers Association of America and that pitcher Jack Morris will make it by a hair. Lee Smith, one of the most dominant closers in history, and Jeff Bagwell, a terrific first baseman who played in a bad baseball town, Houston, will get enough votes to make them favorites for 2013 induction when they would be joining Mike Piazza who will be in his first year of eligibility and should be a shoo-in for Cooperstown immortality.

For baseball fans who start chafing this time of year, HBO has released its baseball timeline documentary series, “When It Was A Game,” as well as “61*,” its fictional account of the 1961 home run slugging duel between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris that was directed by Long Beach native Billy Crystal.

Derek Jeter meet SpongeBob SquarePants. As a way of adding younger fans, Major League Baseball has teamed up with Nickelodeon and 2K Sports for a new video game, Nicktoons MLB that features real MLB players and Nickelodeon’s beloved characters.

Mark Brunell has done a fine job mentoring Mark Sanchez but the Jets would be wise to find a younger QB understudy for next season. Jets head coach Rex Ryan was understandably leery about putting the forty-something Brunell on the field when the Jets were getting their collective butts kicked by the Eagles. Sanchez absorbed a jarring hit from Eagles defensive end Jason Babin and it was clear that he was shaken up. Nonetheless he did not miss any snaps because Rex did not have a viable replacement. The Giants, on the other hand, at least have a serviceable backup for Eli Manning in David Carr.

The Jets will have to find a way to improve their offensive line as well. Right tackle Wayne Hunter has acted more like a maitre d’ than a QB protector by practically escorting blitzing defenders to Mark Sanchez instead of keeping them away.

On its pre-Christmas episode, “Saturday Night Live” brilliantly spoofed Tebow-mania as Jason Sudeikis portrayed a slightly miffed Jesus who confronts a fawning Tim Tebow (ably played by Taran Killam) for having to constantly rescue him in the fourth quarter of every game with miracle finishes.

David Letterman got off a good zinger in his “Late Show” monolog a couple of weeks ago. “Kobe Bryant and his wife are getting a divorce. The deal will have to be approved by NBA Commissioner David Stern!”

I have no problem with Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni talking about his team being an NBA champion this year. It costs nothing to set the bar high. I just wonder about the wisdom of signing an over-the-hill and now injured Baron Davis. Granted, it wasn’t that longer ago that he was one of the best guards in the NBA, but it is it wise to have him on your roster in the hopes that he’ll be game-ready by March?

New Jersey Nets head coach Avery Johnson doesn’t have to worry about title aspirations. His biggest concern will be making sure that his star playmaker and free agent-to be Deron Williams doesn’t become a malcontent when the losses start piling up. Williams admitted to the media that he becomes grumpy when his team loses.

Deron may have to get used to being on the short end of the scoreboard now that Nets center Brook Lopez is on the injured list with a stress fracture in his right foot that required surgery. Not that anyone considered the Nets to be title contenders this season, but the loss of Lopez pretty much dooms the Nets to another season of hoping that the ping pong balls break their way in the NBA draft lottery.

Boxing looks like it’s taking a step in the right direction. For too many years even fights that had nobodies going up against each other were seen only on pay-per-view. This myopic thinking hurt the sport from developing new fans and opened the way for mixed martial arts to step in. Last month Showtime broadcast one of the best bouts that I have seen in awhile, a twelve rounder between Carl Froch and Andre Ward, on its regular channel. ESPN and the NBC Sports Network are promising to show fights on a steadier basis in 2012.

The voice of Fox Sports, Joe Buck, made a terrific speech honoring his late dad, Jack Buck, on his induction into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame last month. Recently retired NBC Sports czar Dick Ebersol and NFL Films president Steve Sabol were also inducted. Sabol’s use of lively music, well-timed slow motion taping, and placing a premium on sound so that you can hear snippets of sidelines conversation as well as bone-jarring tackles, helped the NFL gain millions of fans.

The National Enquirer is reporting that Terry “ Hulk Hogan” Bollea is suing his ex-wife, Linda, for defamation of character. She said that he had a homosexual relationship with a fellow wrestling star from the 1980s, Ed “Brutus the Barber Beefcake” Leslie.

VH-1 is giving Bravo a run for the money when it comes to tawdry reality series. The Viacom network struck ratings gold with “Basketball Wives” and now they have a new guilty pleasure, “Baseball Wives.” One of the stars is the controversial Anna Benson, wife of former Mets hurler Kris Benson. The one-time hottie has not aged well and comes off as a bit unhinged. Of course reality television generally isn’t very real. Those involved know that they are playing characters.

Even though the Rangers are far more talented these days than their old geographic rivals, the Islanders, Nassau County’s pro hockey team generally puts up a spirited effort against the Blueshirts. That was certainly the case when the Isles visited MSG three days before Christmas.         The good news for the Islanders was that their power play was terrific as both Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau scored goals when their team held a one-man advantage on the ice. The bad news was that they couldn’t score when both teams were at full strength, which was something that clearly bothered head coach Jack Capuano in his post-game press conference.

Capuano defended his goalie, Evgeni Nabakov, who skated off the ice with over a minute to go but before his team was able to move the puck into the Rangers end of the ice. Rangers center John Mitchell intercepted the pass at the Isles’ blue line and scored an easy empty net goal. From my vantage point it looked like a clear case of premature evacuation on Nabakov’s part.

Rangers defenseman Stu Bickel, who had just been recalled from the Connecticut Whale of the AHL made his presence felt as he got into a second period brawl with Matt Martin and a third period fight with Tim Wallace who seemed surprised that he would want to drop the gloves with his team winning by a 3-1 score at the time. Rangers head coach John Tortorella was probably surprised as well and not in a good way when Matt Moulson tallied a goal to make it a 3-2 contest. Bickel would be wise to remember the adage about letting sleeping dogs lie.

If your girlfriend or wife likes expensive jeans, take her to Denim Habit in Chelsea. They have a pool table in the basement which you can use while she is trying on pricey outfits.

If you or someone you know has food allergies, pick up Dr. Lucy’s Cookies which are both gluten-free and allergen-free. The funny thing is that they are extremely tasty so that even if you don’t have food issues, you’ll still love them.

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