NY Sports Day

Sportsbeat 02/08/11

Ross Greenburg, the former president of HBO Sports, can be proud of the fact that the last sports documentary made under his aegis, Namath, a 90-minute look at the life pro football’s first rock star, Joe Willie Namath, is arguably the best yet. Yes, Namath relives his glory days as Jets QB including some rarely seen footage of AFL games played at Shea Stadium, and of course there are the obligatory Super Bowl III highlights, but this is no cheerleading film. Namath’s alcoholism, which came about as a way of anesthetizing the considerable pain he endured in both his college and NFL careers, are dealt with forthrightly, including the cringe-inducing interview that ESPN reporter Suzy Kolber did with him in 2003 in which he asked her to kiss him.

I asked Namath, who was at the HBO press screening, if he felt that his guarantee of victory in Super Bowl III may have inadvertently ushered in trash-talking in team sports. “I think that came about with the proliferation of all-sports TV and radio stations as well as the growth of the Internet. Athletes see themselves as entertainers now.” It’s no secret that Namath has been critical of Rex Ryan and the Jets for talking the talk but failing badly at walking the walk.

The Giants’ appearance in Super Bowl XLVI certainly was a boon to some NYC businesses. William Greenberg Desserts sold a ton of Big Blue cookies while midtown’s Empire Steak House brought in ex-Giants punter Sean Landeta to sign autographs and shmooze with patrons.

Landeta admitted that he was ticked that the two Super Bowl-winning teams that he was a part of, the ‘87 and ‘91 Giants, did not get a parade down the Canyon of Heroes. “Ed Koch, the New York mayor in ‘87 saw the Giants as a New Jersey-taxpaying corporation. In 1991 Mayor Dinkins was a bit more sympathetic but felt that a parade would be in bad taste with the Gulf War having gotten underway a few weeks earlier,” Landeta recollected.

Yankees managing partner and CEO Hal Steinbrenner admitted that trading catching prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for starting pitcher Michael Pineda was a high-risk, high-reward move. “You can never go wrong with young, talented pitching,” Steinbrenner told me at Jorge Posada’s retirement press conference.

The annual dinner to honor Thurman Munson, the terrific Yankees catcher who died 32 years ago in a private plane crash, has raised over $11 million for the AHRC Foundation whose mission is to help youngsters and adults with cognitive developmental problems.

Thurman’s widow, Diana, revealed a little known story about her husband to me. “Thurman was friendly with John Belushi and Lorne Michaels. He agreed to appear as a Samurai apprentice during one of Belushi’s famous skits on Saturday Night Live right after the baseball season ended in 1979. Alas it wasn’t to be.”

Mets players Daniel Murphy and R.A. Dickey were two of the honorees at the Munson Dinner held at the Grand Hyatt New York.  Murphy told the press that Mets players will work hard for manager Terry Collins and that he doesn’t share the pessimism surrounding the team. He even said with a straight face that he felt that the Mets can be a playoff contender.

He sobered up a bit when I asked him if he could understand the pessimism about the team that is being espoused by fans and media, particularly in light of the Wilpons’ refusal to make even a token offer to Jose Reyes. He nodded affirmatively and added with a smile, “Right now we are tied for first place in the NL East.” You can’t argue with that logic. He also said that he is aware that his defense lags behind his offensive prowess and will work on mastering second base during spring training.

R.A. Dickey said that he understood why Mets general manager Sandy Alderson sent him a letter warning him that his contract would be voided if he hurt himself climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Dickey successfully undertook the climb as a way of raising both money and awareness for the sexual trafficking of women and minors throughout the world. “Any of the other 29 general managers in baseball would have done the same thing,” R.A. said philosophically.

Dickey mentioned the hardships of his trek. “Besides freezing, I started hallucinating at around 18,000 feet above sea level. My Ipod froze pretty quickly. However it was breathtaking to watch the sun rise over Africa from that altitude.” When I asked him if the 1982 Toto hit, “Africa” which mentioned Kilimanjaro, was on his Ipod, he chuckled and said, “Absolutely!”

Yankees first baseman Mark Texeira did not have the best season of his career in 2011 and believes that his eating habits may have played a role in that. He told the media assembled at the Hyatt that he has lost 14 pounds and is working with a nutritionist.

Ageless Louie Carnesecca was on hand to see arguably the greatest player he ever coached at St. John’s, Chris Mullin, receive his Munson Award. Louie is thrilled about the direction of the current Red Storm team and is a big fan of swing forward Mo Harkless who played his high school ball at Forest Hills.

Carnesecca believes that the new Barclays Center will help local colleges in their recruiting effort. Louis spent a few years coaching the New York Nets and chuckled when he recollected his days coaching at the dumpy Island Garden in West Hempstead before they moved over to the Nassau Coliseum. The Nets have come a long way at least real estate-wise.

Coach Carnesecca should be happy to hear this. The Nets announced that they will honor their American Basketball Association heritage with five Hardwood Classics Nights this season in which they will wear their old ABA uniforms at the Pru Center.

Speaking before of the Barclays Center, the Islanders announced that they will play an exhibition game against the Devils there on October 2. We’ll see if that provides an impetus to Nassau County and Hempstead Township politicos to get a new home for them.

Millrose Games officials claim that track & field stars are ecstatic that the Games have left their longtime venue, Madison Square Garden, for the Armory in Washington Heights. “We have a better track here than what we had at the Garden. Now more records can be set,” said meet director Ray Flynn. As Jon Lovitz used to say as his Tommy Flanagan character on Saturday Night Live, “Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

Tennis star Caroline Wozniacki was the only female athlete to make the Askmen.com’s “99 Most Desirable List.” Surprisingly, Danica Patrick did not make the cut and neither did sports personalities Erin Andrews and Alexandra Flanagan.

It was bizarre how SNY was forced at the last minute to cancel its annual January high school basketball tournament, the SNY Invitational. It was scheduled to take place at its usual venue, the LIU gym but someone discovered that the NCAA passed a ruling last April that prohibits colleges from hosting high school games. A college that does so risks incurring steep fines.

On solution for SNY for next year would be to have the games take place at the Lexington Avenue Armory. For all you epicureans out there, the Armory will host the annual Village Voice Choice Eats evening on March 13. My advice is not to eat lunch that day because some of the New York area’s best restaurants set up booths at which you can sample their wares without limitation.

A new product called the Water Bobble, lets you fill tap water into a light recycled bottle that has a top that doubles as filter. It’s a similar technology as what Pur and Brita have done for sinks. You can now go to the gym and work out and not have to buy bottled water again if you have the Water Bobble.

Dr. Brian Bonanni is an ophthalmologist who has just opened Gotham LASIK and Skin Care on West 57th Street. All of us get the LASIK part, but skin care? It turns out that Botox was first used not by dermatologists, but rather by eye surgeons to anesthetize lower eyelids. It turned out that the injections helped get rid of wrinkles. Interestingly enough, having a facial with the right ingredients is not only relaxing and makes you look and feel better but it can also help prevent many types of skin cancer.

If you are thinking of doing a late winter or early spring trip to our neighbor to the north, VIA Rail Canada (their Amtrak) will not only transport you from coast to coast but also has packages that include tickets to NHL games in the various provinces.

Providence, Rhode Island has quietly enjoyed a rebirth thanks to a combination of new buildings, art galleries and top-notch restaurants. It is a short drive to Boston but the hotel rates are a fraction of those in Beantown. You can catch the Bruins AHL affiliate play there and the city is home to both Brown University, and of course, Providence U.

Bill Gates’ Microsoft Word has the lion’s share of the word processing market, of course, but Corel’s WordPerfect is still hanging in there as it has just launched WordPerfect OfficeX5. I have always found it an easier program to work with and you can save your work as a Word document when you are done. Surprisingly, WordPerfect is still only compatible with PCs and not Macs.

Just before the Super Bowl, the Daily News ran a feature on a new singer, Missy Modell, who happened to write and record a song about the Giants on YouTube. Melissa “Missy” Modell is a very talented singer who happens to be the daughter of Modell’s CEO, Mitch Modell. I wrote about Missy a month ago and her PR handlers are livid at me for revealing her family lineage.

If Missy wanted to make sure that very few made that connection she could have chosen a different surname for showbiz purposes. The Daily News piece on her dutifully omitted any mention of her family. Is it possible that the Daily News ran the feature on her and played by her PR team’s rules because Modell’s Sporting Goods is a big advertiser? Just asking.


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