How thrilled do you think New York Racing Association executives were (at least the ones who survived Governor Cuomo’s recent purge) that I’ll Have Another won the Preakness? This is the first time that there is a possibility of a Triple Crown winner in four years.
All of which means that there could be 100,000 people at Belmont Park on June 9 even with the Mets taking on the Yankees at Yankee Stadium that evening. More importantly, the national spotlight gets a rare chance to shine on thoroughbred racing.
I’ll Have Another will certainly be the big favorite for the Belmont Stakes and not just because he won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Bob Baffert, the trainer of hard-luck Kentucky Derby/Preakness runner-up Bodemeister, has opted not to have his horse run the 1½ -mile Belmont Stakes. Gemologist, the winner of the Wood Memorial, is still nursing a foot bruise he incurred from the Kentucky Derby, and will miss the Belmont as well. Of course, if recent history is a guide, some crazy longshot will wind up crossing the wire in two weeks.
It is hard to find a player more delightful than Jeff “Frenchy” Francoeur. The former Mets outfielder is now playing for the Kansas City Royals and he quickly made fans of some A’s hecklers who were riding him at the Oakland Coliseum when he bought 20 boxes of pizza for them last month. “It’s about tearing down the wall that exists between too many players and fans,” Jeff told me prior to a game at Yankee Stadium.
Of course now fans in every city expect him to feed them. I wonder if the Bleacher Creatures can be bought off with fast food by an opposing player. Of course buying 20 boxes of pizza at Yankee Stadium can take a big dent even out of a major leaguer’s paycheck!
Another great guy that I miss at Citi Field is relief pitcher DJ Carrasco who showed a gutsy self-deprecating sense of humor and candor after Sandy Alderson gave him his walking papers when he got lit up on successive nights by the Milwaukee Brewers on successive nights last month. “If I were the general manager of the Mets I would have done the same thing,” DJ said with a smile after learning of his fate.
The broadcast and the key cable networks always hold their Upfront presentations the third week of May. The Upfronts are where the TV networks preview their fall offerings for both ad buyers and the media.
Although primetime shows tend to get the lion’s share of attention at the Upfronts, sports programming certainly got its due. CBS touted the fact that it will be broadcasting the 2013 Super Bowl by having Eli Manning, fresh off his very successful Saturday Night Live hosting gig, chatted football with Jim Nantz on the stage of Carnegie Hall. NBC, which has struggled in the Nielsens, can take solace that its Sunday night NFL package is the most watched show in primetime. NBC Entertainment CEO Bob Greenblatt trumpeted that its 17 days of Olympics coverage this August will be a key promotional pad for its fall shows. Fox announced that it would devote its Saturday night programming to its sports portfolio starting with Major League Baseball for the summer. During the fall, Fox will show college football, NASCAR and the Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts league. The UFC will also be part of its new Latin American cable network, Mundo Fox.
On the cable front, ESPN announced that they will be showing more sports documentaries as they will be resuming their “30 for 30″ series that they launched to commemorate their 30th anniversary three years ago. There will also be a clever IX for IX documentary series in which 9 female filmmakers will produce documentaries on female athletes to mark the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. TNT is borrowing the face of the NFL Network, Rich Eisen, for its “Amazing Race” knockoff, “The Great Escape.”
USA Network is continuing to trumpet its successful “Characters Welcome” campaign. “Necessary Roughness,” starring Callie Thorne as a sports psychologist and Mehdcad Brooks as a Terrell Owens-style wide receiver, will be back for another season. Listen up WWE fans; starting July 23, to mark its 1.000th episode, “RAW” will expand weekly to three hours every Monday night.
I ran into Philip Jack Brooks, better known to wrestling fans as CM Punk, at the USA Upfront at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. I told him that I thought that his rant about the corporate politics of the WWE last June on “RAW” may have been a precursor to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. “I try to shy away from politics,” he said with a smile. WWE executive Stephanie McMahon immediately chimed in, “He takes credit for it every day!”
Former Giants QB and current ESPN college football announcer Jesse Palmer was the emcee for the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame inductees press conference held at the NASDAQ’s Times Square headquarters. Former Atlanta Falcons QB Steve Bartkowski, who played college football at Berkeley, shied away from answering my query as to whether a college football playoff system would create greater academic hardship on student athletes. “Jesse, you had better take that one. I worked at QB and played at school when I was at Cal,” Bartkowski said in a self-effacing manner to a lot of laughs. Palmer, not surprisingly, backed a playoff system.
Race car driver JR Hildebrand was in New York a week before the Indy 500. He is best known for crashing into a wall on the last lap of last year’s race. I asked him if he felt as if he were auto racing’s answer to Bill Buckner. “No, I don’t have any regrets. There was a car that was running out of fuel in front of me and I had to get out of the way to avoid a collision that would have involved another person,” he said.
The sportscaster who always claimed to tell it like it was, is the subject of a scholarly biography. Be sure to pick up a copy of Mark Ribowsky’s Howard Cosell: The Man, The Myth and the Transformation of American Sports (WW Norton). It is fun to relive the early days of Monday Night Football and he golden era of boxing when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier went toe-to-toe.
In my last column I talked about how coconut water has more potassium than bananas and how it can restore electrolytes after a good workout. I mentioned that ZICO’s chocolate flavored coconut water tasted like an egg cream and I identified another popular flavor as pina colada. Perhaps that was wishful thinking on my part. ZICO makes pineapple-flavored coconut water and not pina colada-flavored. Hopefully they will in the near future.
Incidentally, ZICO’s competitor, Vita Coco, just signed Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton to an endorsement deal. I wonder if he is a fan of their acai and pomegranate coconut water!
If you are throwing a graduation party or just a fun barbecue or picnic, check out the sinfully indulgent desserts that you can get at www.sweetstreet.com.
One of the best places to escape the summer is southern Maine. JetBlue has four daily flights from JFK to Portland, Maine (they also fly to Portland, Oregon which is also a good place to be in the summer!) If you want to be by the beach, check out either the Beachmere Inn (www.beachmereinn.com) or the Inn By The Sea (www.innbythesea.com). Midweek rates are better than the weekends. If you want to learn how to catch fresh lobster, swordfish and tuna make sure to charter a boat with one of the best known commercial fishing captains, Linda Greenlaw. (www.lindagreenlawbooks.com) Make sure to stop by Maine’s own LL Bean for all the fishing gear as well as clothing that you may need.
Summer is the time when electrical demand is the highest. If you want to keep your electric bills down as well as reduce the threat of black and brownouts, make sure that your electrical devices are plugged into a Bits Energy Saving Smart Strip.
Dust also accumulates on cell phones as well as on computer screens more frequently in the summer. Falcon makes numerous sprays and other types of cleaners to keep your various screens crystal clear.
If you need a limo in a hurry in a city and you don’t know which company to contact, don’t worry. A company called Ride Charge has created an app for smart phones called Sedan Magic that will get you a luxury car and chauffeur with the press of a button.