The day before the NBA Draft, the league invites most the players that it believes will be selected in the first round to meet with the media at the Westin Hotel in Times Square. The following day, the players, looking resplendent in their sharp suits, shake hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern as soon as they are selected for the whole world to see on ESPN.
Former Forest Hills High School and St. John’s Red Storm star, as well as the 2012 Big East Rookie of the Year, Mo Harkless was not invited to last week’s NBA party. The league’s snub made no sense considering that it was universally acknowledged that he would be chosen in the first round as well as the fact that it has become increasingly rare for a player from New York City to be in that elite category.
To his credit, Mo Harkless showed up at the Prudential Center last Thursday night and met with the press after he was chosen by the Philadelphia 76ers who had the 15th selection. Harkless claimed that he didn’t fear that his stock was dropping like that of the Facebook IPO when he learned that the NBA would not invite him for the “Green Room” festivities. He also did not express any joy about the fact that he will be playing in a city that is only 100 miles from home. The fact that the Sixers will be visiting the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks three times each didn’t seem to mean much to him. He wouldn’t even concede that Rosa, his mom, had to have been happy that the NBA franchise in Philadelphia had selected her son.
I would like to offer Mo some unsolicited advice. The media and the fans in his new work locale can be brutal. Philadelphia loves athletes who give it their all and risk their physical well-being to win. Harkless should not have a problem in that regard. On the other hand, Philly fans and media expect their players who show some emotion, and yes, even smile once in awhile. Mo’s tendency to give sullen one sentence answers, suggesting a blunted affect, will hurt him. The Sixers should hire a communications expert to work with him, something St. John’s clearly did not do.
Four years ago Yankees media relations director Jason Zillo created HOPE (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Week as a way of recognizing unselfish individuals who do extraordinary things to help others. It’s safe to say that the Yankees under Zillo’s aegis have become the gold standard in the area of Major League Baseball’s community service endeavors.
Last Tuesday morning, Yankees personnel, including star players Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, visited the Woodhaven home of Jorge Munoz to help him with his daily preparation of meals that he makes for day laborers in Jackson Heights who would go hungry if not for his efforts. That evening Yankees general manager Brian Cashman helped Munoz distribute the meals underneath the #7 train tracks at 73rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
Speaking of community relations, hats off to World Wrestling Entertainment for putting their muscle behind the “Be A Star” anti-bullying campaign. Last Wednesday the WWE dispatched grapplers Marc Henry and Zack Ryder as well as ring announcer Lilian Garcia to Coney Island’s MCU Park where they spoke about the dangers of bullying to Brooklyn Cyclones fans before their team’s game with the Hudson Valley Renegades.
Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly, who grew up in Pittsburgh and was a longtime Pirates coach, told me that he was a big fan of professional wrestling growing up. “I loved watching Killer Kowalski and Bruno Sammartino who made his home in Pittsburgh,” said Donnelly.
ESPN has lost two of its top female personalities recently. Last month Michelle Beadle left Bristol to join NBC Sports. Last Sunday, FOX Sports announced that Erin Andrews, arguably the best-known ESPN personality behind Chris Berman, has inked a contract with them. I guess there was a reason why ESPN selected Sage Steele to host its Upfront presentation to ad buyers and the press last month.
There was understandably a lot of hoopla about the silver anniversary of sports radio WFAN whose studios were located for most of their existence at Astoria’s Kaufman Studios before relocating to SoHo. Contrary to popular belief, WFAN did not invent the concept of folks calling in to talk sports on the AM dial. In the 1960s Bill Mazer had the first sports call-in show on the very much missed WNBC-AM whose 660 frequency on the dial WFAN now occupies. The late Jack Spector and legendary Yankees radio voice John Sterling hosted weeknight sports talk shows on WMCA in the early 1970s. Sterling played the role of the pompous know-it-all host that FAN afternoon drive-time personality Mike Francesa has perfected. With Sterling it was a tongue-in-cheek act; I am not so sure with Francesa.
Congratulations to three FAN stalwarts who have been there the entire 25 years: John Minko, Ed Coleman and Steve Somers. The Schmoozer has sounded a bit differently recently because of dental surgery. Hearing him now versus how we’re accustomed to hearing him sound is similar to hearing Gordon Lightfoot sing in concert now versus his ‘70s heyday.
Former Mets third baseman Robin Ventura was named the manager of the Chicago White Sox last winter to the surprise of many because he had never managed professionally anywhere. The White Sox were at Yankee Stadium last weekend and I asked Ventura how he was enjoying the world of personnel management. “You mean human resources?” he said with a hearty laugh. He does like the challenge of managing in the big leagues but added that spring training was rough. “There were too many people I didn’t know and of course it’s never easy to break the bad news to those players I had to cut.”
The NBA agreed to allow the Knicks to try to re-sign both of their free agents, Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak, to the higher dollar limits allowed under the old Larry Bird provision. That means that the Knicks can now invest in both a quality free agent from another organization as well as being able to bring back Lin and Novak.
University of Washington forward Terrence Ross showed the most style of any of the rookies at the NBA Draft as he sported a natty bow tie. He chuckled when I asked him if he’ll insist on the Toronto Raptors paying him in Canadian dollars instead of American since their exchange rate has been more favorable in the last couple of years. He did agree that he’ll need a top CPA to handle the Canadian and US aspects of his tax return.
Austin Rivers, a guard who was selected by the New Orleans Hornets, is the son of Boston Celtics head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers. Austin left Duke after just his freshman year to pursue NBA glory and he tried every which way to avoid answering my query as to how supportive his parents really were of dropping out of one of the most prestigious colleges in the country. I ran into Doc Rivers as I was leaving the Prudential Center last week. “Let’s just say she was very tough on him,” Doc said.
The annual Consumer Electronics Week which showcases upcoming technology was held last week in Manhattan. RCA’s Smart Mobile TV is a portable device that allows you to watch over-the-air television (as opposed to cable networks) and access the Internet a la a Kindle Fire.
Ultra D displayed the first generation of 3-D television sets that do not require special glasses. In a back to the future move, Polaroid introduced a camera that takes both old school snapshots that develop instantly as well as being able to save them digitally. The company’s executives wisely figure that there is a market for people who want photos that will not wind up on the Internet.
Coinciding with CE Week was one of my favorite trade shows, the New York Bar & Restaurant Show. It is always a challenge leaving the Javits Center sober for that one as companies such as Bacardi and Corona Beer are quite generous with their samples. The upscale gentleman’s club Sapphire New York, located on the old Scores East 60th Street site, was promoting their complimentary 6-8 PM buffet, as well as the fact that they have countless TV screens for guys to watch out their favorite sports teams. Sapphire also shows all the various pay-per-view boxing matches so it’s a smart way to have fun and save on your cable bill.
I knew that the years are passing too quickly when I saw Lenny Dykstra’s kid, Cutter Dykstra, playing second base for the Washington Nationals’ South Atlantic League team, the Hagerstown Suns, when they took on the Phillies SAL affiliate, the Lakewood Blueclaws, last month at beautiful First Energy Park in Lakewood.
Speaking of getting older, one of the tougher things to do is getting a good night’s sleep. Tossing and turning not only leads to tiredness but can also lead to back pain. Pillo 1 (www.pillo1.com) is a company that makes ergonomically correct large pillows made from various types of foam that ensure improve restfulness. It is certainly a marked improvement from earlier foam pillows that have hit the market.
Cinnamon has proven to be a spice that helps lower cholesterol. General Mills has just introduced Apple Cinnamon Chex that have the benefits of being gluten-free and offer nine grams of high fiber whole grain. Kellogg’s has also jumped on the cinnamon bandwagon with Cinnamon Almond Raisin Bran.
Seattle may be known for being the home of Starbucks Coffee and Microsoft but the city is also home to Seattle Chocolates whose chocolate truffle bars are both sinfully delicious and full of anti-oxidants. Putting their milk chocolate bars in your freezer makes for a great summer snack that is an alternative to ice cream.
Nexbelt is a company that has revolutionized the functionality and design of belts. We’ve all had a belt where it was too loose on the second hole but way too tight trying to put the clasp through the third hole. Nexbelt is a leather belt that has hidden notches on the inside of the belt so that you can get a more precise and comfortable fit. For more info log onto www.nexbelt.com
File this under the banner of “I heard it through the grapevine.” According to the California Raisin Board, a scientific study shows that raisins can lower blood pressure.
The NFL and NBA Drafts are taking a page out of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week thanks to a firm called TR Luxury which organizes events that promote various products such as Vita Coco, 1800 Tequila, Akoo Clothing to the media and athletes in a trade show setting that actually seem more like of a party. That’s what I call smart marketing.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson was very ticked off that Giants fans were able to stuff the All-Star ballot box so that Pablo Sandoval was named to the starting National League lineup instead of David Wright. Some Mets players thought that the Giants may have benefitted from being Silicon Valley’s local MLB team and there was an assumption that a tech geek there may have found a way to send massive amounts of votes Sandoval’s way without detection.
When I asked Alderson, who used to work for the Giants’ Bay Area rivals, the Oakland Athletics, if he thought that San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer had friends in the tech industry who might attempt to pervert baseball democracy, he laughingly said, “I have a clever retort for that but I think that I am better off staying silent.”
ESPN had some nerve showing the annual July 4 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on tape delay so that they could show inconsequential Wimbledon matches on their main channel as well as on “The Deuce.”
The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is my favorite hour of the year on ESPN. I wonder if they would have done the same thing had Takeru Kobayashi still been competing against the greatest American hero of them all, Joey Chestnut. Shea Communications, who are the promoters behind the Nathan’s contest, must find a way to repair relations with Kobayashi. If ESPN cares more about Wimbledon then they ought to shop the broadcast rights to other networks.
You never know who is going to show up at Citi Field. Just before the All-Star break, actor John Leguizamo who grew up in Jackson Heights a Mets fan, showed to promote the latest Ice Age sequel, Continental Drift in which he voices one of the prehistoric mammals, Sid, as the Mets were taking batting practice. Also lending their talents to the film are Forest Hills native Ray Romano and singer Nicki Minaj who grew up in South Ozone Park.