Sports Beat “Good beginning for Barclays Center”

It has been a busy first month for the Barclays Center as there have been concerts (Jay-Z and Barbra Streisand), three pre-season Nets games, and a Golden Boy Promotions boxing card last Saturday night that featured the lightweight world champion Danny Garcia defending his title by knocking out Erik Morales.

There are certainly enough dining options at the Barclays from the expected Kings County fare as Junior’s, Nathan’s, and Brooklyn Burger to ethnic options as Paisano’s Meat Market, L&B Spumoni Gardens, Calexico, and the glatt kosher Avenue K Deli (which is closed from sundown Fridays to an hour past sundown Saturdays). Levy’s Restaurants is the main food vendor at Barclays. This is the Chicago-headquartered company’s first New York City sports venue and the food quality is vastly superior to that of Philadelphia-based Aramark which runs Citi Field and operated at Shea Stadium before that.

A couple of former Queens PSAL high school hoops stars made visits to the Barclays last week.

Ernie Grunfeld, who starred at Forest Hills High School in the early ‘70s and played nine years in the NBA as well as serving in the Knicks front office, is now the general manager of the Washington Wizards. The Wizards were the Nets’ opponent Monday night.

Ernie and I reminisced about how the Nets have come a long way from when they played in the barn-like Island Garden in West Hempstead when he was in high school. “I remember playing in a few tournaments in that dump!” he said with a hearty laugh.

Cardozo High School alum Royal Ivey returned as a free agent to the Philadelphia 76ers  after playing a couple of seasons for one of the NBA’s new powerhouses, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Sixers were at the Barclays Center last Friday night and Ivey was also impressed with what he saw of the Nets’ new home.

Ivey is happy to be back with the Sixers but he admitted that neither the Knicks nor Nets indicated any interest in his services. “My parents are thrilled because Philly is only a two-hour car ride from Queens,” he said.

I reminded Royal that two years ago he quipped “I’ve gone from the city that never sleeps to one that sleeps,” referring to Oklahoma City. I asked if I got him into any hot water when I quoted him in my column. “Nah!” he said with a laugh and then quickly added “the people there are very nice.”

I was saddened to learn of the passing last week of former Major League third baseman and John Adams High School alum Eddie Yost. Longtime Mets fans will remember him as the third base coach of the 1969 Miracle Mets. He was 86.

Although the entire Yankees offense was anemic in the playoffs Alex Rodriguez was, as per custom, the poster child, for all of the Bronx Bombers’ collective failings. Given his exorbitant contract, and his historic propensity to fail in the clutch, a lot of the criticism has merit.

In the just concluded playoff fiasco against the Detroit Tigers, A-Rod generated heat for a different reason. The New York Post claimed that as the Yankees were going down to ignominious defeat, A-Rod was flirting with some attractive female fans in the stands. OK, given the way things were going, it made for an easy quip about how hitting on women was a lot easier for him than hitting the Tigers’ pitching, but the bottom line is that the Yankees would have still had their collective butts kicked even if Rodriguez had sat glumly on the bench. No one can say that Alex doesn’t enjoy coming to work!

Former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who retired last year, was a hitter who never wilted under big game pressure. I had forgotten about “Georgie” (as John Sterling liked to call him) until I saw him in ad for Johnny Walker Black Scotch.  The tan and handsome Posada was sitting down with a glass of Walker in his hand making readers imagine that he was hanging with Hef at the Playboy Mansion.

New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman made a big deal about Joe Buck working the NY Giants-SF 49ers NFL game and then later that day calling the National League Championship Series game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants. He thought that Fox Sports was engaging in a publicity stunt and that Buck wouldn’t be properly prepared for either assignment.

Raissman was right on the former but wrong on the latter. Joe Buck can call almost any baseball  football game in his sleep. What should have been a concern for both Fox Sports executives and Joe Buck was the strain that calling two high profile sporting events could have on his voice. Two years ago Buck suffered from terrible hoarseness as a cold wreaked long-term havoc on his vocal chords.

The Big East held their annual media day for both men’s and women’s basketball last week at the New York Athletic Club. St. John’s Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin looks trim and fit as it appears that he has beaten cancer with a vengeance. The Red Storm supposedly have a lot of talented young players but they are going to have to deal with the loss of star player Mo Harkless who left after his freshman year for NBA glory. The Red Storm are ranked tenth in a Big East coaches’ pre-season poll.

Joe Tartamella is the new head coach of the women’s basketball team as Kim Barnes Arrico has moved onto the University of Michigan.

My favorite Big East women’s hoops player is the bubbly and very attractive Pittsburgh guard Abby Dowd who is always a great interview. Abby is hoping for a career in TV sportscasting after college. Erin Andrews and Sage Steele watch out!

Be prepared to see those Mad Hatter-like blue hats in Times Square again this New Year’s Eve as Nivea will once again be the event’s chief corporate sponsor. Nivea executives claim that the ball drop is a key marketing tool for their lip balms since it’s the one night that nearly everyone kisses somebody.

One of the nice things about fall is that it’s apple cider season. For my money, Red Jacket Orchards, with its variety of apple and fruit combinations, makes the best bottles of cider and their products can be found in many Queens and Long Island sidewalk farm markets such as the one held near the Forest Hills post office every Sunday.

If you like a cold tea drink that is tasty but less caloric than Snapple, try a new beverage, Tea of a Kind. It comes in such healthy flavors as pomegranate acai, peach ginger, and citrus mint.

October is festival time in New York. The annual CMJ Festival once again featured some of the best musical acts in the world who are searching for that big break. In recent years CMJ tried to expand their brand by working film debuts into their big week. They did not showcase any movies this year. My guess is that CMJ organizers did not want to infringe on the turfs of both the New York Film Festival, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall, and the Tribeca Film Festival.

This week the most popular source of entertainment for most of us gets the royal treatment as the New York Television Festival runs through the weekend. This is a great chance to see pilots of shows hoping to be picked up by networks, as well as shows that have already been picked up by either cable or broadcast networks at mid-season. TV executives are hoping that these programs can create some early buzz by being shown at the NYTVF.

If you want to look ahead to early November, the New York Comedy Festival featuring such big names as Bill Maher, Kevin Hart, Robin Williams, Aziz Ansari, Jim Gaffigan and Adam Carolla are some of the big names playing at the big venues such as Town Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Caroline’s. Don’t be surprised if some big names show up at The Laughing Devil in Long Island City to test out last second bits for their standup routines. The New York Comedy Festival gets underway right after Election Day when it’s safe to say that most of us will really need a good laugh.

Noted acrobat Nik Wallenda, who walked on a tightrope between two Atlantic City hotels this past August, the Tropicana and the Atlantic Club, without a safety net under him, was in town last week along with some members of the Sarasota Visitors Bureau, to promote that cultured western Florida resort town. Wallenda will be performing with Circus Sarasota from January 25 through February 15. Queens’ own airline, JetBlue, has frequent daily service between Sarasota and JFK.

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