Sports Beat: “Common sense wins the race”

What was obvious to most of us, except Mayor Bloomberg, was that it would be tasteless to have a major event going through the streets of New York while many of our citizens were without electrical power, forced to relocate shelters, and even worse, many had lost their homes altogether from a calamity that had occurred less than a week earlier.

Leaving the emotionalism out of the issue, police and sanitation resources would be diverted from far more important work. Many of those who sought emergency shelter in hotels would find themselves being booted out because of runners from outside of New York who had made room reservations well in advance.

A caller to WFAN may have articulated the most important economic reason for the NYC Marathon to be canceled. He reasoned that if the race had gone on as scheduled, potential individual and corporate donors to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts might have passed on making contributions. “Hey, it can’t be that bad otherwise they would not have been able to run the New York City Marathon,” would have been the understandable mindset of many of those who don’t live around here.

It was unfortunate that New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg was vilified by a lot of folks in the press. The Marathon is crucial for funding the coffers of her organization and you can’t blame her for advocating for both the NYRR and the number of runners who had been in training for all of 2012 for this race, particularly those who came in from out of town on their own dime to run in it. Many of the runners raise money for a variety of charities.

I have little doubt that Mary Wittenberg truly thought that the Marathon would lift New Yorkers spirits as well as raise money for the Sandy relief effort. The NYC Marathon has traditionally had a $300 million positive impact on our city’s economy and that certainly was on Mayor Mike’s mind from the get-go.

While out-of-town runners were disappointed with the race cancellation, a group of runners from a Sioux reservation in South Dakota I met Friday were quite empathetic with the plight of many in our area. “We know first-hand what it’s like to live without electricity and even running water in your home,” one of the Dakotans told me.

The Philadelphia Marathon will take place on November 18. Perhaps the New York Road Runners can pull some strings to get those who wanted to run last Sunday an opportunity to put their rigorous training to use in the City of Brotherly Love.

There was a lot of discussion about the importance of the federal government when disasters strike, but little has been written about the benefits of old school technology. Pocket radios, better known as transistors when I was growing up, were invaluable to those who lost electric power. The conventional wisdom was that they were obsolete in this Ipod age. After Irene and Sandy, I have a feeling that Sony AM-FM pocket radios will be a popular stocking stuffer. It’s hard to find them but Sears and Kmart, to their credit, have never stopped selling them.

Perhaps the celebrity A-list had a bad premonition about this year’s NYC Marathon. Subway Restaurants has a deep roster of professional athlete endorsers. They would have loved to have had Olympics gold-medal machine swimmer Michael Phelps run the big race but instead had to settle for his sister Whitney Phelps. Timex, another big corporate sponsor of the Marathon, signed actor and Iraqi War vet JR Martinez who is best known for winning a season of “Dancing with the Stars.” The only other bold-faced name that I recognized at last Thursday’s press conference was the Weather Channel’s Stephanie Abrams. Supposedly actor Jonny Lee Miller, co-star of CBS’s “Elementary” (along with Jackson Heights native Lucy Liu) was set to run last Sunday but he was not at the New York Road Runners promotional press briefing.

Last year New York Rangers legend Mark Messier ran the Marathon. This year his less celebrated teammate from that 1994 Stanley Cup-winning team, Nick Kypreos, was going to participate. Kypreos was livid that the National Hockey League canceled the 2013 Winter Classic that was going to take place New Year’s Day in Ann Arbor. “It’s clear that the owners want to break the NHL Players Association. The don’t care about the long-term damage to the sport,” he told me.

The Brooklyn Nets did everything right for the official opening game at the Barclays Center. The team chartered buses that fans could use free of charge to get from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to Barclays. Nets point guard took the microphone at center court to thank everyone for coming to the game in spite of all of the countless difficulties that Sandy caused. The team welcomed former Brooklyn Dodgers players Joe Pignatano and Ralph Branca in a fitting symbolic passing of the Brooklyn professional sports torch. Oh yes, the Nets also beat the Toronto Raptors, 107-100.

The Knicks also broke out of the starting gate well by winning their first two games at Madison Square Garden, the first of which being an unexpected thumping of last year’s NBA champs, the Miami Heat. Two days later, Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. Just as important, he played tenacious defense and even dove into the crowd in the first quarter chasing a loose ball. An unlucky spectator however spilled his beer.

Knicks forward Ronnie Brewer, who grew up in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and went to the University of Arkansas was touched by the way New Yorkers have come together to help each other in the wake of Sandy. “We don’t get hurricanes in Arkansas but we sure get our share of tornadoes. We always help our neighbors in need,” he said. Ronnie is hopeful that Arkansas’s most famous New York transplant, Bill Clinton, will watch him play at the Garden.

The Knicks played a back-to-back series with the 76ers as they left for Philadelphia right after their Sunday game. The couldn’t charter an Amtrak train so they chartered a plane to Philadelphia from Newark, which is approximately an eighty-mile drive.

Knicks forward Steve Novak was actually looking forward to an old school bus trip because he flies so often. Sixers guard and Cardozo High School alum Royal Ivey shook his head and laughed when I informed him of the Knicks’ unorthodox way of getting to Philly. “The Knicks have the money. We’re going to be taking a bus down the New Jersey Turnpike.” He added that his parents’ home in Hollis lost electricity for a few hours, and that a number of trees fell on their block, but that they were unscathed by Sandy. “We also had some damage in Philadelphia from Sandy’s strong winds and rain but it was nothing compared to what happened here,” he added.

The Jets are having a disappointing season but they sure picked a great week to have a bye.

Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc with the Columbia Lions’ football practices before their game with Harvard. That must explain why they came up just a bit short in Cambridge last Saturday as they fell in a nail-biter, 69-0! If you bet on Harvard to score 70 against my alma mater, you lost!

The nippy weather is a perfect time to enjoy great soup. Hale & Hearty, which hopes to be soup what Starbucks is to coffee, is offering a different gourmet soup each week that will only be available for that week. Another cold weather-beater is to enjoy a hot burrito made from locally grown ingredients at Chipotle. Speaking of Starbucks, their caramel apple spice cider is one of my favorite guilty pleasures as is heating up a bottle of Red Jacket Orchards’ many fine ciders.

For those who miss those inexpensive sneakers, jeans and shirts at the sadly defunct Steve & Barry’s here are some suggestions. Kmart’s Catapult athletic shoes are slightly more expensive than the Starburys at S&B’s but they are a far better shoe and are comparable to Reebok, Nike, New Balance and the like. is a website that sells jeans, shirts, hoodies and lightweight jackets for, you got it, $20. You can’t go wrong at that price!

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