Sports Beat “A strange roll of the dice”

When word leaked out last week that the Mets were hoping to be part of a syndicate to build a casino in Willets Point in a plan presented to Mayor Bloomberg in 2011, my immediate reaction was “What the hell were these guys thinking?”

Two years ago, the Mets were in the midst of the fallout from the Bernie Madoff scandal. Madoff Securities victims’ trustee Irving Picard had his sights set on collecting hundreds of millions from Mets ownership as restitution. The team’s cash flow, not to mention its image, were, and in many ways still are, in deep trouble. It was the epitome of chutzpah on the Mets’ part to expect any governmental authority to grant them permission to build a casino.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig must have felt betrayed when he heard the news that Mets CEO Fred Wilpon had desires of becoming the Steve Wynn of Flushing. Selig has long been one of Wilpon’s strongest allies even during the darkest days of the Madoff scandal. He gave the Mets the 2013 All-Star Game as a token of that friendship.

Selig, like all of his predecessors, has viewed the gaming industry as an anathema. His refusal to consider reinstating Pete Rose for betting on baseball is a clear example.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has long been a proponent for allowing bettors to place wagers on sporting events and has vowed to use the court system make that happen. If Christie were to prevail, then all casinos would be able to have sports books. Currently, you can only make a wager on college and professional sports in Nevada. It would be obviously embarrassing for Bud if an MLB team owner was connected to a casino where patrons could bet on America’s pastime.

What might make sense for a racetrack doesn’t for baseball. Having a casino a stone’s throw away from a baseball stadium is clearly at odds with the sport’s wholesome family image that Major League Baseball has cultivated for well over a century.

Mets first baseman Ike Davis, Yankees ace CC Sabathia, and Yankees relief pitcher David Phelps were among the honorees at the 33rd annual Thurman Munson Dinner which benefits AHRC, a non-profit organization that helps the lives of the mentally disabled of all ages.

Davis laughingly apologized to the press for the miserable first two months of the 2012 season where he batted .150. He had missed a good chunk of the 2011 season with an ankle injury and his bad luck continued in 2012 when the Arizona resident contracted Valley Fever. He said that he did not take any special precautions during this off-season and claimed that his body would not now have immunity against the disease in the future.

Former Knicks point guard and current CBS/Turner/YES basketball analyst Greg Anthony was also an award recipient at the dinner named in honor of the former Yankees captain who was killed in the prime of life in a private plane crash in 1979.

Greg has always been vocal about being an African-American Republican and lamented about the state that the party is in. “I am a centrist and we need to move to the center. The party has been taken over by TV and radio talk show hosts who are entertainers and should not be setting policy.”

He is not giving up on the GOP regaining its footing however. “It’s like in sports. If you keep losing then you are going to fire those who are in charge,” Anthony added.

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was of the NFL stars chosen by the USA Network for its “Characters Unite” documentary and public service ads. Tuck discusses how he was bullied while trying to succeed in school as a youngster.

Former USA Network president and Hollis native Bonnie Hammer just received a big promotion as she was named president of Comcast’s entire cable television portfolio. Among those who will be reporting to her are Oxygen Network chief Jason Klarman who grew up in Rego Park.

Actor Peter Facinelli, who grew up in Howard Beach and graduated from St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, was among those who caught the Nautica Fall 2013 Fashion preview at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Nautica is celebrating its 30th anniversary and is one of the few male clothing brands to have a runway show at Lincoln Center.

Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl-winning quarterback was on hand for the Tommy Hilfiger presentation at Fashion Week. It wasn’t that long ago that professional male athletes would never be seen at a Fashion Week event but that has dramatically changed over the years. Two years ago American Express brought in Rangers rookie Brian Boyle and his then Knicks counterpart, Landry Fields, to their Fashion Week skybox to mingle with clients and media. Amar’e Stoudemire, urbane Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and former Rangers enforcer Sean Avery have made numerous appearances on the famed front row over the years.

This is the time of the year when many travel officials from foreign countries meet with journalists to help promote their summer tourism. Last week  French tourism officials were promoting the centennial of the Tour de France and they admitted that it’s an awkward sell to the American public given the performance enhancement drug culture of the sport in the 21st century as exemplified by former Tour champs Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis. They wisely however played up their beautiful countryside and famous cuisine and wines .

Thailand has seen a remarkable growth in tourism thanks to an unlikely source, the film “The Hangover Two” that was shot there. A Thailand tourism official rightfully pointed out that Thai boxing, with its mixture of fisticuffs and thrusting leg kicks, is what mixed martial arts leagues such as Ultimate Fighting Championship have based their incredibly popular sport.

Last week’s “Saturday Night Live” hosted by Justin Bieber was a nice return to form. The show opened with a brilliant spoof of the NFL on CBS team and the difficult time that they had ad-libbing during the third quarter power outage at the Super Bowl. Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharaoh, Tim Robinson, and Jason Sudeikis truly nailed James Brown, Shannon Sharpe, Bill Cowher, and Dan Marino respectively.

The Super Bowl of track & field, the Millrose Games, will take place at the Armory in Washington Heights. The highlight, as per tradition, will be the Wanamaker Mile.

In this high tech age board games are surprisingly not considered passe judging by what I saw at Toy Fair held at the Javits Center on Sunday. Techno-Source’s NFL Rush and Fremont Die’s NFL Game Day use dice and cards as a way of simulating a pro football game. Logos from all 32 NFL teams are included in both games. Fremont Die also showcased its oversized metal wastebaskets from every pro league except the NBA.

Franklin Sports will be entering the costume market with its helmet & jersey collection which will make you look like a player for your favorite NFL team. The helmet though is a plastic replica with a warning label on the helmet that it is not meant for actual game use. The company is expecting it to be a big Halloween sales mover for them.

Coconut water has certainly become the hot sports drink. For the past few years O.N.E, Zico and Vita Coco have dominated the market. Last year Knicks star Carmelo Anthony became a major investor in a company called Power Coco. A Chicago Blackhawks trainer has now come up with Coco 5 named after the five types of electrolytes his drink replenishes. In terms of taste, Coco 5 is by far the best of the bunch.

Way before there were sports bars, New York steakhouses were the gathering places to watch a game or a fight with the guys while enjoying an upscale meal. Toots Shor’s is long gone; Ben Benson’s closed their doors last year, and there are reports that Gallagher’s is hanging by a thread. It was therefore reassuring that the Old Homestead in Chelsea is still going strong. Last week they celebrated the 60th anniversary of their bovine statue mascot, Annabelle, being located above its entrance with a block party. Free hamburgers, birthday cake, and Yoo Hoo were dispensed to all who celebrated with Annabelle.

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