Sports Beat “Don’t blame David Wright”

You would have thought that David Wright personally affronted some of the New York sportswriters for incurring a rib cage injury while he was playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. The gist of the grousing was that Wright should have made his employer, the New York Mets, his primary concern, instead of chasing the glory that comes with being part of an American all-star team in an international competition that is the baby of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

Of course these same media types were relishing how Wright was called Captain America by his USA teammates when he appeared to be completely healthy. Talk about pathetic front-running.

It would be hard to blame David Wright if he was more interested in Team USA’s success than he was in the prospects of the 2013 Mets.  He realized that the stage that he was getting to play on in March would be the biggest one he would see all year with the exception of the All-Star Game. Even the most optimistic Mets fan would concede that it will be extremely difficult for this team to win more games in 2013 than it loses.

Barring a complete disaster of a season David Wright should be representing the Mets at the 2013 All-Star Game slated for mid-July at Citi Field. Tickets are already on sale for the MLB FanFest which will be held at the Javits Center as well as for Taco Bell All-Star Sunday at Citi Field that will feature the Futures Game spotlighting the best minor leaguers as well as a celebrity softball game.

The outpouring of tributes for Jack Curran, who served as head coach of Archbishop Molloy’s baseball and basketball team from 1958 until his death last week, reminded us of how a great teacher can shape lives for the better. Among those who played for Coach Curran were former NBA stars Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Kevin Joyce and Brian Winters as well as current Mets outfielder Mike Baxter.

The annual Queens Half Marathon will take place this Sunday at Flushing Meadow Park. Many of the runners will be raising funds for various charities including the man who will be starting at the back of the pack, Devang Patel of North Bergen, NJ, who will be wearing a white leisure suit reminiscent to that worn by John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.” Patel will get $1 from the event’s sponsor, US Road Sports & Entertainment Group, for every runner he passes that will go to “Restore The Shore,” a non-profit whose mission is to help the Jersey Shore recover from Superstorm Sandy. Hopefully US Road will help the Rockaways as well.

The Atlantic 10 Conference held their men’s basketball championship tournament at the Barclays Center and it coincided with the last Big East Tournament as we know it at Madison Square Garden.

It was unfortunate that the one New York member of the Atlantic 10, Fordham, did not qualify for the tournament. Had Fordham been eligible, the Barclays Center would have opened the upper level of the arena. The quality of play was quite good. On Sunday the St. Louis University Billikens outlasted the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University to win the A-10 title.

In a nice touch, the Atlantic 10 and the Barclays Center gave out a lot of tickets to elementary and high school students. For many of them it marked both their inaugural visit to the Barclays Center as well as the first college hoops game that they ever attended. This is the kind of smart marketing that creates future customers.

As has been the case with the Knicks and the Nets, the cuisine served in the press dining room at the Barclays Center for the Atlantic 10 was vastly superior to that doled out at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament.

The St. John’s Red Storm made their annual  cameo appearance at the Big East Tournament as they were eliminated by a mediocre Villanova Wildcats team on Wednesday night. Even the Columbia Lions were able to beat Villanova on their Main Line suburban Philadelphia campus earlier in the year to give you an idea of how far their basketball program has fallen.

The only good news for the Red Storm last week was the announcement that freshman forward JaKarr Sampson was named the Big East Rookie of the Year. The Red Storm’s Mo Harkless won the award last year and then declared himself eligible for the NBA draft where he was selected in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers before being dealt to the Orlando Magic. Sampson, however, is expected to return to St. John’s in the fall.

Former Nets and Knicks television analyst, as well as former NBA All-Star, Kelly Tripucka was at the Barclays Center broadcasting the Atlantic 10 semi-finals and championship game for Dial Global Radio.

Kelly told me that he was disappointed that the MSG Network decided not to renew his contract and subsequently replaced him a younger version of himself, former NBA star and Long Island native Wally Szczerbiak. I have not seen enough of Wally’s work to make a judgment on his work, but I have always enjoyed what Tripucka brings to a broadcast. He never sugarcoats anything when the home team is playing lousy and explains hoops strategies in a way that a laymen can easily understand.

NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry made a personal appearance at the 2013 Vision Expo East, the annual trade show for the optical industry held at the Javits Center. Rick was one of the great free-throw shooters in history and he was a practitioner of doing them underhanded. I asked him why no one shoots them like that anymore.

“There are a lot of reasons. No one knows how to teach the wrist action that is needed. Another factor is that it’s not considered macho in today’s image conscious NBA.” He then added that any pro player should be able to convert 80 per cent of their foul shots. According to Barry, the NBA average is around 75%.

Other athletes who appeared at various booths at the show were Hall of Fame third baseman Cal Ripken, Jr. and former Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams.

Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez was the runner-up to RA Dickey for the National League Cy Young Award this year. He has also always had an interest in fashion and has started a t-shirt manufacturing company called House of Leagues.

Another young apparel company, Sportiqe, which created those “Hello Brooklyn” t-shirts that a lot of Nets fans wear to the Barclays Center, has created t-shirts that combine the Grateful Dead logo with the names of NBA teams. The company must have had NBA Hall of Famer and renowned “Dead Head” Bill Walton in mind.

New Era has long been the leader in Major League Baseball-branded clothing. They have introduced a new line of zippered hoodies with oversized team logos that are perfect to wear to the ballparks during the chilly first month of the season.

The company has found many ways of monetizing the baseball cap by turning it into a fashion statement. Its new 9Fifty Snapback line features team names in large capital letters made with elaborate multi-colored stitching.

At the recent Toy Fair 2013 held at the Javits Center board games were surprisingly starting to make a comeback. USAopoly, which made its name in the game biz by creating sports team versions of the classic board game Monopoly, is now reviving the popular ‘80s game Trivial Pursuit with a “Classic Rock” edition which quizzes players on band members, album covers, touring trivia, and stories behind hit songs.

Levy’s Rye Bread had a famous advertising tag line, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s!” The same can be said for Passover foods. Manischewitz is introducing Organic Spelt Matzoh and Gluten Free Crackers for the holiday which begins Monday night. If you are looking for a snack alternative to macaroons, the company is producing boxes of Chocolate Walnut Biscotti and Milk Chocolate Almond Buttercups.

A healthy choice to put on your morning bread or matzoh is California almond butter which is tastier than peanut butter;  better for your cholesterol than regular butter; and has far less sugars and carbohydrates than jams or jellies.

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