The passing of former Knicks, Nets and Springfield Gardens High School basketball star Anthony Mason at age 48 last Saturday triggered a ton of eulogies and it made national news. While he did make the NBA All-Star team in 2001, Mason was always more of a role player than a marquee attraction. Nonetheless there were many good reasons for the outpouring of tributes.
Mason was tough as nails on the court and never minded doing the grunt work of diving for loose balls and battling for rebounds. Just as he was a tough competitor on the court, Mason was just as tenacious trying to recover from a massive heart attack in early February as he was in an NBA contest. He appeared to be on the mend but alas a happy ending was not meant to be.
The public loved Anthony’s work ethic both on and off the court. While he was nicely compensated when he was an NBA player, he did not make enough to retire when his NBA career ended. Over the years whenever I would run into Mason he would tell me about a clothing line that he started as well as his work in the insurance industry.
Few professional athletes enjoyed meets and greets with the public as much as Mason did. My mail carrier told me how gracious Mase was at a Knicks playoff viewing party at which he signed autographs and chatted with fans that had to have gone far beyond the time and effort for which he was contracted.
He certainly had style. In the early 1990s he drove New Jersey Nets head coach Bill Fitch, the personification of old school, crazy when he had his barber engrave “MASE” on the side of his head.
It will be interesting to see whether the high interest in the May 2 Las Vegas Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight will trigger an overall revival of interest in boxing. A good test will take place at the Barclays Center on April 11 as Andy Lee will take on Peter Quillin as the key undercard match with Lamont Peterson taking on undefeated Danny Garcia who is yet another stellar fighter to come out of Philadelphia.
Since the promoter is Lou DiBella you can expect a lot of New York-based boxers such as Danny Jacobs to have matches on the card as well.
Ticket prices range from $50 to $300. If a $300 ringside ticket sounds steep, keep in mind that won’t even get you a room at a fleabag motel in Las Vegas the first weekend of May.
NBC Sports will be televising the action at Barclays Center live that night which marks a return of boxing to primetime broadcast network television and that’s bad news for premium cable networks as HBO and Showtime as well as obviously for the pay-per-view boxing cable industry.
Columbia University named former longtime University of Pennsylvania football head coach Al Bagnoli to be their hew football head coach. Given the Lions’ pathetic history, this could be the hardest job in all of sports. I asked Bagnoli at his introductory press conference last week if he would guarantee that the Lions, who have lost 21 straight games, would win a game in 2015. He refused to commit to that lofty goal.
Nevertheless I have faith that Bagnoli, who reminds me in many ways of being a younger version of legendary St. John’s University men’s basketball Louie Carnesecca, will be able to make the Columbia football program, which has been a national joke for over 50 years, semi-respectable. His upbeat attitude is a welcomed change from dour departed head coach Pete Mangurian. Columbia Lions fans and alums will have to be patient a little while longer until Bagnoli gets a chance to recruit his own players. Until then he is stuck with whomever Mangurian and his staff selected.
Congratulations to New York Islanders center Anders Lee who was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for February.
WFAN’s Steve Somers may be getting some formidable late night competition as 98.7 ESPN New York has announced that respected veteran radio sports reporter Larry Hardesty will host his own show from 10 PM -1 AM.
World Wrestling Entertainment was certainly prominent at the recently concluded Toy Fair held at the Javits Center. Brush Buddies displayed their latest line of celebrity toothbrushes that featured WWE personalities John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, while Wicked Cool Toys displayed their latest line of WWE collectible figurines as well as a three-foot statue of arguably the most famous wrestler of all-time, Hulk Hogan.
Of course before there was Hulk Hogan, there was the Marvel Comics character, the Hulk. Jakks Pacific is launching a remote control toy with the Hulk’s likeness. While it’s ostensibly for kids, Jakks is hoping that it will appeal to comic book collectors of all ages.
Franklin Sports introduced a line of glow-in-the-dark basketballs, footballs, baseballs and baseball gloves that it calls Glomax. The idea is to give more time for young athletes to compete outdoors after dusk when poor lighting would otherwise force a cessation of play.
The annual LGBT Expo followed Toy Fair into the Javits Center last weekend. As evidenced by the fact that gay marriage is now pretty much legal in all 50 states, the LGBT Expo has radically changed in just a decade from a New Orleans-style Mardi Gras bacchanalia with a lot of exhibitors selling erotic novelty items to a far more buttoned-down trade show that features numerous destination and hotel exhibitors as well as Fortune 500 finance and insurance firms.
The WNBA had a strong presence at the LGBT Expo as both the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun had salespeople manning booths.
The Liberty gave attendees an opportunity to take a photo with a cutout of their star center, Jamaica Estates native Tina Charles.
The Connecticut Sun play their home games at the Mohegan Sun Casino Resort. Mohegan Sun was also promoting its National Lacrosse League team, the New England Black Wolves.
Queens College alum, noted photographer, and semi-retired roller derby skater Andreanna Seymore was signing copies of her book on the sport titled “Scars And Stripes” (Schiffer Publishing). Seymore told me that the 2009 Drew Barrymore-Ellen Page film, “Whip It,” was a surprisingly accurate portrayal of both the on and off the rink world of roller derby participants.
Incidentally Charlie O’Connell, who many baby boomers remember as the Babe Ruth of roller derby and whose career went back practically to the start of television in the late 1940s, passed away three weeks ago. It’s shocking how little publicity his death received.
Cable’s Nickelodeon kicked off the 2015 television upfront season last Wednesday. An upfront is a presentation to advertisers and the media of a network’s planned programming for the fall. Nickelodeon recently introduced a sports bloc of programming on Wednesday nights from 9 to 11 PM and it plans on adding more content from Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the NFL in 2015. The network will also hold its second-ever Kids Choice Sports Awards this summer.
Comedic actor Will Arnett was one of the celebrities that came on stage to tout Nickelodeon’s programming. Arnett was one of the stars of the recently cancelled CBS comedy series, “The Millers,” and as a consolation, CBS asked him to host a recent “Late, Late Show” as it awaits the debut of British comic James Corden who starts on March 23. If Corden falters, the Tiffany Network would be wise to give Arnett another look. He has the wit, charm, and looks to be a very successful late night talk show host. Will told me that he would certainly interested if asked.
In the mold of the 1960s show, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Nickelodeon has invested in a SpongeBob SquarePants live theatrical presentation that it hopes to debut on Broadway later in 2015.
Two hour-long police procedurals that nicely mix comedy and drama are key mid-season shows for two broadcast networks.
Rainn Wilson is the title character, on“Backstrom,” in which he plays an acerbic, bordering misanthropic Portland, Oregon detective that airs Thursdays at 9 on Fox.
Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters (best known for playing “Mayhem” in those funny Allstate commercials) are a pair of mismatched law enforcement officers on CBS’s “Battle Creek,” that airs Sundays at 10 PM. Duhamel is by the book FBI agent by the name of Milt Chamberlain (a nice nod to the late NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain) while Winters is a slovenly Battle Creek detective named Russ Agnew (I have no idea if that surname is a reference to the late disgraced former vice-president Spiro Agnew). No word as to whether Battle Creek, Michigan’s most famous corporation, Kellogg’s, will be a show sponsor.
The late Leonard Nimoy got his start in Yiddish Theater and it has been the launching pad for many other Jewish-American actors. The National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene will have a gala at Carnegie Hall on March 31. Violinist Itzhak Perlman will be the headliner. Brooklyn Nets minority owner Bruce Ratner is the gala’s chairman.
Healthy beverages were at the forefront of two recent food trade shows, Editor Showcase and Food Fete. Lifeway is creating a line of protein-rich oat-based kefirs. Its first two flavors are vanilla plum and blueberry maple. Horizon’s Super Squeeze pouches are a creamy blend of milk and fruits. For those who are willing to do a little more work, Yoplait makes packets of frozen fruit, soy milk, and nonfat yogurt that you toss into a blender to make a smoothie.
I had heard of Greek yogurt but who knew that there was both Icelandic and Australian yogurt? Siggi’s is a New York-based firm that is introducing the former while Colorado’s WhiteWave Foods is introducing the latter.
Other healthy snack exhibitors were Sunset that was introducing ready-to-eat cherry tomato packages, and Plum Vida which makes squeezable fruit and vegetable pouches that consist of combinations of ginger, beets, kale, pears, and mint.