It is safe to say that the WNBA’s New York Liberty, who are now entering their 19th season, have never gotten as much publicity from the mainstream New York sports media than they did last week when Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan announced that Isiah Thomas would serve as the president of the team as well as obtain a minority equity stake in it.
Thomas had both a stellar college and NBA playing career and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame 15 years ago. What New Yorkers remember however is the damage that he inflicted as president of basketball operations of the Knicks which included numerous bad trades the forfeited lottery draft picks as well as signing players to bloated contracts that used up all of their salary cap room for years.
If that weren’t bad enough, Thomas was accused of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment by a former Knicks executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, who filed suit against the Knicks’ corporate overseer, Cablevision. In 2008, Sanders was awarded an $11 million judgment by a jury.
The idea of Isiah Thomas running a professional women’s basketball team sounds like an idea hatched by the writers at “Saturday Night Live.” James Dolan, who has always been a target of media derision once again felt the full barrage of outrage from the press for showing misguided and inexplicable loyalty to an old friend who had actually cost his company millions in the past.
The funny thing is that I don’t have a problem with what Dolan’s decision to hire Isiah. The New York Liberty have been underachievers for years. They are still haven’t won a WNBA championship and have been an afterthought at best in the world of New York sports for certainly the last 15 years. .
I have noticed that a lot of the folks who are outraged over Isiah Thomas getting a second chance are the same ones who thought that the Yankees should never Alex Rodriguez play for them again after he was suspended in 2014 by Major League Baseball and yet are now cheering for him as he is helping the Yankees to stay in first place in the American League East.
Not to minimize the Sanders case but it should be pointed out that Isiah Thomas was found guilty in a civil suit and not in a criminal matter. Even his biggest detractors have never accused him of being stupid. My guess is that he learned from his mistakes of nearly a decade ago and will not repeat them and certainly not in this high profile position.
The Liberty have a strong roster led by center and Jamaica Estates native Tina Charles. Isiah has a far better chance of winning a title than his Knicks counterpart, Phil Jackson, does right now.
I am not sure what kind of competitive advantage New England Patriots QB Tom Brady got by using slightly deflated footballs in last January’s AFC Championship game with the Indianapolis Colts. What is clear is that the tabloid sports media loves this story not just because it involves Brady and his head coach, perennial NFL villain Bill Belichick, but it gives headline creators liberty to come up with every possible double entendre involving the word “balls.”
The annual Sports Emmy Awards took place last week at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall last Tuesday.
NBC Sports’ Cris Collinsworth won yet another Emmy for best sports analyst. I asked him about the infamous turning point in the last Super Bowl when Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson inexplicably threw a pass from the New England Patriots’1-yard line that was intercepted in the final seconds of the game instead of calling for a less risky running play. At the time Collinsworth basically uttered, “What the hell was he thinking?”
“Calling a game knowing that 115 million people are watching is a strange thing. You wonder if other people are thinking exactly the same thing that you are. When Wilson dropped back I thought that he was running a quarterback draw and would try to run it into the endzone himself,” Cris said.
Cris is also racking up frequent flyer miles points flying into New York City this month. He appeared on the stage of Radio City Music Hall this past Monday as he was part of the NBC Upfront, the annual presentation to advertisers and media of the Peacock Network’s fall programming plans. “They wanted me to sing something. I am afraid that will become a YouTube moment that will haunt me forever,” Cris said with a hearty laugh.
Mike “Doc” Emrick, who calls National Hockey League games for NBC Sports, won the Emmy for best play-by-play broadcaster. Emrick told me that he thinks that the New York Islanders will be Stanley Cup contenders for years to come. “They will learn and get invaluable experience from coming up on the short end of that grueling seven-game series with the Washington Capitals,” said Doc.
Stephen Espinoza, the president of Showtime Sports was understandably a bit weary from all of the stress and preparation that he and his network had to invest in the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas that was held three days earlier. I asked Espinoza about the economic impact that the fight had on Las Vegas. “It was crazy. You couldn’t get a flight from any Southern California airport into Las Vegas after the Tuesday before the fight,” he said.
Major League Baseball players don’t get a lot of off-days during the season so when they do they go to all lengths to maximize every free second. The Mets had last Thursday off before beginning a three-game series in Philadelphia. Major League Baseball, like all professional sports leagues, encourages teams to travel the day before a series starts.
The Mets team bus dutifully left Citi Field for Philadelphia last Thursday evening but pitcher Dillon Gee decided to splurge and take the Acela the following morning. “It only took an hour and I love trains.” Gee told me Friday at Citizens Bank Park. Sadly there are many mornings when it takes longer than an hour to get into Manhattan on the subway from Forest Hills.
I told Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer that the Phillies’ accounting department had to be thrilled that the Mets were in first place since it means Mets fans will come down the New Jersey Turnpike and buy tickets at Citizens Bank Park. “Let’s hope that they help us stay there then!” he replied with a chuckle. The Phillies did not roll over by any means for our Flushing heroes but the Mets did manage to take 2 out of the 3 games from them in South Philadelphia last weekend.
Madison Square Garden honored their longtime in-house photographer, George Kalinsky, with a plaque on the Garden Walk of Fame on Monday. George has had countless books published over the years including those dedicated to the Knicks and Rangers.
After years of the toy industry creating needless apps and bells & whistles for kids, there are signs that old school toys that encourage better eye-hand coordination are making a comeback. Zing continues to do well with its bow and sponge-based arrow target games while Mattel’s Boomco, Blip’s Hovertech, and Nerf’s various Strike blasters were other target practice games that were displayed at the toy biz’s spring showcase, TTPM.
A literal toy Hall of Famer, Slinky, is celebrating its 70th birthday. Yes, there is a Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York.
After a long winter a lot of us are understandably eager to hit the beach. The heat and the inevitable fragments that are in the sand can wreak havoc on your feet. Xenna’s Callex Ointment and Kesh Beauty’s Argan Oil from Morocco will help heal any foot fissures.
As recently as the early 1970s it was considered revolutionary for television when fictional Queens resident Archie Bunker (who was portrayed by real life Forest Hills native, the late Carroll O’Connor) flushed a toilet on “All In the Family.” Toilets were a TV no-no and it was even rare to see commercials relating to bathroom products in general back when Richard Nixon was the president.
Things have certainly changed. Nowadays there are numerous products competing in the bathroom air freshener market. A new company cleverly called Pottymints has created packets of pellets that you drop into your toilet that are healthier alternatives to aerosol sprays for clearing away unpleasant aromas.