A sports story which did not receive a lot of attention was that Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, in which the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks to win the championship of the National Hockey League, drew fewer viewers for NBC than the Tony Awards that was going against it on CBS.
Granted, the popularity of the Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton” and the fact that it was taking place less than 24 hours after the tragic events of Orlando, gave the Tony Awards more attention than they otherwise would have, it’s still very surprising that a major sporting event lost in the Nielsen ratings to a theatrical awards show. It’s a safe bet that had an NBA Finals game been on at the same time as the Tonys, the NBA would have romped no matter which of its teams were playing in it. And we know that the Tonys don’t get anywhere near the hype that the Oscars, Emmys, or even the Grammys do.
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman, who grew up in Forest Hills, can’t be very happy. One of his goals has been to expand the popularity of sport and the league office has worked tirelessly in that regard. The NHL has smartly wanted as much media as possible reporting on the Winter Outdoor Classic games, the NHL Draft, and of course, the Stanley Cup Final.
Bettman is very fortunate that hockey players as a rule are incredibly friendly to both media and to the public. Considering that there have been three labor stoppages since he became commissioner in 1993, it’s a testament to NHL players that they have continuously worked hard to sell their sport.
What makes the National Hockey League unique from my vantage point is that both the governing body and the rank and file employees are doing their best to grow their sport. Unfortunately their been a disconnect at the local level. The Islanders have not been very welcoming in recent years based on my experiences. Incoming majority owner, Jon Ledecky, who grew up in Bayside, will hopefully improve things. The Rangers have been just a tad better with respect to media relations.
The New Jersey Devils on the other hand have been terrific to work with ever since team owner Josh Harris removed Lou Lamoriello as the team’s general manager last fall. Lou, who was very knowledgeable about hockey personnel, ruled every facet of the Devils with an iron fist and he was never fond of the press.
The NHL communications department needs to end its laissez-faire attitude when it comes to how teams treat the media who are the public’s representatives. Every club PR official needs to understand that the sports media helps generate revenue for their employers and that any type of obfuscation is bad business. A lot of them fail to grasp that concept.
LeBron James is obviously one of the greatest players in the history of the National Basketball Association and he reminded everyone of that indisputable fact Sunday night when he led his team, the Cavaliers, to an NBA title, after they were down 3 games to 1 to the defending champs, the Golden State Warriors, in the best of seven NBA Finals.
In the rush to lionize LeBron many folks lost sight of the fact that he had an excellent team behind him. Having Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving on your side makes things a lot easier. To provide some perspective, can anyone picture Mr. James hoisting a championship trophy if he were playing for the current Brooklyn Nets whose two best players are Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young?
The morale of Mets fans certainly hit a nadir this past weekend when the last place Atlanta Braves swept a three-game series from our Flushing heroes at Citi Field this past weekend. What upset them, besides their team coming up on the short end of the score in those games, was sloppy play, and to use a term that Donald Trump levied on Jeb Bush during a Republican debate, they had “low energy.”
Of course you can’t talk about the Mets without talking about injuries. Mets captain and third baseman David Wright had neck surgery to repair herniated discs. The recuperation timetable is normally two months which would mean that Wright wouldn’t be back until Labor Day at the earliest.
Based upon my questions to Mets manager Terry Collins my guess is that the next time that David Wright is swinging a bat while wearing a Mets uniform will be next February in Port St. Lucie. When I asked Collins if the surgery would permanently resolve the neck issue akin to repairing a hernia, Collins replied, “I did not say that. I am not a doctor.” I then asked Terry if he spoke with any of the Mets physicians to see whether Wright’s neck issue would have a domino effect on him getting the necessary exercises and other physical therapy issues for his back stenosis issues. “I am not a reporter so I didn’t ask questions,” Collins retorted somewhat peevishly.
Giants first-round pick, cornerback Eli Apple made a promotional appearance before last Thursday’s Pirates-Mets game at Citi Field. Growing up in the Philadelphia suburb of Voorhees, Apple understandably did not seem overwhelmed at the notion of playing in the nation’s biggest market. He even joked that he was going to ask Big Blue wide receiver Victor Cruz about his myriad of endorsement deals while covering him at practice.
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association held a press conference at Citi Field last Thursday to announce a joint venture to promote the sport to youngsters, particularly those who live in urban areas. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark were joined by retired stars Ken Griffey, Jr., Marquis Grissom, and our own John Franco as well as by current Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson. Few specifics were outlined except that funds would be raised to find qualified baseball coaches.
Coincidentally the day before the Citi Field event, a fairly new nonprofit, Up2Us (uptoussports.org), held a gala to raise funds so that underprivileged kids in urban areas could get exposure to a variety of sports of which baseball is one. As was the case at the Citi Field event, emphasis was placed on the importance of coaches in both young men and women’s lives.
This is the first year that it is illegal for baseball players to use chewing tobacco at either Citi Field or Yankee Stadium. Mayor De Blasio pushed for this legislation because he did not want kids to see their heroes using a carcinogen.
Strangely however there aren’t any signs about the smokeless tobacco ban in the visiting clubhouses of either stadium. When I saw Atlanta Braves shortstop Erick Aybar reaching for the Skoal I explained to him in Spanish that he could get fined. He understood, smiled, and thanked me. He then switched to chewing bubble gum. Hopefully all ballplayers will permanently make the change as soon as possible.
The Association of Volleyball Professionals has been revived and its tour made a stop last weekend in Tribeca for the New York City Open. Among the familiar names were Kerri Walsh Jennings and Phil Dalhausser who will both be competing for Team USA at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. NBC Sports telecast a couple of hours of the tournament on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
While I understand the AVP’s desire to have a tournament in Manhattan, outdoor volleyball is a more natural fit at the beach. They should think about having an event in the Rockaways.
A lot has been written over the years about baseball’s slow pace. A company called Fanzcall Interactive Sports has launched mobile phone app (it’s free) which will allow users to guess what will happen on the next pitch and points are awarded based on guessing the correct outcomes. Unlike the controversies surrounding such fantasy sports sites as FanDuel and Draft Kings, contestants never put up a penny of their own money while earning prizes. The idea is to turn baseball’s downtime into a fun contest.
Summer is obviously a time for a lot of activity that you can’t do any other time of the year when the weather isn’t as warm. At last week’s Get Outdoors trade show REI displayed their various jackets, camping furniture, and supplies. Their outdoor rocker folding chair is excellent for watching concerts in parks . Tifosi (tifosioptics.com) was promoting its line of sunglasses that change tint based on sunlight or the lack of it similar to the way that Transitions do for prescription glasses. Eagles Nest Outfitters was showcasing small portable circular night lights that could be used in one’s home as well as for camping or hiking when the sun goes down.
Sears is expanding its private lines of products into new areas. Die Hard which is synonymous with car batteries will now be used for tires as the Chicago-based retailer into that area. Frankly I am surprised that it has taken them this long. On the home electronics front, Sears will be making 4K ultra high definition television sets under the Kenmore name, a brand best associated with refrigerators and dishwashers.
The annual International Franchise Expo at the Javits Center is always a good way to get a feel of retail business trends. A few years ago you couldn’t walk five feet in the Javits Center without running into a yogurt or smoothie franchiser. At this year’s show there was a serious thinning of the herd in this category although it was nice to see Carvel, now based in Atlanta, promoting its classic line of soft ice creams. The business of staying in shape is bigger than ever as Blink Fitness, Retro Fitness, and Crunch competed for potential franchise operators.
It’s always intriguing how companies decide upon which celebrities to use for commercial campaigns. French champagne producer G.H. Mumm hired American actor/model Kellen Lutz for a clever James Bond-inspired video that is running on YouTube . Mumm’s bottles, which have a labeled engraved in them instead of using the traditional glued paper, were created by industrial designer Ross Lovegrove who is to products what Frank Lloyd Wright was to architecture.
On the other end of the spectrum, Capital One, is using Ross Mathews (best known for his “Ross the Intern” character when Jay Leno was hosting “The Tonight Show”) to promote the cash rebate features of its credit card. I wonder what longtime company pitchman Samuel L. Jackson thinks of that.