When the Mets season ended a month ago their fans had ample reasons to be optimistic about 2017. Their team made the playoffs in spite of season-ending injuries to countless players and the consensus was that most, if not all, of the players whose 2016 season was shortened, would be ready to go as soon as spring training started.
The news last week was not exactly sanguine although it had nothing to do with injuries. As expected, the team’s leading slugger, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes opted out of his contract and is now a free agent. Even though this wasn’t shocking, it means that Mets fans will have to relive the Sturm and Drang of last winter when Cespedes also opted out of his contract.
What was completely unexpected though was the arrest of team closer Jeurys Familia for a domestic violence incident that occurred in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Familia has long been popular with teammates, fans, and the media because of his easygoing style and perpetual smile. Adding to the irony of the situation was that he taped a public service announcement decrying domestic violence just weeks earlier.
Athletes these days have to be aware of any supplement that they put in their bodies and they have to avoid any type of a physical domestic dispute even though they, like all citizens, are entitled to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a courtroom.
Unfortunately for Familia, commissioners of the various professional sports are suspending players who are accused of domestic violence for sizable chunks of the season even before the courts act. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was pilloried for initially going too easy on running back Ray Rice when a video surfaced showing the Ravens running back getting into a physical altercation with his fiancee. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred certainly did not want to repeat Goodell’s public relations nightmare and thus suspended relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman for 30 games and shortstop Jose Reyes for 52 after their domestic violence cases reached the public.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has to figure that Manfred will hand out a punishment similar to what Jose Reyes received last year when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies who quickly cut ties with him. The Mets then signed Reyes who was a very popular player in Queens for many years before leaving the team as a free agent in 2011. Alderson will now be forced to look for help for the Mets bullpen as if he did not have enough to worry about for next year.
It’s highly unlikely that the Mets will release Familia because he is valuable to the team. Jeurys is a known commodity here and so if the Mets were to retain him on the roster it probably would not set off much public outrage. New Yorkers are generally pretty good about giving second chances to the athletes that they like.
The New York City Marathon is a bit of a paradox because it doesn’t generate a lot of buzz in the sports sections of the dailies nor on sports talk radio stations. Nonetheless no other annual event generates as much tourism revenue for our city as this one does. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the race becoming a five-borough affair. In the early years all 26.2 miles took place in Central Park.
50,000 runners, most of whom travel great distances to be take part in it, help fill up our hotel rooms and spend money at our various attractions.
The Marathon Expo held at the Javits Center for the three days preceding the race every year is a way for small athletic shoe manufacturers as Altra, Saucony, and Brooks to sell product and attract the kind of attention that is normally reserved for Nike, Reebok, and Under Armour. Likewise, Paragon Sports, an old school Union Square sports retailer, has utilized the NYC Marathon for years as a way to draw attention from behemoth competitors as Foot Locker and Modell’s. This year they offered runners and the public free massages and pasta from a food truck just outside its store.
Even Macy’s had a booth at the Marathon Expo and they weren’t trying to peddle athletic wear. “This is our first year here. We figure that there are tens of thousands of visitors coming to New York for this weekend and we want their business,” a spokesperson told me.
Recently retired French professional women’s tennis star Marion Bartoli was running her first marathon and she admitted that she was nervous about being able to complete the full 26.2 miles. “I’ve spoken with Caroline Wozniacki a lot since she ran this race last year. She swore that she would never do it again!” Bartoli said with a smile. She said that she still attends the US Open every year since she does commentating for French television.
Also running in the NYC Marathon were former “American Idol” finalist, Jax, and Nev Shulman who hosts MTV’s online dating show, “Catfish.” “This has always been a dream of mine because I grew up just a few blocks away from the Central Park finish line,” Shulman told me.
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, a 20 year-old from Eritrea, won the men’s race, while 34 year-old Mary Keitany from Kenya won her third straight NYC Marathon making her the most dominant female long distance runner since the late Greta Weitz.
Now that the Chicago Cubs have won their first World Series in 108 years we’ll no longer have to be subject to shopworn tales about curses, billy goats, black cats, Steve Bartman, and the joy of being lovable losers. They are now just another Major League Baseball team.
Three members of the Cubs: David Ross, Dexter Fowler, and Anthony Rizzo, participated in a couple of skits on this past weekend’s “Saturday Night Live.” While a few front -running cast members wore Cubs hats during the on-stage farewell scene, Michael Che, who co-hosts the “Weekend Update” segment, proudly wore his Mets cap.
It has been hard to get a read on the Knicks in the early going. They looked absolutely dreadful at home against the Houston Rockets last Wednesday night as Carmelo Anthony missed shot after shot. Two nights later though they easily handled the Bulls in Chicago as both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah played their best games so far in New York uniforms as they were clearly motivated to perform well in their return to the Windy City.
The Brooklyn Nets have played hard for their new coach, Kenny Atkinson, in spite of their lack of NBA-ready talent. They were dealt a tough blow over the weekend though when they learned that their point guard, Jeremy Lin, will miss at least two weeks (my gut feeling is that it will probably be at least a month) recovering from a hamstring injury.
With apologies to Mike Lupica, I have long felt that Bill Simmons is the most overrated sports columnist in this country. ESPN CEO John Skipper was 100% right to terminate Simmons literally a year ago and shut down his money-draining Grantland website that his company was bankrolling.
After getting his pink slip from the Worldwide Leader in Sports, Simmons became a hot commodity in the media free agent market. HBO signed him a lucrative long-term contract and his own half-hour show that began in June called “Any Given Wednesday.” The premium cable network thought that they were getting a game-changer with Simmons in that he would have access to both sports and entertainment stars for in-depth interviews. Unfortunately HBO executives learned what John Skipper knew already; when it comes to ratings Simmons is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle. “Any Given Wednesday” was cancelled last week.
Ad-Tech is the trade show geared towards the mobile/search engine advertising industry that takes place at the Javits Center every November. A Canadian company, Usability Matters, was displaying how they improved the content presentation for Rogers Sports which is the largest sports corporation north of the border. Another company, Grapeshot, humorously brought in a boxing ring as a prop to show how they knock out the competition.
Another trade show of a different sort, the annual Exxxotica Expo ( yes, there are three x’s in the name for eye-catching effect) which serves the adult entertainment industry, took place in Edison, New Jersey last weekend. Queens was well-represented as veteran porn star, Bayside’s own Ron Jeremy, was busy signing autographs, as was a relative newcomer the adult film biz, Natalia Starr, who grew up in Corona and attended PS 14, IS 61, and Long Island City High School. Former Queens Congressman Anthony Weiner’s old sexting buddy, Sydney Leathers, happily greeted her fans. She refused to comment about the presidential campaign or FBI director James Comey but she wasn’t shy however about hawking her latest DVD titled “Weiner & Me.”