It’s not surprising that baseball, being our national pastime, has long been the subject of numerous films and television shows. What is surprising though is the very limited success baseball has had in the entertainment industry. Just about the only profitable films that I can recall are the pair of Charlie Sheen “Major League” movies and the 1988 Kevin Costner classic, “Bull Durham.” Things are even worse with respect to television as exemplified by “Pitch,” a show imagining what life would be like for the first female pitcher in the big leagues failed to draw ratings for Fox last fall.
Actor and Forest Hills native Hank Azaria, who is best known for voicing a number of voices on “The Simpsons” is hoping to buck the tide with his latest vehicle, “Brockmire,” that debuts on the edgy cable network, IFC, next Wednesday at 10 PM.
Azaria created the character Jim Brockmire for Will Ferrell’s humor website, Funny Or Die, seven years ago. Hank’s Brockmire is a folksy, silky Southern-voiced baseball play-by-play broadcaster who is beloved in Kansas City until he suffers a foul-mouthed meltdown on the air describing his wife’s infidelity between pitches of a 2007 game.
The IFC show picks up Brockmire’s life a decade later where he is given a second chance to resume his career by a desperate minor league team owner in the Pittsburgh area played by actress Amanda Peet.
Like many a baby boomer who grew up in Queens, Azaria is a rabid Mets fan. At the press premiere of “Brockmire” He admitted that he loved listening to original Mets broadcaster Lindsey Nelson. His character wears a loud plaid sports jacket whenever he is in the broadcast booth as an homage to Nelson. “I actually saw the jacket in an LA thrift store and bought it,” Azaria said.
Although Brockmire has a similar vocal intonation to the late Nelson, Hank claims that the character as a composite to a variety of baseball announcers from the 1970s.
A coming attraction for the show indicated that the voice of Fox Sports, Joe Buck, will make an appearance. Joe has always had a great sense of self-deprecating humor so playing himself here is a natural fit. If the series gets picked up for future seasons then it would be a safe bet that more familiar voices of the game will join the fun.
Even a casual sports fan will laugh with tears rolling down one’s face as Azaria’s Brockmire skewers one baseball cliche after another in the show. It should be noted that the language throughout the program is rather salty. The television rating for this show is MA (for mature audiences) which is the equivalent of the “R” rating for movies. It’s a key reason why Major League Baseball has not allowed producers to use any trademarks or team names.
Overall the World Baseball Classic was a net positive for the sport. Granted, Yankees fans aren’t happy with the fact that shortstop Didi Gregorius will be out until mid-May because he got hurt playing for Team Netherlands while Mets fans are a bit miffed, albeit to a lesser extent, that outfielder Brandon Nimmo suffered a leg injury while toiling for team Italy. The fact that Team USA finally won the World Baseball Classic did not exactly cause an eruption of euphoria domestically.
On the positive side, baseball, which has lagged far behind both soccer and basketball internationally was able to close the gap a bit. The sport was able to plant a flag in Israel given the unexpected success of their team (OK, only two players were actually from Israel and the rest were Americans of Jewish descent but why quibble? Ethnic pride is ethnic pride). The MLB Network, the lone media outlet where fans could watch the games in the US, drew terrific ratings.
There was definitely a feeling of letdown when the NCAA East Regionals got underway at Madison Square Garden Friday night. There was heavy anticipation of a Duke-Villanova showdown when March Madness started. Unfortunately both of those teams were bounced in upsets the previous weekend.
The basketball gods however made it up to college hoops fans who bought tickets way in advance as the second game on Friday night was a classic. Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza hit a buzzer-beating three point shot in overtime to give his team an 84-83 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers. The Sunday game was a good one as well as South Carolina held off Florida, 77-70 to earn a trip to Phoenix and the Final Four.
Madison Square Garden hosts the National Invitational Tournament this week. For years I have called the NIT games at the Garden “the poor man’s Final Four.” While that is true, it’s worth watching because the teams that are playing barely missed being invited to the NCAA Tournament and may very well be there next season. In short, the quality of basketball should be good.
Food Network personality and celebrity chef Bobby Flay has become a serious investor in horse racing. Last year his thoroughbred, Creator, won the Belmont Stakes. This year Flay has high hopes that Caviar Czar will succeed in the Triple Crown stakes races. Incidentally, Flay will be reviving “Iron Chef” this fall on Food Network.
The Golf Channel will be presenting a three-part documentary on the life of Jack Nicklaus beginning on Sunday, April 9 at 9 PM which will smartly ride the coattails of the conclusion of the 2017 Masters. The other two parts will be shown the next two nights at 9 PM. Tom Selleck narrates this lengthy bio.
Like many baby boomers I was saddened to learn of the passing of TV game show impresario Chuck Barris who is best remembered for “The Gong Show” which was a wacky sendup of the “Ted Mack Amateur Hour.”
“The Gong Show,” which aired on NBC during lunchtime from 1976-1978, pushed the envelope with the censors in many ways. Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey, who was one of the best-known professional athletes at the time was a regular panelist on the show because he was a good sport. I remember “Gong Show” cast member Murray “The Unknown Comic” Langston, whose gimmick was snapping off Don Rickles-like insults in rapid-fire form while wearing a bag over his head, saying to Garvey, “Hey Steve, congratulations on getting a new boat! Your wife says that you have a little dinghy!”
Last Thursday the Mets held a press preview of the new cuisine items that will be available this year as well as a reminder of returning favorites. The Acela Club has been renamed the Porsche Grille but it will once again be operated again by the Myriad Restaurant Group which owns the Tribeca Grill. Other fine dining options at Citi Field include Blue Smoke, Catch Of The Day, Rao’s, and Pat LaFreida Steaks. The most popular Citi Field dining establishment, Shake Shack, will be returning for another season. Queens’ own Mama’s of Corona will now be adding cupcakes to its cannolis for those with a sweet tooth.
The Mets have recognized the growth of craft beers and the list of options is endless. Among the craft brands that caught my eye in the team’s press release are Long Island City Beer Project and Queens Boulevard. And yes, Budweiser will still be poured.
Mets fans always root for their team to win anytime of course but fans going to Citi Field on Sundays will have an extra incentive to cheer hard for the Amazin’s. If the Mets win that day fans can exchange their ticket stub for a free food item at McDonald’s.
Keeping with the food theme, the quarterly Editor Showcase is a trade show for media where new products are introduced. Teavana showcased its new line of bottled iced teas while Lifeway, which is known for its kefir bottled drinks is now making kefir cups. Kefir is smiliar to yogurt but it’s stronger in the area of probiotics.
The product which made the most revolutionary claims was Crave Crush. According to company CEO Arianne Perry, Crave Crush is a lozenge which temporarily reduces the cravings for sugar. The lozenge helps bind the sweet receptors in the taste buds of the mouth.
Just as adults take baby aspirin, there are a number of products geared towards toddlers that adults can certainly appreciate. Tickle Water makes small bottles of zero-calorie sparkling water that come in such fun flavors as grape, cola, and green apple. Baby Oasis is a small sound, machine/soother that helps anyone fall asleep. The one drawback to the product is that you can only plug it into a USB port. It isn’t designed to plug into a wall socket.