Mets general manager Sandy Alderson held a press conference prior to the start of the Mets current homestand last Friday afternoon. The Mets were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak and were just coming off a winless six-game road trip.
One of Alderson’s strengths is projecting an image of always having a steady hand on the tiller. Not surprisingly, he spoke in a soothing manner about how there is a lot of the baseball season left and he expects the Mets’ play, particularly the team’s highly vaunted pitching, to improve.
I asked Alderson is he was concerned about home attendance sharply decreasing not just because of mounting Mets losses but also because of the number of household names on the disabled list such as Yoenis Cespedes, Jeurys Familia, and Noah Syndergaard, not to mention lot of other players.
Alderson responded by saying that attendance is not his priority but conceded that not having your stars does affect the gate. “Attendance is a function of winning and I think that our players have underperformed so far,” he added.
Neil Walker, the Mets affable All-Star caliber second baseman and an unquestioned team leader, echoed Sandy’s sentiments when he told me in the clubhouse just before his press conference, “We will play better.”
Well-traveled outfielder Ben Revere was back at Citi Field last weekend as a member of the Angels. “I’m always wearing a different uniform every time you see me,” he joked. “Ben, you haven’t played for either New York team yet, “ I responded. “The Yankees used up all of their single- digit numbered uniforms,” he replied. “ Ben, you’d wear a Yankees uniform with three digits on the back if need be,” I quipped. “You got that right,” he laughed. You can’t help but like a professional athlete who can laugh at himself.
The chickens came home to roost at the NBA Draft Lottery last Tuesday night for our two local NBA franchises.
The Knicks’ win over the 76ers at MSG the last game of the regular season proved to be a pyrrhic one because it meant that they went from having the fifth worst record in the NBA to the seventh-worst. That cost them ping pong balls in the lottery and wound up getting the eighth pick next month. Knicks legend Walt Frazier couldn’t improve their luck in spite of wearing his most garish suit on the dais.
The Celtics wound up with the top pick which actually belonged to the Nets but was dealt away by them in 2012 as part of that disastrous deal in which ex-Nets general manager Billy King traded future top picks for a trio of aging greats: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. All were gone within two years.
Billy King could be the best GM in Celtics history even though he never got a paycheck from them!
Congratulations to former Giants safety Myron Rolle who earned his medical degree at Florida State University and to NFL wide receiver Andrew Hawkins who just graduated with a master’s degree in sports management from Columbia University. Hawkins is still an active player and was able to take courses during summers and off-days where he would fly into New York from Cleveland where he was playing for the Browns.
Jose Reyes celebrated a career milestone last Saturday night when he collected his 2,000th career hit.
The major TV networks traditionally use the third week of May to preview their upcoming shows to advertisers and the media and they were out in full force last week.
NBC Sports CEO Mark Lazarus touted that his network will be broadcasting the 2018 Winter Olympics as well as Super Bowl LII. The upcoming Stanley Cup was not mentioned. My guess is that the New York audience did not want to know about it in light of the Rangers being eliminated from the NHL playoffs by the Ottawa Senators last week.
Telemundo, NBC’s Spanish language network, will be broadcasting the 2018 World Cup while Fox Sports will have the English broadcast rights for the US market.
Univision, Telemundo’s bigger rival, will once again be offering lots of soccer by televising the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) tournament and the Mexican League (Liga MX).
Sports seemed to get as much play at the Fox Upfront as their primetime lineup did. Alex Rodriguez told the audience at the Beacon Theater than he is excited to be a part of Fox’s baseball telecasts but admitted that he wished that they would pay him what the Yankees did. Fox’s “Sunday NFL” team of Jimmy Johnson, Curt Menefee, Michael Strahan, and Jay Glazer donned hip-hop apparel and broke into an impressive rap complete with spot-on choreography. Fox Sports’ lead anchor, Joe Buck, showed a wicked comedic wit as he hosted the segment. Fox Broadcasting CEO Gary Newman told me afterwards that he would like to see Buck host either a reality or variety show in the near future.
I ran into former NFL linebacker Tony Gonzalez who recently left CBS’s NFL pregame show to join Fox’s. He admitted that geography was a major consideration in that he lives in LA where Fox originates their show and it was tiring to jet across the country every week to New York which is the home of CBS’s “NFL Today.”
Turner Sports reminded ad buyers about their sizable portfolio that includes March Madness college basketball, Major League Baseball, and the NBA on TNT.
In a gutsy move, Turner allowed an unscripted conversation between NBA legend and Turner Sports NBA air personality Shaquille O’Neal, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and TBS late night talk show host Conan O’Brien to take place on the stage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden midway during their Upfront presentation. To say that it resembled a Friar’s Club roast would be an understatement. Nonetheless it achieved the objective that Turner is a major player in the entertainment industry on a variety of fronts.
ESPN CEO John Skipper did acknowledge that the economic landscape has become more challenging in the age of cable cord-cutting but emphasized that his network’s famous slogan still holds true. It is still the unquestioned “worldwide leader in sports” and he emphasized to ad buyers that sports is the one area that people want to watch live as opposed to watching it later on their cable DVR.
Mike Greenberg, who is one of half of ESPN Radio’s popular radio show, “Mike & Mike” (former NFL linebacker Mike Golic is his partner), will be leaving that show and will host his own morning show from New York starting New Year’s Day. To remind ad agency folks about his big league status, Serena Williams stopped by the stage of the Minskoff Theater to chat with him. Serena will be missing the 2017 US Open because of her pregnancy so this was as close to Flushing Meadows as she will get for quite awhile.
Former Jets head coach Rex Ryan will be joining the ESPN “Sunday Football Countdown” team this year. He laughed when I told him that he doesn’t have to worry about current Jets head coach Todd Bowles ever taking this gig from him since Bowles is reticent to ever answer a postgame question with more than two sentences. Rex was careful not to criticize his successor but he acknowledged the importance of engaging the media, and by extension, fans.
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo made his first public appearance since being named Jim Nantz’s broadcasting partner on NFL telecasts at the CBS Upfront which was held, as per tradition, at Carnegie Hall. He smartly poked fun at the fact that he has not been welcomed when he traveled to New York in the past as a Cowboys player who was there to beat the New York Giants. Nevertheless, Romo is going to be a work in progress based on what I observed as his speech was peppered with too many “you knows” and he looked a bit nervous on the Carnegie Hall stage which was understandable.
The Peabody Awards, which honors the best in electronic broadcasting, has become the closing event of Upfront Week.
The ESPN miniseries, “O.J. Made In America,” about the life of O.J. Simpson ,was honored with a Peabody, It had previously won an Academy Award and an Emmy. Director Ezra Edelman told me that he was initially worried when FX televised their dramatized version of the Simpson story, “The People vs. O.J.” ahead of his documentary, but he now is thankful because it created advanced buzz and made the Simpson saga accessible to a new generation.
A YouTube video, “#MORETHANMEAN, which examined the vitriol a lot of female sports journalists receive by having men read nasty Twitter quotes a la Jimmy Kimmel, also garnered a Peabody. ESPNW air personality Sarah Spain, who was a co-producer of the four-minute video, told me that most people would be shocked at how little things have evolved for women in sports journalism, particularly those on the broadcast side.
Upfront Week, of course, deals with all facets of the television industry, with most of the attention paid to primetime and late night.
America’s most watched network, CBS, allowed Stephen Colbert to take a well-deserved victory lap, as he opened the proceedings and properly thanked former TV star, Donald J, Trump, for his making his show, “Late Night,” the top-rated show at 11:30 PM.
CBS’s new primetime programs look strong. Not surprisingly, they are staying in their crime procedural wheelhouse with a reboot of “S.W.A.T.” starring former “Criminal Minds” co-star Shemar Moore; “Wisdom of the Crowd” starring Jeremy Piven as a Silicon Valley mogul who changes his life’s avocation after his daughter is killed: and “SEAL Team” starring David Boreanaz. They all seem very strong and should easily find an audience.
The Tiffany Network’s new comedies are a mixed bag based on the clips that I saw. Longtime “Saturday Night Live” cast member Bobby Moynihan is leaving the show to star in “Me, Myself & I” in which he looks at his life in present day as a 40 year-old, back when he was 15, and finally, 25 years into the future where his character is played by sitcom vet John Larroquette. The show is clever but it does requite a lot of disbelief being suspended. I have never seen a man grow in height from age 40 to 65!
My pick for the first show of the new season to be cancelled is CBS’s “9JKL” starring Mark Feuerstein as a 40 year-old actor who is forced to leave LA and move back to New York after a divorce leaves him broke. He has to move to back into one of three adjacent apartments that are owned by his brother and his parents played by Elliot Gould and Linda Lavin. Based on the four minutes that I saw, there are a lot of unfortunate Jewish stereotypes portrayed. Even if you are willing to overlook that there just doesn’t seem to be enough material to sustain a series. CBS programmers are very savvy. I am not sure how this one snuck through.
Other network comedies that looked promising are ABC’s “The Mayor” about a budding hip-hop star (Brandon Michael Hall) who runs for office as a way to promote and his career and shockingly wins, and two Fox comedies,“The Orville,” in which Seth MacFarlane satirizes Star Trek, and “LA to Vegas” which stars Dylan McDermott as a pilot on a low-budget airline.
I am not sure how wise it was for NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt to revive the old “Must See TV” adage for his Thursday night lineup but I am glad that the clever “Great News,” about life at a CNN knockoff, is part of it.
Credit CNN boss Jeff Zucker for the most poignant moment of Upfront Week. During the Turner presentation CNN brought out every one of their anchors to rail against the intimidation of journalists and the reckless use of the term “fake news” that has been occurring under the Trump administration.
National CineMedia, the organization that makes coming attractions and ad reels for movie theaters, is partnering with ESPN NFL fantasy expert Matthew Berry to create Fantasy Movie League. Participants have to guess which films will gross the highest at the box office every weekend.
Air Berlin held a press event last week to announce the start of service between JFK and Dusseldorf.
New Hampshire Department of Tourism officials met with New York media last week to promote the fact that many of its winter ski resorts are quite active in the summer with mountain biking, hiking, and zipline rides. Mount Washington is the largest peak in the Northeast and it tests the mettle of anyone who wants to climb it. The Granite State also attracts a lot of fly fisherman because of its beautiful and well-stocked lakes. You can even go to the beach as the state does possess an 18-mile coastline that is nestled between Massachusetts and Maine. Portsmouth is its best-known coastal town.
With the federal government reducing spending for the arts, will corporations step in to help? Lysol is sponsoring an exhibit of wild animal sculptures at Brooklyn Bridge Park called “Protect Like A Mother.”