Nothing can erase the horrors of what occurred on September 11, 2001 but sports did help us resume trying to live our lives the best that we could at the time. Back in 2004 HBO Sports produced a terrific documentary, “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” which showed how the Yankees’ post-season run in the fall of 2001, which ended with them coming out on the short end of a seven-game World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, helped speed the healing process for New York.
The 9/11 Museum & Memorial, located on the site of the old World Trade Center, has just opened a special exhibit that should run for about a year titled “Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11″ which expands on that HBO documentary. Yes, there is a Yankees World Series section that shows a tape of President George W. Bush throwing a perfect strike to open Game 3 to the cheers of everyone including ardent Democrats who was in attendance that night.
What I remember about that HBO Sports documentary was that the Mets and Shea Stadium got very little play in it. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum took pains to make sure that the Mets were front and center.
As soon as you walk into the exhibit there is a photo of how Shea Stadium in the days following the attack became a staging area for sending food, water, and supplies to responders. The jersey that Mike Piazza wore when he hit that big eighth inning home run on September 21, 2001 against the Braves, the first sporting event in NYC following the attack, is here as is a tape of the late Bob Murphy’s call of it on WFAN.
Former Mets closer and native New Yorker John Franco, along with ex-Giants running back Tiki Barber, and onetime Rangers goaltender Mike Richter made speeches at the exhibit dedication last Thursday. Each choked up a bit recalling their memories of that fateful day and its immediate aftermath.
Franco spoke about how his teammates were determined to wear FDNY, NYPD, and Port Authority police caps the rest of the season as a way of honoring the first responders. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig initially objected and threatened to fine the Mets. Selig smartly backed down after talking with Mets CEO Fred Wilpon and team union rep Todd Zeile.
The Mets were in Pittsburgh on September 11.. With airlines forbidden to fly the team had to bus back from Pittsburgh. I asked John about his memories of that unexpected bus ride back to Queens.
“There was nothing out of the ordinary until we got to the George Washington Bridge and saw the smoke coming from the World Trade Center site. Guys from the left side of the bus all came over to the right to watch it. Everyone was eerily quiet the rest of the ride to Shea,” Franco recalled.
The Knicks selected University of Kentucky freshman forward Kevin Knox with their first pick in the 2018 NBA Draft that was held Thursday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center..
With his surname it is obvious that the New York tabloids will refer to him as Fort Knox which is where the United States’ gold reserve is secured. Since Fort Knox is located in Kentucky I asked Kevin if he had visited it. He said no but he did admit that it would be a good photo op for him if he did visit.
One of the screwy things about the NBA Draft is that it glorifies 19 year-old college dropouts while looking askance at a college player who actually valued his education and graduated. The New York Daily News, in its mock draft the day before the teal one took place, wondered in print about the “upside” of Vllianova forward Mikal Bridges who will turn 22 this summer and recently received his liberal arts degree.
Bridges, who was drafted by his hometown Philadelphia 76ers but was traded later in the evening to the Phoenix Suns, admitted in the Barclays Center interview room that he was bothered by the fact that he was being penalized by some in the pro basketball scouting community for no longer being 19. Mikal laughed when I told him that he probably had a few good years years ahead of him before he’d become eligible to join the AARP..
Mikal’s college coach, Jay Wright, who was waiting for him outside of the interview room told me that he also couldn’t understand why Mikal’s intelligence and leadership both on and off the court should be considered a liability instead of an asset by some NBA types.
The biggest business story from the draft was the revival of Puma as an NBA sneaker brand as it inked endorsement deals with center Deandre Ayton who was chosen first in the draft by the Suns and Zhaire Smith who selected shortly after by Phoenix although he would up being traded for the aforementioned Bridges.
I asked Ayton why he selected Puma over the behemoth sneaker companies as Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, and Reebok and he gave a heartfelt answer. “Growing up in the Bahamas, most of us couldn’t afford Nike shoes but we could buy Pumas. I never forgot that. Plus they will allow me to develop my own sneaker line.” Air Aytons does have a nice ring to it.
It should be noted that the last famous NBA player to be identified with Puma was Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Years ago Clyde told me that he received $5,000 for his first endorsement deal with the suede sneaker company and that he felt lucky to get such a high sum.
Duke forward/center Wendell Carter, Jr. was drafted by the Chicago Bulls. When I asked him about his initial impressions of the Windy City, he quickly replied, “It’s like a clean New York.”
Michigan State freshman Jared Jackson, Jr., who was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies, was a model of sartorial splendor as he wore a gold lame blazer, white tuxedo shirt, and a black bow tie. I joked with him that he looked like a member of the Temptations. “That is my grandmother’s favorite singing group!” he replied with a wide smile. I suddenly felt very old.
Swamp Butt, a men’s underwear company based in Texas, sent out a humorous press release stating that it would not engage in any World Cup advertising or other promotional opportunities. The company was capitalizing on the fact that the US men’s team did not qualify for the tournament and that most Americans don’t have an appreciation for soccer the way that the rest of world seemingly has.
Staying hydrated is crucial throughout the year and that’s especially obvious in the summer. It is easy to get tired of water but it is tough to find a low calorie beverage that does not include artificial sweeteners.
Happily there are a pair of new iced teas on the market that help solve this problem.
Down To Earth Teas (drinkdowntoearth.com) was started last year by Rego Park native Jonathan Patarkatsi. Each bottle of the five different flavors of Down To Earth contains only five calories and there are plenty of healthy nutrients such as turmeric, hibiscus, and rose hips.
Another iced tea option is Peloton Cascara Tea (drinkpeloton.com) which is derived from the skins of the coffee bean fruit (yes, coffee is derived from a fruit bean). Peloton has 60 calories and thus a sweeter taste than Down To Earth. The company claims that the coffee fruit helps boost memory and fosters brain health.
Old school candy bar enthusiasts will be glad to know that Snickers has introduced three new flavors: espresso, salty caramel, and a fiery type that tastes like a jalapeno in your mouth. If you’re sleepy I will guarantee that it will wake you up pronto.
Three cheers to ABC for bringing back “The Gong Show” for a second summer season. The anything-goes-talent-show stars Mike Myers portraying his British alter-ego, Tommy Maitland yet again, in the old Chuck Barris hosting role. “The Gong Show” airs at 8 PM on Thursdays.
ABC keeps the old ‘70s game show theme going right after “The Gong Show” as Alec Baldwin returns as host of “The Match Game.” Baldwin nicely channels his inner Gene Rayburn (the witty host of the original “Match Game”) and the show’s writers are continuing the humorous and generally suggestive questions which seem tame now but were revolutionary back in the days of the Ford and Carter presidential administrations.
“Match Game” is generally overlooked by television historians but it was every bit as groundbreaking as “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” and “Saturday Night Live” which of course is still growing strong as it heads into its 44th season.