The Week That Was: Golf’s Good Luck & Horse Racing’s Bad Luck

     NBC Sports to be the chief beneficiary of the Kentucky Derby controversy where stewards overturned Maximum Security’s apparent victory because they ruled that the horse interfered with the path of others going into a turn and thus awarded the win to longshot runner-up Country House.

     After all NBC recorded its best ratings for the Kentucky Derby in nearly 30 years because of it. That certainly boded well for this Saturday’s Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, the second leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, as there would be natural interest in seeing whether Maximum Security could cross the finish line first or would Country House be a horse of destiny.

    NBC Sports CEO Mark Lazarus had to have been thinking of Scottish poet Robert Burns famous line about the best laid plans of mice and men going awry. Last week Maximum Security’s owners announced that they would be bypassing the Preakness while Country House’s team properly pulled their horse out of the race because of respiratory issues. Without either a rematch or possible Triple Crown story angle TV ratings will surely sag.

    Oh yes, New York Racing Association officials are less than sanguine as well because the Belmont Stakes has suddenly lost a lot of luster as well although both Maximum Security and Country House are expected to race in it.

    The PGA Championship, which is taking place this weekend at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, has long been the most overlooked of golf four major tournaments (the Masters, the US Open, and the British Open being the other three), and there was a lot of consternation in the conservative golf community about moving it from August to May for reasons ranging from TV ratings to weather.

     All of that changed last month when Tiger Woods, the most famous golfer since Arnold Palmer, won the Masters at age 43. Jim Nantz, the longtime face of CBS Sports, said in a media conference call last week, that the PGA won the lottery when that happened as did its TV partner, CBS Sports.

      If you are going to the PGA Championship, the LIRR will have frequent service between Jamaica and Farmingdale where shuttle buses will take you to Bethpage State Park.

     New York Mets reliever Jeurys Familia, who has had a rough go of it in the early going of the season, before going on the injured for right shoulder soreness, has returned to active duty. Manager Mickey Callaway likes how Familia’s pitches sink but is frustrated with the amount of walks he has issued. “He needs to make those pitches look like strikes a little longer before they break,” he said during his Saturday pregame press conference. With Justin Wilson on the injured list, Callaway is going to have no choice but to use Familia in high pressure situations whether he, or Mets fans for that matter, like it or not.

      Longtime Queens resident and veteran sportswriter Danny Knobler has written a book on baseball’s long-held and somewhat mysterious etiquette rules aptly titled “Unwritten” (Triumph Books). Among the issues that he deals with, often humorously, are when it’s no longer considered good form to steal a base or bunt when a team has a lead; the proper and improper ways of taking part in an on-field baseball brawl; as well as the often subtle distinction of when a pitcher is allowed to throw “inside” at a hitter versus trying to hit him.

     Knobler gets a lot of current and former players to share their recollections of game situations. Like politics, the rules of what is acceptable certainly has shifted over the years. This is a fun and informative read.

     Mets VP of alumni relations Jay Horwitz is delivering on his promise to bring former Mets players to Citi Field on weekends for meet and greets with fans and to chat with the media.

     Two weeks ago Neil Allen, who had a solid 14-year career as a relief pitcher, showed a quick wit as he acknowledged with a broad smile that he is most beloved by Mets fans for being the key name in the trade that brought Keith Hernandez to the Amazins from the St. Louis Cardinals. He even posed for photos in the Citi Field press dining room with Hernandez.

    This past Friday night two members of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets, pitchers Doc Gooden and Roger McDowell, were at Citi Field.

     McDowell was known for his pranks on unsuspecting teammates which included “hotfoots.” He told the media that he doubted that he could get away with most of that stuff today. I have a feeling that the New York Fire Department would be less than sanguine knowing that he stuck lit matches to the cleats of teammates.

    Like a lot of folks over 50 years of age McDowell is having trouble finding employment after years of serving as a pitching coach for several MLB teams. “For the first time since 1982 I did not report anywhere for spring training. It is nice spending time with my family and I look forward to helping my daughter get ready for college” McDowell told me although he is looking to be hired by a team.

      Miami Marlins third base coach Fredi Gonzalez, who has been a baseball lifer having served as a manager for both the Marlins and the Atlanta Braves, is currently working on an undergraduate degree in business administration and is taking online courses during the season. “I am 55 and I want to send a message to everyone, particularly our players, that it is never too late to go back to school,” he told outside the Marlins clubhouse at Citi Field Friday afternoon.

     The annual Queens Economic Development fund-raiser that highlights our borough’s strong culinary industry, Queens Taste, took place last Tuesday at the Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Park.

     Among the exhibitors were such popular Queens restaurants as Ben’s Delicatessen, Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, and Queens Bully. Jamaica-based beverage manufacturer Mansi introduced its version of an “Arnold Palmer” which is a mixture of iced tea and the lemon-like calamansi juice which is favorite source of Vitamin C in the Philippines. Also having a table at Queens Taste was Queens Connect which is a program that introduces 18-24 year olds to careers in the foodservice industry and is affiliated with Forest Hills’ Queens Community House. 

     The quarterly media trade show, Editor Showcase, gives both big and small companies opportunities to introduce new food products. At last Thursday’s event Jarlsberg displayed its line of individually wrapped cheese slices; Quaker Oats let the press know about their individual serving bowl portions of its Life Cereal; Crunchmaster debuted its chocolate covered multigrain chips that taste as much like a dessert as they do a snack; and finally for those who like spicy things, Farmer’s Pantry unveiled jalapeno-flavored jalapeno crisps.

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