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Saturday, April 30, 2011

News from the Penn Relays

Congrats to both the Dickinson and North Bergen track and field teams for reaching great plateaus at the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival at Franklin Field in Philadelphia over the weekend.

For Dickinson, the legacy of the brilliant Jose Veras continues to grow and grow. Veras guided his 4x800 relay team to a berth in the championship final against some of the best programs in the country. With all Veras has done during cross country season, then indoor season and now outdoor, he's carving his permanent place in Hudson County track and field history.

In fact, you could already argue that the multi-talented Veras might be the best all-around track and field talent the county has ever produced.

North Bergen's relay team ran a 3:26.8 to win their heat, bringing home a prestigious plaque for the first time.

Needless to say, it's something just to compete at the Penn Relays. It's another to earn some prestige and in some cases, a plaque.

Here's the best news I can report this weekend.

Before my friend Ed "The Faa" Ford passed away two weeks ago, he had one last request.

The Faa wanted the son of his guardian angel, Anne Marie Costello, to attend Rutgers-Newark and play baseball there.

Ryan Houghton , who had a close relationship with the Faa and the reason why his wonderful mom Anne Marie took a special liking and care for the Faa, expressed his interest to attend Rutgers-Newark to study criminal justice.

But when Houghton first applied, he was denied acceptance. The Faa was upset and wanted to do whatever he could to get Ryan into R-N and play for coach Mark Rizzi, someone the Faa liked and respected.

As a lasting tribute to the Faa, a few phone calls were made and Houghton's academic credentials were reviewed once again. Thursday, Rutgers-Newark sent Houghton an acceptance letter. He's headed to become a Scarlet Raider in the fall.

That's the greatest tribute to the man who gave his entire heart, soul and being to helping kids. His legacy now in passing is young Ryan Houghton getting a chance to go to the college he so desired.

Congrats to Ryan, but a special thanks goes out to R-N athletic director Mark Griffin, who personally saw to it that Houghton's application received a proper review and subsequent acceptance.

Ryan will be a credit to the R-N baseball program and the Faa's legacy lives on in young Ryan. It's a great story.

I don't know who did the seeding for the Hudson County softball tournament, but Secaucus being the 10th seed and Kearny the 13th seed is nothing short of criminal.

Secaucus should haven been at the worst the No. 4 seed behind North Bergen, Union City and Hoboken. The Patriots played the beginning of the season without standout senior pitcher Shannon Waters, who was nursing a shoulder separation. But the Pats get a No. 10 seed? There's no way that there are nine teams in Hudson County better than the Patriots.

As for Kearny, the Kardinals do have a 3-8 record, granted, but they lost six of their games by a total of 10 runs. The Kards were seeded below some truly putrid squads who wouldn't have a chance to beat Kearny if they played every single day between now and Thursday, the 12th of never.

There has to be a better way of seeding that tourney, because this is now the second straight year that teams got absolutely screwed in the seeding.

Who was a bigger Prince this weekend? The newly married Prince William? Or the Giants' top draft pick Prince Akanamara? I'm going with the DB from Nebraska. He hits harder.

Just when the Mets lure me in by winning six straight, they go right back into the crapper by losing three in a row.
It's very disconcerting when the so-called ace licker Mike Pelfrey shows no guts whatsoever every time out. He's supposed to be the leader of this staff and he's afraid more than he licks. He's facing the immortal Lance Worley, the son of Joanne Worley (not really), and he can't get out of the fifth inning. Pelfrey is 1-3 with a 7.59 ERA. Lick that. It's disgusting...

I think Boston beats Miami in seven games in this NBA series, ending King James' disappointing first year in South Beach.

I paid $4.04 per gallon of gasoline today. More than four bucks a gallon?????
Remember when we had the gas shortage in the late 1970s and we were all upset when gas went over a buck a gallon? It's now more than FOUR BUCKS a gallon. That's a complete disgrace.

You can read more of my work at, and There's a good feature this week in the Hudson Reporter about the passing of Jersey City basketball legend Boo-Bee Richardson who passed away last week. Check it out.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Here once again, ready for the Knicks' death knell to toll

Instead of enjoying Easter dinner and chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs and Peeps with my peeps (honestly, I really hate peeps), I'm back at Madison Square Garden to witness the final blow delivered to the already bruised and battered carcass of the New York Knicks.

The Knicks are down 0-3 to the Celtics in the series. More than likely, the Celtics will deliver the final blow this afternoon.

People inside the Garden already have the funereal feel to them. Employees are hugging each other, saying ''see you next year.'' A sign outside the press room dining quarters featured another ''Thanks, see you next year'' written note.

Everyone seems to know that this is pretty much it. The Garden, a place that had so much life before tipoff Friday night, is virtually dead Easter Sunday _ with no resurrection in sight.

The only excitement will come from the 18,000 orange T-shirts that are being distributed. Everyone seems to love the T-shirts, although they're going up to the ushers giving them away and asking for different sizes.

"What sizes do you have?" the women are asking.

"Extra large,'' the usher says.

"Anything smaller?" the woman responded.

"Extra large,'' he said.

I guess that means they have extra large.

The Knicks are holding on to hope that All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire will give them some sort of emotional lift. Stoudemire announced about 20 minutes ago that he will start and give it a try, despite the bad back that kept him out of the second half of Game 2, made him virtually invisible in Game 3 and left him out of practice all week.

Is it a moot point? Who knows? But things don't look good. The Knicks can save a little face with a win today and extend the season a few more days going back to Boston. It's the best that they can do for their fans, who have been starving for a home playoff win for an entire decade. That's true. The Knicks have not won a single playoff game in the Garden since 2001.

In any case, the game begins in 25 minutes. It should be interesting if anything. But there's definitely not the same buzz and excitement as there was Friday night.

There's also a lot less media people here today. I have a conventional seat at a big boy table. I'm not relegated to the kids' table, a folding collapsable coffee table, like I was Friday night.

Adam Horowitz of the Beastie Boys is slated to do the National Anthem. That won't exactly pump up the crowd. Actors Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifiniakis are in attendance, as is Matthew Modine, who had the lead in Vision Quest with Linda Fiorentino, which makes him my hero. He played a high school wrestler who had sex with Fiorentino. Funny, I don't remember any of my wrestling buddies getting that sort of takedown.

I could report that Star Jones is also here, but who really cares? She drinks beer through a straw and there's just something wrong with that.

The sports celebrities include Giants defensive end Osi Yumeniora (whose name I know I misspelled for the 2,315th time in my career), D'Brickashaw Ferguson of the Jets and Brandon Dubinsky of the Rangers, who with his teammates began their own private golf tour yesterday.

Steve Schrippa, namely Bobby Baccala from "The Sopranos," is also here. I like him.

So there it is, my pre-game report from The Garden on Easter Sunday. I'd much rather be eating jelly beans at home right now.
You can read more of my work at, and

Friday, April 22, 2011

Live from the world's most famous arena

Well, this has definitely been the experience of a 28-year career as a sportswriter, but I write this now sitting inside Madison Square Garden, covering Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinal between the Knicks and the Boston Celtics.

I was able to secure the assignment and there's definitely a hum and a buzz around the Garden like we haven't seen in ages.

I covered my fair share of Knick playoff games dating back to 1984 and there's nothing like the buzz going on right now here.

However, I don't exactly have a prime location in the makeshift press room. I'm sitting on top of a stage area, tying away on a collapsable table that I had to put together. It's definitely the most unique working situation I've ever had for a pro sports contest.

It almost meant giving the laptop its true meaning, with the laptop sitting on my lap, but I found this table and laid claim to it. It's pretty wild.

In any case, I wanted to send out the mood of the city and it's definitely hopping, much like former Knick sharpshooter Allan Houston predicted at Knicks' practice at the team's facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. Thursday.

"I think Madison Square Garden is one of the few places in the world that can bring it up to a different level in the playoffs," Houston said. "As exciting as it is to play there in the regular season, it's at a different level in the playoffs. It's really hard to describe unless you've experienced it."

Houston was asked if he shared those experiences with the current Knicks, many of whom have never played in a single playoff game before last Sunday.

"It's one of those things that as a player, you can get so amped up and lose focus," Houston said. "You have to stay focused on the task at hand. I know that I had trouble sleeping about this game. I am just as excited as the players are. I know what they're going to experience and it's like nothing else."

Houston was asked if the Amar'e Stoudemire situation was going to resemble Willis Reed's dramatic performance in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, when an injured Reed walked through the tunnel and the crowd let out a deafening roar.

"I think with today's social media, with Twitter and Facebook, people will know if he's going to play," Houston said.

Guess what? Houston was right. Everyone knows Stoudemire's status.

Houston said his favorite Knick-Garden playoff moment came in the 1999 NBA Finals, when the Knicks faced the Spurs.

"You could actually feel the building move," Houston said. "It was memorable for me, because my daughter was born the next day. It doesn't get any better than that. But it really felt like the floor lifted up that night. I just remember looking into the crowd that night and taking it all in."

Maybe there will be a similiar memorable moment tonight.

"It's definitely going to be crazy and crazy is an understatement," Carmelo Anthony said.
"The whole city is excited. The place will be exciting. I hope to match the crowd's energy and excitement."

We'll see in about 15 minutes. The Garden hasn't hosted a Knick playoff game since April 22, 2004. The Knicks haven't won a home playoff game since beating the Raptors on April 22, 2001. And today's date? April 22. Pretty ironic, no?

We'll check back later.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A fitting farewell for ''The Faa''

About 700 people or so gathered at St. Aloysius Church in Jersey City today to bid farewell to the one-and-only Ed
''The Faa'' Ford
, who died last Tuesday.

And it was a funeral that even the Faa himself would have enjoyed and appreciated, because it was filled with funny Faa stories, touching moments, some tear-jerking sentimental moments, but most importantly, nothing but love and admiration for the most unique and colorful character Jersey City has ever produced.

I was asked to be one of the speakers, along with another long-time friend, Tom Shine to say a few words about the Faa before the services began. It was an honor to be able to share some of my finest Faa moments.

I was able to tell the audience on how I first met Ed Ford, long before he was "The Faa." I was a Babe Ruth baseball player at age 14 and he noticed me, telling me that he thought I could hit pretty well. We struck up a conversation. He said he remembered by father from working for the Jersey City DPW. We became friends.

A few years later, when I first tried out for the Senior Babe Ruth and Build Better Boys teams, he always promised me a spot on his teams because he thought I could do two things. One, was hit. I couldn't catch a cold. And two, he knew I could keep score.

"I'll always keep you around as long as you can keep the book," he said.

It was a relationship that lasted 35 years. He might be gone now, but the love and admiration will continue forever. He was as loyal as a friend could be. Even through our countless arguments and altercations, I knew he loved me and he told me so in our last conversation last Monday, the day before he died.

The church was packed with so many people that loved the Faa and people he loved as well. His good friend Mike McNally played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes with other members of the Jersey City police department. Not a dry eye was spotted in the place.

My long-time friend and spiritual mentor, Fr. Anthony Azzzarto, S.J. from St. Peter's Prep, was brilliant in performing the Mass, along with help from Fr. Lawrence Miller, who was the heart-and-soul of Our Lady of Mercy athletics for ages, and Fr. Warren Hall, who currently resides at St. Al's.

It really couldn't have been a better sendoff, with the emotions of the day, with the beauty of the ceremony, with the outpouring of love and affection for my beloved friend.

Thanks to News 12 New Jersey, with reporter George Falkowski in attendance, for doing a nice feature/tribute on the Faa that aired last night. It enabled some who didn't get a chance to attend the funeral to have a feel of the warmth and love that took place.

At the wake Friday, Jack Curry of the YES Network, who once played for the Faa in 4B baseball and wrote a great column on the Faa on the YES Network website, put an idea into my head.

"With all the stories you know, you should write a book about the Faa," Curry said to me.

And that will be my goal this summer. I will compile a host of funny tidbits, entitled "Faa Stories," and will publish it on my own, complete with pictures and memories. I will then donate a portion of the proceeds of the book to the Edward "Faa" Ford Memorial Fund, which will benefit the Jersey City Sharks baseball program.

If anyone wants to share their ''Faa Stories," they can send them to me via e-mail at

That is the least I can do to honor the legacy of my good friend. Again, he may be gone, but he certainly won't be forgotten. And after I'm done writing, others will have "Faa Stories" to last a lifetime.

My tribute to the Faa will appear on beginning Sunday AM. More of my work can be read at and

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Funny Faa stories

OK, the one thing that has acted as healing and catharsis over the last two days has been the laughter I've shared with so many others since the passing of "The Faa" on Tuesday.

Incredibly, I've received over 100 phone calls and 250 e-mails since Tuesday, all offering condolences, thoughts, prayers and more importantly, laughs about the Faa.

"If you bring up his name, chances are they have a 'Faa' story, whether it's serious or funny," said former Major League closer Joe Borowski, now doing pre-game and post-game commentary for the Arizona Diamondbacks. "Everyone had one."

It was Faa who signed Borowski to his first contract with the Chicago White Sox back in 1989.

"Everyone I know has an Eddie Ford story," said George Blaney, the assistant coach at national champion UConn, who gave the Faa his first paying coaching job as the freshman basketball coach at Hudson Catholic in the 1960s. "If someone met him, they remembered him and they had a story."

Well, over the last 35 years, I have a host of ''Faa'' stories and I just thought I'd share a few today.

My favorite took place in June, 1995. He called me at 7:10 AM on a Sunday morning. Back then, my Saturday nights didn't end until around 4 AM, so this was definitely an early call.

"Get up," he said.

"Faa, what in the world could you want at 7 a.m. on a Sunday?" I asked.

"Get up and come outside now."

I asked where he was. He was at the pay phone across the street from my house on Kennedy Blvd. I looked out the window. Sure enough, there he was.

"I have something to show you," Faa said.

So I threw some clothes on, headed outside, and exclaimed, "What could you have to show me at 7 a.m. on a Sunday?"

He just said, ''Look.''

Inside his car, strapped to the passenger seat with the seat belt, was the Stanley Cup.

Yes, Lord Stanley's piece of hardware, the world's most famous trophy, was sitting on the front seat of the Faa's car.

Apparently, Tommy Shine, another dear friend of the Faa, who worked for the Devils at the time, was intrusted with caring for the Cup after the Devils won the trophy the night before. ``Shiner'' was supposed to bring the Cup to the Big Apple Sports Palace in Bayonne on Sunday at noon, where Devils Cup MVP Claude Lemieux was going to appear.

But in Shiner's exuberance and obvious intoxication, he left Lord Stanley's hardware in the back of Dohoney's. The Faa woke up to open the bar on Sunday morning and found it sitting there, so he decided that the best thing he could do was tool around Jersey City with the Stanley Cup.

And the first person he decides to show it to was his hungover buddy who is a Rangers fan.

Now, the plot gets better. Apparently, Faa took the Stanley Cup and gave it a tour of Jersey City. He pulled people over on Kennedy Boulevard to show them what he had and got out of the car to let them pose for pictures with it, touch it. People he didn't even know. He was showing them the world's most famous trophy in his hometown.

But in that era of no cell phone communication, Shiner was frantic when he woke up and headed to Dohoney's thinking he lost the Stanley Cup. Let's face it, the trophy now has two white-gloved bodyguards who take it in and out of a case. Here's Faa driving around with it as a tour guest.

Shiner had no idea where it was until Faa brought it back in time for the appearance at the Big Apple. It remains my favorite funny Faa story.

There are little quips that always remain solid in my head:

"Something stinks in Denmark and it ain't the cheese."

"Pass the mustard, because here comes the bologna."

"I was born on a day, but it wasn't yesterday."

"Get out.''

I was constantly the brunt of his jokes, both in print and on television.

In print, after I had a ridiculous permanent, he put in his column that I looked like a ''six-foot-five Chiapet.'' I was mad because I'm 6-8.

Another time, he said that I was spotted coming out of a bar called Excalibur in Hoboken. At first, I didn't know why that was so newsworthy to him. It wasn't big news if I was coming out of a bar. But a few days later, my friends in Hoboken pointed out that Excalibur was a gay bar. I had no idea.

Another time, he said in print that things were going so bad for the Mets that I was spotted walking down West Side Ave. with a Yankee hat on. I demanded a retraction for that one, because other than wearing a Tierney's Tavern Yankee hat in Greenville American Little League (didn't count, because the colors were red and white), the only time I ever wore a Yankee hat anywhere was because of the Faa as well.

When the Mets played the Yankees in the 2000 World Series, I made a bet with the Faa. If the Mets won the Series, he had to wear a Met hat in his column head in the Jersey Journal. If the Yankees won, I had to wear a Yankee hat in my picture in the paper.

Well, we all know who won. I posed for the picture wearing a Yankee hat and two Yankee stickers on my cheeks. The picture appeared with my column for a month, then I had to take it down in total disgrace.

One time, we both appeared on a cable television show, hosted by our mutual friend Bruce Sabatini on Cablevision of Hudson County in Union City. Bruce wanted us to talk about the upcoming baseball season, both major leagues and local. It wasn't the first time Faa and I were on some cable show together.

But this time, I made the mistake of telling the Faa that I met someone at a convention in Kansas City and that I was going to see her in Seattle.

The show begins taping and Bruce says, "OK, let's talk about the AL East race."

Faa says, "No, let's talk about Cindy Fester."

I just put my head down, saying, ``Oh, no.''


I also recalled an incident with the late Sister Mary Alan of St. Anthony.

It was 1988 and there was a meeting about St. Anthony leaving the HCIAA at Bayonne High School. At this meeting, Sister Alan blamed me personally for the fight between St. Anthony and Ferris, saying that I played up the rivalry by writing about all the off-the-court antics that were going on, like someone actually gaining access to the school and putting feces all over the statue of St. Anthony. As disgusting as that sounds, someone did do that and it appeared to be of the human variety.

Anyway, after that meeting at Bayonne, the Faa came to my defense and asked Sister Alan one question.

"Am I talking to Sister Alan the nun or Sister Alan, the athletic director?" he asked.

She replied, "I hope you're talking to Sister Alan, the AD."

"Good, that's what I hoped you would say. Well then F**K YOU!''

Only the Faa, only the Faa.

I'll close today with a story I got yesterday from Faa's good friend and basketball star Mike O'Koren. As you may know, Faa was very instrumental in helping O'Koren go to the University of North Carolina, a place he loved dearly, especially his long-standing friendship and relationship with the legendary Dean Smith.

O'Koren tells me yesterday that he remembered playing in his first Blue-White scrimmage at Carolina as a freshman and the Faa was refereeing the game.

"Coach Smith was sitting in the middle of the gym at the scorer's table and not coaching us," O'Koren recalled of this game in October of 1976. "Coach (Bill) Guthridge had one team and Coach (Eddie) Fogler had the other. As the game is going on, Faa calls traveling on me. Coach Smith yells out that it was a bad call and Faa yells back, 'Don't make me T-you up.'"

He threatened to give the legendary Smith a technical foul in a game he wasn't even coaching. Hey, it's the same Faa who had a cheerleader ejected from a game once.

Smith didn't miss a beat.

"That's OK, Eddie," Smith said. "I'll just keep your plane ticket back to New Jersey."

"It was classic Faa," O'Koren said yesterday."

Just a few of the thousands of Faa stories that are coming out as his legacy grows and grows.


A reminder that the wake for Edward Ford will be held Friday at McLauglin's Funeral Home in Jersey City behind the Journal Square Station around the corner from the Stanley Theater. The time for the wake is 2-9 p.m. at McLaughlin's.

The funeral mass will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Aloysius Church near Lincoln Park, just a stone's throw away from Dohoney's.

Let's all get together this weekend and give our friend the send-off he truly deserves.

You can read more of my work at, and My full obituary and tribute to the Faa will appear in the The Hudson Reporter online Sunday.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Losing a great friend in ''The Faa''

The text came over my cell phone a little after 12:30 today, from the beautiful and wonderful Anne Marie Costello, the single reason why my friend Ed "The Faa" Ford remained alive for the last two years or so.

"Faa's gone,'' was all the text said.

Gone where? I wondered. Gone? I just spoke with him in a typical Hague-Faa conversation, trying to scream over each other, covering a myriad of topics from the Final Four to Marquette vs. North Carolina to high school baseball to life, for the better part of 90 minutes Monday morning. It was refreshing to hear my friend speaking with such vigor and life. He had just written another column for the Jersey Journal, his first in about two months. He complained about how he had to dictate it to someone who didn't know the names, the faces of Hudson County. He was being ''The Faa'' as only ''The Faa'' could be.

Anne Marie then called me to say that my beloved friend for the last 35 years _ my colleague, my boss, my coach, my confidant, my adversary, my pain in the royal rectum _ was indeed gone for good.

The Faa died, apparently overnight, sitting in a chair in his trailer in the Jersey City Recreation facility in Caven Point, where he lived over the last decade or so, instead of residing in his real home on Fairview Avenue, an apartment he kept for over 40 years.

The news of his passing didn't come as a complete shock, because the man that I still called "Mr. Ford'' most of the time and only "Faa" when we were confrontational, which was definitely more often than not, was not in good health. He battled heart disease for the better part of the last decade and was in and out of the hospital several times for a series of procedures over the last two years or so.

And my beloved ''buddy'' as he called me didn't exactly take the best care of himself while he was alive. He was told to stay away from chewing tobacco, but he wouldn't listen to doctors. He constantly signed himself out of hospitals against medical advice, albeit drawing the ire of good friends like myself.

So his passing today at age 65, a few days shy of his 66th birthday, is not a stunner, even after speaking with him at length Monday.

But it still doesn't lessen the pain of the loss. Edward Ford was one of a kind, a true crumudgeon in the truest sense. He was called a Damon Runyan character once, but he really didn't know who Damon Runyon was. I called him a ''crumudgeon'' once and he wanted to know if that was good or bad.

But there's no denying the fact that he had one of the most interesting lives of anyone who ever lived in Jersey City.

Despite his lack of a formal education, Edward Ford was able to do things that not many others could do. He was a respected coach, eventually leading St. Mary's of Jersey City to their lone state baseball championship in 1973. He was a respected basketball referee on the high school and college levels.

He was a business man, owning at least three different taverns in Jersey City, the latest being Dohoney's in Jersey City, a neighborhood joint he owned for more than 20 years.

He was also a sports columnist, writing his words in the Hudson Dispatch, where he shared space with me, and the Jersey Journal, where he became a journalistic superstar.

But the true legacy of Edward Ford is his undying love for the game of baseball and the way he brought that game to thousands of kids in Jersey City and Hudson County over the last quarter century.

For many years, ''The Faa'' was a full-time baseball scout for several different major league organizations, like the California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. Because of his affiliation with the big league baseball teams, he opened the door to professional baseball for countless of Hudson County and New Jersey ballplayers over the years.

And when his scouting days were done, Edward Ford turned his attention toward teaching the youngsters of the area about the game he loved most. With his overpacked pile of tobacco in his cheek, "The Faa" gave of his time constantly to take a bunch of kids to the bubble in Yanitelli Center at St. Peter's College in the winter or the batting cages at the YMCA to give them a chance to excel.

As the assistant director of recreation in Jersey City, he established youth baseball programs such as the Cobra and Diamond Dawgs, giving kids a chance to play baseball at a higher level with the proper instruction.

And he was always about helping kids. He thrived on helping others. He made it his life's calling and mission to make sure that kids had a chance to become better ballplayers.

Ever since I was a 14-year-old Babe Ruth baseball player, I've considered Mr. Ford to be a coach and a mentor. When I got older and became a writer, he was my writing colleague, constantly keeping each other on our toes, battling each other tooth and nail, first for the the same newspaper then as rivals. We had our ups and downs, like practically everyone else that the Faa knew, but one thing was always for sure. I was always there for him. He was always my friend first and foremost.

I thought he was dying in October of 2009. He was in the Jersey City Medical Center back then and not given much chance to come out. I went up to visit him on a Friday afternoon and he was all tubed up and incoherent. I was actually paying my last respects to him, because I thought he was on his way out.

I told him in his induced coma state that I loved him, but he never remembered me being there.

On that same day, a note appeared on Twitter. It was posted by Rutgers assistant basketball coach Jim Carr who wrote ''RIP, Ed ''The Faa'' Ford.''

About an hour later, I received phone calls from three of my sportswriting colleagues, namely Tom Luicci of the Star-Ledger, Tom Canavan of Associated Press and Steve Politi of the Ledger, who was actually writing the Faa's obituary. But I was just at the hospital and knew he wasn't dead.

I called Faa's long-time friend and Jersey City police detective Mike McNally
, who knew that I was up to see the Faa that day. I asked if Faa had passed. Mike drove up to the hospital and called me soon after to tell me that the rumor was not true.

Three days later, Faa was sitting up in his hospital bed, no tubes, bright smile. He was clamoring for sugar-free ice pops.

"I always knew that I'd write your f***ing obituary before you wrote mine," he said to me that day.

He didn't die that day in October, but he did in fact pass on today.

I can't even begin to express the emotions I'm feeling right now. I just got back from the Final Four in Houston, where I had about 30 people ask me how the Faa was doing.

In fact, over the last five years or so, I've had to answer that question about 1,000 or so times. "How's the Faa?" Like I was appointed the unofficial keeper of the Faa.

Someone asked me today how I would describe my relationship with the Faa. I honestly don't know. It was adversarial, confrontational and angry at times, yet respectful, loving, caring and close all rolled into one. The Faa had something called his ''Tombstone,'' where he put people's names that he wanted nothing to ever do with ever again on it. I made the Tombstone some 50 or so times over the years, only to come back to his good graces somehow.

We spoke Monday morning. Little did I know it was going to be the last time. But when the conversation ended, I told him that he could always call me and ask me to do anything and I'd be right there.

"Jimmy, you're always first on my list," he said.

I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me too. That's what I'll hold as a memory, the love and admiration that we held for each other through it all. It was always there, always strong, for the last 35 years. We were cut from the same cloth, Jersey City boys, Jersey City crumudgeons.

Jersey City lost a true legend, a one-of-a-kind legend Tuesday. I lost a good friend. Rest in peace, buddy. I'll surely miss you.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bad signs at CitiField

I went to Opening Day at CitiField last Friday and I witnessed some very alarming signs, most of which had to do with Jeffy Coupon, a.k.a. Mets minority owner and club president Jeff Wilpon, once again going on with WFAN's Mike Francesa and lying straight through his teeth.

As I was driving over to CitiField, Jeffy Coupon was a guest of Francesa and he was asked about the state of the team. He said that things were going well and that Opening Day was a sellout. He said that there were approximately 130,000 tickets sold for the first three games and that approximately 1.2 million were sold in presales.

He also said that the financial state of the team was not as bad as what was being reported.

However, upon arrival to CitiField, I noticed a line to get inside the ballpark. It had to be about 500-to-750 people deep, just waiting to get through the Left Field gate. It was almost reminiscent of football games at Giants Stadium in the immediate days after 9/11, but that was anticipated and expected.

When we got closer to the gate, we noticed the reason for the delay, which was now about 40 minutes. There were all of two ticket takers. TWO!!!! And the bobbleheads that they were giving away were long gone. But two people to handle thousands of ticket holders that had to be searched and examined??? C'mon now. One ticket taker said it was all because of cutbacks. Gee, I wonder why.

Inside the stadium, more of the same. The concession lines were endless. The beer lines took about 20-to-30 minutes. If you went into one of the elite clubs, like Acela or Caesar's, built for exclusive fans, you couldn't get near the bar or even walk.

All because Jeffy Coupon is trying to save a few bucks. And it's at the expense of diehard Met fans, like me.

I'll tell you something. If they don't try to re-sign Jose Reyes and trade him for a pile of shiite, I'll burn the remainder of my tickets and mail them with a nice red ribbon to Jeffy Coupon and his fellow liar of a father, Freddy Coupon.

I wish they would just cut their losses, sell the team now and get on with their miserable lives. Because lying to the Met fans over and over again isn't cutting it. I cannot believe a single syllable that comes out of either one's head. Not a sound, because they're all lies.

They are ruining my baseball team and ruining my summer enjoyment. I don't ask for much. I just want a competitive team and some entertainment value for my hard-earned dollar spent on that team. I know I'm not going to get it and I'm going to watch them trade away our 27-year-old franchise shortstop simply because they can't afford to pay ANYONE, never mind Reyes.

Here's an idea. Let's organize a ''Sign Jose Reyes'' telethon. Hell, there are countless other telethons that raise money for a host of charities.

We can get fellow Met fanatics Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Kevin James to host the telethon and get talents like Glenn Close and Patti Lupone to perform. We can get former Met greats to make pleas to fans to pledge to save Reyes. We can even televise it on the Coupon Network, a.k.a. SNY. Send in your dollars to keep our shortstop, the best shortstop in franchise history. Mail in your pennies, dollars, what have you.

Because our cheapskate lying sacks of dog shiite owners are going to trade him to some undeserving team for a bag of balls, three unproven teenagers and six expiring contracts to be named later. And we'll have no recourse whatsoever.

It's really a sad state, thanks to lying Coupon No. 1 (Freddie) and lying Coupon No. 2 (Jeffy). They have made the Mets a complete laughingstock.

And that's not even talking about our useless bullpen.

I appreciated all the e-mails and comments about Continental Airlines' debacle the other day coming home from Houston. I didn't realize that I was not alone when it came to size discrimination on airlines. It really was an enlightening experience, no pun intended.

I am so glad to see that my long-time friend Mike Hogan is back on the coaching lines at Ferris, two years after a host of different state authorities started a lynch-mob of an investigation against him, all because one disgruntled kid from 25 years ago wrote a letter to a law enforcement officer.

It's insane to think Hogan lost two years of his coaching life because one kid wrote a single unfounded and ridiculous letter, but that's what our society has come to.

In any case, Hogan has been cleared to return to the coaching lines and Hudson County baseball is all the better because of it. There's no better and no more dedicated baseball man in my hometown of Jersey City than Mike Hogan and he deserves to be back coaching the sport he loves.

You can read more of my work at, and

Friday, April 8, 2011

Contintental Airlines SUCKS!!!

It was all set to be a great trip home from Houston. I saw former Giants great and current NFL Alumni chief George Martin at the check-in line, then had the great fortune of being on the same flight with legendary Knicks great and former U.S. Senator from New Jersey Bill Bradley . I spoke with Bradley and he remembered me!!! Incredibly, it was the 20th anniversary of the demise of my favorite newspaper, the Hudson Dispatch, the paper I worked for when I met Bradley innocently 23 years ago.

At that time, I was writing an Athlete of the Week feature for the Dispatch and wrote about a kid from St. Mary of Jersey City named Tom Moriarty, who mentioned in the interview that he idolized Bradley. He mentioned that he read Bradley's book, "Life on the Run," a book in which Bradley said he took upwards of 500 shots a day in order to become a better player.

Regardless of the weather, Bradley was outside his home practicing his jump shot to the tune of 500 shots daily. Moriarty picked up on that note and wanted to do the same thing.

So I wrote that in the feature. The next day after the article appeared in the Dispatch, I get a phone call in the office.

"Can I speak to Jim Hague?" the caller said.

Cockily, I replied, "You got him."

The caller said, "Hi Jim, this is Bill Bradley."

My response was not pleasant. "Yeah, and I'm f***in' Gunga Din."

He said, "No, I'm really Bill Bradley."

I said, "You mean the Senator?" He said, ``Yeah, you wrote an article yesterday about a kid from St. Mary who took after me. I'd love to meet him. Can you arrange that?"

After taking the proverbial size 15 out of my big mouth, I said, "I think that can be arranged." Two days later, Bradley went to St. Mary to meet Moriarty.

Now, 23 years later, Bradley remembered that story vividly. I was absolutely impressed and definitely flattered that Bradley remembered me.

So it was all going great. A great Final Four weekend had come to an end and I was heading back to the motherland of Kearny to begin my regular routine.

That's when I met the man who will never be forgotten in my eyes, Continental Airlines security official Joselito Vicente, Jr.

I was already seated on Contintental Flight 510 from Houston when the effervescent Vicente approached me.

"Sir, may I speak with you in front," the charming chap said. He said that I needed to take my carry-on bag with me. I knew that wasn't a good sign.

He then told me in front of about seven other would-be passengers that I was being removed from the flight because I provided a ''safety risk'' because I was ''too big to fly.''

He said that the flight attendants pointed it out to him that I was ''too big'' and that he checked it out and realized that I was ''too big'' and provided a ''safety risk.''

"You are jeopardizing the lives of 300 or so other people on this flight,'' Vicente Jr. said.

Gee, I swore I took a shower before I got to the airport.

He went on to say that in case of an emergency, people wouldn't be able to get past me to the exit doors. He said that I provided a ''safety risk'' for everyone aboard.

Funny, I had just flown Continental to and from Chicago the previous week and flown Contintental TO Houston just five days prior, and there were no mentions of being safety risks then. Crammed into a tiny seat with no leg room? Sure. But ''safety risk"? Me? I'm harmless once I stop sweating on a plane.

The wonderful Mr. Vicente, Jr. then told me that it didn't matter what happened before, that I was a ''safety risk'' for this flight and that I had to purchase two seats for the flight home!!!

Can you imagine?

I wanted to know why I wasn't a risk on every other flight I've ever been on in my life. I've been flying regularly since I was 18 years old and I'm even a considerable bit smaller now than I was when I was hopping all over the country covering the Knicks and Nets a decade ago.

But I became a ''safety risk'' Tuesday morning in Houston.

I got off the plane and waited about an hour to find out my fate. Mr. Happy Vicente, Jr. came over to me once again to remind me of me being a ''safety risk'' for the umpteenth time, which made me raise my voice and say in a Hague-like roar, "Stop repeating yourself with that."

So what does Mr. Wonderful do? He calls the cops. That's right. Here come the Houston police to enlighten my day.

The officer approaches me and asks me if I'm fine. I felt like Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) in Pulp Fiction, when Butch (Bruce Willis) asked him if he was OK.

Remember that response? "I'm far from mother-f***in OK."

That was what I felt like saying, but I didn't feel it was appropriate.

The cop then said that he wanted me to be calm, that he understood why I was upset, but he wanted me to be calm. I think Mr. Vicente was a little worried that the fat ass he kicked off the plane was going to open up a can of Jersey City Greenville whoop-ass on him, but I'm not that way. But was he intimidated? Yeah, that's fair to say.

I got back to the counter after dealing with the nice officer and gave Mr. Vicente the death stare that a lot of my former basketball players probably received during my coaching days.

Do you know what this clown asked me? "Do you have a problem?"

I let out a huge chuckle, albeit sarcastic, and said, ``Oh, no.''

I then didn't say another word. I handed Mr. Vicente, a package of wonderment of Mahatma Gandhi and Anwar Sadat all rolled into one, my credit card, receiving another $125 charge for a second seat on a flight five hours later, and went to the next gate that was about as close as Sea Bright is to Guam.

I get to the gate and find ESPN Radio and CBS Sports broadcaster Jon Rothstein waiting to get on the 1:10 flight to Newark. Famed judge and Fox News Network analyst Andrew Napolitano, who is a very nice man and liked my stories of Jersey City, and former Seton Hall AD Joe Quinlan were also on the flight.

Rothstein didn't have a seat on the flight, but I had two. I gladly gave up my seat that I just paid $125 for so Rothstein could get on the plane and the two of us sat on the plane fairly comfortably and watched "Black Swan" (a really bizarre movie) together.

So I was a safety risk on one flight, but not on the other? And I was out $125 and five hours of my life in the process? Talk about your bizarre stories.

This was definitely a case of size discrimination in the worst way. And one thing is for certain. Mr. Joselito Vicente, Jr. has forced me to fly any other airline in the world other than Continental in the future. ANY OTHER!!! I will take Ed's Airline over Continental. I'll walk before I get on a Continental flight.

I encourage all of you to do the same after this fiasco. Just another saga in the life of a large boy, as Michael P. O'Neill in Marquette used to call me.

He'd always address me as L.B. or what I thought was Elby...I didn't know

Finally, I asked him and he said, L.B. for Large Boy...that's me...

And obviously too big and too big of a safety risk to fly the hideous airline known as Continental.

I have mixed emotions about reading the news that Kevin Boyle is leaving New Jersey high school basketball and St. Patrick of Elizabeth for a gig at a top prep school in Florida.

I'm happy for my long-time friend, because this is a chance of a lifetime for him and his family. I'm saddened, because I'll miss his flamboyant personality and good spirit. A lot of people always treated Boyle as being a villain in New Jersey high school basketball. I never did. I think Boyle was a good coach who was able to procure some of the best talent and bring them to St. Patrick. Is that recruiting? Of course, but we can't use that word in high school athletics.

When he got Samuel Dalembert from Haiti, and another kid from Canada and another from Africa, he joked, "Hey, I have an international recruiting budget." Until the NJSIAA slapped him silly last year, Kevin spoke his mind freely and never worried about any repercussions. He was a breath of fresh air and a joy to be around.

After the Celtics lost to St. Anthony last month, we spoke near the press room and he hinted to me that he was leaving no matter what. Whether he thinks St. Pat's may fall to the wayside like so many other Parochial schools in New Jersey remains to be seen, but he made a move that is going to help his family in the long run.

Doesn't mean that I won't miss him.

You can read more of my work at, and

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Final Four sightings

Perhaps the greatest thrill at the NCAA Final Four comes when I roam the grounds of the NABC Coaches' Convention hotel, this time, the Houston Hilton, and run into the many faces of basketball friends that I've made over the years.

The first friendly face I saw on the day belonged to former Seton Hall AD Joe Quinlan , who I ran into while walking the streets of Houston. He has a daughter who attends Marquette, so now we have something in common after knowing each other for the last 20-plus years.

Next friendly faces belonged to Bob and Chris Hurley, who were taking in the festivities. A year ago to the day, they had to delay a trip to Ireland for a few days because Bob was about to be introduced as a new member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It's been a dream year for the entire Hurley family.

When I walked into the coaches' hotel, I saw a lot of big-name coaches mulling around. Jim Boeheim signing autographs. Roy Williams with an entourage, like he was a rock star or movie star. There had to be four guys walking briskly with Williams, like they were Secret Service agents protecting the President.

I saw Jim Harrick and Cliff Ellis talking together, two guys who have felt the heat of an NCAA investigation in their coaching careers. I saw Denny Crum walking through the halls like royalty _ a status he so richly deserves. I saw Moses Malone, who isn't a coach, but is certainly basketball royalty.

From a local friendly standpoint, I saw Chuck McBreen of Ramapo, who is a North Bergen boy through and through. I saw Bruce Hamburger of St. Peter's, who said he didn't want to be seen with his head coach John Dunne, and then I saw Dunne.

Dunne introduced me to Ed Cooley, the former Fairfield coach now headed to Providence. Cooley was quick to point out that Dunne and SPC beat up on Fairfield in the MAAC semifinals, en route to the MAAC title and the NCAA Tournament.

And then I turned around and received the biggest surprise. There was my long-time high school friend, Greg Herenda, the head coach at UMass-Lowell, who incredibly was celebrating his 50th birthday. I hadn't seen Greg since his wonderful Mom Grace passed away almost two years ago and here he was with me in Houston on his birthday. It was pretty funny seeing Greg, who introduced me to LIU head coach Jim Ferry.

When we were at St. Peter's Prep together, Herenda and I were pretty inseparable, pulling one practical joke on each other after another. It was good to see him again.

I also stopped to talk to another long-time friend in the coaching ranks, Dave Calloway, who was just unceremoniously removed from his head coaching duties at Monmouth. Calloway deserved a better fate after giving 24 years of his life to the school and I told him so.

I also ran into John Beilein, the coach at Michigan, and told him that I once coached one of his former players, Carlos Cueto, when the two were at Richmond together. I had the fortune to coach Cueto when he was just 13 years old and I told Beilein that. He sang the praises of Cueto and that was nice to hear.

It is always good to head to the coaches' convention headquarters and see all the masterminds in the sport. It's also good to run into friends who you don't get a chance to see too often. It's part of the big lure of the NCAA Final Four.


Well, it's good to see that Frankie Rodriguez is in mid-season form, blowing a lead for the Mets, before they came back to score three times in the 10th inning so he could glom a win.

After that stellar first-game performance, I can only hope his girlfriend's father was nowhere to be found, because it might have led to another physical altercation. K-Klod may have learned his lesson from last year's meltdown, but he still makes Mets fans, like me, cringe every time he takes the mound.

If you get a chance, take a peek at my Scoreboard column today in the Hudson Reporter on Bobby Hurley's recollections of the 20th anniversary of Duke's 1991 NCAA championship team. It's a good read, not just because I wrote it, but because Bobby opens up and shares memories never beforee written. Check it out at and click sports.

Here's the link:

Thanks for reading. We'll enjoy the remainder of the trip