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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Little League in 104 degrees

This is the reason why I became a sportswriter 28 years ago, days like today. I'm going to sit in the oppressive heat and cover a Little League baseball game. Sure, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA Tournaments and the lot during my career, but today, it's Little League in 104 degrees.

So it reminds me of the reasons why I like Little League. And with all proper due to David Letterman, here are my top 10 reasons why we all should like Little League.

1. No free agency or contract squabbles
2. Admission is free
3. Everyone plays, regardless of how bad you are
4. Jon and Kate and the Octomom could field their own teams with just their kids
5. The games are always played to a manageable time
6. No Wayne Hagin or John Sterling
7. If you're playing right field, you can get your homework done or have a salami sandwich without having to worry about a ball being hit to you
8. Johnny's mom is smokin' hot
9. The hot dogs are way cheaper than Met or Yankee games.
10. Win or lose, there's always ice cream after the game.

Just a reminder why Little League is great
It appears as if Carlos Beltran is going to get traded by the Mets in the matter of days. All indications point to that taking place. Am I happy about it? Hardly. He's having a great season, better than anyone could have predicted. Hell, when he announced in spring training that he was moving to right field on his own accord, I thought that was a sign he was never going to play again, so this performance has surprised me.

Now, if the Mets are going to trade him, I hope that they get more than a bag of balls for him, that they get a player or players of value and not just warm bodies to fill out the roster.

And if Beltran is leaving, let's not immortalize him as he walks out the door, much like the way respected sports columnist Bob Klapisch did the other day in the Bergen Record.

In his column, Klapisch wrote that Beltran is the most underappreciated player in Mets history and the best position player the franchise ever had.

Well, in rebuttal, Beltran, despite his nice numbers, could not shine the shoes of two other position players, namely Darryl Strawberry and especially Mike Piazza.

Both Strawberry in the 1980s and Piazza in the late 1990s-early 2000s captivated audiences every time they strolled to the plate. You sat on the edge of your seat waiting for something spectacular to happen. You anticipated greatness. They frightened the opposition and galvonized the Met lineup, making everyone around them that much better. They were the faces of the Met franchise.

Did Beltran ever do the same thing? Not at all. He was a very good player, but never embraced the star stature. The galvonizing Mets were definitely Jose Reyes and David Wright before it was Beltran.

Sure, Beltran put up nice numbers, but let's face facts. The man never wanted to be a Met in the first place. He only signed with the Mets when the Mets offered the most money. And after he got here, he was sullen, removed, distant from the fans, the media, his teammates. Remember the game he hit two homers and when the fans wanted to give him a curtain call, he was refusing at first? He only went out to acknowledge the fans when Julio Franco pushed him out of the dugout.

Plain and simple, Carlos Beltran was a very good baseball player and among the best to play for the Mets. But an immortal? Best-ever? Hardly.

And it's very hard to forget the image of a helpless Beltran standing there in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, looking at the bending curveball of Adam Wainwright. If he swung the bat and struck out, I think everyone would have a better impression of him. Instead, he stood there and looked at strike three.

Do you think Strawberry or Piazza would have just stood there without a fight? No way.

So let's not immortalize Beltran if he leaves. I don't want him to leave, because he definitely can still play and makes the Mets a better team. In a perfect world, I even hope that there was a way he could re-sign with the Mets and stay for a few more years.

But he's not the best Met ever. He was never even the best Met player while he was here. How can he be the best Met player, better than Strawberry or Piazza? That's absurd.


If I was an NFL player, I'd want someone to represent my union better than NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith. In fact, I'd take Curly Howard over Smith.

Just when you thought that the player's union was drawing closer to an agreement, they changed their minds, now wanting a clause to be able to back out of the CBA after seven years of the proposed 10-year deal.

How could the players go from being in accordance of the proposed deal from the owners to now stating that they won't even discuss a vote until Monday overnight? And want to make changes? Were they not informed of the negotiations and terms?

Sure looks that way. I heard about five different NFL player reps in interviews Friday and they all sounded like they had no clue.

The owners gave in to a lot of the players' demands, like no 18-game schedule, a rookie salary cap and get this _ no more two-a-day practice sessions. You can be rest assured that provision was inserted to the deal without the approval of the league's coaches. Giants coach Tom Coughlin must have spit out his morning coffee when he heard of that plan, because Coughlin has always professed three-a-day sessions at times.

It looked like the players were set to agree, but then the last minute change of plans.

I have to blame Smith, for not keeping the players properly informed.

So I vote for Curly.

Howard, not Lambeau. "Moe, Larry, the cheese, Roquefort, Roquefort."

You can read more of my work at, and

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A comedy of errors article

Kudos to Amy Brittain of the Newark Star-Ledger for her extensive piece on the Newark Bears on today's front page. Amy really did her homework and for that, she has to be applauded. It was definitely well researched and well written.

And the headline says it best. "A comedy of errors." Amy quoted me as calling it a ''circus'' from right here and it's that as well. No denying that. All accurate reporting.

It's really a shame, because the nights when there was only baseball to worry about _ and nothing else _ were wonderful, joyous summer nights, filled with the national pastime, people having fun and all taking place in a beautiful stadium in my own backyard. When it's done right _ and it can be done right, as proven last year by then-GM Charlie Dowd _ Newark is a great place to watch a game.

It has nothing to do with crime levels, although I did once have my Durango stolen right in front of the joint. It has nothing to do with it being Newark, because that stigma is long gone.

It has to do with doing it the right way, promoting the team and the games the right way. Not holding Pop Warner football nights in the middle of the summer. Approach the people who would want to come, the youth groups, the BASEBALL groups.

That's simply not happening now and it's a shame.

But you would think after all the ''errors'' the current ownership group has made, they would learn.

Nope. Hardly.

I received an e-mail this morning, promoting the Bears' youth baseball clinics. The e-mail reads "taught by our very own Bears players and coaches."

The clinics, one in July, one in August, are geared for players ages eight through 17.

Here's what the prospective camper will receive:

Three to four stations per day ''to work on skills and learn new techniques." Oooooh, that's exciting.

Lunch with the Newark Bears, activities and games, a SNACK (Oh, goodie!!!) and a private suite to watch that night's game.

AND GET THIS! The cost? A mere pittance at $300 per camper.

That's right. Three-hundred smackers for a baseball clinic. Funny, I remember the Bears doing similar clinics in the past for nothing. For $300, that snack better be Dom Perignon and caviar. It's just another absurd chapter to what the Newark Bears have become.

How in their right mind could they actually think that inner-city kids would fork over three hundred smackers for a clinic? I don't think MLB teams could charge that much, never mind a team in the Can-Am League.

And did the ownership group even consult their last bastion of baseball sense, namely manager Tim Raines and coaches Ron Karkovice and Jim Leyritz about this plan? There's no way they knew. There's no way that those three good baseball men would have signed off on something so ridiculous.

But hey, don't forget, there's a snack involved. That's one costly snack.

I find it comical that the owners think they can turn a profit by next year. Sure they can. If they hit the lottery.

There was one final funny bit about the Bears' article today. It lists Danielle Dronet's age as 35. If she's 35, then I'm 19. She told me that she had 25 years of ''expertise'' in the entertainment field. If that's true, she started at age 10. Who is she? Shirley Temple? Drew Barrymore? My mother never told her real age either, but never this poorly. Dronet's next ''rock'n birthday'' will be somewhere in the mid-40s range.

I hope that the USA defeats Japan in the Women's World Cup Soccer. I'm amazed how many times Abby Wambach can get to a ball with her head and goalie Hope Solo can write her ticket in the world of mass media after the tourney, with her beauty and her intelligence. She's on the same course as Jennie Finch and Lindsay Vonn before her.

But please, for all the people (most of whom are employed by ESPN) who continue to equate this World Cup with the men's version, please, remove your heads from the sand.

Nothing against the women, but the men's World Cup soccer tourney is truly a worldwide event, captivating the entire globe for an entire month. We all witnessed how breathtaking that event could be last year. It's popularity is second to none worldwide.

The WWC doesn't have the same luster, not here in the US and not around the globe. Some nations don't even field women's national teams and don't enter the WWC qualifiers. So it's not the same, not by a long shot, even if the high and mighty ESPN would like you to believe it to be so.

Yes, we should all have a sense of national pride in how well the American women have done. It's also a team that features its share of New Jerseyans, like Christie Rampone, Heather O'Reilly and Carli Lloyd. Bravo, ladies. A job well done.

But when the WWC has movie theaters sold out for closed-circuit coverage and a television audience in the billions, come back and offer the comparison. It's not even close.

Chances are locally, millions more will watch the Mets and Yankees today than the WWC.

You can read more of my work at, and In this week's Observer, there's a story about Derek Jeter's days in North Arlington and a feature about MSG Network sportscaster Tina Cervasio.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Another boxing travesty

The powers-that-be at HBO must be pulling out their last hair and grinding their teeth, because for a second straight week, the self-promoted kings of boxing produced a real stink bomb.

A week after the David Haye-Vladimir Klitschko dance contest in Germany, HBO televised the middleweight bout between former contender Paul Williams, once called "the most avoided man in boxing" and Erislandy Lara, a little-known Cuban who entered the ring undefeated.

And after the 12 rounds were over Saturday night, Lara still should have been undefeated, because he pummeled Williams all over the ring, precisely and surgically, using a left jab that floored the former contender in the second round, opened up a cut over his eye as wide as the Suez Canal and staggered and stammered Williams so bad that after the fight he must have thought he was the other Paul Williams, who wrote "Old Fashioned Love Song" and used to appear on "The Love Boat" and "The Odd Couple."

Renowned boxing guru Harold Lederman had Lara ahead 117-111 on his scorecard. I thought that Lara won 10 rounds to two for Williams. It was that lopsided.

But somehow, the judges, who must have been a combination of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles combined, saw it differently. One judge had it even and the other two gave the fight to Williams. How? No one knows.

HBO announcer Bob Papa kept mentioning that Williams needed to knock Lara out in the late rounds to win the fight. Even Williams' own corner thought so. The in-ring mike picked up Williams' trainer, saying, ``You gotta knock him out."

Even Williams' body language after the fight displayed a beaten man. His shoulders were rounded, his head down. He thought he had lost. So did the 2,000 or so in attendance in Atlantic City. So did the announcers. The only three people who didn't think Williams lost were the judges.

But how could this happen? I mean, it wasn't even close. It was an ass-kicking of epic proportions. It should not have even been a debate. I've seen some crazy decisions over the years, but at the very least, those were close and debatable. This was not. Lara clearly won the fight. I don't know what those three judges were watching.

CompuBox, the boxing statistic firm, had Lara connecting on 42 percent of the punches he threw, while Williams connected on 19 percent. If it was an election, NBC News would have projected Lara the winner before the polls closed, without the benefit of a recount.

Williams had not been in the ring since last November, when he was knocked into oblivion by Sergio Martinez in the second round. Williams was out cold that night, but with his eyes wide open. It was a scary scene.

In the old days of boxing, someone would have taken a closer look at a travesty like this and reversed the judges' decision. Or at least, call it a no-contest. This was a disgrace. These judges should not be allowed to officiate at another match in New Jersey ever again.

I mean, there wasn't even an argument about this one. Lara was more than robbed. He was reamed without the use of a lubricant.

And Williams said that he might give Lara a rematch? If I were Paul Williams, either this fighter, the small little songwriter or the investigating detective on Young and the Restless (played by Doug Davidson), I'd want no part of Lara. None.

Two weeks of televised boxing, two weeks of disasters. And people wonder why professional boxing is losing its attraction and luster? Look no further to what we witnessed over the last two weekends. It's a disgrace.

C'mon, give me credit for the soap opera reference. Where else would you get stuff like that?

As some may know, I was doing a host of duties for the Newark Bears baseball team until recently, handling the PA announcing, official scoring, public relations and what have you, until I clashed heads with team partner Danielle Dronet.

I'd say we had a meeting of the minds, but this woman has no mind.

I knew there was going to be trouble early on, when she looked out at the scoreboard at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium and mentioned that a new scoreboard was needed, because "there was no way to keep score if the game went into overtime." Kid you not.

A few days before the season was about to start, I received an e-mail from Dronet, saying that the Can-Am League needed the Bears' ''rooster.''

When I corrected her and said it was a roster, she insisted, "Nope, it's a rooster. They need a rooster."

I went looking for Foghorn Leghorn.

She also said that the team was not going to produce a game program this season because they ''wanted to go green." It has to be the only ballpark in America without a game program. You know the old slogan, "Can't tell the players without a program." Well, it applies in Newark.

I finally resigned after she maintained that she didn't want any negativity on the team's website. The negativity? The Bears lost the game the night before. She only wanted to promote victories. UGH...I tried to say that the New Jersey Nets lost 70 times two years ago and had to write losing game stories for their website after every single loss, including 19 or so in a row.

This week, the Bears sent out three press releases concerning upcoming promotions.

First, they sent out something that if you clicked on a link and bought a ticket through that link, you would be donating $3 to the Bears' organization. Say what? That's a new one. A fundraiser raising funds for the team itself. A novel approach indeed.

Then, there was a release promoting that if your Pop Warner football team wanted to come to a game and receive discounted tickets, they could come in uniform and receive a discount. No mention of BASEBALL teams, just FOOTBALL. Well, there aren't many active FOOTBALL teams in July, as we know, not even the Jets or Giants. It would have been a tad smarter to approach baseball teams during baseball season for a baseball game. Just my opinion.

And finally, they had another promotion for Military Night, asking any ''troops'' to come to the ballpark. Well, nice thought, but they should have checked with the U.S. Department of Military Affairs first. Since there are no active military bases any longer near Newark and only two part-time National Guard facilities.

Maybe if they promoted ''Veterans' Night,'' it would have worked better. But you can't hold a Military Night with active military members without approval of the government.

It's very sad, but I don't think baseball is long for Newark. I wanted it to work there in the worst way, being a baseball fan, having a team so close to home. But this is a train wreck waiting to happen and it begins with the owner, whose background is in hip-hop entertainment, not baseball.

Like the Unsinkable Molly Brown on the Titanic, I jumped ship before the icy waters swallowed me whole. I didn't wait for the women and children first.

I like the coaching staff of Tim Raines, Ron Karkovice and Jim Leyritz and the players as well (nicest group of guys they've ever assembled in Newark). But this is a mess that won't work.

Here's the final piece to the puzzle: Last week, the Bears held a "Thirsty Thursday" event, where one would buy a ticket for $20 and get a wrist band to have access to a two-hour buffet and all the beer you can drink. Not a bad promotion at all.

Except the fans were told that ''the beer was not ready'' at game time. When the fans asked for a refund, they said that the deal was non-refundable. Need we say more? Apparently, no one decided to cool the beer kegs prior to the game, thus the reason why they weren't ready.

It's a sad state and I feel bad about it, because I so badly wanted to see it succeed.

You can read more of my work at, and This week, in the Observer, we'll have a tribute to Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit coming from someone who knew Jeter when he was a youngster toddling along with his grandfather in North Arlington.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Remembering ''The Hammer''

Armen Gilliam died Tuesday. He was 47 years old. He died where he was most comfortable, on a basketball floor. He had a massive heart attack while playing in a pickup game in Pittsburgh.

Gilliam was a standout All-American at UNLV and later became the No. 2 draft pick overall in the NBA Draft, but never really reached that potential. He bounced around the NBA for 13 seasons, including a stint with the New Jersey Nets.

That's where I got to know Armen, who changed his name from Armon while he played pro basketball. ''The Hammer,'' who got the nickname from the baking soda, get it, Arm and Hammer, was a happy guy, a great teammate who was loved by all who played with him. He was always available to the media, never once refusing a question or turning away from a request.

In fact, Gilliam was one who I looked forward to seeing when I covered the Nets, because he was such a nice guy.

I will forever remember being in an outdoor bar in South Beach, Florida, with some of his Nets teammates, including the wonderful and troubled Jayson Williams, spending hours laughing and trying to guess what color the next gumball would be that came out of this circular machine. They must have spent 20 dollars in quarters and collected 200 gum balls. "Ok, this one's red, no blue, no green.'' It was hysterical.

I will also remember the time a writer who was not a regular asked Gilliam a very personal question. His teammates took offense to the question, but Hammer just shrugged it off and handled it with grace.

Rest in peace, Hammer. You were truly one of a kind and a special man.

The Roger Clemens perjury trial begins this week and it's going to be nothing short of a circus, with the list of potential witnesses being called to the stand a cavalcade of stars, ranging from his former teammate and best friend Andy Pettitte to his former mistress, country star and "Celebrity Rehab" grad Mindy McCready.

Even John Daly's ex-wife, who also apparently had a relationship with Clemens, is on the list. We never knew that the Rocket had a fling with the Wicked Stick's woman.

It's not just Clemens' criminal charges that will be addressed this week. So will his credibility, because he has maintained all along that he never did any type of performanc-enhancement drugs, even if every piece of evidence against him seems to prove otherwise.

So Clemens will stand trial for perjury, but he's also standing trial in the court of public opinion, where he's probably already been convicted of being a cheater and a liar.

But the testimony in this trial could be damaging enough to keep Clemens from ever being a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He maintains that he doesn't care if he gets inducted, but let's face facts. What baseball player doesn't crave immortality and his just place forever with the all-time legends?

I've always believed that steroids or not, Barry Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Famers. They were Hall of Famers even before they shot themselves in the butt with drugs. I don't think a guilty verdict in this trial should keep Clemens out of the Hall. Nor do I think Bonds should be excluded. As much as I despise both, they are Hall of Famers.

But this trial should at the very least be interesting. It's a shame that TruTV cannot broadcast this trial, because it would be a complete circus, with Clemens hearing his friends testify that they knew he was doing it, with his paramours getting dragged up there, his wife and the chief witness, former trainer Brian McNamee, who has claimed all along that he was the one to inject Clemens and actually kept the syringes and gauze to prove it.

All along, Clemens has been full of doo. He insisted he didn't intentionally throw at the Yankee hitters like Paul O'Neill and Derek Jeter when he was a member of the Blue Jays. He claims he wasn't throwing the bat at Mike Piazza in the World Series, when the shattered bat came back to the mound and he flung it at Piazza, who owned Clemens like his own personal slave. Clemens actually told the press that he thought that the shattered bat was the ball. Well, if he really thought it was the ball, why didn't he throw it to first base, instead of at Piazza?

Clemens is a known liar and now will get a chance to prove that he didn't lie to a federal investigation committee from the United States Congress. Good luck with that.

Speaking about trials, how in the world did this Casey Anthony get off for killing her daughter?

She lies about nannies, makes up fictional people, lies about working at Disney World, doesn't report her daughter officially missing for over a month, goes out and borrows a shovel for no reason and returns it an hour later, concocts a story about some people of other races kidnapping the kid, shows no remorse whatsoever while the daughter is missing and is spotted drinking her ass off and getting tattoos and there was a foul stench coming from the trunk of her car.

And she's found not guilty? Excuse me?

And now, it's believed she'll get a book deal, a movie deal, even a television contract out of it?

It's also amazing how television covered this trial, like Entertainment Tonight and Extra covered it. HOW IS THAT ENTERTAINMENT???? It's not a movie opening or a concert, for God's sake.

That little girl was butchered and now no one pays? That was no swimming accident.

What a great country we live in, no?

You can read more of my work at, and

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Haye-Klitschko disgrace

Heavyweight championship boxing took a step backward Saturday when David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko performed their remake of ''Saturday Night Fever,'' dancing the night away in Germany.

If anyone hasn't seen this complete and utter circus, here are a few lowlights.

First, Larry Merchant was one of the analysts for HBO and while Larry was once the face of boxing and a great sports journalist, he is way past his prime. Every word that he tried to say was belabored and delayed. He struggled to say everything. Colin Firth in the "King's Speech" got words out faster. Larry's time has come, sad to say. It happens to everyone. He tried to refer to the German fans as all being very drunk and the downpouring rain didn't matter to them, but his reference was lost by the time he got the words out.

Now, for the pre-fight build up. I guess HBO thought it would be cool to have one former heavyweight champion in each boxer's corner. So naturally, fellow Brit Lennox Lewis was dressed in a tux outside Haye's locker room and for some reason, George Foreman was all dolled up outside Klitschko's locker. Why? No one knows. It was never really explained properly.

Jim Lampley talked about the rain and how there was some discussion about cancelling the fight because of the conditions and said that the rain would never reach the ring itself, but he also talked about some portable canvas that would be removed right before the start of the fight. If the rain wasn't reaching the ring, then why have some portable dry canvas? Made no sense, like most of the night made no sense.

Now, before Haye is supposed to make his way into the ring, we get to hear ''Ain't No Stopping Us Now,'' by McFadden and Whitehead. I have a friend, big into disco in the late 1970s, who calls that song ''the anthem.'' It's a popular song.

Apparently, Haye uses it as a battle cry and motivational tool, because it was blaring over and over again, with Haye's faithful fans singing it aloud over and over again. It played for more than 10 minutes straight, waiting for Haye's arrival.

We then receive word that Haye ''isn't ready to come out yet.'' Say what?

He's not ready to come out? Does he think that $12.5 million is going to just be handed to him? This is the same David Haye who blasted Klitschko all week, calling him a ''Russian sissy'' and a ''dickhead.'' Now, he's not coming out? Lewis is standing there in his tux and ''Ain't No Stopping Us Now'' is playing for the 47th time.

Finally, Haye decides to come out. He's wrapped in Reynolds Wrap, head-to-toe tin foil and wearing a ski cap. He's trying to get to the ring, but fans are pushing and shoving their way to get to either him or get in camera range. Security guards (that's right, both of them) are pushing people left and right to clear a path for Haye, but to no avail. It was borderline bedlam.

Now, Haye gets to the ring, wrapped like a piece of flounder prepared to be plopped onto the grill, and here comes Klitschko, but not before some bizarre video presentation, involving Foreman. Maybe George should have popped out one of his famed grills and cooked Haye draped in tin foil. Would have made more sense.

Klitschko then makes his way to the ring, hearing his fair share of boos, but he makes it to the ring a little easier. However, we learned that Haye was standing in the ring, awaiting his opponent, clinging to the tin foil overcoat, for more than 15 minutes.

The fight finally begins and what happens? NOTHING...Absolutely nothing. The two men danced like Fred and Ginger for 12 rounds. The punch counter said that Klitschko threw 134 punches, which is a miniscule number, but Haye threw 72. That's right. He threw six punches a round in a heavyweight title fight. There are two old ladies at the Sunnydale Nursing Home who throw more punches at Wednesday night Bingo.

The decision comes, of course, in favor of Klitschko. After the fight, Haye makes an excuse, stating that he had been fighting with a broken toe for the last three weeks and actually took off his shoe to show the media the broken digit in the post-fight press conference. We kid you not.

Needless to say, this was a heavyweight title fight? On the same parallel with say Ali-Frazier, Ali-Foreman, Foreman-Michael Moorer, Lennox Lewis against anyone?????

This was a disgrace, plain and simple, a hideous and ridiculous circus. How can you look at yourself in the mirror after collecting a $12.5 million payday like Haye did? He robbed everyone blind. And then he says his foot hurt? Oh, please.

No wonder why the sport of boxing keeps taking hit after hit. It has to deal with crapola like this. It sours everyone on the sport. HBO has to be embarrassed by the whole package. It may take years before we see another fight on live free cable TV ever again.

Since when did hot dog eating become a sport? How is this Joey Chestnut on Sportscenter and in the sports pages? If eating was a sport when I was a kid, well, damn, I would have been an All-American. I would have had my own show on some sports network. Eating is not a sport. These are not athletes. I know. I eat. A lot.

Happy Fourth of July. I wish that President Obama (and yes, Fox News, our president is still alive!) would sign a decree today that would make "America the Beautiful," sung only by the late Ray Charles, as the national anthem. That song clearly has more sentiment and power than our regular national anthem. Our country is about beauty and majesty from sea to shining sea, not bombs bursting over the Potomac.

Ray Charles captured the beauty and grace of our country with his version of "America the Beautiful."

If I ever win a gold medal for eating the most pickled eggs at the Olympics when it becomes a sport like hot dog eating, then I want to hear Ray warble "America the Beautiful" for me as they put the medal around my neck.

You can read more of my work at, and