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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Newark Bears: Beyond the absurd

By now, you've seen me post items on this blog about my former employers, the Newark Bears baseball team, an organization I resigned from in late June because of the absurdity of team owner Danielle Dronet and her supporting cast of hooples, who have absolutely no clue how to run a dishwasher, nevermind a professional baseball team.

Well, over the last two days, the absurd turned into the ridiculous.

For one, the website posted as a main link yesterday this insane post. I mean this appeared over anything else on the site.

It read in bold letters: EARTH QUAKE UPDATE!!! (yes, making earthquake two words).

Continuing, it read: "Any parents that have their kids at our youth baseball clinic today, the kids are fine. They are having lunch with the players. We kept them on the field during the earth quake. If you have any additional concerns and can't each (sic) me through phone, please e-mail at..."

I won't put the bastion of brilliance's e-mail address on here.

Can you imagine? There was a little tremor, a little shake that wasn't felt throughout the entire state, but we have to report that the kids at the Newark Bears clinic are alright. Yes, the kids are alright, Roger Daltry. Isn't that great news? And they were kept on the field while the ground was apparently shaking. Another act of brilliance.

Now, if you continue on the website, you'll see that there will be "The September Takeover" concert of some sort Sept. 24, featuring a host of hip-hop and rap artists I've never heard of like the immortal Heavy Hitter DJ Wallah, Wacka Flacka, the legendary (of course) Slick Rick and Murda Mamis 1st Lady. Tickets are $35 and $55 for this debacle and can be purchased somehow.

Of course, this has nothing to do with baseball. In fact, the entire website pretty much has nothing to with baseball.

But the organizers finally topped themselves. They're organizing a Mothers Against Drunk Driving night, honoring coach Jim Leyritz, who was acquitted of vehicular homicide for driving while intoxicated and killing a woman in Florida. And get this (you cannot make this stuff up), they're doing this on the same night as a Beer Pong Tournament on Thirsty Thursday. Hey, let's hope the beer is good and cold that night.

But hey, they're going to present the MADD people with a check for $2,000. Isn't that special?

Seriously, what in the world is Danielle and her cronies thinking? It's already an event that has been so totally bashed in the Star-Ledger and even on Boomer and Carton on WFAN this morning.

I just don't know how absurd these people can get, but it's certainly beyond comprehension now. Baseball? Furthest thing from their minds.


The Mets, who are stumbling and stammering worse than your neighborhood drunk, got a four-run lead for Mike Pelfrey today. And what did the licker do? Give up three runs in throwing an ungodly 42 pitches in the second inning, a frame that lasted almost an hour. Pelfrey is no longer a joke. He has to go. He's dreadful.

I just love how the Republicans are all over the fact that President Obama is on vacation.

They're saying, "How could Obama be on vacation with the country in financial crisis?"

Even better, "How could Obama play golf when we had a national disaster yesterday with the earthquake?"

In my eyes, earthquake is one word.

How quickly do the Republicans forget that Obama's dimwitted successor spent more time in Crawford than he did in the White House?

Here's an interesting tidbit as the Republican mo-mos spin their crap:

Bush spent 1,020 days of his presidency on vacation. To put this into context, John F. Kennedy spent fewer days in office, 1000, than George W. Bush spent on vacation. Bush spent 487 days at Camp David, 490 days at his Crawford ranch, and 43 days in Kennebunkport. George W. Bush spent 69 days in Crawford during his first year in office. In contrast, according to, Obama spent all, or part of, 26 days of his first year in office on vacation. This was less than all three previous Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, but more than the two previous Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Now, as for the earthquake claim? Is Obama some sort of a mindreader that he knows when an East Coast earthquake is supposed to happen? Let's see, the last time one registered 5.9 in this part of the country was May of 1897. Yeah, Obama could predict this one was coming. I don't even think Dionne Warwick and the Psychic Friends Network could have called this one.

And the last time we had a natural disaster in this country _ YES, REPUBLICANS, ALABAMA, MISSISSIPPI AND LOUISIANA ARE STILL IN THE UNITED STATES at last check _ the president at the time was on vacation in Crawford, Texas, thinking that Hurricane Katrina wasn't that big of a thing. And we only lost about 3,000 Americans to that storm. Give or take a few hundred.

How many people perished because of the earthquake (still one word)?

I think a lawn chair toppled over in Arlington, Va.

But hey, Brownie, you're still doing a hell of a job.

I'm not a flag-waver for Obama by any means. I am a Democrat, true and true. But Obama really hasn't shown me much in his three years of office, except for engineering the raid that brought the demise to that prick Osama bin Laden. So my anger over the last few days has nothing to do with politics, just ignorance.

But wow, these claims by the Tea Party morons and the short-sighted forgetful Republicans are beyond comprehension. How quickly we forget Katrina? I guess since no Republicans died in the aftermath of the storm, it really didn't happen, right? And the brilliant GWB handled it all so, how do you say, brilliantly, right?


Like the Mets.


You can read more of my work at, and

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sadness at Mainland Regional

The 29th year of doing high school football previews as a sportswriter began the other day, with trips to several different New Jersey high schools for practices, picture taking, heights and weights, years and positions.

For nearly three decades, it's always the same thing. Each team has high hopes and aspirations. Every player has a ton of potential. If teams limit the amount of mistakes, they all have a chance to be fairly competitive. It's an annual August ritual.

However, yesterday, the ritual of high school practices and preparations suddenly changed in New Jersey, with the news that four members of the Mainland Regional football team were killed in a tragic accident on the Garden State Parkway and another four were seriously injured.

It's the biggest tragedy I can remember in my nearly 30 years of covering high school sports. Apparently, some of the older players were going to take the younger ones out for lunch after a morning practice, as part of a tradition where the players get to know each other.

They innocently got in a van together and somehow the van rolled on the parkway and four teenaged football players are now gone.

It makes you stop and think. Is life that fleeting? It can happen that quickly for four teenagers who were simply going for a bite to eat? If this was a drunken driving accident, then there would be a cause and effect in place. But eight kids leaving football practice to go for lunch together as teammates and friends and this happens?

I can't imagine if it happened to one of the many teams that I cover. How do you write about such a tragedy? How does that team go on? The opening game is less than three weeks away. Can they actually play?

Mainland Regional has a strong program, a rich football tradition. But this tragedy has to shake the entire program, the school, the communities involved to the core.

I didn't know any of the kids involved. But I feel like there's such a tremendous loss for everyone involved with high school football in New Jersey, perhaps everywhere. Can you just imagine if it was your school, your team, even your kids? It's unfathomable.

My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to Mainland Regional, its coaches and especially its players. Can they continue? They have to, just to keep the memories of their fallen friends and teammates alive.

One thing is for sure: Everyone in New Jersey high school football will be rooting for that team this season. Maybe even their opponents.


By now, everyone is aware of the host of horrific allegations about the University of Miami's athletic program, the claims of a convicted felon who was once a huge monetary booster to the ''U''.

If not, then here's a brief synopsis. A man named Nevin Shapiro, an investment entrepreneur who was convicted for his involvement in a $190 million Ponzi scheme, told Charles Robinson of Yahoo!Sports that he donated cash, lodging, cars, even prostitutes to members of the University of Miami athletic program from 2002 through 2010 and that the school's coaches and administration knew all about it all the time.

Shapiro, who ironically was held in the Hudson County Jail in Kearny for several months while awaiting his permanent place of residence for at least the next 20 years, sang like a caged songbird for Robinson, because Shapiro felt betrayed that none of the 72 people he named, many of whom are currently playing in the NFL, called or came to visit him in prison in his time of need. Nothing like a scorned lover, right?

The allegations are frightening. Buying Patriots DT Vince Woolfork two Escalades. Paying for the abortions of some players' girlfriends. Cash and jewelry provided. Even sex with prostitutes. And this scandal is different because Shapiro named names. It's amazing.

If the allegations prove to be true and six U of Miami coaches actually turned a blind eye to it all and allowed this mess to happen _ even inviting Shapiro on team flights and into team meetings _ then the NCAA has no choice but to level the entire Hurricane program.

These charges are far more serious than those levied against SMU in the early 1980s when that school received the ''death penalty'' and became the object of a very detailed ESPN "30-for-30" documentary.

I feel bad for North Bergen's Mark D'Onofrio, someone I've known personally since his high school days. D'Onofrio just started as the defensive coordinator at Miami with his long-time friend and colleague Al Golden. They inherited this mess and now may not have a program to coach, sacrificing their lives and careers in the process.

No matter what, there won't be an easy solution to this mess.

It's safe to say that the people at Ohio State have to be overjoyed with this latest scandal, because it takes the heat off them for a little while. Ironically, Miami plays Ohio State in the second game of the season in a few weeks. Which program is worse when it comes to cheating and NCAA violations? Tough call.

I watched the Yankee game last night and if anyone thinks that A.J. Burnett didn't say something directed at manager Joe Girardi in the second inning, one that was filled with expletives, then I have a bridge in Arizona that I can sell you for cheap.

Girardi did the noble thing, falling on the sword for his beleaguered pitcher and said that Burnett was cursing at the last call from the umpire. Well, if Burnett was pissed at the umpire, he would have cursed at the umpire, not at his manager after the manager took the ball from him in the second inning of yet another horsespit performance.

And why did Girardi attack YES Network reporter Jack Curry

Curry was doing his job, asking what every single person wanted to know. And Girardi bit his head off for asking. Shame on Girardi for attacking perhaps the nicest guy in the business. Sorry, if I had the chance to ask the manager a question there, I would have asked the same exact things. What was said between the two of you? Did you go into the clubhouse to get Burnett out to watch the rest of the inning?

Curry, the Jersey City native, was doing what he's supposed to do. He asked the questions we all wanted to hear. I only watched the rest of the game to see the post-game press conferences. Girardi acted like a boorish fool, snapping at Curry that way. And Burnett, once again, acts like nothing ever happened. He always thinks he pitches well. It's amazing he thinks that way.

Everyone knows that's what happened. Girardi went to get him out of the clubhouse.

"You made this mess, now you have to watch it."

Hell, that's what every single manager in the game would have done, especially if my $80 million pitcher cursed me out in front of everyone. If I was that manager, I'd make him sit there and fester in his sweat. Why should Burnett go take a shower and relax in the air-conditioned clubhouse when the other 24 players were out there watching the debacle Burnett created? Sit there and watch that mess. You made it. You watch it.

Girardi obviously has a better relationship with Burnett than everyone else, because he protects him more than Oswald's wife was certain he didn't shoot JFK.

Here's one no-brainer. With the way Phil Hughes has pitched recently and the way Ivan Nova has proven himself, A.J. Burnett is going to become a distant memory in a hurry, the Yankees' version of Oliver Perez.

You can read more of my stuff at, and In this week's Hudson Reporter, there's a fitting tribute to the late Danny Waddleton.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Now this is going a bit too far

Here's a story that I legitimately read off the Associated Press wire about 45 minutes ago. I kid you not. It's for real

MADRID -- Real Madrid has signed a 7-year-old football prospect from Argentina, who also happens to go by the name Leo -- just like his idol Lionel Messi.

Leonel Angel Coira signed with the Spanish club and will begin training on Sept. 6, Madrid spokesman Juan Tapiador told The Associated Press today.

Last week, Coira told Argentine sports daily Ole that his idol was Messi, the Barcelona forward who is also Argentine and goes by the name Leo. Coira said he prefers "to provide the pass" rather than score.

He already has a Facebook page featuring photos of his visit to Real Madrid.

Madrid reportedly made the push to sign Coira because Spanish league rival Atletico Madrid was also pursuing the youngster.

Barcelona signed Messi from Argentine club Newell's Old Boys as a teenager and he has gone on to win the World Player of the Year award two times and has helped Barcelona win 15 trophies, including three Champions League titles and five Spanish league championships.

WAIT A MINUTE HERE!!! The kid is SEVEN!!!!

He signed a pro contract at age seven? Shit, even that kid from Gary, Indiana who ended up wearing one studded glove didn't have a contract at seven -- and he was singing and dancing with his four brothers!!!

Are you kidding me? Is this what we've become in sports? Signing seven-year-olds to pro contracts? The kid should be playing with his Tinkertoys and coloring books, not playing pro soccer with adults. I don't care if he's more brilliant than Pele, it's way wrong.

I thought it was ridiculous when college coaches were offering scholarships to grammar school kids, but this one takes the cake. He's seven, for God's sake. How did he sign the contract? In block letters? No cursive learned yet, but then again, some school districts have stopped teaching penmanship, just like they've banned chocolate milk.

Just when you think you have heard it all.

Remember the uproar when D.C. United signed Freddy Adu when he was 13. Well, Freddy was a regular old-timer compared to the wonderful seven-year-old Leo.

And he wants to be known as Leo. Just Leo.

It's not as catchy as my favorite soccer player, Fred. He's just Fred. No need for a surname. Fred. It's great to see that name on a soccer roster sheet. I'm the president of the Fred Fan Club. Hey, my middle name is Fred. Go Fred.

But signing this 7-year-old is clearly the most bizarre story I've read in a long, long time.

When it comes to being a Met fan, it's not called Murphy's Law for nothing.

You know, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Good old Irishman Murphy had that stamped and sealed for the Mets when he came up with that law.

It's very fitting now, especially since the law applies directly to a Murphy, and we're not talking about the late announcer Bob and his cumulus clouds.

Nope, infielder Daniel, who was having a marvelous season, blew out his knee again playing second base, just like he did last year in the minor leagues.

Only this time, Murphy was No. 5 in the National League in hitting with an astounding .320 average. Only four Mets in team history ever batted higher than .320 in a season. He was on his way to a stellar season and then that Irish curse -- no, not that one -- had to come along and rear its ugly head.

Seriously, I have never seen a team more snakebitten and cursed than the Mets. Not because they're obviously my favorite team, but they get injured more than miners get lost in the coal mines. It's unreal how many players have been hurt over the last three years.

And then they don't heal. Ike Davis looked like he turned his ankle and he's missing the whole season. When he got hurt last year, Johan Santana vowed he'll be back before the All-Star break and he's still not back and won't be this season. In the past, look how long it took for Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes to come back. Wait a minute. Reyes is hurt again????

Murphy's Law definitely applies to the Mets and now it directly applies to a Met named Murphy. Go figure.


In closing, let's all say a prayer today for New Haven Register sports columnist Dave Solomon, who was tragically killed in a car accident over the weekend.

Dave was returning home after doing one of the many things he loved doing -- covering his beloved UConn Huskies in a football practice. No one loved doing his job more than Dave, covering the Giants, covering New York baseball, covering college sports. And he was always very helpful and had a great sense of humor, livening up every press room he walked into.

I'll miss seeing Dave at sporting events, because he always made me laugh and feel better about doing what I do, because he loved doing it so much. It's a huge loss for our industry and another in a litany of losses the sportswriting world has suffered recently.

You can read more of my work at, and

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Same age as the President

For some reason, I always thought and believed that the President of the United States was this elder statesman, this older figure, like the same age as your favorite uncle or the nice man handing out the church bulletins after Sunday Mass.

I wasn't old enough to truly remember JFK as President, but from LBJ, Nixon, Ford and on, I always had the image of the President being so much older than me.

Today is President Barack Obama's 50th birthday. It comes almost two months to the day after I celebrated reaching the same milestone. Yes, the President of the United States is older than me.

Now, how did that happen? I swear I was only 19 yesterday. How could I be actually older than the President. Something wrong with that. I was sure that time would stand still for me.

First, I get my AARP card sent to me in the mail and now the President is younger? Next stop? The Hoveround scooter thing. Old age is a terrible thing.

My good friend, media guru and Broadway show producer Joe Favorito of "Lombardi" fame, made a suggestion the other day.

Favs posted on Facebook that as we all prepare for the 10th anniversary of the horrific events of 9/11, that we should take the time to watch the HBO documentary "Nine Innings from Ground Zero," that came out soon after the end of the 2001 baseball season.

For some reason, I never saw the documentary before yesterday. I don't know how I missed it.

As it turned out, it was one of the most heartwrenching hours I'd ever witnessed, but it was incredibly well done. It featured interviews with people who lost their fathers, husbands, brothers in the senseless terrorist attacks, people who were either Met or Yankee fans and used baseball as a source of solace and comfort.

Like every single HBO Sports documentary, this was outstanding. I must have cried about six times in watching it.

But there was one moment that really hit home. I had no idea that respected sports columnist Shaun Powell had lost his brother that day. Scott Powell was working in the Pentagon when the plane crashed into the military headquarters in Washington and he perished with the thousands of other innocent Americans on that fateful day.

I've known Shaun from covering events, especially the NBA, for more than 20 years. We've always stopped to chat in press rooms and have enjoyed a good relationship.

When I watched this documentary for the first time, my heart sank for Shaun. It then made me go to the Internet and look for the column Shaun wrote about his brother after the attacks. It ripped my heart out.

I know many of us lost so many people dear to us on that day. I lost childhood friends, high school classmates, softball teammates, former co-workers. It's an event I still haven't recovered from, as I have no interest whatsoever of visiting Ground Zero. Never have, never will.

I wrote stories about people who died and other stories about people who survived it and lived to tell about it.

It's an horrible event we should never ever forget.

I watched this documentary and relived those moments. I felt for those people who lost loved ones and wanted to reach through the television to give my friend Shaun Powell a hug.

I wrote him a note yesterday to tell him how I felt and how sorry I was that I didn't know he lost his brother that day. He said that it won't be easy for his family to get through the anniversary of that horrendous day.

Joe Favorito was right. We all should watch that tremendous documentary before Sept. 11, just as a reminder.

And HBO never fails to get it right when they do a documentary. They did a great job with the Derek Jeter 3K show and they also did a fine job with the Curious Case of Curt Flood.

Speaking of that Flood show, it was also well done and offered sides to the troubled outfielder that I never knew.

However, it reminded me of a sports trivia television game show that I was once a contestant on. It was called "Grandstand" and was hosted by Curt Chaplain of "People's Court" fame.

It was taped sometime in 1987 or so and I thought I was very fortunate to have Flood as my teammate. Because I figured I knew as much about baseball trivia as anyone. I figured I was a lock to win a host of prizes, like a cruise, a recliner, even a car.

The other sports celebrities on the show were Nate Thurmond and Jim Plunkett. I didn't know as much about football and basketball as I did baseball. So having Curt Flood as a teammate was a big advantage for me.

When the game began, Flood asked me baseball questions.

"I'm ninth on the Cardinal all-time list for hits. What Cardinal teammate of mine and outfielder is first?"

Without thinking, I blurted out the first name that came to mind.

"Lou Brock."

I then hear a buzzer sound, signifying that I was wrong.

I was stunned, much like Ralph Kramden in the "$99,000 Answer."

I was wrong? Moi? Wrong? Wrong?!?!!?! On a baseball question, no less. I was silent as Flood then asked me the next question. The clock was ticking...bink, bink, bink. No answers...Then something snapped me out of it and I answered the next four questions right.

But it was just the beginning of the ass-kicking I received from a guy who fell down the stairs as he was being introduced. He actually knew that George Preston Marshall wrote "Hail to the Redskins." Yes, the owner of the team actually wrote the fight song. I never forgot that little gem.

"Lucky Robert" as the man was called won the cruise, the car, the recliner, the golf clubs, everything. I finished second and got a TV and a boom box. The boom box is currently sitting on the kitchen counter and still works, almost 25 years after I had Curt Flood as a teammate.

The other part of that Flood documentary that was wild was that Flood's wife mentioned that only one baseball free agent recognized Flood's contribution after signing a big contract. She mentioned that Mike Torrez
gave Flood a gift after Torrez signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles.

Torrez and I have become friendly since he was the general manager of the Newark Bears and I was doing the official scoring and PA. I immediately texted Torrez to see if he was watching and he was, not knowing he was going to be mentioned in the piece. It was definitely wild, all because of our associations with Curt Flood.

Again, I can't praise HBO Sports enough for their fine work in doing documentaries.

The NFL lockout and subsequent signing period has definitely been frantic to say the least and it has definitely caused sportswriters like yours truly to follow the activity on Twitter. I never thought I'd become a Twitter fan, but it's almost now become a necessity if you want to do your job properly.

Amazing how the times have changed.


You can also read some of my work at, and The Observer this week features an article and pictures about the Legends soccer game last week, when local heroes Tab Ramos, John Harkes and Tony Meola returned to their roots to play in a game at the famed Harrison Courts. Check it out.