There were two news items that occurred in a span of 48 hours this week that brought back some incredible memories of my days as the Sports Information Director at St. Peter's College.
From 1986 through 1990, I worked at SPC as a statistician, public relations person, conduit to the athletes, you name it. I did everything, bleeding Peacock blue.
Part of my job was to try to promote our athletic teams, most prominently the men's basketball team, which was pretty good back then. We would challenge for top honors in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference every year, thanks to the brilliance of head coach Ted Fiore and the hard work and diligence of the constantly overachieving players.
So I would do practically anything and everything to get publicity for the Peacocks.
One of those instances took place in 1989, when I called WFAN to see if I could get a spot for Fiore to be interviewed. The producers agreed to put Fiore on with Bill Mazer, who died Wednesday at the age of 92.
Mazer earned the nickname as "The Amazin'" for his impeccable ability to know sports trivia answers off the cuff. Mazer was the sports anchor on Channel 5 for more than 20 years and began every broadcast with a trivia question asked by news anchor John Roland.
Mazer was also the host of "Sports Extra," which was the first show of its kind, on every Sunday night at 10:30 p.m. reviewing the events of the previous week with Lee Leonard, John Dockery and my good friend Jerry Izenberg. It was a great show, one that I couldn't wait to watch every Sunday, a great lead in to my fanaticism for Monty Python's Flying Circus, which also made my Sunday nights wonderful.
Anyway, I get the producers at WFAN to give Fiore a slot. Mazer did his show at Mickey Mantle's Restaurant near Central Park, so I had to take Fiore to Mickey Mantle's. We left SPC with what I thought was enough time, but of course, we hit rush hour traffic and it looked as if we were not going to get there on time.
We finally get to Mickey Mantle's around 9:50, 10 minutes before Mazer was set to go on the air. I told Fiore to go inside, to tell the producers he was there and I would take care of parking the car.
So I found a parking spot on the street that I thought was fine. I put four quarters in the meter and went inside.
As Fiore is sitting with Mazer, I looked out the window to see a tow truck taking the car away.
Fiore looks at me and notices that I was upset. He mouths to me, "What's wrong?" I mouthed back, "The car was towed."
Fiore thought I said that the car was totaled. So now he was upset. He became more angry when Mazer didn't ask him many questions about his team. He wanted to talk about Jersey City, about Bobby Hurley, about St. Anthony, about the old Jersey City Armory and Calvin Murphy, but not much about the Peacocks.
When Fiore is done with his 20 minutes of fame, he comes over to me and I then let him know that the car was fine, but it was in a municipal lot clear across town. We get in a cab, go get the car and paid an incredible fine. All in the course of getting positive publicity for the Peacocks. It was a substantial hit, especially for someone making $17,500 a year.
But the incident certainly was good for a few laughs back then at my expense _ literally _ and remained a good memory for the years I spent with Fiore and St. Peter's.
There's another memory about my days at SPC that came about after the news of the week, about the horrific arrest of former WNEW-FM disc jockey Dave Herman.
Herman was arrested Thursday and charged with attempting to arrange a sexual encounter with an apparent 7-year-old girl in St. Croix. Herman apparently was part of a sting operation conducted by Bergen County Prosecutor's investigators. There was no actual little girl, rather a detective posing as the girl on the Internet.
Herman wanted to arrange a sexual meeting with the child, because he "found girls that age incredibly sexy." It's an awful, horrific story, a sick tale.
Anyway, Herman's arrest made me remember another attempt to bring positive publicity for the men's basketball team.
In 1988, I was a contestant on a sports trivia television game show called "Grandstand." The host of the show was Curt Chaplin, who also did the sports on Herman's "Rock and Roll Morning Show" on WNEW-FM.
I got to talk to Chaplin before the taping and he asked what I did for a living. I said I was the Sports Information Director at St. Peter's and he found it fascinating.
After getting destroyed on the game show _ I finished second and won a television and a boom box _ I maintained a relationship with Chaplin. He told me that he wanted to adopt the Peacocks as the college basketball team of the "Rock and Roll Morning Show."
Every day, Chaplin gave updates on how well the Peacocks were doing. He would end his report with "Gotta love those Peacocks." And Herman would echo that saying every day.
Chaplin, who now is the interviewer of the plaintiffs and defendants on "The People's Court," came to SPC and was an honorary assistant coach one game against Holy Cross. The game that Chaplin attended was one of the most thrilling games ever at Yanitelli Center, an overtime win that saw point guard and Jersey City native Jasper Walker set a MAAC record (and third all-time in NCAA history) with 20 assists.
After that game, Chaplin invited Fiore and team captain Willie Haynes (who unfortunately has now passed away after a battle with cancer) to visit the WNEW-FM studios and appear live on air with Chaplin and Herman right before the Peacocks were going to face MAAC rival LaSalle.
It was a fun appearance and brought more attention to our program.
Herman's arrest and Mazer's death brought those memories back, reliving a wonderful time in my life and my career. Nothing will ever diminish the time I spent working at SPC, being with the great athletes, the great coaches and the great people.
I had a phone conversation today with New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick about my recent blog about Adrian Peterson. Needless to say, the conversation became very heated. Let's say we agreed to disagree about practically everything.
But I give Mushnick credit. After reading the blog, he wrote an e-mail to me and told me to call him, which I did. He told me that I was wrong several times, especially saying that he didn't know much about Jersey City.
Mushnick said that his wife is from Jersey City, that he lived in Jersey City for a few years and that he had been to Jersey City, including covering St. Peter's games when Ted Fiore was the coach.
He said he didn't remember me, even though I was the SID at the time. Maybe I wasn't. Maybe he went there when my successor Tim Camp was the SID.
In any case, I was wrong to write that Mushnick didn't know Jersey City. I admitted to him that I was wrong to write that and I'm apologizing here now.
As for my stance about what he wrote then and recently, no, I won't change my opinion there. He then said the truest words.
"Jim, you're as stubborn as I am," Mushnick said.
Yes, I am. No doubting that. Stubborn is one of my born traits.
In any case, I give him a lot of credit for reaching out to contact me. It shows that Mushnick is not afraid of confrontation and it proves that people do indeed read this blog.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now 0-7 and there are articles and columns from writers from all over the country calling for the head of coach Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers coach.
There are billboards calling for his firing. There was a rhythmic chant from fans, singing "Fire Schiano."
Most people who know me know that I was never a fan of Schiano when he was the coach at Rutgers. He lied to me several times about kids he was recruiting, especially local kids that I had a relationship with.
Schiano lied to me at least five times, so that put him on my doo-doo list. One time, I had a heated confrontation with him about lying to me and lying to kids.
Now it looks as if his pro coaching career is coming to an end. I can't say that I'm shedding any tears.
As for the World Series, I have two words: "Go Cardinals."
You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com, www.theobserver.com, and www.dailyrecord.com.
There's no change in my physical condition, so I am out of commission for covering events for an undetermined amount of time. I thank all of those who have sent get well wishes and positive greetings. Believe me, it means a lot, especially at a time now where I am truly missing my usual routine.