May 11

Celebrity sightings in our time

May 11 - Mac I've had the opportunity to work with, or meet, quite a few celebrities in my day. I bring this up because Stan Phelps, a friend and fellow climber, just sent me a note about his work with Billie Jean King and John McEnroe.

Having endured a most unpleasant experience working with the 'Superbrat' way back when, I was curious to know how Stan had fared (Stan said Mac had been '…..very well behaved.' How 'bout that?).

McEnroe ranks a close second to The Rolling Stones on my personal list of worst celebrity encounters (I helped publicize the Steel Wheels Tour for Showtime Event Television and found Mick, Keith and the boys openly hostile to everyone and everything).

Mac and Mick's maladroit manners aside, I've been fortunate to interact with some genuinely nice celebrities, including:

  • Muhammad Ali (he winked at me. Right back at you, big guy.)
  • Smokin' Joe Frazier (spent 25 minutes talking boxing with me and said Scrap Iron Johnson was the hardest puncher he'd ever faced)
  • Rod Stewart (did everything I asked prior to, during and after a USA Today interview for another Showtime event)
  • Phil Collins (see: Rod Stewart)
  • Willie Mays (a real gentleman, who got a big kick out of my knowledge of his 1962 S.F. Giants).
  • Willis Reed (the captain was all class)

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Feb 17

Enough is Enough

Guest post by Greg Schmalz

With unemployment at nearly 12 million and many businesses cutting back to stay afloat, sports seems to be totally oblivious to what's happening around them.

Player salaries continue to be in the millions and it's a matter of how high will you go. Manny Ramirez for instance, who played last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, rejected a $25 million deal for one season. Both the New York Yankees and Mets have built new stadiums. And the stadiums keep going up.Manny

Which brings me to the new stadium that the New York Giants and Jets are partners in as they will begin play in their new confines in 2010.

Instead of selling naming rights to a corporation the way the Mets have with Citigroup for $400 million over 20 years, the owners have decided to offer Personal Seat Licenses where season ticket holders can buy the seats and have ownership to those seats, yet still have to pay their usual ticket price to see a game.

And while the Giants and Jets will still share the new stadium, some internal marketing knuckleheads believe they will have a "home field advantage" because through modern technology they will able to change the stadium from the Giants red and blue colors to the Jets green and white. 

I grew up as a sportswriter in my teens and was assigned the Jets beat back in the seventies. They played at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York in those days before joining the Giants at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. When I stopped covering the team after the 1979 season, I became a season ticket-holder. I still have tickets, but not for long, because now the team is reaching out to me to buy Personal Seat Licenses (PSL's) for the new stadium.

I received my information about the new plan two weeks ago. Based on my current location in the lower level, the licenses would cost me between $10-15,000 per seat.  I am on the borderline of two price ranges.  I briefly looked at the package, chuckled to myself and set it aside.

Then I received a phone call from a marketing rep (Michael Barrett) Saturday afternoon who went on to say that he will be my personal contact and will walk me through the process.  He asked if I had seen the material, did I have any questions etc.  I got him to confirm my suspicions on pricing etc. and then I told him I will probably pass.

The kid freaked out (I am assuming he was probably early thirties). Naturally, he would not take no for an answer and made it sound like I was missing the deal of a lifetime.

He proceeded to pitch me how the Jets came close this season, were 8-3 at one time and that a new stadium is what's needed to get them over the hump and how could I miss out on such a great opportunity.

I told him I had written Mr. Johnson a three-page letter months ago when they announced their intention of offering PSL's that they are alienating the fan base.  Get this, the kid went on to say that they (the team) are putting money into the team and the facilities to build a championship team.  And that recent Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh, New England and Tampa Bay all won championships after building a new stadium.  Really!

Sure, Tampa Bay whipped Oakland, 48-21, in January 2003. But they haven't won since. In fact, Bucs coach Jon Gruden was fired in Tampa Bay.

If that's the case, what's happened to Houston at Reliant Stadium?  Or Miami in Dolphin Stadium?  The Dolphins haven't appeared in the Super Bowl since they were blasted by Joe Montana and the San Francisco Forty-Niners, 38-16, in Dan Marino's rookie season of 1984. Or how about Detroit at Ford Field?  Didn't they go 0-16 this past season?  How bad would they have been without the new stadium?

So how much does the home field make a difference? Well, Carolina had the best home record last season at 8-0. Yet, the Panthers were soundly beaten by Arizona in the playoffs. The Giants, Atlanta and Tennessee were all 7-1.  But the Giants lost (at home) to Philadelphia, Atlanta lost to Arizona and Tennessee fell (at home) to Baltimore.  So much for the home field advantage.

My recollection is that the Super Bowl is played on a neutral site. Never has the game been played at the site of an NFL team participating in the championship game.  Sure, the 1980 game between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles was played in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl and the 1985 game between San Francisco and Miami was played at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California.

But to win the Super Bowl, you need to win on the road.  Nineteen teams had winning records at home this past season but only 12 had winning road records. Those Jets were 5-3 at home and 4-4 on the road.

Even if the marketing rep was right, who in their right mind would spend that kind of money in this economy? In addition to the PSL's, the ticket prices are jumping from $90 to $145, a hefty increase.

But I do have choices. I don't have to pay the PSL if I opt for a seat in the nosebleeds.  Better yet.  I can watch any game on DirecTV and when the Jets are losing, just switch the channel.  And if I want to spend $20-30,000, I might as well put a down payment on a second home.

It's come time to say "enough is enough."

Jan 09

Why do Sports Teams Insist on Rewarding Failure

I can't think of another "industry" that rewards failure as much as sports does. The most recent, flagrant example is the Cleveland Browns hiring of erstwhile NY Jets Coach Eric Mangini and awarding him a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. What is Browns' ownership thinking? More to the point, how do I score an ounce of whatever it is they're smoking?

Mangini failed miserably in his three years with the Jets. Sure, he started off well and was called "Mangenius" for a brief, shining moment. But, last season was a disaster and this year proved that he was simply a poor manager and motivator of talent. And, yet, the guy is richly rewarded by another team. 82e35853-9321-4f78-a701-1a27e454032d.widec

Is the coaching pool so bereft of talent that abject failures like Mangini immediately land on their feet? It must be, because this pattern has been occurring as long as I've been following sports and certainly isn't limited solely to football.

What does it say about an organization's image and reputation when it hires a new top dog who just got canned for poor performance by a competitor? Could you imagine a Fortune 500 company doing something similar……."ABC, Inc., Names Jeff Skilling CEO; Failed Ex-Enron Chief to Assume New Post As Soon As Incarceration Ends." Gimme a break.

The Mangini news has to make rooters puzzled, if not angry. But, here's the stark reality: Browns fans will buy into whatever hype the team's marketing machine spits out, Mangini will coach for a few losing seasons and some other failure will replace him down the road. And so on and so forth.

Oh well, pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks' time and hope springs eternal for this particular blogger.

Oct 30

I Cannot Think of a Worse Way to Spend $99.99

Somebody at Steiner Sports is either brain dead or possessed of a wickedly ironic sense of humor. How else to explain the sports memorabilia shop's "special" offer of four New York Mets player photos? Who in their right mind would shell out money for the following "gift" items:

– Oliver Perez "jumping over the foul line". Question: Was this pic snapped immediately after he walked six straight batters, forcing in the go-ahead run in yet another disastrous pitching performance?Oliverperez

– Billy Wagner autographed "fist pump." I wonder if the pump occurred in the locker room after Wagner snapped at the press corps, telling them he'd rate the Mets' relief corps with that of any in baseball? In my humble opinion, the team's relief corps, along with the lack of a true leader a la Gary Carter or Keith Hernandez, spelled doom in '08.

– Aaron Heilman action photo. Puh-leese. The only action Heilman saw was craning his neck to watch the trajectory of the home run some opponent had just smashed. Heilman is easily the least reliable Mets reliever since Armando Benitez.

– Damion Easley turning a double play. OK. I'll buy that one. Easley does a nice job for a 38-year-old journeyman.

Steiner Sports has to be even more desperate than the Mets themselves to be offering a photo package like this. And, to think that anyone in his or her right mind would ever pay the "original" price of $299.99 is as realistic as thinking that general manager Omar Minaya will finally construct a squad that can hold onto a lead in September.