Thursday, July 28, 2011


There are few words in the English language that have the impact
of the word "suicide". The act of it takes away a life, can rip
apart families, and suicide note or not, it always leaves us wondering

If you're a friend of someone or a family member who has to
hear the words, "he killed himself", it feels like Mike Tyson
threw a TNT-packed punch straight to the stomach, instantly
sucking every ounce of air from your body.

There is, and always will be a stigma attached to suicide, because
the words that usually follow it are depression, mental disorder,
or personal problems. And unlike most of the things that seem
to occur on a regular basis, we never really become immune to
the shock that comes with hearing that a person to their own

On Thursday, former major league pitcher Hideki Irabu was found
dead in his Los Angeles home, the victim of an apparent suicide. This
came on the heels of Tuesday's death of Jeret Peterson , a freestyle-
skier who won a silver medal in the Vancouver Olympic Games
just last year. Before that it was Dave Duerson, a former NFL player,
and before that it was Kenny McKinley of the Denver Broncos. 
All ended their lives, killed by their own hand.

Irabu, Jaret, Duerson, and McKinley couldn't overcome their
demons. There were financial troubles and foul-ups with the law
and energy-sapping depression that didn't make life worth living.

I've often heard people wonder out loud, how people, who seemingly
have everything, suddenly take their lives. Depression doesn't
care about money, endorsement deals, or 25,000 square foot
mansions. It's a disease that can napalm jobs, friendships, and
families. There isn't a manual on how to deal with it, and it can
go away and lie dormant until something triggers it to come back
worse than it ever was before.

People who make judgements on those who have committed suicide
are as ignorant as they are callous. It's easy to condemn a man
for being so selfish as to commit suicide and leave a wife and
four kids behind. But there is no way to get an understanding of
the pain that person was in, the nightmares he suffered from,
and the demons that wore him down.

I used to think people who committed suicide were selfish. But I
will never judge again after talking with those who've suffered
from debilitating depression, the kind that keeps you in bed all
day and makes you go days without eating, showering, or even
brushing your teeth.

Does it seem like suicide among athletes and former athletes is
on the rise? Man, it sure appears that way. But its a problem that
is not just occurring in the athletic arena, teen suicide is on the
rise around the country, as well.

My friend, John Trautwein, is on a mission to prevent teen suicide
after discovering that his 15-year old son, Will,  hung himself
in his room while his parents slept. (Please check the "Will-to-Live"
feature I did on the Trautwein's in May)

Will was a high school kid who excelled in the classroom
and athletics and seemingly had everything.

"We just didn't know, there were no signs," said Trautwein.
"Kids today have so much more pressure on them than we did.
"If it can happen to Will and our family, it can happen to anybodies".

I wish the suicide of Hideki Irabu is the last one I'm going to hear
about for awhile, but I highly doubt it. Things have a tendency to
get worse before they get better. But if you have a friend who might
be crying out for help, or getting into patterns of self-destructive
behavior, don't dismiss the warning signs before it's too late.
Be a friend, help them out.


There's nothing like a reunion to shatter your ego and blow your
salad and egg whites diet. On Monday, I played golf and emceed
the New Canaan High School Football Alumni outing at the
beautiful Woodway Country Club in Darien, CT.

I hadn't seen many of my former teammates in more than 25 years,
and while a lot of time has passed, that never puts an end to the
jocularity that comes with playing with your classmates for
four years. The jokes always fly and nothing, and I mean nothing
is of limits.

I had gained forty pounds since last June, and while I thought my
6'3" frame had carried it well, my former teammates thought the only
thing I had been carrying were donuts, Big Mac's, and about two
gallons of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Do you think they were going
to waste an opportunity to abuse me and my weight? Definitely not.

I heard some softballs, like "Wow, you really filled out!" to "Are you
wearing a XXL or XXXL now?"  XXXL?!!!  Really. I summoned an
old teammate to watch me pound my drive on the final hole and he
replied, "with a belly like that, you should hit it 300 yards." Best
joke of the day: "Did you eat John Daly for breakfast?" Wow,
my chest deflated, my ego was crushed, and I could do nothing but
try to suck in my gut for the rest of the night.

The rest of the night included shrimp cocktails, an open bar, and
3,500 calorie desserts. That was all before we closed down "Uncle
Joe's", a bar and pizza joint in Norwalk. Yep, had to break that Slim-fast
diet for another day. Is there anything worse for your fat cells than
pizza and beer and a lot of it?

I woke up the next morning feeling like Albert Haynesworth ran me
over while I was standing still and eating a Krispy Kreme donut. Not
good. I paid the price. I felt better after 90-minutes of cardio at the
gym, but bottom line, I'm still a fat tub-of-goo. I think I'm Chris Farley's
illegitimate kid. Maybe I should throw down some Hydroxycut to
go along with my workouts.

I ramped up my workout on Wednesday, going for a 56-mile bike ride.
It only took me four hours. In my triathlon next month, that's exactly how
far the bike ride is. Trouble is, there is a 1.2 mile swim before it and a
13.1 mile run after it. Oh, well. I don't think there is a time limit on it.

By the way, I'm down to 242 lbs. Who said muscles weighs more than
fat? I seriously doubt that. Til next time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The magic carpet ride of Jim Nantz has ascended to a level where
only a few sportscasters have ever gone before. Last week the Pro
Football Hall of Fame announced the long-time voice of CBS Sports
would be the 2011 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Award, which recognizes
exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.

"It's one of the biggest honors of my career," said Nantz, who is a
New Canaan resident. "In our industry it doesn't get any bigger than this.
I wasn't expecting it and when I received the call I was really blindsided."

At 52, Nantz is the youngest person ever to receive the award, launching
him into rarefied air among sportscasters. This honor, along with the Curt
Gowdy Media Award presented to him by the Basketball Hall of Fame in
2002, makes Nantz just one of three sportscasters to be recognized by the
pro football and basketball halls of fame. Gowdy and Dick Enberg are the

"When they told me that, I had to sit down for a minute," said Nantz,
who played golf at the University of Houston. "I feel like I'm still a young
man and to be in the company of legends like Gowdy and Enberg is a
tremendous honor."

Nantz got his start in the business while he was a junior in college.
He'd anchor the weekend sports at the CBS affiliate in Houston. It didn't
take long before Nantz caught the attention of television executives at
headquarters in New York.

"Ted Shaker, who was the executive producer of CBS Sports, took a
giant leap of faith in me," said Nantz. "I was just 26 years old and being
a network anchor at that age was unheard of. Shaker really believed in
me and my ability to do live television on a network. It was risky."

Nantz rewarded Shaker's faith in him by becoming one of the most versatile
and talented sportscasters the industry has ever seen. He makes the seamless
transition from the NFL to college basketball to golf and is a five time
winner of the National Sportscaster of the Year award.

He has worked on the NFL since 1988 and has been part of four Super
Bowls as a studio host and play-by-play man. But when March comes
around, Nantz really shines. He goes from the madness of the NCAA
tournament to the awe-inspiring sights and sounds of the Masters.

"I really pinch myself every year when I go through that stretch," said
Nantz. "People at the Final Four say, 'And after this you go to the Masters?
That's unbelievable', and it really is. I never take it for granted or have
a sense of entitlement. I realize how lucky I am. But I also have worked
really hard and got to where I am through my preparation."

Nantz has experienced a lot of shining moments in his career with CBS
Sports. He was on the dance floor when a Cinderella named Butler almost
beat Duke for the national title. When Tiger Woods burst onto the scene
in 1997 with an earth-shattering performance at the Masters, Nantz was in
the tower calling "it one for the ages."

But it was the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami that holds a special place in
his heart. "When I was eight years old my Dad took me to the Saints first
game in the NFL," said Nantz. "It was the birth of the Saints and to follow
them to their culmination as Super Bowl champs, after all the organization
had been through, was really special. Calling their victory over the Colts
is one of the most prideful moments of my career."

Anyone who has watched golf on CBS, knows how much pride Nantz takes
in his work on the Masters. After 26 years calling the action, he has become
as much a part of Augusta as the Azaleas and Amen Corner.

Nantz had made it known that his goal was to cover 50 Masters tournaments
in his career. But that changed recently, when he was presented with an
 award by broadcasting great, Jack Whitaker.

"Jack was saying that he wanted to see me around for the 100th anniversary
of the Masters. My goal was 50 years but that would take me to the 99th Masters.
I want to be there for the 100th, which will be in the year 2036."

Nantz will be 76 when the Masters celebrates its 100th anniversary,
which is an age when most broadcasters not named Enberg and Mike
Wallace, have long been retired. But Nantz has accomplished everything
 he's set his mind to and fullfiled every dream of his when it comes to
broadcasting. It wouldn't be wise to bet against him on reaching this goal,
which is like the Masters tradition itself: unlike any other.
(Editor's Note: Ted Shaker is married to New Canaan Patch editor Sheryl Shaker.)

Monday, July 18, 2011


I woke up on June 30th of last year in close to the best shape of my life. I was 210 lbs,
which is what I weighed as a seventh-year senior at UNC. A six-pack was never in my
genes, but I no longer had the love handles that woman between the ages of 52 and 67
dreamed of  holding on to. Two weeks earlier, at the age of 45, I completed a half-ironman,
which came on the heels of a 100-mile bike ride to Montauk.

As the calendar prepared to turn over from June to July, I went for a bike ride on a near
perfect, sun-splashed afternoon. I wish the ride was as flawless as the day. I edged a pothole
going downhill, flipped my bike and was nearly road kill. I separated the AC joint in my
shoulder and left three chunks of flesh from my back, hip, and shoulder on that asphalt road
in Connecticut.

The bad news was, I couldn't work out for at least three months. The good news was, I got
introduced to something that would become my new best friend: Vicodin. Vicodin is to people
in pain what Viagara is to men looking for a little somethin', somethin' to perform like Dirk
Diggler and get them through the night. I can see why Brett Favre got addicted to Vicodin. It
makes you feel good and groovy.

Unable to work out, I needed something else to obsess about and get addicted to. I was 37
days from reaching my goal of not drinking for a  year, and that was out anyway, since I
was on Vicodin. Extreme eating become my new sport. What comfort I didn't get out of
Vicodin, I got from stuffing my face like Augustus Gloop in "Wily Wonka's Chocolate Factory."

I had been a workout freak, now I was obsessed with food. If it wasn't tied down, I was eating
it. Weddings and cocktail parties were the best. If there was a buffet, I'd eat half of it. Those
people passing around  hor dourves never had a chance. I'd hijack them and the trays carrying
calorie-packed treats. I became like Joey Chitwood in a hot dog eating contest, chowing down
food fast and furiously.  Perhaps I was having a mid-life crisis. If that was the case, food was
my new Ferrari.

I didn't care, I loved it. I had always been a pretty healthy eater but that went out the window
with my stint on the disabled list. Ring-Dings, Cherry Garcia, and pizza, oh my. I'd go to the
Shell station on my way to work and pick up a Choco-Taco, a Drumstik, and a Good Humor Chocolate Eclair for the ride.

On the way home I'd hit the Wendy's late night drive-thru and order up a chicken sandwich,
a double-cheeseburger, and fries. And I'd do what every overweight, food-obsessed person who
is in denial, does. I'd wash it down with a large diet coke. Like the diet part of the drink matters
after you blasted your body with 1,200 calories of artery-clogging fast food.

Trouble loomed over the horizon with my weight and vanishing Vicodin. My prescription was
just about done and I had to make the decision whether or not to tell my doctor I couldn't tolerate
the pain and ask him to refill my scrip. I had visions of becoming addicted like Favre did and hallucinating all over the place. I passed on the refill figuring my fascination with food would help me overcome the pain. It did.

However, I was paying the price. My waistline was exploding quicker than C.C. Sabathia's and I bypassed a double-chin and went straight to number three. But at 6'3", I could carry the extra
weight, or so I told myself. As for that scale in my bathroom? Well, let's just say it had become
the extra large white elephant in the room, and it was thinner than I was. No way I was getting
on that thing. I didn't want to face reality, even though that came in my failure to get into any
of my dress pants. My jeans were my safe haven, the one thing that  didn't reject me or shout out
that I was turning into a fat tub-of-goo.

But I was. I was getting extra large and wasn't in charge of my eating habits. I was out of control.
On December 1st, I finally stepped on the scale and it wasn't pretty. Remember "Groundhog Day" where the clock turns  over from 5:59 to 6:00 everyday? I stepped on the scale and it was teetering
on 249lbs. 249lbs! The only thing more shocking was seeing it turn over to 250. There it was. 250 pounds. Never in my life did I think I'd see that number below me.

My manager in the minor-leagues, Gary Allenson, bet me $500 that I'd be 250 when I was 40 years old. He was six years off. I went to  the doctor for a physical and the news was not good. My cholesterol shot up to 296.  Even my good cholesterol was bad.

Was it a wake-up call? Absolutely. That and the fact that my mom nicknamed me "Shamu." But for the first time in my life, I had lost some of my drive to work out. I'd lose a few pounds here, a lose
a few pounds there, but I was closer to 250 than 240.

I signed up for a half-ironman on September 11th, hoping it'd be the kick in the butt I need. I'm getting there, but at 47 now, the metabolism rate has slowed down a lot.  There will be no Jenny

I need to do this on my own.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Five years ago, Darren Clarke was a broken man in need of a shoulder
to cry on. He had been at his wife's side as she battled, then succumbed
to cancer.

128 days ago, Japan was a country in need of a world-wide hug. They were
devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami that caused a nuclear
disaster. 22,000 people lost their lives and the country is still in disarray.

Clarke's recovery is just about complete, while Japan is a long way
from being whole again. But on Sunday, they both demonstrated their
resiliency, holding off the heavily favored Americans, showing the
world that no matter how bad things get, there is still reason to hope,
believe, and persevere.

Clarke ranked 111th in the world, had become less significant than
Tiger Woods is in golf right now. He wasn't given much of a chance to
win the British Open, after all, he hadn't finished in the top-10 of a
major since 2001. His game, as well as his body, weren't exactly
a picture of strength. But Clarke still believed that he could win a
major at the ripe old age of 42. He didn't care that he had played
19 times in the Open Championship and had never even sniffed the
Claret Jug.

Battling the elements and a trio of Americans that included Dustin
Johnson, Phil Mickelson, and Ricky Fowler, who were all younger
and more talented than himself, Clarke stuck to his game plan and
waged a fierce battle on his way to winning the British Open.

Japan was playing in the World Cup final for the first time. In fact,
this was the first time they had reached the final in any major tournament.
They had lost to the Americans in their 25 previous meetings. The
task of beating the Americans in the World Cup was akin to a bunch
of college kids trying to upset the Soviet Union in hockey game during
the 1980 Winter Olympics. Japan was the smallest team in the tournament,
but they played with the biggest heart.

They battled back to tie the United States not once, but twice. With
not much left in the tank, they found a way to beat the Stars and Stripes
in penalty kicks and win their first-ever World Cup. As they did throughout
the tournament, they unfurled a banner that read, "Thank you world for
your support." Their win set off a wild celebration back home in Japan
and helped ease its pain, if even for just a few days.

It was easy to be happy for Darren Clarke. He's the everyman,  not
your typical golfer. One who likes his Guinness, and one who likes to
close down the local pubs in the wee hours of the morning. American
player after American went out of their way to congratulate Clarke,
as he is universally loved and respected by everyone on tour. And
after all he's been through, you couldn't blame him for shedding a tear
as he walked down the 18th fairway on his way to history.

Losing the World Cup was shocking for the United States team and
disappointing for all of us who supported and cheered them on. But
it wasn't that hard to be happy for Japan after all that country has been
through. As Hope Solo said, "It was a tough loss for us, but if any
country was going to beat us for the World Cup, I'm kind of glad it
was Japan."

Thursday, July 14, 2011


No athletes playing different sports are as similar as Tom Brady
and Derek Jeter. Both are driven, passionate, cool under pressure,
and are defined by the number of championship rings they wear.

They don't pump fraud into their body and their natural filters
prevent anything stupid from coming out of their mouths.
Brady and Jeter are of impeccable character, they are well-mannered,
well-spoken, and respected by nearly everyone in the sports
world. (Yes, I remember what Antonio Cromartie said about
the Patriots QB, but he is, after all, Antonio Cromartie)

Their similarities extend
beyond the playing field
and people they are.
Brady and Jeter have
each dated their share
of beautiful actresses
and entertainers. Both
are worth well over
$100 million dollars,
building mansions the
size of the stadiums
they play in.



Every Super Bowl winning QB should have a super model on his arm,
right? Tom Brady is married to the Ferrari of all super models in
Gisele Bundchnen. She is like Jordan, Madonna, and Pele...celebrities
who are identified by just one name. Gisele also makes $45 million dollars
a year, which dwarfs Brady's salary of $18 million per season.

Jeter has been dated and rumored to be engaged to Minka Kelly,
an actress of "Friday Night Lights" fame. She is the only child of
former Aerosmith guitarist Rick Dufay and her mother is a former
exotic dancer. Kelly is also part of the "Charlie's Angels" remake
and is scheduled to be in three movies to be released in the next
year. She is cute and wholesome looking, but she's no Gisele.


When it comes to abodes, the one's Jeter and Brady have constructed,
are anything but humble. These places are their only signs of
immodesty. Brady and Gisele are putting the finishing touches on a mansion
that is 22,000 square feet in Brentwood, California. The spread is
just down the road from where Arnold Schwarzenegger lives, or
used to anway.

The eight bedroom mansion is on 3.75 acres of land and has a six-car garage,
lagoon-shaped pool, wine cellar, cardio room, fitness center and spa. Brady
and Gisele paid $11 million dollars for the lot and another $20 million for
construction costs. There's no truth to the rumor that Brady has a room
assigned to Bill Belichick went the Patriots head coach is in town.

Colossal, mammoth, ridiculous.
Pick any one or pick
them all. Those adjectives
apply to Jeter's 31,000 square
feet mansion in Tampa.
31,000 square feet! The pad
includes seven bedrooms,
nine bathrooms, a pool, two
3-car garages, a room for
billiards and memorabilia.
Water gives him the nod.

Not counting endorsements, Jeter has made $205 million dollars in his career
through last season. He'll get another $51 million dollars over the next three
years under his current contract. $256 million dollars for playing baseball
is pretty impressive.

Brady signed a 4-year, $72 million contract last season, but that number
will be eclipsed once the lockout end and Peyton Manning put his signature
on a new contract. But at $18 million dollars a season, Brady is the highest
paid player in the NFL. Over the course of his career, the Patriots QB has
made nearly $150 million dollars. EARNINGS ADVANTAGE: JETER


If they wanted to, Brady and Jeter could be an endorsement slut like
Peyton Manning, who is seemingly omnipotent on television. The Patriots
QB has deals with Under Armour, Stetson, SmartWater, and Rolex.
With his Hollywood good looks, Brady could make far more than the
$10 million dollars a year he makes in endorsments.Gosh, if Phil
Mickelson and his man-boobs can make $40 million a year, Brady and
Jeter cad do that without breaking the kind of sweat that Phil does during
a round of golf in New Orleans during the summer.

Jeter has a nice stable full of endorsement deals which include Ford,
Gatorade, and Gillette. Like Brady, Jeter guards against overexposure
and over saturation. He like Brady, pulls in an extra $10 million dollars
per year from endorsements. ADVANTAGE: EVEN

In 2000, Brady was a
sixth round pick out of
Michigan, while Jeter was
the 6th pick of the 1992
MLB draft out of Kalamazoo.
If he didn't sign with the
Yankees, Jeter would have
played for the Maze and Blue.
The Patriots QB has won
three Super Bowls, two NFL
MVP award and holds the
the record for most TD
passes in season (50)


Jeter is the captain of the most famous franchise in sports. He has
5-World Series rings, is a 12-time all-star, five gold gloves and a career
average of .314. His best individual achievement is being the only
Yankeeto amass 3,000 or more hits in his career. Ruth, Gerhig, Mantle,
or DiMaggio came close to achieving the magic milestones.

Jeter and Brady have both been Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.
They have huge mansions, squeaky clean images, more money than God,
multiple world championships, great looking woman, fame, respects,
adoration, and near perfect lives. Who has the better one? Definitely a toss

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The rivalry between New York and Boston extends a lot further
than the Red Sox and Yankees. Their television networks, YES
and NESN battle every night while broadcasting their respective
teams games.

When it comes to baseball production, they rank 1 and 1a in the
country. They are the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady of regional
networks, the most powerful and glamorous. It's NESN, YES, and
then everybody else. If one is better, it's not by much. Here's the
tale of the tape.

NESN holds the overwhelming edge in pre-game shows. They
are often imitated, but never duplicated. NESN set the standard
years ago, and everyone else, including YES is trying to catch up.
NESN was the first to have the outdoor set, and if you look at
other pre-game shows around the country on Fox Sports Net and
MASN, they all have sets outside, whether it be on the concourse
of the stadium or outside of it. With Yawkey Way as the backdrop,
and the charm of  Fenway Park, NESN has all the ingredients to
make up the best pre-game show in the business.


The men who steer the ship from start to finish, are both top notch.
Tom Caron (NESN) and Bob Lorenz (YES) are true professionals
who never stumble,  mess up, and are always accurate. Name
a time when they screwed up on something. Exactly. Caron grew up
in New England and has become part of the fabric of it. He is blue-
collar and dedicated. He's what they call a "gamer" in the sports world.

Meticulously prepared, Caron could tell you the zodiac sign of the
mother of the back-up catcher at Lowell, the Red Sox class 'A'
affiliate in the New York-Penn League. Lorenz, is completely polished
after spending years on the national/world stage of CNN. He's
knowledgeable and easy to listen to and easy to like.

Caron and Lorenz are even across the board on knowledge, presentation,
preparation, and the ability to right the ship when things are frenetic
in the waters below. However, Lorenz gets the slight edge for
his overall experience and polish.


Dennis Eckersley (NESN) is quite simply, the best baseball analyst in
the country, bar none. You can have Tim McCarver, John Kruk,
or anyone else. They can't touch the Eck. This guy is pure as a
person and as a talent. The Hall of Fame pitcher is incredibly
knowledgeable and  unfiltered. He says it like it is and doesn't
care about offending players or management. Plus, he, as Stuart
Scott like to say, "is cooler than the other side of the pillow."
Also in NESN's stable of analysts are the incomparable Peter
Gammons and Hall of Famer Jim Rice. Nobody, anywhere in
the country can compete with that.

Jack Curry (YES). Curry covered the Yankees for 20 years
with the New York Times and is as knowledgeable as any writer
covering the game today. As a television analyst, Curry is network
quality and don't be surprised if he shows up on ESPN one day.
He has an all-American look and remarkable camera presence
for a person who has not been in the business that long. He's very
likeable and doesn't bring a pompous, holier than thou demeanor
to the set. John Flaherty sits in on occasion and the former Yankees,
Red Sox, Rays, Padres, and Tigers catcher is very astute. A junior
Tim McCarver, but a lot more likeable.


Don Orsillo (NESN) made it to the top the old-fashioned way. He
rolled up his sleeves and worked his ass off. Orsillo paid his dues
with stops in places like Binghamton, Springfield (MA), and Pawtucket.
An incredibly hard-worker, Orsillo is always prepared but isn't
bolted to a dizzying array of stats and information. He isn't some
stat geek who tries to go overboard with a desire to impress people
with numbers and knowledge. He knows the game and has a lot
of fun calling it. Orsillo is not the biggest man in the booth, not
with Jerry Remy at his side. Working with a local legend is not easy,
but Orsillo handles it with ease and always does a great job of setting
the Rem Dawg up. Trademark call: "Down by way of the K".

Michael Kay (YES). Kay is a New Yorker and a Yankee fan, through
and through. After all, he's a Bronx native and went to Fordham. He
covered the Yankees for years as writer for the NY  Post and NY
Daily News. He's a former broadcast partner of the immortal John
"thaaaaaaaa-Yankees win" Sterling. Kay, wouldn't fit into the classic
play-by-play mold like his fellow Fordham graduates, Vin Scully or
Mike Breen. Kay is the everyman, a guy happy to be in the seat that
most people would give up their first and second child for. Sometimes
goes overboard on the stats, but so what. It's obvious that Kay loves
the game and loves the Yankees. Goes out of his way to really set
up the analysts in the booth. Trademark call: "Seeeeeee Ya"


No need to spend a lot of time and effort on this one. Jerry Remy
(NESN) has attained cult-hero status. He is Boston through and through,
complete with the thick accent. If he ran for Mayor, he'd beat
Marbles Menino is a landslide. Knowledgeable and funny, Remy
takes his job seriously, but not himself. He has become an institution
and as much a part of Fenway Park as the Green Monster.

YES employs rotating game analysts (David Cone, Paul O'Neill,
John Flaherty, Al Leiter, and Ken Singleton, who also does play-by-play)
They are all very, very good. Leiter and Flaherty can explain the game
and situations as well as anyone in the business. O'Neill and Cone are
brilliant in conveying their experiences to the viewers. If you want one
analyst to depend on every night, then I'm sure you'd favor Remy and
NESN. If variety is your cup of tea, YES is the place for you.


Does Heidi Watney (NESN) know baseball? Does it matter? She is
the type of eye-candy that makes male viewers between 50 and 70
go into full cardiac arrest. Raised in California and the cousin of
PGA golfer, Watney was hand picked by Tom Werner, former
big-time television producer, and part-owner of the Red Sox. Watney
isn't always buttoned up and prepared with her information, but
she does a good job, and the camera fawns over her like an 8th grader
who suddenly discovers he has a super-hot teacher. Watney is sure to be
on the radar of ESPN, if not Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight,
or TMZ. :)

Kim Jones (YES) is a sports journalist through and through. Earned a degree
from Penn State in journalism and was on the NFL beat for the Star-Ledger for
many years. She continues to write a Sunday NFL column for that paper.
Jones is ALWAYS prepared and is really knowledgeable  about the game.
She is not in the same category as Watney when it comes to looks, but not
many people are. However, the camera does like her and she has a nice
way and presence about her. Only drawback is that she sometimes gets
too emotional in her post-game interviews and tends to fall into the
"hero worshipping" category.


NESN and YES are in a class of their own when it comes to broadcasting
baseball. They are far and away the best of the regional networks and
can more than hold their own with ESPN and Fox. Ruppert Murdoch's
hack-in-your email network does only one game a week, NESN and
YES broadcasts every night. NESN approaches every game as if it's
the seventh game of the World Series and it shows.

The director/producer tandem of Mike Narracci and Russ Kenn are
outstanding and kind of like Adrian Gonzalez. Everybody knew he could
ball, but until he got on the national stage, nobody really knew he was this
spectacular. If Kenn and Narracci were in New York, they'd be recognized
for their brilliance.

YES is equipped with people behind the scenes that have eye-popping
backgrounds and resumes. John Fillippelli was given the task of starting
the network from scratch, backed with the deep pockets of George
Steinbrenner. Everything about their broadcasts is first class and it's obvious
that no expense has been spared. Their nightly production is network
quality and enjoyable to watch.


NESN and YES have a lot to work with. Teams with great tradition,
historic and new stadiums, die-hard fan bases, and deep pockets. They
both do a great job of maximizing their resources and producing spectacular
broadcasts every night.

Which network is better? As I said before, it's like trying to decide between
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Both are brilliant, always prepared, and
rarely have a bad game. Take your pick.

+Full Disclosure: I worked for NESN from 2004-2006. Had a great
time there but as everyone knows, I'm not biased.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Before that spectacular, sun-soaked Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium,
Christian Lopez was just regular guy. He graduated from St. Lawrence
University and works at Verizon selling phones at one of their retail stores.
Lopez is a die-hard Yankees fan and admires Derek Jeter.

At 2pm Eastern time, his life changed forever. He came up with the
ball that Jeter hit for number 3,000, a home run that made Jeter part
of a club that doesn't include Ruth, Gerhig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Berra,
or any other legendary Yankee.

When Lopez beat over more than 48,000 fans for the ball, it would've
been easy for him to say "cha-ching". Souvenir experts said the Derek
Jeter 3,000 hit ball would be worth around $250,000. That is big money,
especially for a 23-year old kid fresh out of college. Lopez could've had
the ball on eBay by the time Jeter collected his next hit, which came two
innings later. Lopez could've waited and fielded offers from the highest
bidder that would've made him pretty wealthy. But he didn't. Lopez
made sure that Jeter got the ball for free.

A lot of  people in this country were saying, "you idiot!" How can you give
up that ball for nothing."  After all, big-money grabs have become the American
way, haven't they? Reggie Bush took a king's ransom from a prospective agent
when he was still in college. Terrell Pryor put his signature on anything Ohio
State for more than $40,000. And how about juror number three in the Casey
Anthony trial. As soon as the foreman said, "not guilty", she sprinted from
the Juror's box to the salon for a make-over and was on "Good Morning
America" the next day. I think she asked for Gloria Allred's phone number
and hired a publicist, hoping to capitalize on someone else's misfortune. Is
this a great country or what? And how sick will it be when Casey Anthony
makes her first dollar off the death of her daughter.

But Lopez didn't have dollar signs in his eyes. He didn't want to get become
instantly wealthy just because he was fortunate to be in the right place at the
right time. He didn't hold the Yankees hostage for season-tickets, dinner with
Reggie Jackson, or ask to throw out the pitch. He just gave the ball to security
who passed it on to Jeter. Then it was like Charlie in the "Willy Wonka and the
Chocalate Factory." After giving back the gobstopper or whatever that piece
of candy was called, Willy gave Charlie the world.  The Yankees rewarded
Lopez with prime tickets for the rest of the season and a few other goodies.

Lopez will get to enjoy some time in the limelight. There will be feature articles
in every metropolitan newspaper. He'll be on ESPN, "Good Morning America",
Letterman, Leno, and every talk show in between. But we'll all be happy for
him because he wasn't someone who wanted to get rich quick off a Ponzi
scheme or schemed his way to selling the ball to the highest bidder. Its good
to know there are some people who have been raised the right way and
are just as classy as the player who hit it, Derek Jeter.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


The Stanley Cup doesn't come out very often, but when it does, it becomes
a rock star like Mick Jagger. People want to touch it, have their picture taken
with it, and in some cases, sleep with it. Hockey's Holy Grail has been kissed
more times than Madonna, hoisted as often as Bud Light, and has more mileage
on it than one of Tiger Woods' porn stars.

The question is, why have sports fans become so fascinated with something that
has more nicknames than Shaq? First of all, Lord Stanley is by far the
coolest looking trophy in sports. The World Series trophy appears as if all 30
pennants on it will come apart when the wind blows. If you added eyes and
a smile to the NBA Trophy, you'd have Wilson from the movie, "Castaway"
on a nice mantle. The Lombardi Trophy is handsome, but it just isn't big,
rugged, and as attractive as the Stanley Cup.

In a sport that ranks dead last in popularity among the major ones, how did the
NHL's big trophy become the most coveted among players and fans? Until 1994,
the Stanley Cup was like Katie Couric's run as the anchor of the CBS Evening News:
On the big stage, but nobody really cared or paid much attention to it. Most of the
time, the Stanley Cup was touring Canada along with the team that had just won it.
For the people in the United States, it was out of sight and out of mind.

That all changed when the New York Rangers won it all 17 years ago. They
treated Lord Stanley as if they were taking the hottest girl in the world to the
prom. They showed it off proudly to anyone and anywhere. It went to stadiums,
swimming pools, strip clubs, and sandy beaches. It stayed on the front page
of the New York Post longer than the lurid details of Tiger's downfall.                            
The Rangers started the tradition where every player, coach and trainer gets the
trophy for at least one day. Since then, players have had their kids baptized in
Stanley's Cup or taken pictures of their babies in it for holiday greeting cards.
Where their imagination goes, so does the Stanley Cup.

The NHL allots 100 days for the winning team to do what they want with the Cup.
And it provides security and a chaperon just in case some derelict out there
has grand plans of hijacking Lord Stanley and using it for a big ransom.

After going dry since 1972, The Boston Bruins are finally drinking out
of the Cup. They are on pace to outdo the Chicago Blackhawks who
paraded it around to every bar, stadium, and hot spot in the city with
broad shoulders. In just over two weeks, the Stanley Cup has been
to Fenway Park, the glistening NESN studios, and a bar where it helped
the rack up a tab of more than $150,000.

At 35 inches tall and almost 35lbs, the Stanley Cup is sturdy enough
to handle the wear and tear that goes with the miles of travel and the millions
of touches. It is like a golden retriever, tough but friendly, big and durable,
and approachable enough where you can kiss and caress it.

The Stanley Cup. Quite simply the coolest trophy in sports.