Wednesday, March 6, 2013



The Dos Equis guy is a fascinating mythical figure and one that a lot of men try to emulate.
He is cool, cultured,  and without a doubt, the most interesting man in the world. When
he drives a new car off the lot, it increases in value. When he goes to sleep, the sheep count
him. And he lives vicariously...through himself.

The Dos Equis man has no equal, but I'm starting to think he's really Josh Booty in disguise.
Booty has lived a life that most men who care about sports and being an athlete, would die
for. Gifted by the God's with a powerful right arm, Booty, like Bo, knows what it's like to
play professionally in two different sports. He played in college stadiums packed with more
than 100,000 fans and even got a World Series ring.

Yes, like the Dos Equis guy, Josh Booty lives vicariously...through himself.

Today, at the age of 37, Booty is getting another shot at the major leagues. He won a reality
show on the MLB Network called the "The Next Knuckler", that earned him a ticket to the
big league camp of the Arizona Diamondbacks where he is trying to earn a spot on the
team's  pitching staff as a knuckleball pitcher. Don't bet against Booty making the team
because he always seems to do what he wants and make it happen.

To fully appreciate the life and times of Booty, you have have to hit the rewind button and
go back to Shreveport, Louisiana where Booty grew up. The Shreveport area is unofficially
known as the cradle of quarterbacks. It has produced NFL signal-callers like Terry Bradshaw,
Joe Ferguson, Stan Humprhies, David Woodley, and Brock Berlin. Bert Jones and Bubby
Brister grew up just down the road near Ruston.

None of them put together a high school career as good as Booty's. Not Bradshaw. Not Jones.
Not Humphries. Booty played at Evangel  Christian Academy, a school that was built to
support a football program. They ran a version of the spread offense 10 years before the
spread offense became the rage in football. The school recruited the best players in the area
and with it, came allegations of cheating or at least, bending the rules until they nearly broke.

Booty was a phenom. He threw for 11,700 yards and 126 touchdowns on his way to being
named USA Today Offensive Player of the Year and National High School Player of the Year
by six different publications. Booty was selected to the All-Time High School football team,
the other  quarterbacks mentioned were Joe Namath and John Elway. Booty signed a letter-of
-intent to stay in state and play for LSU.

Baton Rouge would have to wait. As a power-hitting shortstop with thunder in his bat and
lightning in his arm, Booty was drafted 5th overall in 1994 by the Florida Marlins, signing
for a then-record $1.6 million.

As a professional baseball player, Booty struggled for the first time in his life. He had a
couple of 20-plus home run seasons in the minor leagues, but he struck out once  every three
at-bats. Still, Booty persevered and made it to the major leagues with the Florida Marlins,
picking up a World Series ring after the Fish won it all in 1997.

But Booty had the itch to play college football at LSU in front of 90,000 fans at Death Valley
in Baton Rouge. He said good-bye to the Marlins and hello to the Tigers. He won the starting
job as a sophomore and in his two years as the starter, tossed 24 touchdowns and was named
first-team All-SEC quarterback.

Yes, Booty was living vicariously...through himself. It was his sports sandbox and we were all
just playing in it.

Booty made himself eligible for the NFL Draft in 2001 and was taken by the Seattle Seahawks
in the 6th round. He also had stints with the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, but never
played a down in the NFL, but at least he could say that he was good enough to get drafted and
sign an NFL contract.

Since leaving football, Booty has been an entrepreneur and even had a few roles on the soap
opera, "Days of Our Lives." But when the MLB Network came calling, Booty jumped at the
chance to the "The Next Knuckler". Off course he beat out the likes of Doug Flutie, David
Greene,and younger brother, John David,  to win a ticket to Arizona's big league camp.

Booty is in camp with the DBacks fighting to earn a spot on the team. The odds are stacked
against Booty, but as he has showed us through his wonderful life, do not bet against him.
Booty may not have reached the two-sport stature of Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders, but what
he has done is pretty incredible.

He blazed his own trail, and as the most interesting man in sports, he has lived vicariously
through himself---and what a life it has been.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Patrick Burke, a former All-American lacrosse player at the University of Maryland has won
a national vote to be the wild-card entry to the 16th season of "Dancing With the Stars". Burke,
a native of the tony town of New Canaan, Connecticut, home to celebrities like Harry Connick,
Jr. NBC anchor Brian Williams, and sportswriter, Mike Lupica, was thrilled to get the final
spot on ABC's hit television show.

"I've been waiting a long time for this," said Burke, 48. "I was brought up in the Walter Schalk
school of dancers and now the world will see what I already know. This pasty-white, Irish guy
can dance his ass off."

Burke, who will be sponsored by Jack Daniels,  will be teamed with pro dancer, Cheryl Burke,
no relation. It will be the first Burke & Burke pairing in the history of the show. Burke the pro
dancer has been teamed with NFL players Chad Ochocinco and Warren Sapp in the past, thinks
P. Burke has some potential which could make them a dark horse to win the show.

"First of all, we need to get him in some kind of dancing shape. That goes without saying," said
C. Burke. "He'll need to cut down on the Ring Dings, Ho-Ho's, Chocolate Malt Balls, and Rum &
Cokes. If he can drop  20, we should have a chance."


Burke is no stranger to the big stage. In 1982, as a senior at New Canaan High School, he
teamed with Steve Tonra and Doug Stevens to execute a stirring rendition of Sam Cooke's,
"Cupid". Burke, wearing a giant-sized diaper, showed some serious dance moves to help the
trio capture the top-prize in the talent show. Burke is hoping lightning strikes 31 years later.

"Just as long as Chaz Bono doesn't show up, I think Cheryl and I will have a chance," said Burke.
"I can't promise you that I'll be sober, but I can guarantee you a great performance."

Burke was joined in the celebration by four of his 13 brothers, who think Patrick has the goods
to go all way.

"Patrick was never the fastest guy on the field. Think Manti' Teo plus two seconds," said Joe
Burke, a former legendary football player at Boston University, whose  football program ceased
operations just three practices into Burke's career. "But I got a tell you. He was nifty and sneaky
fast. I realize that was 25 years and 75 pounds ago, but I think he can dance with the best of them."

Burke said he'll turn to Howard Benedict, his lacrosse coach at New Canaan High School, for
advice on how to mentally prepare for his debut on "Dancing With The Stars".

"I owe everything to Howard," said Burke. "He was a complete space cadet off the field. Can
you imagine the school actually let that guy form and mold the youth of New Canaan when he
was an English teacher? But the guy could flat out coach lacrosse. I want to pick his brain and
see what he thinks about my Cha-cha-cha and how to work the judges. Benny was always good
at working the refs, so he might have some advice for me on how to sway the judges."

Burke is set to appear on "Dancing With The Stars" on March 23rd.

*Disclaimer: I'm just kidding.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013



After Lance Armstrong, Manti' Te'o, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, and a host of other athletes
who lied to everybody's faces, the sports world finally has somebody who is completely honest.
Zack Greinke, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for six years and more than $140 in the
off-season, said the reason for it was simple: it was about the money. Yep, it was ALL about the money and the former Angel wasn't keeping his fingers crossed behind his back

“I could play for the worst team if they paid the most,” Greinke to John Heyman of “If the last-place team offers $200 million and the first-place team offers $10, I’m going to go
for the $200 million no matter what team it was."

And there you have it. A professional athlete who tells the truth. Strike up the band and start
partying like it's 1999. It's close to a miracle. Greinke's honesty is refreshing in a world where athletes lie more often than most Americans update their Facebook status. The former Cy Young award winner, who has battled anxiety issues during his career, had no fear about coming right out
and being criticized for being a greedy athlete. I'm sure he'll hear it from a lot of fans when
he has a rough outing and Greinke might just become baseball's Gordon Gekko. You remember
Gekko in the movie, "Wall Street",  famously saying, "greed, for a lack of a better word, is good."

But is sure is nice to hear about an athlete be honest rather than hide behind what has become their
anthem: it's not about the money.

At least Greinke  wasn't like Albert Pujols who turned his back on loyalty a year ago, taking the
gateway to the West to sign a $250 million contract with the Angels. Pujols said it had nothing to
to with the Benjamin's but rather a conversation he had with God, who apparently, thought he'd look
good wearing a halo. Nope, it had absolutely nothing to do with the money. Nothing.

In 2000, Alex Rodriquez signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers, which
was the richest ever signed in Major League Baseball history by $63 million. But of course, it had
absolutely nothing to do with making $25 million and change per season. A-Rod would never lie,
would he? Yes, he just wanted the opportunity to play for a last place team with no pitching in a city where it's 110 degrees in the shade during the summer. Money played no factor in his decision
whatsoever. Right.

Professional athletes keep score, they know who's making what and for how long. Last summer,
Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets was a free-agent and as a Dallas native, had a desire to
play for the Mavericks. Mark Cuban  offered a 5-year deal worth $75 million, but the Nets

showed him a max contract worth an extra year and $25 million. What do you think Mrs. Williams
was thinking? "Um, Deron, you can go back to Dallas to live in the off-season or as soon as you
retire, but there's no way you're going to leave all that money on the table. Not while I'm your
wife." If Williams took less money, other players in the NBA would look at him and say, "You're
a fool."

Tom Brady is a no fool. On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated reported the Patriots quarterback
re-structured his contract to help give the team more salary cap space. At first, everybody was
like, "Wow, he's the ultimate team player," and "Brady is so unselfish. Why can't be other players
like that?" Some of those other players were rolling their eyes and saying, "it's not what you all

By re-doing his deal, Brady saw the guaranteed money in his deal nearly double to $54 million
after signing a three year extension. There are no guaranteed contracts, only guaranteed money
in the NFL and there's a big difference. In 2011, Michael Vick signed a 6-year, $100 million
contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. If this were baseball and Vick got hurt in say, his second
year, or stunk as bad as Carl Crawford in Boston, he'd still get every penny of that $100 million.
The NFL doesn't work like that  After his  second year, the Eagles were on the verge of cutting
him with Vick not earning even half of  that $100 million. Both parties recently agreed to a 1-year, $10 million deal for next year.

Brady agreed to re-structure his contract in exchange for getting a lot more guaranteed money.
$54 million in guaranteed money. As he gets older and his skills erode and the chances of injury
increase, there's no telling if Brady could even make it to the final few years of the contract and
he'd get nothing. With this new deal,  he gets a nice sweetener. Even though Brady's wife, Gisele
is worth more than $300 million and Brady has done well for himself, there is no way he's going
to just give up $20 million just to make his employers happy. Would you?

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning restructured his deal three years ago to give his
team more cap space. Nobody made as big deal out of it as they did with Brady, but the cases
are similar. Manning gave the team some relief in exchange for a sweetener (more guaranteed
money). No athlete gives back money that he has earned. That's not the way it works because
after all, it's ALL about the money.

Zack Greinke knows it and so does just about every fan in the country. It's about the money,
always has been, always will be. But give Greinke for being honest. More professional athletes
should follow his lead.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Less than three weeks after reeling in the top-rated recruiting class in the nation, Nick
Saban is thinking outside the box, but well within NCAA rules. The head coach at Alabama
offered a scholarship to one of the best young football players in the country. Dylan Moses
is 6'1" and 245 pounds and can run like the wind, clocking the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.
Saban has visions of Moses spearheading the Crimson Tide defense, going sideline-to-
sideline to make bone-crushing hits.

Trouble is, Saban has to wait a while. Moses is an 8th-grader out of Baton Rouge, LA. That's
right, the kid is only 14-years old, but Alabama wants him now. In the words of legendary
coach Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going on out there?!" For college programs to even
THINK about recruiting an 8th-grader is truly ridiculous. What's next, AJ McCarron and
Katherine Webb pro-creating to give Saban his first blue-chipper in the class of 2031?

Most people in the sports world already know  the NCAA has more than a issues than Lindsay
Lohan. Some of their rules are absurd and how they enforce them, a travesty. But the governing
body of college sports has to do something about this. If they don't do something now, a lot of
young kids will get screwed up,exploited, and taken advantage of. The world of college recruiting
will get more sleazy and salacious than it already is and the impact it may have on our nation's
school systems, from elementary to high school, could be dangerous.

It used to be a big deal when a high school junior was offered a scholarship, now we have a
kid in junior high school being offered one. I'm sure by this time next year, we'll be reading
about how the child of Manti Teo's  girlfriend who is dead but didn't really exist, has been
offered a scholarship to Notre Dame. He can't run a lick like his old man and can't process
information quite fast enough, just like Manti, but he still has great pedigree, at least that's
what Roniah Tuisasosopo will tell us.

This tsunami is starting to build. If the NCAA doesn't do something to stop it, college athletics
could end up in a worse state than it presently is. From the spread offense to combinations of
uniforms, college sports, much like the professional ranks, likes to play copy cat. After seeing
Saban and Alabama offer and 8th-grader a scholarship, you don't think 100 other coaches
and programs are going to do the same thing? Heck, Saban saw Les Miles and LSU offer Moses
a scholarship before he entered the 8th-grade. What other college is going to be on the doorstep
of Moses by tomorrow morning?

This move by Saban could set off a fire chain of events from college recruiters targeting
players at the Pop Warner level to school administrators imposing restrictions on coaches who
want to set foot on their junior high school campuses. As we've seen over and over, coaches
cheat and try to bend the rules all the time. If they can't get near the school, I'm sure more
than a few of them will camp out in town, in the recreation center, or even at the church in
town, just for the opportunity to talk with the kid.

Insane. This is really going to get out of control if the NCAA doesn't act.

Pressure is already intense for kids and their parents when it comes to sports. Everybody thinks
little Johnny is good enough to get a scholarship to college and play Division I. There
are travel teams, personalized attention, and elite summer camps already. Saban and other college
coaches offering scholarships to kids in the 8th-grade will take the pressure to an entirely
differently level.

And really, you don't think something could happen between the 8th-grade and senior year
of high school, when college recruits can officially sign their letter-of-intents? Just look what
happened to Te'o in the forty days from the regular season to the national championship game.
A player can get hurt, lose interest, and fail out of school in large part because he feels secure
in knowing that he's got a full-ride already offered to him and he doesn't stay committed to
his work.

It's a joke, it really is. What is the benefit of offering a kid a scholarship in the 8th-grade? He
can change his mind as much as he wants until the day he has to sign the letter-of-intent
during February of his senior year. You don't think other coaches will try to talk him out of
their "first offer" and commitment? Did you see Urban Meyer work his magic at Ohio State?

And when will the parents start looking for a hand-out and some "grease" to get their kid
to accept that scholarship offer from a school? Oh, right, like that's never happened before,
especially at an SEC school. College recruiting is dirty, nasty, and ruthless. This will make
its cess pool even murkier.

This has disaster written all over it. I realize the NCAA has been busy lately with the University
of Miami scandal, in addition to their own. And that was just after the whole Penn State ordeal
which took a lot of their time and energy. But the NCAA needs to step up and do something
about this.

It is dangerous and it's not good. Not for the game, the colleges, the parents, but most importantly,
the kids.

Friday, February 22, 2013


If there was a food label on Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, it would read: all natural, no ingredients or preservatives added. The New Canaan resident and sports talk radio star is genuine, grounded and has a passion for sports that is very real.

"Sports have always been my friend. I was an only child and the relationship with my parents was a little rocky as an only child," said Russo. "Sports were sort of my sibling growing up and they are personal to me. I look at sports as a one-on-one scenario."

Russo's career in sports was almost over before it really even started. After graduating from Rollins College in Florida in 1982, Russo flew to Hawaii for Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings hoping to get his first big break. He ended up landing a job with the Jacksonville Suns, the AA affiliate of the Montreal Expos. Unfortunately, his stay on the payroll didn't last very long.

"They hired me to sell advertising time and do play-by-play for their games," Russo recalled. "But they fired me after six weeks and before the season even started. I wasn't the red-hot salesman they thought I was — they used me. Then I banged on the door of a radio station in Jacksonville and got a job three days later doing talk shows. That triggered my career."

Russo went from Jacksonville to a station in Orlando where the general manager sent him to speech therapy because listeners had trouble understanding what he was saying. Undeterred, Russo secured
a job at WMCA in New York where he got tagged with his nickname by Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News in 1988.

"He first called me, 'the excitable one'. Then he gave me the name, 'Mad Dog', which I liked," Russo said. "When I got a job at WFAN, Imus played it up, and the next you thing you know, I have a burgeoning career."

In 1989, Russo was paired with Mike Francessa to form the incredibly successful Mike and the Mad Dog show. Amid reports of dissension between Francessa and Russo, the program came to an end nearly two decades later.

"That was a unique run," he said. "How many people get the chance to do the same show in the same town for 19 years? How many people stay married for that long? The show needed a break and was getting stale. But when it's all said and done, the Mike and the Mad Dog show is probably what I'll be remembered for."

In 2008, Russo signed a 5-year deal with Sirius XM radio, which gave "Mad Dog" his own channel. He says there's no chance of a reunion with Francessa in the future, but is happy with his current job and the place he and his family have called home since 1996.

"I love New Canaan. This is a good town for me," he said. "There are a lot of successful people who are not wrapped up in what you do. They're not that impressed. I can do what I want to do and fit in well. Plus, it's great for kids."

Russo can be heard on SiriusXM radio Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m