“We were the first team to ever beat the Celtics, who went 68-14 that year, in a seventh game at the Boston Garden,” former Knicks forward Jerry Lucas recalled last Friday night as the Knicks honored members of their 1972-73 squad, the last New York team to win an NBA championship.
Lucas obviously took a pride in that accomplishment, but he was also sending a message to fans of the current Knicks team that even the Miami Heat, led by Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, a team that recently peeled off 27 straight wins, can be beaten by the never-say-die Knicks in the playoffs.
I asked Knicks head coach Mike Woodson if his players understand the immortal glory that comes with being a champion, since pro athletes are renowned for being notoriously poor students of sports history. “Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd, and Tyson Chandler [members of the Knicks who have won NBA rings with other teams] can tell them how special it is,” Woodson said, then joking about how he asked for autographs from members of the 1973 team at dinner the night before.
Knicks forward “Dollar” Bill Bradley became a U.S. senator from New Jersey in 1978 and was twice re-elected. I asked him about the acidic state of national politics, where compromise between the two parties has become a laughable concept. “It will probably get worse before it gets better,” he said. “Only about 50 House of Representatives seats are even remotely competitive thanks to state legislatures which draw up districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic or Republican. Incumbents from both parties have to worry far more about primary challenges from extremists than they do about winning votes in a general election.” The Tea Party’s success against the GOP establishment bears him out.
Bradley also lamented the loss of congeniality in politics. “Senator Alan Simpson and I were good friends even though we were from different parties,” he said, recalling the Wyoming Republican. “He would bring his family to the Jersey Shore for vacations and my family and I would go out to Cody to spend time with his family. That camaraderie helped us when it came to getting legislation passed.”
He also recalled his opponent from his first Senate campaign, conservative Republican Jeffrey Bell. “We debated 21 times across the state that fall,” he said. “We got to know and like each other. We never engaged in personal attacks. Jeff, who was an advisor to President Reagan, was actually very helpful to me with respect to making sure that New Jersey taxpayers were not victimized by the Tax Reform Act of 1986.”
Mets first baseman Ike Davis had a rough Opening Day, as he struck out four times in five plate appearances. Despite his futility, the Mets won the game, and that may account for why Ike was all smiles afterward. “I have never gotten a hit on Opening Day and I have kept my streak alive!” he said with a hearty chuckle.
Even when Ike was badly struggling in the first half of the 2012 season, he never seemed to get down on himself or become moody toward teammates, fans and the media. It says a lot about his character.
The Mets recorded a video of their version of the Harlem Shake that featured team Vice President of Public Relations Jay Horowitz dancing with Mr. Met, followed by nearly the entire team in cartoon costumes gyrating and finally ending with team captain David Wright hip-bumping relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins in manager Terry Collins’ office. Collins shook his head in disbelief.
Hawkins pitched for the Yankees for a season, and I asked him if he thought that Derek Jeter would ever take part in such a video. “You don’t think that he would?” Hawkins replied. It was clear that his tongue was planted deeply into his cheek.
World Wrestling Entertainment brought its annual Wrestlemania extravaganza to the New York area for the first time in years last Sunday, holding it in MetLife Stadium. According to WWE Senior Vice President John Saber and the Big Apple’s official tourism and development agency, NYC & Company, the beneficial economic impact of Wrestlemania will exceed $125 million.
The WWE proved once again to be a corporate citizen as it raised money for Hurricane Sandy relief, promoted literacy at an event at City College of New York and had its stars visit local hospitals.
I had a chance to chat with wrestler Paul Wight, better known as “The Big Show” because of his 7-foot, over 400-pound frame. Wight is in his fifteenth year as a WWE attraction, and he has proven adept at playing both a good guy and a villain — admitting that he prefers the latter. There was a time when professional wrestling was filled with guys north of 50 years of age, such as Ric Flair, Harley Race and Dusty Rhodes, but no longer because of the increased physical, travel and acting demands of the job.
“The truth is that we have a shortage of veterans at the WWE,” Wight admitted.
He also cited WWE CEO Vince McMahon’s decision in the 1980s to publicly admit that wrestling matches are scripted and that the results are predetermined as key to the company’s growth.
Wight also talked about how WWE writers brilliantly lampoon pop culture. A recent example is the introduction of a new wrestler called Fandango (real name: Curtis Hussey), who fancies himself a competitive dancer and tangos into the ring with a lovely partner. It is a brilliant spoof of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and its star hoofer, Maxim Chmerkovskiy, in particular.
The hybridization of action and comedy, along with the fact that there are no reruns, is the leading reason why WWE telecasts are the highest-rated programs on cable’s USA, Syfy and Ion networks.
MSG Network, as part of its debate-oriented “Lineup” series, is showing great sports movies this month so that viewers can debate which is the greatest of all time. On the positive side, it’s fun to hear commentary from various actors, directors and athletes. On the negative side, starting the films at 10:30 p.m. means that most of us who work will have to remember to DVR them. Of course, the central question is this: How can one compare “Caddyshack” to “Raging Bull”?
Madison Square Garden and Cablevision CEO James Dolan has carved out a second career as an in-demand guitarist. His band, JD & the Straight Shot, will be opening for another famous guitarist, Eagles member Joe Walsh, this Monday at the new Paramount Theater in Huntington, LI. JD & the Straight Shot will also be performing at the New Orleans Jazz Festival May 4 and 5.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of former Newsday sports columnist Stan Isaacs last week. Stan, along with his colleagues, the late Vic Ziegel and Maury Allen, wrote about sports with a humorous touch, which you don’t see as much these days, although the Post’s Mike Vaccaro and Kevin Kernan, along with the Daily News’s Filip Bondy, have tried to keep some humor in the sports sections of the dailies.
In recent years Newsday has foolishly reduced its sports columns, including canceling Mark Herrmann’s witty Windup column, which, along with the coupons, was the best reason to buy the Long Island paper on Sundays.
I guess we can all breathe a sigh of relief now that Mike Francesa has signed a contract extension to continue his afternoon show on WFAN. I wonder if CBS Radio executives have to give him a bonus in case they move their CBS Sports Radio network to 660 AM and limit WFAN to its new second home, 101.9 on the FM dial. Francesa’s long-running WFAN Sunday morning NFL show will be broadcast nationally beginning this fall on the CBS Sports Radio Network.
The CJ Foundation for SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, recently honored Steve Rosner, the CEO of the powerhouse sports marketing firm 16 W; and actor, author, commentator, highly decorated retired police officer and Howard Beach native Bo Dietl for their diligent fundraising work to find a cure for this tragic and still mysterious-as-ever disease.
The annual Tribeca Film Festival gets underway Wednesday, April 17. There are a number of free events including outdoor screenings of classic films such as “The Birds” and “Beetlejuice” in front of the World Financial Center at dusk on April 18 and 19, as well as a street fair on Greenwich Street on Saturday, April 27.
The thirst for sports collectibles must be endless. A website, cufflinks.com, sells cuff links made from pieces of bats, gloves, and baseballs that were used in major league games.
Cable’s Discovery Network held its annual preview for the media and advertisers last week. Taking a page out of the Evel Knievel playbook, Discovery will broadcast the attempt of high-wire legend Nik Wallenda to walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope on June 23. Its Velocity Channel will have a new show, “Americarna,” hosted by NASCAR crew chief veteran Ray Evernham, in which he will try to restore old wrecks from the 1920s and ’30s moonshine era, which is how NASCAR got its start, into racing condition. NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon will make occasional appearances.
Oh yes, Discovery announced that Forest Hills High School alum Jerry Springer will host “Tabloid,” a show that looks at scandals past and present, on its popular ID channel. It sounds like they got the right guy.
As more of us become aware of the importance of proper nutrition, the marketplace is responding. The Lakewood Blue Claws, the Phillies’ South Atlantic League affiliate, who play in beautiful First Energy Park not far from the Jersey Shore, will have a Healthy Plate Concession Stand, where salads and fresh fruit will be sold.
McDonald’s hired Knicks three-point shooting guard Steve Novak to promote its new Premium McWrap, which consists of grilled chicken and steamed vegetables.
“This is the kind of low-calorie healthy snack that I love,” Novak told me before the Knicks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks for their 11th straight victory last Friday night.
Finally, the Olive Garden restaurant chain will be introducing new dishes that have fewer carbohydrates than its existing offerings, and those of most other Italian restaurants.