In yet another dreary Mets season, Matt Harvey did give fans a number of thrills, such as throwing two scoreless innings as the starting pitcher in the 2013 All-Star Game played at Citi Field this past July. You would have to go back nearly 30 years to Dwight Gooden’s heyday to find a Mets pitcher who could dominate opposing hitters at will.
Harvey was such a big story that Jimmy Fallon used him for a hilarious “man in the street” bit to see how many New Yorkers could recognize him. ESPN Magazine put him on the cover in the buff for its July “body issue” while Men’s Journal ran a feature on him that made it clear he was thoroughly enjoying the trappings of being a handsome, young New York celebrity.
Last month Mets fans’ collective spirits took a dive when it was diagnosed that Harvey’s pitching elbow suffered a tear and that it was probable that he would miss the 2014 season. It would be a certainty if he elected to have surgery, something that he understandably is hoping to avoid although it seems inevitable that he will need a procedure.
Given that Harvey has been a hero to beleaguered Mets fans, combined with the fact that his future is clearly in jeopardy, many of the media who cover the team have been reticent to report that he has been rather unapproachable in the clubhouse for a good chunk of the season, and that you were lucky to get a one-word response to questions if he did deign to talk to you.
Harvey’s arrogance would certainly have gone unreported by me had he not made a jerk out of himself last Wednesday when he agreed to be a guest on Dan Patrick’s NBC Sports Network Show. Instead of answering Patrick’s questions about his pitching arm issues, Harvey insisted on shilling, rather inarticulately I might add, for the cellular telephone chip manufacturer Qualcomm. Dan understandably skewered him after the interview was over.
In contrast, McDonald’s did things right last Tuesday when it brought in Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz for a press event at its Times Square restaurant to promote the new Mighty Wings snack. Cruz is a commercial endorser for McDonald’s but he gamely took questions about the Giants’ 0-2 start from the attending press.
The personable Cruz is one of the few Hispanic sports figures to land a bevy of national endorsement deals. He has done TV and magazine ads for Time Warner Cable, Gillette, and Advil, as well as raking in big bucks from Nike for wearing its apparel. Even the great Mariano Rivera never landed the lucrative corporate contracts that Cruz has.
New York City’s official tourism bureau, NYC and Co., owes Major League Baseball’s scheduling committee and the good folks from the Bay Area a lot of thanks. Thousands of visitors from Northern California came to New York this past week for the sole purpose of seeing the Giants play the Mets at Citi Field (the Mets’ accounting department was delighted since the place would have been a ghost town otherwise) and the Yankees in the Bronx.
The Queens Economic Development Corp., which had a booth at the US Open to inform visitors of what Queens has to offer, should do the same in front of Citi Field. Queens has terrific restaurants that are just as good, if not better, and far less expensive than those in Manhattan. Yet the vast majority of out-of-town visitors attending a sporting event don’t know that. If nothing else, the QEDC should be visible when the Phillies come into play the Mets next year because a lot of fans drive in from Philadelphia and its suburbs to see their team at Citi Field. They have already paid the high parking charges so they might as well get their money’s worth by walking over the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge to Flushing and trying one of its many fine dining establishments.
It wasn’t that long ago that the San Francisco Giants drew even fewer fans than the Mets do for a game. A great deal of the credit for the turnaround has to go to the team’s CEO, Laurence Baer, who was instrumental in getting AT& T Park built in San Francisco and then putting together a team that won two World Series in the last three years. Baer is the rare baseball executive who enjoys schmoozing with the media and with fans. Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon could learn a lot by observing him. Perhaps Jeff’s dad, Mets owner Fred Wilpon, could make a call to Baer to arrange for Jeff to have an internship with him.
I asked Baer about the team that plays across San Francisco Bay from his, the Oakland Athletics, and their quest to get a new stadium. Baer and the Giants are not happy that the A’s want to move south to San Jose, where the Giants have a minor league team. They consider it to be their territory. The City of San Jose is suing MLB over its attempts to prevent the A’s from moving there.
Baer could not comment on this pending litigation but he did not disagree with my assessment that the A’s would be better off building a new ballpark on Oakland’s sizable waterfront, which is well-served by mass transit. The A’s would be rolling the dice moving 50 miles from their current home in the hopes of tapping into the Silicon Valley corporate world.
The Mets’ cable outlet, SNY, made a big deal in advance of Jerry Seinfeld’s guest analyst gig last Tuesday night that lasted a paltry four innings. Except for one joke about surgeon to star athletes Dr. James Andrews, who gets a lot of press attention even when he just offers an opinion, Jerry did not bring much to the table. Seinfeld, a Queens College alum, did not meet with the media, and his bodyguards got him out of Citi Field as quickly as possible by having him interact with as few people as possible.
Veteran players making rookies crossdress for the last road trip of the season is a time-honored hazing tradition in baseball, but the Mets veterans added a nice twist by having a bridal theme for the rookie class of 2013. Zack Wheeler, the team’s highest touted rookie, was the bride, while the other first-year players were bridesmaids as the Mets flew from Philadelphia to Cincinnati this past Sunday. Taking a page from US Weekly, In Touch, and Life & Style, Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud wore the lavender dresses best!
Whoever coined the term “winning ugly” must have had the Jets’ 27-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday in mind. The Jets racked up 20 penalties that cost them 158 yards. They should have been pulverized by the opposing team but fortunately they were playing the Bills, a team clearly at their level.
Like the Jets, the Bills have a rookie quarterback, EJ Manuel, leading their offense. Jets QB Geno Smith was a shade better than Manuel as he was able to hook up with wide receivers Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes for big plays, while Manuel did not have the same luck utilizing his All-Pro receiver, Stevie Johnson.
The Jets are going to have to find a better kick return specialist than Clyde Gates. The 20-yard line is the default position on kickoffs if a returner elects not to run out of the end zone. Last Sunday, Gates never even made it close to the 20 on his kickoff returns.
The less said about the Giants’ 38-0 debacle in Charlotte at the hands of the Carolina Panthers the better. Big Blue will be traveling to Kansas City to play the Chiefs, who have quickly become one of the NFL’s best teams. My guess is the Giants will rise to the occasion next week and get their first win even though they will be a heavy underdog.
Under Armour, the Baltimore-based sports apparel company, continues to chip away at Nike’s dominance in the marketplace. St. John’s University announced this week that Under Armour will be the official supplier of uniforms for its sports teams for the next six years.
With both leisure time and disposable income becoming increasingly more difficult for Americans, destination and resorts are competing harder for attention. California’s San Luis Obispo County took out a booth at the GBK Lounge in Manhattan’s Empire Hotel during Fashion Week, while the Puerto Rico Tourism Company did the same at the US Open. Last Monday, the Blue Lagoon Resort in Iceland, the European country located closest to the USA, held a reception for travel agents and the press in Midtown Manhattan.
The weather is still warm and sunny but we all know that the cold weather isn’t far ahead. Ski Vermont, the private consortium that markets that state’s many ski resorts, was in town last week to promote the fact that nearly all the resorts there will be offering bargain lodging and lessons in January to beginners. Many ski lodges, including Killington and Stowe Mountain, will be making their own snow as early as November. Sugarbush is offering an unlimited ski pass without any blackout dates to those under 30 for $299. The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe — yes, the very von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame — still offers the best in cross-country skiing, and will be opening an Austrian lager brewery. The family hopes to ship cans and bottles to retailers all over the world by next year.
Consumer Reports is great when it comes to comparing high ticket items such as cars, computers, and refrigerators, and on occasion they touch lower-priced items. If you want to find the best-rated in everyday items such as snacks, paper goods, soaps, oral care products, and cleaning supplies, log onto productoftheyearusa.com. A research company, TNS, surveys a scientific sampling of 50,000 consumers to get the results.
You know that autumn has officially arrived when TV Guide publishes its annual TV preview issues. TV Guide is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. While it may not be the largest-selling weekly magazine anymore, it still does the best job of covering broadcasting in what has become a very crowded entertainment publication and website marketplace.
“The Million Second Quiz,” which ran on NBC for two weeks in prime time, was something of a ratings disappointment. Still, I have to tip my hat to NBC for trying to revive the game show format. It would be nice to see game shows make a comeback in daytime television. They were a staple of my childhood.