While it is now commonplace for professional sports organizations to have a night devoted to honoring the LGBTQ community, it is a recent phenomenon. The Chicago Cubs became the first MLB team to salute the community 20 years ago when they held a “Gay Days” weekend at Wrigley Field. To say that was a controversial marketing decision in the conservative, macho sports would be a gross understatement.
The Mets marked their fifth Pride Night this past Friday with a T-shirt giveaway sponsored by Citi. They honored the LGBT Network and Callen-Lorde Health Centers, which provide medical services to the LGBTQ community regardless of ability to pay. They also gave a portion of Friday’s ticket revenue to the LGBT Network.
There was a surreal moment that night. Mike Janela, who engages fans between innings at Citi Field, was hosting the daily contest where a kid tries to hit home runs in a miniature replica of the Mets’ home field by using a Wiffle bat and a tee. Janela was wearing the Mets Pride T-shirt, which featured the rainbow colors in the team’s NY insignia. What made all this a bit comical was that Chick-fil-A, an organization not exactly known for tolerating alternative lifestyles, sponsored the contest.
Dominic Smith, one of baseball’s most socially aware players, told me during Friday’s pregame practice that he was thrilled the Mets were hosting Pride Night and was aware this event would have been unheard of not so long ago. He was wearing a “Love Is Love” T-shirt which was manufactured for Mets players by the team’s charitable arm, the Amazin’ Mets Foundation, and he pointed out how teammates Taijuan Walker, Marcus Stroman and Edwin Diaz were also wearing them during batting practice. Smith conceded most Mets players, however, eschewed publicly wearing the “Love Is Love” apparel.
Mets broadcaster and Flushing native Gary Cohen, like most baseball fans, is not a fan of umpires making pitchers having to show their gloves, caps and belts to them to see if they may be using foreign substances to doctor baseballs. “It’s baseball’s version of ‘stop and frisk,’” he said last Tuesday. Seconds later, cameras showed former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg taking in the game in the first row behind home plate. He was not identified by name.
Tylor Megill gave the Mets a solid start last week in his big-league debut against the Atlanta Braves. The handsome Megill bears a strong resemblance to actor Liev Schreiber of “Ray Donovan” fame. He showed a lively and friendly personality in his postgame Zoom press conference. If he can pitch decently, he’ll surely become a fan favorite.
It wasn’t that long ago when Mets fans used to applaud a visiting player who performed well in a game, especially a pitcher, when he came up for his last at-bat. That was classy sportsmanship. When Phillies ace Aaron Nola came to bat Friday afternoon in the fifth inning after striking out 10 straight Mets to tie Tom Seaver’s MLB record, there was not even a smattering of applause.
Following another tepid performance from the Mets offense Sunday, which resulted in a 4-2 loss to the Phillies, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso assured all the team’s offense would come alive very shortly during the postgame press conference. If the Mets help revive the struggling New York Yankees in the Bronx this weekend because of a failure to hit the ball, the cries for personnel changes will surely grow exponentially despite Alonso’s plea for patience.
Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm grew up in Omaha and admitted to me before Friday’s game he is a bit intimidated by the size of Philadelphia, which is our nation’s sixth-largest city. Of course, Philadelphia is Omaha when you compare it to New York City. Visit Philly, that city’s tourist bureau, may want to hire Bohm to be a spokesman for its burgeoning culinary scene. “Philadelphia has so many great restaurants. I haven’t eaten in the same place twice,” he told me.
Bohm attended Wichita State University, which is the alma mater of former Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey, who now serves as that school’s pitching coach. Bohn spoke highly of Pelfrey and told me he wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a pitching coach for a major league team.
Walt Weiss had a fine career as a shortstop for the Colorado Rockies and served as their manager from 2013 through 2016. He is now the bench coach for the Atlanta Braves. He grew up in the New York suburb of Suffern and remains the best baseball player to ever come out of Rockland County.
Although he resides in Colorado, Weiss told me last week he still returns on occasion to see old friends and family. Suffern is located right next door to Mahwah, NJ, and I asked him if he used to go across the state line for what was way cheaper gas back then. “Of course! My friends and I used to also go to liquor stores there because you had to be 21 to buy beer in New York State but only had to be 18 in New Jersey in the early 1980s!” He chuckled when I told him the main advantage now in going to New Jersey is you can get plastic bags in retail stores while they’re verboten in New York.
The New York Islanders certainly acquitted themselves well in the 2021 National Hockey League playoffs as they came up an agonizing goal short in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup semifinals against their tormentors from last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz have turned this once joke of a franchise into a serious title contender for years to come.
The only blemish during the Islanders’ recent run was how some fans threw beer cans on the ice following their 3-2 win over the Lightning in Game 6, which may have been their farewell to Nassau Coliseum. The media may have played an inadvertent role in encouraging these knuckleheads by constantly referring to the Coliseum as “the old barn.” While it may have been a term of affection, some idiots may have seen it as a license to act recklessly. After all, why behave in a “dump” that they probably won’t see again?
Contrary to popular belief, the Nassau Coliseum is not being torn down, at least in the near future anyway. It will still be home to the Long Island Nets of the NBA’s G-League as well as the New York Riptide of the National Lacrosse League. There is also a good chance the Islanders will play some games to start the 2021-22 season there if the UBS Arena isn’t ready to open. It’s safe to say building inspectors will be checking every inch of the Isles’ new Belmont Park home in light of the Surfside, Fla., condominium collapse tragedy.
While it didn’t get a lot of attention here because of the Islanders-Lightning playoff series, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Vegas Golden Knights. What is noteworthy, and frankly scary, was both the Canadiens’ head coach, Dominique Ducharme, and the VGK general manager, Kelly McCrimmon, tested positive for Covid-19, although both men were asymptomatic. The assumption is both men had been vaccinated but the new Delta variant is causing breakouts among those who have gotten the injection. Despite breakouts, everyone who is eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine should get one to (a) minimize the risk of bad health outcomes, and (b) prevent the virus from being able to mutate into deadlier forms.
Life and style
“Clarice,” the television spinoff of the 1990 classic film “Silence of the Lambs,” finished its first season on CBS. It did not generate the ratings the Tiffany Network was hoping for, but it did reach a desired socioeconomic group of viewers, so it will be returning this fall on CBS’s streaming service, Paramount Plus. It will join another former CBS show, “Evil,” which has a strong cult following but not enough for broadcast television.
ABC will not be returning the reboot of the double entendre game show, “Match Game,” as part of its summer programming. Actor Alec Baldwin did a nice job channeling Gene Rayburn in the leering host role.