NFL PATRIOTIC NONSENSE HAS TWO SIDES

Aquarian Weekly
10/4/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

NFL PATRIOTIC NONSENSE HAS TWO SIDES
Corporate Con Comes Home to Roost

The National Football League has done a magnificent job these last few decades conflating patriotism with its product; a product, by the way, run by despots, played by a disturbing number of criminals, and whose chief purpose now is to keep everyone from recognizing that their sport causes brain damage. Its play is sub-par, its rules a joke, and the team that wins all of its championships cheats constantly. But give the NFL a few moments to roll out a giant American flag that covers a 100-yard field, march out some uniformed people to salute it, and fly a bunch of fancy jet planes over head while someone butchers a horribly written song about bombing shit, and you will forgive them.

And this carefully concocted ruse is what makes people go nuts when someone, in this case a few players, decide to take the opposite tact and reject it wholesale in a fairly sincere albeit clumsy attempt at protest.

It is this cynical marketing ploy that makes people nearly topple over with shock and dismay when I tell them I no longer watch pro football. Sure it was my favorite sport when I was a kid and for most of my life, but there are plenty of things I liked to do when I was younger that I no longer do. But when I casually mention this to family and friends they react as if I have renounced my citizenship. “Why it’s downright un-American to do anything on a Sunday in the autumn but watch football like some dead-eyed man-child with an acute case of arrested development. You have to wear a jersey and show up to tailgate for six-hours or attend ten-hour fantasy football drafts and sing along with whatever crap they play at the top of whatever network falderal is carrying the latest slice of Americana.

It is a clever con, but then the other “knee” dropped.

This past week nearly the entire league – players, coaches, owners, the guys who help the Patriots cheat by deflating footballs and spy on other teams – responded to our Game Show president’s demands that teams begin firing “sons of bitches” for practicing their right under the First Amendment of the Constitution (the one he purportedly swore to uphold), because five or so players protested violence against African Americans by not standing for the aforementioned shitty song about bombs.

Some people with a preponderance of time on their hands that I can hardly conceive of and apparently faced with very little in the way of actual things to be appalled by had a fit.

Their reasons are as follows; the national anthem and the flag represent our military and what they have done to fight for our right to protest (the one Donald Trump clearly doesn’t understand or believe in); the players protesting are rich and famous and so they should shut-up and give up this right (similar to what most people who voted for the president think about gays and marriage); and finally sports should just be about sports and not all this annoying free speechifying, or what we have come to discuss; the playing field is no place for politics.

Except that the NFL has been a recruiting base for the military for decades and has used pre-games and half-times to conflate this idea that pro football is some kind nationalistic cornerstone of our culture, strike that, our very being and nature. NFL equals America. This includes bringing the players (the actual product) into it, for it has only become in recent years a thing for players to even be on the field for the anthem. Why? So we can forget that nearly every player at the top of every draft have records for abusing and assaulting women, random gun-play, drug busts, etc. So if this is how the NFL wants it, then their football field is the perfect place in which to express your displeasure with the country at large.

If NFL equals America, and the first tenant of the nation is the right to peacefully protest and freely speak out against (you name it), then what is the issue here?

The NFL’s military fetish – not only ceremonious rituals and support of wars (the worst of this is during the first Gulf War when the yellow-ribbon, giant flag stupidity reached its puke-inducing apex with the late Whitney Houston’s lip-synching of the crappy song about bombs that became a big hit – is also why people, for some weird reason, only equate this idea of standing for the national anthem as some kind of salute to the military, when the flag represents every walk of life, profession and blah blah blah.

And this is why simpletons like Trump think that the league should expunge those who besmirch this great game and its spiritual connection to our flag and our military.

The NFL created this monster, which is now equally being exploited by its players and the president, whose entire administration has to retain council and whose approval ratings are at record lows. The players see a way to get the reaction they want, which is what they got (thank you, America) and El Douche gets you to argue about a piece of cloth and a badly written song with more octave shenanigans than can be stomached on one listening and lyrics that sound like a fifth-grade poetry assignment gone terribly wrong.

If NFL equals America, and the first tenant of the nation is the right to peacefully protest and freely speak out against (you name it), then what is the issue here?

So to save everyone the trouble I simply call for there to be no mention of the flag or the playing of the awful “Star Spangled Banner” before sporting events again. None of this has to do with football. I agree, let’s keep the sport to the sport and stop trying to cash in on people’s emotional connections to symbolism – a fine tact used by every fascist movement since the dawn of civilization.

By the by, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” should be the national anthem; a beautifully written folk song with fine lyrical stanzas about all the things this country is supposed represent beyond killing things and football. Best of all it was written by a communist, as was the Pledge of Allegiance, so that actually works. You might not know any of this because you’re busy arguing over a child’s game, a piece of cloth and a shitty song.

Meanwhile, as a postscript; the man who started all this as a simple protest, Colin Kaepernick, who has given a million of his own dollars and has raised millions more for charities and African American groups, is being blackballed by the league. And maybe in the end this is why the NFL and the president has made this whole goofy thing such a big deal. Let’s forget that black men are being slaughtered by cops and not going to jail for it on an almost weekly basis.

I say let’s sing a song about that.

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MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

Aquarian Weekly
6/15/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

He is America’s greatest ego.
– Norman Mailer

Few lives are as epic as Muhammad Ali’s. It is an American epic, an African American epic, a religious epic, a boxing epic, a socio-political epic, a generational epic, and most of all, an inspirational epic. It is what the great Joseph Campbell coined the Mono-Myth, a composite philosophy of the “hero’s journey” in which all valiant stories, especially those entrenched in the Western culture, are the same – a character of common means ventures forth into a supernatural realm to defeat darker forces and emerges with a great victory. It, of course, stands to reason that Muhammad Ali is my hero in every possible way that the term may be defined. I have been and continue to be inspired by, in awe of, idolize, emulate, and use his seemingly indestructible force of will to empower me. In my youth, Ali was a towering, almost comic book figure. In my professional years, I wrote extensively about him in heroic terms whenever commissioned, and even sometimes for pure joy. His Mono-Myth has become my Mono-Myth; like the enduring myth of America, sport and life.

06-15-ali

Any understanding on the immensity that was Ali has to begin with his times. Confucius said, “May you live in interesting times”, and Ali did. Of course, it was he that made them eminently more interesting, but it is an indisputable fact that from the mid to late 1960s through the 1970s, Ali was quite simply the most famous human dead or alive. Everywhere. There are people in China who have no idea who Jesus Christ is or was, or Thomas Jefferson in Zimbabwe or Elvis Presley in Venezuela or Michael Jordan in Jordan. But everyone knew who Ali was. He was international in a singular way. He was Ali. Period. Ali was universal. Even if people had no idea why they knew him, that his name was Cassius Clay and he hailed from Louisville, Kentucky, or that he engineered one of the greatest upsets in boxing history at twenty-two, or that he took on the entire U.S. government for five years and won, or that he became the first boxer to lose and then win the world title three times. He was Ali, and Ali is universal. Ali is life.

But that is not what makes Ali epic; it is his flaws. It is his darker side, which I am sure will be ignored this week when the world mourns his passing. It is his raging narcissism and viciousness, his forays with racism, religious fanaticism, repeated adultery and misogyny. Like all heroes, he fell. And like all heroes, he rose again. This was due to his magnificent fearlessness. He owned fear. You had the feeling when you saw Ali or listened to him that he had known fear, like we all do, and then he took it down like he took Liston down when he was a seven-to-one underdog and a newly minted member of the Nation of Islam, which is to say he was the devil.

It took Joe Frazier, his greatest opponent and likely the second best heavy weight fighter in the latter half of the twentieth century, decades to get over Ali’s dehumanizing of him during pre-fight promotions; something Ali invented and did better than anyone ever. But it crossed the line. It became something else for a black man to call another “gorilla” on national television, repeatedly, in poetic and jocular form, to his face; to say he was the white man’s champion. Frazier, like all epic opponents brought the worst out of Ali, but it also brought the absolute best out of him too. He handed “the greatest” his first defeat in the real and only true “fight of the century”; Madison Square Garden, March 8, 1971 – the first time two undefeated titans would square off. It was the night the world stopped. It is the greatest, most covered, most mythologized sporting event of my lifetime. It was, in a word, epic. And when it was over, Ali nearly died. But, as the epic story goes, he rose again.

Ali emerged from this brutal beating to defeat Frazier in the rematch. But all of this pales in comparison to how Ali had seen him as an enemy first; an enemy of Allah, of the African experience, of his spiritual quest to be free of the forces of evil perpetuating a war that will stain our national soul forever. And before he could fight Frazier for the title, he had it stripped from him, because he refused to fight in Viet Nam, as all men should have rejected the immoral and useless sin that massacred 60,000 Americans, and hundreds of thousands more Vietnamese and Cambodians and severed a nation. Assassinations and riots and protests and a national spying ring that would bring down a president; there was a crack at the base of the system, and standing on the fault-line was Ali. Because Ali was not American, Muslim, Black, he was Ali. He is universal, epic.

I keep this Ali quote, with other inspiring musings about speaking truth to power in a drawer where I do most of my writing, to remind me of what we do here at The Desk, but it may be my favorite: “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. . . Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

Ali also famously said, “It ain’t bragging, if it’s true.” It was his calling card, and what made him both the most hated and beloved athlete in this country; changing his name, throwing his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River, taking on the government and winning a unanimous Supreme Court decision against the unconstitutional murder of thousands of American kids and wiping out any rational idea to the entire horror show. It was, even as a kid, what made knowing, watching, worshiping Ali a special thing. The sun came up, my mom loved me, my eyes are blue, and Ali is the champ.

Like all heroes, he fell. And like all heroes, he rose again. This was due to his magnificent fearlessness. He owned fear.

I remember part of my childhood went away the night a brutish dolt by the name of Leon Spinks took the articulate, brilliant, poetic, epic Ali down. He was no longer the champ – even when he wasn’t the champ, like when they stripped it, or temporarily when Frazier beat him into a bloody stump, but forever; like he was old and Spinks was not and boxing would go back to its primitive barbarism again with no charisma and no universal personality, a vacuum soon filled by the bestial visage of Mike Tyson, which would teach us all what missing Ali would mean.

Of course, Ali would step back in the ring again, and again, and again, until his mind would eventually go away and his body would shake and they would call it Parkinson’s Syndrome, but we knew it was a human tank called George Foreman beating on him for fifteen rounds in Zaire and those three wars with Frazier and Spinks taking him down ignominiously, and that asinine exhibition in suicide against Larry Holmes. He got back in the ring and took the title back one more time from Spinks, but there was something hollow and sad about it, and we knew we weren’t kids anymore, or at least I wasn’t; and all those things about “invincible” and being “the greatest” was finite, like life. But until that moment, for me, it was infinite, because Ali said it would be, and if he didn’t say it, he meant it anyway. He was, after all, finite, and so I was no longer a kid and soon would be an adult and am now 53 and mourning the passing of my hero.

My writing hero, Hunter S. Thompson, oddly or not oddly, also from Louisville, once wrote of Ali (in maybe the finest twenty-four words said about him), “Anybody who can sell his act for $5 million an hour all over the world is working a vein somewhere between magic and madness.”

And it is between those two poles in which the hero resides; where he thrives, where he captures our imagination beyond the terrible notion that life is just this series of beats and electrons and periods of joy and grief and that it is special in the way you want it to be.

Ali gave me that, and I am not alone.

Not by a long shot.

This is what you get from universal and epic.

You get Ali.

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MO

Aquarian Weekly
10/2/13
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MO

Straight as an arrow; stoic with a slightly visible breath – a fierce figure of calm in a gathering storm standing upon a raised patch of dirt 18 feet in diameter. The left arm mobent to the chest, the ball gripped in the mitt, the right hand dangling casually. A look in at 60 feet and six inches – razor sharp and icy like a jungle cat at prey – before a slight shift in weight brings the bare hand to meet the ball. Then in one fluid series of ballet-esque motions – a coiled slant forward, as if a bow fletching to strike, cranks the body fusion into a bullet arc, a millisecond prelude to the knee kick from the left leg and the arm whirling high above the head with the release of the stitched sphere to its destination.

A single pitch. The professionals call it a “Cutter”, a spinning, knifing diving thing that burns inside on lefty batters and disappears to righties. One pitch. Nineteen major league seasons. A record 652 saves (the final outs of a close game) over a record 952 appearances in Major League Baseball contests. An unprecedented stretch of excellence with a single, devastating pitch has ended.

The great Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees is retiring as quite simply the undisputed finest closer to ever ply the trade at any level anywhere, and without question the longest running level of near-perfection in the history of sport.

I first heard the name on July, 4 1995 while riding shotgun in a grey Isuzu pick-up truck with fellow Yankees fanatic, Peter Blasevick, a long-time friend and colleague, whose band DogVoices I decided against all reason to follow and turn its exploits and that of the New Jersey rock circuit into a book called Deep Tank Jersey. Rivera was dismantling the Chicago White Sox over eight innings, allowing one run while striking out 11. He would never be as affective a starter again.

The next time his name hit my radar was an 11-inning play-off game in 1995 between the Yankees and the Seattle Mariners, when a skinny reliever my dear friend Tony Misuraca called The Elfin while another, Bo Blaze frantically scribbled onto scraps of paper, “Please, Young Mariano, get this out!”, pitched three scoreless innings – the 13th, 14th and 15th to earn the win in a marathon at Yankee Stadium. The team would eventually lose the series in its final inning with Rivera in the bullpen helpless to stop it. But that would not happen too often over the next five years when the team that had not tasted a World Series in 18 years (an annual event the greatest franchise in professional sports history practically invented) would reach it five times, winning four, including three in a row.

Rivera would be the lynchpin of those title teams that could well be (considering the three-tier postseason set-up) the most dominant the game has ever seen.

By ’96, Rivera was a full-time bullpen pitcher, a set-up man for the then closer and mentor, John Wetteland. First year manager, Joe Torre, who had previously cobbled five winning seasons out of twelve in prior locations, placed the budding Rivera in the seventh and eighth innings and ostensibly turned a nine inning competition into six. It would earn the 26-year old right-hander a top-five finish in the Cy Young voting, almost unheard of at anytime in the game’s history and a telling quote from two-time champion manager of the Minnesota Twins, Tom Kelly, who famously said of Rivera, “He needs to pitch in a higher league, if there is one. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.”

Fortunately for the Yankees Rivera was not banned, and went on to shatter regular and post season records for closing out games from 1997 until this season. The most incredible of these statistics is his incomparable play-off performances, which for all intents and purposes Rivera turned into grand opera and classic art all at once. Over 96 appearances in his career (missing only 2008 – the only year the team did not make the post season – and last season due to injury) the man the sport affectionately called Mo would post an historically low .70 ERA with a record 42 saves and eight wins against one loss.

Robin Roberts of ABC News recently figured that less people have walked on the moon (12) than have scored a post season run off Mariano Rivera (11).

When the Yankees won, as they did in ’96, 1998 through 2000 and 2009, he was unhittable, and when he hiccupped in 2001 and 2004 for one inning each, the team went home. Only in the 2003 World Series loss to the Marlins did Rivera not play a prominent role in the team’s fortunes, but that was after his Herculean three inning scoreless performance in the second greatest baseball game I’ve ever seen, the 11-inning epic against the rival Boston Red Sox that ended on one swing of the bat.

This is the literal definition of most valuable player.

During the unfathomable 1998 season in which the Yankees posted a 125-50 record – the best single-season baseball team ever – I accepted a job hosting a sport show at WFAS in White Plains with my good friend and now Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino. The following three years I spent a lot of time in the Yankees clubhouse, and there was never a time when Mariano Rivera wasn’t laughing or counseling or motivating his teammates, a completely opposite figure than the almost robotic assassin that took the mound time and again, cracking bats in half and whiffing confused hitters.

After the ’99 title, where he recorded the last out of the 20th century, a century the Yankees owned, I stood with him at his locker in the din of celebration all around and we spoke of his World Series MVP. Over a full ten minutes never once did he mention himself. In his then broken English, speckled as it was with contemplative uhhs and ahhs, he sounded like a Zen Buddhist, spiritually humble, defiant against the idea of the world being a random swirl of events. He was centered in all his genuine talk of God and family and teammates who allowed him to have the ball in the final minutes of glory.

In the press box that night, as the fly ball that ended the series nestled into the left-fielder’s glove, I jotted down a note in my scorecard to my Unlce Vinnie, who had seen Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio play and who had passed away when I was off on my honeymoon in mid-June.  I recalled one day the previous summer when he shook his head at the mention of Rivera. “That kid,” he whispered, “is an all-timer.”

In October of 2009, I took my wife, now a diehard Yankees fan, more than me, for sure, to Game 2 of the World Series, a game in which, as he had done countless times, Rivera came in to clean up a mess in the eight – two on, no one out in a two-run game – and closed the door.

This past August, I walked hand-in-hand with my five-year old daughter, Scarlet into the new Yankee Stadium; a favor my father granted me over 40 years before in the old one, and on her back was a number 42, Mo’s number, and the name of her favorite cat that we named after the great Rivera.

And so one of the leisure pleasures of my life, like a Joe Namath pass, a Woody Allen film, a Stones song, and a Hunter S. Thompson screed, the great Rivera standing on the mound about to throw, will no longer be.

Mo.

Thanks.

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MR. RODRIGUEZ VS MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Aquarian Weekly
8/7/13
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MR. RODRIGUEZ VS MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL   

Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez is a Major League Baseball Player. He also happens to be an America citizen. Mr. Rodriguez’s treatment by MLB makes it hard to swallow that his employers are fully aware of this. It appears, in fact, that MLB considers one of its signature employees a faulty product it’s recalling. And for that this space is openly imploring Mr. Rodriguez to take immediate legal action against MLB, so it can explain its motivation for threatening to deny his right to work based on circumstantial evidence that he broke any of the collectively bargained rules agreed to by the league and its Players Association.Bud Selig

And, as a result of this proposed legal action, this space hopes once and for all that MLB’s ridiculous exemption from the United States’ anti-trust laws be ceased, so its $9 billion enterprise can finally be litigated like every other business in this so-called democracy.

The current MLB “investigation” resembles more a witch hunt against one particular player than satisfies the grounds in which that player can be harassed with the threat of suspension. Such a suspension, whether it is the reported remainder of this season and all of next, never mind this insane nonsense of banning him for life, will cause adverse career ramifications for Mr. Rodriguez.

This is not some mere penalty handed out by a game. This is a man’s life and livelihood at stake and if it is to be impinged in any way, then there needs to be just cause. There is not.

In order for MLB to suspend a first-time offender for a maximum of 50 games, that player must fail a random blood test. MLB does not have a positive blood sample from Mr. Rodriguez. What MLB has is the testimony of a drug dealer and a vague list of clientele from a Miami biogenesis lab, which the league sued this past March for selling illegal substances to a handful of its players. In less specious terms, under the agreement MLB has with the Player’s Association, it has no grounds to perpetuate these actions against Rodriguez.

Yet the man the sports types call A-Rod, a cute nickname which reduces him to a figure from a children’s game and not an American citizen that provides him protection under the Bill of Rights, is currently the subject a dubious investigation for being linked with the lab in question. I merely use the word “dubious” to point out that while there has been a lot of unsubstantiated jabber about a preponderance of evidence piled up against Mr. Rodriguez, much of it has yet to surface, and the league, which is oh-for the courts in its long and sordid history, fails to engender any benefit of the doubt.

Moreover, this is a league well versed in the practice of leaking harmful information on an employee it wishes to besmirch preceding a suspension. In fact, MLB has done this once before to the very same Mr. Rodriguez. This ham-fisted but effective burying of a player’s reputation queers public opinion and riles the sports writing world (where nearly every speculation has something of a 17 percent success rate), making the subject guilty in the court of public opinion before any actual evidence is revealed.

In 2003, MLB conducted its “anonymous” testing of hundreds of players for steroid use; a test the league promised in collective bargaining with the Player’s Association to keep sealed. For reasons only known to MLB, in 2009, Mr. Rodriguez’s name happened to wind up in the notebook of a reporter working for the most prominent sports magazine in the nation. When Sports Illustrated got a hold of this illegally leaked information, Mr. Rodriguez had to eat shit, call press conferences, and deal with the fallout.

This is a league well versed in the practice of leaking harmful information on an employee it wishes to besmirch preceding a suspension. In fact, MLB has done this once before to the very same Mr. Rodriguez. This ham-fisted but effective burying of a player’s reputation queers public opinion and riles the sports writing world (where nearly every speculation has something of a 17 percent success rate), making the subject guilty in the court of public opinion before any actual evidence is revealed.

This leaking method was especially efficient on A-Rod, who, while he could not be suspended since no rules had yet to be put in place, was branded as an actual offender by proxy.

There was a time not long ago when Alex Rodriguez was arguably the best player in the majors and well on his way to perhaps being the best to ever play his position. He was an exceptional shortstop; a defensive master, and a high-average, run-producing machine with immense power. He plied his trade in Seattle, Washington and then Arlington, Texas, where he became a star. In 2003, he morphed into something of a celebrity icon when he was traded to the NY Yankees, the most famous professional franchise in the biggest city on planet earth. It was here where he became notorious for appearing with the TMZ set.

This put an already intolerable celebrity big ticket athlete on the shit list of a majority of the Americans, who, while worshiping the rich and famous, and harboring a love-hate fascination with New York City, tend to hold same with deep seated jealousies. Mr. Rodriguez was our specially packaged asshole; much of it, truth be told, due to his Herculean self-inflicted narcissistic idiocy. He’s a dumb jock; a muscle-headed pretty boy dickhead; none of which is even remotely illegal or pertinent to his first run-in with MLB, which was merely a media circus since before 2005 it was not even a rules violation for players to use PEDs.

In fact, one could argue that MLB not only ignored the use of PEDs, but in many ways, encouraged it, as did the sanctimonious band of feckless sports writers who made good livings sending sonnets to press about Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa’s famed home run chase in 1998; when both were most likely jacked to the tits on every steroid known to modern man.

MLB commissioner, Bug Selig, forever tarnished with presiding over the longest and most wildly uncontrolled abuse of PEDs in modern sport, subsequently reaping billions in revenues for MLB and its owners, finds he can no longer handle bad steroid press on his watch. Back when the homers produced by PEDs were pulling his sagging sport out of distant third place behind the NFL and the NBA, neither Selig nor his giddy owners could ever have dreamed the level of shock and awe produced from human parade floats making a mockery of baseball’s sanctified record books. This turned Daddy Warbucks into Captain Morality, and so now Selig wants desperately for there to be a symbol of steroids that has nothing to do with him.

Bud Selig simply needs a scapegoat, since Barry Bonds beat his system and then Roger Clemens went to congress and pissed on him. Whether they or Mr. Rodriguez are actually guilty of PED use is not at issue. They probably were and he probably is, but there are rules in place to cease this behavior, and none of these applies to his case.

So it’s Mr. Rodriguez’s turn to be the scapegoat and he should not take it. He needs to sue baseball for threatening to deny him the right to earn a living. Most of all, Mr. Rodriguez needs to put before a court the atavistic anti-trust exception that MLB has enjoyed for a century of its outside-the-law practices. He must break the backs of these tyrants and force baseball out of the shadows of American business practices.

Play ball!

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James Campion – Sportswriter and Broadcaster

 

SPORTS BIO

jc at Yankee StadiumFor four years jc penned a sports column called Sports Shorts for a weekly newspaper called the North County News out of Yorktown, NY, where he gained notoriety and acclaim for his emotional, funny, and often compelling look at the world of fun and games. Although some of the work was considered for his latest book, Fear No Art, jc thought it too much a departure from the flow and subject matter dominant in the original manuscript, and thus left this fertile period out almost entirely. Now exclusively for jamescampion.com, the author has selected some of his favorite pieces from that era and beyond. They appear in public here for the first time since their original release.

A broadcaster and writer during his formative years in high school and college, jc embraced his first love, sports. Fascinated by the raw and unpredictable nature of the athlete in his/her physically and mentally challenging environment, he sought to portray their triumphs and tragedies in a far different slant from the normal fare, without forgetting the voices and craft of the genre’s true giants. As one of the only national columnists for the small, but influential, Westchester newspaper (it won many NY state awards for journalism during his stay and beyond) jc became both celebrity and demon by his rabid readers, balancing his radio and television work as a local talk show host.

jc and cb on Sports Club - 1992His many live sports-talk television programs from Cablevision’s “The Sports Club Live” (1989-1996) to Continental Cablevision’s “Sports Talk Live” (1995-1997) and the award-winning baseball interview show, “X-Tra Inning” (1990-1994) and co-hosting WLNA radio’s “Sports Nite” (1993-1995) provided jc with a wide-ranging and oft times loyal fan base. He was able to meet many prominent sports figures and attend some of the most exciting and important events of the time while extending his reporting talents.

Although there was little sign among his peers at the time that jc would abandon his prominent post at the North County News and head on the road with a New Jersey club band in the summer of ’95 to write his first book, Deep Tank Jersey, many admirers of his later work point to these years covering sports as not only a stepping stone to a promising career, but another vehicle for his unique literary voice. Evidence of this is that during the early 90s’ jc was working extensively on research for what was to be his first book about the legendary Yankees/Red Sox of 1978. A book, mentioned in several interviews, that he plans to finish one day. His last extensive sportswriting work was a one-year stint penning the Sporting Strife column for the New Jersey entertainment weekly, East Coast Rocker in 1996.

jc and Rob Astorino - 1991Today jc remains the voice of local sports in Westchester, recently completing a four-year run with his nightly radio show, “Inside Sports” on WFAS radio out of White Plains, where he and his co-host, Rob Astorino have covered the World Series, the NBA Finals and more. As the television voice of high school football and basketball for MJM. productions, headed by long-time producer/director Mike Miner, and the Cablevision Network, jc continues to give local athletes a chance to shine. His annual Major League Baseball and NFL previews for Genesis magazine are read nationally, and he continues to contribute stories for the North County News.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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In Search of Reggie

North County News 8/5/93

IN SEARCH OF REGGIE…

For the better part of ten years, I was surrounded by pictures of him on my bedroom walls. Every night before I fell asleep he’d be staring down at me, and every morning I’d awake to a still photograph of his famous powerful, two-handed swing.

I listened to his exploits on my radio and studied him on the tube. His career marked my childhood: the Swingin’ A’s in grammar school, the Mighty Yanks in high school.

It was during one of those years that I swore I’d be there when they put him in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. And last week, Reginald Martinez Jackson and I had a date with destiny.

I arrived in the quaint village of Cooperstown, not as the wide-eyed fanatic of my youth, but just another member of the bulging media; trying like hell to look uninterested in my suit and tie, like it was just another job, and Reggie Jackson was just another story to cover.

Of course, when Reggie was involved there was always a story. For 21 years he was the quintessential sports superstar, a human spotlight magnet. He talked with unhinging bravado and backed it up; from his rookie season in 1969 when he shocked the baseball world by blasting 41 home runs by the all-star break, his Ruthian blast in the ’71 mid-season classic, to every consecutive swing of the bat during his three-homer outburst in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.

The humble smile he’s been donning for most of the day, his day, leapt off his face, and the dauntless grin of coiled arrogance that managed to hit belt 563 career home runs nodded toward me. “I wasn’t thinking of anything, son; I was just trying to turn on a fastball.”

Everywhere you ventured to look throughout the usually quiet hamlet of upstate New York, there was a likeness or mention of him. Just a simple “Reggie” would do. No second name was needed. Unless, of course, it was “Mr. October.”; a name he earned in five World Series appearances in which he would hit a lifetime .357 with 10 home runs and grab two MVP awards.

Collectors’ cards, photos, silver coins and tee shirts of every size and color lined Main Street on the way to the building where they would hang his plaque forever. But the image of him had somehow changed from the hero of yesterday. That was a Reggie Jackson who glared unceasingly into the eyes of convention without blinking. He broke the rules, set the pace, and put a considerable mark on a game bloated with atavistic traditions and unspoken etiquette for the black athlete balancing a sizable chip on his shoulder. Who exactly was this man I thought I’d known from the seemingly endless array of games I watched and books I’d read?

I first met him in the baseball summer 1990 as a member of the television medium. He was casually moving about the batting cage at Yankee Stadium working for the California Angels radio team. He was standing only a few feet from where he slammed those three incredible home runs on three consecutive pitches that October night 13 years before, when I sat a million miles away in Freehold, New Jersey beaming.

I shook his hand, making an offhand remark about some motivational letter I’d sent him earlier that historic season when he was struggling and being booed unmercifully by fans home and away, and jokingly wondered if he remembered receiving it. He looked at me strangely, the way I’d pretty much expected, and I thanked him for the memories. “Thanks buddy,” he smiled and strolled away confidently.

Although that classic Reggie ego had shown through, he appeared small in his pink polo shirt and jeans, not at all the giant in pinstripes from bygone days swaggering across my television screen like a conquering knight from the court of King Arthur.

Now on a lazy Sunday morning on the first day of April, 1993, I found myself standing just a few feet from the podium he was delivering his Hall Of Fame induction speech. His eyes were swollen from tears of joy. He appeared worn, his hair line in a gray, middle-aged recede, decked out in a navy blue suit and bright blue tie; a vision of the quiet executive he’d become the last few years.

He spoke gently about his loved ones, his influences in the game he loved, and his ultimate respect for the honor bestowed upon him. The young lion that once quipped “I’m the straw that stirs the drink,” was now the straw that was happy to just be in the glass. He was humble, gracious, and at times apologetic for the in-your-face attitude that made him the kind of player that would expect a trip to immortality. In other words, he was anything but Reggie Jackson.

There was little in that speech that hinted at that Reggie Jackson. But I figured that in the post-ceremony press conference, away from his adoring public, probing cameras, and the rows of baseball great behind him, the real Reggie would emerge from the shadow of this mellowed facsimile. I was wrong.

There he sat, less than 20 minutes later, grinning politely, offering the odd joke and talking about his respect for the beauty of the game. I couldn’t take much more, so I up went my diminutive left arm, waving for his acknowledgment.

Before he was done pointing at me to begin, I rambled out a double-edged question about his years of frustration battling against the tide of adversities that often finds a young man of pride, talent, and conviction. I asked if he contemplated chucking the whole thing to waltz into an easier life devoid of blaring headlines and echoing boos. I eluded to the moment of his speech when he chronicled his agonizingly controversial first year with the Yankees, after he’d won three consecutive championships in Oakland and took less money to play for the Bronx Bombers only to be treated like a journeyman by manager Billy Martin, a man he’d admitted to despising in his autobiography.

“Quit?” he snarled, his stare burning a hole through my skull. “I had 300 more home runs to hit, and too many moments to create.”

Before he was done, that infamous intimidating Reggie heat was beginning to rise from out of his tightly buttoned collar. Yet, I mustered the audacity to conclude that perhaps by releasing the anger of the entire year acted as motivation for the events of Oct. 18, 1977 when those three World Series swings planted him in the record books and in the lap of legend.

“Are these real questions?” he asked, looking around the room packed with media from all over the world. “Because it sounds like your just throwing these off the top of your head,” he laughed. “Maybe you should ask one of these guys to help you out.”

The room of mostly grizzled sports writers and broadcasters chuckled at my dilemma. It was likely that each of them had been on the wicked end of Reggie’s venom before. However, I smiled back at him and demanded an answer. “What were you thinking when you stepped to the plate to make history?”

It was at that moment when the larger-than-life figure of boyhood memories melded together with the man before me. The humble smile he’s been donning for most of the day, his day, leapt off his face, and the dauntless grin of coiled arrogance that managed to hit belt 563 career home runs nodded toward me. “I wasn’t thinking of anything, son; I was just trying to turn on a fastball.”

I still haven’t stopped smiling.

Congratulations Reggie.

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Life, Myth & Influence of Howard Cosell

Aquarian Weekly 12/14/11 REALITY CHECK

THE LIFE, MYTHS & INFLUENCE OF AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL In Praise of A Riveting New Biography on Howard Cosell

May you live in interesting times. – Ancient Chinese Proverb My disposition demands the immediacy of translation of effort into result. – Howard Cosell

Howard Cosell BookI last sent words to press on the subject of Howard Cosell in April of 1995 for a now defunct weekly on the occasion of the legendary broadcaster’s death. Yet, in every piece I’ve researched, each story I’ve covered or subject dissected in a column since, his spirit resonates.

Like nearly everyone from my generation, and the one preceding it, we began by hating Cosell; his sneering egoism, the pompous self-congratulatory harangue that fueled an incessant rambling myopia never failing to garble our sports viewing experience. Certainly, it was a strange preternatural hate, a raging abhorrence that comes from somewhere not altogether rational. But unlike many of my friends, I aspired at an early age to be a broadcaster, mainly of sports. So Howard Cosell became in many ways a touchstone; he was no ex-jock, hardly a handsome television prop, and there was something emancipating about his brashly opinionated and wholly pathological style. If nothing else, the man had balls.

In 1995, still in the midst of my sports writing, I penned this:

“This country has not known a more influential journalist than Howard Cosell. His innate ability to dissect an event, infiltrate a personality and offer honest analysis at the point of attack made him a unique voice in an otherwise antiseptic profession. The resonance of his talent is an echo in the world of reporting today, but it is a faint reminder of the man whose voice served as a sonic boom that shook the walls and shattered the windows of broadcasting.”

A fairly blubbering tribute for the previously despised, but aside from finally laying to rest the paradox of the love/hate aspect of a Howard Cosell, it missed one key ingredient; despite Cosell’s impact on pop culture, his prominent place in the power and prestige of network television or the incredible shadow his figure cast on a period of unparalleled on-air oligarchy, he failed to leave a legacy. Cosell, in the strangest of ways, was a one-off.

There is nothing or no one today that resembles a serious evolution of his style or substance – in the realm of sports or elsewhere. Maybe, if you’d stretch it, occasional ball-busting commentators or grand-standing blowhards, but none of them with an ounce of the self-effacing humor or hardcore passion for singular causes or mind-curving bombast as the original.

And this glaring omission unfurls with intriguing momentum in the first thoroughly researched and effectively framed biography of Cosell and his times, Mark Ribowsky’s Howard Cosell – The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports.

Beyond its poignant depiction of a flawed, paranoid and narcissistic character with the uncanny talent to immerse himself entirely, almost supernaturally, into emerging events, Ribowsky’s Howard Cosell makes crystal clear the entwined path of Cosell’s epic career within the world of Big Time sports and its broadcasting partners, as they quite literally created the monstrosities they are today.

“If you look at the lay of the land in the Fifties when Cosell started out, there really was no industry called sportscasting,” Ribowksi told me recently. “It just wasn’t important. All you did was kowtow to the teams and their sponsors, until Howard Cosell changed all that.”

It was a change that according to Ribowski had to be fought by Cosell tooth and nail.

“He had three strikes against him from the beginning, his Jewishness, his Brooklyness, his abrasively unattractive voice, but he was relentless and uncompromising and lasted long enough to match the times. People were looking for this anti-hero in the emerging counter-culture of the Sixties and Seventies, but he had to get there first.”

“He had three strikes against him from the beginning, his Jewishness, his Brooklyness, his abrasively unattractive voice, but he was relentless and uncompromising and lasted long enough to match the times. People were looking for this anti-hero in the emerging counter-culture of the Sixties and Seventies, but he had to get there first.”

Howard Cosell is a riveting journey of personal upheaval and challenges for Cosell and his times, but mostly the burgeoning art form he created, from his steadfast defense and promotion of lifelong friend, Muhammad Ali and his making and breaking of the fight game, to the emergence, almost mainly due to his talents and the vision of Roone Arledge, ABC and the iconic Monday Night Football, of sports as showbiz, all the way through the defining moments of broadcast journalism.

“Cosell is the one who merged entertainment and sport, and there’s a great irony to that,” Ribowski says. “It had never been done like that before, but today it’s almost completely eclipsed by entertainment. There’s no journalism left. Journalism was the important underpinning of what Cosell was creating, but now there’s almost nothing of importance going on.”

Ribowski echoes in Howard Cosell much of what the man brought to his craft, a sense that he would always take a stand based on principle even if it was guided by emotion. It was something I had not considered with Cosell until this book. What made him a hero and mentor to me was his detached sense of a story, to take from it the clearly absurd notions and deconstruct it coldly and rationally, as Cosell did brilliantly in covering Ali’s battles with the U.S. government over his draft status.

“The thing that you can always say about Cosell, and it applies in most cases for his work, is simply two words – he cared,” Ribowski cites. “He cared about what he did, he cared about the people he spoke about, he cared about the issues that he elucidated, he cared how the public would perceive them; he just cared.”

However, the godfather of sports journalism at the top of his game in the late Sixties to early Seventies would soon develop a dark side in which Ribowski argues turned a stellar career into one of parody.

“Cosell lost that aspect of the whole thing with Monday Night Football,” the author states. “It was both great and horrible for his delicate pathology, both soothing his ego but also challenging it with all the criticism he had to endure, the death threats and personal attacks in the press, which ruined him.”

Howard Cosell is an even-handed appraisal of Cosell’s mammoth influence on and contribution to broadcast journalism – Ribowski agrees with Cosell’s own gaudy estimation that he was along with Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson among the pop culture media icons of that era – but it also paints a picture of a sometimes petty, often jealous and wildly paranoid jock-sniffer, who was from the start an obsessive collector of celebrities and newsmakers for self-promotion. His enigma, some may argue hypocrisy, dealing with the ever-evolving social debates on race, religion, law and culture are many and varied, which make Cosell one of the most complex and fascinating subjects to cover.

This brings to mind why no one dared touch his life for a telling before.

Perhaps it was Cosell’s final years spent penning vicious barbs in books that built upon the myths of his image and burned every bridge that had ferried him to fame and fortune, from the NFL to ABC to colleagues and confidants. Maybe it was the reluctance of his immediate family to contribute to the book; although Ribowski admits some have enjoyed the results and now wish they had relented. Then there is also a generation of sports writers who recall Cosell as more pop culture caricature than significant pioneer.

None of this stopped Mark Ribowski from giving us a much-needed glimpse into our media history and an American success story like no other, one long in coming. At the close of our conversation the author was adamant; “To do all Cosell did at his age, tear down as many barriers as he did, is like a fable. What a change this man was responsible for, and it’s a great tragedy that he took that change to the grave. He deserved a permanent rendering in society. Where we deserve to have a lot of Howard Cosells around, unfortunately there was only one.”

 

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Penn St. Nightmare

Aquarian Weekly 11/16/11 REALITY CHECK

PENN STATE – INSTITUTION DEFEATS HUMANITY AGAIN

Big Time College Sport is a cesspool, and Big Time College Football is its bilge pump.

It is, among other tawdry depravities, legal child abuse, as “student athletes” earn millions for universities and state schools in exchange for a laughable odicum of “free education”, which a fair portion rarely absorb and many never receive. It is also indentured servitude masked as hero worship and character building and other American fallacies run as cash machines of mass media influence and television ratings. The entire system is the refuge of whores, criminals and bottom-feeding sycophants, whose sole purpose is to prostrate to the highest bidder.

Jerry SanduskyBut, hey, this self-immolation is what funds higher education; and thus the Institution is born. And if there is anything to be learned from civilization, it is that no matter the length and breadth of its most villainous trash, the Institution must be upheld.

Rampant malfeasance to out-right crimes from the abuse of women, extortion, theft, drug dealing, gambling, property destruction and assorted mayhem are tolerated and/or covered up routinely year after year across enormous football factories from Miami through Columbus, all the way to Southern California.

None of this of course compares to the horror show that has gone on at Penn State these past 15 years, as its shamelessly self-promoted pristine Institution casually sanctioned an accused serial child rapist.

Former defensive co-coordinator and architect of the famed Linebacker U, Jerry Sandusky allegedly used his influence, power and Big Time College Sport pedigree to repeatedly commit his unconscionably violent crimes against innocent children. Despite several reports of his rancid activities from 1994 to 2006, no school official, coach, athlete, student, booster, nor the Living God of Happy Valley, the mythic and lauded head coach, Joe Paterno, did a thing to stop it.

According to a two-year Grand Jury investigation, several allegations and even admissions of guilt by Sandusky, garnering 40 counts (21 felonies) of sexual assault on minors were ignored by Penn State, which continued issuing him a parking permit and providing office space after his 1999 retirement. In 2002, a then 28 year-old assistant coach, Mike McQueary told Paterno that he witnessed Sandusky “fondling” and “horsing around” with what looked to him to be a ten-year old boy in the team’s shower.

Merely “fondling”, which remains the unconscionable defense of Penn State for its officials muted concern, was apparently not enough of a crime to warrant further investigation or arrest.

Even now, as I write this, more grotesque details emerge about this heinous abuse of pre-teen boys; four or five reports filed and ignored, (nine alleged victims so far), witness accounts left uninvestigated or blithely shuffled up the academic latter by the all-knowing, micro-managing Paterno, as he hid behind his school board and bogus legal advice. It was with this attitude of complete denial that Paterno issued a statement this week that he would retire and spare the board of trustees the difficult task of sacking him.

This hackneyed attempt to save his ass brought hoards of students and backers to crowd around his home chanting his name in support, singing hymns though candlelight vigils. These people like any of the people over the years who blindly choose an Institution and its founders, caretakers, stalwarts over the odious crimes they cover-up, whether the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts, can be excused. They prefer living in a fantasy. It helps them erase the bogeymen that patrol the corridors of their beloved nonsense. The rest of us have reality to deal with.

In the wake of this nauseating criminal extravaganza, here are the questions we should be asking: When should Penn State University be bulldozed and the property turned into a state facility for repeat sex offenders? What’s the fastest way Joe Paterno can be hauled away in an animal cage?

Of course, Paterno was eventually fired (although McQueary, who chose to leave the scene of a child rape, remains) inciting his beloved followers to riot — tipping over news vans, smashing cars and store windows and heaving rocks at whoever happened to be in front of the rocks — but prior to that, and maybe the ultimate cause of that, it was as if the press, fans and stunned onlookers had lost all sense of reality.

For days across the airwaves pointed questions abounded on the immediate future of the embattled 84 year-old Paterno, as his friend, confidant, and fellow Penn State “untouchable” was dragged off to prison a feebly aging degenerate. “Should he step down? Where will the once proud football program go from here? Can Penn State survive?”

To answer such preposterously imbecilic drivel, much less ask it, begs a hardcore review of what we’re actually talking about. To do this, one must recall the great George Carlin’s deconstruction of our culture’s pathetic inability to face cold, hard, ugly facts. “American English is loaded with euphemisms, because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality.” Carlin said. “Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it.” To illustrate this collective malady, Carlin listed 70 years of semantic sterilization in describing what happens when soldiers are mentally damaged by the horrors of war: In WWI it was “shell-shocked”, then lightened in WWII to “battle fatigue”, further diluted during the Korean conflict as “operational exhaustion”, and finally in the Viet Nam era, watered down to the almost ambiguous “post-traumatic stress disorder”.

Whilst dissecting the very idea of child rape — not only an Institution’s silence but perpetuation of it — vanilla euphemisms like “inappropriate behavior”, “abuse” or “sexual misconduct”, not to mention the recycled “scandal” are thrown about, which, for reasons of decorum or social niceties tend to understate its cataclysmic level. And so in the interest of Saint George’s quest for facing the truth, and to provide those who curiously find themselves on the fence about what has transpired at Penn State, we go Shell-Shocked for a few painful paragraphs.

Let’s break this down: Assuming the allegations are true, a celebrated high-ranking football coach, a campus and state celebrity with unprecedented access to every privilege Penn State University can offer was routinely ass-fucking ten-year old boys. He merrily and without threat of ceasing brought his child sperm-receptacles to football practices and school events, parading them around the luminaries before heading to the hotel room and threatening to send them home if they didn’t let him jam his wrinkled cock into every orifice. This was allowed to transpire without repercussion for 15 years — not 15 days or 15 weeks or 15 months, mind you, but 15 years of uninterrupted jacking, sucking and fucking of boys; scared, confused and bullied boys.

Still not stark enough a tableau for you? Still want to turn over cars and wonder about the legacy of football or a college’s reputation? How about picturing one of those damaged kids as your son or brother or yourself?

A known predator traded on his respected position within the Institution to procure tickets, press passes, attend practice facilities, frequent charity events, and, if one can believe, operate a wayward boys home; confidently using it all to get a hold of little, innocent, impressionable boys and jam their faces into his crotch.

Not so much as a peep for 15 years.

And unless the people who let it continue, from campus police to board members, athletic directors to the Big Time College Coach, were huge fans of screwing boys, then they were all protecting the Institution.

Institution survival over the safety and welfare of children — Or six million dollars a home football game and a $10 million library trumps a few damaged lives.

Should the program continue?

Should Paterno be fired?

In the wake of this nauseating criminal extravaganza, here are the questions we should be asking: When should Penn State University be bulldozed and the property turned into a state facility for repeat sex offenders? What’s the fastest way Joe Paterno can be hauled away in an animal cage?

There are dozens of Jerry Sandusky clones crawling around the earth, and some will get caught and some will keep on keeping on, but I think we can all agree that not one of them needs the support, protection, and blessing of any goddamned Institution.

 

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George M. Steinbrenner III – 1930 – 2010

Aquarian Weekly 7/21/10 REALITY CHECK

GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER III – 1930-2010

Winning first, breathing second. -George M. Steinbrenner III

Exaggerated rumors of NY Yankees principle owner George Steinbrenner’s demise abound. Something he has conspicuously failed to retract, due mostly to a predictably undeniable lust for power and an acute sense of timing to steal the big headline; whether it is from low-rent pikers like LeBron James or senseless mid-summer exhibitions made paramount by the demented gargoyle who runs Major League Baseball. No, The Boss is not dead. He has expanded his business to the afterlife; scouring the bars of hell for Billy Martin, so two of earth’s most demented souls could team up once again to wreak havoc for publicity and profit at the Pearly Gates Pavilion.

Jesus, Steinbrenner cannot die. It would be a dark day for the greatest owner of any business enterprise to exit, especially in these broke times and specifically if it is an enterprise located in my hometown, the elevated borough north of Manhattan, where the Mighty Bronx Nine stomp the terra with a voracious appetite for victory unmatched by competition anywhere.

King George & The CaptainThe Big Bad don’t die or fade away or shuffle off the mortal coil; they buy and trade and berate and haggle, and they do it loudly, like bootleg explosives. Pop! Pow! Bam! Steinbrenner, you know, was the original Big Bad; born on the Fourth of July, a real honest-to-goodness Yankee Doodle Do-Or-Die. He stood as a living symbol of American might; loved by the faithful for doing whatever it takes to win, win, win in the most hard-charging, flag-waving style — pure capitalist grit — and, of course, hated by everyone else. Deep down below the pomp and bluster there remains a soft underbelly of empathetic honor; propping up the needy, bankrolling the downtrodden, all the while enduring the slings and arrows of being On Top.

And that is where The Boss finds himself as he runs amok in the afterlife; his team ensconced in first place with the sport’s best record, defending another title.

This just in on the AP wire; Steinbrenner, with Billy Ball in tow, has managed to gain controlling interest in Purgatory and received Mickey Mantle in return for undisclosed monies, which he plans to parlay into a massive take-over of Nirvana.

And why not? This is how things got done in Yankeeland under King George’s watch for nearly half a century. Along the way Steinbrenner’s presence, his mad, impetuous foresight evolved, nay, transformed the profession of baseball from a gang of silver-spooned dullards herding half-witted jocks through a pastoral mind-numb into a veritable high wire circus act; The Boss as its willing and able ringmaster. His cast of characters ranged far and wide from the fringe of the free agency era, which he single-handedly fueled from a queer oddity mostly shunned by his fellow owners to the status quo in every major sport, not to mention the cash cow, team-run sports network — his brainchild, the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, now a must for every serious franchise, may be worth twice his world-class team.

King George invented modern sports free agency and its mass marketing. He inspired imitators and riled the competition. You think there would be blabbering meddlers like Jerry Jones or a Mark Cuban without The Boss? You think the NY Mets or the Boston Red Sox would have half the payrolls (the second and third highest in the sport) newly renovated or brand new ballparks and their own networks, if not for the NY Yankees? Oh, and don’t piss off a Bosox fan by reminding him that one of George’s disciples used his methods to buy a half-assed bungling club and finally fell the Curse of the Bambino. Let them think it was all a Beantown thing.

Speaking of Beantown, a mad series of tweets are now reporting that Steinbrenner has abandoned his raid on Nirvana and has decided to trade a frozen Ted Williams for St. Peter, while acquiring the rights to Salvation.

Money, Fame, Power: This is Horatio Alger on a John Galt jag worthy of Ulysses, jack.

Here’s what you need to know about George M. Steinbrenner III: In 1973, at age 42, he wrangled nine associates representing 49 percent of his 51 percent ownership bid — a poultry 150 grand of which came from his pocket — to purchase a busted, aging, and debt-ridden symbol of early twentieth-century Americana for $10 million. Today it is worth well over a billion dollars.

Upon his arrival from the shipbuilding business in Cleveland, Ohio, the NY Yankees, once the proudest team in sport, dominating for decades with the biggest names — Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra — had not sniffed a stellar season in nearly ten years. Within five seasons it was champion of baseball, boasting the game’s most dazzling stars — Munson, Hunter, Jackson, Lyle.

Before the reign of King George, Yankee Stadium, once the cathedral of the nation’s pastime, was a dilapidated cavern of empty seats. By 1976, it was a renovated jewel of modern sports, and today, filled annually with league-leading attendance, it sits across famed 161st street as a state-of-the-art tribute to the excess of winning.

Steinbrenner, shrewd, hard, and aggressive, with a manic ambition set alight by an unyielding father whose will to win was only outdone by a paralyzing fear of losing, knew so little about the nuances and framework of baseball — a game of patience run in a long-distance style — he drove an entire city, its press, and the sport crazy. “One-hundred and sixty-two game sevens,” is how his most successful manager, Joe Torre once described a season under George Steinbrenner.

The legend of The Boss hiring and firing everyone and anyone in sight on a whim — the first 24 seasons of Steinbrenner rule bore 20 managerial changes — was born on two brilliantly bizarre moves that everyone who had the slightest inkling about baseball thought mad: Spending Thanksgiving waiting out the free agency of star, Reggie Jackson in an O’Hare hotel lobby for seven hours until the slugger agreed to take his millions and the next summer firing an insubordinately violent drunkard manager, his team trailing the division by double-digits, to hire a more subdued boozer. Both decisions brought his Yankees back-to-back titles in 1977 and’78.

Thus was born the Bronx Zoo, so completely ingrained in New York sports lore that over two decades later after the 1999 Yankees pulled off its own repeat, I asked Steinbrenner to compare it. “Oh, now, it’s hard to compare anything to those days,” he said, eyebrows pitched. “Those teams had…well, they had some big things to overcome. Namely me.”

Twenty years between champagne sips for the Yankees is a lifetime; in fact, the longest run of non-dominance in the team’s illustrious history, and most of the wilderness stemmed from Steinbrenner’s belief that his two “big moves”, wooing the high-priced superstar and sacking a manager in mid-stream, would always bring the brass ring. Instead it brought everything imaginable — outrage, embarrassment, tumult, and lunacy — but no titles.

During this time whenever anyone would ask me to write or comment negatively about The Boss’ almost daily asinine behavior, I would pass. Hell, I told them, when it really mattered for me, as a kid, when you really live and die with the game, the guy gave me a collection of crazed banshees who conquered all comers. Sports are a distraction at best when you’re 30, at 14, its pretty much Armageddon.

Apparently it never stops being Armageddon for some, and for King George, it was daily.

Still, it was a much mellower, almost humbled Steinbrenner that emerged from his second suspension from baseball, the first in the early seventies resulting from a fallout from illegal campaign contributions to the same Nixon CREEP fund that eventually sank the 37th president, the second, a series of weird events that drove the most famous owner in sport to employ a slimy New York bookie to sandbag his multi-million dollar all-star.

Soon the aging titan was being parodied on a sitcom and weeping during trophy ceremonies, a raging idiosyncratic caricature of indomitable impatience now the doting patriarch — his team on top, his franchise the richest, and its brand second to none.

So of course he would expand his interests to the unknown quantities of the afterlife, with its infinite eternities and boundless potential to mine for big gains and bigger headlines.

This just in: THE BOSS BUYS HEAVEN, FORCES THURMAN MUNSON TO FINALLY SHAVE BEARD.

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Labron James Play Basketball

Aquarian Weekly 7/14/10 REALITY CHECK

LEBRON JAMES PLAYS BASKETBALL

Tell me, Britney, why did the chicken cross the road? Because he wanted to be seen. The chicken is smart, he is cool. He is making a sound investment in himself — unless he is drunk, and then he has no future. But he wins either way. If the chicken is Flamboyant as he crosses the road, he will soon be rich and famous. If he is bitchy and neurotic, he will be eliminated. This is the Law of the Road.

– Hunter S. Thompson Stadium Living In A New Age

It is 3:25 pm on the eighth day of a brutally hot first week of July in NYC, and by all accounts among many of the sporting, national and celebrity press, LeBron James is the most famous man on planet earth. The pro basketball star’s brief but much ballyhooed free agency from the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers has pushed him into the Babe Ruth/Muhammad Ali realm of sport celebrity with hardly the resume or the personality to warrant such lofty comparisons. Although the league’s reigning MVP, displaying an almost blithe afterthought to his glimpses of magnificence (this space once described him less athlete than artist, his performances more akin to Jimi Hendrix than Pistol Pete Maravich), James’ greatest gift may lie in simply being famous.

The KingMore than mere fame, James is the ultimate capitalist in a socialist construct.

The National Basketball Association aka the Magic/Bird/MJ Enterprise is one of three major American pro sports which utilize a salary cap, putting a limit on otherwise free market organizations to what they can pay their employees, who also uniquely double as the product. Worse still, the NBA enforces a “hard cap” that is practically impossible to circumvent, as say the more laissez fare National Football League cap, which is mostly a joke considering the pathetic lack of a player’s union and no guarantee of payment should a player get brutally injured and can no longer produce to the agreed-upon salary’s level of performance.

James pisses on this.

The King will not only get his somehow, either through sweetened deals that involve part ownership or piggy-backed marketing deals and merchandizing sweeteners, but also, as has never before been seen in sport — the balls to broker deals with players from other teams, like-minded free agents, and hungry general managers, who have and will restructure their previous plans for one guy’s personal and professional happiness.

Atlas shrugs and we cannot get enough.

This is why it is fitting James waltzes around in a NY Yankees cap, the most successful and powerful franchise in the only pro sport not completely communistic in formation, despite its mostly unconstitutional and laughably irrational anti-trust exemption and the dipshits who own the Red Sox whining like bitches every year. This has allowed baseball to be run as a drunken land baron haven for decades — denying civil rights and promoting every form of cheating known to the art of gaming. The Yankees, who are forced to pay an exceedingly un-America luxury tax as a consequence of running the most outlandishly fantastic competitive business model ever conceived by the most brilliant titans of industry, continue to buck every system and traverse every era with unprecedented domination.

But again comparing LeBron James to the NY Yankees would be like putting your sixth grade science project up against the Atomic Bomb.

Having said that, not even the world’s greatest sports franchise with 27 titles, a billion dollar price tag, and a brand spanking new grandiose stadium can best the self-promotion machine whose very nickname, King James only hints at the spectacular level of narcissism he has achieved in a remarkably short time. Some seven years removed from his High School senior prom in a nowhere town in Ohio, James has parlayed his extraordinary skills into something akin to the Age of Vaudeville meets the Kennedys.

Money, Fame, Power: This is Horatio Alger on a John Galt jag worthy of Ulysses, jack.

For the past week, the nation’s, and in some cases, the world’s major newspapers, web sites, blogs and television programs from the Today Show to Nightline has either lead, plugged or speculated about his every move, mood, and machinations. And have there ever been machinations; from clandestine entourage meetings and strangely devised leaks to stock spikes (Cablevision shares — owners of the NY Knicks — exploded on a vague rumor he might choose Madison Square Garden to ply his trade).

Five or six franchises, the chosen few that could hope to afford him monetarily or accommodate him with the best plan for winning, wheeled their entire operations — owners, front office personnel, marketing firms, public relations departments, former players and in some cases jock-sniffing celebrities — to Ohio to woo his services.

Throughout the proceedings major stars of every major sport commented, tweeted, and weighed in on his “Decision”, which coincidently became the name of a one-hour “live network special” on ESPN later tonight. The James’ camp pitched the idea to the more than eager all-sports network to eat up 60 minutes of airtime smack in the middle of Major League Baseball season and days from the World Cup Finals on the whim of one man.

Money, Fame, Power: This is Horatio Alger on a John Galt jag worthy of Ulysses, jack.

No one denies James is a fine pro basketball player; perhaps casual fans would consider him the best in the game. Closer inspection by more astute followers of the sport would rank him considerably below former league MVP and five-time world champion, Kobe Bryant, after his pedestrian performance in key moments in an unceremonious ousting by the Boston Celtics in this year’s play-offs. At times it looked as if James had already begun his exit from the poor win-starved hamlet of Cleveland, as he walked around half stunned on the periphery as far less famous and powerful types chucked up an agonizing series of putrid shots to doom his season. At one point the cameras caught him on the bench during a time out with his eyes closed, as if in a Zen-like state of centering his chi on grander notions.

Those notions, it appears to all in the know, ended up in Miami to play in one of the worst sports towns in America for the Heat simply because his two favorite Olympic teammates, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, the latter of which is currently a contracted member of another team, held the league and their teams hostage to form an unholy bond. By the time the words “take my talents to South Beach” left his mouth, James’ jerseys and parts of downtown Cleveland burned, the Westside of Manhattan began to formulate interesting ways to chant “pussy” and the south side of Chicago sighed with relief they wouldn’t have to be pissed at him for not being Michael Jordan.

It was all part of a monumental plan hatched by the most famous capitalist in the world.

This week.

 

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