James Campion – Sportswriter and Broadcaster



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.

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In Search of Reggie

North County News 8/5/93


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


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


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.


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Labron James Play Basketball

Aquarian Weekly 7/14/10 REALITY CHECK


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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Why We Care About Tiger Woods

Aquarian Weekly 12/9/09 REALITY CHECK


Salad DaysI was sitting sipping Bahamian beer with my wife at Rum Runners and listening to an ominous storm front move across Pelican Bay when I first heard the news of Tiger Woods’ “car accident”. I had my back to a dusty television jammed precariously between what looked to me like a 1950s loud speaker and an over-sized pool cue rack, but the sound of my wife bellowing over the charmingly bad seventies rock and a tall ebony barkeep racing for the jukebox volume hushed the revelry for a moment. Suddenly the tinny echo of the CNN reporter’s solemn announcement filled the void. It was “serious”; he said over and over, prompting a corpulent woman from Tampa to gasp, “He’s dead!” Her companion, a gangly, mustachioed hippie with a cheap Hawaiian shirt removed the ragged straw hat from his sweaty head and sighed, “First Michael Jackson, now this.”

Indeed, my wife agreed, Jackson was dead, murdered by a quack with nerve gas and a secret celebrity code; his whereabouts unknown, because apparently no one cares anymore who or what killed the King of Pop, and soon, when they dredged Tiger’s remains from the Florida everglades, likely masticated beyond recognition from a surge of ravenous crocodiles, there will be little anyone will care about — troop levels in Afghanistan, National Health Care Reform, or the all-important Black Friday retail numbers, which would doubtless decide the immediate economic future of the Western world.

No, everyone within earshot agreed: even the slightest injury to Tiger Woods would be beyond devastating news.


For starters, Woods, as the skinny brunette twenty-something from Nashville reminded us, easily rates in the top five of planet earth’s most famous people; certainly its most recognized athlete. He is this generation’s Babe Ruth or Muhammad Ali, transcending his sport, his race, his culture, his very humanity. Hell, as the panting barkeep offered, “Anyone that has a goddamned logo with his initials on every type of clothing and has the balls to constantly wear the thing in public is like some kind of Superman.”

Yes, Tiger, the man for whom only one name may suffice, does wear a logo of his initials upon his head and emblazoned on his form-fitting golf shirts, making him without debate our latest Nietchzian Ubermensch; an almost pristine caricature of the modern American Adonis; a multi-racial, youth-driven, handsomely slender master performer of his craft, obsessed with victory and perfection and cashing in. Tiger, with his $100 million a year endorsements, his gorgeous blonde Viking wife and two adorable kids, GQ cover style and jet-setter decorum, seems so likable he can comfortably straddle the most difficult of dualities: Lovably unapproachable.

It was beginning to look like a feeding frenzy would not only be unleashed, but this time, for a change, merited.

Could a rare profitable commodity so utterly indestructible truly be dead? Could he actually be unable to continue to set impossible standards of performance in the highbrow, country-club caste-crazy game he dominates with apparent ease?

The entire episode and its barely decipherable details seemed to set a pall on the whole island for the entire next day, which would have kept any normal couple from setting aside a three-day marathon of substance abuse, but I am happy to report, hardly curtailed us. My wife despises golf, which she has more than once dubbed “an elitist self-flagellation” in sober moments and far lengthier and even less comprehensible mockery under the influence. I have little use for the sport, as I have not played since high school, but do recall more than a decade ago predicting on a local television panel of sports journalists run by my friend Michael Miner, now a major player in almost every New York area sports media outlet, along with the gentleman currently running Westchester County, that Tiger would be the most celebrated athlete of his time. My esteemed colleagues differed on their prognostications since at the time Woods had not yet hit a golf ball for a dime.

Needless to say Woods eclipsed even my loftiest expectations, as he did for everyone else paying attention, as we all were on Saturday morning; the wife and I, half-asleep and ornery from an extended stopover at Miami International Airport. Every television and newspaper was busy arousing suspicions and offering half-cocked commentary. Now it seemed the Thanksgiving 2:30 am “car accident” happened between his driveway and the adjacent curbside, with smashed windows and his wife “hovering” over his “barely conscious” body with (gulp!) a golf club.

It was beginning to look like a feeding frenzy would not only be unleashed, but this time, for a change, merited. This was no imaginary boy in a balloon or anonymous kid trapped down a well or sold into slavery by dog-fighting trainers, or rich gargoyles suckering other rich gargoyles out of their land-raping money, or the delicate nuances of drunken teenage pop stars exposing their genitalia. No. This was serious business, and it would not be ending soon.

Before long back in the States and at the control center here at The Desk, the information poured in fast and furious, some refuting and contradicting the earlier ones, others expounding on what could best be described as the most mishandled philandering and subsequent publicity fallout in recent memory.

Not one, but two major stories in the National Enquirer and Us Magazine surfaced with hardcore dates and voicemails and text messages between our beloved Tiger and some Las Vegas floozy. Then another sex kitten emerged, then retracted, then re-emerged, and all the while nothing from Tiger or his considerable “camp”. Soon the police would downplay the case as a “weird mishap” and voices from the other side of reason began defending the poor guy’s right to privacy, which by all measures of logic is usually sold down the proverbial river with the type of ridiculous celebrity attributed to the few and the brave and the stack of cash accompanying it.

My favorite comments came from athletes who claim that somehow explaining oneself to the press or to the fans is a “professional courtesy” and not an impetrative, as my long-lost sportswriter pal, Barry Stanton once mused to a coked-out Lawrence Taylor during a charity golf event, “No one pays top dollar to see you play football in the park with your pals.” Ironically, this exchange of intellectual lobbing was met with the wielding of a golf club fairly close to Stanton’s head. He escaped unharmed, but his point hit home.

Humans tend to be attracted to the subtext of almost every innocuous and banal subject, especially when it contains salacious details or dark secrets of the famous. But this is far different. And although Tiger eventually released a “statement of apology” and had come to accept his “transgressions” there is something infinitely intriguing about the indestructible reduced to indefensible. That is not just an American phenomenon, but mostly a human one.

I believe Tiger would have a better “Leave me alone, this is a private matter” defense if he didn’t revel in his Master Of The Universe persona and didn’t profit immensely from it, just as the case could not be defended seriously when the president of the United States used the people’s property and time to diddle on his spouse.

But no president, not even the current Super Cool one — also a multi-racial handsome, youth figure, who is constantly on public as well as political trial — has been as popular as Tiger Woods for the past decade-plus. Only he, perhaps the amiable Peyton Manning in football and certainly the smooth Derek Jeter in baseball approach his level of sports persona earning power. In another ironic twist the multi-racial Jeter, fresh from a renaissance season and a fifth World Series title, was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year this week.

Hey, if Jeter’s teammate, the enigmatic Alex Rodriguez can go from tar-and-feathered steroid cheat, choker outcast, to World Champion hero class-act teammate in six months, what can Tiger Woods do with this nugget of personal “self-flagellation”? You see, in the end, there will always be someone somewhere who will offer the argument that we just love to build ’em up and knock ’em down, but then they ignore the fundamental beauty of a free society; that it provides a platform to which those can build themselves up with the always thorny opportunity to come down easy or hard.

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Phelps/A-Rod Railroaded

Aquarian Weekly 2/18/09 REALITY CHECK


Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. – Aldous Huxley

A-Rod shamed the game. – Bud Selig, Commissioner of Baseball and architect of the shutting down of the entire sport and eventual cancellation of the World Series in 1994

Breakfast of ChampionsWhenever the shit hits the fan in the arena of sport, I miss Muhammad Ali. I miss his defiance, elegance and grit. Mostly, I miss his balls, those massive steel things he would wave in the face of opponents, the press, Howard Cosell, or the United States government, as in 1966 when Ali refused what was likely to be a pathetic dog-and-pony sideshow for the Pentagon in South East Asia, tantamount to an Elvis tour of American celebrity. That’s how Ali saw his 1960 Gold Medal. It was how he shed his Christian moniker for queer religious fervor. Ali told the U.S. Army and its soon-to-be disastrous Viet Nam campaign to walk. It cost him his title, four years of his prime, and what all ego-mad jocks crave, mass love and admiration.

What do you think Ali would think now of the vilification of Alex Rodriquez and Michael Phelps in the shadow of so much corruption, greed and hyperbole? These incoherent rambling apologies for drug use; one to enhance performance in a sport drenched in chemical experimentation for more than thirty years, the other to get high like nearly every other twenty-something kid. You think maybe Ali would have pointed out the hypocrisy of it all, more than half a century of drug use in every professional and amateur sport both diminishing and enhancing performances. You think Ali may have pointed out that the drug laws in this country are wrong-headed and atavistic? Or you think maybe he might have shed light on the millions of dollars earned on the blood and sweat of young men, many of whom never asked to be gods?

My guess is yes to all of the above. Ali would not have gone down quietly, like a docile performing seal bowing to the disingenuous moral outrage from a braying fan base, which cares only about winning no matter how it gets done. He certainly wouldn’t take it from those who clamor for Herculean athletic achievement even when its fabrications are patently obvious. And then there is the predictably brain numbing sports media that loves to shake the collective head and wag an accusing finger while enticing us with images of savage violence, self-promoting theatrics and juvenile behavior over and over and over and over again. And of course there is, as always, the sometimes faceless but always bottom line bankrollers of these fiascos who dare to engender sympathy for being “duped”.

I think Ali would have found the ironical humor in words like “cheat”, “fraud”, “behavior”, and “besmirching” tumbling forth from the holier-than-thou keepers of high-tech showbiz that has long been tarnished by decades of illegal and unconscionable activities. How in the world does the Olympic Committee, one of the most corrupt and disastrously run institutions in the world, get off suspending a kid for smoking pot? Where does anyone from Major League Baseball, proud abusers of civil rights and openly celebrated indentured servitude for half a century, get off judging its players for steroid use?

You would think these guys raped puppies or planned the overthrow of the free world.

Ali would have been thrilled to tell you that the ones who cry the loudest are the guiltiest. They are all too willing to cast shame as far as they can to avoid the collateral damage. This is how things go in the American sport landscape, where boys become millionaires playing a goofy sport we’re all supposed to worship as religion, hand over our money and attention to as if robots so we can claim dominion over its history and ownership of its participants.

You would think these guys raped puppies or planned the overthrow of the free world. It’s goddamned jocks doing jockey things like bending rules to get an edge or blowing off steam: Gaylord Perry spit-balling his way into the Hall of Fame or the 1951 N.Y. Giants using telescopes to spy on opposing team’s signs or Doc Gooden and Lawrence Taylor jacked up on mountains of blow. Many wonder what a keg of beer and a pound of bratwurst could have done to assist the Bambino’s home run orgy in 1927 or if Doc Ellis’ famous acid-drenched no-hitter would add to the annals of baseball lore.

You know if Ali had been any of those guys, let alone Michael Phelps, he would have said, “Shit yeah, I smoke dope, and guess what? I have more gold medals than any human. Fuck Weaties, get a hold of some Master Afghani Kush and you too can achieve greatness!”

Lord knows Ali would not have let the powers that be trample all over his civil rights, leaking anonymous tests used by the most powerful union in the nation to keep the richest sport on the planet from its lab rats. He may have been inclined to look one of those locker room groupies with a pen and pad right in the eye and ask them, “What would you do without me and the New York fucking Yankees sad sack? My guess is you’d be bagging groceries in a beer fog wishing your parents would add a separate heat zone to the basement.”

People always ask me why I name Ali and Joe Namath as my lasting sports heroes. Ali is well documented, and Namath will forever have a place in my heart for all he accomplished on and off the field evolving the landscape of pro sport, its celebrity and its transcendence in pop culture, but also because he refused to eat shit. After almost single-handedly achieving the merger of two gigantic money-printing leagues by his sheer greatness and unmatched star power, the newly forged conglomerate demanded he sell his bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan because known mobsters allegedly frequented it. Namath told the National Football League to go fuck itself and retired at the pinnacle of his career. Of course the league came begging for his return, because like A-Rod, it was nothing but a bunch of slobbering brutes ramming themselves together in Neanderthal scrums without him.

I guess it is too much to ask for titans like Ali and Namath to be around when the next round of petty bullshit is blown up to symbolize the end of civilization, but the saddest part of it all is this slave-like mentality to trade truth for the almighty buck and another fifteen minutes of fame.

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The Total Eclipse Of McCain

Aquarian Weekly 9/24/08 REALITY CHECK

ADDIO STADIABronx Boy Bids Farewell To The Haunts Of Youth

One need not be a chamber to be haunted; One need not be a house; The brain has corridors surpassing Material place. – Emily DickinsonTime and Eternity

Maybe, if you’re lucky, there are a few places you can say you’ve frequented for a lifetime; places experienced through the eyes of a child to young adult to adulthood and so on. For someone, such as myself, who has called numerous and Yankee Stadiumvaried locales home and lived several lives throughout, those places are fleeting. When pressed, I could always recall two: Radio City Music Hall and two stadiums – Yankee and Shea. In a few weeks the latter two will go dark and be torn down to make way for new state-of-the-art 21st Century models. One in Queens and one in the Bronx, one closes 44 years and the other 84. One a symbol of the modern metropolis, erected in the wake of America’s excessive post-war boom, the other a monolithic outpost at the dawn of the Jazz age; both institutions going where most institutions in the greatest city in the world go, into the past to make way for profit of progress.

Yankee Stadium is hallowed sports ground. It has been called a cathedral, the home office for the most successful and renowned franchise in the history of team competition, whose prominent members have one time or another held or currently hold every pertinent regular season, post season, or career baseball record known. It has also hosted Popes, championship bouts, and what is still called The Greatest Game Ever Played by pro football historians, the 1958 NFL Championship.

Shea Stadium is the home of miracles, begun by Joe Willie Namath and the upstart AFL Jets in the winter of 1968 and completed by the unbelievable summer of ’69 when the lovable loser Mets became lovable champions. Then again seventeen years later when one of the most improbable victories in World Series history rolled through the legs of a hobbled firstbagger from Beantown. Oh, and along the way, there were the Beatles, the Stones, The Who, and most recently, Long Islander, Billy Joel.

But all of that means little for me. I humbly wish to bid farewell to the structures that housed those magical days and nights spent beside my dad, my family, my friends, and my media colleagues. I bid farewell to the wonders of youthful revelry at the end of those long trips of anticipation and drudgery into the realm of pressured deadlines and effusive ovations – the psychic manifestation of collective memory born in the shadow of brick and mortar surrounding a few hundred yards of dirt and grass. I bid farewell to a measure of my identity.

The first time I entered Yankee Stadium, I am told, it was in the belly of my mother; who is always happy to recount in one of the many stories used to illustrate my father’s obsession with what she dubs People Running Around With Numbers On Their Backs, a tale of sitting in the bleachers six-months pregnant. By then my father had been twenty years into a love affair with the place, begun in late afternoons when his school chum, the Yankees batboy, would sneak them into games after the sixth inning.

I was born soon thereafter in Northern Manhattan during a Red Sox/Yankees double-header in the Bronx, the same year New York got their National League team back; the year the Mets were simultaneously the most putrid and beloved team of a generation. Two years after that they christened their own stadium near Flushing Meadows during the World’s Fair, which I proudly attended by way of stroller. Two years after the Beatles showed up too.

By the time I was old enough to breath, eat, and even walk on my own, I entered both places during two disparate seasons; one awash in the glow of summer, the other beneath the frigid gale of winter. Through the imposing Yankee Stadium gates I strode, clutching eagerly to my father’s hand, up the dark tunnel into an explosion of greens, blues and the incredible white of the famed façade. For a city kid, it had the pastoral grandeur of Dorothy emerging from her black and white farmhouse into the glaringly multihued trip of Oz. Then it was onto the clamor and pomp of an AFL Sunday in the windswept cavern dressed as a miniature Nanook sweating with the anticipation of seeing the great Namath warm up.

There were the raucous Yankee Stadium trips of my pre-teen years when my family moved from the Bronx to New Jersey, Bat Day and Cap Day and sitting up in the left field upper deck sort-of near my idol Roy White. Then behind the dugout the time my Uncle Johnny scored the rare box seat and my cousin Michelle dumped a beverage on an unsuspecting patron who was merrily doused during a key Thurman Munson late-inning double to beat Boston.

The two Campion boys, just a couple of neighborhood kids visiting the Grand Old Lady one last time. We scored the game. Shared some stories. Cheered the home team. Said good-bye.

Onto my teenaged years with my friends, Roland, Bob, Chris and my little brother PJ sitting in the Stadium bleachers getting ripped on watered down beer and screeching obscenities at multi-million dollar athletes as we endured the squelching heat of endless double-headers. Across town we hatched the bright idea to parade around the entirety of Shea, a community replete with banners of all shapes and sizes, with a blank one. There is something abjectly satisfying in proudly displaying a completely stark sign to scores of dumbfounded fans as Dave Kingman uncorks one of his patented moonshots.

And then into my twenties and early thirties when I worked the stadia press boxes and clubhouses culling interviews for rat-faced producers, penning columns for fun loving sports editors, and phoning in reports to Westchester radio stations. I met my journalistic and broadcasting heroes, smoked my first cigar, picked the brains of grizzled pen-jockeys and veteran photogs, and stomped the terra with my pal, Mike, the best cameraman I have ever known.

From balmy late-summer evenings amidst eight thousand disgruntled fans to crisp autumn nights basking in the din of 56 thousand bellowing hordes cheering pennant winners. Waltzing through the grumpy army of press geeks with my dear friend and colleague, Rob during the World Series, fending off the jeers of beat lifers as we wrestled over boxed dinners during stifling press conferences. I watched from the main press box as the ball settled into the left fielder’s glove to win the last game of the 20th century and give the Yanks the 25th of their incredible 26 titles, jotting into my scorecard “For Vinnie” my great uncle, who had seen the Babe and Gehrig and DiMaggio there, before passing away only a few months before. Later, squeezing among the showering champagne celebrants, I was accosted into a bear hug by the general manager of the best team on the planet, who’d become my friend during the summer of my marriage.

The last time I saw Shea, it was from the darkened parking lot on a misty autumn evening during the late innings of Game 4 of the Subway Series in 2000; the roar of the crowd causing me to turn my head and peer through the opening in right-centerfield. The lights of October illuminated my solitary stroll to file my report.

I would spend only one more day at Yankee Stadium as a reporter; opening day 2001. Soon after I left sports reporting as a profession, but not as a passion. I had before, during since spent many games in the company of cherished friends during countless games and finally an annual trip with my wife, who last season sat next to me with my daughter in her belly.

Earlier this month I took her grandpa, returning a 40-plus year favor. The two Campion boys, just a couple of neighborhood kids visiting the Grand Old Lady one last time. We scored the game. Shared some stories. Cheered the home team. Said good-bye.

There’s always Radio City.


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Truth On Mitchell Report

Aquarian Weekly 12/17/07 REALITY CHECK

BASEBALL THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS Hypocrisy & Incongruities In The Mitchell Report

After twenty years of reportedly ten percent of its players’ steroid, speed, drug, and hormone abuse, Major League Baseball’s $40 to 60 million non-legally-binding, no-retribution band-aid to keep the United States government from removing its atavistic, monopolistic Anti-Trust Exemption came down today (12/13/07). Named for its author and lead investigative council, former Maine Senator George Mitchell, who was hired by the commissioner’s office (on the payroll of the collective ownership of baseball) and Puppet Manwho currently sits on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox, and did not include the co-operation of the Players Association, including having no subpoena power or, incredibly, access to positive drug tests, is one of the most extraordinarily useless endeavors undertaken by a business policing itself.

Known for its unabashed mismanagement by power-mad greedheads and ridiculously paid pampered athletes, MLB took what the Mitchell Report decried as a widespread drug frenzy on all 30 teams and narrowed it down to the already exhausted BALCO investigation results and the hazy recollections of highly motivated middlemen into a mere, to quote Mitchell himself, “tip of the iceberg”.

If baseball fans thought they were getting the full story on two decades of steroid and human growth hormone use they were sadly mistaken. Mitchell’s hands were tied. Evidence was spotty. The Union stonewalled him. The league had to protect itself. He was left to grab and claw for scraps, and scraps are what we got.

The report accuses, primarily on the strength of testimony provided by a convicted criminal and an FBI-threatened drug dealer, some 90 players of using illegal substances to enhance their performances. Some of the claims are arbitrary and the evidence flat out circumstantial. Most remarkably its results levees no penalty beyond salacious rendering of mostly player names that have been more or less celebrated as world-class juicers for a decade anyway. It also omits players who have not only already failed drug tests but have all but admitted through their actions, after displaying as much through off-the-charts performance, that they are guilty.

If there is such a thing as guilt, since many of these players juiced before it was banned, enforced, or even acknowledged as technically cheating.

So in the end, this expensive exercise in innuendo and he said/he said is at best incomplete and at worse a sloppy exaggeration or outright fabrication. Begun with the best of intentions: Clean up the game, like the Kenneth Starr investigation once attempted to “nail” Bill Clinton on illegal land deals but ended with cum stains, the Mitchell fiasco ends with half-assed insinuations by two guys who worked in only two clubhouses in one city.

By all accounts inside and outside the game, the list’s compilation of infractions is something like one to two percent of a sport that only four years ago reported the failure of nearly 300 of 1,500 players tested for some kind of illegal substance. There were still around 2,000 players not tested. And these tests were previously announced! These guys knew it was coming and still failed!

Oh, and none of the guys who failed were allowed to be included in this “thorough” investigation.

Ninety players fingered for steroid and HGH use in modern baseball is like saying a couple of hundred people died in the Civil War.

If baseball fans thought they were getting the full story on two decades of steroid and human growth hormone use they were sadly mistaken. Mitchell’s hands were tied. Evidence was spotty. The Union stonewalled him. The league had to protect itself. He was left to grab and claw for scraps, and scraps are what we got.

The wounded integrity of MLB takes another hit when it was revealed that its offices were allowed to peruse the report three days prior to its release, leaving more doubts as to whether a sport that turned its back on years of performance enhancement mania, and in any sane observation even encouraged it, has the balls to come clean on its product.

And by the way, the player’s union did not have the same courtesy. Player’s Association head, Donald Fehr, who tried to block what he deemed a disregard for fair disclosure, claimed later that day he had less than an hour before the report was made public to skim it.

Anyone who even cares about baseball has to admit this was not a big deal. If anything, this charade by Selig and the league, conducted unilaterally and beyond the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement with the Player’s Association, could actually damage the bottom line: Ending the Steroid Era. Lord knows it is not concentrated over 90 players in a few cities unlucky enough to be subjected to the hearsay of jock-sniffers, but endemic of the national sports scene and a mockery on the history of the game’s records and legacy.

This would be like paying someone a shitload of money to build you a boat with no tools or materials and being surprised when it sinks.

A band-aid.

As covered in this space two years ago (Everything You Wanted To Know About Steroids But Were Afraid To Ask 2/23/05) the problem was well known by everyone associated with baseball, and really, all sports, including players, owners, front office personnel, journalists, and networks covering the sport for a long time. Occasionally, articles in prominent periodicals like Sport Illustrated and other scattered journalistic investigations shed light on a culture of steroid abuse from high school through professional sports. But in 1994 when the issue came up in the collective bargaining farce run by commissioner Bud Selig, (much of which is covered in my second book, Fear No Art), after the owners, under the direction of Selig, staged a lock-out and closed down the sport, canceling the World Series, it was not only ignored but thrown out as a possible deterrent to “figuring financial concerns”.

Those concerns were again addressed in the late nineties as players jacked on steroids and other forms of doping began to obliterate records and enthrall the nation with home run chases. Yet glowing books were written. Sonnets of heroism were penned. Statues of immortals were erected.

Baseball, prior in 1994, went from a distant third in popularity among professional sports and probably fifth or sixth overall. Its resurgence in what is now reported to be a $6 billion industry is not because of integrity, jack, but players doing amazing things. A preponderance of which were enhanced by some kind of substance.

Now the sport, its questionably credible commissioner, and a private council paid for by the owners, who have a $6 billion interest invested in this business, ask us to look to the future and put it all behind us?

Fuck that.

Aside from burying that jackass Roger Clemens, all this report did was give you the smallest glimpse into an impregnable landscape of sordid details and complicated mazes of systematic paranoia that exists in the modern professional athlete. A manic rage to achieve greatness no matter the consequence, no matter the cost is reviewed nicely.

By day’s end there were rumblings of more names coming from further investigations and new evidence on the horizon. And Roger Clemens, the era’s greatest pitcher joining the era’s greatest hitter, Barry Bonds in infamy is now calling the report “slanderous”.

Name calling. Vague recommendations. Wasted time. Money pissed away. Just to get down on paper the smallest percentage of the ultimate goal, a goal that is ambiguous and self-serving, leaving room to continue business as usual.

Yes, well, a congressman was in charge and a multi-billion dollar industry bankrolled it. That’s sounds about right.

Carry on.

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