Archive for July, 2009
I always just sort of had this feeling that Arturo Gatti would die young, but it doesn’t make it any less stunning when it actually happens.
Hearing about his death on Saturday was one of those times where you simply don’t know what to do next. He’s been my favorite fighter since high school, when about 15 years ago, I saw him beat Tracy Harris Patterson for his first title.
Gatti was never the most talented boxer, not the most successful. But he was by far the most entertaining. Even after he got with trainer Buddy McGirt and stepped up his fundamentals, Gatti’s defense always took a back seat to his offense; he’d take three punches to connect with one. But his determination and threshold for pain made his fights must-see wars, so much so that I went to three of his fights in Atlantic City, including the final two of his near-legendary wars with Micky Ward.
It’s no wonder people loved him. Gatti was the everyman, with the name and look of a young mafia don, the swagger of a bullfighter and the courage of a firefighter. He was known just as much for his propensity to party as his prowess in the ring. Gatti liked fast cars, fast women, fast punches and fast times. He’d go out to party still bleeding after one of his epic ring wars.
Watching Gatti fight in New Jersey was the boxing equivalent of a Springsteen concert. When AC/DC’s "Thunderstruck" hit and he hit the ring, it was a surreal moment. Though he was a Canada native, the Jersey City resident was as beloved a Garden State sports figure as there was, ranking up there with Brodeur, Simms and Kidd. Living in North Jersey, you heard stories about where Gatti hung out, where he trained — the Ringside pub in Jersey City satisfied both categories. I knew people in my town who were friends of his; one got Gatti to make out an autographed picture to me. A few years later, I got a picture with Gatti that I treasure.
The Ward fights were an opportunity to see two athletes form an indelible bond over the most strenuous of competition. With no titles on the line, the two battled each other relentlessly for 30 rounds, then lay beside each other in hospital beds afterward as friends. Ward retired following the third fight, and then helped train Gatti. To a thunderous ovation, they hugged at the end of their third fight –before the final round. I’d never seen anything like it. Their relationship was something to behold. I was so proud of both of them.
As a result of the Ward trilogy, Gatti blew up big. He became a big draw on TV and in arenas, got some big payouts. He fought Mayweather — a painful one to watch, Gatti was so outclassed that he took a savage beating and for once couldn’t give one back. But he got paid, and everyone could respect that.
As entertaining as Gatti’s fights were, I was glad when his career ended. I didn’t want to see Gatti — who was charming and funny — follow the path of so many others whose brain and speech patterns didn’t work quite right after their career, especially considering his breakneck style. When he lost his final couple of fights and called it quits, I was relieved. It was time for him to stop.
With the drinking, the past drug issues, the women… it was hard to imagine a life outside the ring for Gatti. It simply never seemed that this was someone who was destined to live until 75, 80 years old. Ironic that one of those young, crazy women that Gatti was predisposed to would end his life. There’s so much yet to be answered regarding his passing at just 37 years old, but thank God he didn’t die in the ring. I feared that he would.
The day he died, I happened to drive by Ringside that afternoon. The lot was filled with cars, though they were likely there not to pour out a drink in Gatti’s honor, but for the Ultimate Fighting card that night. Even at Gatti’s main haunts, time simply moves on without him. It’s the way the world works.
But those who watched Gatti fight will always remember his heart. The man’s heart will always be an inspiration, and he leaves an indelible legacy.
Rest in peace, champ.
After my third time at Citi Field (two games and a public workout) on Wednesday, it has become apparent that the first-year ball yard is perfect for the Mets of current vintage. By that I mean, the star of the show is most certainly not the team on the field, which is currently rather unremarkable, but rather the field itself. It’s like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, except it’s not nearly as dire a situation for the Mets.
At least so far. When you see the picture at right and wonder if new Knicks draft picks Toney Douglas and Jordan Hill feel like having a summer job, you know things are not going well. I mean, that pitch Hill is throwing probably had a better chance of finding the plate than many that Oliver Perez (seven walks) offered up on Wednesday.
There is zero question that at least at this point, the on-field product takes a back seat to the park experience. And to be certain, it’s great for fans. It’s a perfect place to simply hang with friends, drink a beer and sort-of watch a game.
If you’re a baseball traditionalist who scores a game by hand — probably while wearing a derby hat and smoking a cigar — this park was not designed for you. What they had in mind was a place where you can wait on a line for a “Shake Shack” hamburger while watching the game on a screen on the back of the scoreboard. A place where you can get sushi, if you’re so inclined. (I usually am, but not at a ballgame) A place where you can frequent a center-field beer garden — which, despite the flowery name, is indistinguishable from any other beer vendor.
If you simply want to sit and pay close attention to a baseball game, well, nobody’s stopping you. It’s just that in the back of your mind, you know they didn’t make the park for you.
Before I start to sound like the grizzled curmudgeon yelling, “Get off my lawn!” — it’s probably too late for that — I’ll point out that the ballpark is aesthetically beautiful. (My good friend who came to the game, a die-hard Yankees fan, glumly had to admit that Citi is a nicer stadium than the Yankees’ new Ode to Excess) I love the brick everywhere and the enormous old-style Pepsi sign up on the “Pepsi Porch,” which is where my actual seats were. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda is of course a nice touch.
A Mets win is a nice touch too, sends the crowd home happy. Usually I don’t see much I haven’t seen before, but Daniel Murphy’s Rafer Alston impression qualifies. And any time you get to hear Sandungueoso, it’s a good night in Queens.
But after every trip to Citi Field, a part of me just ends up thinking about Shea Stadium — where occasionally, a Mets player would hit a home run.
Was Shea as visually appealing as Citi Field is? Of course not. Was the food as good? No, it was your standard hot dog fare (heaven forbid).
• But I saw my first baseball game at Shea against the Expos back in September 1989 — the 23rd, to be exact — when my uncle, who passed away three years later, slipped an usher some money to upgrade us from mezzanine to loge. It was ski hat night, appropriate for the climate, and the last great Mets night for Gary Carter, who had five RBIs.
• Then there was my second game in 1990, the one time I saw the great Darryl Strawberry hit live. Frank Viola, who I adored, won his 19th.
• Fast-forward a few years, to when Mike Piazza helped the City heal after 9/11. Greatest live sporting event I’ve been to.
• My lone playoff game, when Beltran hit it off the scoreboard in Game 1 of the 2006 NLCS, and of course, Darryl threw out the first pitch.
Citi Field is a nice place to get some good food — while a baseball game is going on. But Shea had a definitive identity, and of course, held lots of memories for lots of people. Any time a new stadium replaces an old, beloved entity, this is always going to be an issue.
Is Citi Field progress? Probably.
But all the Shake Shacks in the world won’t change that the new Mets park has a lot of catching up to do.
ESPN is reporting that in an effort to lure Trevor Ariza to the Cavs, LeBron James told him he’d stay with the Cavaliers past this coming year. Ariza, like me, was not convinced, and will likely sign with Houston, I hear to be closer to his kid, who lives in Los Angeles, California. (Which begs the question… isn’t Los Angeles even closer to Los Angeles?) And also, he says, because of the opportunity to grow as a player, which he apparently can’t do on the title-contending Lakers or Cavs.
Sidebar: When did Trevor Ariza turn into Scottie Pippen? I actually like Ariza, I know he plays some D, and I know he had a very nice playoff run for the Lakers. But how about we see him score nine points a game before someone gives him $33 million, as the Rockets are? Because he’s topped out at 8.9. At least he’s done that twice.
Regardless, I find it hard to believe that LeBron would throw away his opportunity to have the eyes of the sports world exclusively on him next year to get Trevor Ariza. Maybe Ben Gordon, but not Ariza, no matter how much he enjoyed torching him for 50 in high school. Even if he has no intentions of leaving Cleveland — and honestly, who knows what his intentions are? — I can’t see him being that desperate as to tell Ariza that he’s not going anywhere as a sales pitch. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, it just seems fishy.
Of course, he might not have expected this information to get out via some "source." In which case, it kind of makes this commercial teasing the massive ensuing marketing campaign ring a little hollow. LeBron James wants to be a Global Icon. (His words, not mine.) So why would he risk it getting out that the upcoming 2010 sweepstakes, in which he’d be the most coveted free agent since some guy named Michael Jordan? Of course, the Knicks desperately hope things will go different with LeBron than they did with Jordan.
The point is, if LeBron really said this, and meant it, it’s a surprising misstep for an extremely savvy and image-conscious budding captain of industry. I’m a little surprised he’s shown his cards, if that truly is what he’s done here, but it’s also sending a message to the Cavs loud and clear: "We’re not good enough." If it’s that important to him to get Trevor Ariza, I wouldn’t expect him to want to stay there if he doesn’t feel that their chances have improved.
In summation, I think what you can read into this is that if LeBron feels he has a championship-caliber team around him at the end of next season, a team with a future, he probably wants to stay there. But if he’s perceiving that GM Danny Ferry can’t get the job done, you’re going to be seeing him at Marquee starting July 2010.
Predictably, LeBron’s people are now denying that he had a conversation with Ariza. So if Ariza’s people lied — which I’m not sure they did — it’d be to pump up his value and reputation by making it seem like LeBron was recruiting him. Regardless of whether its true, that would be why they leaked it. It’s not a shock that LeBron is denying it for the reasons I detailed above, that he wouldn’t want to cut out the legs from under his upcoming major media blitz.
Maybe he truly does want to stay there, maybe he wants to keep his options open. Maybe he just wants people to think he’s keeping his options open. Nobody really knows. My guess is he’s going to stay there, but there really is no way to know for sure right now.
As I returned to the office today freshly rejuvenated from celebrating America’s anniversary during this three-day Fourth of July holiday weekend, it occurred to me there was another important anniversary warranting attention – today marks one month since the Palm Pre was officially released!
With thirty days of Pre usage in the books, it’s now time to look back and evaluate how Palm and Sprint fared in this flagship offering. Let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights:
- Slim, polished, curvy, lightweight – one can’t ask for much more aesthetically!
- The keyboard is ever so slightly on the small side; it’s still completely functional once you get used to it, but it is a few degrees smaller than those commonly used on traditional Blackberry devices.
- Also, the Touchstone induction charger is a nice, yet pricey, addition that increases the overall coolness factor.
- Multi-tasking! Multi-tasking! Multi-tasking! The real beauty of the device is its “Deck of Cards” operating system that permits users to open up multiple applications simultaneously and shuffle through them at will. Power users will love this feature! The phone finally meets the PC!
- If the multi-tasking makes you think Windows, the rest of the interface will make you think Apple. Like the iPhone, the interface is very smooth and using the device is quite intuitive. Occasionally, applications can be a bit slow to open, but overall, the user interface is very well done.
- Perhaps most importantly, in less than 30 days, Palm has already delivered two OS updates to the platform. Contrast this with the cumulatively meager four updates released over the entire life of the Instinct. If Palm truly continues to put development resources into the WebOS as promised, the future will be bright for Pre owners.
- Audio Quality
- Call quality is great on this phone; I have not experienced any issues hearing the called party, nor have I received any complaints of difficulty in hearing me despite my proclivity for using the Pre on noisy city streets.
- Display Quality
- The screen on the Pre is amazingly sharp. Very, very crisp! It simply must be seen to be fully appreciated.
- By far, the most disappointing feature of the phone. Battery life is mediocre at best. Simply put, if you are an active text messenger and often use the phone to surf the Internet, not to mention placing a few calls during the day, you had better plan on charging the phone during the day or you’ll risk full battery depletion by nightfall.
- Synergy – a very nifty, if cumbersome, contact synchronization tool. This application synchronizes with your GMail, Facebook, and AIM accounts upon initial sign-in, leaving you with a plethora of contacts in your address book. While the application does a decent job of combining profiles, users are certain to encounter situations where multiple contact profiles exist for the same person – for instance, think how many AIM ID’s bare no resemblance to one’s email address or Facebook user name. To take full advantage of this Synergy application, Palm will need to release an online or PC-based utility to allow for manual off-Pre contact management to correct these situations.
- E-mail – Pre comes with a built-in email management application that works with all the popular web-based email systems, as well as a synchronization option for corporate users with Exchange-based environments. Overall, the email management application works very well, but there is presently no way for Exchange users to synchronize their corporate e-mail over-the-air via a desktop agent. Hopefully, this shortcoming is addressed as new applications are developed.
- Application Potential – 30 days, 30 apps. Not terrible, but not great either. Like Apple, the continued success of the Pre will heavily depend upon a strong application base to stay relevant. Palm is promising to release their officially supported software development kit (SDK) in the near future, possibly as soon as September (even though leaked versions are already making their way online). The release of this SDK to enable mass application development and sustain the Pre’s momentum is critically important to it’s overall success.
And the results are in… Ding, ding, ding – we have winner! I am very pleased to report that Sprint and Palm combined for a real winner here! I was one of the many Instinct owners that felt underwhelmed by the device shortly after purchase, and I am remarkably pleased with the Pre feature set to date. I definitely believe this is far and away Sprint’s best cell phone offering, and I highly encourage any Sprint customers craving an iPhone-like experience to check out the Palm Pre – some of its features might even leave your iPhone friends drooling!
You always see articles grading each team’s draft picks immediately after the event ends. Of course, nobody really knows how good these guys are going to be until a few years from now, so these articles are mostly nonsense. I guarantee if you look hard enough, you’ll find a bunch of people who condemned the Mavs for getting Dirk Nowitzki for Tractor Traylor in a draft-day deal because they saw a European and thought soft. Similarly, there were articles exalting the Wizards for drafting the exciting potential of Kwame Brown.
The point is, it’s impossible to tell in most cases which players are the real deal and which ones are draft day pretenders. What if Blake Griffin somehow stinks? Are the Clippers still winners? He probably won’t stink, but did anyone expect Joe Smith to have a mediocre career? That said, there are some cases where we can look beyond an individually drafted player to make an educated guess on whether particular moves created winning or losing scenarios. Here are a few:
Winner: Spurs — Pretty safe bet here. Even if Dejuan Blair’s knees fall apart like "Heroes" after the first season, the trade for Richard Jefferson is a necessary reinvention for a very stale team. With Duncan, Parker, Jefferson and Ginobili on the floor at one time… well, they still probably won’t be better than the Lakers, but they’re better than they were before.
Loser: Syracuse early entrants — Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf came out with no buzz and predictably didn’t get taken. Harris was an underwhelming and disappointing college player, while Eric Devendorf was a poor man’s Gerry McNamara, except nobody likes him. If Dionte Christmas didn’t get drafted… these guys had no shot.
Winner: Shaq — He went from a Suns team on the way down to playing with LeBron. I don’t know if they get a championship out of it, but if he stays healthy, Shaq should go 20-10 easy and may be due one last All-Star berth with the King’s sweet passes finding him.
Loser: Magic — Losing Hedo and adding Vince Carter is a net loss to me. The versatile Turkoglu, who’s as good as gone, was flawless for this team and at this stage in the game is probably a better player than Vince overall. Vince needs his shots, needs to be the man. On a team with three other All-Star caliber players who are all good-to-great offensive players, will Vince start pouting? I get the point, it’s a proactive move anticipating that Turkoglu was going to bolt, but they should have just anted up to keep him. Plus, they lost Courtney Lee. Don’t sleep on Lee. Are they still Finals candidates? Sure. Would they be more so if they still had Turkoglu instead of Carter? Absolutely.
Winner: Jonny Flynn — Flynn’s a tough kid, got some skills, definitely well conditioned. But there’s no guarantee he’s better than any of the other point guards in this draft. Would you really take Flynn over Ty Lawson or Eric Maynor? Why? It was a deep draft in point guards for sure, but I think that means that there were a lot of point guards all on a similar level. Flynn was one of those, and somehow he killed it in workouts and worked his way to the No. 6 pick. Meanwhile, Patty Mills goes 55th.
Loser: Brandon Jennings and his choice in friends — First off, there’s nothing hypothetically wrong with the guy being friends with Joe Budden, who’s a respectable rapper from Jersey with a girlfriend who gets more buzz than he does. (Google her — that said, Slaughterhouse coming this summer, mark it down) But it seems like all Budden does when they talk is put Jennings down, to which Jennings responds by blasting Ramon Sessions, Chris Duhon, and particularly Ricky Rubio, which he has a tendency to do. Now Jennings didn’t know Budden would stream the entire conversation off his Web site — with friends like these, right? — but either way, you have to be responsible for the things you say. Jennings had better hope he’s good, because he’ll have to rely on himself an awful lot when he finds out he didn’t make any friends on his own team, or around the league.
Winner: Mike Dunleavy — Sometimes, good things happen to bad coaches/executives. Griffin is the one sure thing in the draft and is sorely needed by a franchise that hasn’t had a lot of good things happen to them. That said, they’re still the Clippers. You have to think they’ll botch it. And Griffin would have likely wanted to go anywhere else.
Loser: New Wolves mastermind David Kahn — So he traded Mike Miller and Randy Foye — two useful players — for the No. 5 pick, and took Ricky Rubio, who’d rather go back to Europe than live in the Minnesota tundra. Even if he took him because he had the most value at that spot, wouldn’t he have been better off just drafting a useable player at that spot? If Kahn truly wants to wait for Rubio, that’ll be a long two years. And the worst part of this whole thing is that the last thing you want to do when taking over is remove all confidence from your fan base that you truly know what you’re doing. Kahn will have his work cut out for him to change that.
Winner: TruthBegins.com NBA Draft Preview, picks 1-12 — We hit 8 of the first 12 here on the site and were flying high. I don’t think anyone else had Jennings going to the Bucks, but the way things work out, if you hit a few picks in a row, it’s like dominoes falling down.
Loser: TruthBegins.com NBA Draft Preview, picks 13-30 — …but if you miss a few picks in a row, you lose those guys for later in the draft and it mounts on you. The only pick we hit after No. 12 was Jeff Teague to the Hawks at No. 19, though we missed by one pick on Suns/Earl Clark and Kings/Omri Casspi. Still, 9 out of 30 is probably on the high end for an unpredictable (read: weak) draft. Next year, we’re aiming for at least 12.