Saturday, June 07, 2008

A sports broadcasting legend dies

The sports journalism field lost a true legend on Saturday with the death of Jim McKay...they following is a story about McKay which appeared on The New York Times website on Saturday, June 7, 2008

Jim McKay, Pioneer Sports Broadcaster, Dies at 86
Jim McKay, the genial ABC Sports broadcaster whose calm voice and trustworthy demeanor were synonymous with the network’s Olympic broadcasts and the celebrated sports anthology series “Wide World of Sports,” died Saturday at his country estate in Monkton, Md. He was 86.

The death was confirmed by Leslie Anne Wade, a spokeswoman for CBS Sports, where Mr. McKay’s son, Sean McManus, is the president.

Mr. McManus said his father, who hosted and commented on Triple Crown races for ABC, might have had only one regret in his life: missing Big Brown’s chance on Saturday to be the first winner of the Triple Crown since 1978.

Mr. McKay was a hype-averse optimist and poetic storyteller who left analysis and brickbats to co-workers like Dick Button, Peggy Fleming, Donna de Varona, Jackie Stewart and Bill Hartack.

Emotion occasionally slipped through objectivity. After an American athlete won a gold medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Mr. McKay said: “If I said I was an objective reporter, I’d be lying through my teeth. I think when an American wins, you’re excited. And why not?”

No matter. As Peter Alfano wrote in The New York Times during those Olympics, television allowed Mr. McKay “to play Uncle Sam for two weeks.”

Mr. McKay’s sincerity came through. Bob Costas of NBC Sports, a younger-generation sportscaster, once said: “Jim McKay had a very important quality. You never felt what he expressed wasn’t genuine. You never felt his reaction was, ‘What’s called for here is a tear.’ You never had a sense that he professed to be moved and when they went to a commercial he blew his nose.”

His professionalism and sensitivity melded in 1972. During the Munich Olympics, as he left the hotel sauna and was about to go into the swimming pool on his only day off, he received word that Arab terrorists had invaded the Israeli living quarters in the Olympic Village. Mr. McKay hurried to the studio, and for 16 consecutive hours he anchored ABC’s extraordinary news coverage, with field reporting from Peter Jennings, Howard Cosell and others.

The episode ended with the killing of 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and trainers. When that word reached Mr. McKay, he said he thought that he would be the person who told the family of David Berger, an Israeli-born weight lifter whose family lived in Shaker Heights, Ohio, “if their son was alive or dead.”

He looked at the lens and said, “They’re all gone.”

When ABC finally signed off, Mr. McKay, physically and emotionally spent, returned to his hotel room. Only then did he realize he had been wearing a wet swimsuit beneath his trousers.

The next day, Mr. McKay received this cable from an old CBS colleague: “Dear Jim, today you honored yourself, your network and your industry. Walter Cronkite.” Mr. McKay’s work at Munich won him an Emmy Award for news coverage, the first for a sportscaster, and the George Polk Award. Through the years, he won 12 more Emmys.

Mr. McKay was born James Kenneth McManus — the name he used on his passport and for hotel reservations — on Sept. 24, 1921, in Philadelphia. He moved at age 13 to Baltimore, where in 1943 he received a bachelor’s degree from Loyola College. He served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946, including a period in which he captained a minesweeper escorting convoys from Trinidad to Brazil.

In 1946 and 1947, he was a police reporter for The Baltimore Evening Sun before being shifted to the newspaper’s new television station as a broadcaster, writer and producer. In 1950, when he moved to CBS in New York to host a local daily 90-minute variety show, he was told that his new name, at least for TV, would be Jim McKay, to suit the title, “The Real McKay.” During his debut, Mr. McKay sang “It Had to Be You.”

The next decade brought more television stints at WCBS-TV and the CBS network as a weatherman, a public-affairs moderator, a game show host and a sportscaster. He covered the Masters golf tournament, did play-by-play of Ivy League football games and provided sports reports on CBS’s answer to NBC’s “Today,” the “Morning Show,” which was hosted by Mr. Cronkite.

Mr. McKay was designated to host CBS’s broadcast of the 1960 Winter Olympics from Squaw Valley, Calif., but he had a nervous breakdown and Mr. Cronkite took over. At the Summer Games that year in Rome, Mr. McKay began his run as the TV personality most intimately identified with the Olympics until the late 1980s. He covered 10 Olympics for ABC, and he worked on his last Olympics for NBC, in 2002. His connection to the Olympics is so strong that it seems he was the prime-time host more than he really was.

Before ABC revolutionized Olympic broadcasting and satellites transmitted sports events instantly, CBS had footage shipped from the Rome Games daily to New York’s Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International), where a remote broadcast unit put the footage on the air while Mr. McKay narrated from a studio erected at Grand Central Terminal.

“The tapes came in frozen one night,” he said in 2002. “The producer and I held the tapes against our bodies to warm them.”

In 1961, Roone Arledge, the executive producer of ABC Sports, needed a host for “Wide World.” One of his producers suggested “Burrhead,” a reference to Mr. McKay’s crew cut. Mr. Arledge called Mr. McKay at the noisy press room at Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters, which was his last assignment for CBS. In his autobiography, “The Real McKay,” Mr. McKay said Mr. Arledge promised him only 20 weeks as the host of a summer replacement series that would cover “a number of sports not normally seen on TV.”

It lasted for 37 years, with Mr. McKay the host for at least 25 of them, and became the most honored anthology series. As the adventurous host, he traveled more than five million miles to cover boxing, skiing, soccer, gymnastics, track and field, figure skating, rodeo, barrel jumping, horse racing, cycling, demolition derby and Eiffel Tower climbing. A promoter once demanded $100,000 for the rights to cliff diving in Acapulco, but Mr. McKay moved in and offered the divers $10 each. They accepted.

He and Mr. Arledge were believed to have collaborated on the introduction to “Wide World,” which Mr. McKay narrated over a montage of sports scenes. The enduring script included the phrase “the thrill of victory,” followed by a melodramatic pause, ominous music and the words “the agony of defeat.”

Mr. McKay is yet another of ABC Sports’s early giants to die: Mr. Arledge is gone, as are Mr. Cosell and Chris Schenkel.

“Because of the profession I’m in, not a day goes by when someone doesn’t stop me and say, ‘We think of him all the time’ and ‘We admire him,’ ” Mr. McManus said Saturday. “That tells you a lot about the kind of man he was.”

In recent years, Mr. McKay owned racehorses and lived in a 19th-century farmhouse in the horse country of Monkton, north of Baltimore. His most recent work included commentary from the Winter Games in Salt Lake City and writing and narrating a documentary about himself for HBO.

Besides Mr. McManus, he is survived by his wife, Margaret Dempsey, a former columnist for The Baltimore Evening Sun; a daughter, Mary Guba, of Sparks, Md.; and three grandchildren.

Except for his globetrotting, Mr. McKay and his wife were nearly inseparable during a nearly 60-year marriage. In sedentary semiretirement, he said in 2002, he read to her from newspapers and recalled a recent illness that did not allow her to move her arms or legs.

“When she said, ‘I’m dying,’ it was the worst moment in my life,” he said, with fear and love in his familiar voice.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Pride of Youngstown, Ohio

This story appeared in the June 4, 2008 edition of The New York Times about Youngstown, Ohio's Kelly Pavlik, the Middleweight Champion of the World... unlike Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, who moved out of Youngstown to L.A. as soon as he made it big, Pavlik is a Youngstown man all the way....

June 4, 2008
Pride of Youngstown: A ‘Ghost’ Who Didn’t Vanish
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Called the Ghost early in his career for his ability to make opponents swing and miss, Kelly Pavlik, this city’s favorite son, has developed into a relentless power puncher with an iron chin. But still, he cannot shake the nickname, which now applies more to his complexion than to the straight-ahead, proficient fighter he has become.

In what has long been one of boxing’s glamour weight classes — former champions include household names like Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns — Pavlik has quietly and suddenly amassed two of the four middleweight belts.

Twice in the last year he has pummeled the middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, uncorking his lean, 6-foot-2 frame and 75-inch reach to ascend to undisputed champion in the 160-pound division. If you have not heard of Pavlik, it is not your fault. Attribute it to a boxer who refuses to abandon his beleaguered hometown and to a struggling sport that is not producing enough marquee names or worthy fighters in his weight class to allow him to elevate his story or his game.

His next opponent, the Welshman Gary Lockett, whom he fights Saturday night in Atlantic City, is seen by many in the sport as beneath Pavlik, despite being the No. 1 contender for one of Pavlik’s belts.

But if the 26-year-old Pavlik continues to win — perhaps even with an extra dose of style — he may be able to attract some big names from other divisions to cross over and fight him. And if he stays undefeated (he is 33-0 with 29 knockouts), he has the potential to transcend the glamour list of boxers.

“In a totally nonpolitically correct way of saying it: He’s white and a Midwestern kid,” said Bert Sugar, a longtime boxing journalist and analyst. “That gives him a constituency that a lot of other American fighters don’t have.”

In addition, Sugar said, “he has a great story; he’s wrapped himself in the fabric of his city and he’s a hero to Youngstown.”

“And we just don’t have heroes today,” he said. “For some reason, we’re out of the hero business.”

In Youngstown, a former industrial stronghold that has lost more than half of its population since 1960 — from 166,688 in 1960 to 81,520 in 2006 — after most of its mills closed, Pavlik is revered for staying home when he could have easily left.

Two weeks ago, while running stairs at the football stadium of Youngstown State University, more than 100 elementary school kids on a field trip spotted him from a long distance and started chanting: “Kel-EEE!, Kel-EEE, Kel-EEE!”

“He has brought pride back to Youngstown, in a town that doesn’t have a lot of good to talk about,” said Nades Rafeedie, 36, owner of Mickey’s bar on Market Street in the city. “You see these guys making their money and usually they’re off to Las Vegas and California. He stayed.”

Before the March Democratic primary in Ohio, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton competed for Pavlik’s endorsement — Clinton won his endorsement and the primary.

Pavlik has that local hero status in part because money has not changed him. Even though he will gross $2.5 million from the Lockett fight and is earning thousands more from an increasing stable of endorsements, he still lives in a very modest home with his longtime girlfriend, Samantha Kocanjer, 25, and their 2-year-old daughter, Sydney. He remains a regular, laid-back jokester devoid of ostentation and bling.

Pavlik learned how fleeting economic security can be as an 8-year-old who watched his father lose a good steel mill job. “He’s still Kelly,” said Lori Greenwalt, the manager of Civics, the local bar Pavlik frequents with friends and family, “even if he is the champ.”

The boxing trainer Jack Loew, a no-nonsense Youngstown native and part-time driveway sealer, said Pavlik did not stand out when he started training at the gym as a 9-year-old. Loew said he was tough and brave but “nothing special.”

To show how far Pavlik has come, Loew keeps an enlarged photo above the inside of his club’s front door of his 15 amateur fighters in 1992, all posed after a fight night. They are all wearing the red and black warm-ups of the South Side Boxing Club — except Pavlik, whose skills did not yet warrant the issuance of official gear.

It was the night of Pavlik’s first fight, and Loew matched him up against someone with 24 fights on his résumé.

“He beat the hell out of him,” Loew said of Pavlik’s first win. “He smacked him around the ring.”

In the photo, Pavlik is beaming with the look of someone who has found his calling. Boxing was satisfying in a way that made sense to Pavlik.

“It was the one-on-one aspect,” Pavlik said. “Not being selfish, but you win by yourself. If you lose, there’s no one to blame. It’s everything you put into it.”

It would be six years, though, before everything would really click for Pavlik, who was all gangly legs, arms and size 14 feet at age 16 when everyone realized he could hit with surprising ferocity and force.

Pavlik soon stopped the dancing that earned his nickname and began pounding and dropping everyone who came his way. In 1998, he won the National Junior Golden Gloves. In 1999, when he was 17, he won the United States National Under-19 title. By 2000, he was fighting for a spot on the Olympic team, narrowly losing to Jermain Taylor, who went on to win a bronze medal for the United States.

People started paying attention. Pavlik signed with Top Rank’s Cameron Dunkin, one of boxing’s top managers. Two long-accepted rules of boxing are that fighters have to get more experienced trainers if they are to make it to the top level, and that they have to get away from home for training camp.

Pavlik did not buy into either notion.

“Kelly is an extremely loyal person,” said his father, Michael Pavlik Sr., who is a manager for his son. “And he’s in a comfort zone. He rolls out of bed and he’s here training in two minutes.”

That did not stop Top Rank’s matchmakers and other luminaries in boxing, including Ray Mancini, a friend of the family and a Youngstown native, from trying to persuade Pavlik to leave home and go with a big-name trainer.

Dunkin, Pavlik’s lead manager, said he fought for years with Top Rank’s matchmaker, Bruce Trampler, over the issue. Pavlik finally agreed to train in Las Vegas before a couple of fights in 2004 and 2005, but he “was “miserable,” Dunkin said.

Then, in October 2005, he knocked out the contender Fulgencia Zuniga in the ninth round.

“After that, the heat was sort of off,” Dunkin said, “because he fought a solid guy and won.”

He has trained in Youngstown for his last seven fights.

“I have everything I need right here,” Pavlik said. “And you do have your real fans, your real true fans.”

One of the quirks of his training regimen is that he still sleeps on the couch in his parents’ Youngstown home, leaving his family members at their suburban Boardman home. This is mainly so his father can keep an eye on his diet. Then he is off to the pleasantly shabby, one-room storefront of a former grocery story where he has trained with Loew for 17 years.

Ultimately, Dunkin explained, Pavlik would like to have a chance to unify all four major middleweight belts, which would mean fighting the German boxers Felix Sturm, who holds the World Boxing Association belt, and Arthur Abraham, who holds the International Boxing Federation belt. Because neither are big names in this country, Pavlik may instead move up a weight class to 168 pounds and fight the undisputed and undefeated super middleweight champion, the Welshman Joe Calzaghe (45-0).

But first there is Lockett, who has a 30-1 record with 21 knockouts but is four inches shorter than Pavlik. Even though Lockett is the No. 1 contender in the division, the British press is calling this fight his “Rocky moment” because he is a relative unknown.

When Pavlik is not training, he devotes several days a week to local charities, helping with fund-raisers or meeting with sick children.

Last year, after the first Taylor fight, he added a tattoo on his back, depicting an angel crying and hugging the world, over the phrase “Lift Our Spirits.”

“She’s tired of everything going on in the world today,” Pavlik said of the angel, conceding the tattoo reflects how he feels sometimes when he realizes he cannot help everybody in Youngstown. “But I’ve never seen anything near what they did for me when I came home from the first Taylor fight. People in Youngstown are on their feet again. It’s just awesome to see that again.”

His goal, he said, is to be so successful that he’s “mentioned in the same breath as the Hearns, Leonards, Haglers, Durans, Benitezes.”

“I want to be there,” Pavlik said.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mariska Hargitay - Is She Hot or Am I Missing Something?

Do you think Mariska Hargitay is hot? don't know who I mean?...does bad ass Det. Olivia Benson from Law and Order: SVU ring a bell...

Olivia Benson
Hargitay was born in 1964 which makes her 44-years-old...she is the daughter of legendary actress Jayne Mansfield and former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay...Hargitay, who is Hungarian, had many small roles on shows such as Seinfeld and ER before landing her current role in 1999...

She is fluent in Hungarian, French, Italian, and English...she got married in 2004 and had a baby in 2006...

My thoughts - This is an easy one - Hell Yes she is hot!!!...Hargitay has that good image yet can be a bad ass too...for 44-years-old, she is in great shape...what is nice about her - she can fill out a pair of jeans real nice, but also look classy in a this leads to the questions:

Do you think Mariska Hargitay is is hot?

If so, why doesn't she get the publicity?

Am I missing something?

Leave your comments

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Kimbo Who?

Where in the world did Kimbo Slice come from?...I never heard of this dude until he appeared on the front of my ESPN Magazine two weeks ago...where does it end?...why not have Slice fight Mike Tyson?...better yet, have the winner of the Slice-Tyson match-up take on a caged that is what I would call entertainment...let the tiger rip the shit out of one of these that would attract viewwership...

The most bush league play in baseball is the hidden ball trick...UCLA pulled that cheap streetball trick on an unsuspecting Virginia player...if I was the Virginia manager, I would have ordered my pitcher to drill the first UCLA player the next half inning...

This Saturday middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik (photo), from Youngstown, Ohio takes on Gary Lockett in Atlantic City...the fight is on HBO...

The Detroit Pistons need to fire head coach Flip Saunders...Saunders is a good basketball coach who will make an average team better...but he lacks the ability to take a team to a championship...he has to go!!!...

Mark Prior will go down as a pitcher who never reached his potential because of injuries...

There is talk that Roger Clemens may pitch again for the Houston Astros...I would rather take a shot with David Wells before signing Clemens...

Dang gummit, I didn't play "the bug number" Monday night and sure as hell my number 578 came out...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Back to the 80s

The mere mention of Celtics-Lakers or Lakers-Celtics brings back memories of my high school days watching these two franchises go after each other on hot late May and early June days with Dick Stockton announcing the games on CBS...

1984, 1985, 1987 were all wars...everyone had a opinion whether you were a basketball expert or didn't know a basketball from a bocce ball...conventional wisdom indicated that Laker fans were big shots and into glitz and glamour while Celtics supporters were blue-collar middle class people...

However, this blue collar, middle class person support Showtime...I would wear my yellow Magic Johnson jersey for each game...I hated the Celtics...Larry Bird stuck a dagger in my heart so many times with his clutch my book, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale looked like Frankenstein and Frankenstein Junior...Danny Ainge was nothing but a whining baby...Bill Walton was a has-been thug...and the leader Red Auerbach was an arrogant, cocky prick...

Some 21 years since these two franchises last met for the title, my views have changed...they say that you always look back fondly on aspects of your youth...and that is true...I know longer hate the fact, I now own a Larry Bird Celtics jersey to go with my purple Magic Johnson one...

I have fond memories of watching those games with my dad...on Sundays, the games were played at 1:00 in the afternoon if it was in Boston and 3:30 if in L.A...the weekday games were held at night...I remember watching McHale clothesline Kurt Rambis...Gerald Henderson's steal in Game Two...Jabbar and Bird going face-to-face...Magic's baby hook...and how can I forget the classic Game Five in the 1984 Finals when the heat and humidity in the Boston Garden reached over 100 degrees as the Lakers wilted...

After the 1984 Finals, the NBA installed the 2-3-2 format for the Finals in order to cut down on travel...

There was Chick Hearn calling the games for L.A. and Johnny Most for the Celts...Randy Newmann's "I Love L.A." blared at the Forum while the chants of "Beat L.A." rang throughout the old Boston Garden...

Currently, the rivalry is not even close to where it was in the 1980s when it was at fever pitch...honestly, it will take time for it to even get close to that was incredible how much these two franchises hated each other...

The hatred is not there yet, but the mere mention of these franchises will always bring a smile to may face...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Stories - Celtics vs. Lakers

Lakers vs. Celtics
Matt Viser of the Boston Globe writes about the rebirth of a rivalry... "A rivalry that used to be as fierce as the Red Sox-Yankees smackdowns has returned. The Celtics are back, and a region's passion for basketball is reborn." ...
  • Matt Viser

  • Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe writes it was a bumpy playoff road, but the Celtics are right where they set out to be... "Twenty games and 41 days after the 2008 playoffs had begun, the Boston Celtics had reached a milestone, their dramatic 89-81 victory over the Detroit Pistons in Game 6 Friday night giving them a berth in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1987, or since 11-year-old Kevin Garnett was home watching on TV in Mauldin, S.C." ...
  • Bob Ryan

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes about the rich history of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry... "When the Lakers meet the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals for the 11th time beginning Thursday, it will not be an ending, but a continuation, another chapter in a book written with Magic and Bird, Balloons and Clotheslines, Massacres and Heat, Old Man Cigars and Baby Sky Hooks." ...
  • Bill Plaschke

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times writes how the Lakers-Celtics are the best match-up in the NBA... "An NBA Finals with the Lakers and Celtics . . . or listed according to who dominated whom, the Celtics and Lakers . . . is entirely different, an event unto itself. Lakers vs. Celtics is part of something bigger, a rivalry going back almost 50 years that defined the NBA over that time." ...
  • Mark Heisler

  • Penguins-Red Wings
    Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes how a fluky Detroit goal may have ended the Penguins chances for a Stanley Cup..."So he backhanded it blindly toward Fleury, who was slamming his left shoulder in the near post just in case. Just in case one random rubber disc in a 60-minute shooting gallery might flutter to the only spot where it could do some damage. Just in case. Hudler's shot went to that spot. And through that spot." ...
  • Gene Collier

  • Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press writes how goalie Chris Osgood provided his best playoff performance in Game 4... "Osgood made two brilliant point-blank saves on superstar Sidney Crosby, another two on Pascal Dupuis and stopped Marian Hossa and Evgeni Malkin on power-play attempts." ...
  • Helene St. James

  • Other sports
    Mike Lupica of the Daily News writes about Joe Torre's return to NYC... "Torre was the last dynasty. Somebody might last as long as he did. No one will ever win as much, or be treated as well, rewarded as handsomely." ...
  • Mike Lupica

  • Vincent Mallozzi of The New York Times writes how autograph collecting has changed... "“Because so many athletes are locked into memorabilia deals with big companies, they don’t sign as often as they used to, which is why this whole autograph thing has become one giant rat race.” ...
  • Vincent Mallozzi

  • Katie Thomas of The New York Times writes about Vanderbilt's Pedro Alvarez who is expected to be one of the top 3 picks in the baseball draft... "Now, three years later, it seems Alvarez’s decision has paid off. He is widely expected to be among the top three picks in the draft Thursday. And with the agent Scott Boras working as his adviser, Alvarez — a livery cabdriver’s son who grew up in Upper Manhattan sharing a bedroom with his sister — is almost certain to become a multimillionaire." ...
  • Katie Thomas

  • Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times writes if Chicago native Derrick Rose can handle the hometown pressure if the Bulls draft him... "Already, we've forgotten that he's merely 19 years old, that he plays video games and devours Gummy Bears, that Derrick Rose is like a lot of us in Chicago who grew pouty and indifferent about the local basketball operation. ``I was a huge Bulls fan when Mike was playing,'' he said at the NBA's pre-draft camp." ...
  • Jay Mariotti