Category Archives: sports

Tyson

Tyson ~ This 2008 documentary about prize fighter Mike Tyson is something of a phenomenon. Much of it is culled from over thirty hours of interview footage with the champ, giving a rather disturbing, and possibly unintentional, picture of the undisputed world’s heavyweight champion.

The director James Toback might be better known for his films like Bugsy and The Pick-Up Artist. One wonders how he got involved in this documentary. At times this film shows us a side of Mike Tyson rarely seen, not that of a modern gladiator and media star, but one of a mad monster to be both pitied and feared.

Toback films Tyson’s bizarre monotone monologues in such a way that they appear to be almost confessional, as if from a patient lying on an analyst’s couch. It is a fascinating and disturbing experience all at once. A study in psychosis worth watching.

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Low Budget Lacrosse

I am a huge Philadelphia Wings fan, I love lacrosse and I love the Wings. I’ve been a season ticket holder for nearly two decades. Now I realize that the team hasn’t won a championship in nine years but in the years before that, they nearly scored every one. There’s a long history here. The team has unfortunately fallen into that terrible losing pattern most Philadelphia sports teams get caught up in – almost to the play-offs.

I attended the home opener on Saturday and was a bit shocked by what I found. It seems the Wachovia Complex (or whatever the hell they are calling it this week) has decided to put the squeeze on the Wings. I guess no wins means no money, but this is just ridiculous. It feels like they are trying to tight-ass Major Indoor Lacrosse out of Philadelphia.

Prices have gone up, not just a little but a lot. Parking up by 30% and most of the food up by a buck. That’s not a big thing really, that’s business as usual for a sports complex, but it gets worse. Let’s start with the tickets. They didn’t send them out via snail mail so we would have real tickets – they went out via email, to save paper I suppose, and that was just the start of the cheapness.

The program which are normally thick books of articles and stats was now basically a folded over flier. They had closed off the entire upper level and turned out the lights up there. A grade school choir sang the National Anthem rather than a big or local name singer. Only the starting line-up of the team was announced as opposed to all the players participating in the game. Our mascot, Mad Dog, who had previously been stripped of his ATV a couple years back, lost his whole costume save just a dog mask. And then the kicker, not that our half-time shows have ever been all that spectacular, but – there was no half-time show!

What the hell is up, Wachovia Complex?

The Wings won Saturday’s game 12-8. The players gave as good as they usually do. I have no complaints in that department, at least I don’t now that Jacobs is no longer on the Wings. There could have been more fights, but then again, there could always be more fights.

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Those Poor Eagles Fans

Perhaps I should reword that title as I’m an Eagles fan too, but perhaps it’s also better to distance myself from the subject this time. Philadelphia Eagles football fans are masochists. On my recent Disney Cruise of the Western Caribbean many pitiful Eagles fans gathered in the Diversions sports bar onboard to watch the Sunday game against the Washington Redskins.

It was quite a event for a people watcher like me who only usually gets to observe one or two family members or friends watch the Eagles. This was a small group of strangers brought together by a common denominator – misery, um, I mean, loyalty to a local sports team.

There were several games being viewed at Diversions that day, a different one on each of many TV screens. The biggest screen, well over ten feet across, and the one with the sound up, was Indianapolis and Houston. This was an exciting game and the one most folks were there to see, and there was much applause, high-fiving and hooting and jumping up and down. The Colts were apparently playing real football. There was much joy and celebration.

As I said, that was a great game, but still the Eagles game had its viewers as well scattered around one silent TV screen. Philadelphia fans had a whole different pattern of behavior. They would punch the furniture, curse under their breath, grab their heads in frustration, and even pull out their own hair. Repeatedly this happened for over two hours.

When the Indianapolis game was over and the Eagles game was at a 24-24 tie with three minutes left, the bar moved it to the big screen. Even in the hope of the fans there was a subtle feeling of desperation. We had been here before. Eventually after a field goal and running out the clock, the Eagles did win. And that’s a good thing, hey, I could watch the Eagles lose at home.

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The Sound of Silence

A few thoughts came to me the other night while watching the World Series. Folks across the rest of the country don’t like Philadelphia. Especially when it comes to sports. Not that I blame them. Philly sports fans have a rather nasty reputation – throwing corroded batteries at opposing team fans, hurling insults about outfielders’ mothers, even throwing snowballs at Santa Claus – yeah, we’re a unique bunch. And the rest of the country hates us.

This fact becomes most apparent when watching nationally televised sports events. Ever watch “Monday Night Football” when the Eagles are playing? Never a positive thing said about the team. Even the sportscasters are rooting for the other team. At the World Series games played this week in Philadelphia, the Fox network cameras focused more on Yankees fans in the stands than the 90% of Phillies fans on hand.

It gets so bad that many Philly sports fans will have the TV on mute and listen to local announcers on the radio to at least get a semi-fair accounting of the game. This is something I’ve done for years, and it occurs to me that with the graphics on screen these days – do we really need announcers at all anymore?

Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn are much missed local announcers for the Phillies but if folks remember they knew when to be quiet. Today’s announcers have the obnoxious habit of filling every empty second with some obscure fact or just pointless babble. It’s not needed. Sometimes announcer quiet and the sound of the crowd is all that is needed. Just my opinion.

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Gary Papa 1954-2009

After a long battle with cancer, local news and sports anchor Gary Papa has passed away.

He joined the Action News on-air staff as a sportscaster in 1981 and was promoted to sports director nine years later.

Papa was also the host of “Prime Time” which he took over from the late Jim O’Brien.

He was beloved in the Philadelphia area and will be missed.

View more here.

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Harry Kalas RIP

The voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, Harry Kalas, passed away today. Before today’s game he had passed out in the broadcast booth in Washington and didn’t wake up. Kalas was 73.

For decades, and for generations of Phillies fans, he was The Man. We would rather listen to him on the radio than any other announcer on television. He was a legend and he was a friend. He will be sorely missed, and the Phillies will never be the same again.

With all due respect, the man, the legend, Harry Kalas is…“Outta here…”

Motorcycle Daredevil Evel Knievel Dies at Age 69


Continuing the sad pattern of death this blog has been following lately, daredevil Evel Knievel passed away today.

I remember the man, or at least the legend of the man fondly. I waited through what seemed like hours of talk talk talk on the “Wide World of Sports” to see the man jump whatever. I remember seeing his excruciating landing at Caesar’s Place. I remember listening madly to the AM radio news the Sunday he attempted to jump Snake River Canyon.

And what I remember most was that there was nothing, and I mean nothing, I wanted more for my birthday in the summer of 1974 than the Evel Knievel stunt cycle playset. I did get it, along with the Scramble Van accessory, but really, that was a bit too Barbie for my tastes. I loved the ramp that came with it though, that and the dual ramps that came with the SST Demolition Derby became Evel’s territory as I jumped everything from cats to wagons and even off the cliff of my front porch.

Since that time, I’ve seen documentaries on the man, and I’d have to say he was crazy, stubborn and maybe even a bit of a liar – but one thing was sure, Evel Knievel was an entertainer. There’ll never be another like him.

From the Associated Press:

Motorcycle Daredevil Evel Knievel Dies at Age 69

Friday, November 30, 2007

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Evel Knievel, the hard-living motorcycle daredevil whose exploits made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 69.

Knievel death was confirmed by his 21-year-old granddaughter, Krysten Knievel. He had been in failing health for years, suffering from diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable condition that scarred his lungs. He had undergone a liver transplant in 1999 after nearly dying of hepatitis C, likely contracted through a blood transfusion after one of his bone-shattering spills.

His death came just two days after it was announced that he and rapper Kanye West had settled a federal lawsuit over the use of Knievel’s trademarked image in a popular West music video.

Immortalized in the Washington’s Smithsonian Institution as “America’s Legendary Daredevil,” Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump an Idaho canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones before he retired in 1980.

For the tall, thin daredevil, the limelight was always comfortable, the gab glib. Always, he welcomed the challenge whether in sports, at work or play. To Knievel, there always were mountains to climb, feats to conquer.

“No king or prince has lived a better life,” he said in a May 2006 interview with The Associated Press. “You’re looking at a guy who’s really done it all. And there are things I wish I had done better, not only for me but for the ones I loved.”

He garbed himself in red, white and blue and had a knack for outrageous yarns: “Made $60 million, spent 61. …Lost $250,000 at blackjack once. … Had $3 million in the bank, though.”

Although he dropped off the pop culture radar in the ’80s, Knievel always had fans and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years. In later years he still made a good living selling his autographs and endorsing products. Thousands came to Butte, Mont., every year as his legend was celebrated during the “Evel Knievel Days” festival.

“They started out watching me bust my ass, and I became part of their lives,” Knievel said. “People wanted to associate with a winner, not a loser. They wanted to associate with someone who kept trying to be a winner.”

He began his daredevil career in 1965 when he formed a troupe called Evel Knievel’s Motorcycle Daredevils, a touring show in which he performed stunts such as riding through fire walls, jumping over live rattlesnakes and mountain lions and being towed at 200 mph behind dragster race cars.

In 1966 he began touring alone, barnstorming the Western states and doing everything from driving the trucks, erecting the ramps and promoting the shows. In the beginning he charged $500 for a jump over two cars parked between ramps.

He steadily increased the length of the jumps until, on New Year’s Day 1968, he was nearly killed when he jumped 151 feet across the fountains in front of Caesar’s Palace. He cleared the fountains but the crash landing put him in the hospital in a coma for a month.

Hi son, Robbie, successfully completed the same jump in April 1989.

In the years after the Caesar’s crash, the fee for Evel’s performances increased to $1 million for his jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium in London — the crash landing broke his pelvis — to more than $6 million for the Sept. 8, 1974, attempt to clear the Snake River Canyon in Idaho in a rocket-powered “Skycycle.” The money came from ticket sales, paid sponsors and ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”

The parachute malfunctioned and deployed after takeoff. Strong winds blew the cycle into the canyon, landing him close to the swirling river below.

On Oct. 25, 1975, he jumped 14 Greyhound buses at Kings Island in Ohio.

Knievel decided to retire after a jump in the winter of 1976 in which he was again seriously injured. He suffered a concussion and broke both arms in an attempt to jump a tank full of live sharks in the Chicago Amphitheater. He continued to do smaller exhibitions around the country with his son, Robbie.

Many of his records have been broken by daredevil motorcyclist Bubba Blackwell.

Knievel also dabbled in movies and TV, starring as himself in “Viva Knievel” and with Lindsey Wagner in an episode of the 1980s TV series “Bionic Woman.” George Hamilton and Sam Elliott each played Knievel in movies about his life.

Evel Knievel toys accounted for more than $300 million in sales for Ideal and other companies in the 1970s and ’80s.

Born Robert Craig Knievel in the copper mining town of Butte on Oct. 17, 1938, Knievel was raised by his grandparents. He traced his career choice back to the time he saw Joey Chitwood’s Auto Daredevil Show at age 8.

Outstanding in track and field, ski jumping and ice hockey at Butte High School, he went on to win the Northern Rocky Mountain Ski Association Class A Men’s ski jumping championship in 1957 and played with the Charlotte Clippers of the Eastern Hockey League in 1959.

He also formed the Butte Bombers semiprofessional hockey team, acting as owner, manager, coach and player.

Knievel also worked in the Montana copper mines, served in the U.S. Army, ran his own hunting guide service, sold insurance and ran Honda motorcycle dealerships. As a motorcycle dealer, he drummed up business by offering $100 off the price of a motorcycle to customers who could beat him at arm wrestling.

At various times and in different interviews, Knievel claimed to have been a swindler, a card thief, a safe cracker, a holdup man.

Robbie Knievel followed in his father’s footsteps as a daredevil, jumping a moving locomotive in a 200-foot, ramp-to-ramp motorcycle stunt on live television in 2000. He also jumped a 200-foot-wide chasm of the Grand Canyon.

Knievel married hometown girlfriend, Linda Joan Bork, in 1959. They separated in the early 1990s. They had four children, Kelly, Robbie, Tracey and Alicia.

Knievel lived with his longtime partner, Krystal Kennedy-Knievel, splitting his time between their Clearwater condo and his Butte hometown. They married in 1999 and divorced a few years later but remained together. Knievel had 10 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

National Lacrosse League Cancels 2008 Season

From the Baltimore Sun:

Players’ Association rejects league’s last collective bargaining agreement proposal

The Associated Press
12:37 PM EDT, October 16, 2007

NEW YORK – The National Lacrosse League canceled its 2008 season after failing to reach a labor agreement with the union.

The executive committee of the Professional Lacrosse Players’ Association rejected the last collective bargaining agreement proposal, the NLL said today.

“The plan is to take the season off and try to get with the union and negotiate a deal that works for both parties and get back playing in ’09,” NLL commissioner Jim Jennings said.

The 14-team league was scheduled to open the season Dec. 27.

“It’s devastating,” Jennings said. “We’re in a position right now where we’re just starting to build momentum with our fan base, our teams, with television and sponsors over the last four, five years. We’re not the NHL, not the NBA. This is going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people.”