When Rusty Met Rusty
August 1969 was a rough month for me. I was working as a waiter up at Camp Tyler Hill in Tyler Hill, Pennsylvania getting ready for my freshman year at Loyola College up in Montreal. It was an exciting time for me. Here’s this kid from the housing projects in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn gearing up to go off on his own, really for the first time in my life. And then on the 9th day of August I got the call I had dreaded. My father’s bum ticker had finally given out. He was dead at 47 years old. But as my father had taught me, you have to deal with whatever comes your way. So I left camp, went home, buried my father, sat shiva for a week, and returned to Tyler Hill to finish my job. That was one of the things my father had instilled in me. A week later I was back in Brooklyn, packing my one suitcase, and hopping a a flight, traveling standby up to Montreal. It was a Friday night. As you can imagine, my head was spinning. My father was dead, I was worried about my mother, and here I am in a strange place. To say that I felt alone those first couple of days up in Montreal would be a big time understatement. But then two days later everything changed. It was Sunday night, I decided to take a walk, check out the neighborhood around the school, and get myself something to eat. So I walk into this restaurant, maybe more aptly described as a joint. Anyway, I go to sit down at a table when a waitress asks if I’m alone. I reply yes and she tells me I have to sit at the counter. I give her a pissed off look but comply. Then all of a sudden I hear a voice say “Hey, hey you. Why don’t you join me?”. I turn around and it’s this big , good looking, redheaded guy sitting by himself. Feeling awkward, I accept. Before I became Russ, I was Rusty. That’s how I introduced myself. As Rusty. And the Big redhead replied, “I’m Rusty too”. He was Rusty Staub, playing in his first season with the Montreal Expos. Being a baseball fan, I was naturally impressed. Not so much that he was a ballplayer, but that he was a kind human being. I wasn’t 18 yet. He was 24, maybe 25. But this big guy from New Orleans reached out to make this stranger, a little Brooklyn wisecracker feel comfortable in a strange place. We ate, we talked, we shared stories. When the bill came I reached into my pocket but big Rusty would have none of it. He insisted on paying. He then gave me two tickets to a game that week, wished me luck and said goodbye. It was an act of kindness I would never forget. Now lets fast forward 19 years. I started working for WWOR channel 9 in October 1988. The Mets were playing the Dodgers in the NLCS. I see Rusty, walk up to him, and say hello. I didn’t have to say anything else. Rusty recognized me, gave me a hug, and we spoke about that dinner in Montreal. He even remembered that my father had died. He insisted on me coming into his restaurant for some ribs and of course I did. We never hung out but always shared a warm relationship whenever we ran into each other over the years. Unfortunately we won’t be running into each other ever again. While I was driving out to Citi Field yesterday for the Mets opener, I heard the report that Rusty was dead. My heart sank and I had lump in my throat, just as I do now writing this. Rusty was a great ballplayer. But as great as he was, he was an even greater man. I will miss him dearly. And I will never forget that first time Rusty met Rusty.
STOP THE QUARTERBACK MADNESS
For all of the experts out there with their genius analysis of who’s the best quarterback to pick in the upcoming NFL draft, I have a message for all of them. Calm the bleep down and stop this quarterback madness! Let me remind you of the name of the late, great San Francisco 49ers’ Head Coach Bill Walsh. Perhaps no head coach before or after Walsh has been referred to as a genius as much as this Hall of Fame coach was. Before the 1979 draft, Walsh flew down to Kentucky to work out a fellow by the name of Phil Simms. During his senior year at Morehead State, Simms had a completion rate of 53.2%, throwing six touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and 1,229 passing yards. But Walsh was so impressed with Simms, he was planning on picking him in the 3rd round ahead of a guy by the name of Joe Montana. But the new Giants GM George Young also was impressed with Simms. In fact, Young liked him so much that he he picked Simms in the 1st round with the 7th pick overall. Nobody knew who the hell Simms was. And his selection was booed loudly and criticized heavily by the Giants’ fans. Well, you know the rest. Phil Simms would go on to be one of the great Giants of all-time. For his brilliant performance in Super Bowl XXI, completing 22 of 25 passes, Simms was named the game’s MVP. But as great as he was on the field, Phil was equally as great off the field. A bonafide leader in every sense of the word. So things worked out well for Simms, the Giants, and their fans, who continue to love Simms and hold him in high regard. And things didn’t work out too bad either for the 49ers and that 3rd round pick of that guy Montana. And most recently there’s this guy by the name of Brady who was a 6th round pick. I hear he’s worked out pretty good too. So what’s the point of all this? Here it is in a nutshell. Stop the quarterback Madness. Stop the Bullshit. Because that’s all it is. The draft is not an exact science. It’s going to play out the way it plays out. And as hard as they might try, all the experts and geniuses don’t know how that will be.
WHAT DOES THE NCAA STAND FOR?
Many people think that the NCAA stands for National Collegiate Athletic Association. A more appropriate title would be the National Corrupt Athletic Association. Because corruption has permeated this organization for years, dating back to the 60s when Kareem Abdul- Jabbar was still Lew Alcindor at UCLA. If you’re not familiar with the name Sam Gilbert, go google it. To the UCLA players he was known as Papa Sam. A multi-millionaire booster, Gilbert opened up his Bel-Air home to the players, buying them clothes, cars, tickets for shows. Players wanted something, they got it from Gilbert. He even arranged abortions for their girlfriends. He later became a sports agent for some of the players, negotiating a then unheard of $1.4 million dollars deal for Alcindor with the Milwaukee Bucks. What was UCLA’s legendary coach Johm Wooden doing while Gilbert was taking care of his players? Read it and weep folks. Nothing. That’s right, the Wizard of Westwood did nothing. Years later Wooden would say that he may’ve had “tunnel vision” and perhaps “trusted too much”. Perhaps? No. For damn sure is the answer. And so on and so on it went. John Calipari left two schools with violations. UMass and Memphis. While both schools were hit with sanctions, Calipari went on to become the pied piper of Kentucky. Rick Pitino left Louisville in shame over a sex scandal. Roy Williams’ players at North Carolina were given credit for classes that didn’t exist. Jim Boeheim’s program at Syracuse has also been hit with several infractions. Calipari, Pitino, Williams, and Boeheim. Four of the biggest names ever in college basketball. All with dirty laundry. But lets be honest here. Corruption in college basketball lays at the feet of many. From school presidents, to athletic directors, to coaches, to shoe companies, to agents, to boosters, to players, and to parents. All of their hands have been dirty in this. But guess what? When March Madness starts nobody will give a shit! It’ll be boola boola as fans of the schools in the tournament work themselves into a frenzy cheering their teams on. Shame on all parties concerned. Everybody needs to look in the mirror. And when they do, guilt will be staring them back in the face. The National Corruption Athletic Association needs to be ripped apart. Immediately.
WERE THE 17 KILLED ACTORS TOO?
Eight days ago on Valentine’s Day our hearts were ripped out with seventeen innocent people, fourteen students and three teachers unmercifully gunned down and murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parklands, Florida. Our nation has been traumatized by yet another senseless, hideous act of violence. So here we are once again left to debate. Is it guns? Is it mental illness? Is it not paying attention to what’s going on around us? Who’s to blame? What’s to blame? On and on it goes. I want to be hopeful that this tragedy can perhaps be the last straw. I want to be hopeful that all sides will say enough is enough. I want to be hopeful that we can all listen to one another in healthy discussions and come to a solution that will bring these horrific crimes to an end. Hopeful yes, but still not convinced. Not when I see some moronic assholes accusing these articulate Stoneman Douglas students of being actors. Not convinced when I see some moronic assholes criticizing these Stoneman Douglas students for rehearsing their comments. These kids have buried their classmates. They are filled with rage and emotion. They are most articulate in expressing their feelings. And they’re being criticized for rehearsing what they’re going to say on TV? What Television anchor or reporter doesn’t rehearse their lines before going on air? Disgrace has no bounds. And these accusers have no souls. Were those 17 killed also actors? Were those 17 coffins put into the ground filled with actors? How about those students and relatives of the victims meeting with President Trump yesterday? How about those people who’s lives have been broken and will never be the same? Are they actors too? No. The only actors here are the moronic assholes making these idiotic accusations. They’re frauds. Each and every one of them. They pretend to be human beings. But you can’t be a human being without a soul. Disgrace has no bounds.
Where Were The Parents
As a parent myself, now of two grown daughters, I can’t imagine having to hear the horrifying news that your child has been sexually abused. The thought of it is sickening. Not just for my children, but for anybody’s children. It make’s my skin crawl. And that’s what happens every time I read about the some 150 gymnastics girls who were abused by the animal Larry Nasser. I can’t put the words together what I think should happen to this piece of garbage. But this animal is not alone. He’s got plenty of company including USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee. Where the hell were they when these horrors were taking place? I know that they were plenty visible when these girls were winning their medals for the good old USA. There are plenty of enablers to this non-fiction nightmare. But as much as hate to do it, I have to ask this one question. Where were the parents? I’m not trying to be cruel here. But again, where were the parents? There’s one of these abused girls who was dropped off at animal Nasser’s apartment when she was 12 or 13 years old. He was 30. No chaperone! Where were parents asking questions when their young daughters were being examined alone in a room with Nasser? How did the exams go? What was done to you? What is the doctor like? Were you left alone? WHAT EXACTLY DID HE DO TO YOU? These are all reasonable questions to ask. There’s the story of one girl saying something to her father but he didn’t believe her. The father would later commit suicide. I’m not trying to be cruel here. Again, this is a parent’s worst nightmare. But these questions must be asked and must be answered. Answered so that other parents will not have to suffer the same consequences. Was it about your child being an elite athlete and the possibilities of greater glory? If so, does that mean you don’t ask questions? I’m trying to understand this but I just can’t. I remember years ago when Michael Jackson was accused of improper sexual behavior with a child at his home. I remember saying to one of my colleagues how I couldn’t understand how a parent could leave a child alone at Jackson’s Neverland ranch. My colleague looked at me and said in all seriousness, “but he’s a superstar. He’s a famous celebrity Russ. You wouldn’t allow your girls to go?”. I thought my colleague was nuts. I couldn’t understand that thinking then and still can’t. I think it’s moronic. But I’ve come to find that my colleague wasn’t alone in this moronic thinking. Hard to believe but true. Being in the sports business for 35 years I understand the sacrifices athletes have to make to achieve greater glory. I understand the sacrifices parents have to make to help their children fulfill their dreams. But the bigger question is, what price glory? If it means not asking the right questions, then glory isn’t worth it. First and foremost a kid needs to be a kid. And a parent needs to be a parent. So I’ll ask one more time. Where were the parents? This is not applying guilt. It’s applying education. An education that no parent or child wants to learn from having to suffer such a horrifying experience firsthand.
The following is a post that I sent out on Facebook and Twitter this past Thursday:
“Doesn’t matter who’s side you’re on. DeNiro’s comments Tuesday and Trump’s remark today were flat out despicable”. All they’re doing is widening the huge divide that exists in our country. Disgraceful”.
I believe the comment speaks for itself and doesn’t need explanation. Robert DeNiro at an awards presentation described the President with F bombs and the President in the Oval Office allegedly described African countries and Haiti as s**tholes. Both remarks are disgusting and reprehensible. Neither one can be defended. Yet the reaction that followed was equally disturbing to me. It became a discussion of who said what, and what was worse than the other. It became a discussion of measuring the degree of awfulness. This is exactly what’s wrong with our country. Everybody hears but nobody listens. Let me correct myself. Nobody listens except to themselves and their own ideals. You can hate Trump and hate what he stands for. You can love DeNiro and whatever he stands for. And vice-versa. But there is no defending either man’s behavior this past week. None whatsoever. Zero. Both men were an embarrassment to our country. And if you don’t think so, think again.
To Boycott or Not to Boycott
NBA coaches are pissed off at ESPN for doing a story in which LaVar Ball said of Lakers coach Luke Walton, “You can see they’re not playing for Luke no more. Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him”. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, president of the coaches association calls this a disgrace and has threatened to restrict access to ESPN. Former Knicks coach and current NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy says coaches have every reason to boycott ESPN. His brother Stan Van Gundy concurs. He says ESPN can go to press conferences, but will not be given extra access from his Pistons. This is a serious problem because the NBA and ESPN are business partners. How this works out legally I don’t know.
Let me be upfront about this. Lavar Ball is a loudmouth blowhard. He’s an embarrassment. He’s an attention grabber who doesn’t care one bit how he might be embarrassing his three sons, the most notable being his eldest Lonzo who plays for the Lakers. But while I understand the coaches’ position here, I do not like the idea of a boycott. Yes, they have every right to be pissed off. LaVar Ball is a nobody wanting to be a somebody. So he does so through his sons. He rants and talks garbage. He’s no expert in basketball. He’s just a a loudmouth parent. The only thing he’s good at is making noise. And that’s why ESPN and the rest of the media go to LaVar Ball for comment. He makes noise. Lots of it. And noise sells. The coaches’ complaints here are valid when they talk about journalistic responsibility. They’re upset that a bum like LaVar Ball is given a platform to talk trash about one of their own, Luke Walton. Their complaint is not that somebody trashed Walton. It’s that a nobody like LaVar Ball trashed him. Ball doesn’t care what he says and everybody knows it. But a coaches boycott is not the way to go here. It sets a bad precedent. It opens up the door for a boycott every time somebody doesn’t like what is said or reported. We can’t have that. But on the flip side is journalistic responsibility. Not just for ESPN but for all media. Why are you doing a story? If it’s just to make noise because noise sells, that sucks. I’ve been in this business for 35 years. And I’m embarrassed to say that making noise in our industry has become the top priority with responsibility taking a back seat. Again, that sucks.
Leaking, Guessing, Speculating And BS!
The hiring of the new head coach of the Giants can’t come soon enough for me. It’s not because of my impatience. It’s simply that all the leaking and guessing and speculating is becoming way too much. How the hell does anybody know who the favorite is, when the Giants don’t even know who the favorite is? I’m talking about GM Dave Gettleman and President & Co-owner John Mara. They don’t know. They’ve gone into this search completely open minded. Yet from the moment Ben McAdoo was fired we’ve heard about one favorite after another. First it was Josh McDaniels. Then it was Jim Schwartz. As of this writing at 4:11 on this snowy afternoon, neither McDaniels or Schwartz have been interviewed yet. Other than Steve Spagnuole yesterday, there’ve been no other interviews. So where does all this favorites business come from? From the agents, that’s where. The thinking is to get their guys names out there and endear themselves to members of the media at the same time. Kill two birds with one stone. It’s the games people play in this business. And it’s misleading to the public. If you like a guy, just say you like the guy. But don’t say he’s a favorite because that’s simply nonsense. Just say it’s your opinion. But this favorites business is all about people trying to show they have inside information. And it’s all nothing but a bunch of BS!
A Giant Step Forward
“My plan is to come in here everyday and kick ass”. Those were the words of Dave Gettleman when he was officially introduced this morning as the new GM of the Giants. It’s what the Giants needed and now they have it. And Giants’ fans should be pleased. Gettleman wasn’t the most popular choice for some people, button of far greater importance he was the right choice. I’ve read and heard complaints that the Giants didn’t interview enough people for the job. But they did infact interview enough. Once they knew Gettleman was there guy, there was no need to look any further. Dave Gettleman probably knows personal in the NFL as much or more than anybody. He’s a workaholic. He loves what he does. And now he has his dream job. Add all that to the 15 years he previously spent with the Giants organization and you have a damn good combination. Dave Gettleman is also a straight shooter. He won’t tell you what wants to be heard but what needs to be heard. Thats goes for owners, coaches, players, and the fans. The time has come to fix the Giants. And this morning was a Giant step forward. Welcome Dave. Now go kick some ass!
Diddy or Dodo?
So Sean “Diddy” Combs wants to buy the Carolina Panthers. Fine by me. I wish him the best of luck in his endeavors to do so. I really do. But for crying out loud Diddy, stop being a dodo! Yes, we know that there are no majority African American owners in the NFL. So to become the first would certainly be historic. But so far you’re going about it all the wrong way. Going on Twitter and asking people to retweet your desire is just plain dumb. The Twitter world is not going to get you the Panthers. Beleaguered Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson will have to agree to sell the team to you for somewhere in the area of two billion and change. And should that happen you would then have to be approved by the other NFL owners. And they couldn’t care less about your silly tweets about how you’ll have the best music and best halftime show. And quite frankly, music is not uppermost in the minds of Panthers’ fans either. Football is. Winning football is. And by you saying that you’ll immediately sign Colin Kaepernick so that he could be in the running to challenge Cam Newton for the starting quarterback position is insulting to both Newton and the Panthers fans. Colin Kaepernick shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Cam Newton. By doing so you sound like a foolish grandstander. If you truly are sincere in your desire to be an NFL owner, go get the cash and the proper backing to get the job done. But you won’t find it on Twitter. So Diddy, stop being dodo!