To Boston, With Love

BostonI don’t know how many times I put my arm up, but it was approaching a countless number. The air was starting to chill, and I wanted to get myself and my girls back to our hotel. My arm went up again, another attempt to hail a cab that had no intention of pulling over. There wasn’t an empty one in sight.

We were still sweating, from the sing and dance-a-thon that was a two hour Coldplay concert at the Boston Garden: a great show featuring staunch musicianship, pyrotechnics, and stunning visual technology. I was with my wife, daughter, and our cousin from Ohio. We were wiped out and needed the comfort of our hotel room.

“Taxi!”

The concert was a cap to an outstanding day in a visit to my favorite American tourist destination – the city of Boston – and I say that as a diehard New York sports fan (rivalry, anyone?). After walking along the harbor, darting in and out of shops in the electric Quincy Market, my wife and I stopped in a Cantina there to have a drink and chat with the locals. And make no mistake: even when I wear my Yankee hat, the people of Boston are some of the friendliest around.

While my daughter and the cousin roamed the landscape, we enjoyed our time at the bar, and had great conversations with those who were just happy to be in this beautiful place – and we were happy to be with them. We segued from Quincy quickly to a North End restaurant, where we enjoyed a tasty slice of Italian America before heading to the Garden to see my daughter’s favorite band.

After the show, we did finally get back to the hotel. A taxi did stop. Persistence pays off.

It all would have been very impressive if that was the first, or one and only, trip to Boston. But, of course. it wasn’t. My first nerve wracking ride on a jet airliner to take an initial romantic weekend getaway with my wife (then girlfriend), more than 20 years ago, was to Boston.

For the purpose of love and romance, we couldn’t have picked a better town.

Trips to Fenway Park, as a Yankee fan, brought me back here many times. Bus rides taken with good friends, enjoying baseball in possibly the most intimate stadium in America. Most of the games the Yankees won. I’ve heard horror stories from others about the dangers of rooting for New York at Fenway, but have never experienced anything but good will and good natured ribbing from the Fenway faithful. I hope to get back there soon.

This past year, we have witnessed events that bring us to question human integrity and sanity. All of us wonder aloud why a bombing would happen at a marathon, how men can be so sick and indifferent to the lives of others. How they can target locations where children run and play.

I’ve been to Boston. Many times. I love it there, and can’t wait to go back. The city will rebound and come back better than ever because of the qualities of the people that live there. I have made memories with family and friends in the place they call “Beantown” that would be hard to forget. I’m thankful for endless hospitality and wish them god speed in repairing their lives and building on the strengths that showed in those harrowing moments that we have become much too familiar with.

We love you, Boston.

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Why You Shouldn’t Give a Damn About Athletes and Celebrities

A favorite movie of mine is A Bronx Tale. In a pivotal scene in the movie, the character played by Italian American actor Chazz Palminteri, a gangster named Sonny, has a unique way of comforting a young charge after a Yankees World Series defeat.

The young boy, named Calogero, was upset because Mickey Mantle cried after the heart breaking loss. Sonny, in a rather direct manner, asked why he felt this way – because in a big picture world, Mickey Mantle was a megastar who didn’t give a shit about him, his family, or the struggles they faced every day.

As the boy grew into a man, he never felt the same way about the Yankees again.

The scene has merit – a (perceived) truth was revealed to a boy that couldn’t have comprehended it beforehand. And if Mantle was aloof towards his fans in the ’60s at all, well – he’s got nothing on the modern athlete.

While American families struggled to recover from an economic recession, NBA owners locked out their rank and file players because, much like the NFL before them, they can’t figure out how to divide their billions.

Potential billionaire LeBron James

And while negotiations take place, and the matter eventually gets resolved, please remember that these players, like Mantle decades ago, won’t give a damn about you or your struggles either.

Yes, there are players that care. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints still helps recovering Katrina victims from his home base. Fellow football player Warrick Dunn created a foundation that has purchased many homes for struggling single families. It’s my belief that guys of this caliber are few and far between.

Maybe that’s just perception. We hear so many more stories about players involved in domestic violence, drunken driving, and in the case of Plaxico Burress, literally shooting themselves in the foot. Ironic. We need better from those in the spotlight.

But the athlete, or any celebrity for that matter, is a fallible human being, who’s really not required to care about anything but themselves if that’s their choice.

I am a big Yankee fan. My grandparents loved the Yankees, especially legendary shortstop Phil Rizzuto. I harbor no illusions, though. As much of a fan as I continue to be, I realize the Yankees were, in the past,  the cream of the crop of the spoiled rotten gazillionaire athlete. And that may never change.

But I’ve changed my attitude. And maybe you should too. The next time you arrange your day to spend your hours watching your team’s game and cheer for your favorite player – in lieu of maybe doing something with your family – keep a thought in the back of your mind.

Just like in the movie, Mickey didn’t care.

ARod doesn’t care, and neither does LeBron.

The striking NBA players don’t care about you, just about the bucket loads of cash they will fight tooth and nail over. So return the favor – and don’t care about them so much.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Monday Night Football is on. I’m anxious to see which millionaire plays the hardest tonight….

“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent” – Lorenzo Anello (Robert DeNiro) in “A Bronx Tale”

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A Father and Son, A Perfect Swing

As father – son baseball moments go, we have one that may stand the test of time, ranking right up there with Kevin Costner as the fictional Ray Kinsella, playing catch with his ghostly father with a backdrop of an Iowa cornfield  in the final scene of Field of Dreams.

For me, a Dad who has played ball with both of my kids, son and daughter, it was one of those “goose pimple” events.  Yankee star second baseman Robinson Cano, winning the All Star Home Run Derby, with his father and mentor Jose as his pitcher.

It was compelling television. Jose was stoic and unsmiling as he threw the batting practice tosses to his son, and didn’t even crack a smile until he knew that Cano would grab the title of “home run king” for the night.

The outcome never seemed to be in doubt. In the final round, Cano hit a home run with most of the pitches his Dad threw to him. In retrospect, it looked like they had been doing it forever. And they probably have.

Once victory was secure, the only thing left was a bear hug between a father and his boy.

In a night full of baseballs launched out of the park, majestic moonshots landing in second and third decks, Robinson had the most majestic of all, a couple of balls measured beyond 470 feet.

In an interview after the competition, the younger Cano did not reference his upper body strength, sense of balance, or his perfectly Ruthian swing as the factors for his stratospheric display. Instead, he gave credit where he thought it was due.

It was my dad.”

Cano said he wished the trophy could be cut in half — half for him, half for his dad.

“These are the things you share with your family, when you retire you can look back and say, ‘Wow, I was good in the day’,” Cano said. “This is something I’m always going to have in my mind and my heart.”

A committed father rarely understands the importance of his role. The statistics bear out that having a father at home shuts down that greater risk of having major challenges in life while growing up.

On the flip side, I think having a Dad like Jose Cano can not only keep a kid out of trouble,  but also accelerate any success that child might experience. And once you get momentum…

Jose was a professional athlete himself, who took the time to teach his son the finer points of the game, and obviously, the skills required to live a life of success within the sport he loves.

An old school guy, who puts family first and his needs and wants on the back burner if necessary.

Thanks to Jose and Robinson for showing us real must see TV for families. In a time where most television is reality garbage, this baseball event was one for the ages.

ItalianAmerican: Yogi Berra

Baseball season is right around the corner, and this I, along with many others, will especially look forward to this season as a symbol to the end of a harsher than normal Northeast winter. Although I never like to sound like a cry baby, I couldn’t even hack this winter. Too much cold, far too much snow. We actually just  got hammered again with more ice and snow.

While having coffee with my Dad last night, we were flipping channels back and forth between the Mets and Yankees spring training games, watching the action in those absolutely balmy Florida climates.

It looked wonderful. The crowd was dressed in short sleeves, and there was some sweating going on.

With spring almost here, I could not help but get excited about getting me some hardball. A name almost synonymous with the word baseball is Yankee Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. An unquestionable Italian American sporting icon, he was named American League MVP three times, voted an All Star 15 times, and was part of 10 World Series winners for the Yankees.

As accomplished as his baseball career was, Yogi is best remembered for his sometimes unintentionally funny quotes about baseball and life. The most famous is “It ain’t over till its over“, but there is a literal goldmine of “Yogiisms” that many people haven’t discovered yet.

My current favorite is “People used to say the Yankees won a lot because we led the league in Italians.”

The content below, courtesy of Wikipedia, is just a sampling of the brilliance of Yogi Berra. These are some classic quotes, along with what may be their origin.

Happy spring (baseball season) to all!

  • As a general comment on baseball:  “90% of the game is half mental.”
  • On why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant:  “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
  • It ain’t over till it’s over.”  In July 1973, when Berra’s Mets trailed the Chicago Cubs by 9½ games in the National League East; the Mets rallied to win the division title on the final day of the season.
  • When giving directions to Joe Garagiola to his New Jersey home, which is accessible by two routes:  “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
  • On being the guest of honor at an awards banquet:  “Thank you for making this day necessary.”
  • It’s déjà vu all over again“. Berra explained that this quote originated when he witnessed Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hit back-to-back home runs in the Yankees’ seasons in the early 1960s.
  • You can observe a lot by watching.”
  • Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.”
  • Responding to a question about remarks attributed to him that he did not think were his: “I really didn’t say everything I said.”