Categories
From The Archives JOCKBEAT 2021 News 2021 NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Missing Person Report: Have You Seen Hal Steinbrenner?

For the first time in a long while, the New York Yankees are the least exciting team in the entire city. 

Just across town, the Mets sit at the top of the National League East division and feature the most dominant pitcher in the sport of baseball. On the gridiron, Jets fans (foolishly) await the debut of their newest savior — QB Zach Wilson — as the Giants were seen dropping boatloads of cash and draft capital on a handful of impact players. The Nets are favorites to win the NBA championship, while a young Knicks team brought Madison Square Garden roaring back with their unlikely playoff berth this season. 

The Rangers and Islanders aren’t looking too bad themselves. The Blueshirts put the NHL on notice with a season that was light years beyond their initial rebuild schedule, while the Isles are currently one round away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

But then you have the Yankees, the absolute pinnacle of New York City — and, pretty much, North American — sports, who, with 27 world championships, always set expectations high. And currently, a baseball team that is painfully mediocre despite a really talented roster. 

The thing is, their owner is missing. Have you seen him? Sources say he hasn’t been spotted since the 2009 World Series.

Hal Steinbrenner officially took control of the Yankees in 2008 for his ailing father George — the spontaneous and abrupt owner who fired and spent his way to 11 American League pennants and seven World Series trophies. 

With George’s health deteriorating fast, Hal and his late brother, Hank, went on a shopping spree to get one last gift for their father: the 2009 World Series Championship. In perhaps the most exciting free agency period for Yankees fans ever, New York signed pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to seven-year, $161 million and five-year, $82.5 million deals, respectively. They also brought on first baseman Mark Teixeira for eight years at $180 million.

Essentially, they purchased themselves a World Series that off-season.

But lately, with the Boss gone since 2010, son Hal hasn’t shown the kind of urgency he did in 2009, nor the kind that his father ruled by during his 37-year reign. George was notorious for being hands-on to a fault. Like him or not, the Boss’s domineering presence over team personnel decisions combined with his no-bullshit attitude nearly always meant an entertaining product was on the field at Yankee Stadium. And that’s just the way he wanted it. George was his own team’s biggest fan. 

Most of the time, he ran the team like a Bleacher Creature, too. Famous for his frequent firings and penchant for throwing preposterous amounts of cash at players, there was never a dull moment with Steinbrenner’s Yanks. Famed manager Billy Martin was fired so often by George that it became a running joke on Miller Lite commercials. Bob Lemon was fired a few games into the 1982 season — just a few months removed from guiding the team to a World Series appearance. Yankees legend Don Mattingly was once benched because he refused to abide by the grooming standards the Boss put in place. 

The Boss set this management style in the first innings of his ownership reign, bringing Oakland Athletics superstar Reggie Jackson to the Yankees back in 1976. New York had just lost the World Series months prior, and George wanted to take that next step. His squad would go on to win the 1977 title, with Jackson winning World Series MVP. They’d repeat in 1978.

Just a few years earlier, Steinbrenner signed the first MLB free agent ever to exist: future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter. Many attribute the explosion of big-money deals in major sports to George’s trigger-happy nature during free agency. 

With George, the good always came with the bad — he was not a man known for patience. When the mid-’80s rolled around and the Yanks were in the dumps, he made moves. To the dismay of many New Yorkers, those moves included trading the likes of Willis McGee, Fred McGriff, and Jay Buhner — the latter inspiring one of the most popular scenes in sitcom history on Seinfeld

[related_posts post_id_1=”648810″ /]

One day, though, The Boss got caught with the pine tar too far up his bat. It turns out Steinbrenner had paid gambler Howie Spira to dig up dirt on Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield, the man who The Boss had given the richest contract in sports in 1980. Winfield, a phenomenal player and one of the lone bright spots for those 80’s New York teams, drew the ire of Steinbrenner for underperforming in crunch time. George, remembering Reggie Jackson’s postseason dominance from the late ’70s, which earned him the nickname Mr. October, slapped Winfield with the moniker Mr. May and hired Spira in an attempt to rid himself of the expensive right fielder. The consequences were harsh: the MLB banned Steinbrenner for life …  temporarily.

When the Boss returned three years later, in 1993, GM Gene Michael had already drafted and started developing the core players that would turn the Yankees into the dynasty that won championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Steinbrenner, naturally, would still have some input on how that dynasty would take shape — he fired manager Buck Showalter after the 1995 season in favor of a guy named Joe Torre. 

But if George’s tendencies — unpredictable and absurd yet somehow effective — are a perfect match for Seinfeld, Hal could have slid into a role on The Big Bang Theory, which, with its bland yet sometimes ironically funny humor and shameless implementation of the hot-girl-next-door trope, did just enough to keep you from flipping the channel.

Since taking over, Hal has opportunistically echoed the words of his late father but has mimicked his actions more sporadically with each year. Following the 2020 postseason, Hal took a page out of George’s playbook when he publicly apologized to Yankees fans for not fielding a more successful team. New York had just played a win-or-go-home American League Divisional Series Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays, in which their star-studded offense sputtered to a 2–1 loss. Within his apology was the admittance that he himself was responsible for the failures of the team, a quote that seemed to indicate that moves from this lower-case “b” boss could be on the horizon.

So, the Yankees let Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ walk during the off-season —  probably wise moves, with the exception of Tanaka. The real issue is how they went about fixing their rotation, which was then left with superstar Gerrit Cole as the only reliable starter. It was quite a bold strategy. In picking up former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Pittsburgh Pirate Jameson Taillon, New York hoped to build an ultra-high-ceiling rotation for 2021 that would depend on Domingo German and Luis Severino returning to full form at various points during the season. However, those four starters had only pitched a combined one inning during the 2020 season

Jockbeat articles from the Village Voice newspaper sports section

Big surprise: it didn’t work. Taillon has posted a dreadful 5.74 ERA in just over 53 innings pitched. Severino’s comeback from Tommy John surgery took a step back last week because of a groin injury. Kluber, while pitching exceptionally early on (including a no-hitter on May 19), is expected to be out for about two months with a shoulder injury. The only exception is German, who has a solid 3.88 ERA in 12 starts. 

Even if this plan had worked out, free agency bargain hunting to fill out important roster holes is a strategy meant for the Oakland A’s of the league, not the New York Yankees. One of the best pitchers in baseball, Trevor Bauer, was a free agent this past off-season, and before you question how unrealistic it would’ve been to sign the top available free agent in back-to-back off-seasons (Cole was signed in 2019), just take a look at the team Bauer ended up inking a deal with. The Los Angeles Dodgers gave Bauer $102 million over three years, adding that kind of money to a payroll that already included southpaw Clayton Kershaw’s $31 million per season. Oh yeah, they also recently signed star outfielder Mookie Betts to the second-richest deal in Major League Baseball history. 

Take notes, Hal. 

The Yankees, unlike the Dodgers, who won it all last season, haven’t sniffed a World Series game since 2009. They’ve reached the American League Championship series twice since 2017, only to be gatekept from the big stage by the Houston Astros. 

So if the Dodgers are still urgently adding top talent after winning a championship, why are the Yankees content with making minor moves when they haven’t had even half as much success in recent years?

Because of the MLB’s Competitive Balance Tax (the league’s luxury tax — thanks, George!), teams who exceed a $210 million payroll must pay hefty fines that are adjusted according to how far over they are. The longer you’re over the figure, the more you pay. 

In a poetic turn of events that likely has George looking down from the clouds, eyes ablaze, with steam blowing out of his ears, Hal is now a slave to the consequences that his own father’s profligacy brought on the league. The Yankees, in the midst of a window with a ton of good young players on affordable contracts, paid nothing in luxury taxes in 2018 and just $5 million in 2019. In 2020 they jumped up to over $20 million, but in 2021 the team is once again on pace to pay nothing.

So while Hal has made some big splashes in recent years, such as Cole’s nine-year, $324 million deal, and trading for Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million contract, he’s also made cost-cutting moves that have neutralized those big additions. Reliever Adam Ottavino was dealt to the Boston Red Sox last season as a pure salary dump — he’s now posting a healthy 2.67 ERA in 27 innings, including two scoreless against the Yanks. D.J. LeMahieu was re-signed to a long-term deal that will pay him until he’s 37 in exchange for a lighter hit on the luxury tax. Don’t forget the list of bargain-bin and perpetually injured starters that currently comprise their makeshift rotation.

Those transactions are in no way George-like. Hal knows that. It’s just that his desire to maximize profits is greater than his drive to win. And his refusal to step in and make a change with manager Aaron Boone unable to clean up one of the sloppiest, yet talented, teams in the league just screams indifference. But then again, screaming requires some sort of passion — ask George. And we all know the only thing that gets Hal screaming is when Brian Cashman gets a buck too close to that $210 million mark.

This isn’t even a demand for Hal to start signing every superstar out there. It’s a request that he looks like he cares about anything other than his wallet. Shaking up an ineffective coaching staff or filling out some glaring roster holes by the upcoming July 30 trade deadline could go a long way. The prestige and tradition of Yankees baseball requires an owner whose actions reflect the franchise’s values, not one who delivers a depressing exit interview every season and cuts costs. 

It’s perfectly fitting that the last time Hal showed a sense of urgency to win was among the last months of his father’s life. He and his brother knew how much winning meant to George. The Boss’s passion for the team’s success, for better or worse, was never in question.

Unfortunately, that passion, the urgency to win, and the willingness to do whatever it takes, seems to have died with him in 2010.  ❖

[related_posts post_id_1=”731855″ /]

Categories
From The Archives JOCKBEAT 2021 NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Bettman to Rangers: Drop Dead

On May 4th of 2021, the National Hockey League let it be known for all to see that the health of their players is worth pocket change. 

The night before, Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson whipped out his best Randy Orton impression against the New York Rangers. A stoppage in play after a scrum in front of the Washington net saw Wilson deliver a punch to the back of the head of Ranger Pavel Buchnevich, whose noggin was parallel to the ice at the time. The ensuing battle saw Wilson blindside Ryan Strome with a punch, then remove the helmet of New York superstar Artemi Panarin before body-slamming him to the ice. Then fully in Hulk mode, the Capital bruiser opted to pick Panarin up again and shove him down onto the ice once more.

After the parade to the penalty box, Wilson could be seen flexing at the Rangers from behind the glass with a demented grin on his face. Panarin’s injuries would force him to miss the remainder of the season.

Now, you’d think that the NHL would make the decision to protect Panarin and the rest of the league’s stars by disciplining Wilson in a way that would force anyone to think twice about egregiously attacking the league’s moneymakers.

Think again. They slapped a $5,000 fine on the veteran head-smasher and called it a day.

Yes, for viciously attacking three Ranger players after the whistle, Wilson was fined approximately 0.00096% of his $5,166,666 salary, despite his well-known history of violence; he’s been suspended five times since 2017 for a total of 30 games. Just a few weeks ago, he concussed Boston’s Brandon Carlo with a flying elbow to the head. 

The Rangers released a statement following Wilson’s “punishment” denouncing the league’s decision and calling for the removal of Department of Player Safety (DoPS) head George Parros for a “dereliction of duty.”

What came next was perhaps the most telling gesture in an embarrassing fiasco for the NHL: League commissioner Gary Bettman handed out a cool $250,000 fine to the Rangers for their comments. In other words, an unapologetic and defiant “fuck you” to the team, to Panarin, and to the rest of the revenue-driving skill players around the league who now might as well have notes stuck to their jerseys that read “Beat me.” 

To those of you asking how we got here, you’re asking the wrong question. The problem is that we’re still here. 

Once upon a time, the NHL was dominated by pure physicality. The 1970s saw a rambunctious group of hardened skaters from the Philadelphia Flyers wreck the league in back-to-back seasons, earning the moniker the Broad Street Bullies for the South Philly block that housed the team. Names like Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, Andre “Moose” Dupont, and Bob “Hound Dog” Kelly filled out what became the most feared team in hockey history, headlined by three-time MVP Bobby Clarke. Together they pummeled and clobbered their way to two Stanley Cup victories in the 1973–74 and 1974–75 campaigns.

That was nearly a half-century ago.

Jockbeat articles from the Village Voice newspaper sports section

The game of hockey has changed dramatically since the mid-70s, most notably during this past decade alone. Clarke and company played in an era when your best players were likely your most physical. But if they weren’t, your team had a “bodyguard” or two: big-bodied and virtually skilless goons whose sole purpose was to beat the hell out of anybody who dared touch the goalscorers. Guys like Marty McSorley, who spent most of his 17 years in the NHL protecting Wayne Gretzky while only scoring 359 total points against 3,381 PIM (penalties in minutes).

Hockey is now a sport dominated by skill and speed, for many reasons. With constantly evolving skates and gear, the taboo on sub-six-foot-tall players vanishing, and rule changes that favor offense, the mold of your average NHL player has changed dramatically. Long story short, you simply cannot get by on pure physicality in today’s game.

Clarke’s three MVP seasons saw him average over 113 PIM per season, numbers that are rarely associated with the league’s top players nowadays, let alone its best one. From 2010 to 2020, only one league MVP finished the season with more than 70 PIM (Corey Perry, in 2010). More notably, the NHL’s top ten scorers in each season from that decade averaged only 39 penalty minutes per campaign. 

That’s especially telling when you consider the measures that the NHL has taken to increase the number of penalties assessed. The league dramatically redefined what was considered to be a slashing penalty — whacking at someone with your stick — in the 2017–18 season, a move that still has hockey enthusiasts rolling their eyes for its liberal enforcement. Holding (grabbing of the stick or body) and hooking (wrapping of the stick around an opponent) standards have also become stricter.

Some may want to credit Bettman and the league for enforcing these changes as a measure of player safety. But other rule changes, such as imposing penalties for non-contact infractions, adjustments to rink dimensions, and lenience on offside calls, all point to the obvious fact that Bettman only wants one thing: more offense.

More penalties equal more power plays, which equal more goals. Bettman’s vision for the marketability of the NHL is centered around how exciting the game is, not how safe it is. His handling of the DoPS even before the Wilson incident has made that very clear.

The aforementioned Parros was hired by the NHL in 2017 to be the decision-maker at the DoPS, which is roughly the equivalent of putting Mel Gibson in charge of the Anti-Defamation League. Parros, a former player, collected 1,092 PIM to just 36 points in 474 career games. He also helped found the clothing line “Violent Gentlemen,” following his retirement in 2014. 

Yeah, a former goon is in charge of protecting your favorite skill players from other goons. 

With this truly mind-boggling hiring decision, one must assume that Bettman wants the best of both worlds: a league that gains popularity for its fast pace and extraordinary skill but also keeps the gladiator spectacle aspect of “good old-fashioned hockey” alive.

Or is he actually that tone-deaf? It was too obvious that a Parros-led DoPS would result in a lackluster disciplinary system and that’s precisely what has happened: Instead of protecting victims of dirty plays, the Department has elected to protect the aggressors by dishing out meaningless fines and short-term suspensions to guys who have no intention of cleaning up their game. Parros was a goon. He likes goons. He wants to keep the goon alive in today’s NHL.

[related_posts post_id_1=”734675″ /]

But goons (enforcers, bodyguards, whatever) are largely a thing of the past. The increased pace of the modern game has made them obsolete. In a perfect world, the departure of the traditional goon would’ve taken the culture of serial cheap-shot artists with them. But the culture lives on through the big-bodied players who have enough speed and/or skill to crack the bottom of the roster, and even some skill players at various levels. Hell, Boston’s Brad Marchand once held the mantle of dirtiest NHL player before setting aside most of his carelessness and becoming a legitimate top-five winger in hockey. Why make the change? Because Marchand’s career had two potential paths: continue being a good player with a tendency to collect suspensions, or become a great player who knows how to walk the line. You can’t have both nowadays. The well-respected core of player and managerial leadership of the Bruins pushed him in the right direction.

The sad part is that Wilson has the potential for a similar trajectory. He’s no Gretzky, but he’s a skilled skater with a knack for scoring goals once he fills his daily quota of dishing out brain damage. If he cleaned up his game, he’d be an even more valuable player.

But the NHL has given him no reason to do so. And their refusal to hand out meaningful discipline means teams are left to take matters into their own hands — like the Rangers did in their next meeting with Wilson and the Caps. The “revenge” game started with a line brawl right at puck drop, six fights in the first five minutes, and a combined 100 penalty minute first period between the two teams. Among the bruised and beaten was Wilson’s tough-guy act; the Capitals kept him in the locker room for the rest of the game with an “injury” designation to prevent any further punishment from the Rangers.

In other words, a mockery that is sure to repeat itself whenever Wilson or someone else inevitably carries out another cheap shot that’s more likely to get them a “Violent Gentlemen” care package than a meaningful suspension. 

After a decade with NBC, the NHL will move their broadcasting rights to ESPN and Turner (TNT and TBS) starting with the 2021-22 season. The move has the potential to introduce hockey to a bigger audience considering ESPN’s popular standing among sports fans of all kinds. Let’s see how those new audiences react to the league’s stars getting ragdolled every other night. Considering how player safety — such as concussion/CTE awareness in the NFL — has rightfully become a topic of importance in recent years, it may only be a matter of time before Bettman feels pressured to make a change.

But until then, the Tom Wilsons of the league will continue to flex from the penalty box like roid-raged maniacs as another superstar is helped off the ice, too often on a stretcher.   ❖

Correction: An alert reader pointed out to us that Wilson’s fine of $5,000.00 comes out to 0.00096% of his salary, not the 0.096 we originally reported. The Voice regrets the error. 

Categories
ANALYSIS 2021 From The Archives JOCKBEAT 2021 JOCKBEAT ARCHIVES News 2021 SPRING PRINT EDITION 2021 Uncategorized

Hello? It’s the Future Calling. Yeah, the Jets Still Suck at Drafting.

The New York Jets are just weeks away from an April 29th NFL draft that will surely alter the course of the franchise’s history for years to come. They’re going to get it wrong.

Trust me, I’ve already seen the draft and the ensuing season. But I came back to 2021 in order to drop some wisdom on eager Jets fans who just can’t wait to see who Gang Green selects. The same fans who are mired in a decade in which their team has finished with a winning record just twice (2010 and 2015; 70–106 overall), who haven’t seen their squad in a Super Bowl since 1968, and who have witnessed drafting ineptitude that transcends regimes since the 1980s.

Misplaced as it is, I’ve got to admire your faith.

Right now you’re probably yelling, “Who’d the Jets take with the second overall pick?!” Oh, and you want to know if he’s the future, right?

There’s that faith again.

Of course, considering my omnipotence, I could answer all of your questions about the upcoming season. But first, I’ll divulge a more vital piece of information: It doesn’t matter who the New York Jets select in the draft. It has rarely ever mattered, in fact.

Simply put, the Jets do not draft well. Their history is plagued with first-round busts and missed opportunities to draft better players. Jets fans know it. Most of them admit it. The rest have no doubt buried the knowledge deep in their subconscious in order to continue their fandom after more than a half-century of misery.

A lot of that heartache can be attributed to New York’s inability to find elite long-term options through the draft, especially at the quarterback position. You have to go back a couple decades to find the last QB who started for the Jets for more than five seasons: Chad Pennington. The 18th overall pick in 2000, Pennington showed flashes of promise as a starter from 2002 to 2007. However, 2008 saw the Jets cut the oft-injured quarterback in favor of veteran Brett Favre. Later that year, a once-hopeful campaign would be stomped out in the final game of the season by the Miami Dolphins. Miami’s quarterback was Chad Pennington.

The next—and last—period of “stability” at the position came in 2009, when the Jets drafted Mark Sanchez fifth overall. Though mostly powered by their defense, New York made it to two straight AFC Championship games (2009 and 2010) with Sanchez under center, losing both. Sanchez spent four seasons with the Jets, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and becoming best known by NFL fans for his part in the notorious “Butt Fumble,” in 2012.

New York’s inability to find a quarterback through the draft doesn’t begin or end with the 2000s, though. Who could forget the 1983 draft, where college star Dan Marino miraculously fell to the Jets at 24th overall? Well, they opted for quarterback Ken O’Brien instead, who had a few decent seasons with the team during his nine-year run. Marino went to Miami three picks later and is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to grace the sport.

Still excited for the draft? How about their most recent investment? 2018 saw the Jets take Sam Darnold with the third overall pick. Four selections later, the Buffalo Bills pounced on Josh Allen. Allen is now a top-five QB in the NFL. Darnold was just recently traded to the Carolina Panthers as New York is poised to take another swing at drafting a quarterback.

[related_posts post_id_1=”731855″ /]

But this time around, it’ll work, right? Don’t bet on it, because the horrors range beyond the QB position. In 1995, New York took tight end Kyle Brady ninth overall despite an apparent lack of need at the position. Three picks later, defensive lineman Warren Sapp went to Tampa Bay. Brady played four uninspiring years for the Jets. Sapp became a Hall of Famer.

Since 2010, the Jets have used first- and second-round selections on the likes of Kyle Wilson, Quinton Coples, Dee Milliner, Calvin Pryor, Stephen Hill, Jace Amaro, Devin Smith, Geno Smith, and Christian Hackenberg. Only one of them spent more than four years with New York. Most were purged from the NFL shortly after leaving the team. The Darnold deal marked something of a milestone for the Jets: of their ten first-round selections from 2010 to 2018, none remain on the roster.

I mean, even in the rare instances where they get it right, they get it wrong! Look at the 1985 draft, for example. The Jets took wide receiver Al Toon. Great player, right? Now he’s in the Jets’ Ring of Honor. Six picks later, the San Francisco 49’ers selected wide receiver Jerry Rice. Rice more than tripled Toon’s career output, got into the real Hall of Fame, and is considered the best player at his position ever.

Other times, New York drafts well but just gets rid of the player. Exceptionally talented picks like safety Jamal Adams and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson were both traded before their rookie contracts were up. Even sophomore standout Quinnen Williams was mentioned in trade rumors in 2020. It’s a vicious cycle!

I could dig into the 2003 draft, where New York passed on 17 future Pro Bowlers in the first two rounds, or the 2005 draft, when they selected a kicker with their first pick, but I won’t. Most of the picks are terrible. The good ones are either traded or overshadowed by better selections.

But every team makes these kinds of mistakes . . . right? You keep telling yourself that. In 2000 Tom Brady was picked in the sixth round by the Patriots, 199th overall. And yep, that was the year the Jets used their third pick—after they chose defensive ends Shaun Ellis and John Abraham 12th and 13th overall—to scoop up Pennington. They passed a total of seven times on the man who would dominate their division for the next 19 years. Oops.

So, no, I won’t reveal who the Jets take with the second overall pick in 2021, because while the names and positions may change, the results rarely do. It will not work out.

You don’t need to be from the future to know that.  ❖

 

From the Village Voice 2021 Spring print edition

 

2021 Village Voice jockbeat article about how poorly the Jets do at drafting

Categories
JOCKBEAT 2021 News 2021 PODCASTS THE FRONT ARCHIVES THE WEEKLY Uncategorized

Teofimo Lopez: The Takeover Continues

At the young age of 23, Teofimo Lopez has already taken the boxing world by storm but he has a lot more he is determined to accomplish both inside and outside of the ring. From his own tequila brand, to a highly anticipated Triller fight, to other entrepreneurial ventures, The Takeover, as he is dubbed, is ready to, well, take over.

With only 16 fights under his belt, Lopez made a name for himself by becoming the only undisputed lightweight champion in boxing history. There have been many legendary lightweights in the sport such as Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Manny Pacquiao to name a few, none of which have been able to unify the division and hold all four major belts in this weight class. If that isn’t impressive enough, the young champion is already venturing into the entrepreneurial realm to ensure that even after he leaves the boxing world he still continues his legacy.

The undisputed champion sat down with host Brian Calle and special guest host Adrian Contreras and producer Bryan Escalante to give The Weekly podcast listeners an in-depth look at how he is conquering the boxing world and what he plans next.

What is his secret sauce? “Be like water and adapt,” Lopez says.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Lopez learned the true meaning of hard work and sacrifice early on. Raised by two Hondourian immigrants, Lopez witnessed first hand what it meant to give it your all for a better life. It was at the age of six when Teofimo Sr. first laced his son’s gloves and began to train him. His father had already been training at the gym and had Teo join him as soon as the boy was of age.

“My father believed in me before anyone else did and made me a believer too,” says Lopez.

Lopez’s father/trainer is known in the boxing world as loud and outspoken, while Lopez carries himself with a swagger of modesty and humility. He doesn’t mind his dad talking him up though.

“My father’s always had that fire and it’s never gone dim so I try my best to match that energy,” says Teo. His father talks, but Lopez backs it up in the ring.

It hasn’t been an easy road for the champ though. He struggled with asthma his entire life and has found himself in the ICU three times because of it. He even once had a serious asthma attack during a fight that later landed him in the hospital. “I remember fighting as an amateur and having an asthma attack inside the ring,” he says. “I remember inhalers being thrown inside the ring from all angles. Everyone in the crowd who had seen me have my attack threw their inhalers to try and help.”

He credits his mental strength for helping him overcome any adversity along the way. “It’s always been mind over matter as far as the way I see obstacles to overcome,” Lopez shares. And his July 14, 2018 fight with William Silva is illustrative of his point. Lopez broke his hand in the very first round of the bout. He kept fighting through it and won the fight in the sixth round by way of TKO (technical knockout). Most people would have stopped the fight, but not Lopez. He keeps going because he believes there is more at stake for him than just the fighting.

“There is a bigger purpose behind this and I know boxing is just a platform given to me to really show my life purpose,” he said. “In order to achieve your goals you have to not only see it, but have the emotions as if you already have it.”

And that is his mentality going into each fight. In his last fight, he was a bigtime underdog going up against the top-ranked Vasyl Lomanchenko. Virtually every boxing expert and analyst believed Lomanchenko would be too much for the young fighter. They all assumed Loma’s Olympic pedigree and experience would overwhelm him. Yet Lopez overcame the odds and beat him. This was the fight that shot him to superstardom.

Outside of the ring, Lopez is focused on how he can grow and do more. He recently partnered with One With Life Organic Tequila along with fellow boxers Ray Mancini and Larry Holmes. It’s a passion project for the boxer and just one of the many he has in the works.

Teofimo’s next fight will take place on June 5th in Miami, Florida against George Kambosas. The fight will be broadcasted on PPV presented by Triller. Insiders expect this to be the fight of the year.

What’s next? Even with his numerous accolades, he is nowhere near stopping anytime soon. “Too much success isn’t enough success,” he told us. “There will always be more to take over.” ❖

For the whole conversation with Teofimo Lopez listen to the full podcast on Spotify, Apple PodcastsCumulus Los Angeles and anywhere else you get your podcasts.

Categories
JOCKBEAT 2021 MORE HUSTLE News 2021 PODCASTS THE FRONT ARCHIVES

MMA Fighter Georges St-Pierre Talks the Hustle, Coming out of Retirement, and Dream Match Against Khabib Nurmagomedov

The More Hustle Podcast is all about the fight; the fight to the top, the fight to make it. And who better to know about fighting than the MMA World Champion himself, Georges St-Pierre?

As one of the greatest fighters in MMA (mixed martial arts) history, St-Pierre is a 2-Division UFC Champion, a 3-time former UFC Welterweight Champion, and arguably, the top MMA welterweight of all time. He currently stands as one of the most accomplished figures in MMA history, as not only a fighter but an actor, producer, and entrepreneur as well. If you’re not an MMA fan, you likely know him from the Marvel Universe as Georges Batroc, Batroc the Leaper.

The champ sits down with hosts Brian Calle and Neferteri Plessy to give the More Hustle podcast listeners an intimate look into his origin story, his personal recipe for success, and whether he can be persuaded to come out of retirement.

All in all, the man is a force of nature.

“I don’t think I’m a force of nature,” laughs St-Pierre. “I think it’s ah … there are things that happened to me that made me be that way.”

“If you want to start from the beginning, I was not meant to be world champion,” he continues. “Nobody would have said to me when I was young, ‘Oh one day you’ll become world champion in the sport of mixed martial arts.’ I started martial arts first because I was bullied at school and I started as self-defense. Self-defense transformed into a passion when I started winning tournaments and collecting metals. And after a passion, it became a business.”

Born in St-Isidore, Québec, Canada, he had a rough childhood due to his peers. Kids picked on him. Stole his lunch, his money, his clothing, anything they could to make him miserable to assert their dominance. That’s when, at age seven, he learned Kyokushin karate from his father and later from a Master to defend himself.

“Martial arts taught me confidence,” St-Pierre shares. “When I started to learn martial arts I became more and more confident and that’s how I overcame bullying. I wish I could tell you that it’s like more of a Hollywood scenario where I beat up the bully and everything, but it did not happen like that. I just developed some self-confidence and by building up more self-confidence they stopped bullying me. Because I became more confident it changed my whole demeanor.”

He doesn’t hold any grudges when it comes to his childhood tormentors. Rather, he’s thankful for the lessons he learned because of them. In fact, he founded a charity – the GSP Foundation – that aims to reduce bullying and encourage youth participation in sports.

“I strongly believe that the fact that I was bullied when I was young helped me overcome the bullying that I faced later on in my life in the sport of mixed martial arts, because when you fight someone there’s a lot of trash-talking and a lot of mind games. So I think that gave me an edge in my career as a fighter.”

What inspires his hustle?

“When someone tells me ‘oh you can’t do that, you’re not good enough, that’s never been done before’ that motivates me a lot because that means if I do it, I’m going to be the first to have done it! It’s the best thing you can say to me to motivate me,” he answers.

The best lesson he can give is the knowledge that when you put passion, talent, hard work and confidence together you can move mountains.

“You can have all the skills in the world and as much talent as you want, but if you don’t have confidence … it’s a little bit like a person who has a lot of money in their bank account but no way of accessing it,” explains St-Pierre.

As he went through his journey, what did he have to sacrifice to get to that next level?

“I had to sacrifice a lot of time,” he explains. Growing up his friends were partying and living carefree, but St-Pierre had to sacrifice those aspects of youth as the rigors of athletic discipline demanded.

“I’ve put a lot of work and effort into this,” says St-Pierre.

To answer the title question – he’s only going to fight someone who elevates him. What does that mean? You’ll have to listen to find out.

Tune in for some sage advice, fighting tips, and insight into the hustle it takes to become a world champ.  ❖

You can find The More Hustle podcast here: SpotifyiHeart Radio or wherever you consume your podcasts.

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives JOCKBEAT 2021 THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Under President Biden, Will the Yankees Return to Their Winning Ways?

The Biden administration bodes well for Bombers fans. Over the past several years, the Yankees have had an abundance of talent — Judge, Stanton, LeMahieu, Hicks, Andújar, Cole, Chapman, Torres, to name a few — but also a surfeit of injuries. Will Joe Biden heal both the rift in the body politic and those ailing hamstrings out on the field?

History says he just might, because the Yankees have shown a partisan slant to their pinstripes going back to their earliest years. Let’s roll the tape on the Roaring Twenties, when the GOP’s Calvin “The business of America is business” Coolidge was in the White House. In 1923, the Yanks won their first World Series, led by slugger Babe Ruth’s three homers in six games. Four years later, the Yanks had assembled their fearsome “Murderers’ Row” lineup, but had only two homers over that whole 1927 Series, both from Ruth — which was still two more than the Pittsburg Pirates managed while losing in four straight. In 1928, Lou Gehrig hit four homers for the Yanks during the Series, but Ruth still outshone his teammates by hitting three dingers in Game 4, doing his part to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Yanks didn’t make it to the Series for the next three years, and the country was having its troubles, too. In 1932 you could support Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential campaign by buying a “Republican Depression Coin.” The token lambasted then president Herbert Hoover’s moribund leadership since the stock market crash three years earlier. That same year, Ruth was holding out for an $80,000 a year salary. When a reporter pointed out to the Bambino that even Hoover was only making $75,000 a year, the Sultan of Swat retorted, “What the hell has Hoover got to do with this? Anyway, I had a better year than he did.” Indeed, in 1931 Ruth had led the league with 46 home runs, accompanied by a gaudy .373 batting average.

But it was 1932 that would mark milestones for both Ruth and the Yanks. In that year’s Series, the Bambino supposedly “called his shot,” gesturing with an arm toward center field to taunt the Cubs players and inform fans that he was going to hit the next pitch out of the park. The legend endures, because Ruth homered to deep center and the Yanks won that Game 3, finishing their sweep of the Cubs the next day, October 2. A month later, Roosevelt defeated Hoover in a landslide — Ruth was still doing a hell of a lot better than the POTUS — and the ’32 World Series would be the Yanks last championship under a Republican president for two — count ’em! — two decades.

When FDR took office, on March 4, 1933, the country was still in the trough of the Depression — unemployment was near 25%. The Yanks entered a slump too, not even making it to the Fall Classic in ’33, ’34, or ’35. But by 1936, FDR’s New Deal agenda had driven unemployment down to 17% and the Yanks were back on top, racking up four straight World Series wins from 1936 through 1939 under manager Joe McCarthy (the former minor-league second baseman, not the future Red-baiting U.S. senator from Wisconsin).

The Yanks won again in 1941 — the same year Time magazine founder Henry Luce called on all Americans “to create the first great American Century.” The Bombers beat “Dem Bums” — as the Brooklyn Dodgers were affectionately razzed by their fans — in this first of seven meetings between the crosstown rivals. The Yanks next triumphed in 1943, beating the St. Louis Cardinals, but without help from future Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio or stalwart Tommy “The Clutch” Henrich, who were both in the military as World War II raged. More Yankee stars traded their pinstripes for service uniforms over the next few years, and FDR — after pulling the country out of the Depression and marshaling America and its allies in the struggle against fascism — died in 1945, just months before the war came to a close. The Yanks returned to their winning ways under his successor, Harry Truman, in 1947. The next year, while Truman was giving a speech excoriating the GOP, a supporter yelled out, “Give ’em Hell, Harry.” Truman shot back, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s Hell.” The Yanks, however, must have felt the Truman era was heaven, winning every year from 1949 through 1951.

Then, on October 7, 1952, in the 7th inning of Game 7, with two outs, the bases loaded, and the Yanks ahead 4–2, Dodger Jackie Robinson hit a short pop-up that second baseman Billy Martin, positioned almost on the outfield grass, snagged with a lunging catch, saving at least two runs. The Yanks held off Dem Bums to win their fourth World Series in a row. Exactly four weeks later, Republican Dwight Eisenhower, riding his reputation as the Supreme Allied Commander who defeated the fascists in Europe, crushed Democrat Adlai Stevenson by an 11-point margin.

[related_posts post_id_1=”733839″ /]

The nation liked Ike, and so did the Yankees, winning three times during his two terms, in 1953, ’56 (the last time they faced Brooklyn, for a 6–1 overall record), and ’58. Perhaps at some point the Bombers had heard this wry remembrance from the last Republican POTUS they ever won a Series under: “When I was a boy growing up in Kansas, a friend of mine and I went fishing and as we sat there in the warmth of a summer afternoon we talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up. I told him I wanted to be a real major league baseball player, a genuine professional like Honus Wagner. My friend said that he’d like to be president of the United States. Neither of us got our wish.”

In 1960, ready for a generational changing of the guard, the nation elected John F. Kennedy. The Yanks, like much of the nation, seemed inspired by the young president’s vision and vigor, renewing their winning ways in 1961 and ’62. Although he was eight years younger than the 43-year-old Kennedy, Yankee catcher and outfielder Yogi Berra was getting old for his profession. Still, he hit for a .318 average in the ’61 Series and, despite having only four plate appearances in ’62, earned his tenth World Series ring, a record that, like Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, looks safe for the ages. Berra can perhaps be seen as having both blue and red pinstripes, with five rings under Truman, three while Ike reigned, and two to usher in JFK’s “New Frontier.”

The country entered a malaise when Kennedy was assassinated, in 1963, and it was doubly so for the Yanks. Neither Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, nor Gerald Ford got to throw out a pitch at a Yankees World Series game. During the city’s fiscal crisis, however, a hyperbolic headline in the October 29, 1975, Daily News became a bit of a fall classic itself — FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD. The Yanks went on to lose to the Reds in the Bicentennial year, the last of Ford’s term, but things brightened in 1977, when Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Although Howard Cosell is often credited with the phrase “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning,” he never actually said it during the telecast from Yankee Stadium on October 12, 1977, when an ABC camera captured scenes of a blazing apartment building nearby. Instead, the always history-minded sportscaster noted, “That’s the very area where President Carter trod just a few days ago,” referencing a trip the former Georgian peanut farmer had recently made to the South Bronx to get a firsthand look at urban blight.

But if the borough was enduring hard times, the Bombers themselves were riding high that October, and the fans in the stadium for Game 6 — pent up after a decade-and-half drought and the Yankees up three games to two — were ready to explode. Then they did. After free-agent slugger Reggie Jackson hit three home runs off three successive first pitches, the Yankee faithful were in a howling frenzy. In the top of the ninth, the Yanks up by four, Reggie was in his usual spot in right field, basking in the cheers of “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” after tying Babe Ruth’s record for three homers in a single World Series game. But he also found himself dodging firecrackers thrown from the stands, a display of hooligan passion that sent Jackson in for a helmet as Cosell intoned to a national audience, “We’ve talked about this before. We don’t want to belabor the point. Behavior like this is intolerable, unthinkable, disgraceful — not worthy of this great city.” Then pitcher Mike Torrez snagged a bunted pop-up for the final out, and the fans stormed the field. Jackson, running full tilt with his shoulder lowered like a halfback, leveled more than one delirious celebrant in his dash for the clubhouse.

In 1978, with plenty of high-priced free-agent egos in the clubhouse, Yankee drama had reached a fever pitch. A quote from Jackson (now known as Mr. October) typified the era: “In the building I live in on Park Avenue there are ten people who could buy the Yankees, but none of them could hit the ball out of Yankee Stadium.” His teammate, third baseman Graig Nettles, summed up the team some wags were calling the “Bronx Zoo”: “When I was a kid I wanted to be either a ballplayer or work in a circus. Now I get to do both!” Fiery manager Billy Martin continued a long-simmering feud with Jackson and also jousted with owner George Steinbrenner, who the scrappy former second baseman felt wasn’t giving him enough support in disciplining his high-priced players. Martin, always known for his temper (and the occasional bar brawl), apparently decided he’d had enough of both Jackson and the Boss, telling a reporter, “One’s a born liar, the other’s convicted.” Jackson may or may not have lied about missing a bunt signal from Martin during a game, but there is no doubt the Boss was found guilty in 1974 of making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential re-election campaign. So Martin was fired, but the Yanks went on to win that year — only to start their longest winless streak in franchise history.

In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan made Jimmy Carter a one-term president — and the Great Communicator didn’t help the Yanks much either (unless issuing a pardon to cleanse Steinbrenner of his campaign-donation foibles in the Nixon years counts.)

[related_posts post_id_1=”713648″ /]

George H.W. Bush presided over no Yankee victory visits to the White House.

But the Clinton years saw a resurgent Yankee squad, which, with the help of what later became known as the “Core Four” — closer Mariano Rivera, shortstop Derek Jeter, pitcher Andy Pettitte, and catcher Jorge Posada — went on to snag rings in 1996, ’98, ’99, and 2000.

Then bupkis during George H. Bush’s two terms.

But with Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, the Bombers didn’t wait long, taking on the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 Series. First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Second Lady Jill Biden and World War II vet Yogi Berra, watched from the infield as Tony Odierno, an Iraq War vet, tossed the ceremonial first pitch. The Yanks lost that game, but behind the MVP hitting of Hideki Matsui they took the Series in six.

For those who have been keeping score — that’s Dems 20, GOP 7 — what can we divine for 2021? Under manager Aaron Boone, the Yanks have made the playoffs the past three years, but never advanced to the Fall Classic. In 2019, Boone famously called his own players “fucking savages,” because their discipline in not swinging at balls out of the strike zone was brutal on opposing pitchers. In retrospect, we didn’t know just how much fucking savagery was yet in store for the nation, as Donald Trump lied about the deadliness of Covid-19 and later encouraged his followers to ever-escalating acts of violence. In the last year of the Republican president’s wannabe autocracy, watching or listening to a ballgame was a surreal endeavor. With the foam-core crowds and canned cheers and boos, fans at home might as well have been watching that episode of Star Trek where Roman gladiators fought inside a pasteboard arena and a disembodied hand turned the dials for “applause,” “hisses,” and “catcalls.”

But 2021 holds new hope for the nation — and for the Yanks. Two Bronx natives shone at Biden’s inauguration: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore in Veep Kamala Harris and Jennifer Lopez serenaded the crowd. J.Lo was accompanied by her fiancé, former Bomber third basemen Alex Rodríguez.

The Yanks have been on the verge throughout the Trump years. Maybe all it took to make the Bombers great again was to vote the Queens native out of office.

Thank you, America. See you in October.

[related_posts post_id_1=”638234″ /]