Sports Beat “Self-absorbed Matt”
By Lloyd Carroll
In yet another dreary Mets season Matt Harvey gave Mets fans a number of thrills this season such as pitching two scoreless innings as the starting pitcher in the 2013 All-Star Game played at Citi Field this past July. You would have to go back nearly 30 years to Dwight Gooden’s heyday to find a Mets pitcher who could dominate opposing hitters at will.
He was such a big story that Jimmy Fallon used him for a hilarious “man in the street” bit to see how many New Yorkers could recognize him. ESPN Magazine put him on the cover in the buff for its July “body issue” while Men’s Journal ran a feature on him that made it clear that he was thoroughly enjoying the trappings of being a handsome, young New York celebrity.
Last month Mets fans’ collective spirits took a dive when it was diagnosed that Harvey’s pitching elbow suffered a tear and that it was probable that he would miss the 2014 season. It would be a certainty if he elected to have surgery something that he understandably is hoping to avoid although it seems inevitable that he will need a procedure.
Given that Harvey has been a hero to beleaguered Mets fans, combined with the fact that his future is clearly in jeopardy, many of the media who cover the team have been reticent to report that he has been rather unapproachable in the clubhouse for a good chunk of the season and that you were lucky to get a one-word response to questions if he did decide to talk to you.
Harvey’s arrogance would certainly have gone unreported by me had he not made a jerk out of himself last Wednesday when he agreed to be a guest on Dan Patrick’s NBC Sports Network Show. Instead of answering Patrick’s questions about his pitching arm issues, Harvey insisted on shilling, rather inarticulately I might add, for the cellular telephone chip manufacturer, Qualcomm. Dan understandably skewered him after the interview was over.
In contrast, McDonald’s did things right last Tuesday when it brought in Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz for a press event at their Times Square restaurant to promote their new Mighty Wings snack. Cruz is a commercial endorser for McDonald’s but he gamely took questions about the Giants’ 0-2 start from the attending press.
The personable Cruz is one of the few Hispanic sports to land a bevy of national endorsement deals. He has done TV and magazine ads for Time Warner Cable, Gillette, and Advil as well as raking in big bucks from Nike for wearing their apparel. Even the great Mariano Rivera never landed the lucrative corporate contracts that Victor Cruz has.
New York City’s official tourism bureau, NYC and Company, owes MLB scheduling committee and the good folks from the Bay Area a lot of thanks. Thousands of visitors from Northern California came to New York this past week for the sole purpose of seeing the Giants play the Mets at Citi Field (the Mets’ accounting department was delighted since the place would have been a ghost town otherwise) and the Yankees in the Bronx.
The Queens Economic Development Council, which had a booth at the US Open, to inform visitors of what Queens has to offer, should do the same in front of Citi Field. Queens has terrific restaurants that are just as good, if not better, and far less expensive than those in Manhattan. Yet the vast majority of out-of-town visitors attending a sporting event don’t know that. If nothing else, the QEDC should be visible when the Phillies come into play the Mets next year because a lot of fans drive in from Philadelphia and its suburbs to see their team at Citi Field. They have already paid the high parking charges so they might as well get their money’s worth by walking over the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge to Flushing and try one of its many fine dining establishments.
It wasn’t that long ago that the San Francisco Giants drew even fewer fans than the Mets do for a game. A great deal of the credit for the turnaround has to go to the team’s CEO, Lawrence Baer, who was instrumental in getting AT& T Park built in San Francisco and then putting together a team that won two World Series in the last three years. Baer is the rare baseball executive who enjoys schmoozing with the media and with fans. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon could learn a lot by observing him. Perhaps Jeff’s dad, Mets owner Fred Wilpon, could make a call to Baer to arrange for Jeff to have an internship with him.
I asked Baer about the team that plays across San Francisco Bay from his, the Oakland Athletics, and their quest to get a new stadium. Baer and the Giants are not happy that the A’s want to move south to San Jose where the Giants have a minor league team there and they consider it to be their territory. The city of San Jose is suing Major League Baseball for their attempts to prevent the A’s from moving there.
Baer could not comment on this pending litigation but he did not disagree with my assessment that the A’s would be better off building a new ballpark on Oakland’s sizable waterfront that is well-served by mass transit. The A’s would be rolling the dice moving 50 miles from their current home in the hopes of tapping into the Silicon Valley corporate world.
The Mets’ cable outlet, SNY, made a big deal in advance of Jerry Seinfeld’s guest analyst gig last Tuesday night that lasted a paltry four innings. Except for one joke about surgeon to star athletes Dr. James Andrews who gets a lot of press attention even when he just offers an opinion, Jerry did not bring much to the table. Seinfeld, a Queens College alum, did not meet with the media and his bodyguards got him out of Citi Field as quickly as possible by interacting with as few people as possible.
Under Armour, the Baltimore-based sports apparel company, continues to chip away at Nike’s dominance in the marketplace. St. John’s University announced this week that Under
Armour will be the official supplier of uniforms for its sports teams for the next six years.
With both leisure time and disposable income becoming increasingly more difficult for Americans, destination and resorts are competing harder for attention. California’s San Luis Obispo County took out a booth at the GBK Lounge in Manhattan’s Empire Hotel during Fashion Week while the Puerto Rico Tourism Company did the same at the US Open. Last Monday, the Blue Lagoon Resort in Iceland, the European country located closest to the USA, held a reception for travel agents and the press in midtown Manhattan.
The weather is still warm and sunny but we all know that the cold weather isn’t far behind. Ski Vermont, the private consortium that markets that state’s many ski resorts, was in town Thursday week to promote the fact that nearly all of the resorts there will be offering bargain lodging and ski lessons in January to beginners. Many ski lodges, including Killington and Stowe Mountain will be making their own snow as early as November. Sugarbush is offering an unlimited ski pass without any blackout dates to those under 30 for $299. The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe (yes, the same von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame) still offers the best in cross-country skiing and they are opening an Austrian lager brewery. They hope to ship can and bottles to retailers all over the world by next year.
Consumer Reports is great when it comes to comparing high ticket items such as cars, computers, and refrigerators, and on occasion they touch smaller priced items. If you want to find out the best-rated in everyday items such as snacks, paper goods, soaps, oral care products, and cleaning supplies, log onto www.productoftheyearusa.com . A research company, TNS, surveys a scientific sampling of 50,000 consumers to get the results.