By Lloyd Carroll
Sports Help End Government Shutdown
It was somewhat ironic that air controllers walking off the job at LaGuardia Airport Friday were what forced President Trump, a native of Jamaica Estates, to blink and agree to end the 35-day shutdown of the federal government even though he did not secure the funds for the Mexican border wall that he demanded. I have a feeling that Trump was not thinking warm thoughts about his home borough last week.
The air controllers and Transportation Safety Administration airport screeners had the most leverage of all those federal employees who were not receiving paychecks. Even if LaGuardia were able to remain operational, it would not have been surprising if air controllers stayed away from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport this week. As we are all keenly aware, Atlanta is hosting Super Bowl LIII, and a lot of corporate entertaining and other commerce will be taking place there.
Republican Georgia US Senator Johnny Isakson, who almost always votes in lockstep with President Trump’s wishes, voted with the Democrats last Thursday on a bill that would reopen the government without the president getting his desired wall funding. Isakson was clearly feeling the heat from his state’s sizable business community, and I’m sure that he made his feelings known to Senate leader Mitch McConnell if not to Trump himself.
The current budget agreement expires in just over two weeks on February 15. While you can never be certain about what President Trump is going to do on that date, my guess is that another shutdown is unlikely. Aside from the bad optics, February is when Major League Baseball spring training camps open in both Florida and Arizona. Tourism is the biggest industry in both of those political swing states. Need I say more?
CBS executives have to be thrilled about the Super Bowl LIII matchup that features the Los Angeles Rams taking on the New England Patriots. The Rams represent the nation’s second-largest television market (behind New York obviously) while the New England Patriots led by QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. They are either immensely loved or loathed by football fans. Either way, they generate a lot of viewers.
The pressure will be immense on former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current lead CBS NFL analyst Tony Romo since he has rightfully earned a reputation for having play-calling ESP. Along with grading the commercials, you can be sure that viewers will be keeping score on Romo’s offensive play predictions.
Football fans won’t have to worry about withdrawal symptoms following the Super Bowl this year. Next Saturday cable’s CBS Sports Network will cover the maiden season of a spring pro football league, the Alliance of American Football, which will have 8 teams in smaller markets such as San Antonio, Memphis, and San Diego.
Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina were all elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown by the Baseball Writers Association of America last Tuesday.
Mussina, who pitched for the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees, was always a borderline candidate by his admission at the press conference held at the St. Regis Hotel the following day.
When Mike Mussina was an active major leaguer for 18 years, he was renowned for being able to tackle the toughest New York Times crossword puzzles. He was featured in the 2006 documentary about Times crossword creator Will Shortz titled “Wordplay.” If they ever open a Crossword Puzzle Hall of Fame, Mike Mussina will have a plaque in it.
With the growth of smartphones, I asked Mussina if he thought that crossword puzzles were an extinct pregame ritual for baseball players. “I don’t know what’s going on in baseball clubhouses today. I have to admit that I don’t do as many of them as I once did,” he replied.
It was a foregone conclusion that Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera would be elected in his first year of Cooperstown eligibility. The only question was whether the greatest closer in history would be unanimously elected which was an honor no other player in baseball history had ever received. And yes, he was.
New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand had an interesting theory about why none of the greatest names in baseball history were ever listed on 100% of the writers’ ballots. He surmised that social media makes it impossible now for sportswriters who may have a grudge against a star player to remain anonymous which was, of course, a lot easier in the pre-Internet era.
Shaquille O’Neal has long been one of the more ubiquitous athletes as he is well-known from his work with Turner Sports and his countless TV commercials for a wide array of products. He is now starring in a Facebook Watch series titled “Big Chicken Shaq” in which he opens a poultry restaurant in Las Vegas. Later this month he will appear in the Taraji P. Henson movie about sports agents titled “What A Man Wants.”
Two of New York’s biggest travel events, TravMedia’s International Media Marketplace and the New York Times Travel Show, were held at the Javits Center last week and sports tourism was certainly a major focus. Indiana’s Department of Tourism promoted its Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting and the Sports Legends Experience at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis which allows kids to try their hand at a variety of athletic challenges.
Brightline is a privately operated high-speed rail line that currently connects Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. There are plans to extend the system from West Palm Beach to Orlando by 2021. Fans of Florida spring training baseball will certainly take advantage of Brightline. There is a stop planned in Port St. Lucie which of course is the February and March home of the New York Mets. My guess is that once the rail system opens in Orlando, then it’s only a matter of time until it expands 70 miles due west to Tampa, the late winter/early spring home of the Yankees.
Minor league baseball has long been a staple of smaller cities, and now minor league soccer has now become almost as desirable for municipalities. Irvine, California, located in Orange County, was touting the fact that it’s the home of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s (of Major League Soccer) developmental team.
Closer to home, the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau was playing up the fact the 2019 PGA Championship will take place in early May at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course.