Monday, January 11, 2016

My Hero, Just for One (More) Day?



He was my hero, but just for one day.

The date was October 20, 2001 and I was entering my favorite place in the world, yet I didn’t know how to behave or what to do. None of the nineteen thousand, five hundred-plus people attending the Concert for New York knew what to expect as they settled into their seats at New York’s Madison Square Garden, a little more than a month and a lifetime after the dark day of September 11 that year. 

Were we supposed to enjoy ourselves again? Can we laugh and smile? Can we go back to the way it used to be?

As it turned out, the cue, that evening, came from a rock legend and his message was the same as it ever was. He performed and the underlying message was simply to be yourself and to be authentic with your emotions, your friends, your neighbors and those you were about to meet that night as we took a giant first step towards healing.

The show began with a single spotlight on a performer seated on the stage floor, legs criss-crossed in front of a small synthesizer which provided a rhythmic backbeat. That performer was David Bowie, dressed casually cool with his contemporary haircut framing his youthful good looks as he was only 53 years old at the time. The show’s organizers had decided to start the show with an old, familiar face. 

That face was on many of the albums I had purchased. In fact it was on some vinyl, some cassettes and some CDs. In a few cases, the same album was purchased for each of those now-ancient delivery systems for popular music. I guess I missed the 8-tracks he sold? The face sometimes had make-up, and it sometimes was adorned atop glamorous attire that pushed modern fashion further than the latest and most garish layout in the Sunday Times magazine section, whether the fashionistas hailed from Milan, London or New York. The face, while youthful, showed some mileage, too. That is what I loved about him. David Bowie was a rock’n roller who had withstood the test of time.

His music was not on my “Top 10” lists nor was his name the first that would come to mind when I would look at the list of touring bands for a summer treat. Yet, David Bowie was in a place in my musical tastes that felt safe and secure, despite the fact it was amazingly progressive. Bowie was alternative music before we even knew it existed.

A walk into a dive bar in New York, south of 14th Street, might prove to be stressful to the average man never mind one trying to find the courage it might take to drop a few bucks into an idle jukebox to the start the evening off with a few tunes. Your mind would be rushing with questions and trivial worries, "What artist and which song should I play?” "Everyone in this joint is going to know the song I’m choosing.”

You would twist the knobs, and flip the album covers, as the stress began to build. Then, an enlightenment. “Ahh, Bowie!”

It wasn’t too “Pop” (Top 40) and it wasn’t too safe (The Beatles). Bowie fit in with The Rolling Stones, or maybe Eric Clapton’s latest. It felt just right.

“Ashes-to-Ashes, Modern Love, China Girl, or Young Americans” would always work out nicely to start-up an evening of music and a few frosty cold ones.  If you wanted to go a little deeper, a little further, you might play something he passed along to another artist, and maybe play some more obscure stuff from the great Iggy Pop or Mott the Hoople. And, if the jukebox had “All the Young Dudes,” it was truly a sign of some music aficionados calling the shots on their music box and you'd found a place to return to at anytime.

Thinking back to that momentous night at The Garden, Bowie began his two-song set with the perfect entree, covering Simon and Garfunkel’s cinematic epic, “America,” which took on an entirely different meaning that night than its more uppity ‘60s origins. With film clips and images from New York City playing behind him, the great Bowie carved into the night while the fire-fighters and other first responders stood-up and applauded the selection, as crowd cut-aways on the big screens or a glance to your left or right proved it was okay to smile again. Three and a half minutes later, we began the process of recovery and we did it together with music, along with some smiles, some laughs (especially from Adam Sandler’s depiction of Opera Man), some tears and even some boo’s (Harrison Ford). It was okay to be ourselves.

Bowie’s second selection that night is probably more memorable to many. He played the very fitting “Heroes” from his 12th studio album, recorded in 1977, my senior year in high school. He performed with Paul Schaffer and his orchestra, which included Fab Faux fave, Will Lee, singing back-up vocals. While Ziggy Stardust, Space Oddity, Ch-Ch-Changes, or his Jagger-esque duet on “Dancin’ in the Street” will go down as all-time rock epics and fan favorites, I will always remember Bowie from that October evening, sitting in my favorite room, legs crossed, setting the mood, and blazing an important trail, yet again. 


Rest in Peace, David Bowie. You have earned the ultimate in terms of global respect. You have earned immortality, but I wish I could steal time. Just for one day.

Monday, January 4, 2016

SNL or Real Life?

A new game to play is ...

Is it a Saturday Night Live skit?

or

Is it Real LIFE?

(Sadly, it's NOT a GAME):



Thursday, November 12, 2015

Lloyd Daniels Story: The Legend of Swee' Pea



(A project TLSM LLC has been working on to assist filmmaker Benjamin May).

NEW YORK - The streets of New York have spawned a long list of playground legends, from Nate “Tiny” Archibald and Connie Hawkins to Earl “The Goat” Manigault and “Pee Wee” Kirkland. However, few have had the rise, the fall, and the rise again that Lloyd “Swee Pea” Daniels had in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. First time director Benjamin May now recounts that star-crossed story with “The Legend of Swee Pea,” which will make its world premiere at DOC NYC on Tuesday November 17 at the IFC Film Center in New York with a sold out screening, and November 19 at 7:30 pm at the Bow Tie Cinema at 260 W 23rd St, between 7th and 8th Avenues.


“There is perhaps no sport that creates legends like basketball does, and there was perhaps no bigger basketball legend in the 1980’s and ‘90’s than that of Lloyd Daniels,” said May, a Minnesota Neuroradiologist turned film director.

“As a fan of the game I was enthralled with Lloyd’s amazing story of tragedy, triumph and perseverance and we are proud to tell his cautionary tale to an audience who may be aware, but more importantly a legion of basketball fans of a younger generation who may not know the story. It is one for the ages, and frankly one that is probably not yet done.”

Nicknamed for the son of the legendary cartoon character Popeye, Daniels was one of the top college basketball recruits of the late 1980s, playing at five high schools and Mt. San Antonio Junior College before the University of Nevada Las Vegas won a massive recruiting battle to have him join the Runin Rebels and legendary coach Jerry "Tark the Shark" Tarkanian. Before he was able to play a single game at UNLV, he was arrested for cocaine possession, ending his time at UNLV before it began. Later shot three times in the chest at age 21 over an argument about an $8 dollar bag of cocaine, the man christened as the best high school player to come out of New York since Kareem Abdul Jabbar as well as the heir apparent to Magic Johnson was thought by many to have had a career end before it started, when in reality his story was just beginning.
  
Daniels managed to overcome all of those obstacles, and with remnants of bullets still in his body, and with years of crack addiction behind him eventually made it to the NBA, playing through the Continental Basketball Association and the USBL before embarking on a seven year NBA run and an overall professional career that took him from Italy and Turkey to New Zealand and China during a mythical 20 year run.

This film documents Daniels’ struggle to survive the perilous streets of New York, to navigate in the world of high stakes professional sports, and to overcome a lifetime of addiction. In addition, the film features one-on-one interviews with Tarkanian, David Robinson, John Lucas, and Avery Johnson, as well as Five Star Basketball founder Howard Garfinkel, legendary basketball talent evaluator Tom Konchalski, longtime  New York high school coach Ron Naclario and Newsday’s John Valenti. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

DOPED: Looks at Sports' Anti-Doping Underworld

When world-class athletes suit up for competition in the Year 2015, is it just too much to expect an even playing field and the proper enforcement of the rules of their games?

Whether it is the integrity of the “game” officials or the competency of the “table” officials, such as the game timer and official scorer, the proper enforcement of the playing rules is always at the very foundation of sport. However, the findings of a new sports documentary, DOPED: The Dirty Side of Sports, clearly has surfaced the fact that the very foundation of sports as it relates to drug-testing is surely broken.

“We looked at what sports organizations are out there that say they are serving the interest of athletes but maybe aren’t doing their best to hold up their end of the bargain,” said Andrew Muscato, the producer and director of the documentary that premiered on premium tv channel EPIX on September 30.

“The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) came to mind, since there was some ‘grumbling’ which questioned how effective were these rules, were they working and what say, if any, do athletes have in making these rules? We’ve all seen documentaries going after the athletes who have ‘doped,’ whether it be on Lance Armstrong or countless ’30-for-30s,’ but nobody has looked at the other side of this, looking at the people who are going after the athletes who supposedly have ‘doped.’ That was our main objective,” said Muscato.

Similar to his work exposing the NCAA in the 2013 sports documentary “SCHOOLED: The Price of College Sports,” Muscato and his production team which includes the controversial former MLB manager and current Sacred Heart University (Connecticut) athletic director turned executive producer Bobby Valentine, “DOPED” is a no-nonsense and factual telling of the world behind the anti-doping establishment in sports, both on the world level through WADA and via the United States’ efforts by way of USADA.

DOPED quickly exposed the ground rules or basic “modus operandi” of WADA by having NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith tell of his first-hand experience when he sought some simple answers to questions he had as a representative of the athletes of the National Football League, which were being pressured to adopt what WADA and USADA officials referred to as the “gold standard” of drug testing.

“A contingent from the NFLPA went up to Montreal to meet with WADA, as DeMaurice Smith says in the film, and they were dismayed at the attitude of WADA in the fact that the NFL players were questioning the validity of the tests. The NFL players had some issues with the lack of transparency by WADA,” noted Muscato.

"The policies used in sports for the war on performance enhancing drugs overreach and underperform," said Muscato on the documentary. "Clean athletes are not only being harmed by these rules, but they have no say in how to improve what's clearly a broken system. In order for a global gold standard to truly work, athletes should be a bigger part of the process and that is how we can get to a better and more amicable solution for all."

Among the more interesting and lesser known points made in the documentary is the account of Olympic track and field star Adam Nelson, an American who was awarded the gold medal for the 2004 Olympic shot put on May 30, 2013, nearly a decade after the fact. Nelson’s 2004 silver medal was elevated to a gold after the IOC authorized re-testing of urine samples taken from Ukrainian Yuriy Bilonog. The tests were botched by WADA in 2004, and showed traces of Performance Enhancing Drugs when they were re-tested in 2013. The result for Nelson in between ’04 and ’13 was a severe loss of income, sponsorship and the ability to fund his training and competitions in the waning years.

 “Adam has a line in the film, that ‘they expect the athletes to be right 100-percent of the time,’ said Muscato. “The anti-doping agencies don’t have to be right 100-percent of the time and nobody pays much mind of that fact.”


“It’s been a decade since many of the rules for anti-doping were codified,” said Muscato, “so isn’t it time to review the rules to see what’s working and what is not?”

“It goes back to an inherit conflict of interest,” said the producer. “WADA likes to say they are an independent body, but they’re not, because of where their funding comes from.

“The only people who want true, clean sport are the athletes who don’t dope. But because of human error and, maybe, some political interests, not everybody is going to be following the same rules.”


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Moving Day Has a New Meaning for Jordan Spieth

By Terry Lyons @terrylyons @DigSportsDesk

NORTON, Mass - September 6, 2015 - The third round of every PGA Tour event is always referred to as “moving day.” The term simply describes the importance of the third round, coming a day after the cut is made and the tournament’s most noteworthy contenders buckle down to play their very best and frequently hurdle some of the pretenders on the leaderboard. Because of the Labor Day holiday weekend, “moving day” comes on Sunday, not Saturday, for the Deutsche Bank Championship, held at the Tournament Players Club situated halfway between Boston and Providence.
For Jordan Spieth, one of the top three golfers in the world today largely because of his victories at The Masters and U.S. Open this year, moving day at the DBChampionship, the de facto “quarterfinals” of the PGA Tour’s contrived FedExCup playoff system, came at its regular time on Saturday. Except, this week, the young talent’s move was to pack up his bags and return to his hometown of Dallas, Texas after missing the cut and a piece of the $8.25 million purse at Deutsche Bank.

Sunset at the 18th hole of TPC-Boston, site of the DBC Championship
“I’m going to take some time away,” said Spieth after his 75-73 opening rounds scorecard from Boston sent him on his way. “It’s probably going to be good for me to take at least four days and not touch a club. Maybe get back with (swing coach) Cameron (McCormick) and just go through a normal routine. Nothing is different.”

Nothing is different?  I beg to differ. Since August 16, when he finished an impressive second to Jason Day at the PGA Championship in Wisconsin, Spieth has now missed the cut in his last two tournaments, both FedEx Cup Playoff events in The Barclays (NJ) and here at the TPC-Boston. 

After missing the cut at The Barclays, Spieth chose not to return home to Texas and went back to the lab, so to say, by staying in New York on the weekend of August 29-30 and traveling the short distance to Boston from NYC, seemingly a very smart strategy to get back on track.

“I went to the city, played a round at (the prestigious North Jersey course) Baltusrol and then rested Sunday,” said Spieth to the Beantown scribes before the Deutsche Bank tournament teed-off. “I figured we’d come up here, versus anywhere else. To fly three and half hourse back, then four hours back up here, to be honest it was going to be a bit more of a pain.

“The best practice we could get is playing the course (for) that week,” he explained. “If I could get on these greens, versus in Dallas where it’s 110-degrees. It’s hard to practice a full day in Dallas at this time of year. Cameron came up and we worked all Monday and Tuesday and got a lot of good work it. There wasn’t much to fix.

“It was more what I was making up in my head,” said Spieth, as honest as a long summer day, but obviously fading just as it’s doing in New England as an early September morning thermometer read 48 today. “I was creating bigger problems than there really was. I wanted to get some speed work and putting work,” Spieth added about his pre-tournament practice strategy.

So what is Spieth’s frame of mind now, that he’s missed his second consecutive cut but will rank No. 2 in the important FedEx Cup points list when the tour heads to Conway farms GC in Lake Forest, Illinois September 17?

“It’s almost like a bad dream,” he said, again so honestly and soul bearing. “Again, I don;t feel like it’s that far off, even though my score is far off. I just (need to) wake up and get the putts to go in again. That’s where I feel it’s at.

“I had a really bad 'self-talk’ week, something I haven’t experienced in quite a while. It maybe heightened by everything that’s happened this year and just being so used to being in contention. I need to walk with some cockiness in my step these next two tournaments. I don't have to fix much in my game other than work really hard on my putting, going into Conway, and then, mentally, I can control that. I can control walking with the cockiness, whether things are going good or bad, and that’s what you have to have inside the ropes.

“I’ll bring it when we get to Chicago.”

If Spieth gets some rest in his own bed and can regain his mental toughness and putting stroke, both Dallas and then, Chicago, will be sweet home.

***
(This column was written for Digital Sports Desk (dot) com - Please visit and follow the site on Twitter @DigSportsDesk)