Thursday, April 26, 2012

When You Bedazzle A Fish

Purdy.  Ain't it?

Some of you may find this odd but I’ve always had a special fondness for the Florida Marlins.  I remember their inaugural year of 1993 as if it were yesterday, partly because I lived in Florida at the time and was caught up in the fanfare of finally having a Major League Baseball team in my backyard.  Partly because it was the year my father passed away.  In fact we had planned on going to a few games that year, driving down to Miami which was just a few hours from where we lived in Orlando.  He had planned it to be part of my high school graduation gift. Dad and I never did get to see the Marlins together as he passed away that March, just over a week into Spring Training.    

I remember his excitement that we would finally be seeing a meaningful Mets game nearby.  One that wasn’t some meaningless match up in March, with players who had jersey numbers straight out of the NFL.  It was a moment that we shared that 19 years later I have never forgotten or wanted to, that is until I saw the monstrosity that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria had assembled this past off-season in south Florida

Donned in their new tropical rainbow Skittled colored uniforms with hues of blue, red, orange, green and yellow and black are the new Marlins.  Even Ozzie Guillen, their loose lipped manager, implied on the current season of The Franchise which airs on Showtime, that the new uniforms looked terrible.  I swear if you look at those new uniforms long enough, they could trigger seizures, especially in small children and the elderly. On their opening day of the new stadium in Miami, the players were escorted onto the field by Brazilian showgirls.  I kid you not. It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve even seen done by a Major League Baseball team.  I was waiting for Rip Taylor to jump out of the dugout and start tossing confetti at everyone.  They even carted out former Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali to “throw” out the first pitch.  Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up.

Loria this past off-season went on a spending spree, with guaranteed contracts given to Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, and Mark Buehrle totaling over $191 million dollars.   The last time the Marlins doled out that much cash, they won the World Series and like the great owner Loria is, he rewarded his Florida fan base by selling off his expensive players as if he were trafficking human body parts on the black market.  I shouldn’t be so hard on Loria; Wayne Huizenga did the very same thing in 1997 when he owned the Marlins who also ironically won the World Series that year. Those fickle Floridians; incidentally 57% of that original fanbase has passed away since then leaving time shares in Boca available. 

But that was then. Now Loria can boast his new tacky stadium with its fish tank backstop.  Again I kid you not.  And the piece de resistance, the sculpture…thing that was built in left center.  Designed by artist Red Grooms, this pyramid eyesore twirls and whirls pastel colored Marlins in a circular motion each time Jose Reyes flashes a smile or when the team hits a homerun.  Somewhere Abner Doubleday is flipping in his grave.

You mean I MAY not be here for my ENTIRE contract?
Look I get that the Marlins are a south Florida team, I’m not geographically challenged.  In fact when they debuted in 1993, and introduced the color teal to MLB, it was followed by many hems and haws from old school types.  I thought it was a fitting color considering the locale. But with this new incarnation of the Marlins, it seems they’ve adopted more of the South Beach club persona than anything else.  And speaking as a Met fan, as much as it was enjoyable to watch Jose Reyes play, let’s not try to make him out to be more than what he was.  He personified the fast, exciting, and energetic player but honestly not the smartest one ever to put on the uniform.  It seems quite appropriate for Reyes to have been lured into the shallow lifestyle that is South Beach.  Not that the Mets actually made him a real offer, but that’s an argument for another day. The good thing though for Reyes, he’ll never know just how big of a mistake he made leaving New York until he hangs up his cleats and finds out that in Miami, he’s just a really small fish in a huge pond.  Probably by then he’ll be touring with Pit Bull. 

Baseball just ain’t what it used to be.  Dad, you’re not missing anything although the Mets did sweep the Marlins in Reyes’ return to New York.  Gotta love the silver or teal or yellow or red or black lining.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Honor Thy Mets Family First

I’m old enough to recall when Chipper Jones was considered the Bryce Harper of his day. I remember seeing him on the cover of his first Beckett, an action shot of Jones turning a double play- he was a shortstop back then. Like most players from 1985 on, I had a cornucopia of his rookie cards. He was as hot of a commodity as a share of Google stock right before it went public. At the time I lived in Orlando, Florida and we didn’t have access to WWOR, the then flagship television station of the New York Mets. Satellite TV was somewhat in its infancy, not that we could have ever afforded such a luxury back then or the inclination to make the backyard look like the Arecibo listening post in Puerto Rico.

So I was essentially a Met fan living in the south and the only television channel that showed baseball was TBS, home of the Atlanta Braves. That might explain why I didn’t get deep into baseball again until around 1985. Sure we watched the Mets as they ventured to Fulton County stadium to take on Dale Murphy but it just wasn’t the same. The Braves were just plain horrible to watch. From the muted bluish hue of their uniforms to the laughable lack of talent on the field, we really watched just to see the opposing team. Of course as years went on, the Mets became synonymous not just as the team in New York but the nation; in spite of the annoying moniker the Braves self anointed themselves with as “America’s Team”.

But I admit as time went on, and as we were still without a way to follow the Mets, I did learn to appreciate what good baseball was, especially good pitching. As a Baseball fan I found myself fortunate enough to have seen the likes of Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in their early years before they earned their eventual places in Cooperstown. I remember my father telling me that Glavine would be a star one-day even though he was absolutely terrible at first. As the years progressed the Braves were finally piecing together a team that would eventually earn their franchise 14 consecutive division titles and my personal ire as a Met fan. When one of those pieces came along - one Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones Jr. – I realized that as a Met fan, with a team that was in the midst of the Jeff Torborg era…that we were in trouble.

While the Mets seemed obsessed with winning the back pages of the New York Post and the Daily News during that time, the Atlanta Braves were biding theirs, and collecting minor league talent along the way. Chipper Jones to any Met fan old enough to know is what Kryptonite is to Superman; as if we could actually try to compare the Mets of the late nineties to the iconic superhero. Over the span of his career Jones has hit 48 home runs off Met pitching and has driven in 154 runs. It’s the kind of domination that the eventual Hall-of-Famer will forever be remembered in Met history, for better or worse as it seems the team has decided to “acknowledge” his career sometime during the 2012 season, which is going to be Chipper Jones’ last.

Look I get it. As a fan of the game, Jones is one of the greatest and deserves to be inducted one day into the Hall. As a Met fan, who has also witnessed his rise from phenom to Met-sassin, I prefer the team not take part in some elaborate, on-field ceremony to honor a guy who routinely beat the ever-loving crap out of this team. Do I blame HIM for the way the Mets were run as a franchise during Chipper’s rise, absolutely not. In many ways I look at Jones and the success the Braves have had and realize that if the Mets had the proper leadership in the front office and an ownership that wasn’t hell bent on trying to keep up with the headline grabbing Yankees, then Met fans would be the ones doing the gloating right now with one of their homegrown, retiring stars being honored by the Atlanta Braves. But things didn’t pan out quite that way at least not during that span of Met history.

I don’t hate Chipper Jones as some fans are probably going to affirm with blind affinity to the Mets. I just don’t think it’s proper for the Mets to honor him other than with a quick montage, BETWEEN INNINGS, during a game at Citifield. For a team that has yet to retire Gary Carter’s or Keith Hernandez’ or even Mike Piazza’s number, it’s inexcusable to give Chipper Jones anything other than an acknowledgment. But lets face it; this is the same team that took three years to get Citifield finally up to standards. Everything from the overemphasis on the Brooklyn Dodgers (Jackie Robinson specifically) to the lack of an area that honored the METS team history (now represented by the Mets Hall Of Fame in the lower concourse). These were major oversights that fans have been very vocal about over the last three years, and rightfully so. I just hope the organization does the right thing here. Charity isn’t the only thing that begins at home. So does showing respect for your family first.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Viva the Schmuck!

You can file this article under the “it was bound to happen” category. Seems as if Ozzie Guillen, the new Miami Marlins manager, once again has contracted foot-in-mouth disease when he was quoted saying this about the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro:

“I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still here.”

Aye dios mio Ozzie. You sure didn’t waste any time did you? I always thought the inane things that Guillen would say were a well-designed ruse; intellectual bait to get reporters or fans off his player’s backs especially when things weren't going so well. But I’m starting to believe that perhaps I’ve given him way too much credit intellectually.

His recent linguistic faux-pas has had some people calling for some kind of disciplinary action to be levied against him. Guillen has already apologized for what he said but there will be a press conference tomorrow so he can once again show just how contrite of a clown he really is. And here you thought that monstrosity of a sculpture the Marlins have erected in centerfield in their sideshow of a stadium would be the only thing to cause seizures.

If loose lips sank ships then Guillen would be the captain of the Titanic, the Exxon Valdez and the Concordia. Ozzie can you do us all a favor and shut up please? Or at least wait until your tropical skittled uniformed, overpaid and overhyped team is barely doggie paddling over the .500 mark before you go off script. As much as I think what you said and what TOWN you said it in, deserves if anything, a trip to get a head CT scan, I’m not sure if you should be punished. I think you’ve done enough to yourself already.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Who's Your Daddy On Opening Day?

April 5th, 2012, was the 51st Opening Day for the New York Mets. And like clockwork they won. The pre-game ceremonies were dedicated to honoring the late Gary Carter who passed away this past February from brain cancer. His immediate family including his wife, Sandy, daughters Kimmy and Kristy and son DJ, threw out the ceremonial pitches and revealed on the left-centerfield wall, the “Kid 8” memorial which is similar to the patches the team will be wearing this season. I have to give kudos to the Mets. It was a very moving ceremony that was definitely befitting the man in every way.

Amazin’-ly so the Mets have the best winning percentage on Opening Day now with a record of 31 wins to 20 losses, a .608 winning percentage. What’s also amazin’, and also unfortunately like clockwork, the team lost one of it’s starters to the disabled list when centerfielder Andre Torres aggravated his previously injured calf, while trying to track down Tyler Pastornickey’s eventual triple in the 7th inning. I’m sure you’re all shocked.

Now would it be a new season without hearing that a Met was headed for the DL? Granted Torres has been dealing with this calf issue all of Spring Training so it’s not as if it snuck up on anyone but on Opening Day? Really? Couldn’t they give us a week? Now the team is stuck with option bad and option worse and option are you kidding me.

Option bad would be to give the starting centerfield job to Scott Hairston, a natural corner outfielder who has dealt with an injured oblique all of Spring Training. He’s a bad swing away from being molded for a body cast. Option worse would be to rush minor league outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis who in a perfect world, is at least a half a season away from getting his cup of coffee let alone the starting centerfield job for the New York Mets. Oh and by the way, he’s been injured most of Spring Training as well. Option you’ve got to be kidding me would have been calling up Vinny Rottino. No, he’s not an extra on Jersey Shore. He’s actually a journeyman who’s seen about as many minor league stadiums as Crash Davis. Did I mention Rottino is actually a catcher by trade? Of course that means he’s the perfect choice in center for the Mets!

As of late last night it seems Alderson and company have decided on calling up“Captain” Kirk. I guess when you have the depth of choices the Mets have it’s more of a matter of picking who will do the least harm. Good luck Kirk. Live long and hit homeruns for us.

Johan Santana looked impressive. I’ll be honest I was one of those who believed he was done, period. Not sometime this year or next, but done. So far he’s progressed after each start and hasn’t complained about feeling anything out of the norm. As a fan I’m ecstatic. As someone who is familiar with injuries to the shoulder I’m optimistically skeptical. He’ll be on a shorter leash this year than a Kim Kardashian boyfriend.

All in all, I’m happy the game is back. Even if this is going to be one hell of a long season.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Joe Bruno Knows...

Joe Bruno knows what it takes to be a successfully published writer. He's penned novels and has been a sports writer for The New York Tribune to Ring Magazine and even Penthouse. Trust me, no pictures of him are thankfully in the latter. He was the Vice President of the Boxing Writers Association from 1982-1986. Did I mention he knows about the Mob?

Having been raised in the 6th Ward of the Lower East Side of NYC, he's known his share of Wiseguys. He has a unique point of view on everything from sports as he's a Met AND Yankee fan to Organized Crime and life itself. He graciously offered The Spector Sector an article he penned about a group of women determined to battle their way through the difficulties of life, one fistfight at a time...yes I'm talking about Mob Wives.

It happened last Monday, and now it’s happened again on Monday April 2, 2012. And all it proves is that the American public loves to watch a train wreck. My blog Joe Bruno on the Mob got 20,000 hits before noon today; the great majority of those hits were on articles I’ve written concerning the TV show Mob Wives. ( I’ve written over 330 articles for my blog; only 16 on Mob Wives) Go figure .

I forced myself to watch Mob Wives last night (Sunday night, April, 1) and it certainly was an April Fool’s joke turned bad. Last week (March 25) the show finally disclosed that Hector “Junior” Pagan was in police custody. But even though, before Thanksgiving last year, it was revealed in the newspapers and on the Internet that Pagan was a rat for the FBI, viewers, not aware of the fact, were conned into thinking this was happening real time. Or close to real time.
On last night’s show, Renee Graziano was featured for most of the show doing her “I’m going crazy” routine. And doing a damn good job of it.

Crying. Banging her hands over her face and head. Hugging other crying mob wives like Karen Gravano, who has some experience with the rodent kingdom herself. It was enough to make my eyebrows hurt. And my four dogs were howling at the TV screen. It wasn’t until the last few minutes of the show that viewers were given a hint that Pagan was now a stool pigeon. But this revelation did not come through Renee, but from other mob wives reading the local newspapers. At the show’s end, Renee was still supposedly in the dark as to why her ex-husband “self-Incarcerated” himself, (Pagan was actually pulled off the streets by the FBI because he had served his purpose by wearing a wire while talking to several alleged mob figures, including Renee Graziano’s father Anthony “TG” Graziano, who was arrested the same day Pagan went bye bye).

Then the viewers got the all–telling promo for next week’s show. Next week, Renee will go from despair, to plain anger, as well she should, when she finds out the truth about Pagan; a man so low, he can lick the curb standing up. The producers of Mob Wives , which includes Renee’s sister Jennifer Graziano, are milking this Graziano family tragedy for all its worth (like making chicken salad out of chicken spit). Instead of telling the viewers in one minute what happened five months ago, it’s taking them three shows (maybe more) to let the viewers know:

1. Pagan went into the wind.
2. Renee is overwrought that her ex-husband is going back to jail, as well as her father.
3. Pagan is FBI informant who was instrumental in putting TG Graziano back into the can.

Welcome to the wacky world of Reality TV. It’s all about ratings, not about the truth. Surprise, surprise. I now await with bated breath the April 9, Mob Wives extravaganza. But before I watch, I’m going to get myself good and drunk so that I can endure almost 60 minutes of bad, over-the-top acting, that is no longer part of a Reality Show, but in actuality a rotten piece of half-truths manipulated by the producers to bring more viewers to the table.

I know. Watching and reporting on Mob Wives is dirty work, but someone’s got to do it. Tequila anyone?

Joe Bruno

Author of "Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps - NY City" Volumes 1, 2, and 3

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What Is And Isn't Self-Defense

I can’t possibly imagine what it must be like to lose a child. I dread even the thought of it for no parent should ever outlive their children, ever. Being a parent, I feel deep empathy for the family of Treyvon Martin; the 17 year old Florida boy who was shot and killed over a month ago by George Zimmerman, in what Mr. Zimmerman has said was an act of self-defense. Mr. Zimmerman, a local neighborhood watch leader, called 911 about a suspicious person walking around his neighborhood. Something that he said was happening often. The suspicious person turned out to be Treyvon Martin who was visiting his girlfriend.

Zimmerman’s call to 911, which was one of many he had made since 2004 as a 47 page document released by the Sanford Florida Police showed if anything, the he was obsessed with law and order, so much so that many of the calls to 911 were for non-emergency related events such as seeing drivers without headlights on to potholes in the street. When Zimmerman called 911 regarding the suspicious person he decided to follow the person, something that the 911 operator said he should not do.

What ensued from that point is in dispute. According to George Zimmerman’s father there was a struggle initiated by Martin whom he says broke his son’s nose and beat his son’s head onto the pavement causing lacerations. It was then during that struggle that Zimmerman shot and killed Treyvon Martin.

When the Sanford Police arrived Zimmerman was questioned and claimed he acted in self-defense. He was not charged but was taken in for questioning, later to be released. According to Sanford Police he was not charged with any crime due to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.

The Treyvon Martin case is clearly becoming one of the most divisive this country has seen in recent years. But did it have to come to this? Was George Zimmerman within his rights for what he did? Or did his actions go well beyond what the Stand Your Ground Law allows?

There’s so much that went wrong with this situation right from the beginning. I can only hope that the investigation that has been underway and out of the public view, can insure that at the very least, justice will eventually prevail. But here in my opinion is what went wrong from the start.

Why did Sanford Police NOT place Zimmerman in protective custody, while investigators began piecing together what happened? If self-defense and the Stand Your Ground Law is the key factor here then the law states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first. In some cases, a person may use deadly force in public areas without a duty to retreat.

I’m not an attorney but nowhere in that law does it state that the person being threatened can PURSUE the threat, as Zimmerman did against the suggestion of the 911 operator. Therefore in my opinion, this connotes aggression on Zimmerman’s part. If Martin was armed and in pursuit of Zimmerman, then I would think Zimmerman would then be justified to defend himself?

Why is Al Sharpton there? Did he JUST read the name Zimmerman and assume “sounds white so he must be guilty” as is his normal modus operandi? Sorry but Al Sharpton sickens me to the core. He’s an ambulance chaser of the worst kind, a race-baiter who uses other’s misery to fatten his wallet and boost his ego. He stokes the flames of racial discontent that would make the likes of David Duke nod in approval.

Just because Sharpton’s vitriol is aimed at a different skin color doesn’t give him a pass. And the fact that the mainstream media looks to him as the voice of the African American community, just makes me shake my head. There's even a report that the Seminole County chapter of the NAACP has distanced themselves from Sharpton, stating that “escalating” an already inflamed situation is not something they agree with.

I give the NAACP credit. True leaders don’t govern by consensus, they are molders of consensus. The only consensus Al Sharpton seeks is how quickly his fees will be paid. By who doesn’t really matter to him. Make no mistake, when all is said and done with this case, and the lawsuits are filed, I wonder how much of a cut the good Reverend will be seeking.

Why is Treyvon Martin’s character even being brought up? There were reports regarding his high school record that made its way into the mainstream. This is totally irrelevant to what happened and it simply adds nothing of value. Its purpose is to plant seeds in the minds of potential jury members and it needs to stop. Trayvon Martin could have worn a tee shirt that said “I’m a gang member” and it wouldn’t justify being shot and killed for no reason. There is no reason anyone should be assailing this young man’s character and whoever is doing so should be brought forward.

Why are celebrities jumping on this case when no one knows for sure what happened yet? Is it for their deeply held beliefs or is it for cultural fashion? I understand the grief of what happened but to draw conclusions when an investigation is underway is foolish for anyone to do. Why would Spike Lee, who thought he discovered Mr. Zimmerman’s address, post the address on Twitter, only to later find out it was a mistake?

What good did he expect would come of doing that? Yes Zimmerman needs to come forward and hopefully he will have to by law enforcement but he shouldn’t be a target for vigilantes either. Spike Lee should have known better.

According to the Washington Post, NBC will be doing an internal investigation when they played the 911 recording on the Today Show and perhaps doctored the tape in this manner:

(Today Show version) Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

Here’s how the actual conversation took place according to the actual 911 tapes:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

Really NBC? Is this what you’ve resorted to? Yeah that’s journalistic integrity. Let’s just pour more fuel on the fire it’s only ratings.

Because Zimmerman claimed he was acting in self-defense and cited Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, advocates of gun control are slowly finding ways to interject their views. Now I happen to be a strong advocate of the 2nd amendment of the Constitution. But where I have to part ways with my friends are those who support conceal and carry laws. I work with the public and the last thing I want is to have someone who’s a step away from being Michael Douglas in Falling Down, approaching me with a question, not preferring my answer thus prompting Mr. Unhinged to pull out his Glock.

As much as I believe in the right to protect your home and those in it from any threat, to proactively go around acting like your Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, doling out justice on your own terms isn’t what most Americans want. I’d much prefer you sticking with your Playstation thank you very much. I’ve worked with the public long enough to know that even though there are probably much fewer crazies (statistically) walking around than level headed mooks like me, I would rather not roll the dice on that one. Sometimes laws look much better on paper than in action.

What the hell has happened to common sense? Do we need laws that tell us that we can defend ourselves and that we SHOULDN’T pursue anyone in order to apprehend? Wasn’t there a time where we left that to the Police? Is it just me or do some people in this country need to be spoken to like children in order for them to understand the differences between right and wrong? There’s so much stupid to be spread around it makes one wish they were Mayan and looking forward to December 21, 2012.

As these reports drip out bit by bit, questioning Zimmerman’s honesty, Martin’s character, what remains is a family without their son, tortured with the unknown. If Zimmerman acted with reckless disregard, taking the law into his own hands and taking the life of a 17 year old boy because he “thought” he was suspicious, then justice needs be served. Otherwise the wheels of racial discontent which have already been set into motion, whether they are valid in this particular case or not, will only progress further, turning attention away from what matters most here. May God bless Trayvon Martin and his family. And may he also give patience and clarity to those desperately seeking revenge.