Rio 2016: Team USA ballers can be beat, Phelps is greatest all time, Ticketing scandals abound, and more

Hello from Buenos Aires, where I’m taking a much earned four day break from the madness in Rio.

Before I left, I filed this CNN story on the ticketing situation in Rio where I discuss the unsavory markups by CoSport, the official reseller in the US and UK, as well as the thriving ticket scalper market (where you can get half price deals to some of the biggest events, if you’re lucky).

I also wrote this Aljazeera profile on Saudi Runner Sarah Attar, who will be racing in her tenth marathon in Rio on Sunday.

It follows my profile on Kuwaiti swimmer Faye Sultan who won her heat on Friday as an Independent Athlete at the Games.

And, lest I forget, this think piece for CNN on the perilous state of Brazilian football.

I also did this segment for the Big E Sports show on SB Nation Radio where I discuss all things Olympic related, including Team USA basketball, Michael Phelps and even the US women’s gymnastics team.

One story I left out was losing my wallet in an Uber in Rio on the way to the Rugby Sevens finals…and managing to get it back just 40 mins later, while waiting on the side of the highway. Once you go Uber, you never go back.

IMG_20160810_001836

Selfies are a global phenomenon. Bonding with Team USA fans after Phelps won his 20th and 21st golds was pretty awesome.

 

NBA Finals Game 4 preview, Yahoo Sports Radio

Hello All,

Last night I went on Yahoo Sports Radio’s Big E Sports Show with the awesome Elissa Walker Campbell to preview tonights Cavs – Warriors huge Game 4.

You can listen to my 10 minute rambling here, where I dissect Cleveland’s lineup, berate their management and discuss all things NBA:

And while I’ve got your attention, you can also stream another podcast stint I did back in April following Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game — that 60 point, 50 shot umm, classic [That’s the segment where I preceeded Hall of Fame basketball writer Bob Ryan]:

Lebron Shout

A who seh me don?

NBA in London: Two CNN features and one Yahoo podcast

 

Two NBA features and one NBA podcast in five days. Bam. Now that’s what I call a busy week. But that’s what happens when the NBA comes to London; everything stops and I’m scrambling to go to open practices, conduct interviews, and eventually go to the big game itself — which was a thriller. Toronto beat Orlando in overtime at the O2 on Jan 14.

Both articles were Toronto Raptors related and featured an in-depth interview with team president and GM, Masai Ujiri. Ujiri was born and raised in Nigeria, played low-level college and pro hoops, yet is running an NBA team. Wow.

I don’t want to get all cliche, but honestly, he’s inspiring. If he can do that, then anyone can do anything if you work hard enough and set your mind to it. Seriously, the man overcame some massive obstacles, but had persistence and smarts to get to the top — and good on him.

First feature focuses on the Raptors being the NBA’s first truly global team (one Nigerian GM, seven international players, and one Sikh superfan: the Turbinator):

Click here to read CNN Story

The second feature is on Ujiri’s vision for an NBA populated with talented Africans — much like today’s European soccer leagues:

Click here for the story

Finally, last but certainly not least, is my podcast with the legendary Elissa “Big E” Walker Campell from Yahoo Sports Radio. We’re talking all things Raptors, New York Knicks (IE Porzingis) and Eastern Conference basketball in 10 minutes of riveting dialogue.

Listen to the podcast stream here:

photojoiner

Between Michael and I, we’ve racked up 6 rings.

 

 

My live music wrap-up 2015

Well hello all. I know I’ve gone silent in the second half of 2015. I got busy, what can I say? But I’m back with the second annual Bishara live music wrap-up.

Last year I attended a good 20 gigs, and 2015 was no different (boosted by a music-themed Nashville to LA road trip in October). So without further ado, here they are in chronological order:

Ryan Adams (Hammersmith Apollo, paid £25, face value was  £36), Feb 27.

Mr. Adams is probably my favorite rocker on the planet at the moment. He’s a gifted songwriter with a sweet voice and a style that ranges from hard riffs, to country crooning to cover songs (see his brilliant end-to-end cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album).

This performance was marred by a lot of chatter at the back of the theater (which Adams derisively commented on a number of times), but no matter. We just moved up to the front and heard terrific ballads like this one below. I’d see Adams anytime anywhere.

 

Passenger (Union Chapel – paid 49 pounds, face ? but it was a lot less), April 20.

A poor man’s Ed Sheeran, which is no small feat. In fact Passenger (aka Mike Rosenberg) opened up for Sheeran at Wembley last summer (the show that got away from me).

Passenger is a gifted finger picker and accomplished songwriter, chiefly for ‘Let Her Go’, a clip from which you can watch below. Union Chapel is also a personal favorite venue. Short gig but a winner.

#lethergo #passenger #solo #acoustic #unionchappel

A video posted by motez (@motez56) on

 

Eric Clapton (Royal Albert Hall – paid £50 vs £100 face value), May 18.

Clapton at Albert Hall. Need I say any more? BB King had died that week and so Slowhand played some stellar tributes, like the one below, taken from my seat in the lower level. I purchased the ticket via touts outside (RAH is always a tout hangout) and sat next to an American who had originally purchased the ticket for $250 for his girlfriend who didn’t make the trip. They had a fight the day before and he hopped on the plane without her. Her loss; my gain.

Read more of this post

Talkin’ NBA Free Agency on Yahoo Sports Radio with Big E

Hello All,

Last week I had the pleasure of returning for a guest spot on the Big E Radio Show with Elissa Walker Campbell to discuss the NBA off-season. We hit on Deandre Jordan’s back and forth with the Dallas Mavs and LA Clippers, along with the Knicks questionable first round pick, Kristaps Porziņģis, the Spurs rebuilding effort and a bunch of other topics.

For a print journalist, it’s always special to be able to discuss your thoughts on air, and I value these spots a great deal. In fact, the show has recently been syndicated on Sirius Satellite Radio, meaning it’s beamed out to millions of listeners all over the United States. Not bad for a kid who played high school ball at the American School of Kuwait!

The show was broadcast in two segments, which you can stream here:

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 2

Thanks everyone, and please chime in with any feedback, it’s always welcomed and appreciated!

Lastly, please check in to my Twitter account for updates on new articles I’ve written.

In case you missed them, I had two features that ran for CNN World Sports in July.

One was in-depth look at the off-court lives of professional tennis players outside of the top 10.

The other was a light-hearted profile of the 10 types of people you’ll see in a yoga class.

Enjoy and have a great week!

This crazy-ass beard just got me  a $200 million contract from Adidas!!

This crazy-ass beard just got me a $200 million contract from Adidas!! I’m the richest hipster in the world!

Talkin’ NBA Playoffs with Big E & My Feature on the Obese Pro Athlete — fat or fit?

Happy Monday all,

Last week I went on the Big E Sports Show — streamed by Yahoo Sports Radio as well as Sirius Satellite Radio all over the United States — to talk about the NBA playoff picture and coaching carousel. A fun and lively segment, as always.

You can listen to the podcast streaming here:

On another note, a rather meaty feature I wrote for CNN World Sports ran today. The topic: Overweight pro athletes competing at the highest level. Can they do it? How do they do it? Why do they do it? Do fad diets work? What are the pros/cons of dumping carbs altogether (as many top athletes are doing today)?

I weigh in on these topics by asking the experts — including Adebayo “The Beast” Akinfenwa of FC Wimbledon, and South African Rugby international Ollie le Roux (who weighed over 300 pounds in his heyday).

Here’s the intro, and a link to the complete article is at the bottom of the page:

Fat or fit? These ‘obese’ athletes are proud of their extra pounds

By Motez Bishara, CNN

(CNN) For a brief 10-minute spell at LA’s Staples Center earlier this month, one imposing NBA player got busy throwing his weight around — literally.

The man known as “Big Baby” — all 206 centimeters and 131 kilograms of him — contorted his body to sink improbable layups, dive for loose balls, rebound, block shots and turn into an all-around disruptive force for the Clippers in a win-or-go-home victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.

A week later at Tropicana Field in Tampa, a 201 cm, 138 kg behemoth named C.C. Sabathia struck out nine batters in seven innings to clinch a win for the league-leading New York Yankees. The pitcher’s protruding belly shook like a washing machine on fast spin after each pitch.

In an era where top athletes obsess over body fat and favor kale smoothies over traditional pregame pasta, Sabathia and Glen “Big Baby” Davis are two of a handful of professional athletes thriving in spite of their girth.

“People look down on them, because they say they shouldn’t be out there,” Ollie le Roux, a former South Africa rugby international, told CNN. “But the nice thing about the big guy, the fat guy, the guy that doesn’t look athletic, is that when he runs over the little guy that looks like a superstar, it makes it more human.”

“It’s amazing to watch guys like Michael Jordan as well, but you don’t relate to them on a physical level like you do the overweight guy,” adds le Roux, who tipped the scales at 137 kilograms during the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

CONTINUE ARTICLE HERE

Baseball and male nudity. A nightmare to many.  (PHOTO: ESPN The Magazine/Body Issue)

Baseball and extreme male nudity. A nightmare to many.
(PHOTO: ESPN The Magazine/Body Issue)

The Kentucky Derby: My Two Week Crash-Course in Horse Racing

Happy Friday Frugal Fanners!

Over the past two weeks I’ve been assigned to write not one, but two features on the Kentucky Derby for CNN.com. I knew exactly nothing about horse racing, so I had to get up to speed on the sport pretty quickly.

Fortunately, I was able to secure an interview with Ahmed Zayat, an extremely affable gentleman who has three horses entered in the race, a feat that hasn’t been achieved in decades. Even more fortunately, he was Egyptian and happened to also be an alumnus of BU. So we struck up a friendly conversation off the bat and he very kindly granted me an extended interview and helped get me up to speed on the industry.

The piece’s headline is “American Pharoah chases racing’s biggest crown” and can be read here.

The next piece was a more ‘inside baseball’ look at horse racing. I’m linking the story to baseball on purpose, because the expression ‘hitting home runs’ was used so often by all the people I spoke to in the industry, that I could have been interviewing the New York Yankees.

In horse racing terms, hitting a home run is investing in a horse that wins big races and becomes a champion stallion. His stud fees (what owners charge other breeders to have his baby horses) can go up to $100k per birth, up to 100 times a year for 20 years. I can hear the sounds of “Cha-Ching!” as I’m typing.

That piece, entitled “Kentucky Derby: The Horses Swinging for Home Runs” can be read here.

Between the two articles, I interviewed owners with stakes in 5 of the 20 horses competing in the field tomorrow.  

So I’ll definitely be tuning into the Kentucky Derby at 11pm UK time on Saturday. It should be a thrilling finish.

Oh yeah, there’s also a boxing game going on tomorrow too… 4am UK time….. Let’s Get Ready to Rummmmmble!

Two weeks ago, everything I knew about horse racing could be traced back to the American Express ad from the 1980s. RIP Wilt and Shoe.

Two weeks ago, everything I knew about horse racing could be traced back to this American Express ad from the 1980s. RIP Wilt and Shoe.

wilt-chamberlain-willie-shoemaker

Social Media and Boxing…Quite the Lethal Combo

Okay, so yesterday’s story apparently went viral in the Philippines!

On Wednesday I was tasked to write a story for CNN World Sports on the impending (Pretty Boy) Floyd Mayweather Vs Manny (The Pac Man) Pacquiao fight that’s playing out on social media. Once I scrolled through each of their Instagram accounts, the story pretty much wrote itself. They were hysterically polar opposite in personality and content. The Pac Man evoked his Christian faith at every opportunity, singing songs of Jesus with his wife at home and at church.

Mayweather…. well… it went more like this (Note: I could not include this particular clip in the story, lol):

Here’s the first 100 words of the story, read full story by clicking this link:

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao slug it out on social media

(CNN) A chiseled boxer’s Instagram feed shows him making constant references to the Bible and enjoying gospel singing with his wife.

Another features his formidable opponent counting stacks of money, hanging out in strip clubs, and flashing diamond watches and Ferraris.

Welcome to the world of boxing promotion, circa 2015.

American Floyd Mayweather and Filipino Manny Pacquiao are set to officially announce their heavily anticipated boxing match at a press conference in Los Angeles Wednesday.

With the combined purse for the May 2 bout in Las Vegas reported to touch $300 million pending viewership numbers, the incentives to self-promote could not be higher.

“Nowadays you have to be on social media to launch the fight and to build hype,” says boxing promoter Nisse Sauerland, CEO of Team Sauerland. “It couldn’t be done without it.”

Thirty-eight year old Mayweather (47-0, 26 knockouts), who favors the moniker “The Money Man” or “TBE” (The Best Ever), boasts nearly five million Instagram followers, 5.65 million followers on Twitter and 9.2 million Facebook likes.

Read full story by clicking this link

Talkin’ NBA hoops on Yahoo! Sports Radio with Elissa Walker Campbell

Hello Folks,

Last week I phoned in for a regular guest slot on The Big E Sports Show with Elissa Walker Campbell. I love doing these spots, they’re great fun and the questions Elissa asks never fail to bring up perspectives on players and teams that I hadn’t really thought of. That’s the sign of a seasoned interviewer at work.

We waxed lyrical on the MVP race and the NBA playoff picture. The radio segment was split in two for podcast listeners. Here they are:

Part 1

Part 2

Meanwhile, last Friday I released an article on CNN with the headline “The $900,000 Monument to England’s Failure” about a giant sculpture by an Italian artist which records every loss the England football team has suffered since 1847. That’s a lot of losses. You can read the article here.

NBA MVP Candidate and hipster or jihadi? You decide.  (Photo credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Hipster NBA MVP Candidate or fundamentalist cleric? You decide.  #FearTheBeard

(Photo credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

West Ham Vs Chelsea… Opportunity to test out a new anti-thuggery app!

Just kidding! Or not really…

Yesterday I went to Upton Park, West Ham’s fabled grounds opened in 1904 and soon to be cast aside for the Olympic Stadium. I expected something akin to Fenway Park, Boston’s antique and incredibly charming baseball stadium, the smallest in the Major Leagues.

It was charming, but not in a Fenway Park way. More in a rundown left to rot kind of way. Furthermore, I expected a frantic ambiance, with fans chanting for 90 mins straight as a backdrop to the scent of fan violence that could break out at any moment.

Out of sheer coincidence. just that day my article for CNN was published about a new mobile phone app created by Kick It Out. It encourages fans to report abuse by other fans; a kind of virtual vigilante application. The recent culprits named in the article happened to be both West Ham and Chelsea supporters!  

This is what happens when you’ve seen the movie Green Street Hooligans (named after the street adjoined to the Boleyn Ground — the official name for Upton Park) too many times. The entire film, an unlikely tale of a Harvard kid who gets mixed up in a West Ham gang can be watched free on HD here. Here’s the trailer:

But enough about films! The game itself was end to end stuff, very exciting. Too bad West Ham can’t score to save their lives, otherwise Chelsea would have left the park as losers. Instead, the Hammers gave up a goal early and missed a ton of chances.

Some geezers put up this well edited HD video taken from the stands. You can hear tons of cursing, chanting of the Hammers theme song “Forever Blowing Bubbles” and lots of bad West Ham football:

Some photos from the grounds:

West 'Am United. True to it's East End roots

West ‘Am United. True to it’s East End roots

A small burial site just outside the stadium (by the car park?!) for Hammers die-hards, no pun intended.

A small burial site just outside the stadium (by the car park?!) for Hammers die-hards, no pun intended.

With the legendary Dave Dove, a Hammers fan who's been attending Upton Park since 1958!!

With the legendary Dave Dove, a Hammers fan who’s been attending Upton Park since 1958!!

We left in a very orderly fashion, waited for about 25 minutes on a very long line snaking around Upton Park tube station, and went home without incident. Alas, the app was never used.

The CNN story can be found on this link.

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