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

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.

Would you pay $25,000 to attend a Super Bowl party?

What if the party offered a meet and great with Adriana Lima and Lily Aldridge? Or a chance to hang with rapper Nelly? Or watch Steven Tyler rock out on stage?

This weekend, thousands will be flocking to Arizona to watch the Patriots and Seahawks duke it out in the Super Bowl; thousands of others are there just to party My latest feature for CNN breaks down the annual gold rush known as Super Bowl Weekend:

Super Bowl XLIX: Final quest for the hottest tickets in town

(CNN)It’s a modern day gold rush.

A trip to Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix will cost even the most discerning fans thousands of dollars, while providing a hefty windfall for business owners riding one of the biggest consumer spending weekends of the year in the U.S.

Victoria’s Secret models hosting $25,000 tables, shady ticket deals, and risky online trading for Super Bowl seats have become as much a part of the annual celebration of America’s favorite sport as the ceremonial opening coin toss.

With so much at stake, many fans won’t be leaving anything to chance in the race to book luxury hotels, limos, and some of the year’s most lavish parties — not to mention, tickets to the big game itself.

As a result, a throwback solution from pre-Internet days has emerged as a winner: the hospitality package deal.

 “It’s a value-add situation,” says Anbritt Stengele, owner of Chicago-based Sports Traveler, who sold out of her few remaining Super Bowl packages last Friday.

Read the entire article on CNN.com here

It's getting hot in here....

                                   It’s getting hot in here….

Motez Bishara previews the USA – Portugal World Cup match, and reflects on the Spurs NBA championship on Yahoo Sports Radio

Greetings all!

The Big E Sports Show had me on this week to preview Team USA’s chances against Portugal Sunday night, and wrap up the San Antonio Spurs’ convincing victory over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

The interview stream is available here: 

It’s always a pleasure to be interviewed by Elissa Walker Campbell, who has a super interesting past herself. She played college basketball for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, and is the daughter of Country Music Hall of Fame star Charlie Walker.

Her weekly show, featured on Yahoo Sports Radio and syndicated across America, features many current and former pro-sports coaches and players (like Ken Griffey), as well as other prominent sports reporters. She recently interviewed legendary New York Times writer George Vescey, who just released the book Eight World Cups: My Journey through the Beauty and Dark Side of SoccerIt’s a terrific interview, and I’m thrilled to be a contemporary of someone of his stature.

But back to the World Cup: Who would have bet that after two matches, Costa Rica would head the group that includes Italy, England and Uruguay? Hold on to your seats, I think think there are more surprises to come.

C’mon Team USA!!

America, f- yeah!

America, f- yeah!

 

 

Qatar’s World Cup rigged, but what about Russia’s?

By now everyone knows that Qatar won the right to host the World Cup in 2022. Everyone knows, however, for all the wrong reasons.

I think I'll go shopping today...I hear there's a fire sale on World Cups!

I think I’ll go shopping today…I hear there’s a fire sale on World Cups!

The messiness that engulfs Qatar’s bid has been littering the news lately. First the unbearable summertime weather was red flagged (an Ecuadorian footballer died in the Qatari league last July). Next, a slew of modern-day slavery charges were made. Meanwhile, bribery accusations are not going away, while the momentum for a re-vote gains traction daily. In fact, the media blitz in the UK is so constant that until two days ago my girlfriend mistakenly thought Qatar was hosting this World Cup (she is not much of a sports fan, clearly).

The Qatar games are actually eight years away, yet it appears impossible that the 2022 World Cup will follow its original blueprint. Something’s bound to give.

But ask any random passer by who’s hosting the next World Cup – the one taking place in just four years — and you’re likely to be met with blank stares (an Australian friend who does follow football guessed South Africa; a terrible guess as they just hosted the last one).

It seems odd that the casual fan doesn’t realize Russia is hosting straight after Brazil, since the ammo to bombard its games with negative press is as loaded as Qatar’s.

You want graft and corruption? Russia’s recent Sochi Winter Olympics were branded by The New Yorker as “the greatest financial boondoggle in the history of the Games,” citing embezzlement in construction as reasons why its budget ran from $12 billion up to an unheard of $50 billion.

Corruption is so prevalent in seemingly every major global tournament now that even Fifa’s 96-year-old honorary president, a Brazilian, was thrown out for taking kickbacks last year. Accusations, it would appear, are pointless.

“International sports couldn’t even exist without bribery,” said veteran sports journalist Michael Wilbon on ESPN. “And this started with the Olympic movement. That’s why they had all those reforms, none of which [stuck].  So I’ve always assumed there was some bribery. Why would the World Cup be any different from the Olympics?”

His colleague Tony Kornheiser was equally blasé about the Qatar allegations, dismissing the notion of recasting the vote: “In terms of bribery, the entire world other than [the US] and about five other countries bribes everybody all the time. I’m not going to throw them out because of bribery.”

Bribery, check. Onto human rights abuses. The exposés on Qatar’s migrant worker deaths, alongside the news of a French footballer who was denied the right to leave for two years, have added fuel to the fire that Qatar is an unfit potential host.

Yet not a peep has been mentioned about the Russian Federation’s recent annexation of a big slab of Ukraine, or the constant jailing of opposition leaders, not to mention the two year imprisonment of the punk band Pussy Riot.

And in terms of football fandom, Russians have a much darker stain on their hands than Qataris: a pattern of racist behavior. Last October, Manchester City’s captain Yaya Toure’ was subjected to monkey chants from the stands at CSKA Moscow. Rather than suspend the guilty parties, the top CSKA official amazingly claimed the accusation was a “smear campaign” against Russian football.

So while Labour MPs and corporate sponsors are calling for a re-vote to the Qatar games, not one suggestion has been made to do the same for Russia’s winning bid. This, despite a laundry list of viable reasons. One wonders whether the Kremlin is nervous about Qatar’s growing stink pile wafting towards its own games, or whether it’s basking in the deflected attention it’s enjoyed thus far.

Dining at the Tokyo Dome

Yomiuri Giants vs Hiroshima Carps

September 10, 2011

Final score: Giants 1 Carps 0

Tokyo Dome; Bunkyo, Tokyo

Reported attendance: 40,361     Capacity: 42,000

Tokyo Dome

Surprisingly retro for such a techie country

Well, if you consider edamame beans washed down with a Coke dinner, then I dined at the Dome. I was in Tokyo for three nights as part of an Asian work trip that included Shanghai and Hong Kong. But visiting Tokyo for the first time since 1994 was what I was most anticipating. And, naturally, being The Frugal Fan (my new moniker… you like?) I jumped on the chance to attend my first ever Japanese baseball game.

The Giants are one of two teams based in Tokyo, along with the Yakult Swallows, who resemble the Mets to the Giant’s Yankees. The Giants have won 21 Japan League titles, 11 of them with legendary player Sadaharu Oh (most career home runs of any player in the world).

The Japanese league has only 12 teams, compared to Major League Baseball’s 30, and each of them are corporate sponsored. With the Japanese economy in the doldrums for, oh, the past 23 years, companies have been pretty stingy with their spending and the league has suffered. The most talented Japanese players now take their trades to the US; thus, the likes of Ichiro in Seattle and Matsui in LA command more attention than local players.

Nevertheless, I was determined to pay a visit to the Tokyo Dome, which most famously was the host of the biggest boxing upset of all time: Buster Douglas’ knockout of Mike Tyson in 1990. The fight was scheduled for a morning start, so that it could be shown late night in the US, and Tyson later admitted he was up mingling with sketchy women in his hotel room the night before. Douglas, grieving over the loss of his mother, was less distracted and miraculously evaded getting knocked out himself, having been floored for 9 seconds before finishing off Tyson in the 10th round.

The Japanese love to stand in line

Read more of this post

Pickpocketed in Barcelona: Arsenal at FC Barcelona roundup

10 vs. 11. I´m too mad to come up with something witty.

 

I woke up this morning wondering what had happened last night. And then I remembered, we wuz robbed. Badly. A joke of a referee’s decision to give Robin Van Persie his second yellow card for shooting the ball a split second after the whistle blew (allegedly wasting time). Fans traveled from all over the world to watch a fair match (I met a Barca fan who flew in from DC for the night). With two of the most fluid passing teams in football pitted against each other there was great anticipation. Instead we got a Barcelona team beating an undermanned Arsenal team. Wins like this are what asterisks were made for. Yes Barca dominated possession, and yes they were far superior for nearly the entire match, but the fact remains that when RVP was shown out the door, they still needed to score against us. If it weren’t for a Cesc Fabregas mistake at the end of the first half, they’d have been goalless up to that point. (Do I sound a tad delusional? Trust me, it was toe to toe.) Read more of this post

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