Joe’s Notes On Jersey, Manhattan And Media DayJanuary 31st, 2014
So Joe apologizes for being a bit late on this diary of his few days in frozen Gotham/Jersey but he had a dinner engagement Tuesday evening and with no direct flights from Newark to Tampa, Joe spent most of Wednesday in airports. Thursday Joe was busy.
* Joe stayed in Jersey where his Hilton lodging (third time staying there) has a free shuttle service to a nearby bus station that goes straight into the Port Authority bus/train terminal right in the heart of Midtown. Yeah, Joe could have paid $280 a night for a hotel in Midtown, but instead chose $150 a night with a roundtrip bus fare for less than $10. Feel free to do the math.
* Joe does not travel light unless it’s an overnight thing. With luggage, Joe didn’t feel like dragging all of that on trains (it is a pain in the arse both for Joe and fellow riders to drag luggage on commuter trains) so Joe booked a driver to take him to his hotel, which is a good 20-minute drive from the Newark airport. Joe was quoted $75 for the ride (locally the same trip would be around $50). Yeah, pricey, but it’s the northeast. Joe found it strange how the driver kept pushing a cash payment. OK, fine, it is freezing,” let’s go,” and that’s less on the plastic. So we get to the hotel and the driver informs Joe the quote for the ride did not include the $10 in tolls. Joe smelled a con right away, but it was like 10 degrees and the end of a long day of traveling. So, Joe got conned. On his way back with the same driver service, Joe told the (different) driver up front he was giving him $80 – no more! – if it was a cash transaction. This driver had no problem with that.
* The first day, Monday, Joe had credentials, but what was the point? Monday is the deadest day of Super Bowl week. So Joe took the time to goof around Manhattan. One thing Joe has learned, just because a restaurant has an Italian name and is located in Manhattan does not mean it’s good. Joe found a mom and pop Jersey Italian eatery with some of the best chicken parm he has ever had. There is an Italian place featured on the Food Network in the East Village where Joe thought he was eating Stouffer’s frozen lasagna. As usual, buyer beware.
(Virtually every place Guy Fieri has featured that Joe has gone to, Joe has been very underwhelmed.)
* Joe did make it to the famous Katz Deli for their world famous pastrami in lower Manhattan. It lived up to its billing. The pastrami just melted in Joe’s mouth. Tender, juicy and delicious. It really doesn’t need mustard. Why dilute the pastrami? The place is only seven subway stops from Rockefeller Center and a short walk from the Second Ave. train stop. But the neighborhood is crummy. In Joe’s limited time bouncing around Manhattan (Midtown, upper West side, East Village, Financial District), it was easily the worst neighborhood he has walked through. For that reason, Joe is pretty sure it will be his first and last trip to Katz. Joe will suffice with Carnegie Deli in the future.
* Manhattan is full of women who are either models or actresses or TV types or wannabe models or wannabe actresses or wannabe TV types. The place is crawling with hot chicks; everywhere you go. On the subway coming from Katz, there was a striking, tanned Central American woman (Joe’s guess) with a very, very thick Latin accent who spoke broken English and was asking for directions. This girl would absolutely stop traffic is she wasn’t covered up like an Eskimo.
* Joe thinks the reputation of New Yorkers being a-holes is overblown. Joe has never had a problem getting directions from the locals on subways. More often than not, they are happy to help.
* Getting off the subway at Rockefeller Center and walking to the Super Bowl Media Center on Seventh Ave., Joe walked past FOX News headquarters, which is just two blocks from 30 Rock (headquarters of NBC). The two outfits loathe each other – on the air. But being so close to each other, you just know they drink together after work. (No, Joe did not see Megyn Kelly or Martha McCallum or Jenna Lee or Ainsley Earhardt or Heather Nauart or Anna Kooiman or Elisabeth Hasselbeck.)
* Joe has learned from experience not to drink too much beer in Manhattan and then take a bus back to Jersey. If you are not careful, it’s a painful bus ride.
* Folks in Jersey are absolutely petrified of the expected mother of all gridlocks Sunday. An Atlanta ice storm-like traffic jam. For example, the Hilton where Joe stayed is sold out this weekend. But the hotel has reserved 11 rooms just for staff and are begging workers to stay at the hotel free Saturday night so they can get to work on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s a lot of cash Hilton is turning down just because of the fear of traffic. Joe’s going to guess that is not the only New York/New Jersey hotel doing that.
* Joe knows northeastern types always rag on the location of the Fruitdome in St. Petersburg. If you ever traveled from Manhattan to MetLife Stadium or from suburban Jersey to MetLIfe, by comparison to the Fruitdome, MetLife is located in freaking Zephyrhills. So how come the same crowd who rags on the location of the Fruitdome isn’t blasting the Giants/Jets for the location of MetLIfe? It’s in the middle of freaking nowhere (worse than Joe Robbie Stadium).
* Joe can’t describe how cold it was Tuesday morning going to Media Day at the Prudential Center in the heart of lovely Newark, where the New Jersey Devils play (man, what a pit Newark is!). Even the locals were bundled up as if they were on an Antarctic expedition. It was single-digits and the wind was like a tropical storm. It took Joe until Thursday night to finally thaw out.
* There are all sorts of weird things at Media Day because that’s what Media Day is. All sorts of people were out of place, like the entertainment reporters who don’t know the difference between a down marker and a goal post. But for Joe, the most out of place guy was former MLB pitcher Al Leiter. Dressed to the nines, Leiter seemed to be lost, walking around aimlessly, like an accountant visiting a newsroom. Nothing against Leiter at all, but Joe couldn’t figure out why Leiter was there (and Leiter looked like he couldn’t either). At least the entertainment chicks were trying to develop content for their shows.
* How anal are the a-holes from BSPN? Joe was taking a picture of their set from a distance, and some BSPN goon came after Joe as if he spit in Chris Berman’s face. God forbid someone in a confined area (a hockey arena) where thousands of people are penned in walked into a live shot. FOX and the NFL Network? Joe walked right up to the set, took pictures — no problem at all.
* God bless Roger Ailes. There’s a reason he runs the most successful news operation in North America. He was one of the first to come to the logical conclusion that TV is a visual medium and you don’t have the Candy Crowley’s of the world on your network; but hotties. (As Mike Royko once wrote about Deborah Norville on the Today Show, “I see ugly every morning in the mirror. I don’t want to look at ugly when watching TV.”) This philosophy from the FOX News icon has filtered down to Fox Sports 1, Man, the blondes! Joe can confidently say if Molly McGrath doesn’t turn your head, you have a broken neck.
* Speaking of TV blondes, television does not do justice to Allie LaForce of CBS Sports. Wow, there is a reason she was a beauty queen!
* Joe wanted to try to ask Richard Sherman about Mike Glennon as Glennon has one of his better games against the Seahawks. But it was nearly impossible to get to Sherman. The mob scene around him was insane; almost as bad as the mob around Peyton Manning. Closest Joe could get was the fourth row of bodies. What does Joe think of Sherman? Joe loves the guy! He’s smart, eloquent and has a great passion. What he did with Erin Andrews two weeks ago is nothing that Ric Flair didn’t do with those Saturday afternoon wrestling shows on WTBS years ago. Great entertainment. And trust Joe, you would be shocked how popular rasslin’ is in NFL locker rooms. The connection between Macho Man Savage, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Flair to many NFL players’ antics is very clear.
* For the first time Joe has covered Media Day, virtually all players were penned up either on their own podium, or a fenceline separating them from the masses. Joe is guessing this is in response to Artie Lange ambushing players with questions about sexuality last year. When the players and assistant coaches mingled, there were constant traps from the non-sports reporters. By keeping players and coaches in assigned seats, those traps are eliminated. Of course, it makes for a more corporate/less fun Media Day. No more seeing big ol’ offensive linemen dancing with petite hotties or linebackers hoisting entertainment reporters into the air.
* Joe noticed NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington (Seminole High School product) making nice with Yahoo! Sports/Big Ten Network’s Melanie Collins. They looked like a media version of Ken and Barbie.
* You have never seen a human stampede quite like when the (free) food trough opens up for 3,000+ sportswriters and TV types.
* Quite a few Seahawks fans came to Media Day and made their presence felt. They were pretty rowdy.
* May not mean anything, but it seemed to Joe the Seahawks were pretty loose, enjoying everything. Smiles all around.
* The mob around Peyton Manning’s podium was so massive; you couldn’t see him unless you attempted to penetrate the human shields.
* Joe tried to interview Randy Moss, who now works for FOX Sports 1, but Moss sneered at Joe as if Joe just tossed his lunch on Moss’ shoes. Man, if looks could kill.
* Joe hears a lot about “Super Bowl Boulevard” in Times Square, highlighted by a toboggan. Looked pretty lame to Joe, then again, it was so cold Joe wasn’t spending any time outside mingling in the area.
* Joe was mocked by his good friend, the dean of Tampa Bay sports radio, “The Big Dog,” Steve Duemig of WDAE-AM 620, for walking all over Midtown and not taking a cab to escape the cold. Trust Joe, traffic is such a mess in Midtown, you can often walk to places quicker than a cab can get you there, and save about $30.
* More on cabs: Joe saw something really ornery Tuesday night. Walking from Tavola, an excellent pizzeria (with even better beers) off of Ninth Ave. to the Port Authority, Joe spotted a cop car with its lights flashing chasing down something, a common sight in Midtown. Difference was, the cop car was painted to look just like a yellow cab. That’s wrong!
* It was a neat trip. A little too stressful than it needed to be, but Media Day is always fun and it was cool to bounce around Manhattan again and eat some damned good grub. Would Joe go there again? Hell, yeah! But hopefully when it’s above 50.
After three trips to Illinois since Christmas and a trip to New York, Joe’s about sick of winter. And airports.