Tag Archives: Mark Messier

A Friday night I’ll never forget: Me and Mark Messier hang out for a bit. Kate McKinnon continues to be awesome on “SNL.” And my annual “old fogey watches the Grammys” thoughts

I don’t think I do a lot of complaining about my life here on the blog, but if I ever do, remind of the night of Feb. 8, 2019 and tell me to shut up.

Friday night… man, was it magical.

They say you should never meet your childhood heroes in real life, because they’re bound to disappoint you. I don’t know about that, because a few of my heroes that I’ve been lucky enough to meet (Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Bob Costas) have all turned out to be pretty cool.

But one hero I never, ever expected to meet is one of the greatest hockey players who ever lived. Guy by the name of Messier. First name Mark.

Played for the Edmonton Oilers, won five Stanley Cups, then came to New York and gave the single greatest sports memory I will ever have on June 14, 1994, when he and the Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years.

And Friday night, the Captain and I spent about 30 glorious minutes together, on an evening that was incredible and memorable before I ever shook his hand.

A little background on how a night I’ll never forget came to be: So my wonderful wife has a work contact whose firm has a suite at Madison Square Garden, and around twice a year we are fortunate enough to spend a night at a Rangers game in the suite, with great food, a private bathroom (that’s huge at a hockey game!) and cool people.

Several months ago my wife told me our two games for this year, and at the time I had no idea that Feb. 8 vs. Carolina was going to be the 25th anniversary celebration of the 1994 Stanley Cup. When I found that out, I went from my normal level of excitement to a 10.

Seeing my favorite sports team of all time all dressed up and being honored was going to be awesome.
Then, I get to the suite about two hours before the game, and like usual I start introducing myself to the other people in the suite. Normally these are just other lawyers or bankers or whatever.

“Hi,” the first guy said. “I’m Paul Messier.”
“Hi,” the second guy said. “I’m Doug Messier.”

Wait, what? Mark Messier’s brother, and father, are sitting in this box with me? My excitement level went up seven or eight notches.

Then I found out that a few Rangers legends would be stopping by our suite during the game, including that “other” Messier guy.
I couldn’t call my wife and my father fast enough (she hadn’t arrived yet) to tell them that I might get to meet one of my all-time idols. This is a man whose name is part of some of my email passwords, a man who stood for everything (courage, tenacity, being clutch, being a good guy off the ice) that I believe in and worship in an athlete.

The pregame ceremony gave me chills. Then the game started. I half paid attention to the game, because I kept watching the door of the suite waiting for No. 11 to come in.

By the end of the second period, even though I’d had lots of fun chatting about hockey with Messier’s brother (and the poor guy, you just know that’s how everyone refers to him), I was getting worried. Maybe Mark wouldn’t show. Maybe he had too many other obligations on this special night.

Then, early in the third, he walked in. And of course for the rest of us in the box, time kind of stood still.

I bided my time. I waited a whole two minutes before walking over to where the great Mark Messier stood. I shook his hand, told him that I’m sure I’m the 48 millionth person to tell him this, but thank you for the 1994 Cup.

And he was great. We took some more pics with my wife and her co-workers, and then for about 10 glorious minutes, I sat one row in front of the greatest captain in hockey history and exchanged a few barbs. I made him laugh with one joke about how bad the current Rangers were playing, and a few minutes later we talked briefly about Sergei Zubov and how it’s a travesty he’s not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Then way too quickly, the game ended and it was time to leave. We thanked Mess again on our way out, and I walked into the night a few moments later wondering if all that all really happened.

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes. I met one Friday night. And it was so freaking awesome.

And just because we’re talking about Messier, here’s this, the greatest clutch performance a Rangers player has ever had.

**Next up today, a big story at the end of last week was Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and his stunningly honest and transparent letter accusing the National Enquirer of trying to extort him to not cover the Enquirer/Trump love-in, by threatening to release penis pics of Bezos.

Yes, this is America in 2019. Thankfully, we have “Saturday Night Live” to sort this all out. And as always, Kate McKinnon is gold.

**Finally today, Sunday night was the Grammys, and as usual this 43-year-old suburban white father of two didn’t know a lot of the musical acts that took the stage, or won awards (actual pre-Grammys conversation in our house: Post Malone, is that a boy, or a girl, or a group? And is there an alternative group called Pre-Malone?”)

But hey, as usual I enjoyed lots of the show, anyway. Some thoughts from my still stuck in the 1980s musically brain:

— The Dolly Parton tribute was fabulous. And I say this every time I hear her sing, but Miley Cyrus has an amazing voice. Truly an all-time great set of pipes. If I could just get past her crazy, I’d probably be a big fan of hers.

— I don’t usually like Lady Gaga’s outfits at all, but that shiny silver dress she wore at the beginning? Fantastic. And the glittery catsuit thingy she had on when singing her awesome song “Shallow?” Pretty fabulous too.

— That opening speaking segment with Michelle Obama, Gaga, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, and Jada Pinkett-Smith was pretty spectacular as well.

— Alicia Keys rules. She was a killer host, a great singer, and I loved her little montage. But this will still be the best thing she ever did.

— I want whatever anti-aging cream John Mayer uses. Dude still looks like he’s 16!

— Best performance by someone I’d never heard of until the Grammys: H-E-R. Very strong. But I swear I don’t get the appeal of half these artists. I’m old.

 

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Dreaming of a $500 million jackpot. A dog rescue story that may have you crying. And a really ambitious “News Mob” project

I have to start Good News Friday with this. I warn you, you might want to get a Kleenex or seven. This is the beautiful story of a blind, abandoned dog named Fiona, who was discovered in terrible shape in Los Angeles by the Hope for Paws organization. Fiona is very scared when she’s found, but watch her transformation as Hope for Paws takes her home, gives her a great bath and lots of hugs, and finds her a new home.
Just beautiful…

**And now, how about some thoughts about becoming rich beyond your wildest dreams?

Like many of you, I’m sure, I bought a ticket for the MegaMillions lottery jackpot tonight. I purchased $10 worth of numbers for a chance to win 540 million dollars.
I can’t even conceive of that number: 540 million. It’s beyond anyone’s conception. Even if you shared that much money with nine other winners, that’s still 54 million dollars each.

I used to play the lottery a lot when I was younger; I remember how excited I was when I turned 18 and could finally play the New York Lottery. I played birthdays and favorite Yankee and Ranger numbers (Mark Messier’s No. 11 and Don Mattingly’s No. 23 were always among my six digits picked).

Nobody I know has ever won, but when I was a kid my great-uncle, Al Horowitz, once got five of six numbers right, and missed the winning combo by one digit. As in, the last number may have been 15, and he picked 16. I can’t imagine the agony of coming that close.

They say you have a 1 in 176 million chance of winning. Hasn’t stopped me from fantasizing about what I’d do if I won. The best “what I’d do with the money” story I’ve heard this week comes from a teacher in the NYC middle school I’m student-teaching at. She doesn’t want to retire right away if she wins, she said. No, here’s what she wants.
“I want to buy this school, make myself principal for one year, and run this place exactly how I want to run it, just to see what happens.”
Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

**Finally, this last story qualifies as good news if you love the Los Angeles Angels baseball team, or if you still love newspapers who take some chances and try something new.

The Orange County Register newspaper has noticed a major uptick in interest in the Angels this offseason, thanks to the signing of some dude named Pujols. So for 24 hours on Opening Day, they’re creating the world’s first “news mob” at the game.

They’re assigning 100 reporters, photographers, videographers, etc. to constantly upload video, post on Facebook, Tweet, and write blogs and stories about the Angels and the first game of the year.

It’s either brilliant or an incredible waste of resources (hope there’s no major crime in L.A. that day, because the O.C. Register won’t be there to cover it!)

Still, I love the outside-the-box thinking here.

An all-good news Friday! Nikki Minaj makes a dream come true. Remembering No. 11 on 11/11/11. And a blind teen runner finds her way

It’s Friday and I’m all about bringing you good news. I’m going to try to make this a weekly thing here on the blog, only writing about positive, optimistic, upbeat stuff on Fridays (because don’t we all want to feel good heading into the weekend), but like with a lot of things on this blog, I don’t always follow through on my “regular feature” ideas.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. So to start Good News Fridays, I give you a clip of someone I’ve never, ever written about. Nikki Minaj is apparently a famous singer who dresses weird and I suppose I should be embarrassed, pop culturally, to admit I know nothing else about her.

But because of this clip I just saw for the first time, I’m a big fan. On the “Ellen” show last month two little girls appeared who are huge fans of Minaj’s, and well, pretty darn talented singers as well. Check out what happens…

Next, on 11/11/11, I think it’s appropriate to pay tribute to the greatest No.11 in sports history. A man who accomplished something for the New York Rangers that I never thought could be done.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Mark Messier, and a very short video of his hat trick in Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals. I never, EVER get tired of watching this…

**Finally, a heartwarming story about an Ohio teenager named Sami Stoner. She suffers from Stargardt’s disease, a form of macular degeneration which leads to complete blindness.
Sami loves running, but in her deteriorating condition it seemed she wouldn’t be able to compete in races with her high school team.
But then Sami got a seeing-eye dog, and well, read this and realize once again the power of the human spirit…

My favorite sports anniversary. And a great spoof of BP’s bumbling

Monday was a special anniversary in my life as a sports fan.

June 14 is always one of my favorite days of the year. Because 16 years ago yesterday, the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years.

I know, I know, most of you don’t care about hockey, and fewer about the Rangers. But a moment of explanation: This was the greatest sports moment of my lifetime, and those of thousands of other New Yorkers. You don’t understand, the Rangers were never going to win the Cup in my time here on Earth, and I was resigned to that.

You know how Red Sox fans felt in 2004? Well, that’s how Rangers fans felt. An entire weight had been lifted, and finally, finally, the idiotic chants of “1940” (ask an Islanders fan about that one) and all the miseries and failures of playoffs past had come crashing down.

It was truly a magical day in my life, and I don’t care if you think that makes me too obsessed of a sports fan. At that point in my life (I was 19), that was a huge, huge deal. And it’s still a huge deal, and brings so many smiles to my face, 16 years later.
So as I do just about every year, I sat down Monday night to watch Game 7 again, when the Rangers beat the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2, at Madison Square Garden. I still get nervous in the third period, because I’m crazy that way.
Couple thoughts:
**It’s amazing how different watching a sports event was back then. There were no on-screen graphics of any kind, nothing telling you the time remaining, the score of the game, etc. We had no idea what we were missing.
-**Watching a game from the 1990s on an HDTV is practically like watching the Zapruder film. It’s fuzzy and a little grainy and you can’t believe you used to think this was awesome quality at the time.

**The happiest look I’ve ever seen on another human being, ever, was Mark Messier’s face in the photo above, when he first got the Cup. (Happiest expression on my face? Day I got married and began a sentence with “I, Michael Lewis, take you ….” But that’s another story.) Messier’s mug simply says it all: A man at the absolute apex of accomplishment and joy.

And thanks to YouTube, here are the final moments of the game, an event that was 54 years in the making. Still gives me goosebumps, if you can believe it. I got goosebumps watching the whole game last night, and I hope that feeling never, ever goes away:

**So every day seems to bring new misery from the Gulf Coast oil spill. Things seem to be getting worse and worse, and just thinking about all the devastation being caused is enough to make a person throw their hands up and scream.

And yet, we need someone or something to lighten the mood. Check out this hilarious video of what happens when coffee gets spilled at BP:

My new hero

lanceallred 

So my heroes used to be Don Mattingly, John McEnroe, Wesley Walker and Mark Messier.

I’d say with the exception of McEnroe, I chose pretty wisely as a kid. I thought Johnny Mac was so cool for the way he blew up at umpires and humiliated them, until I grew up and learned that for all his remarkable talent, he was just a big baby and remarkably immature. I outgrew McEnroe and was sort of ashamed that I used to love him.

But I’ve got a new hero now, and he’s kinda different from any other role model I’ve ever liked.

His name is Lance Allred, and he’s a 6-foot-11, deaf, OCD sufferer who’s a former Fundamentalist Mormon and grew up on polygamous compounds in Montana and Utah. He’s been battling in basketball his whole life, and for three shining games in 2008, finally made the NBA.

He just wrote an astonishingly honest, hilarious, forthcoming and tragic book about his life called “Longshot,” and I finished reading it last night.

To say it’s one of the best sports books I’ve ever read would be an insult, like calling Rembrandt just one of the 17th century’s best painters. Allred’s book is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in my life.

Unlikely, you say? Wait till you hear his story. He was an awkward, gangly child who was seen as a bit of an outcast since his father “only” had one wife. He became deaf immediately after being born but was undiagnosed for years.  He was told by a Sunday School teacher that he couldn’t hear because of sins he’d committed in a previous life (I hope that teacher got fired immediately, but I’m sure he didn’t.)

Eventually, his parents broke away from the compound and moved to Utah, before another family split made them homeless for a short while.

As a kid, Allred struggled to find his place (you know how kind kids can be to children who are different), and he finally did on the basketball court. Of course, that only brought more suffering. A much-beloved coach at the University of Utah named Rick Majerus treated Allred unconscionably while he was there, humiliating and destroying Allred’s confidence and once telling him he “was a disgrace to cripples.” (Majerus was eventually investigated for his behavior, and resigned from Utah shortly after Allred transferred).

Allred became a star at a smaller school, but then found himself battling through the bizarre and highly unpredictable world of minor league basketball in Turkey, France, and the United States (if for no other reason, buy the book to hear Allred’s wickedly funny description of travel life in the NBA Developmental League). 

There were so many times Allred wanted to quit, and so many times coaches and others gave up on him. But he finally made it to the NBA, if only for a few days, and when you get to that point in the book, you almost feel like cheering.

In his beautiful writing style, Allred weaves metaphors about life and basketball together with meditations on religion, the monotony of practice, and too many other topics to count. He refused to blame others for his failures, and is quick to credit others for his success. He’s funny, smart and had me looking at some things in a whole new light.

I got to meet Allred last month at an NBA summer league camp, after having heard about him on this NPR podcast, “Only A Game“. I wrote this column about him for my newspaper, and I was so impressed with his intelligence and humility that I knew I had to read his book. It blew me away.

Lance Allred will not become a major superstar, of  that I’m pretty certain. But he’s why I love sports; proof that beyond the reprehensible reputations of Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Barry Bonds there are good guys with amazing stories to tell of will and determination.

I defy you to read this book and not become a fan of Lance Allred. If money’s tight and you’re not able to buy “Longshot,” you can probably find it at your local library.

“I do not care about the money, or the fame,” Allred writes in a letter to God in the book. “I just want to say that I set an “unreachable” goal and I made it.”

He certainly did.