Category: Sports

“The League” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

The League looks awesome.  Deal me in.

Opening exclusively in AMC Theatres the week of July 7
Available on digital July 14

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI), executive produced by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (Oscar-winning SUMMER OF SOUL), Tariq Trotter (DESCENDANT), and produced by RadicalMedia, THE LEAGUE celebrates the dynamic journey of Negro League baseball’s triumphs and challenges through the first half of the twentieth century. The story is told through previously unearthed archival footage and never-before-seen interviews with legendary players like Satchel Paige and Buck O’Neil – whose early careers paved the way for the Jackie Robinson era – as well as celebrated Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Hank Aaron who started out in the Negro Leagues. From entrepreneurial titans Cumberland Posey and Gus Greenlee, whose intense rivalry fueled the rise of two of the best baseball teams ever to play the game, to Effa Manley, the activist owner of the Newark Eagles and the only woman ever admitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, THE LEAGUE explores Black baseball as an economic and social pillar of Black communities and a stage for some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game, while also examining the unintended consequences of integration.

Directed by Sam Pollard
Executive Produced byAhmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq Trotter
Produced by RadicalMedia

RIP: The Iron Sheik

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, better known as The Iron Sheik, died today at the age of 81.

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri was born in Damghan, Iran.  He was a talented amateur wrestler and represented Iran on the Greco-Roman wrestling team in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  Following the Olympics, Mr. Vaziri moved to the United States.  In 1971, he was the gold medalist in the Amateur Athletic Union Greco-Roman wrestling championships.  He then served as an assistant wrestling coach for the 1972 US Olympic team.

Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri began his wrestling career in 1972.  Capitalizing on his heritage, Mr. Vaziri shaved his head, grew a thick mustache and wore wrestling boots with toes that curved up.  He wrestled under the names The Great Hossein Arab and “Hussein Arab” before taking on the moniker of The Iron Sheik.  His character, ability in the ring and to work an audience made him a headliner.  Over the course of his career The Iron Sheik wrestled for all of the major wrestling organizations winning multiple championships in each.  The Iron Sheik was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to The Iron Sheik’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Jim Brown

Jim Brown died on Thursday, May 18, 2023.  He was 87 years old.  Jim Brown was an athlete, civil rights activist and actor.

Jim Brown attended Syracuse University where he excelled at basketball, track and field, lacrosse, and football. Many consider Jim Brown to be one of the best lacrosse players of all time.  While at Syracuse, Jim Brown was a unanimous selection for the All-America team and they retired his number 44.  In 1995, he was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Jim Brown was a running back for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 – 1965.  He led the league in rushing 8 of the 9 seasons he played.  When he retired (while at the height of his career) he was the all-time leading rusher.  Jim Brown was a named a Pro Bowl player each season that he played.  Three times in the 9 seasons he was named the NFL Most Valuable Player.  He led the Browns to a Championship in 1964.  Jim Brown is the only professional football player to average over 100 yards per game.  He is considered by many to be the greatest player to every take the field.  Mr. Brown retired from football to pursue a career as an actor.

Some of Jim Brown’s television appearances include: I, Spy; Police Story; CHiPs (3 episodes); Knight Rider; TJ Hooker (2 episodes); The A-Team and Soul Food (4 episodes).

Some of Jim Brown’s feature films include: Rio Concho; The Dirty Dozen; Dark of the Sun; Ice Station Zebra; The Split; 100 Rifles; Slaughter; Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off; Three The Hard Way; The Running Man; I’m Gonna Git You Sucka; Mars Attacks and Any Given Sunday.

Jimi Brown was one of the few athletes to speak out about civil rights in the 1950s and he continued to do so throughout his life.  Mr. Brown was the founder of the Negro Industrial Economic Union, later renamed as the Black Economic Union which helped find opportunities and promote minority owned business.

I was a fan of Jim Brown’s football prowess.  My favorite Jim Brown films are The Dirty Dozen and Dark of the Sun.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim Brown’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Superstar Billy Graham

Superstar Billy Graham, the Hall of Fame Professional wrestler died yesterday at the age of 79.  He had been on life-support and ill for some time.

Superstar Billy Graham was born Eldridge Wayne Coleman.  He became interested in weightlifting while in fifth grade.  In high school he threw the shot put and participated in the Golden Gloves.  In 1961, Mr. Coleman won the Teenage Body Building Contest West Coast Division. (Frank Zane was the winner of the East Coast Division!).  By 1968, Eldridge Coleman was working out at Gold’s Gym where he became friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu and other famous body builders of the era.

In 1970, Mr. Coleman began his career in professional wrestling working for various territories around the country.  In 1972, he took on the moniker Superstar Billy Graham and he became world famous.  Over the course of his career he was a three-time World Champion and inducted in the the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.  He retired in 1988 and became an author and ringside announcer.

Superstar Billy Graham was the inspiration for the next wave of pro wrestlers that included Ric Flair, Austin Idol, Hulk Hogan and Jesse The Body Ventura.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Superstar Billy Graham’s family, friends and fans.

“Bill Russell: Legend” (2023) / Z-View

Bill Russell: Legend (2023)

Director:  Sam Pollard

Stars: Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Satch Sanders, Bill Walton, Jeannine Russell, Jalen Rose, Karen Russell, Lawrence O’Donnell, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Stephen Curry, Bill Bradley, Shaquille O’Neal, Earl Monroe  and Chris Paul.

Tagline:  He Changed More Than the Game

The Plot…

Bill Russell: Legend explores Russell’s life on and off the basketball court. Archival news reports as well as interviews with Bill Russell, his contemporaries, current athletes and sportswriters round out this two part series.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Bill Russell is considered by many the greatest basketball player of all time.  He made every team he played on the best. Bill Russell led his high school team to two California State High School Championships.  In college his team won two back-to-back NCAA titles.  As an Olympian, the U.S. basketball team won a Gold Medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. When he went into the NBA his team, the Boston Celtics won 11 championships in his thirteen-year career. The last two were won with Bill Russell playing and serving as the coach!  “He has more NBA championship rings than he has fingers.”

Off the court Bill Russell was a man concerned with civil rights and world events.  He was a proud man that felt that the things he did off the court were more important.  I am not the biggest basketball fan in the world, but I give Bill Russell: Legend my highest recommendation.

Bill Russell: Legend (2023) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“It Ain’t Over” – The Trailer is Here!

While I’m not a regular viewer of baseball (by any stretch), I’d like to see It Ain’t Over.

Only in theaters in the New York Tri-State Area and Los Angeles May 12. Coming soon to a theater near you.

Directed By: Sean Mullin

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra is one of baseball’s greatest. He amassed ten World Series rings, 3 MVP awards and 18 All-Star Game appearances. He caught the only perfect game in World Series history. Yet for many his deserved stature was overshadowed by his simply being himself and being recognized more for his unique personality, TV commercial appearances and unforgettable “Yogi-isms,” initially head-scratching philosophical nuggets that make a lot more sense the more you think about them. In telling the whole story, It Ain’t Over gives Berra his due in following the life of a savvy, commanding, bad-ball hitting catcher with a squat frame but also a D-Day veteran, loving husband and father and, yes, product endorser and originator (mostly) of his own brand of proverbs now ingrained into everyday life. Granddaughter Lindsay Berra tells his story along with his sons, former Yankee teammates, players he managed, writers, broadcasters, and admirers (such as Billy Crystal), plus photos and footage on and off the diamond. Berra famously said, “I’d be pretty dumb if I started being something I’m not,” and It Ain’t Over lovingly makes clear he stayed who he was for the benefit of baseball and everyone else.

“Grips, Grunts and Groans” (1937) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Grips, Grunts and Groans (1937)

Director:  Jack White

Writer:  Clyde Bruckman from a story by Searle Kramer, Herman Boxer

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

The boys become friends with Ivan Bustoff, a professional wrestling champion.  Bustoff has a match that evening, but spends the day drinking/carousing with our guys.  A local mobster has placed a big bet on Bustoff and if he’s unable to wrestle or loses, it’ll be the death of the Stooges. So when Bustoff is unable to compete, Larry and Moe disguise Curly as the champ.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

In Grips, Grunts and Groans when Curly smells Wild Hyacinth perfume, it makes him go crazy. (Much like in Horses’ Collars when the sight of a mouse sets him off.)  They could have made more shorts just of our guys going out drinking with Bustoff – think of the misadventures they could have had!

Grips, Grunts and Groans earns 5 of 5 stars.

“No Holds Barred” (1952) starring The Bowery Boys / Z-View

No Holds Barred (1952)

Director:  William Beaudine

Writer:  Tim Ryan, Bert Lawrence, Jack Crutcher

Stars: Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Marjorie Reynolds, Bernard Gorcey, Henry Kulky, David Gorcey, Benny Bartlett, Sandra Gould, Tim Ryan, Murray Alper and Ray Walker

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

When Slip (Gorcey) discovers that Sach (Hall) has different body parts that feel no pain and give him super-strength, he turns Sach into a professional wrestler.  Although the super-strength body part changes from time to time, they are able to take advantage of this.  Sach is winning all his matches and this draws the attention of a crooked manager and the former champ.  Soon Sach will have to face manager’s wrestler in the ring… what could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

No Holds Barred is a fun Bowery Boys outing.  The outfit Sach wears in his final match is actually Klaatu’s  (Michael Rennie) spacesuit from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Each time the power would move to a different body part (head, elbow, toes, etc.) Slip would change Sach’s wrestling moniker.  When the power moved to the last body part Slip started to give Sach a new wrestling name, but Sach breaks the fourth wall and says, “You say it and we’re out of pictures!”

No Holds Barred earns 3 of 5 stars.

RIP: Lanny Poffo

Lanny Poffo died today at the age of 68.  No cause of death was given.

Lanny Poffo was the son of Angelo and Judy Poffo,  Angelo was a professional wrestler and promoter.  It was only natural that Lanny follow his father and older brother, Randy aka Randy “The Macho Man” Savage into the sport.

Mr. Poffo began his career in 1974.  He would go on to wrestle professionally for the All-South Wrestling Alliance, National Wrestling Alliance, Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling, International Championship Wrestling, Mid-South Wrestling, Continental Wrestling Association and the World Wrestling Federation.  It would have been easy to capitalize on his brother’s fame, but Lanny wanted to make it on his own.  In the WWE he was known as Leaping Lanny and then later, The Genius.  It was as The Genius that Lanny Poffo generated the most heat.

I met Lanny Poffo at a small convention in 2009.  Mr. Poffo was very approachable.  I spoke to him about how when my sons were younger we loved to watch he and his brother wrestle.  I went on to say that when I was a kid I saw Lanny’s dad wrestle many times.  Lanny loved that I remembered his dad.  As we talked about wrestling and his career, Lanny would always steer it back to his brother and father.  What a humble man he was.  Lanny also wanted folks to know that his brother, Randy, was an amazing baseball player and all-around athlete.

Lanny Poffo had written a poetry book about the dangers of smoking.  He autographed a copy and gifted it to me.   Most people, when they think of Lanny Poffo, think of The Genius.  Lanny Poffo made a great heel which attests to his acting ability since he was such a generous kindhearted man outside the ring.  That’s who I think of first.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lanny Poffo’s family, friends and fans.

“Bill Russell: Legend” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I’m looking forward to this documentary on Bill Russell.  The fact that it is on Netflix makes watching a no brainer.  Deal me in.

On the court, Bill Russell was a force to be reckoned with – a champion who sacrificed himself for his teammates and love of basketball. Off the court, Bill Russell was a force in the fight for human rights – marching with the great Martin Luther King Jr., pioneering NBA boycotts and fighting against racism. BILL RUSSELL: LEGEND tells the remarkable life and legacy of an NBA superstar and civil rights icon.

RIP: Stephan Bonnar

Stephan Bonnar, the UFC Hall of Fame mixed martial artist, died on December 22, 2022.  He was 45.  No official cause of death was given, but it was believed to be the result of heat complications.

Mr. Bonnar was the first runner-up on Season One of The Ultimate Fighter.  His bout against Forrest Griffin is considered a classic.  As the fight progressed the ratings for the finale continued to climb as viewers called friends to tune in.  The winner of the bout was to get a six-figure contract with the UFC.  Because the fight was so entertaining and competitive, both Griffin and Bonnar received contracts.  Dana White, the President of the UFC said that the Griffin/Bonnar fight saved the promotion (which is now a multi-billion dollar business).

Stephan Bonnar ended his professional MMA career with a 15 -9 record.

I watched the first season of The Ultimate Fighter.  I was also one of the people that called friends during the finale. The Bonnar/Griffin fight truly saved the UFC.  It was because of that fight that the UFC television contract was extended.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Stephan Bonnar’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Brad William Henke

Brad William Henke, the professional football player turned actor died on November 29, 2022 at the age of 56. No cause of death was given.

.Mr. Henke played for the Denver Broncos from 1989 – 1994 when he retired due to repeated injuries.  Brad Henke then decided to give acting a try.  His first roles were in commercials which led to roles on television and in feature films.

Some of Brad Henke’s television appearances include: Chicago Hope; Nash Bridges; ER; The Pretender; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; Dexter (4 episodes); October Road (19 episodes); Law & Order; Life on Mars; CSI: Miami; Lost (6 episodes); Criminal Minds; Justified (7 episodes); The Office; Longmire; The Bridge (4 episodes); Hawaii 5-0; Orange is the New Black (26 episodes); The Stand (6 episodes) and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

Some of Brad Henke’s feature film appearances include: The Fan; Space Jam; Star Trek (2009); Pacific Rim; Fury; Split and Arkansas.

Brad Henke successfully transitioned from pro football to an acting career.  He always made an imposing presence and he appeared in many television shows and movies that I enjoyed.  It’s sad that Mr. Henke died at such a young age, but what a life he led!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Brad William Henke’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson

Anthony “Rumble” Johnson passed away yesterday at the age of 38.  His cause of death was organ failure from a form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.

In 2004, Anthony Johnson won the 174 pound National Junior College Athletic Association championship.  He then transitioned into martial arts.  Mr. Johnson had a 4-0 record when he accepted a UFC fight on just a few days notice.  Johnson won the bout with a 13 second KO.  Anthony Johnson would go on to post a 23 – 6 record, with one Fight of the Night bonus, two Knockout of the Night bonuses and five Performance of the Night bonuses.  When Anthony Johnson fought, fans were assured of an exciting bout.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Anthony Johnson’s family, fans and friends.

“A League of Their Own” Season 1 (2022) / Z-View

A League of Their Own, Season 1 (2022)

Directors:  Jamie Babbit (Eps. 1-3); Ayoka Chenzira (Ep. 4); Katrelle Kindred (Ep.5); Will Graham (Ep. 6); Silas Howard (Ep. 7); Anya Adams (Ep. 8)

Teleplay by: Will Graham & Abbi Jacobson (Eps. 1 & 8); Abbi Jacobson (Ep.2); Desta Tedros Reff (Ep. 3); Michelle Badillo (Ep. 4); Mfoniso Udofia (Ep.5); Will Graham (Ep. 6); Sanaz Toossi (Ep.7)

Starring:  Abbi Jacobson, Chanté Adams, D’Arcy Carden, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Roberta Colindrez, Kelly McCormack, Priscilla Delgado, Molly Ephraim, Melanie Field, Kate Berlant, Dale Dickey, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Lea Robinson and Rosie O’Donnell

Tagline: None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

A League of Their Own is an loose adaptation of the 1992, A League of Their Own hit movie.  The update introduces new characters and storylines.

The year is 1943.  World War II is raging.  In an effort to increase morale at home the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is formed.  A League of Their Own follows a group of women from try-outs through the first season on the Rockford Peaches.  The focus is on…

  • Carson Shaw (Jacobson), a married woman from the midwest who’s life has been somewhat sheltered.  Her husband is in the service.  Carson develops feelings for Greta.
  • Maxine “Max” Chapman (Adams) is an African-American woman with a fastball that rivals those thrown by most men.  Maxine won’t even get a chance to tryout for the team because she’s black, but when one door closes…
  • Greta Gill (Carden) is a wild woman, who lives life and encourages Carson in more ways than one.
  • Clance Morgan (Ikumelo) is Maxine’s best friend, a newlywed who wants to be a comic book artist (and not a baseball player)
  • Jo DeLuca (Field) is Greta’s best friend and a power hitter
  • Toni Chapman (Ekulona) is Maxine’s mother who doesn’t support her baseball ambitions

While the above characters get most of the screen time, A League of Their Own does an excellent job of showcasing each of the players on the Rockford Peaches.  It’s interesting that women’s baseball is used as the backdrop for a time in America when women couldn’t open a checking account without their husband’s permission, African-Americans were still segregated from whites and being gay was thought of as a disease or even contagious.

The writing on A League of Their Own is really sharp and it doesn’t hurt that the series is well cast.  All of the actresses that play major characters are excellent.  Kudos also to Lea Robinson as Uncle Bertie,  Nick Offerman who plays the former pro who is brought in to coach the Peaches and Rosie O’Donnell who plays the owner of an underground gay bar.  Maxine “Max” Chapman (Adams) and her best friend Clance Morgan (Ikumelo) have a chemistry as best friends that could sustain a half hour comedy on their own.

A League of Their Own surprised me in how good it was.  I hope we get a second season.

A League of Their Own, Season 1 earns 4 of 5 stars.

RIP: Gene Lebell

Ivan Gene Lebell, martial artist, actor, stuntman, professional wrestler, and real life tough guy passed away in his sleep on August 9, 2002, at the age of 89.

Gene Lebell began training in wrestling and judo before the age of ten.  After earning his black belt, Mr. Lebell went to Japan to further his training.  When he returned to the US, he competed in the Amateur Athletic Union National Judo Championships, winning the heavyweight title at the age of 22.  In 1963, Mr. Lebell agreed to fight a boxer who claimed he could beat any martial artist.  Gene Lebell choked him out in the fourth round.  Using his martial arts training it was easy for Gene Lebell to transition into professional wrestling where he often was used as an enforcer during big matches.

Gene Lebell’s reputation as a martial artist brought him to the attention of Hollywood where he got work as both a stuntman and actor.  With over 250 stunt credits and over 150 acting credits on his resume, odds are you’ve seen Gene Lebell on television or feature films.

Television appearances include: The Jack Benny Program; The Munsters; Gomer Pyle; The Man from UNCLE; Mission Impossible; The Green Hornet; Batman; The Wild, Wild West; Mannix; The Rockford Files; Kung Fu; Kojak; The Six Million Dollar Man; Starsky & Hutch; Knight Rider; The Fall Guy; Walker, Texas Ranger; Married with Children; The X FIles; More Wild, Wild West and The Shield.

Feature Films include: Blacula; Walking Tall; Earthquake; The Towering Inferno; The Killer Elite; Rocky;  Every Which Way But Loose; The Jerk; Raging Bull; Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid; City Heat; Remo Williams; Rush Hour; Runaway Train; Rocky IV; Die Hard 2; Marked for Death; The Last Boy Scout; Waterworld; Strange Days and Spider-Man 2.

There’s a famous story that when Gene Lebell was working on a Steven Seagall film, the star said that due to his martial arts training, no one could choke him out.  Mr. Lebell took exception to the statement.  Seagall allowed Gene Lebell’s  to place him in a chokehold to prove his point.  Steven Seagall not only lost consciousness but also control of his bowels.  While Steven Seagall denies this ever happened, there are others who claimed to have been there and seen it happen.

Gene LeBell was a man’s man, a 10th degree Black Belt; and appeared in some of my all-time favorite movies and television shows.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.