Category: Sports

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.

“Kai” – The Trailer is Here!

The trailer for Kai is here.  Some movies are big, but Kai is huge!  ; )

Watch the official teaser trailer of Kai – the life story feature documentary of bodybuilding legend Kai Greene.

Kai Greene is one of the biggest modern day legends in bodybuilding both on and off the stage. He’s an athlete, an artist, an actor, and an entrepreneur. But his journey to greatness first started in childhood – when he chose bodybuilding as a form of survival. Now witness Kai Greene’s story of survival and climb to success in the first ever all-access documentary chronicling his life and career into the sport of bodybuilding and beyond.

RIP: James Caan

James Caan died yesterday at the age of 82.  No cause of death was given.  Mr. Caan’s family  released the following statement:

“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6.  The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

James Caan attended Michigan State University for two years where he played football.  He then transferred to Hofstra University in New York.  This is where he developed his interest in acting.  Mr. Caan’s first roles were in off-Broadway plays.  Soon he was getting guest appearances on television.  Some of James Caan’s roles included parts on Naked City, Route 66, The Untouchables, Dr. Kildare, Combat!, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Get Smart.

James Caan’s first feature film appearance was in Lady in a Cage.  More film roles followed.  A few of his appearances include Red Line 7000, El Dorado, Countdown and The Rain People.

In 1971, James Caan starred as Brian Piccolo in Brian’s SongBrian’s Song was a tv movie that co-starred Billy Dee Williams as Gayle Sayers.  Piccolo and Sayers played for the Chicago Bears and became good friends before Piccolo tragically died from cancer.  The movie was a huge success.

The following year Mr. Caan appeared as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather.  After that there was no looking back.  James Caan racked up over 135 credits on his resume including films such as The Gambler, Rollerball, The Killer Elite, Thief, Alien Nation, Misery, Eraser, Poodle Springs, The Way of the Gun and Elf.  James Caan also starred in the television series Las Vegas from 2003 – 2007.

I probably first saw James Caan on one of his many television appearances since he appeared on many shows that I watched.  But it was his role as Brian Piccolo that got my attention.  Everyone was talking about the movie the next day at school.  James Caan was cool!  Then he followed that role up as Sonny Corleone, the hothead brother in The Godfather!  What a one-two punch.

Many people are listing their favorite James Caan roles in films such as Misery, Thief and The Godfather.  Those were all great Jimmy Caan roles, but I wish more folks were recognizing his part as Joe Sarno in The Way of the Gun.  Sarno was my favorite character in the film and Caan was perfect as the tough, old guy, (years before Jonathan Banks became a fan favorite as Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul).  Caan as Sarno had the perfect delivery on lines such as, “The only thing you can guess about a broken down old man is that he is a survivor” and “I promise you a day of reckoning that you won’t live long enough to never forget.”

I was glad to see Sly Stallone and James Caan acting together in two episodes of Caan’s series Las  Vegas.

James Caan was not only an excellent actor, he was a legit tough guy and athlete.  He did many of his own stunts. As a young man he participated in rodeos.  He played college football.  And perhaps the thing I admired most about James Caan was that what you saw is what you got.  He came across the same in all his interviews as a guy who enjoyed life.

James Caan has one final film in post-production.  It’s called Fast Charlie.  The screenplay is based on Victor Gischler’s Gun Monkeys.  (I’ve read the book and highly recommend it!)  Pierce Brosnan is the lead.  I’m happy that we have one more James Caan film coming and it should be a banger!  Of course anything that James Caan was in was better because of him.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to James Caan’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Scott Hall

Scott Hall, the professional wrestler also known as Razor Ramon, died today after being taken off life support.  Mr. Hall was placed on life support after having three heart attacks following hip replacement surgery.  He was 63 years old.

Scott Hall began his pro wrestling career in 1984 and wrestled for all the major professional wrestling organizations throughout his career.  During the WWE / WCW ratings war, Scott Hall was part of the NWO (a group of wrestlers which included Kevin Nash, Hulk Hogan and others who played outsiders taking over the WCW).  The NWO were a ratings hit.  Scott Hall is a two-time inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Scott Hall was a charismatic personality who entertained millions over the course of his career.  His struggles outside the ring were sometimes made part of his wrestling storylines and impacted both his personal and professional life.  The fact that Scott Hall’s family, many friends and fans continued to support his efforts to get healthy are a testament to the impact he had.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Scott Hall’s family, friends and fans.

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (2018) / Z-View

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (2018)

Director:  Robert S. Bader

Writers:  Robert S. Bader, Dick Cavett

Starring:  Muhammad Ali, Dick Cavett, Joe Frazier, Woody Allen, Jimmy Breslin, Jim Brown, Howard Cosell, Angelo Dundee, Louis Farrakhan, Martin Luther King, Jerry Lewis, Joe Louis, Thomas Hauser. Lester Maddox. Norman Mailer, Malcolm X, Michael Marley  and Larry Merchant.

Tagline: None.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes is a wonderful documentary chronicling the life and boxing career of Muhammad Ali using clips from the Dick Cavett Show as the glue holding it together.  Ali not only led an interesting life, but lived in interesting and turbulent times.  It is fascinating to see how social changes and outside influences impacted Ali’s career.  As Ali matured he became more of his own man, the only three-time heavyweight champion and the most famous athlete in the world.  It’s an interesting journey and rates 5 of 5 stars!

“When We Were Kings” (1996) / Z-View

When We Were Kings (1996)

Director:  Leon Gast

Starring:  Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King, James Brown, B.B. King, Spike Lee, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, The Spinners and Howard Cosell..

Tagline:  The untold story of the Rumble in the Jungle.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When We Were Kings is the Academy Award-winning documentary of the championship fight between the undefeated (40-0) Heavyweight Champion of the World, George Foreman and his challenger, Muhammad Ali, who was a 4-1 underdog.  Promoter, Don King had contracts that paid each fighter $5 million and the backing of Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire, who saw the fight as an opportunity to shine a positive light on his country.  To that end, the fight became a culminating event of a festival that included performances by The Spinners, B.B. King and James Brown.

Leon Gast, using archival footage and interviews does an excellent job in presenting the backstories of Ali and Foreman as well as the fight’s historical significance.  Ali had refused to enter the draft, became a Muslim and had changed his name from Cassius Clay.  While many Americans had developed a dislike for Ali, he was dearly loved by the population of Zaire.  George Foreman, was an Olympic Gold Medalist who proudly represented the USA, was the undefeated Champion of the World and the man who many thought would destroy Ali. The stage was set for what many thought would be the fight to end Muhammad Ali’s career… and yet, Ali once again shocks the world!

When We Were Kings is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.  It pulls you in, sets the historical context of the events, provides backstories on the key players while at the same time being entertaining.  When We Were Kings rates 5 of 5 stars.

RIP: John Madden

John Madden, the Super Bowl winning NFL coach (who never had a losing season), the 12-time Emmy Award winner for sports broadcasting, and the namesake for one of the all-time best-selling video games died unexpectedly yesterday at the age of 85.  No cause of death was given.

John Madden was an all-conference college football (offensive tackle) and baseball (catcher) player.  Although he suffered a knee injury during his senior year, John Madden was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958.  A second knee injury during training camp ended his pro career before he ever played a game.  From 1960 – 1966, Madden excelled as a college football coach which brought him to the attention of Al Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders.  Davis hired Madden as a Linebacker Coach in 1967.  In 1969, John Madden was named the Head Coach of the Raiders (making him the youngest Head Coach in the NFL).  Mr. Madden served as the Raiders Head Coach for ten years, winning one Super Bowl, never finishing below 2nd place in their division and never having a losing season.

After retiring as Head Coach of the Raiders, John Madden turned to television where he quickly became one of the most popular and respected sports broadcasters of all time.  John Madden’s popularity was so great he was sought after for commercials as well as television & movie appearances and the ever-popular Madden video game from EA Sports.

Watching John Madden’s Raiders was always fun, but watching a John Madden sports broadcast was even better.  John Madden knew the game and made his analysis fun.  Mr. Madden came off like the guy you’d like to hang out with at the family bar-b-que.  You knew he’d have great stories to share, and would enjoy the food, talk and fellowship. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to John Madden’s family, friends and fans. 

“Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

Netflix comes up with interesting documentaries and Blood Brothers looks to be another good one.  Deal me in.

Blood Brothers tells the extraordinary and ultimately tragic story of the friendship between two of the most iconic figures of the 20th century: Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, and Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam’s – and black America’s – most incendiary and charismatic leader.

This was the unlikeliest of friendships – the brash Olympic Champion who spoke in verse to the amusement of the white press and the ex-con intellectual-turned-revolutionary who railed against the evils of white oppression and dismissed sports as a triviality. But their bond was deep, their friendship real.