Wednesday, May 12, 2021

On the Beat With the Las Vegas Aces 05/09/2021

The Las Vegas Aces held a coaches press session yesterday. Head Coach Bill Laimbeer and recently-hired assistant coach Sugar Rodgers faced the media.

Coach Laimbeer discussed the team's performance so far. While he did not like the “sloppy” effort in their latest preseason game, which included 27 turnovers, he also quickly stated he doesn't care about wins and losses in the preseason.

The talk turned to his recent hiring of Rodgers as an assistant. Coach Laimbeer obviously has a lot of respect for Rodgers. They have a long history together, going back to their years with the New York Liberty. Laimbeer described Rodgers as more of a players' coach than he is, jokingly saying he will tell her to fix the problems he made.

Coach Laimbeer also gave a glimpse into his younger days. Fittingly on Mother's Day, he talked about the role his mom played in his athletic career.

Rodgers also spent much of her time discussing her path to coaching and her coaching style. Again, it is obvious she has a lot of respect for Coach Laimbeer.

Talk then turned to “They Better Call Me Sugar,” her autobiography. Rodgers felt it was the right time to do it. She tells her story of overcoming the odds.

This is a great hire by Coach Laimbeer. This is one of those little moves, of the court, that will pay big dividends. Rodgers will bring a youthful outlook, having just retired from active play.

Ta'Shauna “Sugar” Rodgers was a star at Georgetown, before being selected by the Minnesota Lynx in the second round (14th overall) of the 2013 WNBA Draft. After one season with the Lynx, she was traded to the Liberty, with whom she played through the 2018 season.

After the 2018 season, Rodgers was traded to the Aces in a four team swap. She played two seasons with the Aces before retiring after last season.

The Aces open their season on the road in Seattle, facing last season's champion Storm. Many experts predict that will be a preview of a repeat of last season, when the two teams met in the Finals, won by the Storm.

The interview session can be found at On the Beat With the Las Vegas Aces 05/09/2021. Also, check my recurring coverage of the WNBA here, on GlobalTravelerUSA.com, Patch.com and GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

On the Beat With the Seattle Storm 05/09/2021

The Seattle Storm held media sessions on Sunday from Training Camp. Coach Dan Hughes and players Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd fielded questions.

The reigning champs had one major change in the offseason. Coach Hughes returned from a one year absence from the sidelines due to health concerns in the COVID pandemic. Assistant Gary Kloppenburg took the helm and guided the Storm to the title, but now returns to his assistance coach role.

Coach Hughes discussed how his time away from the bench might have affected his perspective. Of course, despite not coaching the team on a daily basis, Coach Hughes was still involved in the team. The change in coaching didn't affect the team last season, nor is it expected to disrupt the tam this season with Coach Hughes back. It's still the same system.

Coach Hughes, Stewart, Bird and Loyd all gave their thoughts on the state of the league and the ongoing social justice movements. All agreed both are doing great, heading in the right direction, but still having a way to go. 

A good portion of Stewart's session focused on her recent engagement to Phoenix Mercury player Marta Xargay. Stewie took us through the process leading to the big moment. She also talked about playing against her betrothed in games.

Bird also talked about pre-game feelings. After playing so long and achieving a high level of success, Bird still gets excited, but the butterflies have mostly been replaced by a calmness. She assured us she is still just as fired up though.

Lastly Loyd talked about being included in the new mural by artists Mari Shibuya an Zahyr Lauren. Located a block away from the Storm's home at Climate Pledge Arena, the mural measures 50 feet by 20 feet and features Loyd, Stewart and Bird.

Loyd also talked about her stint as an assistant coach on Doug Bruno's staff at DePaul this last season. Loyd has a long relationship with Bruno and was happy to coach the Blue Demons. She was quick to state she has no intention of going into coaching, but she wanted t help the young athletes and give back a bit.

Lastly, I got Loyd to talk a bit about Chicago food. A native of Lincolnwood, a suburb just north of Chicago and one block from where I live, Loyd mentioned Lou Malnati's Portillo's, East of Edens and Dear Franks. Aside from being a star player, I can tell from my experience, Loyd has excellent taste in dining options.

The Storm open their regular season Saturday, when they host the Las Vegas Aces. The Storm and Aces met in the WNBA Finals last season, after having identical 18-4 records in the season. The Aces, Storm and Chicago Sky are considered favorites to win it all this year.

The interview session can be found at On the Beat With the Seattle Storm 05/09/2021. Also, check my recurring coverage here, on GlobalTravelerUSA.com, GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com and Patch.com.


Monday, May 10, 2021

Friend Encounters: Robbie Rist and Troy Babbs

Friend Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities.

Troy Babbs is one of the great friends I have gotten through the convention scene. Troy has been a volunteer helper at several cons and he also joined Johngy's Beat to help me a few times. Of course, I appreciate his assistance, but I appreciate his friendship more.
If you are lucky enough to know Troy, you are well aware of his great sense of humor. Sometimes offbeat and quirky, it never ceases to make me laugh. Speaking of quirky and offbeat, his partner in the picture below is just that or at least his most famous character was. 
Rist played cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch. Although surprisingly Rist only appeared in six episodes of the show, he is often remembered unfavorably as a much bigger part of the end of it.
Realistically, nobody blames Rist for the demise of the show. It was clearly on its last legs, but the addition of the young Rist has become somewhat of a legendary concept. Many shows inject youth to try to revive sagging ratings. This has become known as "The Cousin Oliver Syndrome." It's a bif unfair, but it keeps his name around.
For his part, Rist takes it all in good humor. He has remained busy in entertainment, doing acting, voice overs, music and more. He ia also a popular guest on the comic con scene. He embraces his part in television history and profits a bit from it.
He was very cool the couple times I met him. I did not meet him at the same place as Troy did, but I wish I did. Look at the fun they are having. It's typical Troy. I am so happy I will finally see this guy again at the upcoming Squared Circle Expo this weekend.
Troy Babbs and Robbie Rist in Indianapolis, IN-August 2018.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Celebrity Jersey Cards #536 Bernie Federko & Paul Kariya

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing sports jerseys. Today, I continue working my way alphabetically through all MLB teams.

Bernie Federko was selected seventh overall by the Stt. Louis Blues in the 1976 NHL draft. He went on to play 13 seasons for the Blues and one final season with the Detroit Red Wings. The Blues retired his #24 and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002. When the Cardinals honored the St. Louis legend, he threw a strike and won a spot on a Celebrity Jersey Card.

Paul Kariya was selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the fourth overall pick in the 1993 NHL draft. He would go on to play nine seasons with the Ducks, one season with Colorado, two seasons with Nashiville and three seasons with the St. Louis Blues. The Ducks retired his #9 jersey. Among his many awards are two Lady Bing trophies and an Olympic Gold medal. His brother Steve played three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. Kariya earned another honor by getting a Celebrity Jersey Card for his first pitch in St. Louis.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

On the Beat With the Chicago Sky 05/06/2021

The Chicago Sky held an abbreviated media session today from training camp. It was Rookie Day, as Coach James Wade was joined by newcomers Sierra Campisano and Kobi Thornton.

Campisano and Thornton discussed the challenges of transitioning to the WNBA. All rookies face a tough situation, but the Sky have a tougher than usual camp, as they are loaded with talent.

Coach Wade addressed the issue of added depth for parts of the season when regular rostered players are not available. He also talked about the point guard battle, the team's first exhibition game on Sunday, working on team defense and Candace Parker.

Coach Wade laughed and stated I caught him off guard with a question about pressure coming from some predictions of winning the title. He gave a great answer, addressing the specific question, but also relating it to life.

He ended the session as he usually does, by reminding all to maintain social distance and to continue masking up. Coach Wade continues to impress me with his demeanor and attitude. I predicted a Sky title this season and I grow more confident in that every day.

As for forward Campisano, in her final season at Cal Poly, she averaged 15.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 44.1% from the field and 29.7% from beyond the arc. She also earned All-Conference First Team honors. Coming out of high school, she ranked as the number 14 overall recruit in the country. She started at the University of Oregon, before transferring to Cal Poly after two seasons. Last month, Campisano signed a training camp contract with the Sky.

Fellow forward Thornton starred at Clemson, where she shot 47.3% from the field and 22.2% from three point land during her four seasons there. She also averaged 12.0 points and 6.4 rebounds for her career. She is one of only 15 players in program history to rach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. Thornton was selected by the Atlanta Dream in the third round of the 2020 WNBA Draft, but did not make the team.

Campisano and Thornton face an uphill battle to make the Sky roster. Minimally, they will serve as valuable players in camp, while also giving the coaching staff a chance to evaluate them for future signing in case of injuries or while other players are absent. There's still a chance they make the roster or impress another team enough to acquire them.

This Sunday, the Sky have their first exhibition game against the Fever in Indiana. The Sky open their season on Saturday, May 15 when the travel to Atlanta to face the Dream. 

For the interview session, go to Chicago Sky Media 05/06/2021. Go to WNBA.com for more info on the Sky and the WNBA. Check here for my recurring coverage, as well as on GlobalTravelerUSA.com, GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com and Patch.com.

Friday, May 7, 2021

On the Beat With the Phoenix Mercury 05/06/2021

The Phoenix Mercury held a press session from training camp. Players, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Kia Nurse discussed a variety of topics from very serious issues to lighter, but still important subjects.

Taurasi led off by discussing her offseason routine. For Taurasi, playing is a year-round job. During the season her job is on the court, but in the offseason, she works out daily to stay in top shape. She's always looking for new physical challenges to keep getting better.

She talked about being considered a G.O.A.T. Ever humble, she called it an honor, but was quick to point out it's a team effort and there are many great players.

Lastly, she discussed, or I should say dismissed, social media. While she acknowledges it has positives and it serves a purpose, she calmly stated it doesn't impact her at all.

Griner continued the talk about social media, basically echoing Taurasi. Griner has battled bullies most of her life and has risen above it all. Social media bullies or unfair criticisms won't affect her much. She did admit she is human like everyone else and sometimes things do get to her, but mostly she is unaffected. Griner also compared playing in Russia to the WNBA.

Skylar Diggins-Smith was next, talking about the upcoming season. She also gave her thoughts on the WNBA branding, along with the messages and public stance of the league and the players. This was one of the most serious parts of the session. She was direct and eloquent as she discussed the league's actions and impact.

Mercury newcomer Nurse finished the session on a lighter note as she discussed her personal branding. She has exciting things coming up and she was happy to discuss upcoming releases, as well as promising she sill continue to bring the heat.

Nurs finished by delving into the topic of expansion, specifically into Toronto, Canada. A native of Ontario, Nurse felt Toronto would be a great place for a team and the WNBA will eventually expand. She gave her thoughts on being involved in ownership, chuckling that the league wouldn't let that happen if she was still playing.

Today's session was very interesting The four athletes come from different places with unique perspectives. They are in different parts of their careers, but all united for the team and in the efforts of the league. It was a fun session, yet also highlighted by serious, frank discussions of the growth of the league on and of the court.

The media session is at On the Beat With the Phoenix Mercury 05/06/2021. Go to WNBA.com for more info on the Mercury and the WNBA. Check back here for my coverage, as well as GlobalTravelerUSA.com, GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com and Patch.com.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

On the Beat With the Las Vegas Aces 05/03/2021

The Las Vegas Aces held several press sessions from their training camp on Monday. Head Coach Bill Laimbeer, A'ja Wilson, Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum took turns fielding questions.

The main theme throughout all the sessions was the seemingly new level of competition in the WNBA. With several free agents changing teams, a few significant trades and a new class of draftees, more teams than ever are poised to make a run at the WNBA title.

Coach Laimbeer mentioned he felt at least six teams were true title contenders. (I presume it would be six among Seattle, Las Vegas, Chicago, Connecticut, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Phoenix.) He continued the league has ebbs and flows. It's the nature of the league and the nature of sports.

The players agreed with Laimbeer that there is a high level of competition, but it really is just business as usual. They can only do their best with the schedule as is. Everything else will take care of itself.

I asked Wilson about her statue, which was erected earlier this year at South Carolina, where she starred on the courts. Wilson discussed the significance to her personally, as well as to women and women athletes. It's something that gives her great pride, but she is humble when discussing it, stating she isn't the first nor will she be the last woman to get a statue, but it still means alot.

Cambage and Plum talked about returning to the team. Plum suffered an injured Achilles tendon and missed the 2020 season.  Cambage sat out the 2020 season due to health concerns. Both players are excited to return and are in playing shape already.

An added highlight for me was Cambage's interactions with Las Vegas Director of Media Relations John "Giggy" Maxwell as they tried adjusting the backdrop and the lighting. Cambage also had fun interactions with the press about her musical choices. Aside from being a star on the court, she is a very popular disc jockey and certainly knows her music.

The athletes also rated the Las Vegas black jerseys as their favorites among the new jerseys. They liked the better fit and styles. They also stated their opinions tend to change as they change uniforms, but overall black takes a slight advantage.

The interview session is at On the Beat With the LasVegas Aces 05/03.2021

. Also check WNBA.com for more info on the league and the Aces. Look for my recurring coverage here, Patch.com, GlobalTravelerUSA.com and GlobalWomensSportRadio.com.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

On the Beat With the New York Liberty 05/01/2021

The New York Liberty held a post-practice media session featuring Sabrina Ionescu and Janelle Bailey. Practice ran a little long and the players were a bit pressed for time, but there was still some interesting subjects discussed.

Second year guard Ionescu started by talking about the importance of family. Her family is a great source of support and she relies on them and appreciates them greatly. She then went on to talk about her mindset through and after the injury. Unplanned and unwanted time away from the court gave her a renewed and greater appreciation for all she has and where she is. She also talked about the difference in camp this year versus camp in the Bubble last year.

Ionescu is coming back from an ankle injury suffered in the third game last season. The injury took her out of the entire season.

As the NCAA all-time leader in career triple-doubles, the Pac-12 Conference all-time leader in assists, and the only NCAA Division I basketball player to record 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 rebounds in a career, Ionescu had built quite a legacy at Oregon. Her play led the Liberty to select her with the first overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. Big things were expect, but the injury derailed those plans. Heading into this season, Ionescu says she is fully recovered and ready to producing for the Liberty.

Rookie center Janelle Bailey went undrafted after a stellar career at North Carolina. Bailey was the 5th player in school history to total 1,700 career points and 1,000 rebounds. She also was among the 10 semifinalists for the Lisa Leslie Award as the nation’s top center each of her final 3 seasons. Although she surprisingly was not drafted, she quickly signed with the Liberty.

Born in Brooklyn, Bailey expressed her happiness with joining her native town team. She also noted despite being raised in North Carolina, she has a special place and many family and friends in the New York area. Bailey talked about the experience going from undrafted to signing with the team. She also talked about her biggest challenges and adjustments she'll need to make in camp to make the team.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a fact not lost on Bailey. She talked about the importance of mental health awareness for her and her team, what all are doing to promote awareness and what everyone else, especially those affected, should do. It is just one more important cause the WNBA is addressing.

The Liberty opens the 2021 WNBA season against the Indiana Fever at the Barclays Center. The team finished a woeful 2-20 last season, good for last place overall. I am not going on a limb in saying they will be vastly improved this season.

The interview session can be found at On the Beat With the New York Liberty 05/01/2021. Also, check WNBA.com for info on the Liberty and the league. Check here, GlobalTravelerUSA.com, Patch.com and GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com for my recurring coverage.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Celebrity Jersey Cards #535 Special Star Wars Edition: Leva Bates & Velvet Sky

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series featuring celebrities wearing jerseys. Being May 4, today I present a special Star Wars edition and May the Fourth be with you!

Leva Bates has wrestled all over the world, including for the WWE and AEW. She is known for her cosplaying while wrestling. It was her appearance as Han Solo which landed her on her Celebrity Jersey Card.
Velvet Sky has probably appeared on more Celebrity Jersey Cards than anyone else. Velvet modeled every NFL team jersey for pictures a few years back.  She is currently with Ring of Honor. For her latest Celebrity Jersey Card, Velvet did her best slave girl Leia impression.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Friend Encounters: Svengoolie and Glen and Alicia Rylko

Friend Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities.

You won't find three better folks than the three people I'm featuring today. I'm proud to call of them my friend.
Rich "Svengoolie" Koz has been a Chicago legend for 40+ years. Having worked with Koz several times and having been able to get to know him a bit, I am happy to say he is one of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever met. He is amazingly generous with his time. He is a complete class act.
I could say much of the same about Glen and Alicia Rylko. While they haven't been famous entertainers, they are genuinely great people and also very generous with their time. Glen and Alicia donate lots of time and energy to various local charities.
I'm grateful to be friends with all three. Surround yourself with quality people and good things happen. These three are top quality for sure.
I miss seeing all three of these fine folks at conventions and elsewhere. Hopefully, soon we will all be able to get back to doing the things we enjoy, including seeing each other.
Svengoolie and Alicia and Glen Rylko in Chicago, IL-February 2020.