Blog | Sports: The Hot Corner
LI Native Featured on ‘A Football Life’
NFL monster’s life portrayed in documentary, shows softer and emotional side
Long before Lyle Alzado was crushing quarterbacks and linemen in the National Football League, he was a strong and hard-nosed player at Lawrence High School in Nassau County.
A native of Cedarhurst, N.Y., Alzado used to lift weights in longtime Lawrence coach Rich Mollo’s garage while staring for the Golden Tornadoes. He eventually went onto Yankton College in South Dakota and was selected by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the NFL draft in 1971.
His life is the subject of “A Football Life” profile on NFL Network. It aired for the first time in November. The documentary airs randomly on the network, so check your channel guide to catch it.
Originally it was purely his on-field success that drew attention to Alzado. He was AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1977, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro selection. He was as dominant as any defensive end in the 1970s.
Then came the commercials and Hollywood notoriety, especially since he played in Los Angeles with the Raiders in the early 1980s.
He was a terrifying player. The league even crowned the “Lyle Alzado Rule” after he flung a helmet of Jets tackle Chris Ward in a game in the ‘70s. Now helmets can’t be used as weapons.
All that rage was chalked up to steroids eventually, something he didn’t admit to using until after his retirement and after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He credits steroids with his death and downfall.
The NFL did not begin testing for steroids until the year after Alzado retired in 1985.
The documentary shows his struggles with supplements, his desire to be a good person and how his death affected so many people, including friends, family and former teammates.
LI Connection to New Baseball Documentary
Rob Nelson, co-founder of Big League Chew, played ball in Portland
Another intricate sports story and another connection to Long Island. Did you know the founder of Big League Chew grew up on Long Island?
Rob Nelson, a pitcher at Nassau County Community College and at Cornell University, partnered with former teammate and baseball notable Jim Bouton to launch the product in the 1970s.
Nelson played with Bouton on the Portland Mavericks in 1977, an independent team founded by Bing Russell, the late actor and father of Kurt Russell, and grandfather of former big leaguer Matt Franco.
Nelson’s name came across the sports radar again this year after the younger Russell released a documentary on Netflix about the Portland squad called “The Battered Bastards of Baseball.” He was a vocal piece of the documentary.
The film captures Bing’s legacy and love of the game, which brought back baseball to the Portland area after a Triple A club there had been disbanded. At one point there were no independent teams in the nation, but Bing changed that and is the reason independent teams can co-exist with affiliated ball clubs. He’s even the reason the Long Island Ducks are able to play today if you think about. But onto the gum …
According to a story on the Cornell Athletic website, Nelson and Bouton watched teammates spit chewing tobacco on each other’s cleats. Nelson, as a kid on Long Island, had an idea for shredded bubble gum.
“I told him, ‘I always thought it would be cool to have shredded gum so we could look as good as these guys, but not get ill,’ explains Nelson in an interview with Cornell. “And I remember Bouton’s eyes got really big and he said ‘Jeez, I really like that idea.’ I like to say that I had the inspiration, but truth is, Jim was the perspiration because he was really the guy that did the bulk of the work. He said, ‘I can sell that idea. I can go to a company and I can find somebody that would manufacture this gum.’ And on a handshake, we became partners.”
Famous gum. Famous ball player. Legendary actor’s baseball documentary. And yes, a Long Island connection.
Speedy Claxton Inducted to NYCB HOF
Hofstra great honored with another Hall of Fame induction
The honors keep piling up for Hofstra and Long Island basketball great Speedy Claxton. He was inducted to the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month.
Already a member of Hofstra’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Claxton jumped on board as an assistant coach with the basketball program last season after spending the previous two years as a scout with Golden State in the NBA.
The Speedy Claxton File (Hofstra)
• Graduated from Hofstra in 2000 as one of only six players in school history to score 2,000 career points (2,015)
• Graduated as the program’s all-time leader in both assists (660) and steals (288)
• Two-time Player of the Year selection in the America East Conference (1998, 2000)
• Named the 2000 winner of the Haggerty Award, given to the top player in the Metropolitan New York area, after leading Hofstra to an America East Conference championship and its first NCAA Division I tournament berth in 23 years
The Speedy Claxton File (Pros)
• First round draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 2000
• Earned an NBA title as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2003
• Averaged 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game
Sports on Plum Island
American soldiers kept occupied on grounds of Fort Terry
Imagine Plum Island as something other than the Animal Disease Center that it is today and people would think you’re crazy. But long before it was used by the Department of Homeland Security to study foreign animal diseases it was occupied by soldiers at Fort Terry.
Those soldiers had to keep occupied on the island just off the coast of the North Fork, so they took to open land and played sports. Photos of the athletic history on Plum Island are currently being featured in the administrative complex on the island in an exhibit supplied by the Southold Historical Society. Tours and access to the island are by appointment for approved groups only.
At the time, it wasn’t easy to attract and maintain a fit, fighting force for the United States Army prior to World War I.
The military encouraged men to participate in various sports and to form teams with their companies. At Fort Terry, there are acres of open land that was once home to football and baseball fields. Soldiers also boxed, swam and took part in track and field activities. The structures from Fort Terry are still standing on the island.
Soldiers often played against other competition from around Long Island and Connecticut.
Fort Terry was a coastal fortification and defense area to protect New York and America from foreign invaders and enemies. It was established in 1897 and used through the end of World War II.
The photo collection is on loan from Bolling Smith and the Coast Defense Study Group who is dedicated to the study and preservation of U.S. Coastal Defense Structures.
HU Hoops Gets New Arena Floor
Continuing with its progressive thinking, the Hofstra University Depart of Athletics hosted a contest for fans, students, designers and artists to submit possible basketball court designs.
The court has already been completed in the Hofstra Basketball Practice Facility and will be redone in the Mack Sports Complex later this summer, according to the university’s Office of Athletic Communications.
There were nine winners that each contributed some component of the final court design, Hofstra said.
“We thank all the wonderful Hofstra Basketball fans that submitted potential court designs,” commented Hofstra Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeffrey A. Hathaway in a statement. “Our basketball programs are thrilled with how the court turned out and appreciate the great support from the community. We can’t wait to showcase the court during the upcoming 2014-15 season.”
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