By Steve Scott, WCBS Newsradio 880
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest athletes of all time.
His exuberance and brash personality outside of the boxing ring sparked controversy and conversation unlike any other Black athlete of his generation.
Ali captivated people from all over the world and inspired athletes with his activism during the Civil Rights movement and his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War, which resulted in a draft evasion conviction and a suspension of his boxing license.
Award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns – who has told the stories of the first African American heavyweight champion Jack Johnson and Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier – will now explore Ali’s life in a new four-part documentary series that has been in development for six years.
“We focus on a lot of the fights, but also his faith, his conversion to Islam, his joining of a sect called the Nation of Islam, his fight with the United States government, his personal life, the many wives he had, the children, they’re all represented here,” Burns tells WCBS 880 anchor Steve Scott. “This is in every regard a hero’s journey. We just are so drawn to him. In all the biographies I’ve done, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a character that was so powerful and moved me so emotionally as Muhammad Ali.”
In addition to the three-time heavyweight champion’s boxing feats, the documentary also explores Ali’s profound impact during the Civil Rights movement.
“Here’s Muhammad Ali kind of cut from a different mold. Brash and confident and different from the fighters that we’d seen before. He was not Sonny Liston in any way, shape or form and so he struts across his stage and begins to animate a new generation of African Americans, some of them impatient with the slow progress of the non-violent civil rights movement, some of them opposed to Vietnam, not wanting their kids to be the cannon fodder that African Americans were early on in the war. All of these different things he’s in intersection of it and as we begin to in a post-Vietnam era kind of blossom into a media culture in which celebrity becomes everything he becomes in a way bigger than life itself. And then the tragedy is, of course, absorbing all of those millions of blows is going to provoke this terribly restricting disease. It’s going to silence a loud and brash man, and yet, in that journey he finds a kind of inner peace and begins to sort of atone for all the things he’s done. I can’t begin to tell you, it’s so exciting to have worked on this.”
Ali died in 2016 at the age of 74 from Parkinson’s-related complications.
While largely celebrated today as an icon of American sports and culture, Ali was not always widely embraced.
But Burns notes that at the end of his life, Ali became “the most beloved person on the planet.”
“This is a life that is beset by a terrible disease that sort of encases him and yet at the same time it’s this extraordinary arc and there was not a continent where people did not adore him,” Burns said. “And even Americans, some Americans who had grown to dislike him for his brashness, for his bragging, for whatever it might be and then obviously for his political and religious stances, came around to sort of respecting him and as America realized Vietnam had been a mistake, they began to forgive him, as he lost fights and then worked to come back and reclaim the heavyweight championship it’s one of the great, great stories of all time.”
The documentary titled “Muhammad Ali” premieres on PBS on Sept. 19.
It features interviews with his daughters Hana Ali and Rasheda Ali, his second wife Khalilah Ali, his third wife Veronica Porche, and his brother and confidant Rahaman Ali.
Others appearing in the film include activist and former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, boxing promoter Bob Arum, former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, boxing promoter Don King and more.
Leading up to the broadcast, Burns will join PBS and The Undefeated to host a series of virtual events this summer called “Conversations on Muhammad Ali” that will examine Ali’s life and career in the context of America and the world today.
People can register for the events at: pbs.org/ali.
Produced by Neil A. Carousso
Produced by Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Capitalism is at work.
On The 880 Weekly Rewind, Lynda Lopez talks to New York Times Economics Reporter Ben Casselman about who is benefiting in the pandemic recovery and if businesses will finally raise wages after years of stagnation as the pace of hiring slows while unemployment benefits in many cases exceed salaries. Casselman said some workers have “leverage” now.
Also on this week’s podcast, WCBS reporter Mack Rosenberg speaks with two CUNY graduates about how they’ve adjusted their career prospects in the pandemic, Naomi Osaka’s French Open withdrawal sparks a conversation on mental health and New York City’s mayoral candidates duke it out a week before early voting in the primaries.
Subscribe and download The 880 Weekly Rewind podcast for in-depth reporting and deeper analysis of the top stories of the week, produced by Neil A. Carousso for WCBS-AM New York.
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Get ready for Pete Alonso’s Polar Burger.
The Mets slugger has teamed up with Chef Jason Eksterowicz to create a tasty new treat that’s sure to become a ballpark favorite at Citi Field.
The Polar Burger, which makes its debut Friday at Alonso’s Arctic grill behind Section 102, features Pat LaFrieda’s black truffle blended burger patty, New York maple-spiced caramelized onions, smoked gouda cheese, lettuce, tomato, and claw sauce all on a fresh-baked brioche bun. Fans can get it with a side of Arctic Onions — polar-spiced shaved Vidalia onions and claw sauce.
The burgers cost $16.50.
During Friday night’s game, our Mets booth culinary experts, Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo, had a chance to taste test the new ballpark menu item.
During a pre-game Zoom call Friday, the first baseman said anyone who chows down on the burger will know that they’re eating something that has his stamp of approval.
“Every little aspect of this burger, I enjoy myself,” Alonso said. “For me, I wanted to have a big twist of myself in this burger. I love truffle, I love caramelized onions, I love a nice tasty burger.”
He describes his creation as a simple yet elegant burger.
“My biggest philosophy is I want something that has simple ingredients, but also a complexity and depth of flavor — this burger hits the nail on the head,” Alonso said.
He said he’s most excited about the sustainability of the burger because all of the ingredients are New York-based products.
“Because they are local, it means you get the freshest and best ingredients,” Alonso said, adding that it was also important for him to be able to give back to local business, especially amid the pandemic.
Chef Eksterowicz said it was a “real blast” to work with Alonso on creating the burger, which he described as “awesome and just damn good.”
Neil A. Carousso produces and edits special mulit-media content for the WCBS Mets Radio Network.
‘I Couldn’t Be Happier Right Now’: Mets Catcher James McCann Looks Forward to First Season with Team
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — James McCann, the newest catcher for the New York Mets, has spent a month with the team so far and says he is looking forward to the regular season.
McCann, who signed a four-year contract with the team in December 2020, spoke with Ed Coleman on Tuesday for our Mets 2021 Season Preview Special, saying he’s had an amazing time with the team so far.
“It’s been a really good first month,” he said. “The organization, the people within the organization – I couldn’t be happier right now, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Prior to starting spring training, Coleman noted that McCann wanted to befriend Jacob deGrom and “be in his back pocket.” McCann says now that they’ve worked together, their relationship has grown.
“Jake’s a phenomenal guy,” McCann said. “He’s always joking around, he’s always having a good time. But, he gets his work in and he works hard.”
Despite the fact that it’s only his first year as a Met, the catcher thinks that he has a lot of experience that he can bring to the team.
He particularly notes that, as a veteran player – he has been playing professionally since 2011 – he hopes to inspire younger players to overcome their weaknesses and push on for a good season.
“I’m a big believe that things happen for a reason. And one of the things that’s happened in my career is I’ve had the ups and the downs. I’ve had good years and I’ve have bad years. And I really think that part of that journey and part of my job, as a guy that’d been around, is to share my experiences and share what I know. You know, be a veteran guy that can help those young players to realize that everyone’s going to go through a slump, everyone’s going to struggle at times. But what helps you come out of those bad times is what makes you a good player,” he tells Coleman.
He also has been learning a lot from his own idols, such as former Met Mike Piazza, who spoke highly of McCann in an interview on Monday.
“I definitely knew who Mike was. I definitely loved his game as a kid. I can remember being in the front yard, pretending to swing like Mike Piazza and now, here I am, talking baseball with him… trying to pick his brain and see what he thought about this and different things like that but, he’s been really, really good to me,” McCann said. “I fully expect to be in contact with him and bounce different things off of him throughout my time here.”
McCann says he is looking forward to the 2021 season and says he plans to trust his instincts, noting that he has been playing for several years and plans to stay true to himself.
“I think, for me personally, my approach never really changes. I’m going to be the same guy, no matter where I’m hitting in the line, no matter who I’m facing, whether there’s runners on base or runners in scoring position, or nobody on base – that’s part of my revelations as a hitter: Staying within myself and not trying to do too much,” McCann said.
Neil A. Carousso produces special coverage of New York Mets baseball for the WCBS Mets Radio Network.
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso is fully locked in as the team wraps up camp in Florida and gets ready for the season opener on April 1 against Washington.
The Polar Bear, who joined Wayne Randazzo and Ed Coleman on Tuesday for our Mets 2021 Season Preview Special to share his personal and team goals, said he can’t wait to hear the roar of the crowd in Flushing once again following an unprecedented shortened season without fans.
“I think this year, 2021, is all about resiliency,” Alonso said. “To be back at Citi Field with a full capacity crowd and hearing the stadium shake when people go nuts, I haven’t found a better feeling. It’s an adrenaline rush and I miss that feeling, I miss the fans being there cheering us on because when we have a packed house it’s unbelievable what type of hostile environment they can create for the other team. Walking in there when you’ve got 45,000 rabid Mets fans doing the ‘Lets Go Mets’ chant, I miss it.”
After setting the rookie record with 53 dingers two years ago, the slugger suffered a bit of a setback in the 2020 season, but was still on pace for what would have been a 40 homer season in a full year.
“Last year was last year,” he said as he looks toward the future.
He’s had a pretty strong spring so far and has set high goals for himself for the full 162-game season.
“I’d like to drive in 130 runs and I’d like to win a gold glove,” Alonso said. “That can only be done by staying locked in and being meticulous every single day. Those numbers will be what they are at the end of the year, but if I reach those numbers it’s because I stick to my plan, I stayed locked in and I was able to perform and capitalize on opportunities. I just want to be as consistent as I possibly can.”
For now, he’s focused on finishing up camp.
“The more game reps, the more ready I’ll be,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a very good place offensively and defensively, as well, I feel really good about where my body is, getting it up to full game speed. It’s been a really productive and good spring for me, but I want to be able to carry that over into the regular season when the lights turn on.”
There’s a lot riding on a Met defense in the infield this year, but Alonso said there’s a good chemistry between himself, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and Francisco Lindor.
“We’ve worked really well so far this spring and I feel like that we want to give the pitcher’s confidence out there that we’re going to go out there and make plays every single day,” Alonso said. “Defense is a staple in the game of baseball and we want to provide that and just peace of mind for pictures and. We want to go out there and perform that’s the biggest thing I think that. Because we have a good chemistry, we’re gelling extremely well right now in camp I think that’s going to translate incredibly during the season.”
Neil A. Carousso produces special coverage of New York Mets baseball for the WCBS Mets Radio Network.