Tampa Bay Sports Day

Carroll: The Russians Are Still Coming

There seems to belittle doubt that when it comes to getting a performance enhancement advantage in international competition no one tops Russian athletes. For all too long governing federations have conveniently looked the other way, and yes, you can probably go back to the Iron Curtain era when many Eastern European female athletes looked like men and it had nothing to do with sexual identity issues. Back in the day, few knew the side effects of drugs that purported to make you stronger.

With 2016 Summer Olympiad two weeks away there has been some buzz that the International Olympic Committee is thinking of banning Vladimir Putin’s best athletes from competing in Rio. As Dana Carvey used to say in his spot-on impression of President George H.W. Bush, “Uh-uh, that’s not gonna happen!”

First of all, too many big corporate sponsors of the Olympics such as Coca-Cola do a lot of business with Russia and they do not want to risk Putin’s ire which would cost them millions of rubles.

Secondly, no Russians mean no ratings for NBC. Yes, most Americans watch the Olympics to see the USA win gold medals and see who will be gracing boxes of Wheaties on the supermarket shelves soon. American success just isn’t the same however unless we are beating a top villain. NBC did not spend big bucks, nor are they sending 170 sportscasters to Rio, to have 2016 be replay of the 1980s when Americans boycotted the Moscow Olympics in the summer of 1980 because President Carter demanded that as a form of sanctions for the USSR invasion of Afghanistan. The USSR repaid the favor four years later when they boycotted the summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Just about the only way only replacement for Russia in the villain department that would maintain and maybe increase ratings would be to have the Islamic State field teams in all major sports. Of course I think we all know what would happen to any ISIS athlete who didn’t bring home the gold!

NBC executives won’t have to lose sleep worrying about Russia not being part of the action. They still however have to worry about the Zika virus.

It’s always tough to watch baseball greats in the twilights of their careers. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who is in the last year of a contract that has paid him $25 million, has been riding the bench for most of the year which is understandable since he was batting .154 when I saw the Phillies take on the Mets last Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. Sure enough, Howard got to start the next night and it was like old times as he walloped a home run against the Mets, the 46th time he has done that in his career. The Phillies generally do the right thing and my guess is that they will honor Howard with a day at the end of the season since it’s unlikely that he will be playing in the City of the Brotherly Love next year.

If you live out of New York City, or if you live here and have friends and relatives from out of town who want to visit, this is a good summer to come to town. Although the Big Apple’s New York official convention and visitors bureau, NYC & Company, doesn’t want to promote this tidbit, New York City hotel occupancy is down from a year ago because of a glut of new hotel rooms and probably from Airbnb as well. That means that rates are down and travelers have some leverage in negotiating rates.

If you want a different kind of Manhattan hotel experience, the W Hotel on Lexington Avenue and 50th Street, has a room, 1725, that has a wide outdoor terrace covered with soy grass and a tent that can be used for camping. The W manager told me that the going rate is $2,000 per night but you can amortize that if you bring a big group with you that doesn’t mind using sleeping bags outdoors. The W humorously calls this experience “Glamping,” which is shorthand for glamorous camping.

One new attraction/dining experience in New York that should be enjoyed by all is World Yacht’s latest aquatic restaurant, Fish Bar, that is docked at Pier 81. Every evening at 6:30 Fish Bar sails between its 41st Street berth and the Statue of Liberty and returns two hours later. It’s hard to beat the scenery and the Mediterranean-style cuisine is top-notch. It’s a bargain when you consider that there is not a cover charge for the boat ride.

If you are on a budget, Fish Bar’s more established brother, the North River Lobster Company, which docks just to the north of it, is very informal and has 30-minute scheduled cruises along the Hudson River.

Speaking of food, Panasonic will be making a big splash in the home appliance industry when it launches its Countertop Induction Oven this fall. Size-wise, it’s a little longer than a microwave but it gives you the cooking abilities akin to using a conventional oven and/or an outdoor grill. The best part is that its on-screen display tells you how to long to cook items. While it doesn’t use microwave technology you can still “nuke” the leftovers in your fridge in it.