A trip down memory lane: SportsChump heads home for the holidays

Funny things happen when you grow up in New York City.  While the Big Apple is universally recognized as the greatest city in the world – and rightfully so – New Yorkers inherently know that to be true.  We wear that hometown pride on our sleeve. 

A much younger SportsChump looks over the New York skyline and thinks to himself “Perhaps I’ll run me a sports website one day.”
A much younger SportsChump looks over the New York skyline and thinks to himself “Perhaps I’ll run me a sports website one day.”

New Yorkers are born with a different energy, a joie de vivre, that undeniable you-talkin’-to-me attitude and an internal GPS that gives us the ability to hop on a bus or subway and know exactly where we are and how to get to where we’re going.  We also are among the few Americans who still know what a bus and subway are.

I moved to Florida many moons ago but as they say, you can take the kid out of New York…

I hadn’t been back in ages.  The last few times I flew back were for funerals.  I promised myself that the next time I traveled north would be for a far more festive occasion.

So when my extended family invited me up for a hearty Thanksgiving meal, I decided to take a trip down memory lane.  Join me, won’t you, on this fun little pictorial.

I fit in as much of my old stomping grounds as I could within a 48 hour period, taking breaks to amass far more calories a day should be allowed… but when in Rome.


1 - 103rd brownstone

Our trek started outside my extended family’s Upper West Side brownstone where my mother swears I was conceived.  You all have the cozy confines of this four-story building to blame.  Bow-chicka-BOW-wow!  Also notice the cold weather.  This blood-thinned, Florida resident, however, came prepared.  Onions have layers, SportsChump had layers.


2 - Spidey at the parade

Earlier that morning, my folks attended the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I flew in later that morning so I missed it.  I was never a big parade guy anyway.  That would require me getting up early.  Plus, technically it’s just people walking for miles in a straight line.  Where’s the excitement in that?  But they went so I figured I’d throw in a picture of Spidey for ya’.


3 - Victoria China

First stop on the old SportsChump stomping grounds tour shows me in front of funky diner deliciousness.  Victoria China, now renamed La Nueva Victoria, was without a doubt my favorite restaurant growing up, despite my father’s protests in taking me there.  He must have known something about the food I didn’t.  Victoria China was nothing special to the casual observer but it was so much more for a wide-eyed youngster.  It was a melting pot of everything New York City stood for.  Nothing fancy on the inside, the restaurant offered a combination of Latin and Asian cuisine, both my favorites.  What I remember most, aside from the fried rice and bistec palomilla, was the old Asian guys behind the counter shouting loudly at each other while they cooked.  Except they weren’t speaking Chinese.  They were shouting in Spanish!  Only in New York.


4 - BNai Jeshrun

Throughout my childhood, I was in and out of public schools, private schools and Hebrew schools.  For the first, second and fifth grades, I attended B’Nai Jeshurun on 89th Street between Broadway and West End.  It’s the same Yeshiva that Ben Stiller attended only years earlier, which means I was THIS close to being in Zoolander.  A shame since I’ve been working on my new look for years.


5 - Outside Zabars

6 - Who Cut the cheese

7 - Smoked salmon

Zabar’s is any foodie’s wet dream.  Located on 80th street and Broadway, in the mid-1970s, Zabar’s occupied only one storefront.  Now it takes up nearly the entire block and it’s just as crowded as ever.  From deli to bakery to cheeses to cooking items, Zabar’s is a must stop during any trip to Manhattan.  I suggest you go hungry.


8 - Plie outside Lincoln Center

SportsChump and an ever-graceful plié outside Lincoln Center.  The only reason I even know what a plié is is because I once lived blocks from there.  Perhaps my form could use a little work.


9 - pizza

No trip to the city is complete without a slice.  Extra cheese is two dollars.


10 - Intrepid

11 - Space Shuttle

A trip to the USS Intrepid made me feel the need, the need for speed.  Can you hear the Top Gun theme playing in the background, Goose?  Hiiiiighway tooooo the Danger Zone!  They even had the Space Shuttle in there.  Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take it for a spin.


12 - Times Square area

On any given day or night in Manhattan’s Times Square, there is something going on: places to eat, people to see, stores to shop in, horns a-honking, lights a-flashing, cabbies giving you the finger and countless culinary aromas to tempt your appetite.


13 - Radio City

Here I am outside Radio City Music Hall where the annual NFL Draft is held.  You can almost hear the Jets fans booing from a distance.


14 - Empire State Building

Let’s hear it for New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There’s nothin’ you can’t do.  Now you’re in New York, these streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you.  Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York. – Lyrics courtesy of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.


15 - Me Marco and Nick

15 - Me Marco Nick

Marco, Nick and I have been friends since birth.  Friendships over forty years are hard to find.  As always, thanks for the hospitality, gentlemen.  Oh, and please send more Tred Red.


Me and mom lincoln center

Mom and I breakfast brownstone

And of course, none of this would be possible without the one, the only, Mother of SportsChump.  Thanks, M.  Love you immeasurably.  Next trip soon, yes?  Let’s just wait ‘til it warms up a touch.

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41 Replies to “A trip down memory lane: SportsChump heads home for the holidays”

  1. Chris

    Wonderful piece ! Makes me also reminisce about home , but bearing in mind I have returned to dear ol’ Blighty three times , since I departed from the UK in 1992. I still think of there as my home , yet in essence this place we call the world, is home to over 6 billion residents and counting . I’ll be heading to Paris , France later on this year rto visit some old acquaintances and friends .

    I had the privilege of living and working there (Paris, France) for a period of eighteen months having been sent there by my former employer at the time . Great place to live , and it was an experience that I will never forget .

    It looks as if A Rod might be reneging on taking his case to US Appellate Court . His latest statement while in Mexico City , he says that he will use 2014 to rest and recuperate , looking forward to resuming his career in 2015 . Personally , I believe the farther he stays away from the game , the better off baseball will be !

    Celebrated this past birthday (last Sunday) enjoying getting older , though not necessarily wiser. And now that the Pats took care of the Colts . I can only hope that Brady can work his magic once again when New England and Denver meet on Sunday .

    tophatal ………

  2. Paris, France, Al? Got room in your suitcase? I’ve been once and loved it.

    So A-Rod is backing off the appeal and chillin’ in Mexico. Looks like he took my advice to just skip town and lay low for a while.

  3. The two years I spent in NYC (Bayside, Queens, actually)are etched indelibly, even as short term memories vanish 🙂 The Yanks (right after the Giants and Dodgers bolted) of Mantle, Maris, Yogi, Whitey, et. al., My Fair Lady, Once Upon A Mattress, The Miracle Worker, Playland at Times Square, RCMH, the Empire State Building, the Guggenheim..what a great place to be a kid!

  4. Chris, I loved it. Brings back sooo many memories. Your Mom’s adorable. I lost mine a few years ago @95 years old. Unconditional love is great ain’t it? You won’t get it in marriage for sure.

  5. Chris, wonderful piece. I, too, miss the Apple. The shows, the teams, the good times.

    I was pleased to see you gave Mom due credit. She is a sweetie!

  6. Yaz…

    What a time to be there. Formative years for sure.

    Although what the hell. Two glasses of house wine and two slices cost me thirty bucks.

    I had to dip into my retirement just to have a snack.

  7. BS/CDR…

    It always amazes me when I tell people I was raised there if they tell me they’ve never been.

    I tell ’em to go, go hungry, bring money and wear comfortable shoes.

    Shit, now I’ve got the urge to go back.

  8. Bets…

    Here we all were having a fine, nostalgic time and you had to bring up the ‘M’ word, he he.

    Maybe one of these days when I make my fortune, I’ll find myself a trophy wife.

    Do you happen to know a good divorce attorney?

  9. I am sure no matter how many times you go back the vibe and energy of the City still makes an impact. I haven’t spent a lot of time there but it always felt super-special when I have been. Glad you had a great time and enjoyed going along for the ride through your cool summary.

  10. My pleasure, Burnsy.

    48 hours definitely wasn’t enough time. There was still family I didn’t see and I unfortunately didn’t get to hit Little Italy.

    Next time though.

  11. Yea, Dwin.

    Well, growing up in the City in the early to mid 70s, I actually grew up a Mets fan. Ed Kranepool, Tom Seaver and the like.

    I never liked the Yankees.

    Then Mom and I moved to Providence, RI for a year. That was 1977-78 and that’s when I became a Red Sox fan.

    I actually rooted for both of them, the Mets less so, until 1986, when I had to pick a side.

    I did that year, the wrong one.

    But in the end, I got the last laugh. Just was a long time comin’.

  12. Chris, these divorce attorneys are really something. One told my ex to take a blank check from our joint account. She did and later emptied it leaving me with unsuspecting NSF charges all over the place. We were at a stalemate for a few years. How did I settle it? Made an under the table deal with HER lawyer.

  13. Wow, Bets.

    Yet another reason I’ve stayed marriage-free for 45 years.

    What a fucking nightmare.

    Can’t you just go old school and put a hit on her or something? I know you have some wiseguy contacts. Probably would have cost you less than that blank check.

  14. Chris,

    Too old to do time. Besides, I have an apprenticeship to look over. My 13 year old kid thinks he’s the next coming of “Jimmy the Greek”.

  15. i am the aunt of the sports chump.
    i loved your trip down memory lane, and all the sights.
    you honor me and our family home.
    you might consider being… a travelchump.

    with love, Aunt A

  16. Chris

    I traveled there (France) regularly as a teen . Worked during the Summer of the previous year I was due to depart , then a couple of friends and I would go a for a period of four to five weeks . Became fluent with the language and then when given the chance to work there, on assignment , I simply could not refuse the opportunity . That being said , with my stint in the military , I also got the chance to travel all over Europe , North Africa and a number of places in the Far East .

    I am a bit dubious about A Rod skippin’ town for Mexico City . Isn’t that where a preponderance of a number of the banned substances the league has dealt with, actually derived from ? I know that the state of Florida remains the epicenter for the supplements that have been distributed and sold to the players around MLB. Though the Yankees’ third baseman suggested that his cousin Yuri Sucart got his supplies in the DR(Dominican Republic) . My question is , where were his supplies coming from prior to and then again between 2007-10, when his name became associated with now incarcerated former Orlando medical professional Anthony Galea ? Selective memory on the part of the player ? Your thoughts on that ?

    Will you be throwing your name in the ring to be the Buccaneers’ next general manager ? It seems that Rich McKay is not interested in returning to work for the Glazers after the way he was treated by them prior to his departure .

    There’s been a great deal of speculation but no real evidence that McKay wants to leave the Falcons to return to Tampa.

    Left you a response concerning that NBA piece I just completed .

    tophatal …..

  17. Al…

    It’s not as if I’ve not grown tired of writing about A-Rod but coming soon, I’ll have my own alternative take on A-Rod’s visit to Mexico, so stay tuned.

    I never thought McKay was a viable candidate for the Bucs’ vacant GM spot. I mean, who in their right mind would take that position with Lovie having final say on all roster moves?

    It wouldn’t surprise me if they just gave that position to one of the Glazer boys.

    Or me.

  18. Al…

    I think that Price decision came down to the final hour.

    But let’s be real. Just because he’s signed on doesn’t mean they won’t trade him towards the end of the season if things go sour.

    In all honesty, however, I do think they’ll contend again this year.

  19. Chris

    A Rod in Mexico to rest and recuperate ? Isn’t that like a prostitute leaving Tampa and heading to Nevada for either Clark or Washoe County , Nevada where her profession is actually legal ?

    McKay wants no part of having to deal with the Glazers let alone Lovie Smith .

    Price’s one year deal essentially tells me it’s now all or nothing with Rays ! At the end of this season they will once again start rebuilding , while seeking to cut payroll with the exception of Longoria’s contract as he’s seen as a the “face of the franchise” .

    So the Jets’ TE Kellen Winslow Jr is in trouble with the cops , again ? Apparently a female patron at a shopping mall in New Jersey parked next to the player’s Escalade , and caught a glimpse of him “spanking the monkey ” . Winslow faces a charge of indecent exposure , lewd and lascivious behavior . Makes me wonder how many balls KW caught . this past season for the Jets , not including his own ? LOL,LOL,LOL !!!!

    tophatal ………

  20. Poor old KW II , he will never be able to live up to the exploits of his father’s Hall of Fame career . Wax on , wax off , little boy . Or in Winslow’s case whack on and whack off .

  21. Tophat, please!! We have enough problems here in Las Vegas. Do you really think the casinos would allow the hookers to legally compete with them for the sucker’s $$. Prostitution is illegal in Clark(LV) and Washoe(Reno) counties. However, if you do manage to get out this way, the Chicken Ranch is about 1.5 hour drive. “Ladies, we have company!!” LOL

  22. I grew up near La Victoria China in the mid 1960s–mid 1970s. We probably ate there at least once a month. I remember the Chinese guys speaking Spanish. I remember they also had a giant espresso machine, showing their Spanish influence. I also remember Phil’s pizza near the corner of Broadway and 94th. A half block north was Sal’s, the predecessor to Sal and Carmine’s. My first ever slice of pizza was at Phil’s, 20¢ a slice in 1967. They were Italian immigrants who twirled the dough over their heads and occasionally sang Italian songs while they made pies. I think a rent increase forced them to move to Queens sometime in the mid 1970s.

  23. LD…

    I am touched you found this piece.

    Yeah, man, Victoria China represents some of my fonder memories of that hood, growing up in a few different places, from 96th and Central Park West down to 89th between Broadway and Amsterdam and then down to Lincoln Center. I still eat Chinese and Latin regularly, just not from the same stove.

    I was up in NYC again last summer and every time I go, it reminds me just how much I miss it.

    Although, again, I’m careful not to go when it’s too cold, lol.

    Thanks for reaching out.

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