03/23/15 10:00am
03/23/2015 10:00 AM
Dave Gruner, 74, of Jamesport strung together game scores of 278, 254 and 289 for an 821 series at Wildwood Lanes in Riverhead on March 12. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Dave Gruner, 74, of Jamesport strung together game scores of 278, 254 and 289 for an 821 series at Wildwood Lanes in Riverhead on March 12. (Credit: Garret Meade)


In bowling, 300 is unquestionably the sexy number. Dropping down 300 pins in one game is perfection.

Even so, other numbers can be more desirable and more appreciated.

Meet Mr. 800. Well, Mr. 821, to be exact. (more…)

01/04/15 12:00pm
01/04/2015 12:00 PM
Riverhead girls coach Dave Spinella goes over instructions with the Blue Waves at practice. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

Riverhead girls coach Dave Spinella and his team at a practice earlier this season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)

The best in people can emerge during trying times.

I have known Dave Spinella for a dozen years or so. I have seen him develop players, make them better, prepare them for the varsity level and assemble winning girls basketball teams for Riverhead High School. I have seen him win the right way, with class. I have seen him handle defeat with dignity.

And yet, for all he has done as a coach on the basketball court, Spinella’s shining moment, for me, came the day after Christmas when he issued a public apology for making public comments critical of his team following a loss. (more…)

12/31/14 10:00am
12/31/2014 10:00 AM

With a left turn, we were on Davis Street in Oceanside, and I had taken a drive back three decades in time.

I was with my sisters and others in a car that had stopped at an intersection on Davis Street, where my family had lived for a good chunk of my childhood. While others stared to the right, my eyes kept scanning, searching for the house we used to live in before we moved to East Meadow in 1979. Then, one of my sisters pointed me in the right direction. “There,” she said, “that’s the house we used to live in.” (more…)

10/10/14 8:00am
10/10/2014 8:00 AM
A candlelit tribute to Tom Cutinella made during a vigil at the Shoreham-Wading River football field last Thursday. (Credit: Thomas Baker)

A candlelit tribute to Tom Cutinella made during a vigil at the Shoreham-Wading River football field last Thursday. (Credit: Thomas Baker)

Football, a sport that has been as bruised and battered as some of its players sometimes, has taken hit after hit in recent years. In the NFL, we have seen Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson involved in domestic abuse and child abuse cases, respectively. The commissioner, Roger Goodell, has come under fire for his handling — or mishandling — of the Rice case. The danger of concussions hangs over the sport like a sword of Damocles. College football has had its own misdeeds, scandals and problems.  (more…)

09/17/14 5:00pm
09/17/2014 5:00 PM
Zach Holmes of Greenport/Southold/Mattituck tries to thwart an attempted tackle by Babylon's James Messina. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Zach Holmes of Greenport/Southold/Mattituck tries to thwart an attempted tackle by Babylon’s James Messina. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Friday night marked the opening game for the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck high school football team’s season, and Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field at Greenport High School may have never looked so nice. Along with the plush grass field, which has been well-watered, there were new NFL-style goal posts. The recently painted purple and gold bleachers looked brilliant in the fading sunlight as kickoff time approached. And there, on the south end of the field, was the sharp looking scoreboard, which was installed last season.

Ah, yes, the scoreboard.

On a night when the game was cut and dried, it was the scoreboard that provided the only real controversy — if you want to call it that — of the evening. (more…)

06/07/12 3:00am
06/07/2012 3:00 AM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Meghan Donnelly competing in the triple jump in the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier at Port Jefferson High School on Saturday.

Every year around this time, Port Jefferson becomes the center of the Suffolk County high school track and field world. Like the swallows to Capistrano, athletes, coaches, officials, spectators and media converge on the scenic waterside village, the home to the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier.

I’ve driven this route so often that I could virtually do it with my eyes closed (although I would strongly recommend against that). So, there I was on Friday, headed to Port Jefferson High School for the first day of the two-day meet. Driving north on Route 25A, I made a left onto Liberty Avenue, following it up to Old Post Road before starting to make a right onto Brook Road. It was at that point when a Port Jefferson constable, with a deadly serious look on his face, held up a hand and halted me. After walking over to the passenger’s side door, he asked me, “Where are you going?”

I replied, “To the track meet,” pointing in the direction of the track, which sits alongside Brook Road.

Then, eyeing me suspiciously, as if I was up to no good, he asked me in an unfriendly manner, “Who are you?”

(Welcome to Port Jefferson.)

“I’m a reporter here to cover the track meet,” I told him.

Then, after a few quiet seconds, he directed me to make a right onto the next street up the road and find parking somewhere around there. Brook Road, where track and field visitors have parked their cars for years, was closed. School buses were permitted down the road to drop off athletes and coaches, but that was it. Barriers were erected to keep all others out.

Fine enough. My own speculation is that some Brook Road residents had complained enough that something was done to keep the nuisance of track and field traffic that they experience two days a year off their road — and move it onto the roads of their neighbors.

Port Jefferson has a beautiful track and field facility, probably the best among Suffolk high schools, so it’s no wonder that it hosts this big meet. Parking, however, has always been tricky here. This year, veteran sports photographer Garret Meade said, the parking situation was the worst he had ever seen.

But parking is only one of the challenges to covering this meet. Track meets in general are a three-ring circus, with multiple events going on at the same time.

That’s good and bad for a reporter. The good side is that it means there are multiple opportunities to find stories, whether they be on the track or in the field events. The bad side is trying to keep up with it all. With all of the running, hurdling, jumping, throwing and vaulting going on, one can feel as if he is swirling amid a tornado of activity. Even veterans of track meets can miss things.

Despite trying our best to keep tabs on things, Garret and myself both missed seeing the girls 800-meter final on Friday. We didn’t get to see Shoreham-Wading River senior Shannon McDonnell pull out a thrilling victory in 2 minutes 14.62 seconds. We were in the pole vaulting area at the time, watching Riverhead’s Jonah Spaeth soar to a second-place finish at 14 feet, and a place in the state meet.

On Saturday, we didn’t get to see Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Sasa Vann blaze to victory in the 400-meter final in a school record time of 56.61 seconds. We were watching drama unfold in the triple jump, as two Riverheaders, senior Melodee Riley and sophomore Kyra Braunskill-Miller, landed first and second, respectively. They both will compete in the state meet.

We nearly missed the boys 1,600-meter final, only catching the last lap of that race when Garret alertly noticed that it was being run. We were focused on the boys discus up to then.

The bottom line is you’re going to miss something at a track meet. With multiple events going on at the same time, it’s bound to happen. And that’s even with the wonderful new smartphone app offered by www.just-in-time-racing.com that provides real-time results of events as they are completed (it’s a must-have at 99 cents for high school track aficionados). A person has only two eyes and two legs.

Of course, that means there’s a lot to see. A big track meet like this is an adventure.

Parking in Port Jefferson can be one, too.


03/28/12 10:00pm
03/28/2012 10:00 PM

I was a little late in getting the news, but no less delighted, to learn that a sports journalist is among the eight inductees in the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012.

The one and only Gregg Sarra will be honored along with the other new inductees on May 3 in Patchogue. Gregg, an alumnus of Newfield High School and Dowling College, is the MSG Varsity Long Island field producer and Newsday high school sports editor. As he describes it, it’s a hybrid job, with MSG Varsity being his top priority.

Gregg has been a fixture at Newsday for 24 years and has worked for MSG Varsity for a little over two more. I came across Gregg during the early stages of his 26-year career, not to mention my own.

The legend of Gregg Sarra became known to me well before I had even seen him. John Valenti, a former Newsday sports reporter who now covers breaking news for the paper, and I had worked together at a soccer newspaper. John used to tell me about this guy Gregg Sarra and what a character he was.

It was with John’s urging that I applied for a part-time sports job at Newsday (Bob Herzog, who was Newsday’s Sunday sports editor at the time and is currently writing sports for the paper, hired me). My first day on the job was in August of 1984. I was 21 years old when I first walked into the large, colorful room occupied by the Newsday Sports Department in Melville and thinking that this must be among the greatest places to be.

I was soon referred to the back of the room where the high school sports editors and reporters worked. I met my new boss, Charles H. Clark.

Now this, I thought to myself, is a real newspaperman.

To us part-timers, he was Charlie. Charlie was Newsday’s high school sports coordinator. To the paper’s readers he was better known as Newsday’s auto racing writer (he covered Riverhead Raceway for many years).

Charlie was an old-timer and he was a gruff sort, especially before deadline. When I met him, Charlie was about 66 years old. Charlie could have come out of central casting to fill the role of newspaper editor. He looked exactly like one would imagine a newspaperman to look like, except that he didn’t wear a fedora, at least not in the office.

Although he had a friendly face when he smiled, Charlie could be edgy when things didn’t go well. He was absolutely meticulous in his organization. It was great for a young journalist to see the way Charlie operated and the system he had in place. I learned a lot.

I was among a small army of reporters whose primary responsibilities were answering phones, taking down information on high school games and writing highlights. Occasionally, usually around playoff time, I was sent out to cover a game live.

Every game scheduled for a particular day was assigned a specific story slug. The stories were printed out and marked in a color-coded system, indicating which edition the highlight was to appear in: Nassau County, Suffolk County or both.

Us ambitious part-timers were always eager to please Charlie. Actually, a better way to put it would be that we were eager not to displease Charlie. If you accidentally misslugged a story, Charlie would cry out, “Ahh!”, as if he had just been stabbed in the back, and you would feel like going outside and hanging yourself.

One time Charlie inquired about a story he couldn’t find, and a reporter told him it was a new game called, “Guess That Slug”. Charlie immediately shot back, “We’re going to play, where’s your paycheck?”

After deadline sometimes, a few of us would gather around Charlie’s desk for small talk while waiting for the paper to close. I just wanted to hear anything he had to say, hoping that some of Charlie’s journalistic wisdom might rub off on me.

Newsday was a wondrous place for me. I liked to walk into the composing room at night and watch as the next day’s stories and photos were cut, pasted and laid down onto the flats (a practice that seems primitive now with pagination). Before long, someone would kick me out.

We had a talented crew back then. In addition to Gregg, a larger than life figure with a great sense of humor, there were others who went on to do quite well for themselves. Mark Herrmann became a full-time sports reporter for Newsday. A. J. Benza later wrote celebrity news for The New York Daily News. Tim Leonard and J. P. Pelzman, who both wrote for me at Soccer Week, went on to cover pro sports for daily newspapers in New Jersey. And there were so many others, too.

Although I was a part-timer at Newsday, I often worked full-time or close to full-time hours. At the same time, I was the editor of Soccer Week. I was busy, but I was doing what I loved.

After a couple of years in Melville, the prospect of more writing opportunities prompted me to volunteer to be reassigned to New York Newsday, where I worked out of Rego Park, Queens, covering high school sports in the city.

One day in 1987 we received the sad news that Charlie had died. He was 69.

It was two years later when I left Newsday to pursue another opportunity, and I bid farewell to a happy stage of my life.

In 1993, Charlie was rightfully inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame. Now Gregg and Charlie will be sharing the same hall of fame. That seems appropriate.

Charlie Clark must be smiling somewhere.


01/05/11 11:04am
01/05/2011 11:04 AM

Chuck Adams was about life, which makes writing about his death all the more sadder.

A little before 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Andrew Olsen, the Times/Review Newspapers publisher, gathered staff members together at the company’s Mattituck offices to deliver some awful news: Chuck Adams, one of our freelance sports reporters, had died that morning. We were at once stunned and deeply saddened. I suspect that was the same reaction felt by others as the news spread throughout the community where Chuck had made a name for himself as a journalist, author, sports talk show personality and businessman.

Chuck was a paraplegic. His paralysis was the result of a breech birth. Over the course of his life, he underwent spinal fusion surgery three times, the most recent being 12 months ago. Although the outcome of that operation appeared to be good, he had some trouble recently with back spasms that he took pain medication for. Lori Wulffraat, a cousin of Chuck’s, said the family is awaiting an autopsy, but they suspect that Chuck died from a bad reaction to the medication. He was 55 years old.

Chuck’s death has sent shock waves throughout the community.

“This is devastating,” said Doug Wald, who had joined Chuck from time to time as a guest host on “The Hot Stove League,” a weekly cable television sports show. “I’m beside myself right now.”

Chuck worked as a corporate sales representative for BJ’s Wholesale Club. Prior to that he was the vice president of marketing and public relations for Riverhead Savings Bank. But many knew him because of his byline in area newspapers. He covered sports for Times/Review Newspapers for about 20 years.

As the sports editor who worked with Chuck during that whole time, I can say that he was hard-working, conscientious and reliable. Many a time, with a deadline pressing, Chuck came through for us in a pinch, picking up a late-breaking story. When I gave him an assignment, I could rest assured that it would be done. In those rare instances when it couldn’t, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort on his part. That is why I suspected something was wrong Tuesday morning when I still had not received any of the stories he had been assigned for this week’s papers.

Chuck came to us from the Long Island Traveler-Watchman. I recall how we had just about completed a working agreement with him before he joined us when he said there was one final thing he had to tell me: He didn’t type. Chuck wrote his stories out by longhand on yellow legal paper. Someone at the paper would then input the stories into a computer, a device which at the time was foreign to Chuck.

That arrangement lasted for a while until we finally decided it was time to introduce Chuck to the computer age. We sent him home with a computer and he filed his stories electronically ever since.

Chuck came a long way in terms of technology. He even has a Facebook page now. His last entry on that page was on New Year’s Day when he wrote: “To all my family and friends, this has been a difficult year in so many ways, so I want to thank you all for your love and support…Happy New Year!!!”

That brings to mind what I will remember most about Chuck: his upbeat manner. The image of him smiling remains. He was just a nice, friendly guy.

“He was a lovely guy, absolutely a lovely guy,” Wald said. “There was not a bad bone in his body.”

Chuck lived life to the fullest, with all it had to offer. He didn’t let the fact that he was in a wheelchair prevent him from pursuing his dreams. He was the captain of Hofstra University’s wheelchair basketball team. He covered sporting events. He completed a novel, “Something More,” 31 years after he started it. It came out last April and was to be the first in a trilogy.

Asked what he will remember most about Chuck, Ed Zaborowski, the host of “The Hot Stove League,” took some time to mull the question over.

“It’s hard,” Zaborowski, clearly shaken, said in an interview Tuesday night. “You can never really sum up someone’s life in a few words. I’ll remember that he was a person who loved his family and his daughters. He really embraced life. He didn’t shy away from it. It would have been easy for somebody in his situation to be a recluse, stay out of the spotlight, but he wasn’t like that.”

One of Chuck’s joys was “The Hot Stove League.” He didn’t appear on this past Monday night’s show. Chuck had e-mailed Zaborowski that day, letting him know that he wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to appear.

Zaborowski said the next show this coming Monday night will be a tribute to Chuck, but he acknowledged that he wasn’t sure where his emotions will take him once the camera light goes on. He said, “It’s going to be hard to talk about.”