SBD/Issue 175/Sports & Society

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  • All In The Family: How "The Sopranos" Has Touched Sports

    As the series finale of HBO’s “The Sopranos” draws near and anticipation builds over who else will get whacked with Bobby Baccalieri – and perhaps -- Silvio Dante now hanging out at the big Bada Bing in the sky (or elsewhere?), THE DAILY looks back at where the venerable HBO mob show and the sports world have met over the years.

    On numerous occasions, the show’s characters and plotlines have intersected with professional sports. Here’s a sampling:

    • Death Of Pie-O-My Eventually
      Leads Tony To Murder Ralph (l)

      Referencing the Cablevision-YES carriage dispute, Newsday notes Paulie Walnuts, who lives in northern NJ, "must have broken down and bought a satellite dish" because he is seen watching a Yankees game with Michael Kay and Bobby Murcer announcing during season four in '02 
    • Some scenes are shot at Aqueduct for “The Sopranos” in the fourth season, when Tony Soprano and Ralph Cifaretto buy the thoroughbred, Pie-O-My.
    • Fox NFL sideline reporter and former Ravens DT Tony Siragusa appears as Frankie Cortese during season five in '04.  Back in ‘01, NBC’s Matt Vasgersian asks the rhetorical but prophetic question after The Goose is interviewed during an XFL game, “How is that guy not on `The Sopranos?’"
    • A clip from a Celtics radio broadcast is heard in the background as Eugene Pontecorvo whacks deadbeat gambler Teddy Spirodakis in Boston during the first episode in season six in '06.
    • Eric Mangini And His Wife Appear
      In The Second-To-Last Episode
      “Sopranos” characters watch a football game on TV in season six, but astute observers notice it’s a CFL game, not the NFL, that is on the screen. The Globe & Mail calls the move to use a CFL clip “a financial decision,” as the few seconds of the footage probably cost less than C$1,000, but an NFL clip “would have been much more expensive.”
    • In an episode earlier this season, Tony goes on a horrible losing streak, failing to correctly pick against the spread several NFL and NBA games. In one episode, he implores his wife, Carmela, to take some of the money she made selling her spec house and put it on the Jets. She refuses, and much to Tony’s chagrin, he reads in the paper “Jets Bomb Chargers, 42-10.”
    • In the penultimate episode, Jets coach Eric Mangini and his wife, Julie, appear in Artie Bucco's restaurant. Artie tells Tony, “Tony, you know who’s in tonight? Mangenius.” Tony stops at Mangini’s table to say hello.

    The show has propelled its actors to new levels of celebrity, and “The Sopranos” brand has some cache of its own. That’s not lost on sports marketers.

    • In ’02, cast members James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli, Steven Van Zandt, Vincent Pastore and Tony Sirico autograph baseball bats, photos and jerseys for charity to be sold through Steiner Sports.
    • In July ’02, Gandolfini shoots an ad for Rutgers football, following one he did for the school the previous year. Gandolfini is a Rutgers graduate.
    • Dominic Chianese Sings The 
      National Anthem At NBA Finals
      At a White Sox-Yankees game in ‘02, cast members promote the show's season premiere, throwing out simultaneous first pitches, while Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who plays Tony's daughter Meadow, sings the national anthem. Sigler also performs the national anthem prior to an MLS Earthquakes-MetroStars game at Giants Stadium later that year.
    • Gandolfini, along with sports luminaries such as Ozzie Smith, Franco Harris, Dave Debusschere and Jake LaMotta, are guests at the second annual "On Our Feet" benefit from Foot Looker at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in N.Y. held in late ’02. The party benefits the United Way of New York, and is sponsored by Reebok, adidas and Converse.
    • Dominic Chianese, who plays Uncle Junior, sings the national anthem at Game Five of the ’03 Spurs-Nets NBA Finals.
    • In '04, Donruss Trading Cards announces a partnership with Gandolfini, who becomes part of Donruss’ “Fans of the Game” program featuring autographed cards from various entertainers and athletes in sports other than baseball.
    • Cast members Gandolfini, Imperioli, Van Zandt, Steve Schirripa and Edie Falco take a break from filming the series’ sixth season in ’05 to shoot a video urging Larry Brown to take the Knicks’ coaching job.
    • The Richard Childress Racing No. 07 Nextel Cup Chevrolet driven by Clint Bowyer sports a “Sopranos” paint scheme at the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 in Las Vegas in March ’06.
    • Steve Schirripa (l) and Michael 
      Imperioli Take In A Knicks Game
      In ‘06, Nets fans who have not renewed their season tickets for the ’07 campaign receive voicemails from the team featuring local celebrities, including Schirripa, reminding them that their ticket deposits are due. An excerpt from Schirripa’s message: “Call today or I’ll send Silvio and Paulie to talk to you and they’re even tougher than the Nets Ticket Reps.”
    • In ’07, Dick’s Sporting Goods launches a TV ad campaign featuring Schirripa, who plays Baccalieri, and a 250-pound panther named Scratch, to promote its line of Slazenger Raw Distance golf balls .

    “The Sopranos” is ubiquitous to the point where, on a few occasions, newspapers have likened sports execs to the show’s characters. Two examples:

    • A spoof in the St. Pete Times in ’00 suggests fictional casting for "The Rookie," a movie about former MLBer Jim Morris. Former D’Rays Managing General Partner Vince Naimoli is paired with Gandolfini with the caption, "Keeps it all in the family." In response, the team moves five Times racks to the loading dock area of Tropicana Field and security personnel were told not to let Times carriers into the facility.
    • The Charlotte Observer in ‘06 offers a feature, “Meet the families,” comparing NASCAR’s France family to the Sopranos, writing, “We’re not sure who has the most muscle: NASCAR’s ruling class or HBO’s wise guys from Jersey.”

    FOR MORE: See tomorrow's issue of THE DAILY for a list of great sports quotes from "The Sopranos."  On Friday, we'll run readers' predictions for Sunday's finale.

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