MetroSports Magazine New York Liberty
Brings Professional Womenâ€™s Basketball to Westchester County
Harvard-Bound Aurora Straus Teenager in a Hurry 2018 NYC ePrix Electric Formula Racing Finding Its Way Semi-Pro Football Hot Action on the Local Gridirons
ACC-19 Aggressive Combat Championships MMA
Features 4 The New York Liberty Womenâ€™s professional basketball team completes their inaugural season at the Westchester County Center.
12 ACC-19 Aggressive Combat Championships Brings MMA to Westchester County with ACC-19, their nineteenth successful event.
20 Aurora Straus - Teen in a Hurry Local teen defers her Harvard education to pursue her racing passion.
26 NYC ePrix FIA Formula E Completes its Second Street Race on the Brooklyn Waterfront Veteran motorsports journalist, John Chuhran, shares his thoughts on the NYC Formula E Race and how the series can improve for the New York audience.
34 Semi-Pro Football:Alive & Well Action photos from the Elite Football Alliance (EFA), Empire Football League (EFL), and Major League Football (MLF)
Cover Photo by Ray Fredericks
Action Photography by Clark Thompson
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Train Like a Champion. Train with a Champion. MetroSports Magazine’s former Athlete of the Month and cover of our May-June 2015 issue, Keisher “Fire” McLeod, a former NY Golden Gloves Champion, current NYS Flyweight Champion and current WIBA World Flyweight Champion can now be your personal boxing trainer at the world famous Gleason’s Gym.
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MetroSports Magazine (MSM) is published six times a year by the New York Sports Photo Group. MSM is available online and can be downloaded in electronic format for viewing on tablet and hand-held devices, laptop and desktop computers and purchased as full-color glossy print editions. Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Art Director: Warren Rosenberg Publisher: New York Sports Photo Group: nyspg.com Features Editor: Warren Rosenberg Director of Photography: Clark Thompson Social Media: Clark Thompson Photo Contributors: Clark Thompson, Warren Rosenberg, Derwin Joza, Ray Fredericks Contributors: John Chuhran Advertising: For rate card contact email@example.com Please direct all inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit us on the web at: MetroSportsMag.com
MetroSports Magazine accepts and welcomes photos, short articles, opinions and letters from our readers. There is no guarantee that unsolicited contributions will be published and MetroSports Magazine assumes no responsibility for failure to publish or for editing published contributions. The Contents of MetroSports Magazine consist of copyrightable and/or copyrighted material and cannot be reproduced without the express written consent of the publishers. MetroSports Magazine | 3
WNBA Bringing Professional Basketball to Westchester The WNBA’s New York Liberty move from NYC’s Madison Square Garden to White Plains, NY
he Westchester County Center, billed as Westchester’s Most Famous Arena, has taken another step forward in its linkage with New York City’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) – The World’s Most Famous Arena – approximately 29 miles to the south. The County Center, already home to the Westchester Knicks, the NBA’s G-League affiliate of the MSG-based New York Knickerbockers professional basketball team, is now the home court for another MSG owned professional franchise, the New York Liberty of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). The County Center, a 5,000 seat arena located in White Plains, NY, the commercial and government center of Westchester County, has been hosting sporting and other events since its opening in 1930. In recent years the County Center has been the site of the professional bodybuilding competitions sanctioned by the National Physique Committee, WWE wrestling events, professional boxing including the first professional fight of Maureen Shea, the County sponsored high school Slam Dunk Basketball Tournament, Cheerleading Competition, Coed Volleyball Tournament and an annual visit by The Harlem Globetrotters. The Westchester Knicks are completed a banner year at the County Center finishing the regular season in first place in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division finishing the season tied for the best won/lost record in the NBA’s G-League with the Western
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Division’s Austin Spurs. Evidence of the talent that has appeared on the Westchester County Center’s court can be found in two of this season’s Westchester Knicks starters moving up to play with the NBA’s New York Knicks, Trey Burke and Luke Kornet, following in the footsteps of Ron Baker, Damyean Dotson and Isaiah Hicks. Burk scored a career high 42 points on March 26th against the Charlotte Hornets. Supported by dynamic performances from the Westchester Knicks Dancers, the loveable team mascot Hudson 914, and a range of fan-involvement activities, the team consistently attracts solid numbers of enthusiastic fans. The New York Liberty, one of the original teams at the WNBA’s founding, has won four conference championships and has Facing Page: Kia Nurse (#5)
Photo: Warren Rosenberg New York Sports Photo Group
appeared in four WNBA Championship Finals. Averaging over 7,000 fans per game and frequently topping over 15,000 while at MSG, Liberty games at the County Center look to attract sellout crowds. The WNBA is the premier women’s professional basketball league recruiting from the nation’s top Division I NCAA basketball programs and boasting a number of U.S. Olympic Gold Medalists. Among the New York Liberty’s past and present Olympians are Gold Medalists Tina Charles, Swin Cash (2014-16), Cappie Poindexter (2010-14), DeLisha Milton-Jones (2013-14) and, taking over as Head Coach for the upcoming 2018 season, 3 time gold medalist Katie Smith (2000, 2004, 2008). Assisting Coach Smith is Assistant Coach Herb Williams and, perhaps the most famous NY Liberty of all, Olympic Gold Medalist, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, and one of the WNBA’s top 15 players of all time, Teresa Weatherspoon, Director of Player Development and Director of Franchise Development. For those who have followed New York Metro region high school and college basketball, look among the Liberty’s roster for hometown standouts Epiphany Prince (Murray Bergstrom H.S.; Rutgers University), Tina Charles (Jamaica, NY; UCONN), Bria Hartley (North Babylon, NY) and Kia Vaughn (Bronx NY, Rutgers).
Top Left: Amanda Zahui B (#17) Bottom Left: Liberty coach Katie Smith Photos: Warren Rosenberg New York Sports Photo Group
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Above: NY Liberty center, Tina Charles lays one in over the head of LA Sparks defender
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Photo: Warren Rosenberg MSG Sports & Entertainment
Above: It was a tough season and look at the bench says it all.
Finding itself in a new home for the 2018 campaign, its no surprise that the Liberty have once again stumbled as history repeats itself. The challenges the team faced upon their move from MSG to the Prudential Center in 2009, back to MSG in 2012, and now to the Westchester County Center in 2018 seem to be predictable. The magazine, Psychology Today, in citing work published in the Journal Social Indicators Research in 2016, noted that moving is a traumatic experience and frequently results in a dip in performance and well-being. Evidence of the good times ahead can be found on the hallowed hardwood of the Westchester County Center where the Liberty’s brothers, the 2018 first place Westchester Knicks, suffered during their first season finishing fifth in their Conference with a lackluster 10-40 record. They rebounded quickly compiling a winning 28-22 record in their second year and, as MetroSports Magazine predicts, so too will the New York Liberty.
The WNBA’s New York Liberty women’s basketball team is not the first women’s professional sports team to call the Westchester County Center home, nor is it the first team carrying the “Liberty” name. In 1998, the New York Liberties, a women’s professional volleyball team, opened their first season on their home court of the Westchester County Center with a double header against the San Jose Golddiggers. And like Katie Smith, the former U.S. Olympian who coached the New York Liberty in their inaugural season at the County Center, the N.Y. Liberties were coached in their inaugural season at the County Center by a former U.S. Olympian, Mary Jo Peppler. Facing Page: Bria Hartley (#8) working the floor at the Westchester County Center
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Aggressive Combat Championships -19 Mixed Martial Arts at the Westchester County Center he Westchester County Center has been home to a number of combative sports and exhibitions dating back to 1934 and including a weekly boxing show held on Tuesday nights that ran between 1938-1946. It was the site of the pro debut of WBA, WBC and NABF Champion boxer Maureen Shea in 2005 (featured in MSM, May-June 2015) and the location of the 12th consecutive win and IWBF Championship title fight of Ronica Jeffrey in 2013. Yonkers native and former WBO and USBA Middleweight Champion, Doug DeWitt, achieved 12 of his 33 career wins at the County Center which was also the site of an 8-round exhibition bout in 1972 between Muhammad Ali and Alonzo Johnson. WWWF wrestling champion Bruno Sammartino’s scored a 1964 win over Gorilla Monsoon and the WWWF’s successor, the WWE still holds professional wrestling events here.
On Saturday evening, September 22nd, Aggressive Combat Championships most recent event, ACC-19, took center stage – or center cage – at the Westchester County Center featuring nine matches of mixed martial arts (MMA) in front of an enthusiastic crowd of over 2,000 fans. ACC19 was the third time that Aggressive Combat Championships put on a UMMAF Kick International sanctioned bout at the County Center and the nineteenth time over all. Previous events at the County Center were held on April 7th, 2018 (ACC-18) and November 11th, 2017 (ACC-17). Prior to promoting MMA events at the Westchester County Center, ACC events were held in Queens, NY, at the Queens Theater, York College 12 | September-October 2018
Arena, and Fitzgerald Center and, initially, in the Bronx at St.Raymond’s High School for ACC-1, ACC-2 and ACC-3, beginning in January 2013. Aggressive Combat Championships was founded by, and is co-owned by, Eugene Perez and Tom Kilkenny, both life-long martial arts practitioners. Eugene Perez has been involved in martial arts for his entire life as a Competitor, Instructor and Promoter in addition to refereeing 100’s of matches. He has worked with many organizations in various capacities over the years including Grapplers Quest where he was
Photo Credit: Ray Fredericks
the Vice President of Operations, The Ultimate Fighting Championships @ UFC 100, Elite XC and The Fight Entourage and has helped promote shows all across the country. Tom Kilkenny has been training in the Martial Arts since he was 11 years old and holds a 2nd degree Black Belt ranking in Ju Jitsu and currently trains in Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai over the last 8 years. In his 30+ years of experience Tom has instructed, trained, managed and promoted with some of the best fighters in the Tri-State area. Some of those fighters have gone on to become the elite in the UFC/Bellator/Pride etc. Tom’s vision for Aggressive Combat Sports has always been to give the amateur fighter the safest and most well-matched fight with them being the star of the event! The ACC-19 fight card included 18 fighters representing New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in nine bouts. Six of fighters were making their amateur debut. In the evening’s main card event, a bout for the ACC 135 pound Bantamweight Championship, Danny Rodriguez (7-1-0), ranked 6th among all 108 active amateur bantamweights in New York State took on challenger Adam Barrett (5-3-0), ranked 25th in the state. Rodriguez, fighting out of Jungle Gym in the Bronx and coming off his win in ACC-17 against Carlos Rodriguez via an arm bar submission. Barrett, fighting out of Brian Bueary BJJ in Albany NY, was looking to rebound from his loss in July at Cage Wars-37 held at the Rivers Resorts Casino in Schenectady. Rodriguez was victorious scoring a win at 1:50 of the first round. Daniel Ramirez of Tiger Schulman MMA in Yonkers took on Macho Lopez of Andreocci MMA and, like Rodriguez, scored a first round win,this one coming by TKO with jist seconds remaining in the round. The third first round win of the night belonged to Mike Wacker, fighting out of Black Hole BJJ in Putnam County, in his match against Andre Miller of MK Muay Thai in New Jersey. 14 | September-October 2018
Making his MMA fighting debut at ACC-19, Wacker did so in a convincing fashion, winning by arm bar submission at 35 seconds into the first round. We asked Mike about his debut and he told us, “First off let me say that Aggressive Combat Sports truly knows how to put on a show. Eugene and Tom certainly do a fantastic job in running an utterly professional event, even though the fights are at the amateur level. As far as my fight was concerned I think it went exactly the way it should have. The hard work and preparation that was put in by my excellent support team of coaches and training partners paid off. They put together a superb game plan and I executed it. Being in that cage was a singular experience that does not compare to any grappling match I have been a part of. We had over 200 members from the school in attendance and it was simultaneously humbling and empowering to come out of the dressing room with their support on display. It was the perfect culmination of my career as a competitor thus far, and I absolutely appreciate the promotion for the opportunity.” Dan Fazzino, Head Instructor of Black Hole Westchester added, “Everyone who worked with Mike during his training camp knows how bad he wanted this fight. He experienced a couple of injuries that would have sidelined most people and all he thought about was how to keep pushing forward and make it to fight day. Mike executed the gameplan perfectly and the fight ended as quickly as we all expected it to. I’m proud to have Mike as a coach and look forward to seeing his next fight “ From Will Gitter and Mike Varley, Head instructors of Black Hole Mahopac: “Will Gitter black hole mahopac head Coach: said The blackhole mahopac crew were real impressed by professors wackers first round win...however not surprised...hard work and dedication are key stones of the blackhole team and there is no question that Mike Wacker had both leading up to the fight. Mike Varley from black hole mahopac assistant team coach: said although Mike was training
ACC-19 Matches and Results Fighters Adam Barrett vs Daniel Rodriguez
Rodriguez, 1:50 Round 1
Edwin Solis vs Geo Alvarez
Solis, Unanimous Decision
Justin Delgado vs Rob Krajewski
Krajewski, Unanimous Decision
Danny Ramirez vs Miguel Lopez
Ramirez, TKO 2:57 Round 1
Dante Goldsmith vs Toheeb Ashorobi
Goldsmith, Split Decision
Greg Melia vs Justin Muslija
Muslija, Unanimous Decision
Mike Wacker vs Andre Miller
Wacker, Submission :35 Round 1
Joe Drew vs Colin Skelly
Skelly Unanimous Decision
Juan Gomez vs Brian Beaury
Gomez Unanimous Decision
Photo Credit: Ray Fredericks
himself, teaching at hq and coaching tournaments, wacker still found time to come down on saturdays at 1130am for the adult gi class...congratulations professor Wacker...thanks for raising the bar“ Danny Ramirez, another first round winner told us that “it felt great to fight at the County Center and it felt even better to win.” When asked for his opinion about event, the County Center, and working with the ACC, Ramirez summed it up this way, “Big lights and big crowd at ACC - I loved it! What a great venue. The ACC is a very professional group to work with.” Daniel’s parting words with us were, “Hard work pays off. I want to give a big shout out to my family, my coaches, my team and to Tiger Schulmann’s-Yonkers.” Previously relegated to underground fight clubs and with little in the way of mandatory protection for the fighters, MMA entered the mainstream of both professional and amateur sports in 2016 when the New York legislature passed, and the Governor signed a bill overturning former Governor George Pataki’s 1997 law banning MMA in New York State. Upon passage of the 2016 legislation State Senate Majority Leader at the time, John Flanagan, stated that, “…this bill will help safeguard the health and welfare of these professional athletes.” Governor Cuomo said that, “It’s time to bring mixed martial arts competitions to the New York Stage.” Joining the Governor for the announcement, Ronda Rousey, former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, said, “Governor Cuomo, all the legislators who supported this and most of all, all the New York fans who made this happen, thank you. I know this is a huge day for my fellow athletes from New York but this is also a big day for every professional MMA athlete from across the globe: if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” While the State legislation was targeted toward professional MMA events such as those promoted by the UFC, Bellator, and Pride, it also “closed a statutory loophole under which
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unregulated and unsupervised amateur mixed martial arts competitions had been occurring in New York State.” Since passage of law in 2016, amateur MMA a rigorous set of standards has been imposed under the supervision of the New York State Athletic Commission. These These standards set requirements for items such as qualifying and licensing competitors, cage/ring dimensions and construction, hand wrapping, prohibition and testing for performance enhancing substances, and scoring. It sets regulations for contests establishing as illegal such actions as head butting, eye gouging, elbow strikes, and throat strikes, and establishes weight classes for flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, cruiserweight, heavyweight and super heavyweight.
Above: Web posting on the Governor’s official NY State website announcing the legalization of MMA in New York State. Joining him for the announcement was MMA fighter Ronda Rousey.
On January 26th, 2013, Aggressive Combat Championships became the first organization to get Amateur MMA LEGALLY sanctioned and approved by the NY State Athletic Commission. The event took place at St. Raymond HS in the Bronx with a crowd of over 1,200 spectators in attendance.
Aggressive Combat Championships returns to the Westchester County Center on March 16, 2019 for ACC-20. Be sure to mark this on your calendars as it is sure to be a must see event. MetroSports Magazine will be on hand to bring you coverage.
Photos: Above and Facing Page Courtesy Derwin Joza, DIG Photograph
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Aurora Straus: Teenager in a Hurry by John Chuhran Aurora Straus is just 19 years old, but she is wise beyond her years. This resident of Cold Spring is one of those young over-achievers. A 2017 cum laude graduate of The Hackley School in Tarrytown, she was accepted into Harvard University. But the teenager didn’t want start in the fall of 2017. Unlike most of her peers, Aurora wanted to gain some real world experience before seeing how a Harvard education could help her achieve her dreams. But she realized that actually finding and believing in her dreams would make her a better student. So, she requested -- and was granted -- a one-year deferment from attending classes in Cambridge, Mass. During her year away from school, Aurora has spent all of her time and energy on a passion she discovered six years ago. Aurora Straus likes to drive fast. For her, life begins at 140 mph. You wouldn’t know Aurora wants to be a successful race driver by looking at her. A thin young lady with shoulder length blonde hair, Aurora looks like a typical teenager. But a conversation with her will reveal a young woman who knows what she wants and who is working hard to obtain it. So what leads a 13-year-old to want to drive race cars? “We weren’t really a racing family,” Aurora said, “but when I turned 13 my dad decided I should learn some basic car control skills -- not to be a race car driver but to be a safe driver on the street. I started in a Mazda Miata and learned how to drive [a] stick shift [transmission] and I loved it. I ran in the Mazda MX Cup for two partial seasons.” 20 | September-October 2018
“Last year when I was 18 was my first full season in professional racing. I did pretty well -- I was the top finishing rookie in the series. We were struggling with the set up [adjustments to make the car turn precisely and maintain balanced grip of the pavement with all four tires] of the car, so I had some good races and some bad races. But overall it was a very good learning year for me and it paid off.” In 2018, she moved up to the Pirelli World Challenge, racing a BMW M4 GT4 in the GTS Class. It was year in which she dealt with a more powerful (330 hp) car in 18 races over nine race weekends. She finished 23rd in the GTS rankings -- a solid performance considering 96 drivers were competing.It was a year where she learned as much as -- perhaps more than -- she could have in the classroom. As a female, teenage racer she was in demand with the media as she gave interviews at almost every stop on the tour and made TV appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and CNBC’s Jay Leno’s Garage. “Racing has maintained the same simple thrill for me,” Aurora said. “I started racing because it was fun -- there wasn’t an ulterior motive. Going out on track is one of the coolest things I could ever picture doing with my life. The adrenaline rush that comes with braking later than you ever thought you could brake going into a corner or knowing this massive amount of machinery is under you and you have to handle it or something really big could happen -- there’s a lot of emotion that comes with that kind of pressure.”
Facing Page: Photo Credit. Warren Rosenberg
“But at the same time, my motivation to keep moving up the ranks of pro racing has changed a lot. During my first ever semi-professional race weekend, I had a young girl who was with her dad come up to me and say ‘I didn’t know girls were allowed to race.’ It was the first time I had ever heard that. The stigma is still very much there -- much less so than when I started, but hearing the words ‘girls were allowed’ was jarring to me. I still haven’t gotten used to it. I hear it progressively less as I run more races, but every time I hear it, I want to cry.” Thoughtful and articulate, Aurora has decided to use racing as a tool to inspire girls in grade school and middle school. “If you’re a 13-year-old girl in a male-dominated industry and you don’t see anyone out there who looks like you, you think, ‘OMG, can i do this?’,” she said. “I just remember that feeling. So my motivation has transitioned from ‘this is fun, I could do this as a side gig’ to ‘I want to do this professionally because it’s my responsibility to reach out to those girls and make sure that the next 13-year-old girl that wants to try it can reach out to me, contact me, and I could help her look for sponsors and rides and gain [racing] experience. I want to be that person to as many girls as I can. That’s why I started a program to with the Girl Scouts called Girls with Drive to bring a couple of dozen girls and their families to each of the races and learn about racing and see what I do. “I want to do this professionally because it’s my responsibility to make sure that the next 13-year old girl who wants to try [racing] can reach out to me. That’s why I started a program with the Girl Scouts called ‘Girls with Drive’.
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“I was a Girl Scout when I was younger. In my first race of the year at Circuit of the Americas in Texas, I had about 40 girls there and it was really special for me because it was my first podium [top-3 finish] in a professional race and they were there to see it. The girls who come out get a behind-the-scenes tour of the track and view of our team as well as an education program about the physics of a race car that no one else here gets. They get to see race control, they get to learn about the Pirelli tires and how the compounds are different and what the differences are between treaded tires and slicks and scrubbed [used] tires and stickers [new]. One of my favorite things about it is that I get to give comp[limentary] tickets thanks to the generosity of Pirelli and the tracks like Lime Rock Park. I’m hoping that at least one of the girls comes away with the idea that ‘OK, there’s a career path here for me that I’m interested in’ whether it be as a driver or an engineer or a team owner -- there are options here for me.” “Studies show that you need more endurance and less physical strength to drive sports cars [compared to some oval track racing],” Aurora said. “Women have a strategic advantage in some ways because you have to have endurance and be able to withstand high temperatures -- it can get to be over 100 degrees in the cockpit and you have to be able to endure it for up to two hours and still perform at your best. One of my friends recently described racing to me as sitting in barrel at 130 miles per hour, running a marathon while you’re in three-layers of footy pajamas while you have people screaming at you on the radio. You need to be able to keep laser focus in that kind of heat. Girls seem to be able to focus a little better in that environment.
“It’s a sport where there should be equal opportunity, but somehow there isn’t as much as in other sports. My motivation comes from that. I could say it’s not my responsibility to reach out to these girls, but then who’s going to do it? It was hard for me when I got started because in sports car racing weren’t that many role models out there. They’re tough to find -- you have to dig for them.” Aurora is a reflection of her time. Beyond hoping to motivate other young women, she is using the latest in Social Media skills to help them and herself. “Kids today interact differently than adults,” Aurora said. “They aren’t necessarily as verbal, but a lot of them understand marketing in the digital space better than the marketing professionals I work with. I have gotten a surprising amount of sponsorship support from Instagram Direct Message. People notice the constant interaction that I have with my followers. It’s a lot of tiny things; this morning when I got to the track I saw this Ben and Jerry’s ice cream truck
trailer and I wanted to share that with a shout out that ‘this is the best thing in the world!’. It’s me, and it’s what I want people to see. “Right now I have about 20,000 followers on Instagram and a couple of thousand on Facebook. A lot of the marketing has nothing to do with social media. For example, I was on Good Morning America in March the Friday of a race weekend and it sparked a lot of other media opportunities. It was a win-win for me, for Richard Mille, for the Pirelli World Challenge, and the cherry on top was that I got about 5,000 people watching who otherwise might not have noticed. Some of those viewers of GMA followed me on social media and some of my followers [on social media] watched me on GMA. It’s hard to put exact numbers on it, but I do think a lot of racers under 25 know how to work it really well and they’ve gotten some money because of it. Smaller sponsors are out there and they’re watching social media.
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media] watched me on GMA. It’s hard to put exact numbers on it, but I do think a lot of racers under 25 know how to work it really well and they’ve gotten some money because of it. Smaller sponsors are out there and they’re watching social media. “At the end of the day, a lot of this is about building a brand for yourself. I catering to sponsors who are good at cross-promoting with each other. People who buy a Richard Mille watch are likely to buy from Tiffany and vice versa. That’s just easy for me from a marketing standpoint. I try to access the same demographic for most of my sponsors, but I’m still just trying to figure it out. I’ve had some amazing discussions for 2019, so I’m going to see how that plays out. There’s a lot of competition for various sponsorship dollars right now.” Now, with the 2018 season in her rearview mirror, Aurora can turn her attention to Harvard, where she was planning to double major in two very different disciplines -- English and Mechanical Engineering. That will work for now, but when the racing season begins again next March she might have to adjust her schedule.
“I’m weird as a racer in that my biggest goal has nothing to do with what racing series I want to be in,” Aurora said. “I would love to go to LeMans [France] and win [the 24 Hours of endurance -sports car racing’s most prestigious event]. That would be my ultimate sports car racing goal. But Girls With Drive is exponentially more important to me. If I am still in the Pirelli World Challenge five years from now but I have three girls who came to one of my Girls With Drive events who are now out on track with me, that’s going to feel infinitely better than winning LeMans to me. The goal is to get girls out on track. “My five year goal has changed, too. I used to see myself going into car design and I could still very well wind up there. But now I think there’s a 50:50 chance of that or motorsports journalism or politics. So the short answer is, I have no idea.” Regardless of whether she moves to other racing series and wins some famous races, Aurora is now in life’s fast lane and she’s pushing hard to make sure she clears a path for others to follow.
“School is going to be a tough fit because I plan on racing full time while I’m at Harvard,” Aurora said. “I’m a big believer in not giving up something that you are passionate about and I wouldn’t give up racing for the world, and I wouldn’t give up [an education at] Harvard, either. So, I’m going to do both, but I might be on the five-year plan [to get a college degree].” Aurora has definite goals for the future -- not just in what races she wants to win, but in what she wants to achieve if those victories don’t happen.
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Above and Facing Page: Photos. Warren Rosenberg
Formula E - Time to Move From Hype to Reality Award winning veteran motorsports journalist, John Chuhran, has some thoughts on how to improve Formula E
ou del Rosario probably would have liked The New York City ePrix, the race-weekend for electric cars that was staged for the second time back in July on a 14-turn, 1.47-mile temporary road course in the parking lot of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook.
John Chuhran has been writing professionally about auto racing and other sports for more than three decades. He has been a writer, editor and columnist for such news organizations as USA Today, The Philadelphia Bulletin, Gannett Westchester (N.Y.) Newspapers, The Bridgewater (N.J.) Courier-News, Indy Car Racing magazine, National Speed Sport News, The Star (Mercedes-Benz), Vintage Motorsports, the Associated Press, United Press International and others. His work has been awarded seven individual and eight full publication medals from the International Automotive Media Competition (IAMC). One of a handful of individuals who has been the head of communications for two major sports sanctioning bodies (Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART/IndyCar) and Professional SportsCar Racing (PSCR/IMSA)), he directed all sponsorship activities involving eight major sports for Mercedes-Benz of North America. He has a vast library of racing material and has become one of Americaâ€™s foremost auto racing historians and an award-winning broadcaster. Switching hats, he also provides contract public relations work, training and counsel for corporations, sports and non-profit organizations, and individuals.
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For half a century -- before Formula E founder Alejandro Agag was born -- del Rosario was the king of electric car racing in the New York City area. Del Rosario was the founder and owner of Elmsford Raceway, the facility in Westchester County that opened in 1966 and was a hotbed for a fad of the Swinging Sixties, slot car racing. These slot car tracks werenâ€™t the sort of two-lane plastic puzzles that were snapped together on Christmas morning so you could race little cars the size of a business card around and around. No, professional slot car racing centers were big -- eight-lanes wide, with some tracks bigger than a bowling alley -- for cars that were the size of a paperback novel (or iPhone 10 Plus for the Millennial Generation). Elmsford Raceway had
three tracks and the biggest -- more than 200 feet in length with a massive banked turn that rose more than five feet off the floor -- was named after Tazio Nuvolari, one of the first international racing superstars who dominated European racing in the 1920s and 1930s. That Nuvolari track was visually impressive. As TV helped the popularity of racing grow in the 1960s and 1970s, del Rosario and Elmsford Raceway also enjoyed a growth in patronage as leagues for serious competitors and birthday parties for children kept the operation in the black. While Elmsford Raceway was enjoyable (“flat out fun” was the motto), nobody ever confused it for actual auto racing. It provided a chance to play at racing without the expense of the real thing. But as tastes changed and rents continued to increase, del Rosario found it more and more difficult to keep Elmsford Raceway alive. Through more than five decades, Lou used Elmsford Raceway to good effect and raised money for charities in his native Philippines. With rising rents and without a corresponding increase in income, Lou decided to close up Elmsford Raceway and move back to the Philippines at the end of 2016. Which brings us back to the NYC ePrix. These Formula E cars have no slots, but they did remind me that, like Elmsford Raceway, the show they provided wasn’t the real thing. Sure, Brazilian Lucas DiGrassi won the race on Saturday and Frenchman JeanEric Vergne, who clinched the championship the day before, won the finale on Sunday. Sadly, the Formula E people tried to 28 | September-October 2018
Above: Elmsford Raceway Nuvolari track. Photo credit. del Rosario family. Elmsford Raceway
the Indianapolis 500 or stock car racing’s Daytona 500. It was a far cry from either. Indeed, from a pure sporting perspective, the NYC ePrix was a failure. The two races were mostly parades with a stunning lack of passing that did nothing to inspire thoughts of daredevil heroes fighting to control powerful chariots that represented cutting-edge examples of the quest for speed. In that regard, the NYC ePrix was a flop.
Above: The majestic NYC skyline rises behind the paddock and largely out of site of the viewing stands.
But while the actual racing could have been significantly better, that didn’t mean the event was a failure. The people who had tickets seemed to be enjoying themselves. We live in an age when those who attend sporting events want to be entertained by more than just the contest they have come to see. Most people at the NYC ePrix seemed more interested in a midway featuring various displays and demonstrations that emphasized the electric technology, music performed by people I had never heard of, and a variety of food vendors. Most attendees could not name a single driver in the race and they weren’t paying much
attention to what was happening on track; they didn’t seem to care that passes for position were few and far between. It didn’t help that the track layout provided horrible sight lines and the finish line was at an entirely different part of the track -- with no grandstands viewing the checkered flag waving -- than the start. But that is what happens when tracks are designed for TV -- in this case to capture the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty in the background -- rather than for those who came to the venue. MetroSports Magazine | 28
One had to take a step back to figure out why nobody cared about the actual racing. Traditional auto racing is a bombardment on the senses. The cars move so fast they are difficult to follow, the smell of fuel and burning rubber drifts into the nose and makes the eyes water, and the roar of powerful engines can be deafening. They didn’t call the classic movie about stock car racing Days of Thunder because the action occurred in the rain. None of that happens in Formula E. The cars have reasonable speed (but would certainly be no match for more than a dozen well known traditional racing series in America), but the lack of smells and of engine noise (the loudest sounds on track were of chirping tires fighting for grip!) made it seem oddly sterile. It was sad to think that the NYC ePrix was an attempt to make New York City residents believe that real, traditional auto racing is supposed to be like the demonstration made by these nearly silent machines. The reality is that Formula E is an effort to convince people that this is progress. From a technology standpoint, it probably is and it cannot be denied that the technology development on display and on the track has an appeal to anyone with a curiosity about how the machines of the future will perform. The people involved in Formula E have all been trained to deflect questions involving other types of racing. They act like Formula E exists in a vacuum -- no other form of racing should be compared to this type of competition. The tracks are temporary and generally narrow, they have a lot of slow corners (to enable the Formula E cars to show what they do best -- accelerate quickly -- rather than reach high top speeds). 30 | September-October 2018
But the participants don’t like comparisons to other types of racing, so they tend to just discuss the perceived virtues of Formula E. That alone does not make for great sport. The unpredictability of outcome, the opportunity to see fearless heroes control massively powerful machines that have minimal road holding (and get away without hitting things most of the time), the chance to see some human beings do something spectacular that mere mortals cannot -- these are elements that the American racing fan will not find in the 2018 Formula E series. In its current incarnation, Formula E can best be paraphrased with an old Texas saying: there is a little sizzle and no steak. So far, Formula E has been less than a hit with the public in New York. Few grandstands were erected for the Red Hook event and none had more than 14 rows of seats. On-site attendance was less than 15,000 per day (it was a double header weekend with Saturday and Sunday being self-contained events featuring practice, qualifying and the race all being held on a single day like major Sprint Car races -- without the noise or the speed) and American TV ratings were significantly lower than telecast for either NASCAR stock car races or Indy car races, Even the made-for-television Lucas Oil Off-Road series (which generally attracts less than 3,000 on-site fans) provided traditional racing fans with more of what they wanted than the NYC ePrix. Still, unconventional thinking does enable Formula E to do some things right. The self-contained, one-day event format (featuring practice qualifying and a race all on a single day) is good for fans in general (new fans in particular) and the concept of “Fan Boost” (a gimmick which
Still unconventional thinking does enable Formula E to do some things right. The self-contained, one-day event format is good for fans in general (new fans in particular) and the concept of “Fan Boost” (which gives three drivers with the largest amount of votes on Social Media an extra bit of power to use during the race) actually lets the fans become a part of the action. Drivers are accessible at autograph sessions throughout the weekend.
which gives three drivers with the largest amount of votes on Social Media an extra bit of power to use during the race) actually lets the fans become a part of the action. Drivers are accessible at autograph sessions throughout the weekend; when fans meet heroes, the bond grows. From a technical standpoint, the cars are quite interesting. The battery packs are standardized, but the engines and transmissions (remember that electric engines can run at full power at any moment that full energy is used -- there is no conventional “torque curve”) are minimally restricted and left to the imagination of the constructors. Aerodynamics are minimal and produce marginal downforce and, when combined with tires similar to those used on production cars and providing limited grip, the end result is a car the driver can slide, creating the visual impression of the car constantly on the edge of control with a crash possible at every turn.
The standardized chassis that raced for the first four years of the series looked similar to other Formula-style cars, but it featured exaggerated front wings to make it look the way a 12-year-old might think is “cool”. The Generation Two car that debuts in December is visually unique as Formula E attempts to strengthen its own individual identity. The new car does have a futuristic look -- another attempt to lure members of Gen Y and Gen Z. Shrewdly, the Formula E marketing targets inner-city residents, most of whom have not seen conventional auto racing so they won’t have preconceived ideas about what elements make a good race. With no chance to add energy by changing batteries or recharging, the Formula E races become economy runs where the object is to save more energy than the other guy. But with everyone employing the same strategy on narrow race tracks, the MetroSports Magazine | 31
overtaking maneuvers almost never happen. The batteries used for the first four seasons could barely complete 50 miles before the electricity ran out. At that point, TV viewers (and not the fans on site) were presented with the ludicrous sight of drivers jumping out of one car and into another to finish the 100-mile races. A new battery for season five means that race distances for 2018-19 will be reduced to just 75 miles and carswap novelty acts will, thankfully, be eliminated. Asking spectators to pay big money to watch to watch a 75-mile race that last less than hour is simply unrealistic. Crowds for the first two NYC ePrix have been under 15,000 per day. It’s hard to give credibility to an outdoor event that attracts fewer patrons than those who watch Brooklyn’s Nets or Islanders play basketball or hockey indoors. Until Formula E can outdraw the attendance of those two teams, it can hardly be considered a major league event. But the Formula E message -- “electric cars are good and ready to buy” -- is favored by mayor Di Blasio, so the NYC ePrix is hyped as “major league.” Truth needs to be told. Several automobile manufacturers -- Jaguar, Nissan, Audi, DS (a small French firm) and Mahindra (from India) to be joined by BMW in December and Porsche and Mercedes-Benz in the 2019/2020 season -use Formula E to promote electric technology development, but there are few electric options for the public to buy now. Like those electric cars for public purchase, Formula E is still a work in progress. So, like Elmsford Raceway, Formula E can say that it is bringing a cleaner, safer, futuristic form 32 | September-October 2018
of auto racing to the people. But key questions remain: will anybody show up or even care? So far, the attendance figures for the first two NYC ePrix indicate that the residents of the Big Apple are mostly ambivalent about this future type of auto racing. Some six decades ago, Ernest Hemingway said, “there are only three sports -- mountain climbing, bull fighting and motor racing. All the rest are just games.” Part of Hemingway’s reasoning was the fact that a mistake in any of the three sports could result in serious injury or death. Now, most sports fans are unwilling to accept such severe consequences for failing at a form of entertainment. Societal values have changed to the point that injury, illness and death are now not discussed and efforts that might have those results are regarded as foolhardy and unacceptable. That mindset prevents people from achieving all that is possible. We have seen a clear reduction in major advancements in medicine and space exploration partly because of a public aversion to hearing about tragic consequences. While some voluntary risk takers might die in their pursuits, might not others achieve great things that help society more or create heroes of people who have stared death in the face and triumphed? Now, popular opinion indicates that risk is to be avoided. Society as a whole is poorer for it. Consumers under 30 flock to theaters and overload Internet servers to watch virtual E-sports that do not even require a physical venue -- an arena, a stadium, a race track -- to stage the competition. When the lines of sports get blurry, the concept of sport changes. Formula E is banking on this opportunity and the ability of its staff
to redefine the hierarchy of top motorsports. They on this opportunity and the ability of its staff to redefine the hierarchy of top motorsports. They may yet convince this â€œnext generationâ€? that auto racing with minimal risk is a good thing. But traditional auto racing fans are unlikely to embrace that philosophy, so it remains to be seen how strong the Formula E fan base becomes and how it fits in a sports landscape that becomes more fragmented every year. Lou del Rosario carved out a niche with Elmsford Raceway, but ultimately the support of a limited customer base meant that his commercial slot car racing facility would close its doors. With more major automobile manufacturers joining Formula E in the coming season,
there is opportunity for Formula E to move from niche sport to mainstream. But as NASCAR, IndyCar and even Formula 1 have discovered, the leadership of car companies is fickle and changes regularly, so long-term participation by all entrants is far from certain. Formula E needs to capitalize on the current participation of multiple manufacturers and improve the on-track competition if it is to increase TV viewership and on-site attendance. If Alejandro Agag and his partners fail to build a fan base for Formula E, it will likely go the way of Elmsford Raceway -- another good idea that just didnâ€™t catch on with enough people to survive. It will be interesting to watch how it unfolds.
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Semi-Pro Football is Alive and Well in the NY Metro Region While the New York Metro region’s two professional football teams, the Giants and Jets, struggle to find their footing and consistently win football games, they might do well looking towards three local semi-professional leagues for guidance. On any given week, teams of the Elite Football Alliance (EFA), Empire Football League (EFL), and of Major League Football (MLF) put on their battle gear and play some spirited games of football. MetroSports Magazine’s Clark Thompson is usually on hand to record the action. Presented here is a small sample what you’ll find on the local gridirons.
Above: EFA’s Bandits vs Legion. Photo Credit: Clark Thompson www.ClarkShots.com
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Above: EFL’s Mountaineers vs Yard Dogs. Photo Credit: Clark Thompson www.ClarkShots.com Below: MLF’s Militia vs Rebels. Photo Credit: Clark Thompson www.ClarkShots.com
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Above: EFL’s Mountaineers vs Spartans. Photo Credit: Clark Thompson www.ClarkShots.com Below: EFA’s Bears vs Pitbull Mercenaries and Bucks vs Bangers . Photo Credit: Clark Thompson
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For more photos visit www.ClarkShots.com
Photos from Around the NY Metro Area
Above and Below: Action from the West 4th Street Basketball Courts, NYC. Phots by Warren Rosenberg