Sports

Race Car Driver Dan Wheldon's Death Rattles Sport

By Jared Bowen   |   Wednesday, October 19, 2011
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Oct. 19, 2011

Watch the segment that aired on Oct. 17 on WGBH's Greater Boston.


BOSTON — One of the world's most watched televised sports turned deadly this week when two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died in a 15-car pile up at Las Vegas's Indy 300 on Oct. 16.

The race had barely started when the 33-year old launched into the air and to his death. Wheldon's death left the racing world stunned. It's been at least five years since a driver was killed in a race, yet with speeds close to 200 miles per hour, it's a wonder these types of deadly accidents don't occur more often.

Wheldon's Oct. 16 crash was sudden, horrific and ultimately catastrophic. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard delivered the bad news.

"IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injury," Bernard said.

With the news that Dan Wheldon, the popular English race-car driver had died, drivers did a five-lap salute in his honor.

The fiery multi-car wreck abruptly ended IndyCar's season leaving fellow drivers visibly shaken and spectators mourning. His father in-law called him a great human being and went on to express how shocked his family is.

Sunday's accident was the most high profile race death since Dale Earnhardt's in the Daytona 500 ten years ago and is now prompting concerns about the sport's safety.

"I think it's going to raise that sort of, all who thought it was important to have safety," said former Indy 500 racecar driver Lyn St. James, "but it's even going to raise the bar for everybody to pay more attention about what we can do to continue to make our sport safer. It's always going to be a high-risk, dangerous sport. "

One with deadly consequences that has left a community stunned.

Mass. May Legalize Ticket Scalping

By Adam Reilly   |   Wednesday, September 21, 2011
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Sept. 21, 2011

Watch the segment that aired on Sept. 20 on 'GBH's Greater Boston.


BOSTON — In theory at least, ticket scalping is illegal here in Massachusetts. But in reality it's widely accepted. From the guys who peddle Sox tickets outside Fenway, to outfits like Stub Hub and Ace Ticket that routinely sell thousands of seats at a hefty markup. Now a proposed law would give scalpers free rein; letting anyone who buys a ticket resell it at any price. Proponents say it's a simple issue of economic freedom, but the truth may be a bit more complicated.

StubHub tickets (via Greater Boston)

Take a stroll down Brookline Avenue before any Red Sox game and you'll see how easy it is to flout state law. You're supposed to have a license to resell tickets — and you're not supposed to jack the price up more than $2 plus expenses. Yet Fenway's unlicensed scalpers operate right on the street. And if you buy from a licensed reseller like Stub Hub or Ace Ticket, you'll pay a heck of a lot more than two bucks extra. For some folks I talked to, the experience is a mixed bag. One woman paid $90 for a ticket with a $30 face value.

Now Brighton State Representative Mike Moran wants to scrap the state's feeble anti-scalping law altogether — letting anyone who buys a ticket resell it at any price. That could benefit ordinary fans looking to unload tickets at the last minute, but only if they can overcome the public's intense aversion to buying on the street.

However, the biggest beneficiaries would probably be Stub Hub and Ace Ticket. Moran's bill would let them raise prices even higher, and in sports crazed New England they'd have no shortage of buyers. I asked another woman if she would mind the markup up at a Stub Hub or Ace ticket, and she replied, "Not really, provided that you get a good seat and guaranteed ticket."

This isn't the first attempt to scrap the state's anti-scalping law. In 2008 a similar bill died as controversy engulfed then House Speaker Sal DiMasi. But now DiMasi is gone – and scalping's legalized heyday may finally be at hand.

In Southie, A Bruins Celebration Decades In The Making

By Jess Bidgood   |   Thursday, June 16, 2011
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June 16, 2011

Fans at South Boston's The Connection bar erupt in cheers as the Bruins emerged victorious from Wednesdays Stanley Cup Game 7. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

BOSTON — 79-year-old Jenny Zablocki decided at the last minute on Wednesday night to head to The Connection, a small South Boston sports bar, to watch the Bruins in their final Stanley Cup face-off against the Vancouver Canucks. The patrons of the bar know Zablocki well, since she’s there almost every week to watch one game or another. They say she's their good luck charm.
 
“They says, you have to come because they win, they win!” Zablocki said. “You know, so tonight we come down they says you’re here, because we’re gonna win!”
 
Her friends made the right predecition. When the game came to its decisive, victorious end, the whole city of Boston seemed to erupt with joy. Fans spilled into Downtown Boston’s streets, hugging, singing and chanting, “We won the cup!” And at The Connection, dozens of longtime Southie residents banded together for a moment 39 years in the making, launching a group rendition of “We are the Champions.”
 
“This place is packed, it’s packed more than it usually is. It’s awesome, awesome,” said John Devine, a 54-year-old postal worker.

He started watching the Bruins in the late 1960s, just before they won their last Cup in 1972. “It doesn’t get any better than this,” Devine said. “Now (the Bruins) can be in the same category, the upper echelon of the great Boston teams.”
 
“I’m just happy, wicked happy,” said UMASS maintenance worker Rick Shaw. “They’re like all of us, they’re hard workers you know, they deserve it.”
 
Brady Griffin sported a Bruins jersey and a scruffy red beard, mirroring the playoff beards of the players on the ice. He says been to The Connection a million times — his uncle tends bar there — but tonight was different. He's on the younger side, so he had never seen the Bruins take home a championship.
 
“I grew up playing hockey and that was the first team that I became attracted to. As I grew older, then I realized you know the pride in the hometown and the Bruins are kind of it for me, it’s the one,” Griffin said. “I’ve always said if the Bruins won I don’t know what I’d do with myself, and I really don’t know what I’d do with myself.”
 
Outside the bar, as cars honked past and people extolled the virtues of Boston’s “dirty water,” Zablocki just grinned.
 
“It’s wonderful that we won it because we deserve it. I mean, both teams were matched perfectly, but the best team wins,” Zablocki said. “And I’m so happy for them, because we haven’t won a cup for how many years? Oh, forever, it seems. And the hockey, since Bobby Orr!”
 
Zablocki says she’ll be back at The Connection for Red Sox games — and she hopes that team will pick up where the Bruins are leaving off.

Bruins Fans Ready For Stanley Cup Showdown

By Phillip Martin   |   Wednesday, June 15, 2011
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June 15, 2011


The Make Way For Ducklings statue in Boston Common were adorned with Bruins capes. (mrwalter/Flickr)

BOSTON — Just hours before the Boston Bruins square off against the Vancouver Canucks, Bruins Mania is in the air. It seemed to be on the minds of just about everyone in downtown Boston.

Diehard fan Bob Lyons is hanging from the window of his car at a red light — and he's beaming with confidence. But his initial comments cannot be used in a public forum. So I asked him for a radio friendly assessment of the rival Canucks.

"Vancouver. They play like my twin sisters. They absolutely do. The Bruins are going to win in regulation 3 to 1," Lyons predicts.

Johnny Kinsman, of Somerville, is not nearly as sure of victory — even though he's wearing a Bruins jersey.

"I’m very excited for the game, very nervous and cautiously optimistic," Kinsman said.

Kinsman is riding his bike around historic sites in downtown Boston, but they look a little different today. The Paul Revere statue is draped in a black and yellow Bruins jersey. Lately, there has been some controversy over Sarah Palin's interpretation of Revere’s famous ride, but Kinsman has his own version. He's convinced that Revere rode into the night to warn the Vancouver Canucks that the Bruins were coming. And he says he has the evidence to prove it.

"I wanted to take a picture of the Paul Revere with his jersey, George Washington in his jersey and hopefully the Ducklings still have theirs too," Kinsman said, referring to the black and yellow Bruins capes worn by the "Make Way For Ducklings" statues on Boston Common.

But not everyone was cheering the Bruins. One man who wouldn't give his name said he's a New York Rangers, Yankees and Giants fan.

"Of all the Boston teams that could win a championship the one that would bother me the least would be the Bruins. But I don’t think the Bruins got it tonight because they just haven’t shown anything in Vancouver. It’s a different game when it’s in Canada and the stadiums really loud," he said.

On the corner of Beacon and Charles, Justin Goodstein of Cambridge is relaxed and exudes confidence.

"We have the power. We have the full force taken from this last game to just go there and take it away."

He says he doesn't have a whit of sympathy for Vancouver. "I love Canada, but we just got to win this one. That’s it," Goodstein said.

Boston Prepares For Possible Stanley Cup Win

By The Associated Press   |   Wednesday, June 15, 2011
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June 15, 2011

BOSTON — The city of Boston is taking extra precautions as it prepares for possible Stanley Cup celebrations.

The Boston Bruins are in Vancouver on Wednesday to take on the Canucks in the seventh and deciding game of the NHL's championship series.

Even though the team is on the road, police are deploying hundreds of extra officers to patrol the streets around TD Garden and Fenway Park, neighborhoods with dozens of sports bars where fans tend to congregate.

The city is also banning on-street parking in those same areas.

The Bruins also decided against holding a fans viewing party in the TD Garden because of potential problems.

NFL, NBA and World Series championship celebrations in the city in the past seven years have resulted in three deaths and widespread vandalism.

Boston Cyclists Have Big Hopes For Bike Share

By Jess Bidgood and Ben Taylor   |   Friday, April 22, 2011
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April 22, 2011

A biker relaxes on the Charles River esplanade. (mcbrideh/Flickr)
 

BOSTON — This summer, a new fleet of sharable bikes is coming to Boston. On Thursday, Mayor Menino signed a $6 million contract with Alta Bike Share, declaring, "The car is no longer king in Boston."

The new bike-share program, officially named Hubway, will put over 600 bikes on 61 bike racks around the city. It's a bit like car-sharing service Zipcar, except members of the share can pick up a bike, take it where they need to go, and leave it in any rack they want. "People riding a bike from Dudley Square to Faneuil Hall, they can drop the bike off there, they can walk along the waterfront, to pick up another bike to return to their neighborhoods,” Menino said.
 
Menino's announcement touched off something of a celebration for dozens of cycling enthusiasts gathered on City Hall Plaza to watch (admittedly, their presence may have also been aided by free burritos). Ranging from young to old, this group of bike devotees might actually be the people least likely to use the share themselves, since many of the bikers already had their own bikes by their sides. But there was broad agreement in the crowd that the presence of a bike share can help Boston become a more two-wheeled city.
 
Samantha Wexler is the executive director of Bikes Not Bombs, a Jamaica Plain non-profit organization (recently rated the city's best non-profit by the Boston Phoenix) that uses bikes for community development. She said bike-share programs tend to encourage new or uncommitted bikers to look more closely at bikes as a viable transit option.
 
"People who maybe aren't used to biking in Boston will have an opportunity to try it,” Wexler said. "And the more people that we get on bikes, obviously, the more we begin to change what the city looks like."

Jed Jeng, a regular cyclist from Cambridge, came to the announcement because he's used a similar system already implemented in Montreal. He said a bike share won't just change the look of city transport — but what Bostonians can use it to see. "Hopfully, it'll allow people to take advantage of 'hidden gems' like (Somerville's) Union Square, which aren't really accessible on public transportation,"  Jeng said.
 
Nearby, 70-year-old Lois Levin talked about how difficult it's been for her to try and make her hometown of Newton more bike-friendly, mostly due to resistance from residents who complain that bike lanes narrow the roadways. She's wondering if the accessibility and utility of a bike-share in Boston won't change minds outside of the city.

And she pointed out that it might be people from outside of Boston who have the most to gain from the bike share, should they be unable to bring bikes into the city with them, but need to make short trips while there. “I would come into town on the T and use the bike share. I’m dying to use the bike share,” Levin said.

For 56-year-old Michael Blythe, news of a bike share couldn't have come at a better time. He lives in Savin Hill with no car, and used to bike around everywhere -— until his bike was ruined by the winter.

"I was going to have to buy one. So this is almost great timing for me,” Blythe said.

The program begins in July. Members can pay $85 to use the share for the year, or $5 per day. Rides under 30 minutes will be free.

About the Authors
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 
Adam Reilly Adam Reilly
Adam Reilly is a political reporter and associate producer for WGBH's Greater Boston.
Jess Bidgood Jess Bidgood
Jess Bidgood is WGBH.org's news editor and producer.
Phillip Martin Phillip Martin
Phillip W. D. Martin is the senior investigative reporter for WGBH Radio News and executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions. In the past, he was a supervising senior editor for NPR, an NPR race relations correspondent and one of the senior producers responsible for creating The World radio program in 1995. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1998. Learn more at liftedveils.org.

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