Instant All-Stars

By Jason Klein

As Seen in Guestbook NY  – 2013

Click each individual thumbnail below to read the feature story, exactly as it appeared in the 2013 issue of Guestbook NY.

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Living The Dream

By Jason Klein 

Originally Written For IN New York Magazine – April 2012

Click each individual thumbnail below to read the feature story, exactly as it appeared in the April 2012 issue of IN New York Magazine:

 


Five Four a Perfect Fit For Emerging Athletes

By Jason Klein 

As Seen in In New York Magazine  – 4/26/12

When 22 year-old Michael Floyd marches across the Radio City Music Hall stage during tonight’s NFL Draft, he will officially shed his amateur status and transition towards life as a professional athlete.  The wide receiver out of Notre Dame – expected to go early in the first round – will hold up his new jersey, flash a smile and pose for pictures with NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  He’ll do all of this while sporting a designer suit, custom made for the big event.

After all the pomp and circumstance, he’ll slip into something a little more comfortable – something tailor-made for his personal lifestyle rather than tonight’s gaudy Broadway spectacle.  Like many of today’s athletes, Floyd will throw on some clothing from Five Four.

NY Jets QB, Mark Sanchez, Wearing Five Four

It’s the hottest line of apparel you’ve likely never heard of.  Its reach covers a wide variety of entertainers, celebrities and athletes.  Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Zac Efron and Larry King have all been spotted rocking Five Four.  Top players like Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Troy Polomalu and Mark Sanchez wear it too.

Their garb is everywhere, especially in the sports world.  I wanted to know why?  Why Five Four?  Why not Nike, Adidas, or some designer label?  When I asked Five Four Co-CEO/Founder Andres Izquieta, his response was simple.

“Our stuff is just cool,” says Izquieta.  “Athletes love our brand because it fits comfortably, no matter what size you are, its stylish, and it perfectly represents an athlete’s lifestyle.”

Izquieta and Dee Murthy started Five Four as 21 year-old students at the University of Southern California in 2002.  Since its inception, the modern, yet classic-looking “Lifestyle Brand” has been all about setting goals, dreaming big, passion, winning and success – all core values shared by up-and-coming athletes looking to make it on a professional stage.

“Athletes transitioning to the NFL are great ambassadors of the brand,” says Izquieta.  “They work so hard their entire life to get rewarded and take the next step.  That’s the kind of passion and drive we have at Five Four.”

It’s the reason Izquieta and Murthy teamed up with California-based football agency, Athletes First to create The Graduating Class.  It’s a 108-page book profiling twelve NFL prospects entering the 2011 Draft, and their transition from college to the NFL.  According to Izquieta, the book gives a stunningly personal look into each athlete, “chronicling their journey through fashion, art, and photography, while they are in the pursuit of achieving their lifelong dream.”

The book is filled with motivational phrases, philosophies, and great photography.  There are even hand-written bios from each player, revealing their fears, inspirations, and career goals.  Of course, I also noticed each athlete is draped in Five Four.  According to Izquieta, they wear the clothes “not because they have to, but because they truly want to.”

Often portrayed as superheroes in the media, The Graduating Classdelicately humanizes each player, peeking in on their insecurities and anxiety leading up to the biggest day of their lives – draft day.  Casually decorated in Five Four, each player comes off as a “regular guy” – a concept that helps readers relate to these larger-than-life figures.

The Graduating Class.

Notable members of The Graduating Class 2011 include Von Miller (Broncos), Jake Locker (Titans), and Scotty McKnight (Jets).  Five Four will feature twelve players from tonight’s draft, including Floyd, as part of the project’s second run – this time, packaged as part of an online campaign.  Other highlighted players include: Keenan Robinson (Texas), Melvin Ingram (South Carolina), Kellen Moore and Doug Martin (Boise State), Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma), Keleche Osemele (Iowa State), Alfonzo Dennard and Jared Crick (Nebraska), Harrison Smith (Notre Dame), Cyrus Gray and Jeff Fuller (Texas A&M)

Though Five Four is primarily a West Coast brand – their one retail location is in Los Angeles – their product is carried in over 400 stores nation-wide and is worn by athletes and celebrities everywhere.  This May, they will introduce Five Four Club, a men’s subscription service that will serve as a personal stylist for men.  They also plan to introduce a line of footwear this June.

Like many of the young players drafted tonight, you may have never heard of Five Four Clothing.  Projects like The Graduating Class are helping to spread the word, and expose it as a brand of choice among many athletes.

Especially players like Michael Floyd, a man who will realize his dream tonight.

When he does, his life will change forever.

His Five Four wardrobe won’t.

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No “Cap” on Pondexter’s Abilities On or Off The Court

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For IN New York Magazine – 7/25/11

Cappie Pondexter is a dominating force in the WNBA.  In just her sixth season in the league, the scrappy New York Liberty Guard has one of the most lethal jump shots in the league, and is among the leaders in most statistical categories.  The superstar baller has already won two championships (2007, 2009) and one Finals MVP Award (2007), and was recently nominated by ESPN for the 2011 ESPY Award honoring the best player in the WNBA.

Pondexter Drives To The Hoop at MSG/Getty Images

At 28 years old, the former Rutgers University standout is in the prime of her professional career and showing no signs of slowing down.  As a celebrity athlete in New York City, she seemingly has the world at her fingertips.  However, that doesn’t stop her from looking forward and thinking about what’s next.

“I’m preparing for my future after basketball,” says Pondexter.  While I’m playing in the WNBA, I can use that platform to help build awareness for my company.

The company she speaks of is 4Season Style Management, a full-service consulting firm that specializes in helping clients develop their public image.  Pondexter started the company in 2010, acting on a lifelong fascination with fashion trends and personal style development.

According to Pondexter, 4Season Style Management helps clients with everything from wardrobe selection, hair and makeup to website and logo design, ultimately creating a personal brand.

It all starts with a simple 30-minute introductory phone consultation and the creation of a “Style Profile” to nail down specific shopping habits, personal sizing and existing wardrobe trends.  Each individual client enjoys the same personal attention to ensure a custom evaluation and plan of attack.

Although such detailed care can be rather time consuming, Pondexter takes great pride in her ability to find a balance with her busy schedule on the court.

“I am very involved in the day-to-day operations,” says Pondexter.  “Whether it’s researching new designers, assisting with customer service, or reaching out to our clients, I make sure I take a hands on approach.”

Perhaps, running a company is a natural fit for such a competitive person like Pondexter, used to performing in front of thousands under the scorching lights of Madison Square Garden.

“There are a lot of similarities between the two,” admits Pondexter.  “In basketball, and in business, you have to have a game plan.  In both situations, I want to win and I strive to be the best.  I push my team, and my clients, to be the best they can be.”

With that sort of passion and preparation, Pondexter will continue to succeed, and always stay ready for what’s next.

For a complete look at some of New York’s most successful athlete/entrepreneurs, check out Jason Klein’s full article in the August 2011 Issue of IN New York Magazine.

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Lockout Casts Bizarre Shadow over NFL Draft

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For IN New York Magazine – 5/2/11

This weekend’s NFL Draft was more awkward than Prince William and Kate’s Royal Kiss.  Both were public spectacles with millions of viewers, and both just seemed a little weird.

With the ugly Lockout serving as a backdrop, all eyes were on New York City as the NFL kicked off its 2011 Draft on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall.  Traditionally a positive celebration of the league’s bright future, this year’s Draft was marred by greed and uncertainty.

Commissioner Goodell at NFL Draft/Getty Images

When negotiations failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement in mid-March, the NFL owners locked out its players, effectively ceasing operation of the nation’s most popular sport.  Since that point, owners and players have not been allowed to communicate with each other, negotiate contracts, sign free agents, execute trades, or prepare for the upcoming season in any capacity.  Players who showed up to team facilities have been turned away by security.

Yet, strangely enough, the show went on as scheduled Thursday at Radio City…sort of.  As expected, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell stepped to the podium to announce that the Carolina Panthers, owners of the first overall selection, were “on the clock.”  Typically greeted with cheers, frustrated fans instead booed and bombarded him with “we want football” chants.  He acknowledged the crowd’s pleas with a Tweet:

“I agree with the fans here at Radio City,” he posted on Twitter Thursday night.  “We want football.  I’m with you, I get it.”

Does he, though?  Football fans can only hope so.  The longer the NFL is doing battle in the courtroom instead of on the gridiron, the greater the possibility that the upcoming 2011 season could be in jeopardy – a disaster the owners and players should seek to avoid at all costs.

That grim possibility seemed to be ignored at the draft.  Commissioner Goodell was all smiles – though it seemed like he was just going through the motions – as he ceremoniously welcomed each collegiate prospect into the same player’s union he is currently battling in court.  Very odd.

Welcome to the NFL!  Now you’re locked out!  Go home!

Radio City Music Hall/Getty Images

Should the owners and players come to an agreement in time to salvage the 2011 season in its entirety, fans will forgive and forget.  However, if this dispute lingers through the summer, cancelling games, the NFL could start to lose its loyal fan base.

It’s potentially a Royal mess.

Under the circumstances, it might seem awkward, but it’s time to kiss and make up.

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Bald Vinny Leads Roll Call, Passionate Bleacher Creatures

By Jason Klein 

Originally Written ForIN New York Magazine – 4/12/11

Bald Vinny comes to play every night.

A staple within the hallowed walls of Yankee Stadium, like pinstripes and Sinatra, “Bald” Vinny Milano can be seen, and definitely heard, sitting in section 203 during every home game in the Bronx.  It’s obvious that Milano is a passionate and dedicated Yankees fan.  He is also the most prominent member of the Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures.

Although Milano is not the official leader of the Bleacher Creatures – that distinction goes to Tina “The Queen Bee” Lewis, a regular in the bleachers since 1983 – he became known as the face of the Creatures in 2005 after being featured on the YES Network’s “Ultimate Roadtrip.”

Just another day at the office for Bald Vinny

With his cult-like following comes a unique responsibility.  Prior to the first pitch of every home game, Milano rallies the rest of the creatures to their feet, and works them into a pinstriped frenzy.  As the first pitch crosses home plate, Milano gazes into centerfield, through his signature Oakley sunglasses, cups his hands around his mouth, and goes to work.

“Yooooooooo…Curtis!”

The Roll Call is underway.

Starting with the Centerfielder – Curtis Granderson has the honor in 2011 – Milano and the rest of the Creatures work their way around the Yankees defense, chanting the player’s name until they receive acknowledgement (typically a waive) from the player.

“Brett Gard-ner…Brett Gard-ner…”

A tradition in the Bronx since 1997, the Roll Call only takes place during home games.  According to Milano, “it disrespects the other team” if done on the road.  It’s also extremely difficult to rally enough troops to be heard while in enemy territory – not something the Creatures struggle with on East 161st Street and River Avenue.

“The Bleacher Creatures are the heart, soul, and passion of Yankee Stadium,” says Milano.  We represent the most dedicated and passionate of Yankees fans, and we always show up in full force to do whatever we can to help the team win.”

“Swish-er…Swish-er…”

According to Milano, the Bleacher Creatures are a different breed of fan.  They believe their proactive approach to cheering benefits the Yankees on the field.  With the Bronx Bombers in contention for a World Series almost every year, it’s difficult to argue with the results.

“Most baseball fans around the country only cheer when something happens,” says Milano.  “Yankees fans cheer in order to make something happen.  In the bleachers, it’s our job to make noise when there needs to be noise.  We are always the first on our feet when we need a big hit.  We’ll do whatever we can to give our team an advantage.”

“Mark Teix-eira…Mark Teix-eira…”

However, for Milano, it’s not just about peanuts and Cracker Jack at the old ballgame.  Attending every single home game as a fan is a time-consuming task in itself – he’s missed only 7 games since 2004.   For Milano, it’s also his livelihood.

Before and after each game, Milano is stationed on River Avenue, selling official Bleacher Creature T-Shirts, a business he developed in 2001.  In essence, he’s truly just doing his job everyday at the Stadium, getting to enjoy a ball game during his lunch break

“Rob-in-son…Rob-in-son…”

He often gets the question, “how do I become a Bleacher Creature?”  According to Milano, there are only three simple rules to follow.  First, a fan must willingly choose to sit in the bleachers.  An everlasting passion for the Yankees is the second requirement.  Finally, complete dedication is necessary.  Milano is quick to point out that it’s easy to sit in the bleachers for a few games each year and claim to be one of them.  That just won’t cut it.

“[Bleacher Creatures] attend 40-50 home games a year,” says Milano.  “It’s about being there in person and supporting your team, day in and day out.

“Der-ek Jet-er…Der-ek Jet-er…”

Perhaps no one was as consistently devoted to supporting the Yankees as Freddy Schuman, the legendary super fan, better known as “Freddy Sez.” Schuman would walk around Yankee Stadium each night with a frying pan, urging fans to hit it with a spoon for luck.  Schuman passed away in October 2010, during yet another Yankees postseason run, perhaps leaving Milano as the “next generation” face of the Yankees fan.

“That’s incredibly flattering to hear,” says Milano.  “Freddy was such an iconic presence.  I remember him when I was a kid.  His longevity is really admirable.”

“A-Rod…A-Rod…”

Rather than compare himself to someone like Schuman, Milano remains humble, just happy to be associated with a great group of fans, and the premier franchise in professional sports.

“I’m proud that I get to represent the creatures, and I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from Yankees fans,” he says.  “I’ve gotten to live out quite a few ‘Yankees fantasies’ over the years and I enjoy sharing those experiences with other fans.”

He gets to do just that, when he shows up to play, every night.

To view Bald Vinny’s Line of Bleacher Creature Apparel, visit www.baldvinny.com

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