Who knew boredom could get so interesting?
When you pay attention to boredom, a professor named Jon Kabat-Zinn said once, it gets unbelievably interesting.
And really, this story begins with fear of boredom. Here comes this coronavirus thing, two sports-crazed, downstate attorneys reasoned almost a year ago now, and nobody knows how long it lasts. How do we keep ourselves from taking the slow boat to Prozac Land?
Talk about the basic law of unintended consequences. Meet Westport attorney Richard Kent and Ansonia attorney Greg Stamos, two longtime friends, who turned the idea of weekly Zoom calls among friends into a burgeoning Who's Who of sports personalities.
"Greg and I were talking late in March about unbelievable boredom we were going to be seeing," said Kent, an old friend of mine who represents, with a partner, 31 NCAA men's and women's basketball coaches, has worked in the CBS studio for three NCAA Tournaments and has written several sports books.
"We thought, 'What if we do a Zoom with some friends?' Then we tried to think of some guests — and who among our friends would be out there watching. We had 20 people in the audience watching the first one."
As you may glean from Kent's resume: He knows everybody. And if he doesn't, Stamos does, given his travels to Wimbledons, French Opens, several World Series and his seat in the front row at the 1972 Munich Olympics when the U.S. thought it had defeated the Russians.
In the past 11 months, the Zoom guests have included Nancy Lieberman, Jay Bilas, Meg Culmo, Dick Vitale, Jon Wertheim, Ivan Maisel, Armen Keteyian, Richard Blumenthal, Jim Calhoun, Dan Hurley, Steve Pikiell, Scott Burrell, Sally Jenkins, Mary Carillo, Bill Raftery, Steve Lappas, Andy Katz, Harvey Araton, Bob Picozzi, Tim Higgins, Jeff Capel, Carla Berube, Bobby Valentine, Tom Brennan, Mike Tranghese, Jeff Jacobs, Harry Perretta, Alex Wolff, Mike Gminski, Chris Berman, Mike Thibault, Bob Saulsbury, Bob Ryan, Dick Weiss, Jim Penders, Mad Dog Russo, Patrick McEnroe, Chris Herren and a cameo from yours truly.
Other guests: Arne Duncan, who was President Obama's Secretary of Education and Reggie Love, a former Duke basketball player who became Obama's personal aide. The goal one day is for perhaps Obama himself to participate. Based on the previous list of names, don't bet against it.
"When the call ends at 8:30, my wife knows to leave me alone till 9:15," Stamos said. "The next 45 minutes, I'm usually answering texts and phone calls. To use the cliché, it has succeeded our expectations.
"To me the greatest metric of a good night is when the guest contacts me and says 'I loved this' or 'how did I do?' (Play by play man) Spero Dydes was on the other day. He was tremendous. It was like being in the tavern with a guy talking sports."
Stamos is a close friend of Charlie Theokas, the former athletic director at Temple, Atlantic 10 commissioner and once the general manager of the New Jersey Generals later fired by Donald Trump. Both Stamos and Kent have such friends in high places.
"We did wonder why any of these people would even consider doing this," Kent said. "In this case, COVID was a friend because people are stuck at home. We were looking for something to occupy our time and have fun — and bring fun to others."
And to make them think, too, using sports and its unique tentacles into society and its behaviors.
"I drive the social justice/activism issues more than anyone else," Stamos said. "We've had Sen. Blumenthal on twice talking about NCAA regulations, compensation and athletes' likeness issues. We've had Arne Duncan, who has become the chairman of the Knight Commission (seeking college sports reform). We've talked activism with (Washington Post columnist) Sally Jenkins and a night with (former Wilbur Cross boys' basketball coach) Bob Saulsbury on being a trailblazer among high school coaches in Connecticut."
It bears repeating: When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting. And the Zooms live on.
"You sort of feel like you've gotten to know the person," Stamos said. "Maybe it's all of us adapting to the virus."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro