Remember in “Seinfeld” when George was looking for a job, and he said he liked sports and that he was always making interesting comments during the games, and that maybe he could become a sports announcer?
Twenty years ago, that pretty much was John Tournour — better known as J.T. The Brick, who makes his home in Summerlin and hosts a national sports talk show for Fox Sports Radio that originates here (you can hear it from 5 to 8 p.m. weeknights on 1340-AM).
Except he already had a job. A job that paid much better than being a latex salesman for Vandelay Industries.
Tournour was a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch. He was making a nice income. Six figures, he says. But the figures he cared most about were the shooting percentage, and other percentages, generated by his beloved New York Knicks.
So he would call Jim Rome’s jungle to discuss these percentages, and the Knicks. He called so frequently the host nicknamed him J.T. The Brick, a play on Bricks, as in Bricklayers of shots, which is how Rome referred to the Knicks.
J.T. The Brick always had an interesting take. He also had a strident voice, and so he would win the first Jim Rome “Smack-Off.”
That led to the former swimmer and rugby player from New York City getting a sports talk show of his own.
It started 20 years ago on Memorial Day, on the Sports Fan Radio Network (and its high-powered affiliates) when he was 30.
He said he doesn’t remember the specific topics that were discussed. Probably something about the Knicks and their shooting percentages.
Now he’s 50, and still tossing bricks. Now he has a huge audience of listeners and perspective (and a wife and kids, and a side gig hosting pre-and postgame shows for the Oakland Raiders). He says sports talk radio has evolved. It used to be mostly about the Knicks’ shooting percentages. Now it’s mainly about what happens outside the lines.
“It’s not as specific,” Tournour said during a telephone interview. “It used to be about who scored the points in the fourth quarter, who scored the game-winning basket. Now it’s morphed into personal lives more than X’s and O’s.”
He calls it the TMZ-ication of sports. Fans still care about their teams, he said. They don’t live and die with them as they did when he was getting started. Many would just as soon talk about the transgressions of Phil Mickelson than his short game.
As for his younger contemporaries, “They put on the headset, put their hats on backwards and sit there in their shorts and think they’re going to get famous.”
When he was reinventing himself, J.T. The Brick was living in a one-bedroom apartment near Flamingo Road and Koval Lane, and there was a sheet on which were listed the names and telephone numbers of Jim Rome and Mike and the Mad Dog and Scott Ferrall and the Fabulous Sports Babe.
To think there’s a kid sitting around in short pants and his hat on backwards who has put J.T. The Brick’s name and number in his Smartphone surely must blow John Tournour’s mind.
GRIN AND BARRETT
Of the two baseball-playing Barretts from Las Vegas, Tommy gets the least publicity. Tommy Barrett had three cups of Big League coffee, two with the Phillies and one with the Red Sox in 1992, when he was 32. Brother Marty Barrett was the Red Sox’ starting second baseman for many seasons and in 1986, set a Major League record with 24 hits in 14 postseason games.
But when Cubs announcers Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies were talking hitting slumps, and the psychology of getting out of one, it was Tommy Barrett who Deshaies mentioned; they had played together in the minors.
Deshaies said the younger Barrett would break down his season into 25 at-bat segments. His goal was to get 8 hits in 25 at-bats, and then he would reset to zero and another 25 at-bat segment would begin. That way if he ended one segment with a bunch of 0-fers, it didn’t carry over to the next one.
Interesting, Len Kasper said. Then he asked Jim Deshaies if Tommy and Marty Barrett had a brother named Grinnan.
SILVER SCREEN FOR LLOYD DANIELS
“The Legend of Swee’ Pea,” a new documentary about former UNLV basketball recruit Lloyd Daniels, will be shown at the Las Vegas Film Festival at 4 p.m. June 9 at the Inspire Theater, 107 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
“People thought I was going to die when I was 18 years old,” Daniels says in the trailer as he pets a cat. “I’m like this cat. I’ve got nine lives.”
One of those lives got Jerry Tarkanian’s Rebels into a passel of trouble with the NCAA.
Tark appears in the official trailer. “You know the first thing I saw is a great talent. Maybe the best talent I’ve ever been associated with,” he says in a raspy voice.
Another back east playground legend, Carmelo Anthony, is executive producer. If the finished product is anything like the preview, it should be compelling with a tear or two.
For more information on the documentary, or an updated book about Lloyd Daniels, click here: thelegendofsweepea.com and here: facebook.com/search/top/?q=sweepeathebook
LOOK OUT, URBAN
That $2 million gift to the UNLV football program from Anonymous G. Donor — the G. stands for Generous, according to Rebels coach Tony Sanchez — was like finding $20 while you were walking down the street, times 100,000.
To put it another way: UNLV’s athletic budget is around $35 million. Ohio State’s is around $135 million. So if Anonymous G. Donor had 49 brothers and sisters, and each wrote UNLV a check for $2 million, the Rebels would be on an even playing field with Ohio State. And then they would probably be less of an underdog when they traveled to Columbus in 2017, and they probably would never lose another game to Southern Utah at home.
BLOWN AWAY IN ALBUQUERQUE
Just two years removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance, the UNLV baseball team was bounced from the Mountain West tournament in rather ignominious fashion — 15-7 by Air Force, and 18-8 by San Diego State. Yes, the Rebels got 10-run-ruled by a team that was seeded sixth (even lower than them), and that’s not a sign of a deep pitching staff. Or progress.
It was a tough and tumultuous season, with Tim Chambers — once thought to be the Tony La Russa of the program, or its Connie Mack — having had to step down as coach due to health and personal issues.
On the positive side, UNLV cut the ribbon on a new clubhouse and training center — courtesy not of Anonymous G. Donor, but of Anthony and Lyndy Marnell III — that is supposed to raise the program to the next level, or at least to a level where the Rebels won’t get 10-run-ruled in the conference tournament.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski