What do Bobby Bonilla, Lebron James, Elon Musk and Tom Wolfe have in common? Aside from being well-accomplished in their chosen fields, that is. And being millionaires.
All right, it's kind of a trick question. All four men's names were on a list on my phone's "Notes" section. The list was started on July 6 and it was titled "Non-Trump news." Yeah, I was searching. I came across the list the other day and was reminded how quickly the daily news cycle gets overwhelmed by the White House Twitter storm, how other news -- real news -- gets lost and maybe never even noticed by a lot of people. I figured, if these names were on a list of newsmakers, I should at least tell people why. So, in case you missed it ...:
Bobby Bonilla: He's undoubtedly the least-known person on the list, except to Mets fans. Bonilla was a power-hitting outfielder who was first signed by the New York team in 1991 to a five-year contract for $29 million. After 3 - stormy and somewhat disappointing years, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. But in 1998, chasing a pennant, the Mets reacquired Bonilla, who spent more time on the disabled list, arguing with his manager and playing cards in the clubhouse than hitting home runs. When they decided to let him go, the notoriously frugal Wilpon brothers (who still own the team) didn't want to pay Bonilla the $5.9 million they owed him for the coming season. Instead, they agreed to a deferred payment deal with 8 percent interest, which would pay Bonilla $1,193,248.20 every July 1 for 25 years ... starting in 2011. This is why he was on my Notes list. It was payday. The deal totals $29.8 million for Bonilla, but the Wilpons at the time figured they would make considerably more than that with the 10 percent annual return they were getting on their investments with Bernie Madoff. Yes, that Bernie Madoff, the one in prison for running a Ponzi scheme. The Wilpons got taken and Mets fans and financial hotshots still debate whether Bonilla made out better by deferring his payout. The facts are that, at age 58 and not having played baseball since 2001, the one-time all-star, is guaranteed a $1.1 million check every July 1 until 2035 from a team he once sat down on and for a season he wasn't even on their roster.
Lebron James: The only-one-name-needed basketball superstar was originally on the list because he had decided to leave his beloved Cleveland (again) for Hollywood. Well, L.A. Lebron signed with the Lakers, where all only-one-name-needed stars wind up. Magic. Kobe. Shaq, Kareem. It was inevitable, even if it doesn't guarantee a championship for his new team. But Lebron has made much more significant, if you will, news since then with the announcement that his foundation is providing millions of dollars to support a public school for 245 at-risk children in Akron, Ohio, his hometown. Lebron is paying for programs and services that tax dollars can't cover at the "I Promise School" and he has guaranteed to pay for college tuition for all the graduates. Naturally, the Orange Dotard, who fears accomplished African-Americans, went on Twitter to call James dumb. As if the world needed to be reminded there's a racist sitting in the White House. And no, Akron taxpayers won't have to pay added dollars for the school. Everything was already being covered by tax dollars, as required by law. James is merely paying for added resources that tax dollars can't cover to help these at-risk children deliver on the promise to graduate and go to college. That's as opposed to operating a sham university.
Elon Musk. At this point, I almost forgot why Musk was on the list because he has had trouble for several months now just keeping quiet and trying to make money for his companies. But in July he was calling a British cave diver who helped rescue a Thai youth soccer team from a flooded cave a pedophile, without citing any evidence. After being threatened with a lawsuit, Musk eventually apologized, but the incident only added to questions about his mental stability (at least in my mind). He sounded like a man with a huge ego whose feelings got hurt because a bunch of other men heroically saved 13 people without benefit of the genius of Musk and the individual submarine he had built for the job. The divers said it wouldn't work. Their strategy did. Lately, he's been talking about taking the publicly traded Tesla private, which got Wall Street worked up for a while because a lot of people aren't sure he can do that either. Oh yeah, back in July he was also building electric cars in a tent because Tesla was behind on orders. Maybe he should focus on getting his car back from Mars.
Tom Wolfe: He died, May 14, at age 88, without, in my opinion, sufficient notice. I, among others, am guilty. Reading of his death was one of those "Oh no" moments for me. Not another one. I felt a synchronicity with Wolfe, who started as a reporter at The New York Herald Tribune (my favorite paper) in 1962 when I was starting to get serious about journalism. Then he went and changed journalism and it was terrific. The New Journalism he helped create told stories about real life that were as appealing to readers as they were informative. In essence, he made it OK to write "that way" and still be a journalist. He gave us the terms "Radical Chic" and the "Me Decade" as he punctured every ego he ran into. The biggest criticism of him was usually his all-white, summer-dandy wardrobe, including hat and walking stick with which he strutted around Manhattan. He reportedly called it "neo-pretentious." He was in on the joke. And he was a terrific teller of tales, true or true enough if you knew your current events. The best thing about good writers when they die is that their words live on. If you are among those who still read, or know someone young who reads, find a copy of "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby," "The Right Stuff," "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," "Bonfire of the Vanities," "A Man in Full," or "Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers." Enjoy.
That's it for now. I'm going to start on a new list.