Friend of Joe Exotic is surprised by ‘Tiger King’ mania, but says it’s a true story

By Michael Kinney

Michael Kinney Media

While much of the world has been focused on the terrible coronavirus pandemic that has swept around the globe, there has been very little room for any other news to fit into the social consciousness. Everything else of consequence has faded into the background.

That is except for one thing. Somehow the breakout Netflix hit ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness’ has found a way to infiltrate social media without any type of old-school watercooler talk.

With much of the country either locked down or in self-isolation, the Tiger King has become a smash hit for Netflix.

Based in Oklahoma, the tagline for the documentary states “A zoo owner spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in this true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.”

For anyone who has watched all seven episodes of the Tiger King, even that tag line doesn’t do it justice. The story of Joe Exotic (Joseph Maldonado-Passage) aka the Tiger King, is filled with comical moments, high drama, varying degrees of sexual relationships and the possibility of a tiger eating a human.

Exotic is currently serving a 22-year sentence in Grady County Jail after being convicted of 17 counts of animal abuse and two counts of murder-for-hire.

While Joe Exotic is the main character in the documentary, his world is full of people that come in and out of his life. Some of them make cameos in the film.

That includes JP Wilson, who is an entrepreneur, magician, photographer and restaurant owner in and around Oklahoma City. Outside of Oklahoma, he may be best well-known for showing off his magic skills at halftime of NBA games across the country under The Magic of JP Wilson.

Wilson has been friends with Joe Exotic since he was a freshman in high school. During that time he also toured with Exotic’s animal show and also helped him run for governor of Oklahoma.

Wilson watched the entire documentary and I wanted to get his unique insights on the film, the social media hysteria surrounding it and the man he still calls his friend.

So we had a little Q&A to discuss it all and a little more.

Michael Kinney: First of all, what was your overall impression of the Netflix documentary Tiger King?

JP Wilson: “I thought Tiger King was a fantastic documentary, very well put together and thoroughly planned. The documentary portrayed everyone that I knew in the series very true to life, granted I think that’s the only time I’ve ever seen John Finlay with his shirt off. That was weird. Joe truly became larger than life at the park and customers would be just as excited to get a photo with Joe as they would be a tiger cub.”

Kinney: What part of the film stood out to you the most?

Wilson:  “The other zookeepers and owners from around the country were definitely a standout to me. I’ve heard of Doc Antle from Joe, never met the guy.  He seems very passionate about the animals and his zoo. His personal life, who knows if that is just sensationalized or true. And Carole Baskin, I’ve heard about her for years from Joe.  I’ve heard this story about her killing her husband and feeding him to tigers for as long as I can remember. It’s so funny to see everyone posting and talking about that now.”

Kinney: What did you think when you saw yourself for the first time in the Tiger King?

Wilson: “I had a very brief cameo in the first episode. The crew did capture several hours of footage of me for the documentary. Including me driving around Oklahoma City in my Porsche with Bono, my Savannah cat.  I’m not sure how much of it truly applied to the ending documentary that’s now on Netflix. I don’t believe I fit the type of many other people in the show, and I take that as a compliment. I did first meet Joe performing magic shows. I did magic in his theatre shows while he would display animals and educate the public about them.  Great show, sometimes very long as well. A few shows would last over three hours because Joe had so many animals to show. There was also a country singer in the show whose name was Ashley Wheeler. We would sell out theaters across Oklahoma and people loved the show.”

Kinney: Are you surprised by the reaction of the Tiger King around the country?

Wilson: “I am very shocked and surprised at the amount of attention this documentary has received. I never would have guessed that there would be this type of reaction to a documentary about Joe Exotic.  When he ran for governor, I had his campaign materials at my restaurant in Moore. We were an official campaign merchandise pick up location. There were some excited people to pick up shirts, but I always had an excess of them. Many people chose not to take one. But now, everyone I know is texting me and wanting one of his campaign shirts. Everywhere you turn there is a Joe Exotic meme for every situation. I’m sure he is thrilled to be such a household name now.”

Kinney: What do you think has drawn people to not only watch the film but become enthralled in the life of Joe Exotic?

Wilson: “I think so many people from outside Oklahoma are drawn to this because of how crazy the story is.  Every twist and turn is outdone just a few minutes later. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, there is something crazier just around the corner.  I also think so many people in Oklahoma are surprised by it because after seeing so much about Joe Exotic over the years they are now seeing people in the Big Cat industry that make Joe look like the normal one of the group. Shocking to Oklahomans, I’m sure.”

Kinney: How did you come to know Joe Exotic?

Wilson: “I first met Joe exotic while doing a magic show in Norman. He had supplied a tiger for the show. While there I began talking to him and he wanted to do his own theater shows and a few months later they were on the road and performing shows. I was only 14 or 15 at the time. A freshman in high school. So I would have to leave school early on a Friday So that my dad could drive me to the show along with all of my props. We would do a Friday night show and most of the time also a Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening show. If it had been very popular, they were times we would stay and also perform an encore show Sunday as well. Joe was always a showman and he did even sing one or two songs during the show as well.”

Kinney: What there a side to Joe Exotic that maybe wasn’t shown in the documentary?

Wilson: “Outside of the show he was always willing to help the community. He would host school groups at the park and participate in nonprofit work as well. My neighbor was in the OU Children’s Hospital for a very long time back in 2012 and to help make one of the days there a little better for him, Joe brought a tiger up to the hospital so that Tyler could come to meet her and take a photo with her. Right one the front steps of the hospital. It was a sight to see.  Joe would continuously donate playtimes, tickets, group tours for nonprofit and charity events to auction off as well to help raise funds for their own causes. I had picnics at the park several times a year for friends and customers of mine.  We would come down after the park had closed and brought food to cook for everyone, including Joe and his staff. Joe would personally give everyone a tour of the park and also tell them stories about each animal and where they were rescued from or how they were rescued as well. When I first became friends with Joe, the park was primarily for rescue animals that he would take in. These are animals that had been abused by roadside circuses, had been purchased by people who had no idea what they were doing. For example, there was one monkey in the park that a person had bought and kept inside of a closet for its entire life. Joe rescued the monkey and gave him a fantastic place to live to finish out the rest of his life. Another example was a bear who would move around to look like he was dancing.  It was a bear he had rescued from a roadside circus. The bear had been trained on hot coals to move his feet around to look like he was dancing. The park was filled with stories like this. Animals that he had rescued from terrible situations and supplied them with a place to live.  In my opinion, this is why Joe was forced into making breeding a normal practice. He needed money to support how large the park had grown. Joe’s mall tours and educational shows had been great resources to raise funds for the park. As Carole Baskin began to create trouble for Joe and the places he would perform, Joe had to find new ways to create funds to support all of the animals at the park.”

Kinney: Does the Tiger King give an accurate portrayal of all the characters involved?

Wilson: “From my experiences that I know of, Tiger King did a great job of focusing on many truths that existed and showing them for the world to see. I don’t know all of the characters or everything that happened so I can’t say everything is factual. But I didn’t see anything misrepresented that I knew to be wrong personally. I wish they had shown a little more about Joe from the beginning because there was a clear progression from the Joe 16 years ago into the Joe today.  The park grew, his performances grew, the park became more popular. Joe became more popular, on and on. From the very beginning, Joe was very informative and compassionate about the animals. He worked very hard and long hours to ensure the animals had a great life.”

Kinney: What do you hope people who watch the film get out of it the most?

Wilson: “I hope this brings awareness that there are many people in the big cat industry who do abuse animals and are hypocrites.  But just because some are, not everyone is.  In all of my experiences with Joe, I never witnessed or saw anything happen detrimental to the animals.  He was always on the lookout for the safety and well-being of all animals in his park.”

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Michael Kinney Media

Is the U.S. following the same path as Italy? A former journalist believes so

(Photo by Michael Kinney)
In this 2016 photo, the streets of Rome were filled with tourists. But 2020 has been a different story due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

By Michael Kinney

Michael Kinney Media Services 

Six years ago when John Henderson moved to Italy, it was the start of a new chapter in his life. After spending 40 years as a sportswriter, he planned to live out his retirement years in Rome.

When Henderson arrived in 2014, Rome was everything he could imagine and more. It was literally a dream come true for him.

However, the 66-year-old Henderson said living in Italy now in the age of the coronavirus is more like being an extra in a film.

“It was like a science fiction movie because every day you wake up and you see a map of Italy, and the little red ball that represents the virus keeps growing bigger and bigger and darker and darker,” Henderson said.

Since early February, Henderson has been living in what many consider the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. The place that he now calls his home has been ravaged more than any other country.

As of March 25, the total number of deaths throughout the globe reached 20,896, according to worldometer.info. Italy by itself has accounted for 7,503 deaths — 4,216 more than China, which was the next closest.

“You hear all these horror stories. Like I have a friend of mine in Bologna. She works with a woman who watched her mother die from the other side of a pane of glass at the hospital,” Henderson said. “She basically just died alone and it’s a horrible way to die.”

After seeing consecutive days of the fatality rates dropping over the weekend, it looked like Italy was starting to coming out of the other side. However, those hopes were dashed when the death toll rose to 743 on March 24, the second deadliest day of the pandemic. Another 683 deaths were reported the next day.

“The doctors in the hospitals are so overwhelmed,” Henderson said. “And the doctors, they’re so understaffed now because of the number of cases. Doctors are having to decide basically who lives and who dies because some if they have to decide between saving an older person and a younger one, they’re going to save the younger one because there’s not enough respirators.”

In terms of fatality rates, the United States is far behind the total numbers of both Italy and China with 910 total deaths reported as of March 25. That is the sixth most of any country in the world.

However, according to Henderson, the United States is on the same trajectory as Italy and making many of the same mistakes. That includes not getting a nationwide lock-down in place sooner and people just not taking the scope of the virus seriously.

Because of that, Henderson says the country is in for some dark days ahead.

“That’s why all these people were running around America on the beaches and golf courses and gyms and bars, restaurants — they have no idea what they’re doing to their country,” Henderson said. “This thing is going to explode in America. There’s going to be, I predict, a tsunami of death within the next two or three weeks. They are late on this. They’re asleep at the switch on doing something about it.”

Henderson said once Americans get a look at the true face of what COVID-19 can do, it may be too late.

“I think if people in America understood how you die from this thing, they’d be more cognizant of keeping their distance and making sure they don’t get this thing,” Henderson said. “What happens is it starts off with a dry cough and a fever like a flu, and then it escalates, and when it gets really bad, you have a really hard time breathing and then your lungs fill with fluids. If you’re not in the hospital, an ICU where they can drain the fluids, you basically drown in bed.”

When Henderson, who now works as a part-time travel writer and movie extra, first started to hear about the coronavirus, he had no idea it would get to where it is now.

“It was in early February when China was starting to freak out about it,” Henderson said. “And I didn’t think much of it. I’ll be honest with you. I thought it was going to get contained. It started getting bigger, and of course I didn’t think it was going to hit like this, but I was wary of it.”

But, in the course of a few days, Henderson started to see just what his country was going to be dealing with. It was when he returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia and witnessed how much the mentality had changed by Feb. 17.

“I also remember there was a lot of people in Saudi Arabia wearing masks even though Saudi Arabia, at that point, did not have a confirmed case,” Henderson said. “There was no scare at all. But people walking around, the Saudis were walking around with masks just in case. And my hotel had masks available, so I picked one up just in case. And sure enough, I was using it within a few days after I returned back to Rome.”

As the pandemic spread, the entire country of Italy went into lock-down March 11. Henderson has been in isolation since March 8, only making trips to the grocery store when needed. He says he showed no symptoms of the virus during his self-quarantine.

However, Henderson will not be able to see his girl for another week because she began her isolation later.

Henderson doesn’t know what the future holds. He’s still worried that even if the world gets past this round of the pandemic, the coronavirus has the potential to keep coming back.

However, Henderson knows when they are finally past all of this horror, the world is going to party for a long time. And when it does, he will be right where he belongs.

“This is my home now,” Henderson said of Italy. “My heart is here, my soul is here. I’ll never leave.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with Michael Kinney Media

Athletes see careers end as NCAA deals with Coronavirus scare

By Michael Kinney

In response to the Coronavirus-19 pandemic that has infiltrated the sports world, the NCAA announced Thursday that they were canceling all of its winter championships this season. That includes the women’s and men’s basketball, wrestling and gymnastics.

Soon after, the University of Oklahoma announced it was suspending all athletics competitions, as well as all out-of-season practices and workouts, until further notice.

“The health and welfare, safety of all the people we serve is the paramount focus of all of our deliberations and decision making,” said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione. “ I also want you to know we’ve been in constant contact with our campus leaders, most notably our interim president, Joe Harroz, and our conference leaders, and by extension, those on the national level. We’ve quickly triangulated and shared information as it was gathered and utilized it in trying to arrive at the best possible decisions. As you can imagine and have witnessed, things are evolving and have evolved rapidly. We’re trying to provide information back to you as best we can.”

The announcements ended the stellar careers of several Sooners, including Kristian Doolittle and Maggie Nichols.

Doolittle, a senior on the men’s basketball team took to social media to express his feelings.

“Wild to think it’s over this way,” Doolittle posted on Twitter. “But these past four years have been all I could dream of and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to represent my school and state to the best of my ability!! Thank you for all of the support!!”

Nichols is one of the most decorated women’s gymnasts to ever come through Oklahoma. She is a six-time individual national champion, 13-time NCAA All-American and 12-time WCGA All-American.

Nichols was looking forward to winning a third national championship with the top-ranked Sooners.

“Devastating,” Nichols stated, “absolutely devastating.”

Along with the winter championships that have been canceled, the NCAA has also canceled spring championships, which just began. Castiglione, who held a teleconference Thursday night, addressed the situation.

“We certainly understood the decisions taking place about winter championships,” Castiglione said. “We’re not altogether sure why championships, that wouldn’t occur till much later in spring/summer, are canceled now.”

However, the next day the NCAA Council Coordination Committee said it “agreed that it will be appropriate to grant relief for the use of a season of competition for student-athletes who have participated in spring sports.”

The decision grants athletes in Beach volleyball (women), golf (men, women), baseball, lacrosse (m, w), rowing (w), softball, tennis (m, w), outdoor track (m, w), men’s volleyball  water polo (women) another year of eligibility. But, as always, it’s the details that need to be hashed out. Such as how will this affect roster sizes, scholarship limits and financial aid.

As for the rest of the 2020 spring campaign, championship tournaments are gone, the regular season could be picked back up at some point.

“The NCAA championships have now been eliminated. So we’ll probably talk about whether the conference would even sponsor a championship,” Castiglione said. “And if that decision is made, where all conference championships have been suspended, then we’ll get to the question of why would we have any competition. That would start. Long period of time to try to explain all of that. That’s why we need to continue to talk about this regularly, because at some point in the very near future, people are going to want to know the answer to the question.”

Even though Oklahoma has yet to cancel the football team’s spring game, which still remains a distinct option.

“That remains a possibility for sure. But what we’re trying to do is work through these time segments. If elapse that in other parts of the collegiate world, there are decisions being made to cancel seasons altogether,” Castiglione said. “And while we have not reached that stage yet in our own conference, that could change at any point. We’re just giving you the information as we know it right this minute. We definitely understand things could change, but that’s more than a month away, and I think a decision about the spring game isn’t as important right now as making prudent decisions in other cases. We realize that some might disagree, but we’re trying to take them in the right order here. If we’re going to continually delay the start of — the continuation, I should say, of spring practice, then obviously we would quickly decide whether we would change the date of the spring game or eliminate it altogether.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with Michael Kinney Media

 

Thunder Shopping spree turns into a ‘blessing’ for an OKC family

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

As Karen Garland walked through the aisles of Homeland Wednesday, she couldn’t believe what was going on. She was still in shock just how she came to be pushing a shopping cart with an NBA player by her side.

However, Garland had to focus. Even though the $500 that Homeland and the Oklahoma City Thunder gave her for the shopping spree was a lot, she wanted to make sure she got the essentials.

“That was my strategy, go straight to the meat,” Garland said. “I was thinking there might be a time limit, you know like 10 minutes to get all you can get. So my thing is go straight to the meat. I can buy the little can corn and whatever vegetables with my cash.”

Garland didn’t need to worry. There was no time limit on the shopping spree she had won. She and her granddaughters, Kiera and Taleah Myrks, were guided through the Homeland (2400 Cornwell Drive) by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Hamidou Diallo and Russell Raydon, store manager of Homeland at Yukon.

“It’s great to see families happy,” Diallo said. “It’s great to just go on a shopping spree for a day. And help them forget about their troubles for the day. Just try and enjoy life and sit back and don’t take it for granted.”

It took less than an hour for Garland and her shopping team to fill up almost two baskets full of items that her family needed.

“Another blessing. And the blessing came through. My granddaughter, we were having a hard time there for a minute,” Garland said. “Her and one of her counselors entered my name in this drawing, I didn’t know what to think of it. But she didn’t either. She didn’t even tell me until I won. She told me, and I got excited. I’m still excited. Honestly, it’s just a blessing.”

This was the fourth time this season that Homeland has teamed up with the Thunder to offer the shopping spree to need a family in need. The players seemingly get as much out of the shopping trip as the shoppers. For many reminds them of their own families.

Diallo remembers what it was like growing up in Queens New York and says he and his family would have reacted in the same manner as Garland if she had been offered shopping spree.

“It would’ve been great if my family had that opportunity growing up,” Diallo said. “I’m pretty sure my mom would’ve been bawl out crying and she would’ve just been so excited and it would have motived us as a family to keep pursuing our dreams and keep waking up every day with the purpose of know that our parents put us on this planer because they want to see us achieve our goals. And to bring joy to their lives because they have struggled so much.”

Garland became emotional through the afternoon as she thought back on everything she had been through and where she and her family had come from.

“Because I’ve gone through so much in my life. You know I had the stroke and it left me where I couldn’t walk, I had to learn to walk again,” Garland said. “I had two blood clots in both legs, ended up having to have back surgery, and all these things. I had two or three things at the same time. I had a brain aneurism. I had like three to four things at the same time that could’ve killed me, and I just felt like that was a miracle, that I’m up and even moving them around. And I do, I thank God every morning that I wake up, and I can sit up myself. But that’s why I’m just thankful.”

But it was when Garland received an extra Homeland gift card with $500 on it after the spree that Garland really began to shed tears as she knew just how much it was going to help her family.

“Yeah, this meat will take me a while,” Garland said. “And then with the other card that’s… I’m set for a few months.”

Just as important for Garland as the actual food the family was able to fit into the shopping carts was the experience of her granddaughters watching Diallo give back to his community. She said it’s something she believes the young ladies will do as they get older.

“That’s why we as players and us as the Thunder organization do what we do,” Diallo said. “Because the kids are our future. That’s what I am all about. That’s what I preach, helping out people in need because I was once in their shoes.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with Michael Kinney Media

Top ranked Bears pull away from Sooners

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN –  Over the course of three days, Oklahoma had a chance to make a serious statement. Facing a pair of top five teams in back to back games, it was their opportunity to show the country and themselves that they can be a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament.

However, that was not what happened. After losing by 17 to No. 3 Kansas Saturday, they fell 65-54 to No. 1 Baylor Monday at Lloyd Noble Center.

Oklahoma dropped to 16-10 overall and 6-7 in the Big 12. The loss was only their second at home this season.

For Baylor, they remain undefeated in the Big 12 at 13-0. They have now won 23 games in a row and had into a matchup with Kansas on Saturday.

Oklahoma started the night knocking down shots from the perimeter. It allowed them to take a one-point lead early in the contests.

However, when they went cold, Baylor took advantage. They surged ahead by 11 with under five minutes left I the first half.

With 2:20 left, Brady Manek drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the lead down to 28-22.  Austin Reaves then threw an alley-oop to Manek and the Sooners were within four.

Baylor’s Matthew Mayer scored right before the half ended to give the Bears a 30-24 lead going into the locker room.

The Sooners picked up their defensive intensity to start the second half. Kristian Doolittle and Kur Kuath controlled the paint and forced the Bears Into difficult shot or blocked them outright.

Doolittle also did most of the heavy lifting scoring-wise. After being held to three points in the first half, he began to collect buckets and trips to the free-throw line.

With 12 minutes left, Oklahoma was down 39-38.

However, that is when Baylor decided to turn things around. They outscored Oklahoma 13-2 over the next four minutes to take a 12 point advantage.

Even though Oklahoma had put Baylor in foul trouble and were shooting free throws on each foul from the nine-minute mark on, they kept on throwing up 3-pointers.

With 2:33 left in the game, Oklahoma trailed 63- 54. They needed a stop if they were going to climb back into the contest. However, Jamal Bieniemy fouled Jared Butler. He missed his free throw attempt, giving the Sooners a chance.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma, Manek missed a contested 3-point attempt and Baylor got the rebound. That sent the crowd to the exits and signaled the end of the night.

Baylor edged out Oklahoma on the boards 37-35 and only had two fewer assists. The Sooners also made six more free throws.

However, Oklahoma’s lack of 3-point shooting prowess killed them. They made only five of 21 from behind the arc.

Butler led all scorers with 22 points on 8 of 20 shooting. Mark Vital added 10 points for the Bears.

Doolittle paced the Sooners with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Alondes Williams added 11 points in 19 minutes while Manek posted 10 points. However, he scored only one point after halftime.

Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State Saturday.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Oklahoma coach taking over Futsal squad

By Michael Kinney

Just over nine months ago Steve Scott seemed to be done with coaching.
The long-time soccer coach announced his retirement in May 2019 after 23 years on the sideline. That includes the last seven seasons as the Yukon girls’ coach.
Ultimately, Scott’s retirement lasted less than a year.
This year, he’ll be back to coaching on the sideline, except it won’t be on a soccer field. Scott has accepted the head coaching job of the USA Futsal Federation C15 boys National Team.
According to Scott, this allows him to still coach, but it also to be able to focus on his daughter, who is a sophomore.
“I just wanted to pull back a little bit from the high school side so I had more time on my hands to be able to go watch my daughter and not miss any of her games that she competes in,” Scott said. “Now I get to watch my daughter play in anything that she does.”
Futsal has been growing in popularity in Oklahoma for the past five years. For those unfamiliar with the sport, it can be described as a close cousin to soccer, as they share similar skills and traits.
However, the main differences are that it’s played between two teams of five on an indoor hard court that is the size of a basketball court. In addition, futsal balls are smaller and heavier than soccer balls.
Scott already had a vested interest in futsal. For the past few years, he had been the Southwestern Region director of the USAFF.
“When the USA Futsal Federation was established, I had gotten on, and I have been there for the last couple of years,” Scott said. “I’ve been the Southwest Region Director for the USA Futsal Federation and done a lot of stuff in growing the game of futsal in Oklahoma and other states in the region over the last couple of years.”
During his time as the regional director, Scott left an impression on the other members of the federation. So when it was time to find a coach for the C15 boys, Scott was the top choice.

“Steve Scott was the SW Regional director for Oklahoma and the Southwest Region when he joined AMF (precursor to USAFF),” said Mark Brown, USA Futsal Federation President. “He did a really good job. When I got promoted to President, it kind of moved everybody up and we needed a coach for that specific age group. I knew Steve’s experience and background and for me as a President, it was kind of a no-brainer. “I was really confident that Steve would be the right guy for the position.”

Every year the AMF holds a Futsal World Cup in the summer for a different category. This year it is the U15 boy’s turn. When the opportunity came to take over and take the national team to the U15 World Cup, Scott couldn’t pass on it.

“So this 2020 it will be to C15 boys that we’ll be putting a team together and going to the world cup,” Scott said. “It’s a whole national team program if you’re familiar with soccer and it’s a national team program set up. It’s a national team program within the USA Futsal Federation.”

Along with coaching, Scott’s duties include building a team from scratch that can compete against the world’s best. That means scouring the country for the top U15 futsal players.

“We’ve got some people also working with us in Oregon that we’ll host a combine in Oregon. Then we’ll have one in Arizona and we’ll have one in Oklahoma,” Scott said. “We’ll look to have around 12 to 15 players that we’ll look at to take. We’ll create a pool of players and then we’ll ultimately select 12. We’ll select 12 players to travel and actually make the squad and go to the world cup to compete.”

The AMF Futsal World Cup Invitation is set for July 24-31 in Paraguay. They hope to have the team finalized and intact by around May or June.

“It’s looking really great,” Brown said. “We’re going to have a great showing and a good representation for the USA when we get to Paraguay this summer.”

But even after the trip to the world cup, Scott’s duties may not be done. With the prospect of a pro Futsal league starting up later this year and more events, Brown wants Scott to stay around.

“What I am hoping is that after coach is done with this summer’s events, he will stay on with our national team and continue to build it out for the other age groups and with the adults,” Brown said. “And form the coaching continuity we will need to build that program out and keep it sustainable into the future.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Mustang goes green… and blue

(Photos by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

WASHINGTON D.C. — In its long history of producing high-powered automobiles, the Mustang has virtually stayed the same. Aside from a few design changes, the iconic car has been a staple of American power for decades.

That may be why it took Ford so long to decide to get into the green car game.

“In early 2018, we announced that we would significantly increase our planned investments and electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022 and have 40 hybrid fully electric vehicles in our model lineup,” said Ford Regional Development Specialist Brian Atkinson. “We’ve said that going forward our SUVs will have at least one electrified offering, and here we just discussed some

It wasn’t until this year that Mustang has produced its first-ever electric car with the 2021 Mustang Mach-E.

The all-electric SUV was unveiled at the Washington Auto Show.

“This is a new vehicle for Ford and it’s the first time that it’s here in D.C. For the first time in 55 years, Ford is expanding the Mustang lineup with an all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV, which will be joining the stable of sport coupes, convertibles, and special editions. It delivers power, it delivers style, it delivers freedom for a new generation,” Atkinson said. The Mustang Mach-E embodies the Mustang spirit. From its sleek silhouette and muscular curves, to exhilarating drive experiences and its top performance handling, it’s purely Mustang.”

Sitting in its Grabber Blue Metallic color, the Mach E stood out among the rest of the Ford displays at the auto show.

According to Mustang’s Rhonda Nelson, one major change is that with it being electric, the Mustang’s iconic sound that roared from the engine is not part of the Mach E. That may cause some longtime Mustang owners to be apprehensive about picking up the new generation.

But while the look and sound is completely different than any other Mustang that has ever been produced, Atkinson says pony lovers will still be impressed with the power behind it.

“Some will ask, “But is it fast?” The Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition brings the thrills that Mustang is famous for,” Atkinson said. “Targeting the 0-60 in the mid three-second range and an estimated 459 horsepower. So the answer? “Yeah, we think it’s fast.” Others might question if it has enough range. It will. The Mustang Mach-E instills confidence, targeting an EPA estimated range of at least 300 miles with an available extended battery.”

Ford has included built-in charging solutions that route customers to nearby public charging stations, recommending where to charge on trips, and providing access to over 12,000 public chargers within the FordPass Charging Network.

“This is not just a compliance vehicle. It wasn’t designed to check a box. The Mustang Mach-E was purposefully built,” Atkinson said. “We knew it had to go at least 300 miles, we knew it had to have an all-wheel drive option, that it had to be fast, fun and beautiful. We needed to create a vehicle that was true to the heritage of one of our most beloved icons, the Ford Mustang.”

Because the battery is located on the floor of the Mustang E, it provides for cargo space in the back and the front.

Other extras include a floating, flip-up armrest on the center console, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless charging and a panoramic sunroof. It also has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

Starting sale price is around $45,000. The G.T is closer to $62,000.

“When we first shared this vehicle with the world in November, we began taking reservations,” Atkinson said. “Our first edition electric Mustang is now sold out, but we continue taking pre-orders for all the other versions, including the Premium and the GT. This vehicle will arrive in the market later this fall.”

Inside Mustang.jpg

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Maserati unveils new line in D.C.

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

WASHINGTON D.C — Maserati has always found a way to stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s been with its sleek and elegant look or high-powered performance, the Italian brand is known for creating its own path.

That has been the Maserati way since its inception a century ago.

“It’s a very historic Italian luxury vehicle manufacturer founded over a hundred years ago by the four Maserati brothers,” says Karl DeBoer, Brand Manager at Maserati North America, as we check out the cars on display. “The Maserati brothers got into racing and then ultimately production vehicles, and it’s because of that heritage that we’re here today with these gorgeous Italian-crafted vehicles. We’re very proud of that Italian heritage.”

Because of that rich European craftsmanship, whenever the car company introduces anything new to the Maserati family, it tends to be bold and aggressive. That’s the case with the Limited Series Edizione Ribelle and the GT Sports Package, which were both on display at the Washington Auto Show.

“We really want to communicate all of the new value that we’re adding for consumers along with this limited-production series: the Edizione Ribelle, and our brand-new GT Sport Package,” adds DeBoer.

The Ribelle line will include the Ghibli S Q4, Levante S and the Quattroporte S Q4 in the GranSport trim.

“The name ‘Ribelle’ means rebel in Italian and pays homage to the rebel nature of Maserati,” says Al Gardner, CEO of Maserati North America. “These distinctive vehicles showcase the high level of Italian design and craftsmanship that Maserati is known for.”

“We’re only producing 225 of these vehicles,” adds DeBoer. “One hundred Ghiblis, 100 Levantes, and 25 Quattroportes, and that’s for all of North America. We are so excited to launch this very exclusive vehicle.”

The package’s sleek black trim is highlighted on the window surrounds, exhaust tips, vertical grille bars and the 20-inch dark wheels with contrasting red brake calipers. The Ribelle is just as intense inside, with premium leather seats in contrasting two-tone black and red stitching. Also, the steering wheel and front and rear seats are heated.

Maserati’s all-new GT Sport Package will be available in the Ghibli, Levante and Quattroporte models. The package includes aggressive front and rear GranSport fascia, unique wheels and a selection of red, blue or black painted brake calipers.

“We added more standard features and content to the 2020 model year vehicles,” says DeBoer. “For example, on our GranSport, trims, our GTS trim, and then also on all Quattroporte models, we added our level two autonomy driver’s assistance package, and this comes with highway assist, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, a whole suite of features.”

According to DeBoer, the limited series Ribelle will hit North American showrooms in March.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

 

 

Miss Saigon begins week-long run in OKC

(Photo by Matthew Murphy and Johan Persson)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY– The award-winning musical ‘Miss Saigon’ began its six-day run in Oklahoma City Jan 14 at the Civic Center.

The story revolves around the last days of the Vietnam War, and a 17-year-old Kim is forced to work in a Saigon bar run the Engineer. There, she meets and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris, but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.

For years, Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he’s fathered a son.

Miss Saigon comes from the creators Les Misérables. It features a stunning spectacle and a sensational cast of 42 performing the soaring score, including Broadway hits like “The Heat is On in Saigon,” “The Movie in My Mind,” “Last Night of the World” and “American Dream.”

Along with the theatrical component, Miss Saigon has a historical element that dives into the atmosphere surrounding the Vietnam war and other factors of the time.

Main cast performers include Red Concepcion (The Engineer), Emily Bautista (Kim), Anthony Festa (Chris) and J. Daughtry (John).  Miss Saigon was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Laurence Conner.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Thunder star provides a safe place for victims of abuse

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

The staff at the Family T.R.E.E. in Oklahoma City has a tough job. The children who show up the facility have had to live with unimaginable pain and sufferings and it’s up to the staff workers to help them.

Family T.R.E.E., which is part of the Department of Human Services, is designed as a transformative space for hope, strength and positive change to take root. In this space, families involved with the Child Welfare System are supported through Team, Resources, Evaluation and Education (T.R.E.E.), all purposefully dedicated to renewing and reunifying their family.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul decided to give them a little help recently when he spearheaded a charge to refurbish a nearly 30-year old basketball court at the Family T.R.E.E. that will be used to benefit victims of child abuse and child neglect.

“This building serves kids on some of their darkest days,” said Justin Brown, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. “For them to have a space like what Chris Paul dedicated today, it’s sort of a fray of light in what sometimes can be a very dark time in their lives.”

The refurbishment was completed in partnership with the Chris Paul Family Foundation, Spalding and State Farm. Along with Paul and Brown, Jack Marquardt, Spalding, Vice President of Brand Communications also delivered a message to the two dozen kids and family members on hand for the unveiling Jan. 10.

“I’ve always had a unique perspective to think back to when I was a kid sitting in those seats and I always look and picture my kids to,” Paul said. “When you’re a kid, your attention span is not very long. Just understand that they just want somewhere to be able to play, a safe haven. And that’s what kids should have.”

The basketball court will be another tool for Family T.R.E.E. and the Department of Human Services as they look to help children in difficult situations.

“We serve a million people in the state of Oklahoma with 6,000 employees. We cannot do this alone.,” Brown said of DHS. “So partnerships with people like Chris Paul and organizations like Spaulding are critically important for us being able to serve our community in the best way. It is truly reflective of what this place is. It’s a place of collaboration and service. That’s what Chris personifies.”

Brown also didn’t forget the main reason for refurbishing the court, which is to help children and their families.

“We serve kids all across the state. We investigate 81,000 cases of abuse every year. Some 240 kids a day are reported potential abuse claims,” Brown said. “So we investigate all those. And this facility here is to reunite families by providing space for them to be together, to work with counselors and really work with therapists to understand how to interact in better ways as they potentially leave our system and we reunite families.”

The court was designed by Paul and his 10-year old son. Surrounding by a variety of bright and illuminating colors, the floor features astrology symbols for Gemini, Aquarius, Taurus and Leo, which belong to each member of Paul’s family.

The word’s “Family First, Family Last. Family Always” painted on the Thunder blue walls.

Paul explained the significance of the design element that went into the court. And gave a brief history of how he first came to Oklahoma City when as a member of the New Orleans Hornets, Hurricane Katrina forced them to find a new home as a rookie.

The walls are also adorned with the names and numbers of Rasual Butler and Jackson Vroman, both of whom were teammates of Paul during his first stint in Oklahoma City. Butler and Vroman passed away in recent years and Paul wanted to honor them.

“Those two guys played with me here in Oklahoma,” Paul said. “I felt it would be fitting to put Jackson and Rasual up there. In this league sometimes you play with a guy for a few months, maybe a few years. I played with Rasual for I think six years. Rasual is like a brother to me.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider