Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

'Goon' packs a punch

Jay Baruchel might be the most knowledgeable hockey fan in the movie business, a guy who when you bring up his beloved Canadiens thanks you for asking, then launches into a disquisition about the team's history and current roster.

So he understands the complicated subject of hockey fighting in general and fighters in particular, and why "Goon,'' the film he helped write and in which he appears, has stirred controversy in his native Canada. Still, he wishes people would chill.

"What we did was focus on arguably the least understood position in all of pro sports, that of the hockey enforcer," he said Friday. "It was my chance to give these guys their moment in the sun, because I see nothing but beauty in what they do . . . It's neither anti nor pro. I think our movie is a celebration of the boys that do this tough job."

The violent inspired-by-a-true story comedy focuses on Doug Glatt, played by Seann William Scott, a skilled fighter and unskilled skater trying to make it in hockey's raunchy minor leagues.

Liev Schreiber plays a veteran enforcer quite credibly for a guy who never had skated seriously before and whose training camp was "horrible."

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"There are muscles in my legs and groin I never knew existed I was suddenly acutely aware of," he said. "But after the first three weeks, it started to get better very, very fast and I really started to love it."

The movie was released on video on demand Friday and hits theaters March 30.


'Voice of God' inspired voice of HBO

Like everyone who watches HBO documentaries, I have been listening to Liev Schreiber's disembodied voice since the mid-1990s. On Friday, I met him in the flesh and learned of an interesting inspiration for his work as a narrator.


"I am a huge fan of John Facenda," he said, referring to the famed "Voice of God" on NFL Films until his death in 1984. "You can't replace that stuff. It's just classic."

Though Schreiber never has been much of a fan, he said narrating dozens of sports shows, including "Hard Knocks" and "24/7," has helped him appreciate the games more.

"I think of the entire body of my work that's some of the stuff I'm most proud of and actually had the least to do with,'' he said of HBO's documentaries. What is his favorite? He said he has a "really special place in my heart" for 2010's "Magic & Bird, A Courtship of Rivals."

"Larry Bird is this kind of stoic, competitive, aggressive guy," he said, "and that point in the show they get to when Magic says, 'After all we'd been through, the first guy to call me when I got sick was Larry,' that just knocked me out.''

The scoop on Lin

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He's wowed the globe over the past three dizzying weeks, but this might be the best sign yet that it is Jeremy Lin's world, and the rest of us are just living in it:

Ben & Jerry's is selling a limited-release, limited-time flavor at its store in Harvard Square in recognition of the Harvard alum and Knicks point guard. It is called "Taste the Lin-Sanity" and according to The Boston Globe, it features vanilla frozen yogurt and lychee honey swirls, and comes with a fresh waffle cookie on the side that can be crumbled into the mix if desired.

The waffle cookie replaced early batches that included "fortune cookie pieces" blended into the yogurt. Uh, oh.

The Globe reported that the company rethought that idea in part because of criticism over trading on Lin's Asian ancestry, and in part because of complaints the cookie pieces were getting soggy.

Upton is a model fan

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Jeremy Lin's two-week stay on Sports Illustrated's cover actually is part of a larger, three-issue run for the Knicks -- sort of. Before Lin hit the cover, it featured model Kate Upton, who fronted the annual Swimsuit Issue.

Upton is based in New York and is a regular at the Garden, including Lin's 38-point outing in a Feb. 10 victory over the Lakers. She also was there for the Rangers' opener in October and professional bull riding in January. And, like Lin, she has appeared on MSG, for which she hosted a summer music series last year.

Last spring, Upton told me that since moving to New York, she had become a fan of the Knicks, Rangers, Yankees and Jets, for whom her older sister works in client relations.

Upton has company when it comes to the Knicks. Nielsen is one of several companies that have sought to measure the impact of Lin's ascent.

On Friday, Nielsen said Lin's N-Score -- a measure of endorsement potential -- was 102, higher than Kobe Bryant (90) or LeBron James (84). Of Americans, 19 percent are aware of Lin and 30 percent of those said they "like him a lot."