Carl Pavano was the target of an extortion plot

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When you think of celebrity extortion plots you tend to think of super famous people with sterling reputations they’d do anything to protect. Someone tried to extort Bill Cosby once, for example. That’s pretty major because he’s an icon.  You tend not to think of extortion plots aimed at guys like Carl Pavano. But they happen:

The family of major league pitcher Carl Pavano told police that a former Southington High School classmate was trying to extort money and a luxury SUV from Pavano by threatening to reveal personal information about him.

Not just any luxury SUV. According to the story, the suspect left a message to Pavano’s family saying “the only way your brother is getting out of this… is with a heart-felt apology and a navy Range Rover with tan leather.”  So apparently he’s a highly specific extortionist. If it was a Mercedes ML63 with black leather we’d all now know about Pavano aided that Prussian spy during wartime or whatever it was.

OK, I’m being cute with that. There is a suggestion in the article of what the basis of the extortion threat was, with the suspect saying it was about “an emotional and physical relationship” he and Pavano had in high school.  Pavano’s family denies that, however.

I would add that extortion plots are more about threats and greed than they are about revealing actual truths and that as such you can’t necessarily assume that the threat in question is based in truth. All it has to be — to be successful anyway, which this one was apparently not — is potentially damaging, and lies can do that too.

Mike Piazza presided over the destruction of a 100-year-old soccer team

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Mike Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame in January of 2016 and inducted in July of 2016. In between those dates he purchased an Italian soccer team, A.C. Reggiana 1919, a member of Italy’s third division. In June of that year he was greeted as a savior in Reggio Emilia, the small Italian town in which the team played. He was the big American sports star who was going to restore the venerable club to its past and rightful place of glory.

There were suggestions by last March that things weren’t going well, but know we know that in less than two years it all fell apart. Piazza and his wife Alicia presided over a hot mess of a business, losing millions of dollars and, this past June, they abruptly liquidated the club. It is now defunct — one year short of its centennial — and a semipro team is playing in its place, trying to acquire the naming rights from Piazza as it wends its way though bankruptcy.

Today at The Athletic, Robert Andrew Powell has a fascinating — no, make that outrageously entertaining — story of how that all went down from the perspective of the Piazzas. Mostly Alicia Piazza who ran the team in its second year when Mike realized he was in over his head. She is . . . something. Her quotes alone are worth the price of admission. For example:

Alicia, who refers to Mike’s ownership dream as “his midlife crisis,” offered up a counter argument.

“Who the f**k ever heard of Reggio Emilia?” she asked. “It’s not Venice. It’s not Rome. My girlfriend said, and you can quote this—and this really depressed me. She said, ‘Honey, you bought into Pittsburgh.’ Like, it wasn’t the New York Yankees. It wasn’t the Mets. It wasn’t the Dodgers. You bought Pittsburgh!”

In their Miami living room, Mike tried to interject but she stopped him.

“And imagine what that feels like, after spending 10 million euros. You bought Pittsburgh!”

At this point it may be worth remembering that Piazza is from Pennsylvania. Eastern Pennsylvania to be sure, but still.

Shockingly, it didn’t end all that well for the Piazzas in Reggio Emilia:

One week later, the Piazzas returned to Reggio Emilia, and were spotted at the team offices. More than a hundred ultras marched into the office parking lot, chanting and demanding answers. Carabinieri—national police aligned with the military—showed up for the Piazzas’ safety. The police advised the Americans to avoid the front door of the complex and exit through the back. Mike assured them it wouldn’t be necessary—he had always enjoyed a good relationship with the fans.

The carabinieri informed him that the relationship had changed. The Piazzas slipped out the back door, under police escort.

The must-read of the week. Maybe the month. Hell, maybe the year. The only thing I can imagine topping it is if someone can tell this story from the perspective of the people in Reggio Emilia. I’m guessing their take is a bit different than the Piazzas.