Longtime New York stage actor Michael Rispoli, best known as the elder Jackie Aprile in "The Sopranos," is also a longtime Yankees and Jets fan. Rispoli appears opposite Bernie Mac and Angela Bassett in "Mr. 3000."
Why are you a Jets fan?
Let me see, Joe Namath, they won in '69. I was 8 years old at the time, so I was just paying attention to football, and there's Broadway Joe with his big Fu Man Chu and all the girls -- it was great. He was cool, he was just cool. Plus, he looked Italian, even though he wasn't. He had a big nose and dark hair, he looked Italian. You want to know something? Let me just say this: The one thing that I do find very exciting in all of professional sports -- you can say what you want about [Yankees owner George] Steinbrenner, I've never been a big fan, I think he's a bit of a blowhard and a bully -- but you can't find a bigger pressure cooker than the city of New York. It's like, 'Oh, I had an off day' -- you don't get off days here, pal.
Why do people obsess over baseball records and statistics so much?
Me, I like baseball because I enjoy the ins and outs of the game, but I think it gets too over-statistical. You know, 'So and so's up to bat, and when he's up to bat with one out and men on first and third and the wind coming in from the East side he's 0 for 12, but when the wind's coming in from the other side he has 16 doubles.' And you sit there and you go, 'Who the hell could care about this stuff?' But the plateaus people reach -- 300 wins as a pitcher, 3,000 hits as a hitter -- these things should be watched.
Now "Mr. 3000" is about a 47-year-old trying to get three more hits. How many at-bats would you need to get three hits?
For me to get three hits? It depends, am I going against a pitching machine? Because I could get three hits against a pitching machine, no problem. When I was doing the baseball training down there, they had guys they said were throwing 65 or 70, and I was slapping the ball around. So if you put it down the middle, 65 or 75, I'll get three hits. I guess I'm hemming and hawing. I wouldn't say I'd get them right away. How about you, you a ballplayer?
Are you trying to change the subject?
You want a hard and fast answer? If I'm not facing Roger Clemens, give me 15 at-bats, but as I say, 15 at-bats against the guy throwing batting practice.
Since you were in "Rounders" [as tough guy Grama], poker has sort of taken over the world. Do you take credit for that?
I don't know if "Rounders" started the explosion, but I see more and more women playing poker. My wife will get together with her friends, and instead of playing hearts or bridge they say, "Hey, I'll play poker tonight." Just my theory.
Do you play?
I play pickup poker games with my brother and our friends, but we don't play anything heavy. Just dollar and $5 pots, and we play dealer's choice, we don't just play hold 'em. Speaking of "Rounders," during the shoots between takes we'd play poker, Matt Damon and [John] Malkovich. There's a half an hour, 40-minute wait, so you sit down at the table on the set and deal the cards.
How'd you do?
Umm, I didn't do as good as them, because I didn't play in the movie. Those guys were going to Atlantic City, playing poker as part of their research, so they knew it a little better. Now, if they came to my brother's. . . .
-- Dan Steinberg