I’m not your typical sports fan. In fact, I’m really not much of a sports fan at all. Except when it comes to my two boys. I’m the embarrassing Mom who cheers passionately for their soccer, track, basketball or football teams while aggressively elbowing aside other parents to snap photos on my Nikon.

To be sure, there have been times when my sons’ sports interests have aligned with my career in hedge funds. For example, when 13-year old Matthew got drafted for David Einhorn’s Harry’s Burritos basketball team two years ago. It was thrilling to get Einhorn’s detailed post-game analysis direct from Greenlight Capital. He was an incredibly dedicated coach, the kind of guy who not only taught the team cool, strategic plays and encouraged the slackers to excel but also once waited with my son outside the Larchmont gym in the freezing cold for 20 minutes until I belatedly swung by to collect my offspring.

No-one was surprised when the Burritos won the league championships that season. David Einhorn is a winning coach, in addition to being a pretty amazing hedge fund manager and poker player.

Back to our story. I hadn’t gone to a pro basketball game in decades. But last week I found myself at the Garden watching the Knicks get utterly destroyed by the Houston Rockets and loving every single minute.

Here’s how it happened. I discovered through the parent grapevine that other perfectly normal homework abiding families take their kids to pro basketball games on school nights. My husband and our 15-year old Grant were invited by another dad to see a Nets game in December. They loved it. It was a night out. The action was fast paced.  They spotted a bunch of other kids from their school across the court and several celebrities in the stands. There was ice cream and popcorn to be had at the concessions.

I started thinking, why not go to a Knicks game as a family? So what if they stink.  This is about New York spirit. And getting everyone out of the house, away from their computers on a frozen January night.

Happily the Knicks’ dismal record this year presents the casual ticket buyer with a cornucopia of choice seats on StubHub. The prices are still ridiculous – it’s NY – but the markups for really good seats have deflated from Crazy Eddie certifiably insane to almost tolerable.  (Don’t worry if you don’t get the Crazy Eddie reference, it’s a 70’s thing.)

So last week, I picked Grant and Matthew up at Horace Mann, rendezvoued for dinner at Brother Jimmy’s with husband David, stepdaughter Michele and her boyfriend Nick, and spent the evening at Madison Square Garden cheering on the Knicks, drinking $11 beers and doing everything possible to catch a tee shirt hurled into the stands by the Knicks crowd-warming events staff.

I’m ashamed to admit this was my first time at the Garden to watch a basketball game.  A frequent habituant of the Garden in earlier years for pleasing, albeit deafening concerts from the Who to the Dead, I’ve slacked off in recent decades and now go to just a handful of shows a year. The grimy escalators, crushing hordes of people and general concrete vibe make MSG one of my least favorite music venues.  A brief, depressing stroll through the adjoining underground commuter post-industrial wasteland otherwise known as Penn Station is sufficient to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. The Beacon on the Upper West Side provides a superior musical experience, as fans making annual pilgrimages to catch the Allman Brothers readily attest to. The more intimate and, for Westchester residents, geographically desirable Capital Theater in Port Chester and the nostalgically charming and cheap Tarrytown Music Hall have better acoustics, and honestly no bad sight lines wherever you end up.

But even my few recent jaunts to the Garden prior to last week’s Knicks game have been special experiences. The 2009 star saturated marathon two day Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary extravaganza was beyond fantastic.  I loved seeing the sultry voiced Stevie Nicks swirling to Rhiannon a few years ago, several decades post Rumours.  Billy Joel’s shows are sacred ground for New Yorkers who grew up in the 70’s.  Ditto for Paul Simon, the quintessential cool, hip, sarcastic yet soulful New Yorker.  There’s nothing cheesy about the whole Garden singing along to Sounds of Silence.  And happily a business trip interfered with taking my younger son to see Robin Thicke last year, which would have been the only sour note in the lot. (David went and was underwhelmed)

But I digress. This is about sports, and specifically, the Knicks.

Over pre-game ribs and margaritas at Brother Jimmy’s, the extended Kaufman family reviewed the sorry state of NY sports fans. I didn’t quite realize how bad things had gotten. In football, both the Jets and the Giants have had lousy seasons. In baseball, A-Rod was suspended for drug-related reasons. The Yankees failed to make the playoffs. And then there are the Knicks, who currently hold the distinction of being the worst team in the league. At this juncture, they’d lost all but 5 of their 40 games.  Star Carmelo Anthony needs knee surgery and the rest of the starters are sidelined. The team has failed to develop younger players into the new generation of stars. There’s been a failure of leadership. Of coaching. Of talent. Of skill.

The high spirits at dinner turned more sober as we got closer to leaving for the game across the street.  Brother Jimmy’s ribs were delicious but the margaritas were cloyingly sweet. We were going to watch a lousy team lose big.  It was going to be a downer of an evening.  Expensive too. Why were we bothering?

Yet from the minute we stepped into the Garden, it was bright lights big city glitzy fun. Well, almost. First we had to navigate through the sullen neon and linoleum vibe of Penn Station and make it up to the arena’s main entrance, then survive the trifecta of MSG Security: the full body pat down, the up close and personal scrutiny by a drug sniffing dog, and the final humiliation, the Poland Spring water bottle confiscation.  (Just watch, xray screening and shoe removal is coming next).

Once inside and settled into our seats we were bombarded with NY team spirit.  A happy, mostly white crowd bedecked in orange and blue Knicks jerseys, tee shirts and hats filled the stands. Lots of Dads and sons. Couples out on dates, some of whom were later called out by the official MSG Kiss Cam (more on that later). The Knicks retinue of warm up staffers rambled around the stadium throwing Knicks-branded goodies to the excited crowd. Upbeat music streamed out of the excellent speaker system.

The concession stands had undergone a gourmet upgrade since last I visited. There were tacos from Jean Georges Vongerichten and burgers by Drew Nieporent. Defying worldwide economic deflationary trends, food prices tat the Garden have soared in recent times.  Replacing that confiscated fresh from Maine Poland Spring bottle with a like sized bottle of purified Dasani tap water cost $5.50. The concession ladies insisted on keeping the cap, which must either be some weird security measure or a pointless way of preventing consumers from enjoying their Dasani post-game.  (Note to self: bring spare Dasani water bottle cap to next event at MSG.) Every time I gave my kids a $20 for a pretzel and soda they came back without any change.

But then the game began and the action was fast paced and infectious. Every Knicks basket was met with wild applause and joy.  So many gorgeous 3-pointer shots – when did the game start revolving around those?  Not a lot of close court battling and dunking, except for the official Dunker Championship Playoff contest in between quarters.

But something about the team was off.  They trailed the Rockets from the get go. All of their stats posted on the big board painted a nuanced numerical picture of mediocrity.

No wonder the Knicks were in last place.

But amazingly everyone seemed to be having a great time. The Knicks staff kept an upbeat tempo during breaks with contests and more crowd give-aways. First up was a shuffleboard standoff. This was no blue-plate Miami Beach special.  The stakes were big. A trip to London for two.

To our surprise, the first contestant called down to the floor was a friend of ours, another school parent – the very one who had taken the guys to that Nets game a few weeks back. “Dean!! You rock!” we all shouted, as he stepped up to the shuffleboard puck.  And he won, armed with superior shuffleboard skill, easily trouncing his opponent.  We all felt bad for his fellow contestant, a pleasant looking woman in her 40’s.  But then, it was announced that she would also get the same prize.  The crowd cheered. Nice touch. Everyone’s a winner.

This was turning into a great evening.

As the numbers on the scoreboard climbed and the Knicks’ margin of loss widened, the carefully choreographed fun continued. First, the aforementioned dunking contest. Let me refer to it by it’s proper copyrighted name, for this was no mere dribble and dunk one on one. This was The Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown, the “premier amateur dunk contest”, according to its official Facebook page.

Two talented dunkers competed for best in show. We watched as former Harlem Globetrotter Leon “Space Jam” Sewell eviscerated “Los Smothers”. Not the most exciting display of dunking talent, according to my group. It seemed a little manufactured and over hyped. The crowd yawned.

But then we were inspired to cheer once again as the Douglas Elliman Celebrity Row close-up camera zoomed in on the one and only Daryl Strawberry.  We were definitely sitting amongst the gods. Later in the game, we cheered every time the Elliman camera showcased another celebrity, even some minor actor from the Sopranos whom I’d never heard of. It was a good distraction from the terrible game being played by the Knicks, and confirmed to our smug satisfaction that we were indeed privileged New Yorkers, spending the evening with talented stars from the sports world (in the stands, not on the court) and miscellaneous actors.

Next up was the Kiss Cam. SO cute. A couple out on date night watch the screen as the camera pans the stadium and zoom up to land on their own faces, at which point they are supposed to respond with intense excitement and delight, then turn to each other and smooch.  Good clean fun.

Until we witnessed the controversial incident which made the news the next day.

“Kiss Cam Takes Crazy Turn At Knicks Game As Girl Smooches Total Stranger” www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/12/kiss-cam-knicks_n_6453928.html

Yes, sports fans. The girl’s date was busy texting on his iPhone and couldn’t be bothered to look up at the screen or respond to her urgent arm shaking.  But she felt the crowd’s pressure to come through with a kiss. So she grabbed the guy sitting next to her and assaulted his lips.

Huffington Post’s Ed Mazza deemed it “possibly the best thing at any Knicks game, all season” but wondered if perhaps the incident had been staged.

In fact, while I was excitedly patting my husband’s arm saying “awwww how sweet”, I heard various people around us mutter “staged”.  Matthew turned to me with one of his world weary Mom-you’re disappointing/embarrasing-me expressions and set me straight. “Mom, get real, a lot of these things are staged so they’ll go viral.”

I generally have a hard time winning arguments with Matthew as he’s inherited my Dad’s litigator genes, so I shut up.   For the last word on this topic, I turn once more to HuffPost’s Ed Mazza, who writes that if this Kiss Cam incident turns out to have been staged, “it’s still a better performance than anything the team has managed to put together this year.”

To be sure, the Knicks ended up losing to the Houston Rockets by a score of 120-96, cementing their last place status.

We left in the middle of the 4th quarter, not because of the crowds but rather because I looked at my watch and saw that it was way past bedtime for my 8th and 9th graders. Michele and Nick stayed behind to cheer on the losing Knicks, reveling in every basket.

Last January, after attending an Afro-Cuban dance rehearsal amidst the ruins of two dilapidated buildings in Havana, my friends from the Santa Fe workshop and I wandered down the narrow pot-holed street. A few blocks away I caught sight of a girl waving to us from her 2nd floor balcony. I waved back and asked how old she was.  She said 7, that today was her birthday. Her mother came down the stairs and invited us up. Their apartment consisted of one cramped room with a tiny stove and refrigerator at the entrance. The birthday girl,  Gretchen, was having cookies and milk for her birthday and there was a little pink plastic birthday bouquet in top of the ancient TV set. We spent an hour talking to Gretchen and her family and decided to return the next day with Barbie doll presents for her birthday. Not so easy to shop for dolls in Havana! We found a dilapidated toy store on one of the main tourist streets that looked like it had been forgotten in time since the 1950’s. So little inventory in the glass display cases, and what was there seemed to all be imported from Taiwan. We bought two dolls and carried them back to Gretchen’s room.

See more images from Cuba at my photography site http://www.marjoriekaufman.com/havana-2014.html

Gretchen's 7th Birthday

Gretchen’s 7th Birthday

2014_01_Havana_682

Photographed in Havana, Cuba last January.  See more images from Cuba at my photography website  http://www.marjoriekaufman.com/havana-2014.html

I love the color and sheer energy in this image.

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Watch this inspiring video about how YWLN helps disadvantaged girls make it to college!!

In this season of giving back, I’m proud to lead the Hilltop Cares Foundation in helping survivors of abuse obtain therapy. Here is a recently published article in the Horace Mann Record about the work we’re doing.

Hilltop Cares Foundation brings school community together

Over 70 alumni, administrators, parents, and students gathered at Hilltop Cares Foundation’s kick-off event earlier this month to discuss ways to promote communal healing in light of the revelations of sexual abuse at the school.

Hilltop Cares strives to “provide support for alumni who suffered abuse at the school years ago, to support their therapy, as well as to bring about some healing to the whole Horace Mann community,” Chair Marjorie Kaufman ’78, P’18,’19 said.

The event, which took place at the home of Vice Chair Joe Rose ‘77, provided a way for participants and Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly to “get together in a constructive and mutually supportive way,” Rose said, which included discussing Hilltop Cares’ mission and ways to get involved with the organization.

Attendees especially appreciated the support of Kelly and Director of Institutional Research and Enrollment Management Lisa Moreira P’19, P’21, as it created a “strongly felt but understated sense of community,” Rose said. 

The fact that Hilltop Cares is now able to directly raise tax-deductible contributions “creates a moment to take an affirmative first step,” Rose said.

All donations the foundation receives go towards confidentially funding psychological therapy for victims of the sexual abuse that occurred at the school who may not be able to afford the support otherwise.

Hilltop Cares can serve as an especially useful outlet to alumni and survivors due to the fact that it exists independently from the school, Kaufman said.

“There are significant negative sentiments held by some alumni in the wake of the revelations of sexual abuse at the school. As an independent entity we don’t get involved with that at all, and we are here to directly help people that were hurt.”

Being involved in Hilltop Cares offers many benefits that are especially relevant at this time of the year, when giving back is important, Kaufman said. 

“The HM community is almost like an extended family to many people,” she said. “When members of your family need help, it’s good to be there and to stand by them and say ,‘I’m here to help you.’”

The organization is about strengthening, affirming, and helping, Rose said.

“Giving all the members of the Horace Mann community a way to do that in a way that’s not within a legal context or in an adversarial context but in a caring, mutually beneficial way – that’s the goal,” he said.

The organization is currently planning a benefit that will take place on campus in May.

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So proud to be a Board Member of Young Women’s Leadership Network, helping underprivileged girls in NYC get to college!

Hilltop Cares is now a 501(c)3 Charitable Organization.

http://www.pionline.com/article/20140305/ONLINE/140309943/guggenheim-global-trading-appoints-marketing-leader-ahead-of-multistrategy-fund-opening

Guggenheim Global Trading appoints marketing leader ahead of multistrategy fund opening

Marjorie Kaufman was named managing director and head of marketing and client services for Guggenheim Partners subsidiary Guggenheim Global Trading, according to spokesman Thomas Mulligan.

The position is new. Ms. Kaufman is responsible for developing and running a marketing plan for a new multistrategy fund the firm is preparing to open to institutional investors. She will report to Loren M. Katzovitz, managing partner of Guggenheim Global Trading.

The firm expects to make some additional hires to Guggenheim Global Trading in the next couple of months, Mr. Mulligan said.

Ms. Kaufman was a managing director at Golden Seeds. Jo Ann Corkran, managing partner at Golden Seeds, did not return a phone call by press time.

hedge-funders-boost-new-york-city-non-profit-collegebound-initiative/

Hedge funders boost New York City non-profit CollegeBound Initiative

A gala Thursday honored Pinebridge COO George Hornig and Giants QB Eli Manning.
By Lawrence Delevingne

Members of the hedge fund community were among those who feted the CollegeBound Initiative’s 10th anniversary Thursday night at a gala honoring New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Pinebridge Investments chief operating officer George Hornig and News Corporation group general counsel Lon Jacobs.

CollegeBound, a program of the New York education non-profit Young Women’s Leadership Network, is a school-based college guidance program for high-need public schools and students who are usually the first in their families to attend college.

Hedge fund supporters of the fundraising effort included Karen Finerman of Metropolitan Capital, Lawrence Golub of Golub Capital, Gary Gerstein and Phyllis Weaver of Red Oak Commodity Advisors (Weaver is a Young Women’s Leadership Network board member), Carrie Ann McCabe of Lasair Capital and Michael Ansour of March Partners.

The event, held at Jazz at Lincoln Center, raised more than $725,000 and was attended by nearly 400 guests, who mingled with beaming, college-bound seniors from the program. Hornig pledged to be a regular contributor to the group and Manning, also a donor, obliged countless requests from students and admirers for handshakes, autographs and photos.

CBI says it serves more than 6,000 students in 13 public high schools, 12 in New York City and one in Philadelphia. Since 2001, CBI has helped more than 4,000 students attend college and has generated more than $48 million in financial aid and scholarships to keep them there.

“CBI makes the dream of going to college a tangible reality for these kids,” said Marjorie Kaufman, also a Network board member and the former head of investor relations at Kingdon Capital Management. “The return on investment is huge—just look at the pride on the faces of the seniors here.

Find out how you can help: CBI

 

http://www.pionline.com/article/20140305/ONLINE/140309943/guggenheim-global-trading-appoints-marketing-leader-ahead-of-multistrategy-fund-opening

Marjorie Kaufman was named managing director and head of marketing and client services for Guggenheim Partners subsidiary Guggenheim Global Trading, according to spokesman Thomas Mulligan.

The position is new. Ms. Kaufman is responsible for developing and running a marketing plan for a new multistrategy fund the firm is preparing to open to institutional investors. She will report to Loren M. Katzovitz, managing partner of Guggenheim Global Trading.

The firm expects to make some additional hires to Guggenheim Global Trading in the next couple of months, Mr. Mulligan said.

Ms. Kaufman was a managing director at Golden Seeds. Jo Ann Corkran, managing partner at Golden Seeds, did not return a phone call by press time.

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