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Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

Kate Upton will be 19 soon

Model Kate Upton at an event promoting the

Model Kate Upton at an event promoting the MSG Summer Block Party. (May 24, 2011) (Credit: MSG Photos)

Below is a bunch of stuff I wrote for the Sunday newspaper, including an item on my chat with SI swimsuit model and MSG host Kate Upton.

Here goes:

I spoke to model Kate Upton at a party the other day because . . . well, because I could.

She attended an event to kick off Madison Square Garden's "Summer Block Party," which debuts this week and in which she will host the "Music Fridays" concert series.

Other weeknights will be dedicated to sports-related fare, including "Classic Mondays," ''Countdown Tuesdays," ''Boxing Wednesdays" and "Hoops Thursdays."

But back to Upton, who appeared in this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and is a rising star in her business. Does she actually watch MSG when not working?

She said that she does, and that in her one year living in New York, she has become a Yankees, Knicks and Jets fan and attended several Knicks games and one Rangers game. She also was a judge for the Jets' Flight Crew auditions; her sister works in client relations for the team.

"I grew up in Florida but don't root for any Florida teams; I know that sounds really bad," said Upton, who was a competitive equestrian before focusing on her modeling career.

After all, she was not getting any younger. She turns 19 next month.

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Football was 'Idol' threat

NBC's "Sunday Night Football" finished the 2010-11 season as the third-highest-rated prime time show on television, averaging 12.7 percent of homes, behind only the Wednesday edition of "American Idol" at 13.3 and "Dancing With the Stars" at 13.2.

That is the best finish ever for a sports program in prime time. The previous high was fourth for ABC's "Monday Night Football" in 1998-99. It trailed NBC hits "ER", "Friends" and "Frasier."

No surprises there. But fifth place, improbably, went to something called "Veronica's Closet," starring Kirstie Alley, as the owner of a lingerie company.

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Wilpon, Barber get mag-nified

Fred Wilpon and Tiki Barber made news this past week for saying intemperate things to reporters from national magazines -- The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated, respectively.

The former critiqued his star players. The latter compared hiding out from the media with his girlfriend in his agent's attic to Anne Frank hiding out from the Nazis in an attic in Amsterdam. Oy!

Both men should know better after years of dealing with the news media, but they fell into a classic trap of magazine profiles.

Unlike brief, formal interactions with journalists, magazine writers tend to spend many hours with their subjects, who frequently let down their guards and mistake a reporter for a friend shooting the breeze.

It has happened countless times before -- see Rocker, John -- and it will happen again.

There is nothing unethical about it on the writers' part. In fact: good for them. But future interviewees might want to picture their pal across the table as if he or she were wearing a fedora with a "PRESS" sign sticking out of it.

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Miami still taking heat

Mavericks-Heat doesn't bring the ratings juice Lakers-Heat would have for the NBA Finals, but as long as Miami is participating, ABC figures to do pretty well starting with Game 1 Tuesday.

(The Heat-Bulls series on TNT averaged 10.4 million viewers, a cable record for an NBA series.)

There is nothing like a villain to boost ratings, even given a peculiar story line in which much of America now finds itself turning to a 7-foot German to douse the Heat.

Assuming most sports fans still resent LeBron James and the Decision-aires, that is. They do, don't they?

"I think the rest of the country is going to appreciate and in some quarters root for this team," said ESPN radio analyst Jack Ramsay, who even uttered the word "likable" in reference to the Heat.

Say it ain't so! Fortunately, TV play-by-play man Mike Breen put things back in perspective, saying he still hears this from many friends and fans: "I want anybody to win but the Heat."

Said Breen: "I still think there are a lot of people that don't like them, but I agree with Jack that people have grown to respect them."

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A clearing in the Garden

The NBA and NHL finals have not yet begun, but the lower section of Madison Square Garden as we knew it already is long gone, stripped of everything from locker rooms to seats.

Check out the pictures for yourself on the Garden's website. Yikes!

"It's incredible; it looks like an old Roman coliseum," MSG Sports president Scott O'Neil said at a Sports Business Journal event in Hoboken this past week.

As the Garden is cleared out in anticipation of its new, "transformed" look, the Nets' Barclays Center continues to rise in downtown Brooklyn in anticipation of a late 2012 opening.

Regarding the soon-to-be crosstown rivalry, O'Neil cracked: "The five boroughs and Connecticut and New Jersey are Knicks country. We wouldn't single out a certain borough."

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