Friday, December 28, 2007

A bit of a celebration...

Since it looks like Rob Ray's book, "Rayzor's Edge," is going to have a second printing in early March, here's a tribute to his video work -- an old ESPN commercial:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Women and children last

Here's a little tip for the football fans of Western New York: Attending a Buffalo Bills' game in Ralph Wilson Stadium is not for the faint of heart.

Particularly when the New York Giants are in town.

Let's start with the disclaimers. It was a miserable day, squared. The temperature went from 53 to 35 during the game, and it at least drizzled and sometimes poured. There was virtually no way to stay dry. A moment of silence, please, for my gloves. With the home team eventually losing, no local fan was going to have a great time.

Then there's the tailgating/alcohol issues. I think I wrote last year about how the parking lots at the Ralph look a little like an Iraqi city after a game, with empties and broken glass scattered about the grounds. Driving out of there is not for the faint of heart most days. In the stands, this week there was a steady stream of fans carrying $8 beers back to their seats (and how can they afford them?).

However, the games I attended in 2006 were fine once I got in the gate. My group and I sat down and watched the game in a relatively civilized, dignified manner. That's perhaps because the Titans and Jaguars don't bring bunches of fans with them.

Well, that sure didn't happen Sunday against Giants. Whew. There was a constant stream of bad language directed at the Giants, often about the personal habits of Eli Manning. New York had a good supply of its own fans at the game; they were easy to pick out since they were wearing Giants' jerseys. There was some less-than-clever, back-and-forth conversation between the Giants and Bills' fans.

At one point at halftime, a Bills' fan yelled at a Giants' fan wearing a Lawrence Taylor jersey, "Hey, why don't you wear a shirt from this decade at least? That's so 1980's." The Giants fan replied, "Nice franchise you've got here. And how many rings do you have?" Add a few bad words in the midst of the conversation, and you'll get the idea.

Here's the catch. I was sitting in seats owned by a season-ticket holder of at least 30 years. In other words, this was not the end zone where fans were a little more likely to be single-game ticket holders who were just there for a party. I should have been surrounded by people who were veteran fans. It was almost a surprise there were no fights, although an usher had to come down to break up a shouting match.

One friend of mine brought two teenage girls to the game. When he told two fans behind him to watch the language because of the kids, he got, as he put it, "some lip" for his trouble. I've heard all sorts of profanity over the years, so I'm at least used to it even if my vocabulary is close to squeaky-clean. But this was as bad as I've heard at a sporting event.

I'm glad I didn't bring any kids to the game, and I'm glad I didn't bring my wife to the game. And that's not a particularly good sign about a sporting event that's features the sale of tickets to all the general public.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"No, you go..."

When you post a family tree on line, you never know what the day's e-mail will bring.

For example ...

I received a short note today from someone who had noticed an entry for a distant relative of mine, John Wallace. I had found a note from the Daughters of the American Revolution that he had fought for the Americans, and posted it.

Here's the fun part. The note said Wallace was with General Washington at Valley Forge. He didn't like the conditions there, so he packed up his bag and went home.

After the winter, the Americans sent out word that all was forgiven, and that anyone who reported back for duty wouldn't be punished. Well, our pal John wasn't sure if he believed that completely.

So ... he sent his son -- also named John Wallace -- to take his place.

I wondered if courage runs in the family. Apparently not.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


After a mere 11 years, the city of Buffalo finally is starting to figure out how to get rid of Memorial Auditorium.

It announced that some of the blue seats will go on sale to the public next summer, as well as some other, to be determined items. The place has been sitting empty since HSBC Arena opened in the fall of 1996. Now that the Bass Pro development apparently is set (note the word apparently), our city fathers have decided it is safe to tear the place down within the next two years.

And that raises a fundamental question. Should I buy a couple of the seats?

Hmmm. That's a tough one.

I grew up as a sports fan in Memorial Auditorium. I saw the Buffalo Braves there. The Buffalo Sabres. Canisius College basketball. The Buffalo Stallions soccer team. I saw Roberto Duran fight there, Ernie Ladd wrestle there, John McEnroe volley there. Heck, I saw Joanie Weston take part in a Roller Derby match there.

And that doesn't even cover the concerts: Bruce Springsteen, the Police, U2, Genesis, Rush, Yes, INXS, Bob Segar, Huey Lewis and the News, Elton John, Billy Joel, Diana Ross (sister's idea), Emerson Lake & Palmer (my idea), etc. One time on my way out of work, Roger Waters was rehearsing for that night's concert. So I sat down at 10th row center ice and watched the band go through a complete version of "Money" from "Dark Side of the Moon." I was an audience of one.

And I even worked there for six years. After 16 years of attending and covering events there, I worked for the Sabres and had a key to the side door. (Interestingly enough, the Sabres never asked for the key when I left. I was honest enough to leave it on my desk while departing.) Then I went back to journalism, and covered games there for four more years.

So owning seats to the place would be, at the least, fun. But, another question quickly follows.

What would I do with them? I don't have a classic rec room where they could be displayed. They would sit in the basement, unused and unseen. That would be a bit of a waste of money.

So I think I'll sit out of the Aud souvenir sale. But I do have one item from the place stashed away. The press box had little plastic squares with seat numbers on them, as there were no individual chairs up there. On the night of the last hockey game in the Aud, which I covered, I brought a screwdriver and took my seat number, #35, with me.

Has the statute of limitations run out for that little bit of larceny yet?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Welcome to the club...

In my never-ending efforts to spread the word about good work, check out the new blog by Glenn Locke of Boulder, Colorado:

The fact that he wrote about my book today has absolutely nothing to do with this plug. I would have done it anyway.

Just not today.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cough, cough

There's nothing like my second annual early December illness.

And this was a good one -- a nice case of bronchitis. It came complete with chest congestion, a 101-plus fever, and fainting at 4 a.m. on the way back from the bathroom. The biggest problem is trying to sleep -- the bed doesn't work because of coughing, forcing the patient to a reclining chair in an unsuccessful effort to get some shuteye.

I hadn't missed a day of work in 10 years, and I missed a week this time. Somehow, work was done without me. The first few days of the illness were something of a blur -- I couldn't really read, and it almost hurt to watch television. Besides, I was dozing a lot.

After recovering a bit, though, the job of getting better turned really boring. It supposed to be cool to be able to sit home while sick and watch videos or something. All I had, though, was the Ken Burns' series on World War II ... which I had watched when it was originally on. That sure didn't help. I would have killed for a trip to the video store. You can only watch ESPN News for so long.

Let's hope this December sickness doesn't turn into a tradition.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Stop the insanity

Let me just review the Presidential selection process briefly, just to make sure I have this right.

A bunch of candidates spend about a year campaigning and raising money. The campaigning is mostly done in Iowa and New Hampshire, and fund-raising is done anywhere there is a hand to shake and some shrimp to eat.

Then the business of selecting delegates starts. Well, sort of. In Iowa, voters aren't selecting delegates, they are caucusing in order to pick delegates. Not many people understand the system, but somehow winners and losers are determined -- mostly on a basis of expectations. In New Hampshire, you can vote for anyone you want regardless of party affiliation. So if you are a Democrat who is scared stiff that Rudy Giuliani is the only Republican who can stop a Democratic win (and that's not a ridiculous thought), then you'll sprint to the voting booth and become an instant Republican.

And when we are done with Iowa and New Hampshire, we have clear front-runners as well as candidates who can no longer raise money and head for the hills, leaving a few buttons (we should have more buttons in politics, don't you think?) and signs in their wake. In a couple of more weeks, a few more primaries will be held, and the winners of the two major nominations may be determined.

And it won't be February. Which means the voting population won't be asked to pay attention again until ... un ... Labor Day. Seven months later. In meantime, 90-plus percent of the electorate won't have much to say about the outcome.

Does this make any sense? Do people really wonder why voter turnout isn't too high?

I like the idea of retail campaigning that Iowa and New Hampshire bring to the table. It's charming to watch the candidates work the crowds one at a time on C-SPAN. The two states seem to take the responsibilities seriously, too. It would be a great way to start the campaign. Instead, it feels too often like the beginning of the end.

I'm not sure what might work here -- a "no delegate picked before March 1" rule or something might not be too practical -- but this system makes the electoral college look downright civilized.