Monday, July 31, 2006

Rooting for the laundry

It's been an interesting summer here in Buffalo when it comes to uniforms. That's right, uniforms.

The Sabres, coming off a good playoff run that ended with a narrow loss to the eventual champion Carolina Hurricanes, are gearing up for next season with contract talks, trades, etc. Yet all the fans seem to care about is the logo.

A picture of part of the new design of the Sabres' logo and uniforms was printed in the newspaper, and it's fair to say the reaction was less than enthusiastic. The letters to the editor page of the local sports section has been filled with comments. An on-line petition drew more than 10,000 signatures. And remember -- only part of the new look was released.

The Sabres recently responded by announcing that the team's new third jersey will be -- presto! -- the same as the team's 1970-1996 road uniforms. The diehard fans appeared to be thrilled, at least in public. That's in spite the fact that those uniforms were basically a copy of the Maple Leafs' road jerseys, as then-GM Punch Imlach liked the look way back when. Since road teams now wear white in NHL games (which probably is a mistake because it makes every game in a particular building look the same, but that's another argument), the Sabres couldn't use their old, better-looking (IMHO) white home uniforms as a third jersey.

I can only guess as to what is going on here. The uniforms for the past 10 years looked fine to me; I was thrilled to see the old road uniforms go in 1996. Are the Sabres fans trying to bury a legacy of the bankrupt Rigas era? Do the old-time fans miss the good old days? Are the Sabres trying to hit the young and the old segments of their fan base at the same time, thus taking in money both ways? Are they trying to make an old tie I have in the attic that has the Sabre logo on it fashionable again?

I'm not sure. But before I start writing letters to the editor about the ugly new logo, I think I'd like to see the whole thing first.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Buy high, sell low...

If you have an e-mail account, you've probably gotten on someone's list for stock tips. An unnamed person has sent you information about a very small company, and its stock is about to jump. Oddly, sometimes the same stock is mentioned in a couple of different e-mails.

I always figured something was up, but couldn't figure out the complete story. That led me to an investigation, and the discovery that the complete story doesn't really matter.

Today I received a couple of notes on the Ever-Glory International Group. I did a search on it, and I was taken to a page on the scam known as "Pump and Dump." Scammers hope to encourage some people to buy stock in a company, which will drive the price up a bit and give them a seller. Then the stock returns to normal, and the e-mail recipient is stuck with the stock.

The SEC doesn't know who might be behind a particular effort. According to the site, it could be someone in the company itself, someone with a connection to the company, or someone with no connection to the company. It's interesting that there is no bad Web site to visit, which is often the case with other spams.

Someone looked into Ever-Glory. Surprise! The stock dropped 16 percent just after one spam burst.

I realize my many loyal readers are much too smart to fall for something like this. But that doesn't mean they don't like to see how such matters operate. I'm sticking to the blue chips, thank you.

Friday, July 21, 2006

America's best job

We all have an idea about a perfect job. Left fielder for the Boston Red Sox? Movie star? Senior Senator? Business executive?

Nah. Samantha Brown has the best job around. She's a host on the Travel Channel. Or, perhaps I should say, the host on the Travel Channel. Every time I turn on that particular channel, it seems she is on. Does anyone else work there? Does the programming head just recycle her shows over and over again?

Granted, this is not a perfect job for someone who doesn't like to travel. Samantha seems to go everywhere. One hour she is in Hawaii. Then Rome. Then San Francisco. Scranton never comes up.

And it's not like we're talking Motel 6's here, either. She's usually sent to the best hotels, with the wait staff fawning over her. OK, it's television, you'd expect some cooperation from the staff considering the show is a 10-minute informercial in spots. But Samantha seems to get plenty of attention in the form of food and drink.

Samantha usually does a solid job on the show, and it's not an easy assignment. She talks to the camera as if it's a person in showing it around these good-looking spots, and that's not easy. In addition, she comes off with a good-sized amount of warmth and personality.

Brown is getting ready for year eight on the job, which involves some trips to South America. I would think a few more programs in the can and she could have her own channel -- nothing but her shows, 24 hours a day. Call it "Sam I Am" or something equally silly.

Yes, the job probably has some drawbacks. As in, how long do you go without reading the mail back home? Do you know your neighbors? But for those who like to travel, this has got to be as good as it gets.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Take five

1. Before the World Cup final, Zinedine Zidane figured to be remembered as one of soccer's all-time greats, a magician with the ball and one of the leaders of the French team that won the Cup in 1998.

His legacy took a change in course in this year's final. Zidane was given a red card for a stunning foul in overtime against Italy. He ran up to an opposing player and butted him with his head into the chest.

Let's see. It's overtime of the biggest sporting event of the planet. You are a great penalty-kick performer. And you pick that moment to get kicked out of the game?

This makes Phil Mickelson's decision to go for the green on his second shot at 18 last month seem downright brilliant. I can't wait until someone makes a list of all-time stupid actions in sports, because it has company.

2. Speaking of Mickelson, think there will be a few eyes on him during the British Open? Especially on Sunday?

3. It's difficult to get NBA news while visiting Glacier National Park. The story about Michael Jordan working for Charlotte slipped by me for a while.

Good thing his name is Michael Jordan. Because if his name were Henry Finkel or Hawthorne Wingo or Kurt Rambis, he might not have gotten another chance. When Jordan ran the Washington Wizards, he was rarely even in town and made several odd personnel decisions. Abe Pollin couldn't wait to get rid of him once his playing days were over.

Michael is smart and he knows plenty about basketball, but this has a chance to be a disaster.

4. It's difficult to make the baseball all-star game attractive to the public, since it is at heart just an exhibition game. But how tough would it be to make two small rules changes:

a. Drop the requirement that every team have a representative.
b. Use the designated hitter.

You'd have the best players, and be less likely to run out of them in the late innings. Get to work, Mr. Selig.

5. This probably deserves its own column, but one of our radio hosts in Buffalo came up with an idea that struck me as interesting: come up with a description that could be used for both an athlete and a rock star/band.

Let's see -- big star, easy Hall of Famer, had a couple of lapses but was generally great for a long, long time: Roger Clemens/Bruce Springsteen.

Pioneer in his field, revolutionized the game, had some personal problems including some weight gain, died too early: Elvis Presley/Babe Ruth.

Maybe not a Hall of Famer, but very good for a long time, showed up all the time, appreciated by those in the know: Dwight Evans/Rush.

This could consume me for days. So I'll quit now.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Red and yellow, but not green

Much has been written about how Americans haven't warmed up to soccer during the past 30 or so years, but there's one aspect of the game that should be immediately adopted by us all.

Cards. As in red cards, and yellow cards.

They are used in soccer as something of a technical foul. Have one minor offense, and you get a yellow card from the official. Do something really bad, and you get a red card and are immediately ejected from the game. Two yellows equal a red.

That doesn't really convey the emotion of the moment. Picture one player tripping up another. Tempers grow short. There is yelling. The threat of violence grows. And in runs a black-clad official. He reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out ... a card. He hold the card up, and fans and players react with passion.

I've liked the concept of cards for some time. Many years ago, a group of my friends played recreational soccer. When something happened when I was out with them that I didn't like, I just reached into my wallet and pulled out a card. Someone would react by saying, "Oh, no, I've been Visa-carded!" I really should have gotten a yellow Visa card or something.

ESPN the Magazine recently had a back-of-the magazine graphic with a card, with various names on it to indicate their time was up. I'd bet Terrell Owens was on there, although I can't say for sure.

But I think the idea works on a much more personal basis. The other day, I was driving into work when I went to make a left turn into a one-way street. A car was coming out of that one-way street the wrong way; the driver was obviously too lazy to go around the block to enter the Thruway corrrectly. I gave him a look as I went past that could be described as quizzical; I really didn't appreciate him messing up traffic and potentially causing an accident. He responded by bugging his eyes out and looking like I was the one who was wrong.

I could have used a yellow card.

Couldn't we all?