Saturday, September 27, 2008

The big moment?

I'm starting to think that this bit of video might be the one for the time capsule when it comes to the 2008 election. I happened to see it live, and I was pretty stunned:

Jack Cafferty is admittedly no fan of Republicans, but his silence at the end of the clip was pretty powerful.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cheap plug

The Buffalo News has added a couple of new sports blogs to its list, and I've got a hand in one of them. We are now featuring a blog called "Sports Ink," which covers subjects that don't come up elsewhere. That list would include the Bandits, running, outdoor sports, etc.

While I'll be sending in some items that don't fit in the running column, I will be represented every day in another sense. I've written up a regular item that can be called "This Day in Buffalo Sports History." It was fun to do the research on it, going through a variety of sources including the Internet and a bunch of local and national reference books. When possible, I've included a couple of paragraphs on how The News covered the story in question at the time.

In the next several days, we'll have items on such diverse subjects as a Joe Mesi fight to a Buffalo pro football team that started operations in 1920. As you could imagine, the Bills and Sabres get the most items over the course of a year.

Hope you like it; you'll find it nowhere else.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


As Memorial Auditorium starts to come down a block away from my workplace, it's easy to think back over some of the events that happened to me there. After attending events there for 16 years, I landed a job in that building as I worked in the Sabres' public relations department.

It's funny what you remember. One time around 1990 or so, in the second period of a Sabres game, I ran out of the press box during a break in play to use the men's room. When I came back to the press box entrance, which consisted of a couple of metal steps leading up to the facility hanging from the rafters, there was a young boy of about 10 standing at the entrance.

"Can I help you with something?" I asked politely.

"What the heck is this?" said the boy brightly.

"Follow me," I said, and led him up the stairs. There I saw the "press box goon," Shawn, a volunteer who made sure people came in the area with a press pass.

After asking the boy's name, I said, "Shawn, this is our special guest, Jimmy. Do you have some press notes for Jimmy?"

Shawn did and gave him a set. Then I took Jimmy to the middle of the press box, introduced him to The Buffalo News writer, and let him peer over the edge as the game went on below for a couple of minutes. I also showed him where the radio and television announcers were.

"OK, Jimmy, time to get back where you belong. Thanks for coming up," I said in leading him back to the door. Never did anything like that before or afterwards. Later I asked Shawn how the boy had reacted when we were done. Shawn said the boy stumbled back to his seat, looking like he had just unexpectedly walked into a glass door and wondered what the heck had happened.

It's been 18 years or so since that boy got an unexpected press box tour. That makes him about 28 years old now. Did that little gesture turn him into a big Sabres fan? Is he now a season ticket holder?

Sometimes you plant a seed without knowing if something will bloom, just because it's the right thing to do.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Almost forty-seven years later...

One of my favorite authors, Ken Dryden (I wrote an early blog about him and his books) once was interviewed about the closing of Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto after something like 70 years of tradition, and what it would be like to head for the new Air Canada Centre down the street. He started by saying that endings were always a little sad, and beginnings were always a little scary.

Dryden always was smarter than the average goalie.

This is the obvious day to think about endings in American sports, as one of the cathedrals, Yankee Stadium, is closing tonight. Plenty of trees have fallen to be turned into paper to pay tribute to this Grande Dame and the events that have taken place there in the past few months.

Mike Harrington wrote a charming piece in The Buffalo News today about his experiences today. That got me to thinking about the few times I've been in the building. And a light bulb went on.

Remember Roger Maris' 61st homer in 1961 that broke Babe Ruth's legendary record for homers in a season? I was there. And it's very possible that it was the first time I was even in the building.

My family moved down from Massachusetts to New Jersey in the middle of 1961. My parents were raising me correctly, teaching me character by rooting for the Red Sox of that era. (I never converted to the Yankees in that time while living in N.J., although I did pick up an affection for the hapless Mets of that decade.) In early October, the Red Sox were hopelessly out of the playoff race, and from what my mother recalls we literally decided that weekend to go into New York and see the Red Sox play the Yankees on the final day of the regular season. Walked right up and bought tickets.

The Red Sox lost that game, 1-0. It wasn't close to being sold out. The record wasn't a big deal as the commissioner had ruled Maris wouldn't get credit for the record unless he did it in 154 games instead of in the newly expanded 162-game schedule. (Ford Frick, the commissioner in question, by the way was Babe Ruth's biographer. No conflict of interest there.) So even though the most famous record in the game was about to fall, and even though the Yankees were involved in a pennant race throughout the season, the stadium was less than half-full.

I made a few other trips to Yankee Stadium during my years in New Jersey, including an old-timers day trip around 1964. I think Joe DiMaggio was in center field. But I can't be sure if that October day in 1961 was my first trip to Yankee Stadium. No one in the family would remember that detail at this point, and at a few weeks short of age 6 I wasn't taking notes.

But if that was my first game there, it was a tough act to follow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A candidate we can believe in...

In case you don't like the offerings for the major offices in this country...

Thanks to Glenn Locke for the heads-up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rhymes with orange

It's a slightly old joke, but an obvious one.

A Syracuse graduate was talking on Tuesday about Saturday's football game between the Orange (and for the record I hate singular sports nicknames) and Penn State. "I think Penn State just scored again," he said.

He wasn't right, but it sure seemed like it. Ye Olde Alma Mater is 0-3 on the current season. It has lost to Northwestern (not exactly a Big Ten power), Akron (not exactly anyone's idea of a power), and Penn State (a top 25 team that scored more than half a hundred points on Syracuse). So Syracuse has a game with Northeastern coming up, followed by the Big East portion of the schedule. And 1-11 looms as a good possibility.

The question is, how should I react to all of this?

I'm used to losing football teams at Syracuse. When I arrived as a freshman in the fall of 1973, I was all excited to see big-time major college football. Week one saw Bowling Green defeat Syracuse, 41-14. Bowling Green? Where is that? What conference? I believe Syracuse went 2-9/2-9/6-5/3-8 during my four years there, and I covered some of those games for the school newspaper. As one co-worker said, "The stories are much funnier when the football team gets clobbered."

Syracuse football had some dramatic ups during the 1980's and 1990's, but the last four years have been dreary. Attendance has dropped way off, which probably will lead to the obligatory coaching change.

Part of me looks at rabid college football fans with a small degree of disdain. It's easy to wonder about the priorities of people who gas up the RV and drive hundreds of miles to see their favorite team, and then when the team loses they start Web sites that are something like It's not like a bad football team is going to decrease the value of my diploma. And plenty of schools have a good reputation without a good football team -- MIT and Duke come to mind. I never could figure out why some people think they have the right to throw money at players with a $50 handshake (note: I kind of doubt this is happening at Syracuse now). I'd prefer the team to win, but it's not going to ruin my day.

Still, the football team represents a connection to my college years. When the score comes up in the newspaper or on television, it's easy to think back to when I sat in the stands of Archbold Stadium with friends, hoping that the team would figure out to win a game or two. The thought of those friends still makes me smile. The math department doesn't make the pages of the newspaper very often, at least when you are 150 miles away.

I guess I don't expect dominance, year after year, but a trip to the Weed Eater Bowl every once in a while would be nice. Until that happens, I'll be wearing Syracuse shirts as a reminder of my years there and my friends from there, and not as a reminder of 0-3 and counting.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rainy days and Saturdays

When you think of Buffalo, you think of ... rain forests.

At least now.

The Buffalo Zoo has finally opened its newest building, a rain forest display in the middle of the facility.

I paid a visit to it this afternoon, and the place is easy to review: It's terrific.

After going through a brief visitors' area that explains something about rain forests (it's patterned after a national park in Venezuela), patrons walk through a door and enter a large atrium-like setting two stories high. There is an assortment of animals and birds around, including a couple of anteaters. Don't recall ever seeing an anteater anywhere. There are also ocelots, frogs, bats and monkeys that go with some creatures that I couldn't identify or couldn't spell.

There's a nice waterfall in the middle of it, and some of the walls are painted to resemble a rain forest to add to the effect. My wife had a brief chat with the zoo director, Donna Fernandes, who says all of the animals are learning to interact with the strangers around them. She added that the ocelots, who are nocturnal anyway, may need some extra time.

It's all pretty exotic and interesting, and it's a great way to increase year-round attendance at the Zoo. I'd bet a rain forest will seem pretty inviting when you are sitting in your house in, say, January.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Primary thoughts

Primary elections in New York State are now over.


It was another typical primary season around these parts, particularly when it comes to state races. The incumbants all say that their experience will help them serve the public even better in the years to come. The challengers say that the incumbants have been in office too long, that the system is broken, and that a new face is needed to completely change the system -- even though we all know that first-timers have about as much influence in that area as Eliot Spitzer does now.

Go through a few of these primaries, and it's easy to search for the volume knob in order to turn them all off.

My part of town was a battleground for one of the State Assembly races. Thanks to one of those intramural squabbles in which no one cares who wins but the participants in the squabble (meaning various political types), my house received a deluge of mail, phone calls and personal visits over the past couple of weeks.

A story from that race of note: The postman met up with a neighbor with the latest batch of ugly literature. It was trash day, and the postman said to the neighbor, "Do you want to read these, or should I just put them in the recycling bin now in order to save you some time?" Maybe the mailman should have run for office.

I wrote here earlier about another race between two relatives and an ex-boxer. Well, to use the language of his ads, which crammed every boxing metaphor in the world into 60 seconds, Joe Mesi scored a knockout in the primary. He now moves on to the general election, where he'll face County Legislator Michael Ranzenhofer. It will be interesting to see how important name recognition is in that election, although not as interesting as the next family picnic with the other two entrants.

Finally, after hearing Jack Davis and Jon Powers go back and forth in a nasty manner on campaign issues, either by themselves or by associates, the House primary election for the Republicans offered a surprise winner: Alice Kryzan. Or, as she might have been known, none of the above.

I didn't have a dog in that hunt, as I don't live in that district, but once in a while it's nice to see a little sanity prevail.

P.S. If you read the news today, you heard about the skirmish nationally about a remark Senator Obama made about lipstick and pigs. Check out this book title from a former McCain advisor.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


If you read Sunday's article on Western New York's greatest runner, Deerfoot, you might be interested to see a picture of what his grave looks like. I took the above picture of it in Forest Lawn Cemetery. He's in front and a little over from Red Jacket's grave. We didn't have room for it in the story.

Hope you noticed the little plug to get Deerfoot in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame someday, in one form or another. The Hall prefers to have its inductees be a little more, um, current, for obvious reasons, but they do have an honor for past greats. I don't think there's anyone that goes back before the 1860's. And considering his many world records, he's quite qualified.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A bit of closure

Jay Bonfatti's friends never had the chance to say farewell to him, and most couldn't make the trip to Massachusetts for the funeral. So they held something of a party/tribute/Irish wake/New Orleans wake for him at the Lafayette Tap Room in Buffalo Saturday afternoon.

I think it's fair to say Jay would have loved it.

There was plenty of food and drink, plenty of music and plenty of friends. That's the formula to make everyone feel a little bit better in a difficult time.

It was impressive to see the wide cast of characters at the gathering. Some were from the various departments of The Buffalo News; it was nice because many people don't usually each other because of different time shifts or job responsibilities. Some were former employees or acquaintances of Jay's through the business of journalism, a few of whom came in from out of town. And others were friends who knew Jay through a variety of other ways, reflecting Jay's diverse interests. I found myself saying a lot, "Let's talk again soon under happier circumstances."

Jay's family came in for the occasion, and if they didn't realize how beloved this memorable character in these people's lives was, they should know it now.

The gathering isn't the last time we'll be talking about Jay, but maybe it helped us gain a little closure about the sad turn of events. So to the organizers I'll say, "Thanks, I needed that."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The blogosphere

Here are a couple of blogs presented for your entertainment:

I've become a fan of Chuck Todd this political season. He may not have much flash, but he clearly knows his stuff inside and out and presents the facts in a clear, straightforward manner. His role has increased since Tim Russert's death, to the point where he's done some hosting on MSNBC.

Todd has more fans than me. One, in fact, has started a blog called Viva Chuck Todd. It's pretty funny, and I hope the NBC News staff is getting some chuck-les out of it.

Then there's another site dedicated to Bruce Springsteen. You have to give the owner a lot of credit. He's put together a database of all of the songs (or as many as he could) played by Springsteen in concerts (and in the studio) over the years. It's called "The Killing Floor -- Bruce Springsteeen database page."

Care to guess what Springsteen played in Richfield Coliseum in 1992? This is the place to look. He opened with "Better Days," which I can't say I remembered.

This may be the only blog where Chuck Todd and Bruce Springsteen share top billing. Enjoy it, fans of eclectic tastes.