Saturday, January 31, 2009

Groundhog's Day, again

My wife likes to have some sort of party for her staff each year to show her appreciation for their hard work. The catch is that December is usually too busy a time for everyone in order to do the idea justice.

Since her favorite holiday is Groundhog's Day, she has it then instead. And after the month we've had weather-wise, a party seems like a good idea about now.

The fourth annual party is coming up in her office in the Rath Building, and she farms out the role of writing of most of the invitation. To me. I write the Letterman-like list of 10 reasons to celebrate Groundhog's Day.

You should know that we have a couple of building projects in downtown Buffalo that are taking forever to build. And we had quite a windstorm shortly before I wrote the list up. Otherwise, you should get most of the attempts at jokes:

Ten New Reasons to Celebrate at a Groundhog's Day Party
1. You can sing traditional Groundhog's Day carols with your coworkers.
2. Chance to guess which will come first: new Bass Pro or new waterfront casino.
3. Gain valuable lesson in geography by trying to find Punxsutawney on map.
4. Groundhog's spotting of shadow now means six more months of Dick Jauron.
5. Great way to spend time while waiting for next exciting Bandits' game.
6. Groundhog Goulash is refreshing switch from Christmas cookies.
7. You'll be hungry after observing traditional Super Bowl fast the day before.
8. Can personally wish others Happy Groundhog's Day instead of mailing pricey cards.
9, Seventy-mph wind gusts are unlikely to spoil a party held inside Rath Building.
10. A warmer weather forecast is change that we can believe in.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Feeling grouchy

It's funny what 60 straight days of some sort of precipitation here will do. (For the record, some of that was rain.) We here in Western New York are starting to think that the sun is like Bigfoot -- much talked about but rarely seen.

In this case, sometimes we're forced to take out our grouchy feelings on other things -- like junk mail -- that would otherwise go unnoticed.

I received in the mail a form that sort of looked like a printed check. The return address was "Division of Revenue, Department of Funding." As if that told me a lot. Next to that were the words "Bailout" and "Form 2009." I knew enough to realize that this was not going to be a stimulus check from the government (darn!), in part because there's no such thing as a Division of Revenue and in part because the stimulus package hasn't been passed by Congress yet. (Hey, I read the paper.)

Curious, I folded and ripped along the perforations along the side, and was greeted by this message which was topped by the logos of US Airlines and Hyatt:

"Congratulations! Our accounting department shows that you have been awarded a complimentary 3-Day/2-Night Hyatt Get-a-way to many of the Hyatt properties located in the continental USA along with a $30 Dinner and a $50 gas offer!!"

After giving a phone number to call, there was word of a bonus for free airline tickets if I answered in 72 hours to "any major international airport anywhere in the continental U.S.!!!!" (Since Buffalo doesn't have flights to Canada any more, I guess that lets us out.) That part of the message was followed by the logos of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, for no obvious reason.

Inside the "envelope" was a sample hotel itinerary on the front of a piece of paper, while the back had the address of "Way to Go Travel" of Seattle, Washington.

Well, I did open it, which I guess was the idea, instead of tossing it directly into the recycle bin. I'm assuming this is one of those packages where you get wined and dined in an effort to buy some property, a timeshare or something else no one needs. I've gotten those offers in the mail before. That's fine, those guys have to make a living too. But wrapping up the offer to look like some sort of stimulus check seems particularly unseemly in these difficult economic times. Why go out of your way to annoy people, particular those who need money and/or might be sick of shoveling snow?

In other words, way to go, "Way to Go Travel."

Water-cooler conversation

When I came into work on Wednesday, News columnist Jerry Sullivan was working on his column for Thursday, a tribute to writer John Updike. Since we were in the sports department, Sullivan was concentrating on Updike's famous story about Ted Williams' last game, and the Boston outfielder's home run in his last at-bat. It might be the most famous exit in baseball history, thanks in part to Updike's story.

Actually, Jerry didn't have to do that much. It was hard to improve on Updike's writing, which has been reproduced many, many times. So Jerry just got out of the way and quoted him a few times -- a very good move on his part.

Jerry and I talked about Updike for a minute and the Williams' game/story, when I said something that got Jerry's attention: "I was at that game."

Jerry's head snapped toward me. "You were?!" he said.

Indeed. I was not quite five years old when my family was living in the Boston area, and my mother decided to take my sister and me to Fenway Park for the game. Tickets were not a problem. Mom remembers that we sat down the third-base line.

I have absolutely no memory of being at the game. However, I'm told that just after Williams' last hit landed in the seats, the sudden burst of noise prompted me to cry like a, well, four-year-old.

Updike apparently also sat on the third base side. If you want a much better account of the game than mine, read his "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu."

One footnote: Ed Linn wrote a story for Sport magazine on the exact same subject. It's a much different account, with the prose much less lyrical and Williams shown to be typically crusty.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Time machine

My college friend Gregg Mace is celebrating his 30th anniversary at WHTM in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The station posted Gregg's first sportscast on its Web site (sorry about the ad at the start). I think I remember his suit from college, which you can see above.

Gregg got his start working weekends at WHTM right about the time Three Mile Island had its accident. I think he said he was the only person driving toward Harrisburg at that point.

It's funny to drive around Harrisburg with Gregg. People are always pointing and waving at him -- "Hey, it's Gregg Mace!"

Just shoot me

Here's yet another case of the world probably being right and me probably being wrong:

The NHL shootout.

Others seem to like it, a lot, while it just seems silly and contrived to me.

A tie used to be a respectable result in an NHL game. I could see why it didn't thrill newcomers to the sport, but half a loaf sometimes is better than none. One time the first-year Washington Capitals, who were truly terrible, hosted the mighty Montreal Canadiens, and tied them. The Caps fans were thrilled. Overtime and a shootout probably would have led to a loss, so a point was pretty darn good. The first three stars of the game, unsurprisingly, were Capitals.

In the early 1980's, overtime arrived. There was plenty of drama -- someone scored, and the game was over. One team got two points, one team got none. There's nothing better than sudden death in hockey.

During the next 15 or so years, NHL teams figured out that they could go into a defensive shell if the game were tied in the final minutes of regulation, and ride it out to get a point ... even with overtime a possibility. Heck, it was only five extra minutes to kill, and this was the Dead Puck Era. The NHL reacted oddly to that situation -- turning overtime into a four-on-four game in terms of skaters. Teams were guaranteed a point once reaching overtime.

This led to some strange circumstances. Teams could kill off the final minutes of regulation when tied by playing very defensively. Then they could go crazy and take a ton of chances in overtime, knowing they had at least one point in the bag. When they played a team from another conference, they really didn't care if the other team scored because it didn't affect their playoff race. Oh, and 82 points in 82 games didn't mean you were a .500 team any more. You could get a point in a loss, so a breakeven record could be close to 90 points. The won-loss records became really ugly, something like 45-25-6-6.

And how many sports change their rules in the middle of a game? Does the NBA turn to 4-on-4 in overtime?

After the lockout, the NHL added a shootout. This is something like ending a tie baseball game after 10 innings and declaring that the winner of a home run-hitting contest gets a victory. If the team wins after regulation in one form or another, it is thrilled. If it loses, the standard quote is, "At least we got a point out of it."

When you go to a game or watch one on television, the fans seem to enjoy the shootout. It's a climax to the night's action, because it does demand your attention.

But that doesn't mean I have to love it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cool running

Nothing like a refreshing winter run. And I'll let you know when I find one.

Today was the day for the Penguin Run, an annual January event in suburban Buffalo. People can save five dollars by preregistering for this race, and they get a nice sweatshirt, a good buffet lunch, and a chance to help a good cause. The catch is, the weather can be a little, um, unpredictable. This is actually an action shot of the race, but the people are frozen in place.

That guy in orange on the right, wearing a shirt from Syracuse's thrilling NCAA basketball championship in 2003, is not wearing a thermometer on his chest. It's actually his bib number and not the temperature. The temperature was much higher -- about 14 degrees. He's not winning either, but thanks to Diane for making it look that way in the picture.

Ever seen a bunch having more fun? I had so many clothes on, my legs had to re-introduce themselves to each other after the race. (Ba-dum-chuck) I've never run in colder conditions, so I needed to mark the occasion here for the permanent record.

We can only hope that Mr. Ed's Super Bowl Warm-Up Run in Middleport next week is warmer.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Attention, P.T. Barnum

If you need something to do with a spare $12.95 tonight, here's an idea: You can watch Jose Canseco fight Danny Bonaduce on pay-per-view on the Internet.

There's a sentence I can't believe I typed. Here's the Associated Press story:

NEW YORK — Jose Canseco might want to dust off that muscled-up "Bash Brother" moniker one more time.

He needs a colorful nickname for his introduction as he enters a boxing ring tonight for a three-round celebrity match against Danny Bonaduce, a child star-turned-radio host. Before Canseco tries to pummel a Partridge, he wants a flashy name that fits the oversized personality of the former steroid-fueled slugger for the Oakland Athletics.

"The Destroyer," Canseco suggested.

Canseco was a destroyer of reputations to some major-leaguers named in "Juiced," his 2005 book on steroid use in the game.

"I'm the bad guy no matter where I go," he said.

Canseco, 44, continues to seek the spotlight. The man who was once among the most feared hitters in baseball finds himself training to drill a D-list celebrity at an ice-skating rink in Aston, Pa.

Canseco has written two books, been in two reality shows and is taking his second swing at celebrity boxing; he was embarrassed by ex-Philadelphia Eagle Vai Sikahema in his debut. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Canseco admits he needs the money.

The 5-6, 180-pound Bonaduce, who played Danny Partridge on the "The Partridge Family," hosts a radio show in Philadelphia.

"Let me be honest with you right now: I am scared," Bonaduce said on Howard Stern's satellite-radio show.

You can visit in order to see this classic matchup. Then, you can tell us all about it, because I'll be watching the Bandits at for free.

(P.S. The fight was scored a draw.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pick a Senator, any Senator

For those of you living outside of New York State, you might have heard that we're down a Senator.

For those of you living inside of New York State, you probably haven't noticed.

Hillary Clinton has indeed taken over as Secretary of State, resigning her position as New York's Senator in the process. That leaves us with an interesting situation, with all sorts of angles.

Governor David Paterson is expected to name a replacement for Clinton as early as Friday. You might recall that Paterson took over the job when Eliot Spitzer self-destructed in spectacular fashion and was forced to resign.

Paterson had two issues hanging over him in this choice, and one of them was named Rudy Giuliani. Any choice for the vacant Senate seat will face a special election in 2010, and then another election for the full term of the job in 2012. If Paterson wanted to be a good Democrat, and we'll assume he did, he needed to take someone who can win that special election.

That should have eliminated everyone but two candidates, and one dropped out. Andrew Cuomo and Caroline Kennedy both had the star power to go up against a Giuliani candidacy in 2010. But when Kennedy withdrew, it apparently left Cuomo. Realistically, was there anyone else?

Turns out there was. Word leaked out Thursday night that Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand will be picked for the job on Friday.

This is curious. The new Governor probably has his eye on actually running for office himself rather than being remembered as a guy who took over for a while through resignation. But Cuomo couldn't be blamed for thinking about the Governor's job himself, particularly with an incumbent who has never been elected statewide on his own merits. Especially now. So Paterson missed a chance to push his potential rival for the job out of the way. Hmmm.

Kennedy's curious quest for the office still holds some fascination. This is a woman who showed little interest in public office for years. And who could blame her for staying out of the spotlight, considering her family history?

Then came her endorsement of Barack Obama during the primaries, and her work on the selection of a Vice President. But it was still a surprise when she announced that she was interested in the job of Senator of New York.

Kennedy certainly brought a big name to the search, but when she actually started doing media interviews for the job she came across as stumbling and uncertain -- as if she wasn't used to being in the public spotlight, which she really wasn't. Even Sarah Palin jumped in to say that Kennedy was getting something of a free ride over her lack of political experience, while Palin was roasted for the same quality during her candidacy for Vice President. Palin apparently doesn't know the difference between being a 72-year-old's heartbeat away from the Presidency and a junior Senator from New York, but Palin's clumsy point did have a hint of validity.

We're not sure at this point why Kennedy gave up the quest, but it will be interesting to see if she's found the political waters too chilly after sticking her toe in them. In the meantime, Paterson now has to think about a challenge from Cuomo, and Gillibrand has to think about a challenge from Giuliani.

Unless, of course, Giuliani decides he wants to run for Governor in 2010.

Ah, politics. A complicated business.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Many of us will never forget this week, a week when we threw away the shackles of our past and looked forward to a future where the possibilities seem limitless.

No, not our new President. This is much bigger.

The Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl.

Who thought we'd live long enough to see that sentence in type?

A while ago, I wrote a item on how the Bills don't seem to matter much nationally. Compared to the Cardinals, the Bills have been the brightest of lights, one that leaves everything and everyone else in shadows.

The Cardinals have had a less-than-distinguished history. They started out in Chicago, second-class citizens to the Chicago Bears. The Cardinals won a championship game in 1947. It was their first since the team was formed in 1920, and it took them a mere 51 years to win another playoff game.

The Cardinals had one winning season in the entire 1950's, going a glittering 7-5 in 1956. Here's how bad things were: they played a regular season game against the New York Giants in Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium in 1958. And Bills' fans think it's tough to see the home team play 100 miles away in Toronto.

The Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960. Here's how bad things were, part two: The Cardinals just weren't the most popular sports franchise in St. Louis. They weren't even the most popular franchise named "Cardinals" in St. Louis. The baseball team got their first. In 28 years, the Cardinals won 10 or more games all of three times, in three straight years no less (1974-76). Head coach Don Coryell, the man most responsible for that run, went 7-7 in 1977, then came to work and discovered all the locks at the office had been changed. He figured out he had been fired.

The Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988, and were greeted with yawns. They sometimes played in a half-empty stadium at Arizona State that had more fans for the opponents than for the home team. The Cardinals often played like they were anxious to get out of the sun into air conditioning; they still haven't won 10 games in a regular season in Arizona.

The Cardinals' most famous all-time player might be Dan Dierdorf, mostly because of his announcing career. Larry Wilson and Roger Wehrli are in the Hall of Fame too, but they are defensive backs. Few people buy throwback jerseys of defensive backs. They had some all-time greats pass through in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, but memories of them are fading for most.

Few thought the Cardinals were ready for prime time in February this year. Yes, they played in an awful division. But their best-known player is Kurt Warner, he of two Super Bowl appearances with the Rams and a wife that used to call up talk shows to defend her husband. Their most photographed player is the backup quarterback, as Matt Leinart never seems to be seen on the Internet without being in a hot tub.

The Cardinals obviously have some talent now, particularly at wide receiver, and it's impressive to win three straight playoff games (were they underdogs in all three?) under any circumstances. Still, the words don't roll of the tongue. The C-C-C-Cardinals are in the S-S-S-Super Bowl. Isn't there anything we can count on?

Oh, right. The Detroit Lions.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Scene from a life, running edition

The other night I attended the annual race directors meeting at the Wendelville Volunteer Fire Hall. The idea, and it's a good one, is for everyone planning a race to get together and hear from a variety of speakers on how to make their races better. There's also a schedule of races issued, so that in theory seven races aren't held on a particular Saturday in July while the next Saturday has zero. It doesn't happen, of course, but it's a worthwhile concept.

I've been the opening speaker for the last three years of this meeting, which I believe puts me right up there with Shecky Greene and Sid Melton when it comes to opening acts. (Maybe the session should be held in the Borscht Belt.) I give a pretty standard speech about how to submit results to the newspaper for publication, ask them to keep an eye out for stories, and to feel free to call if they ever need unfiltered opinions on how to make their races better. I got a round of applause this time when I mentioned that I had run in 41 races in 2008; maybe I should say, my checkbook got a round of applause.

I also mentioned that I was in charge of the Runner of the Year race series for The Buffalo News. However, I added, as usual, that I didn't have much room for altering the schedule, what with several must-include races and trying to make sure there are a variety of distances. Besides, very few people pick out their races based on the schedule as far as I could tell.

But that never stops people from doing a little lobbying when everyone gets up to talk about his or her race. As we went through about 50 people and races, we finally got to Pastor Gary of Hamburg, who puts on the "Runnin' with Jesus" series. Pastor Gary has a good sense of humor, and at first mentioned that he had started with one race and was up to four. Then he said something like this:

"At one point I called out my prayer warriors, and asked them all to send a direct message. 'Please, God, help us out here.' We all prayed and prayed and received no response. Then I found out that my prayer warriors were praying to the wrong person. They were praying to God to have our race included in the Runner of the Year series, but they should have been praying to Budd Bailey," he said.

That got a good laugh, and suddenly about 50 sets of eyes turned toward me for a response. I had a second to think while the laughter died down. Then I replied, "God answers all prayers, but sometimes He answers no."

Not Oscar Wilde or Woody Allen, but not bad under the circumstances. Who wants to talk back to Pastor Gary? Afterwards, he came up to me and said with a smile, "I liked your answer. Good spirit."

Sounds like the stakes have been raised on this Runner of the Year thing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Like a $3 sweater...

I've been reading "Pro Football Prospectus" this week. It has some good information in it, but it's a little technical and isn't quite as accessible as the companion publication, "Baseball Prospectus."

Anyway, the authors put together a chart of the likelihood of a team making the playoffs with a particular record. In other words, if a team is 5-3, what are the odds that it will reach the postseason?

When I saw that, I thought it would be fun to see how the Bills' season progressed. As we know, the Bills' hopes unraveled like, well, a $3 sweater. Here's the week by week report:

1. Win - Seattle - 54.3%
2. Win - Jacksonville - 65.2%
3. Win - Oakland - 79.5%
4. Win - St. Louis - 88.0%
5. Loss - Arizona - 80.6%
6. Win - San Diego - 87.3%
7. Loss - Miami - 76.7%
8. Loss - N.Y. Jets - 69.3%
9. Loss - New England - 54.5%
10. Loss - Cleveland - 30.3%
11. Win - Kansas City - 50.0%
12. Loss - San Francisco - 28.6%
13. Loss - Miami - 10.3%
14. Loss - N.Y. Jets - 3.0%
15. Win - Denver - 6.8%
16. Loss - New England - 0.0%

If the Bills had beaten Cleveland to go to 6-4, their chances would have improved to 66.3 percent.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Too good not to share...

Greg Connors of The Buffalo News found a video clip on YouTube of the highlights of an NBA playoff game between the Buffalo Braves and Washington Bullets from 1975.

I'd post it here, but my work Web site should get credit for Greg's discovery and the hits. So you can jump to it here. We can use the traffic.

By the way, all you younger fans out there should listen carefully to the analysis of Oscar Robertson. Noted basketball fan Glenn Locke once said the Big O got so excited while announcing, that it was difficult to believe the man scored 25,000 points in his career.

"Whoa!!! Yes he did, Brent!"

"If a tree falls in the forest" dept.

The American Sportscasters Association have selected the 50 best sports announcers of all time. It's a pretty good list, of course, which starts with Vin Scully, Mel Allen and Red Barber.

Here's the catch, though: Apparently the group didn't tell many people about it. The list has sort of leaked out, as the Association's own Web site apparently didn't mention it until today -- and it just put out a simple list without any biographies.

I'm not sure I would have put Bill Walton at #39 (one spot ahead of Foster Hewitt, which anyone living by the Canadian border will tell you that's just wrong), and Chris Berman at #35 seems a little high on the list, but the usual suspects are listed. You can find the full list here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The year in review, at a glance

I had an idea while spending more than three hours to drive about 100 miles through the snow from Toronto to Buffalo Saturday night after covering the lacrosse game there. Heck, you gotta think about something while crawling along the QEW at 30 miles per hour.

Start with the premise that a 16-game schedule isn't the best way of determining a team's relative strength, because it's such a small sample size. Let's take a look at the Bills' season in order of the records of the teams they played, and how they did against them:

Denver - 8-8
San Diego - 8-8
Jacksonville - 5-11
Oakland - 5-11
Seattle - 4-12
St. Louis - 2-14
Kansas City - 2-14
Combined: 34-78

New England - 11-5
New England - 11-5
Miami - 11-5
Miami - 11-5
Arizona - 9-7
N.Y. Jets - 9-7
N.Y. Jets - 9-7
San Francisco - 7-9
Cleveland - 4-12

Combined: 86-62

The divisional rivals get counted twice because they played them twice. What jumps off the page when you look at the Bills' season this way?

Yes, they didn't beat a team that had a winning record all year. They also played six, count them, six teams that lost at least 10 games each. And San Francisco wasn't exactly a powerhouse either.

As 7-9 seasons go, and the Bills have gotten really good at that particular record (three in a row), this looks like a terribly soft one. You play teams that lose 10 times, you ought to win about all of them. Heck, you beat those six teams, split the rest, and finish 10-6. That might not be a playoff team, at least this year, but it looks like a good-sized step forward.

In other words, the Bills had what has to be considered a terribly weak schedule in 2008, and they didn't capitalize on it. They can't be that lucky in scheduling next year, in all probability. If you are counting on improvement in 2009, it seems like Buffalo is going to have to be a much better team just to tread water at 7-9 again.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Good old days

Time to sound a little like an old fogey. Or is that fogie?

Back in the dark ages, maybe 30 years ago, the college football bowl system was still a little silly (What, no formal championship? It's picked by polls?) but at least it was ordered. On New Year's Day, the top four or five bowl games would be played during the course of the day. It was already a holiday, and America sat down to watch major portions of the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl (a latecomer to the party) and the Orange Bowl depending on which had the best matchup. And when then the final moment of the late-night Orange Bowl took place, the season was over. Period. The other bowl games, and there weren't that many of them, took place before Jan. 1. It was nice and neat, at least.

The situation is different now. Games go from before Christmas Day until well after New Year's. I usually don't know who is playing in a given game, but I do know that many of the games are greeted with empty seats. Supposedly, the secondary market for upper-deck seats for the Cincinnati-Virginia Tech Orange Bowl was $1.

There are still games on January 1, but only the Rose and Orange Bowls seem to matter even a little. And there are games after that. The University at Buffalo played on Jan. 3 in the International Bowl; it was thrilled to be there but it sure didn't seem like it was a good fit into the overall schedule.

Now, I'm modern enough to realize that there are certain marketing advantages to spreading our the biggest games over a period of time so they don't run into each other on television. Meanwhile, the season formally does end with the BCS championship, even though no one is particularly happy about the way that game is set up. (I have written before about the need for a plus-one system.)

Still, something seems to have been lost in the translation. New Year's Day is less than special now, and I defy anyone without a rooting interest to say when any of the bowl games will be played when asked a couple of weeks ahead of time.

As for the solution, let's set the first Monday night after the New Year as the date for the BCS championship game. We can work the others in before it, with at least a couple of good ones on Jan. 1.

In other words, there's no way the Outback Bowl, the granddaddy of all bowls named after steak houses, should be played at 11 a.m. Eastern on New Year's Day (a little early for the West Coast audience, thank you), and there's no way the GMAC Bowl should be the next-to-last game of the college football year.

Let's have the season build to a climax, rather than have bowl season be filled with stops and starts.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Presidential trivia

Probably every newspaper in the country had a picture of three ex-Presidents, one current President and one future President in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. That prompts the question (or at least it did where I work): What's the record for most Presidents to be alive at the same time?

Here's why the Internet is so wonderful: You can look the answer up quickly and easily. Wikipedia has a whole page for it.

There have been as many as six Presidents, past and present, alive at one time. The last time came early in current President Bush's term until Ronald Reagan died.

In the other direction, we only had one living President as recently as 1973, after Lyndon Johnson died. Richard Nixon was the only one standing.

It's a lonely job, but it was a little less lonely today.

Lifestyle tip

Whenever you are at a wake or funeral, you no doubt have said to one of the family members, "If there's anything I can do..." We all feel pretty helpless in such situations, but there usually isn't much you actually can do.

Well, this week there actually was something I could do for a friend in that situation. And it provided a good tip for the rest of us.

My friend Tom saved everything when it came to sports. He used to keep score of baseball games in big scorebooks, and then filed the scorebooks away when they were filled. Then there were programs, yearbooks, etc. of games he covered and teams he followed. Plus, old fantasy sports reference material and league results were kept.

This was all pretty well organized, but when Tom died, his wife was at a loss as to what might be useful and what might go into the recycle bin. It was quite a burden. So off I went to the house for a few hours, armed with some knowledge about the subject and a willingness to lug stuff around and place them in appropriate piles.

Yes, it was nice to be helpful and work off a little of the grief. But it was a reminder of a good lesson: Just because you have space in your house doesn't mean you have to fill it completely.

Have an afternoon like I had, and you'll be ready to head home and do some weeding out of your own possessions. After all, the back you save may be mine.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A day in the life

On Saturday I covered my first Buffalo Bandits' game for The News. It's always fun to start a new assignment with the raising of a championship banner, and that's what the Bandits (that's a lacrosse team, by the way) did before the start of the game. Come to think of it, I watched the Rangers raise a Cup banner in 1995 during my first game covering the Sabres.

It is interesting how many different aspects to the job there are these days. Let's do a little timeline on my day, just to show you how many parts there are.

10:30 a.m. -- Arrived at HSBC Arena for the morning shootaround. There I actually met the coach, Darris Kilgour; we had talked earlier in the week on the phone. John Gurtler was there. John, who used to work with me in the Sabres' public relations department, is now the Bandits' play-by-play announcer. He did a fine job of introducing me to several people in the organization as we sat on the bench and watch the light practice.

11:30 a.m. -- Did a short interview with Kilgour to gather material for a notebook for that night's game.

12:30 p.m. -- Got home and wrote up most of that notebook. I figured I'd write the first item about the pregame ceremony.

4 p.m. -- Brief nap after watching the end of the International Bowl. Always a good idea.

5:45 p.m. -- Left the house to go back to HSBC Arena. You always want to get there early on Opening Night, as things can go wrong.

7 p.m. -- After chatting with a few people, I wrote the top to the notebook based on what I had seen in the pregame rehearsal before the doors opened. The notebook is about 17 paragraphs long, by the way.

7:30 p.m. -- I had never used a wireless connection on a computer before, and I kept getting kicked off when I tried to log on this one. Help arrived from a bystander, who figured out that the computer automatically tied into any network that was nearby, thus confusing the computer. He finally connected me to one signal, the right one.

7:40 p.m. -- I wrote and published my first blog entry of the night on The News' Web site. I took the approach that it was like sending little notes to friends who might be interested in the game. I think I did about seven of them for the night.

8 p.m. -- Sent the notebook to the office via e-mail.

8:25 p.m. -- Wrote up a description of the first half, more or less, for the story for the first edition (about 16 paragraphs, due as soon as the game ends) and saved it for later.

8:30 p.m. -- Did about a 6-minute interview with John on radio about replacing Tom Borrelli and about the Bandits. John's last question surprised me: "Anyone ever tell you that you look like Keith Olbermann?" My answer, "All the time. I'm not as liberal as Keith, though."

9:15 p.m. -- Wrote more recap of the third quarter; the Bandits seem pretty much in control, so I started work on the top to the first edition story.

9:30 p.m. -- Philadelphia rallied to within three goals with about five minutes left. Writers in this situation don't root for teams, they root for the result to turn out the way they thought it would, so they don't have to furiously rewrite.

9:45 p.m. -- Bandits hung on for 15-11 win. I plugged in the final score and saves by the goalies, and sent it to the newspaper. Our first deadline is 10:15 or so, so I had plenty of time there.

9:55 p.m. -- Interviewed Kilgour and about three players on the Bandits. I have no idea where the Wings even were located in terms of locker rooms, but they weren't the story on this night.

10:15 p.m. -- The video cameraman from the News and I headed out to the players' bench. I did a 2-minute summary into the camera about the night and the game; he would edit in clips of the games and some soundbites of my interviews later. I stumbled slightly a couple of times -- two minutes is a long time without a script -- but no one is expecting Bob Costas out of a newspaper guy. I think. You can watch it here.

10:35 p.m. -- Walked back to the newspaper office (a block), where the first edition was safely in the books. I rewrote the game story and the notebook for the second and final edition, complete with quotes. The game story is essentially a case of taking the top of the initial story, and expanding it with quotes. I added a quote to the notebook from Kilgour, and changed a couple of facts at the bottom.

11:30 p.m. -- Both stories are done and ready to be read by copy editors.

11:45 p.m. -- There's no questions about the stories, so I'm free to go home.

Not exactly 9-5 work, eh?