Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Central Terminal

The stars and moon finally aligned correctly today in order to take a tour of the Central Terminal. I'd heard a great deal about it, but never set foot in the place. Buffalo Tours does a few tours a year of the facility, and a couple of hundred people turned out on a slightly chilly morning.

The place is a little dark, so it's tough to get a picture of the entire main hall. But here are a few shots to give you an idea of what it looks like:

This way to the trains.

The above shot looks back on the way into the building. Good to see there's enough power in the place to keep the pop machine working.

When events are held here -- and the place is open once or twice a month in warmer weather for various functions -- they need to direct people toward available facilities. Hence the sign.

A nonprofit organization runs the place, and has made some good progress. I still think it might have made for an interesting place for a casino, but an events hall wouldn't be bad either.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Virtual Museum

The long-awaited (particularly by the authors) book on the Buffalo Braves has been published. Tim Wendel's book, "Buffalo, Home of the Braves," is out and available to the public.

Tim did a book-signing at the New Era Cap store in Buffalo on Saturday morning, and I went down to get a copy. Tim is shown posing with a copy with Ernie DiGre ... well, actually that's Mark Derringer, noted Braves fan.

Tim is an old friend from college (I have only one new friend from college, actually; I met her at a reunion in 2003), and he has done all sorts of good works over the years. This is another quality project. You can get more information from his Web site on it.

Helping Tim out at the signing was John Boutet, who brought part of his huge collection of Buffalo Braves memorabilia to the New Era store. I particularly liked the Buffalo Braves mug, but he had newspaper clippings, programs, media guides, etc.

John has established something of a virtual museum on line. If you like this sort of stuff, you'll certainly like the Web site.

John is an advocate of setting up some sort of Buffalo Sports Museum. All's he needs is someone to donate the space. He tried the Sabres and got nowhere. We wish him well with that. But at least we have the Web site in the meantime.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Past, present and future

I took a trip down to the Buffalo waterfront today, and brought my camera. Not too many more chances to shoot the Aud. You can see the back of it in the background, with the wreckage in the distance, along with the Skyway and the Commercial Slip. Click on the photo for a larger shot.

I cleverly did not take a picture of the news conference that was taking place by the Commercial Slip, featuring Congressman Brian Higgins and Mayor Byron Brown. Something about a sewage plant in that area, I think.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Quote of the day/month/year

Congratulations to Amy Moritz, for collecting what is my favorite quote of 2009 at the Bisons' game on Monday (it appeared in Tuesday's newspaper).

The Bisons have a record of 13-30, are in last place in the overall International League standings, and flirted with the worst record in baseball for a while.

After Fernando Martinez led the Bisons to a win Monday night, Amy supplied this quote from Martinez's manager about the outfielder's performance:

"It's phenomenal. Where would we be without him?," said Bisons' manager Ken Oberkfell.

Ummm, last?

By the way, Martinez went up to the majors and played for the Mets Tuesday night. And the Bisons lost to Lehigh Valley on Tuesday night without him.

Thank you, Amy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The fabulous Dr. Z

I just read a fine column on Deadspin about Paul Zimmerman, the legendary football writer mostly known for his work with Sports Illustrated. Zimmerman is now quite ill and can't communicate at all.

Before you get to the rest of this post, read Deadspin's story here.

Thank you. When I covered Super Bowl 18 in Tampa for my Buffalo radio station in 1984, I freeloaded myself along with a group of football media types and public relations people for a Saturday night dinner. I knew enough to shut up and listen. The talk eventually turned to stories about Zimmerman, as it often does when such people gather.

Zimmerman is famous for "charting" football games -- he'd write down every single play of a game in a particular code. Zimmerman once upon a time had to cover a minor college game some early Saturday afternoon, and there was a big game on television at 4 p.m. Zimmerman figured out that if he cut some corners, he could make it back to the hotel for the start of the big game ... because he never, ever missed a single play in a game.

As the minor college game wound down, Zimmerman went down to the field and talked to the head coach of the winning team before the game ended -- he had made arrangements to do that beforehand. Then he sped off to the hotel, and got to his room at 3:55 p.m. He grabbed some paper, turned on the television, and watched ... nothing. The set wasn't working.

Zimmerman is said to have called the front desk, and said something like, "This is Paul Zimmerman in room 912. My television doesn't work, and if I don't get a new one in my room in the next five minutes, the old one is going to go flying off of the balcony and down nine flights into your swimming pool."

He got his television.

We're thinking of you, Paul.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Drawing the line

The other night I attended a panel discussion at the Erie County Library on journalism and political scandals. It was called "Sex, Lies and the Smoking Gun: Politics and Journalism." I'd like to tell you that we journalists do this sort of thing all the time, sitting down to discuss the big issues in our profession. Actually, most are worried about feeding the news machine each day, and then dashing off to the golf course to work on their chipping.

You can get the idea of how the forum went by checking out Elmer Ploetz's blog. Elmer used to work with me at the News' sports department; now he worries about those big journalistic subjects as a teacher at Fredonia State.

The forum got a bit off the track at times; I'm still surprised, for example, that no one talked much about how the Internet has changed the rules of the game in covering public figures. I didn't have the chance to raise the one issue that makes me quiver these days.

Where's the line?

As in, what's fair game? Is anything that a relatively public figure does worthy of being put in headlines somewhere? Doesn't entry in public life mean your entire life is worthy of inspection, or is there a right to privacy in some areas?

I used to think that breaking the law was a pretty good way of determining where the line was. You get a mugshot taken, you take your chances in the media. Once Senator Larry Craig got arrested for soliciting in a Minnesota airport men's room, it was clearly time for him to take the heat.

Now the line has gone a few steps farther, but it's tough to find where it is. For example, I don't know where Bill Clinton's "situation" with Monica Lewinsky fits in during such a discussion. If Clinton did commit perjury about the relationship, it's newsworthy, although in hindsight the whole matter (impreachment trial, etc.) doesn't seem like one of our finer moments.

We can throw in items from the Internet to the discussion here too. If sites put up charges without a great deal of attribution (and the same applies to comments on talk radio), do mainstream outlets have a responsibility to follow up and print/broadcast those charges, just because they are out there? I've seen it happen.

Then we get into the even trickier cases. John Edwards' affair might have led no further than a screaming match with his wife in different times. He eventually went public with material that could have been quite private. Yet I'm not going to deny that the insight the issue uncovered in Edwards' character was quite valuable, and he deserved to have his political career come to a screeching halt at that exact moment.

Heck, newspapers printed a story in sports sections on the DUI arrest of Scott Favre. He was the brother of that former/current/future NFL quarterback, Brett Favre. Think his name would be in the paper if his name were Scott Johnson? Is that fair to Scott or Brett?

The easy cliche for such discussions is that we have to consider these stories on a case-by-case basis, and we have to be very, very careful. That cliche is true. There sure are a lot of trapped doors out there, just waiting to be sprung.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The walls come tumbling down

No, not the J. Geils Band song, although it's a good one. The walls here refer to Memorial Auditorium.

We (The Buffalo News, that is) got some fine video of the demolition of part of the building today. So if you want to see a little more history go down and smoke, click here.

I think my old office is officially gone.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The postgame show

All right, the equipment has been put away. The carpet has been rolled up. The year-end review has been written.

My first season of covering the Buffalo Bandits is over.

I had plenty of expectations going in, and most of them came true. The players and coaching staff really are filled with good guys, and everyone was friendly and welcoming. Heck, Billy Dee Smith even offered to give me a Mohawk at the end of the season to fit in. One time I checked with Tom Montour to introduce myself and make sure an interview I did for an article was OK. "Man, that was the aces," he said about the story. Never heard that one before.

The game isn't boring at all. I'd like to see a little more fast-breaking when the opportunity presents itself, rather than the two-platoon set-up, but I understand why it's done that way. Teams want to get their best offensive players on the floor, so they don't take many chances.

The National Lacrosse League really does have a "we're making it up as we go along" quality to it, as I had heard. Franchises continue to come and go during the offseason, and it looks like there will be no let up this summer. The NLL is just terrible when it comes to injuries; teams don't even say when one of their players will be out for weeks at a time. ("We don't talk about injuries," one coach said.) I had to learn about a Buffalo player suspension through the transactions page of the league Web site. That's not exactly what the NFL would do.

The biggest surprise, though, came with the media coverage. There just wasn't much. I'm not talking about the lack of a television contract, which admittedly is a big minus. In Minnesota, the local newspaper doesn't send a reporter to games. The Newark Star-Ledger didn't cover a playoff game held in Newark by the Titans; indeed, the Titans seemed to be a little stunned to have a reporter at the arena for a game.

In Buffalo, it's a little better. Andrew from ArtVoice was a regular, and Steve came along to file reports from NLL Insider. They were friendly, appreciated faces. Otherwise, though, local radio and television stations were nowhere to be found during games. In fact, regional newspapers didn't show up either. The Turtle Island News did have a season media pass; that paper covers Six Nations news up near Brantford, Ont., and the Bandits have a bunch of players from up there. Granted, some electronic sports departments close down on weekends, and it's tough to cover a team when it practices once a week, 50 miles away in Ontario. Still, I was surprised by the publicity vacuum.

Here's my point: The Bandits had more than 17,000 fans at each game, on average, show up for home games this season. If 17,000 people do anything at once, isn't it news? You'd think so.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What does it open, anyway?

For you out-of-town readers, you probably are wondering what's going on in the City of Buffalo these days. Well, today's big news story is that Terrell Owens has been given the key to the city.

Here's the link.

My favorite "key to the city" story involves the last time Supertramp played in Memorial Auditorium. Lead singer Rick Davies talked about the band's history in Buffalo with affection, and said, "One time we received the key to the city, which we cherish to this day."

And Dave Kerner said to me, "I can hear Mayor Griffin saying, 'Yeah, I listen to you goofs all the time.' "

I'm not sure what Owens did to deserve the key to the city already. It's not like he's brought fame and glory to our fair city. That concept was a subject of conversation on talk shows today, according to the story. I can only hope the appearance increased attendance at the art gallery.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Seeing it through

The next time you feel like complaining about how tough things are at work, read this story about Dayton baseball writer Hal McCoy, who is legally blind but still follows the Reds. He says he doesn't mind jokes about him interviewing the Coca-Cola machine after games.

Somehow, my problems about finding my way into the Prudential Center last week seem a little less stressful.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dectective story

When I was thrown into the job of covering the Buffalo Bandits in December, I discovered that trying to get a sense of the team's history was difficult. It's not like there are books on the history of the National Lacrosse League's history on sale at the local Borders. Tom Borrelli had lived and memorized it all, of course, but he tragically wasn't around to help.

What's a reporter to do? Write that history himself, naturally.

I did have some media guides from the team and league, thanks to Tom's wife. Karen gave them to me when we cleaned out Tom's library. There was always the Internet, of course, and I have access to The Buffalo News electronic library -- which covers the entire history of the team.

I've been researching the team's history, year-by-year. (The blog, which is a work in progress for now, can be reaching by clicking here.) That first year of 1992 proved particularly odd. The team lost its first three games, pretty standard stuff for an expansion team. Then it won five straight to close the regular season, took three straight playoff games and captured the league title.

The following summer, head coach Buff McCready was relieved of his duties and formally replaced by Les Bartley, according to the News archives. Odd, but OK.

Then I noticed in some of the reference material a few years later that Bandits' all-time coaching records had McCready at 0-3 for 1992, and Bartley 5-0. Hmmm. Bartley and McCready have both died since then. So I asked Bob Summers of The News, who covered the team for most of the first season. He said when he asked for the coach for interviews, McCready always came out.

Then I wrote the team's former public relations director, Bruce Wawrzyniak, an e-mail and asked if he knew the story. He did. He said general manager Johnny Mouradian called him over after Game Three and told him a change had been made. Bartley would be in charge of the team, while McCready was the coach of the goaltenders. But there was some internal debate on who should be the public face of the franchise, and the "switch" was never announced.

Sometimes indoor lacrosse has a reputation for making things up as it goes along. Apparently it has been practicing that for some time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

That old college gang of mine

The picture above: Reunited Daily Orange staffers pose at 1101 E. Adams St -- the former site of their workplace ... and now a parking ramp. Front row: Annette Licitra, Mike Stanton, robin brown, Bruce Hackett, Irwin Fisch. Back row: Maura McEnaney, Cheryl Solimini, Sy Montgomery & Howard Mansfield, Jim Naughton, Helen Burggraf, Kathye Fetsko Petrie, Budd Bailey, Carol McCormick Semple, Bob and Debbie Ward.

Time for another update on my old friends.

My college newspaper staff did pretty darn well since we all left in the late 1970's. Here's the toteboard of where everyone is, more or less:

David Abernethy - Lawyer, Drinker Biddle and Reath LLP, Philadelphia, PA
Donna Andersen - Donna Andersen Copywriting and, Atlantic City, NJ
Budd Bailey - Buffalo News, Buffalo, NY
Sean Branagan - Newhouse School, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
Kirk Brewer - Core Communications Partners, Dallas, TX
robin brown - Wilmington News-Journal, Wilmington, DE
Helen Burggraf - Citywire, London, England
Rick Burton - Falk School, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.
Vickie Carr - Dartmouth, Mass.
Tom Coffey - New York Times, New York, NY
Garry Ellison - World Book Encyclopedia, Chicago, IL
Marsha Evans - Canton Jr./Sr. High, Canton, CT
Al Fecteau - Attorney, Valdosta, Ga.
Irwin Fisch - Musician, New York, NY
Katie Fritz - West Chester SPCA, West Chester, PA
Bruce Hackett - Musician, freelance writer, Santa Monica, Calif.
Peter Heimlich - Self-employed, Chocoura, New Hampshire
Geoff Hobson - Writer/Editor,, Cincinnati, Ohio
Claudia Estelle Hutton - Dormitory Authority, State of NY, Albany, NY
Barry Lambergman - Motorola, Washington. D.C.
Bruce Levine - New York Times, New York, NY
Annette Licitra - American Federation of Teachers, Washington, DC
Audrey Lipford, Attorney, New York, NY
Eduardo Lopez - EVS Communications, Washington, D.C.
Howard Mansfield - Freelance author, Hancock, NH (
Brent Marchant - New Consciousness Review, Chicago, Ill.
Maura McEnaney - Freelance writer, Medford, Mass.
Mo Mehlsak - Editor, the Forecaster, Portland, Maine
Sy Montgomery - Hancock, New Hampshire (
Jim Naughton - Episcopal Diocese, Washington, DC
Laurie Nikolski - Journal-News, White Plains, NY
Kathye Fetsko Petrie -freelance writer; children's book author, Swarthmore, Pa.
Larry Petry - Research analyst, Penn Traffic, Syracuse, NY
Bob Sacha - Photographer/filmmaker/etc., New York, NY
Jacqui Salmon - American Bar Association, Washington, D.C.
Carol McCormick Semple - Copy editor, Portland Press-Herald, Portland, ME
Cheryl Solimini - Writer/editor/humorist, Milford, Pa.
Mike Stanton - Journalism professor, U. of Connecticut, and freelance writer
Joel Stashenko - New York Law Journal, Albany, NY
John Scott - U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, D.C.
Chuck Stevens - Bloomberg News, New York, NY
Dick Stirba - Hanley Webb LLC, Washington, DC
Ben Walker - Associated Press, New York, NY
Bob Ward - Office of State Comptroller, Albany, NY
Debbie Hormell Ward - Albany, NY
Tim Wendel - Freelance writer and author, Vienna, Va.
Joe Wrinn -Consultant for nonprofits and universities, Massachusetts

Where are they now? John Barrows, Paul Jasinski.

Feel free to write if you have updated information.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Road trip!

Care to see what big-time journalists do on the road? Come along with me to the Bandits' game in Newark. I could use the company.

11:15 a.m Saturday -- My plane to JFK in New York pulls away from the terminal, just about on time. You ask why I am flying to JFK for a game in Newark? A round-trip air ticket to Newark on short notice is about $550. Then there's the hotel and car rental. We found a deal on Expedia for a flight to JFK and a hotel near Newark for $333. I would have had to rent a car anyway, so there's just a few more dollars for gas and tolls. The catch -- I have to drive from JFK to Newark, which even on a Saturday makes Buffalo seem like Montana.

12:45 p.m. -- The prop plane arrives nicely, and I zip over to the car rental place. By the way, Enterprise does a really good, personal, efficient job of setting you up. The next time you're in ...

2:30 p.m. -- The traffic on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn is as advertised, but it's not too horrible. When I go over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I think of the start of the New York City marathon. Must be fun to go over it at the start of the race with 35,000 of your closest friends.

3:15 p.m. -- I arrive at the friendly Comfort Inn and Suites in Elizabeth, N.J. You can hear the airplanes coming and going from Newark. One of them, no doubt, is an expensive flight to Buffalo.

4:15 p.m. -- I drive over to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The arena is right in the middle of downtown, which was the idea. Downtown looks exactly like those pictures of big city downtowns from the 1940's and 1950's. Except it's 2009. I have a feeling it's not intentional. I get a clue about the night when I go to the parking garage, where a pass is said to be waiting for me. "I'm Budd Bailey from The Buffalo News." "That'll be $15." Apparently they've read my work.

4:40 p.m. -- My college friend John Fraissinet picks me up in front of the arena, and we go off in search of dinner options. John lived across the hall from me in my junior year at Syracuse, and we've stayed friends since then. He's still the same old John, smart and funny. We search the neighborhood for some place to eat -- options are limited -- but find a place in the Newark Hilton. Dinner is the best part of the trip.

5:45 p.m. -- At the end of dinner on our way out, I strike up a conversation with a couple that is in the restaurant ... and she's wearing a Bandits' shirt. Turns out both of them are related to Cory Bomberry and Roger Vyse; I discovered later that Bomberry is actually Vyse's uncle. Kind of interesting that they are on the same team.

6:00 p.m. -- John drops me off at the arena, and the fun begins. I ask where the press entrance is, and am told to go around the corner. I ask there where the credentials are, and am directed to another entrance. I go to the other entrance and ask about media passes, and am given a green wristband. No pass with my name on it, no check, just walk right up and get your pass. Odd. The press entrance waves me through with the magic wristband.

6:10 p.m. -- The press lounge is empty, except for a bowl of potato chips. I find an elevator to the press box, which is ... empty. In fact, the upper deck is curtained off, so you can't see the game. Oh, oh. Back down to the bottom. I ask for help from an off-ice official, who points to the top of the upper bowl at midfield.

6:25 p.m. -- I go up the stairs, find radio host John Gurtler, and take a spot at one of the portable tables set up. There I grab an Ethernet connection to sign on the Internet, which naturally doesn't work. I move for a while to another line, but those are for the off-ice officials. So I'm back where I started. At first I sit down in a different open seat than my original choice. However, I discover that this seat apparently has been used by an adult who has some disabilities. It's pretty obvious that I'm not going to explain why he can't sit in his favorite seat for this game. We rearrange things, and I sit next to him for the game. I see him later in the Titans' locker room; he's something of a mascot for the team and is treated lovingly by everyone in the organization, which is really nice to see. Eventually, someone tells me what the codes are for the wi-fi, so I'm on line.

7:30 p.m. -- Game time. The Bandits may have a home field advantage. In a crowd of less than 2,500, in Newark, the Bandits have about half the crowd on their side. They certainly can outshout the New York Titans boosters, who are less than enthusiastic. Remember the line about quarterbacks - If you have two starting quarterbacks, you have no starting quarterbacks? Very true for arenas too, as the Titans divide their games between here and Madison Square Garden.

7:35 p.m. -- One other note as the game starts -- I'm lucky Bandits' public relations director Chris Ostrander sent me his version of the game notes before I left. Because the Titans supply nothing, not even the Buffalo notes. The information in there is handy to have, but I brought enough stuff with me to more than make up for anything I didn't receive.

7:45 p.m. -- The Titans score the first goal of the game, and my friend to my left throws up his arms, screams, and slaps the table, rattling my laptop. After the second or third goal, I pat him reassuringly and says, "Easy, my friend." He's better the rest of the game. I know this is a difficult situation, and I'm trying hard to treat it with sensitivity.

7:50 p.m. -- The most dreaded words in computerland, "Not responding," pop up on my Internet Explorer. I try to shut it down to log off, and it goes through all sorts of closing functions ... but never closes. Finally, I figure out how to turn it off (there's no reboot button), and then turn it back on. My live blogging suffers a bit, but those are the breaks.

8:10 p.m. -- In the midst of all the computer problem, I realize that I'm not writing down any notes. It's the dullest game in indoor lacrosse history. A 1-0 score after one period? Neither team is doing much. A former intern of our who now works at the New York Post asks, "Aren't the games usually better than this?"

8:30 p.m. -- The first half ends, 3-1, a score that's usually posted after six minutes of play. I type out about eight paragraphs of my first edition story for the newspaper.

9:30 p.m. -- The Bandits fall behind, 9-3, by early in the fourth quarter, their goalie is out with an apparently severe knee injury, and they are showing absolutely no life. We may have a few minutes left to play, but this season is over. At least I can get an early start on the top of the first-edition story. Sometimes I have to write two versions, and delete one when the game-winning goal is scored.

9:40 p.m. -- The clock runs out, the story is e-mailed to the office, and it's off to the locker room. But where is it? My new best friend Steve, an on-line reporter for a lacrosse site working out of Buffalo, head to the bottom level and figure if we keep walking we'll find it. Sure enough, we do.

9:50 p.m. -- The Bandits are predictably down. Darris Kilgour, the Buffalo coach, gives some too-colorful quotes about the goalie's injury. That's never easy to use in a story, but I simply take out the bad words and mentioned that some adjectives have been removed. Hope people get the idea.

10:05 p.m. -- I get plenty of good material -- the Bandits are a fine group for this sort of thing, perhaps because they haven't built defenses to the media -- and head to the press lounge. There's no work stations, so I type on the dinner table. The revised story flies by, perhaps because it's an easy story to write -- team was awful, players downcast, etc. I finish by 10:40, and then re-do the notebook. I'm done by 11.

11:00 p.m. -- My car is still in the garage, and the building is open. Both good signs. I find my way back to the hotel without much problem. But when I try to go to sleep, I'm too wound up to actually doze. So, I continue to read George Steinbrenner's biography -- a review of which will be coming soon to my sports book web site.

The next morning, I wake up early, drive back to JFK, return the rental car, and whisk my way home. My "day off" begins upon arrival.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Deja vu

You might have heard about the attempt by the founder of the company that makes Blackberrys, Jim Balsillie, to scoop up the Phoenix Coyotes out of bankruptcy and move them to Southern Ontario, probably Hamilton. As I understand it, he doesn't want to pay any territorial rights fees to the Maple Leafs as part of the transaction.

I'm not so sure the mixing of hockey and desert was ever a great idea, but the thought of putting a team in Southern Ontario brought back a memory.

In the early 1990's, the NHL was in the midst of making expansion plans. The league was taking bids, and Hamilton -- funded by Ron Joyce of Tim Hortons -- was very interested. I was working for the Sabres then, and let me assure you that the top executives of the team took this threat very seriously.

While Hamilton is exactly 50 miles away from Buffalo, and thus would be in line for territorial rights fees too, the Sabres back then wanted no part of a franchise in Hamilton. Buffalo wasn't selling out the building every night back then, and any development that had the potential to take fans away from the Sabres was not good news.

Here's the catch, though: The Sabres didn't want to do anything in public to offend those Southern Ontario fans. So, how did the franchise try to squash the expansion effort without turning off its customers?

Actually, it wasn't difficult. The NHL asked for something like $50 million as a fee to get in the league -- $25 million immediately and $25 million not too far down the road. The Hamilton group thought that was ridiculous, and asked for different terms.

Ottawa and Tampa Bay, meanwhile, said those terms were fine. In fact, I believe they were the only applicants who approved the conditions. Therefore, the Sabres and the rest of the NHL threw up their hands with glee and accepted those two cities. They added a statement that said expansion into any other Canadian city was not expected.

Here's the catch. Phil Esposito said later that his group in Tampa Bay actually had absolutely no plans to fulfill the initial terms of the franchise award. He basically thought that once the NHL let Tampa Bay in, it would not be able to throw the city out of the league for being a little late with its payment. He was right. The Lightning and the Senators both had severe financial problems in their early years, and they struggled on the ice for several years.

I'm not privy to conversations in the Sabres offices today, but I'll bet they are waiting for word of the bankruptcy hearing with great interest today.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Bad news for the North Buffalo birding community: It doesn't look like our robins are going to make it.

We found an aqua-colored shell in the driveway a few days ago, which obviously isn't a good sign. Then the mother was nowhere to be found. I took a peek into the nest today and saw one small egg still there, but no one is keeping it warm.

Not being an expert at these things, I left the nest there. I guess I'll give it another week or so and see what happens, but it might be best to clean up and start over for the next tenant.

And the robin never even left a security deposit.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Rooting for the home team

Earlier in this space, I wrote about getting a community to be convinced that a winning pro sports team matters. Let's move to a side issue of such a discussion, that of the minor league team in a town with major league teams.

The Buffalo Bisons are that team in Western New York. The Bisons are a member of the International League, and they've been going strong ever since the mid-1980's when Bob Rich and Rich Products bought the franchise.

The Bisons can't sell pennant races, since most people don't know much about the standings at a given moment. And they can't sell the opposing players, since most people have never heard of almost all of them. They can, however, sell baseball -- complete with a hot dog and a cold drink on a nice summer day or night.

My friend Glenn Locke used to musically say, "So it's root, root, root for the Bisons, if they don't win it's the same." In other words, enjoyment isn't measured on wins and losses, something that doesn't apply to the Bills or Sabres. I like to joke with Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News that he is the only non-Bisons employee who really follows how the team does.

Yet the Bisons are putting that theory to a severe test this season. Buffalo has gotten off to a horrible start in 2009. They won two games over the weekend, matching their victory output for the rest of the calendar year. The Bisons are 4-18, and are already 14.5 games out of first place in the standings. Buffalo's fans are rather spoiled when it comes to decent baseball, because the Cleveland Indians put a consistently good product here over the years. But the Indians left for Columbus last fall, and now the baby Mets are in town.

I went to the Bisons' game this afternoon. It was a sunny, 65-degree day -- a sweatshirt was more than enough for comfort -- and there was hardly anyone in the place, relatively speaking. I sat upstairs, which I do when possible, and acres of empty seats kept me company. It's tough to estimate the actual attendance when a 19,000-seat ballpark is that empty, but it sure didn't look like it crawled far into four figures, if at all. (The tickets sold count was 5,416.)

There's nothing like empty seats to flatten emotion at a sporting match. Today's game was quickly played in a little more than two hours, and the Bisons even won. But it sure didn't seem like an "event."

The unpredictable spring weather always is a challenge for the Bisons, and the actual crowds in the ballpark are sure to pick up once June arrives. Still, it's obvious that a little enthusiasm is missing in Coca-Cola Field, and I'm glad I'm not the person in charge of trying to get it back.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Time waster

Ever have a few minutes to kill when you are on line? I've looked for a good trivia site to test my brainpower, and is definitely it.

The format is along the lines of coming up with parts of a list. Taking sports, can you name all of the Norris Trophy winners? Big Ten schools and their cities? The pitchers who have 3,000 career strikeouts?

There are tons of other categories, though. Presidential election losers. Rivers. Languages. Most common English words (hard!). Counties of Ireland (not for Americans). And so on. Once you are done and you are finished slapping your head ("How did I forget Buster Douglas?"), the game tells you what percentage of testers got a particular answer right, and where you rank in the general population.

You're welcome.