Archive for January, 2013

Why Build? Bigger is not always better

Posted: January 31, 2013 in Sports

With sports is bigger better? More and more teams are building giant sports venues. As each building goes up the true ground floor fan is locked out. Some of these building are running near or over a billion dollars. Bigger is not always better. And sometimes bigger is not what a team needs.

The Buffalo Bills are in need of a new home. Something to help them keep up with the Big teams in the NFL. Should they build Downtown or just retrofit the Ralf? No one has the right answer. Let me just say, if the Bills build downtown; most fans and people will not be able to attend the games. Buffalo has always been blue collar and fan driven. Now more than ever leagues and owners are chasing the all might dollar. But, by doing so they are leaving there roots behind.  Forget about that parking, the food, HD video boards or sound systems. Give people a great game that they can watch from any seat. Make everything affordable and remember why they are there. It may be old school, but as the distractions grow the event suffers.  

It’s not just an NFL problem. It’s every sport. Sports are a true out let for every fan.  There was a time that people would say I’m going to the Sabres game, I’m going to a Bills game. Now It’s I’m going to Ralf, I’m going to FNC. The first question often asked is “Where are you sitting?” For the white collar group it doesn’t seem to be about the team or even the game. It’s about my section, my drink choices, my heated seats, and the type of fans around them. When did sports become a class system, and why is it okay? It should never matter what the fan next to you is wearing or where they got there cloths. You are all there to cheer for your team. That common bond for the few hours you are there should be enough to bring people together.

What would happen if for one week all seats were the same price, and people had to just show up with a ticket and pick a seat? Would the world as we know it stop spinning? Would your home town team play worse because Job Bob is sitting behind the player’s bench instead of Dr. Smith? No, nothing would change on the ice, or on the court or field. I understand it is a person’s right to pick and choose where they sit, but with ever billion dollar stadium the ability for all fans to attend their beloved sporting event is taken away.  What’s next? No parking with in 100 yard if you don’t drive a Lexus?

It’s a sporting event not prom. While building a new stadium may need to happen: all I ask is that for once someone thinks about how the team got to this point. I for one do not need a castle, and I’d guess most of you just want to be able to attend your home town event without having to decide what bill not to pay. Bigger is not always better, sometimes teams just need to rethink how does this help the team, and what effect does it have on the fan base? Money is money, but should not be the sole driving force when a city decides to build or retrofit.  Don’t forget the little guy you to this point.

 

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Bills fans and the Super Bowl

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Sports

With the Super Bowl being played this Sunday; it ends the 2012 NFL season. As a Bills fan, this game can send your mind flashing wide right. It is bitter sweet. Football can often be a madding sport to watch and for Buffalo fans it is heart breaking. The Bills were the cream of the crop in the NFL for four years; making it to the Super Bowl four years in a row.

I’m sure that the NFL Network will show and has been showing Super Bowl high lights. But, there is one high light I can’t help but watch. Yes, it is wide right. It’s like a car crash on the 90. You know something is wrong, but you can’t help but look. It is one of the most famous plays in Buffalo sports history. A play that defines the heart ache the Buffalo fan base feels. To this day grown men and women cry about it. I’m not one of them, but I will say it sucks. It haunts the Bills and Bills fans alike. It is the one that got away

This Sunday with ever field goal attempt, I will be quietly wishing that the kicker doesn’t go wide right. I don’t want to hear those words ever again. It really is amazing how a few words can send a person’s mind in over drive. It’s fan thing. And I am darn proud to be a fan. That doesn’t mean that a fan can’t get upset at their team. Teams do all sorts of things that their fans dislike. It also doesn’t mean we as fans need to always live in the past, but the past builds the fan base. It shapes them and creates the attitude the fans have.

In Buffalo that attitude is blue collar. We want our teams to eco our love and drive for the Bills. This fan base is one of the best in the NFL, yet we are also some of the most damaged by missed kicks, laterals, lost helmets, and bad calls. However playoffs droughts, Super Bowls losses, or losing seasons we pack the Ralf 7 times a year. Buffalo may be classified as a small market team, but we are a large market fan base.

When the day comes, and the Bills return to the Super Bowl this fan base will show the rest of the league how to be true fans. Bills fan have had a hard run in the past, but as all fans know there’s always next year. Buffalo Bills are now on the clock.

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Sabres after 4 games

Posted: January 26, 2013 in Sports

After only 4 games into the 2013 season the Buffalo Sabres seem to be the same old team. The “New Look” Sabres have in no way changed their image around the NHL. Don’t judge this book by it’s cover.

The Buffalo Sabres came out of the lockout on all cylinders. Starting the season 2-0 and they showed some improvement. That was until game 3 came around. The Sabres were taken apart by Carolina team that has been one of the physical weaker teams in the NHL.  A bright spot for the Sabres has been their 1st line. A line made up of Vanek, Pominville, and Hodgson. That line has combined for 19 points over this 4 game span.

Seeing how it is so early in the season; I can’t figure out why the players seem so tired. A good number of them have been playing in different leagues overseas, the rest have been working out, or so we have been told. Miller for one said he was mentally tired after his second start.  I will say Miller has been sharp in the early going of his three starts, but mental tired? Come on Ryan. We all understand that you have been off a while, but don’t start with I’m tired already. Miller can’t win games by himself; he will need more then the Sabres first line to produce some scoring in order to get this team in to the Playoffs.

Over the off season the Buffalo Sabres made some move to get bigger. The moves look great, but it had been all bang and no goal for the Sabres so far. Myers is struggling to be the player fan hoped he would be. Adding to the conversation on what style of player the 6’8” 227lbs D man will play. Fans want him to be nasty like Pronger, but Myers is looking more offensive in nature not the enforcer Buffalo wanted. The issues do not stop there. Last night Ruff had Mikhail Grigorenko the Sabres youngster playing with Scott in the Second period. In the words of Paul Hamilton “If Grigorenko’s going to play with John Scott, send him back to Quebec right now…” I couldn’t agree more.  Ruff has no room to start mismanaging the young talent. As I have written before Ruff has a history of this style of coaching. He seems over thinks at times.

With all of that being said the first four games have not been all bad. Buffalo’s Power Play seems to be clicking better than last year. Miller is having a great start to the 2013 season. His numbers are outstanding. He has a SV% of .953 and a GAA of 1.67. The addition of Ott and Scott seem to be fuelling the physical play of Foligno and Kaleta. Myers while struggling to find his way has showed some flashes of his 2010 Calder trophy year.

It is way too early to start worrying about the playoffs, however with a 48 game season no team can afford a slump. If the Sabres want to make a run the losing streak need to go no further than two games. It’s up to the players and coaches alike. They said they would show the fans how sorry they were for the lockout. I say prove it.  At 2-2 the Sabres look like a team that is working their way through a new identify. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long.  Buffalo’s a blue collar town, and the Sabres have done well playing blue collar hockey. Shoot, pass, hit and score. Everything else will work itself out.

 

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Buffalo Pro v. College sports

Posted: January 23, 2013 in Sports

Buffalo, New York is a sports town, or so we are led to believe. Buffalo, is a Pro sports town, or Major sports town if that term works better. I for one have never had the pleasure of attending a college sporting event, but from what I have seen and the information I have it would seem that I am missing out; unless we are talking about our local colleges.

Buffalo has a rich history of Pro sports. It has both a NHL team and a NFL team. Sabres and Bills respectfully. It’s a feather in the cap to have 2 out of the 4 major / pro sports leagues in your city. But when you look deeper in to these teams history one can’t help but wonder why the sports crazed city keeps flocking to these teams.

The Buffalo Bills have an overall record of 370-426-8 (pro-football-refference.com) their last playoff appearance was way back in 1999. For those of you keeping count that is 13 years without a playoff team. The Bills last had a winning season in 2002. In all actuality the Bills have only had 4 or 5 really good years. And have ridden on the coat tails of the Super Bowls trips for far too long. With over 70,000 fans packing the Ralph for about 6 games a year it just doesn’t make sense to keep spending money and flocking to a losing team. A team that I contend is one of the worse NFL teams ever. Fans are not getting the bang for the buck that they should.

The Buffalo Sabres on the other hand do give us a little more hope, but not much.  Their record over a 41 year existence is 1569-1219-409 with a .553 win percentage. However they too have nothing to show for all the fan support they get. The Sabres have been to the finals only 2 times in those 41 years, and as for playoffs; a deep run is almost always out of the question. There is no arguing that Hockey may be number one is buffalo, but by the numbers It is number 2 for value.

Buffalo’s last “major” sports team is the Buffalo Bandits. Yes lacrosse. The Bandits home games are the closest thing to a college atmosphere you will find in Buffalo.  And, with the Bandits you do get the record to support fans going to their games. They made the playoffs every year from 92-98 and have won 4 titles.  They are a playoff caliber team every year and have a fierce fan base.

Why doesn’t Buffalo support college sports? I believe the answer lies in miss guided information, and a lack of media coverage for the schools. If you listen to the local sports station you will almost never hear anything about local College sports. Unless one of our teams just got ripped apart by a BIG school.  I think of UB football here. Every year the school is a whipping post for some hot shot school looking for a tune up game. And UB is more than happy to cash in on their athletes getting the snot kicked out of them.

With the population of young people dwindling in Buffalo it’s hard to get behind a College. In Buffalo people will not go watch a college just because. They need a personal connection to the School. For generations our local colleges have been putting out a subpar athletic program. Excluding Bonnies basketball, and Purple Eagles Hockey. Those teams may be worth the drive to go watch. But, then again they are hindered by the drive. It’s a location thing. If a school wants Buffalo sports fan to attend, they need to come to Buffalo. Its’ not right, but that’s how it is here.

Buffalo has been called a sports town with a drinking problem, and that may be another issue with college sports. Fan can’t drink beer at the games. For some reason going to a game is not enough for many fans. They use the games as an excuse to drink and act likes jerks.  Again it’s a Buffalo thing. If you want to grow a fan base bring on the beer.

With no real college sports history to attract a fan base; colleges face a hard task. Winning draws fans, winning will increases local awareness. But, local colleges are at a disadvantage. Most of the local colleges are “Book” schools, not athletic schools and there is a big difference.  If they want sports fans they need to find a middle ground and push towards being a athletic school. Look at the SEC, and ACC to name a few. Good if not great schools, but they market their sports first and then their teachings through that. One is a gate way to the other. If you do it the other way you will always stay a second or third class citizen in your own back yard.

I for one enjoy watching college sports, and pro sports. But, I am a sports guy.  However, I will not watch a bad college game. That is because the local college teams have done nothing to grab my interest. Sampling existing is not enough in a market where money and people alike are tough.

 

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Manti Te’o

Posted: January 20, 2013 in Sports

Notre Dame has had a rough few weeks. First they got ripped apart in the BCS championship game; now just weeks later the college and its star player are center stage. Manti Te’o is the main character in what may be the biggest hoax of 2012.

 Not only has Te’o been a stand out athlete for Notre Dame, he is also a very good student. His GPA is 3.324. Te’o is or was a model student athlete. He is a stand out Line Backer and defensive anchor; he was also a runner up for the 20112 Heisman trophy.  Te’o has had no prior character issues. It’s hard to believe he was not involved, but then again in today’s computer driven world who knows?

His achievements may be forever overshadowed by this Hoax. 2012 seemed to be a hard year for the star LB. His grandmother and “Girl Friend” both passed away from Leukemia. The hoax is centered on his girlfriend. A woman he dated for three years, but has never met. Te’o was living with the pain of losing two people he loved; when on December 6th he received a phone call from a woman claiming to be his deceased girlfriend Kelena. His world spinning out of control, and mind wondering trying to figure out what was going on; Te’o reported the phone call to ND. I’m sure Te’o’s mind was swirling during the BCS championship game. Possibly explaining why he no showed during the biggest game of his life.  

Deadspin.com decided to look into Te’o’s girlfriend, only to find out she didn’t really exist. This hoax was not only a disgusting display of young men and women playing games with a person’s head and heart; it tore at a nation. Complete strangers feeling bad and pulling for a young man they didn’t know. The biggest question is; was Te ’o involved? There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to that question. No matter what side of the fence you land on; there is little doubt this hoax is going to cost him money.

Te’o was thought to be an early first round draft pick in April’s NFL draft. With the Hoax and his subpar play in the Championship game looming; his stock has taken a hit. With every spot Te’o drops his bank account will be mission millions of dollars. Involved in this hoax or not I think this issue has taught him a lesion. When you are a public figure you need to be smarter than the average guy. He was either involved or that 3.324 GPA is an example of Te’o only having book smarts. Hopefully his has the mental ability to live with whatever happens. Life for him will never be the same. His name will always be connected with “THE HOAX.”

My advice to him is to keep your head down and stay out of the spot light. Smile, and be thankful for you talent. It’s better to be drafted later then you thought then not drafted at all. You are Manti Te’o the person not just a football player. Take this situation and learn, don’t just move on. Good luck!

 

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Lindy Ruff

Posted: January 17, 2013 in Sports

On July 21, 1997 Lindy Ruff became the 15th head coach in Sabres history. Ruff now entering his 14th season behind the bench may have more to prove than ever. With new ownership entering its second year; all eyes should be on Ruff.

Ruff has a rich history with the Sabres. He was Buffalo’s second round pick in 1979. He was known for his defensive style and grit. Lindy brings that same mentality to his coaching. However he may be too defensive minded for some players. Most notability, Ales Kotalik and Max Afinogenov .  Both players had few nice things to say about Ruff’s coaching style. As Ruff’s coaching career moves forward and he continues to rack up wins; players continue to questions his coaching methods.

Ruff has racked up a record of 526-418-132 over his 14 years with the Sabres. His playoff record is 57-44.  If you look at his record alone it’s hard to imagine Ruff not being behind the Sabres bench.  However, if the Sabres underachieve again this year that very well could be what happens. I believe Ruff’s grace period may be coming to an end. The fact is the Sabres have only made the playoffs 6 times with Ruff coaching them, and have made it out of the first round only 5 times may put Ruff’s feet to the fire.

The only saving grace for Ruff may be the lockout shortened season this year. But, I don’t believe that can be used as a reason for anything short of a deep playoff run. At this point in his career Ruff needs to prove he can motivate a young team. New owner Terry Pegula has provided the club and Ruff with everything they need to put a winning team on the ice, and frankly Buffalo is sick of excuses. This year is the year Ruff proves to everyone he belongs behind the bench for years to come.

It should be a win or go home year for Ruff. After 14 years as the Sabres head coach he has nothing to show for it. He needs to regroup and get the job done. There are only 48 games this year, and just squeaking into the playoffs won’t be enough unless the team goes past the first round. Ruff played here, he has coached here, now he had better win here or leave. If there is truly a new attitude at the First Niagara Center, prove it.

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Buffalo is Hockey

Posted: January 15, 2013 in Sports

Yesterday Buffalo welcomed the Buffalo Sabres back to the First Niagara Center (FNC). The loyal hockey fans came out to the beat of 10,175 fans. Does this mean Buffalo fans have moved past the lockout, or does that show that Buffalo is truly Hockey Heaven?

It’s January, and normally January is just about the midway point of a hockey season. However this year it is the start of the shorten season. A season shorted by a drawn out lockout.  Many fans; and downtown business owners alike are more than happy hockey is back. With fans sitting around with very little to do it’s no wonder that the FNC was rocking for a preseason scrimmage.

As for the question, of have Buffalo fans moved past the lockout or; is Buffalo Hockey Heaven? I guess that depends on your point of view. I would say it’s the later. Buffalo people in general of some of the biggest hockey fans in the country. It is no surprise that the fans in this city came out to watch their favorite sport. Hockey in buffalo is big business, and now that hockey is back business will be good. Let’s look at another example of what great fans Buffalo has. During the lockout the FNC was sold out for an AHL hockey game. Showing that all we need is hockey.  If you need further convincing; all you need to do is look at last year’s juniors’ tournament. Western New York and Southern Ontario (the Buffalo market) packed the FNC again.

I will concede that fans have short memories when it comes to work stoppages, but I don’t believe this is the case in Buffalo. The way the lockout was handled was offensive to every fan base, but in Buffalo it was a slap in the face.  In this city fans have almost always supports the Sabres, and the NHL in general. During the NHL playoffs last year the Buffalo market was top 3 in the Nation in viewing. Only be behind the teams playing at the time of the data collection.

Without question the Sabres have a great fan base, but I do not believe that the lockout has been forgotten. It is a case of Hockey Heaven loving its name sake. Now Drop the Puck.

 

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