Friday, July 3, 2009

The All-Williams Tennis Club

With all due respect to the Manning Brothers, I believe the Williams Sisters have firmly established themselves as the greatest athletic siblings in American sports history.

Tomorrow, Venus and Serena will meet in the Wimbledon Finals for the seventh time in the past nine years. As if that wasn't enough, tennis' dynamic duo also be gunning for their fourth doubles title on Sunday.

Peyton and Eli are going to have to add a few Super Bowl rings to their jewelry collection to get back into the discussion.

(And, by all means, let me know if I left out any sports siblings you think are better.)


Congrats to Greece's Brian Gionta for landing that five-year, $25 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens. I was hoping Brian would wind up just down the Thruway with the Buffalo Sabres, but the money and the opportunity to play with the most storied franchise in hockey was an offer he would have been foolish to refuse.

I disagreed with a former newspaper colleague who said "the Sabres have too many Brian Gionta's already - 20-goal scorers.'' That may be true as far as the 20-goal scorers end of it, but Buffalo definitely could use a player with Gionta's professionalism, grit and clutch scoring ability. As he proved in New Jersey, he is a winner. He reminds me a lot of Chris Drury because he brings so many intangibles to your team, on and off the ice.

The other reason I'm biased toward Brian is his humbleness. I've experienced it on numerous occasions. Despite his lofty fame and wealth, he has never forgotten his roots. He is as loyal to his family and to his hometown as he ever was. Every time we've asked him to be a head table guest for the Rochester Press-Radio Club Children's Charity Dinner, he's come for no appearance fee.

I won't mention names, but there have been several prominent local athletes who've made good and have demanded sizeable appearance fees. They clearly have forgotten where they came from.

Brian's never been like that. A true class act from a salt-of-the-earth family.


While we're on the subject of hockey, count me among those applauding the Rochester Amerks' hiring of Ted Nolan as their director of hockey operations. I would like to see them go a step further and put the former Sabres and Islanders coach behind the Amerks bench.


Of course, Nolan isn't a miracle worker. I'm still concerned about Rochester's affiliation with the Florida Panthers. The big club is a mess, and that doesn't bode well for putting a competitive team on the ice at the Blue Cross Arena.

I still think the Amerks need to reconnect with the Sabres if they are going to survive.


Tomorrow, they will stage the annual Nathan's Hot-dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Contestants attempt to wolve down as many franks as humanly possible in a 10-minute gorgefest.

If this were a marathon rather than a sprint, I would sponsor my friend, Danny Guilfoyle, who is the most prodigious hot dog eater since Babe Ruth. Danny, the long-time radio sales exec and singer, prefers to savor his dogs. Give him several hours, and I think he would eat the competition under the table.


Hey, even the big boys are getting hurt by this recession. Tiger Woods, the highest-earning athlete in the world, is making 22 percent less than he did a year ago. I just don't know how he managed to scrape by on the $99 million he earned in 2008. By the way, roughly eight mil of that came from playing golf, the rest from endorsements.


Please keep my friend and former sports editor, Tom Batzold, and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

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