Sunday, May 31, 2009

Say it ain't so, Tom. Say it ain't so.

Fans of the Bills, Jets and Dolphins had to be asking themselves "Haven't we suffered long enough?'' after reading Tom Brady's comments in this week's Sports Illustrated about wanting to play at least 10 more years for the New England Patriots. That would mean another futile decade spent playing for a wildcard spot because Brady's Bunch would be maintaining their stranglehold on the AFC East title.


Speaking of Brady, did you know that at about $10-mil per year he's a mere pauper compared to his wife, Gisele Bundchen? The Brazilian supermodel raked in $25 million last year, and that was $10-mil less than she brought home the year before. So, from a financial perspective, this couple can treat Brady's NFL career as an avocation. Unfortunately for Bills, Jets and Dolphins fans, Brady doesn't treat it that way. If anything, he appears super motivated to do things that no quarterback has ever done before.


I understand LeBron James' frustration with being eliminated from the NBA playoffs, but the Cleveland Cavaliers' icon didn't show much class by blowing off reporters after last night's game. The 24-year-old superduperstar still has some growing-up to do.


Although I wished he had come back to the 'Cuse for at least one more basketball season, it's abundantly clear that point guard Jonny Flynn made the right decision by declaring early for this year's NBA draft. Not surprisingly, he's wowed the NBA talent scouts during pre-draft workouts and scrimmages. Several NBA GMs believe he will be a lottery pick.
At least eight teams among the the top 14 picks are in the market for a point guard. Flynn's favorite NBA team growing up was the Knicks, and he would love nothing more than to play for coach Mike D'Antoni, who has a reputation for developing undersized point guards (Steve Nash, Nate Robinson, etc.)


As Churchville native Tim Redding has discovered, the New York sports media can be harsh when you're struggling. After being rocked for seven runs on eight hits in four innings Saturday, the Mets pitcher's picture landed on the back cover of the Daily News with a huge headline reading TIM-BER! Despite two shaky outings after a solid debut, Tim is assured of at least one more start, but the meter's running. If he doesn't deliver, he could find himself banished to the bullpen or back in Triple-A Buffalo in a New York minute.


I'm not into these reality and talent-search shows, but my wife, Beth, got me interested in the saga of British singer Susan Boyle. I admit it, my working-class roots had me pulling for her, and although she finished second, her dream of recording an album will definitely come true. And, yes, we'll buy it, and, yes, we'll pay to see her in concert.


Ms. Boyle showed her dignity and class (Are you listening LeBron?) by immediately congratulating the dance group that beat her out for the top spot.


We celebrated my mother-in-law's 80th birthday this weekend in the tiny town of Alden, about 25 miles east of Buffalo. I come from a very, very small family, so it's always fun for me to get together for one of Beth's huge-family gatherings - though, it occasionally can be a litte intimidating trying to remember the names of all her nieces, nephews, brother-in-laws and second- and third-cousins. (We actually did name tags the first time I met them at a Christmas party two years ago, but since then I've had to rely on my very shaky memory.)

One of the more interesting members of my new extended family is Beth's Uncle Francis, whose life would make a compelling memoir. A Jesuit priest, Uncle Francis spent several years teaching and preaching on the Marshall Islands halfway across the Paciffic.
While working at Brooklyn Prep in the 1940s, one of his more celebrated students was future College Hall-of-Fame football coach Joe Paterno.
A huge sports fan, Uncle Francis was in attendance at Ebbetts Field that April Day in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier by suiting up for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Beth's uncle also was one of the original teachers at McQuaid Jesuit High School back in the early 1960s. Talk about a life well-lived.

That picture, by the way, is of my mother-in-law, Dorothy Pack, with her brother, Francis, and my nephew-in-law, Michael Hoerbelt, who did a superb job of putting together a nostalgic DVD of Dorothy's eight memorable decades on this planet.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Once again, GeVa Theatre hits it out of the park

Those of you who have read me regularly know that I’m a huge fan of Rochester’s Geva Theatre Center. To invoke a sports metaphor, it’s the Fenway Park of theaters – intimate and cozy, putting you right on top of the action.

Beth and I regularly attend plays there, and we never cease to be amazed by the On-Broadway quality of the productions. Director Mark Cuddy is consistently brilliant. (The Joe Torre of directors if I must invoke another sports metaphor, which I must.)
Last Saturday, my better half and I attended a remake of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fences, and were blown away by the acting, directing and scenery.
The lead, Tony Todd, delivered a powerful performance as Troy Maxson, a former Negro League baseball star who played before Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier and feels “fenced-out’’ by society. Todd, who has more than 100 film and television credits on his resume, does a superb job of conveying Maxson’s anger and sadness.
By the time he appeared for his curtain call, Todd was physically and emotionally drained, and so was I. He was that good.
I highly, highly recommend Fences. And I guarantee you that if you’ve never been to GeVa before, you’ll become a regular after this performance.
Although the play is set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the late 1950s, I picked up on a Rochester connection.
At one point, a bitter Maxson grabs a bat and starts belittling a former major leaguer named George Selkirk.
Selkirk, a deft, light-on-his-feet outfielder nicknamed “Twinkle Toes,’’ is best known in baseball annals for being the player who replaced the legendary Babe Ruth in right field for the New York Yankees in the late-1930s. He even wore Ruth’s old, No. 3 pinstriped uniform after the Bambino was jettisoned, and that didn’t set well with Yankees fans who booed him incessantly in a show of support for the greatest player of them all.
Selkirk was born in Canada, but grew up in Rochester and graduated from Edison Tech High School. His other claim to fame was his suggestion of putting warning tracks in ballparks, so that outfielders going back on the ball would know when they were getting close to the wall. Today, every professional ballpark has a warning track.
Don’t know if you are like me, but after watching the highlights of The National Spelling Bee I can’t help but feel as if my education was sorely lacking. These kids are truly astounding. They put me to shame, and I’ve spent a lifetime making a living as a writer. I swear I’ve never heard of 80 percent of the words in the finals. Heck, the judges could be making them up for all I know.
Speaking of spelling bees, my wife, Beth, was one of the media celebrity spellers when the play, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, was brought to town by The Rochester Broadway Theater League last year. She was the last person standing, so to speak, among the spellers pulled from the audience.
The judges in the play actually threw up their cards in amazement when Beth correctly spelled a word that was designed to send her back to the audience pronto.
Unfortunately, they came up with a word that a Rhodes Scholar would have struggled with on her next try, and she was escorted back to her seat by several singing and dancing actors. Still, I couldn’t have been more proud if I had spelled the word myself.
(And that is why I often have her copy-read my stuff. Hey, I’m no fool. I know where the brains in this relationship are – above her shoulders.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Classy Killebrew still knows how to go deep

Although everything wound up working out marvelously for Harmon Killebrew, the Baseball Hall of Famer occasionally wonders what might have happened had he accepted that football scholarship to the University of Oregon or signed with the Boston Red Sox rather than the Washington Senators after graduating from Payette (Idaho) High School back in the spring of 1954.
Though known even back then for his long-ball hitting prowess, young Harmon knew a thing or two about going deep on the football field, too. Like current Minnesota Twins slugger Joe Mauer, Killebrew was a high school All-America quarterback. So the lure of the Ducks football scholarship wasn’t easy to turn down.
“Four years later, they went to the Rose Bowl, and I always wondered if I’d been their quarterback if they’d have still gone to the Rose Bowl,’’ Killebrew was saying the other night before signing autographs at Frontier Field.
“It’s like Yogi Berra says, ‘If you come to a fork in the road, take it.’ I took this road, but wondered what would have happened if I had gone the other way. I guess everybody goes through life like that.’’
Not that he has any complaints choosing the direction he did. After all, he wound up smashing 573 home runs without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs during his 22-years in the big leagues.
The Senators (the forerunners to the Twins) signed him on the recommendation of Idaho Senator Herman Welker. Like many Washington politicians, Welker was a huge baseball fan who attended many games in D.C. One time, in the early 1950s, Welker ran into Senators owner Clark Griffith and casually mentioned this powerful Idaho high schooler by the name of Harmon Killebrew. Griffith had his farm director Ossie Bluege check out the kid, and he wound up signing him for $50,000.
Bluege got Killebrew’s signature on the dotted line just in the nick of time because a scout from the Red Sox had caught wind of Killebrew and Boston was ready to offer him a lucractive contract, too.
“I always loved hitting in Fenway Park,’’ Killebrew said. “Imagine if I had played for the Red Sox.’’
They would have had to resurface the Green Monster from all the dents he would have pounded into it.
As it turned out, Killebrew did just fine for himself with all his Bunyonesque Blasts in Minnesota.
At age 73, he continues to be a wonderful baseball ambassador. He and his wife, Nita, run the Harmon Killebrew Foundation. One of their main projects is building “Miracle Fields’’ for handicap baseball youth leagues throughout the country.
Killebrew still follows the game closely, and, like many of us, is saddened by the steroid scandal that has dogged baseball during this decade. He’s concerned not only about how it’s destroyed the integrity of the game’s records, but also worries about the future health of the players who used the performance enhancers and the message it sends to young athletes.
“I just hope that Manny Ramierez being suspended recently for 50 games (because of a failed drug test) sends a message to the other players that if you are using that stuff, you better stop because more than likely you are going to get caught,’’ he said.
Killebrew said the Twins organization has attempted to do things the right way when it comes to educating its players about the dangers and immorality of using performance-enhancers. He believes that the players on their roster are clean.
Not surprisingly, Killebrew is a big fan of Minnesota’s big boppers – first baseman Justin Morneau and catcher Joe Mauer.
Rochester Red Wings’ fans aren’t surprised by Morneau’s development. Or his power. Heck, anyone who saw the big-left-handed hitter park one almost to the railroad tracks beyond the right field wall at Frontier Field – a 500-foot blast – realized he was going to go deep often in the bigs.
But Mauer’s power surge this month has taken many by surprise. Including Killebrew.
“Joe liked to hit the ball all over the ballpark and not pull the ball so much, so I didn’t necessarily think he could hit a lot of home runs that way in the Metrodome,’’ Killebrew said. “But he’s been pulling it a little more this year. And if he continues to do that, with the power he does generate, he could hit a lot of home runs.’’
So far, Mauer – a two-time American League batting champion – has done so without compromising his high average.
“I think he’s capable of hitting 40 or more,’’ Killebrew said. “But will he decide to go in that direction if his average starts to suffer? It’s difficult to keep a high average if you pull the ball a lot. I know.’’
Killebrew admittedly cared more about going for the seats than for a batting title, as evidenced by his .256 batting average, among the lowest of any Hall of Fame member.
But that was OK with his fans who loved seeing him dial long distance.
There’s no question, he took the right fork in the road way back when.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Repeat after me, "Michael Vick is NOT coming to Buffalo"

Ah, you have to love those internet rumors. Consider this juicy one posted on Sports Illustrated's Fan Nation site the other day:

Here's the real team to watch as a Michael Vick destination, in our view. The Buffalo Bills. The Bills want to win. Now. Whether it's because owner Ralph Wilson is feeling a Leon Hess-style sense of urgency or whether coach Dick Jauron feels a Rich Kotite-style sense of urgency or a combination of both, the Bills are going all out. They offered Terrell Owens $6.5 million guaranteed at a time when no one else was willing to pay him $6.50. And a league source tells us that the Bills made a very aggressive play for defensive end Jason Taylor immediately after Taylor was cut in March by the Redskins. In fact, the Bills were the very first team to pursue Taylor. As to the potential backlash from signing Vick, consider the fans' reaction to the arrival of T.O. He's already gotten the key to the freaking city. So if any team can sell this transaction to their fans, it's the Bills.

These are the types of posts that drive journalists nuts because readers (and editors) see them and become irrational. Rather than see the absurdity in the rumor, the readers (and editors) start believing they are true and reporters are forced to go on wild goose chases.

I'm happy to report that there isn't even a modicum of truth in this one. My sources with the Bills tell me the team has absolutely no interest in bringing the dog-murdering quarterback to Buffalo.

This dumb posting makes no sense at all. How stupid to think that giving Owens the key to the city conveys the same sense of desperation as signing a criminal like Vick.

I'm no T.O. fan, but it's flat-out wrong to equate his egocentric football transgressions to the heinous real-life crimes committed by Vick.

I'm all for posting opinions to generate discussion, but this one was ludicrous and irresponsible.


I know David Stern, the networks and the vast majority of NBA fans want to see the Los Angeles Kobes vs. the Cleveland LeBrons in the finals, but I'm pulling for a Denver-Orlando championship series. Yes, I am biased. I'd love to see Carmelo Anthony, who I was privileged to cover at Syracuse during the Orange men's national championship season, and Stan Van Gundy, who has strong ties to Brockport, vie for a ring.


Why can't more athletes follow Cal Ripken Jr.'s lead? The baseball legend and former Rochester Red Wing star signed autographs for a half hour following his speech Monday night at the Rochester Press-Radio Club's Day of Champions children's charity dinner. He wasn't required to, he just did it spontaneously on his own.


Unlike the real emotions Buffalonians displayed during Jim Kelly's coronation-like arrival in 1986, this reception for T.O. comes across as painfully contrived. Presenting him with the key to the city was political grandstanding by a mayor up for reelection.


Notre Dame reportedly is looking into the possibility of playing Army in 2013 at the new Yankee Stadium to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the game in which the forward pass first became a major part of college football. I like the idea, but, given the way baseballs are flying out of the wind-tunneled new ballpark, I'm worried some punts and kickoffs might sail completely out of the stadium.


Just throwing this out there, but couldn't State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo go after the Yankees for price gouging because a goodly sum of taxpayers' dollars were used to contruct the Steinbrenners temple of greed?


No one can tangle up a garden hose like my wife. Fortunately, I managed to get it untangled before our new forsythia bush died of thirst.


Happy 80th birthday to my mother-in-law, Dorothy Pack. She has one of the coolest nicknames - Dot Com - and makes the best German potato-salad I've ever tasted.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A homecoming for former Red Wing Cal Ripken Jr.

Hey folks, tomorrow night the Rochester Press-Radio Club hosts its 60th Day of Champions children's charity banquet. Our headliner this year is Cal Ripken Jr. Here's the piece I wrote about the Baseball Hall of Famer and former Rochester Red Wing for our dinner program:

Cal Ripken Jr. was one of the rare ones who got it.

As far back as three decades ago, when he was still a Baltimore Orioles legend-in-the-making while honing his craft at old Silver Stadium, he realized his job went beyond hitting line drives and vacuuming up grounders. The former Rochester Red Wings star understood he had a responsibility – an obligation, really – to interact with fans, to be an ambassador as well as a shortstop.

Unlike so many big-name athletes, Cal never acted as if he were entitled. He always displayed gratitude for being given an opportunity to make a wonderful living playing a little boy’s game.

And that, as much as his famous ‘Iron Man’ streak of 2,632 consecutive games, his 3,000-plus hits and his 19 All-Star Game appearances, has always resonated with me and millions of others who long ago grew weary of the avaricious louts who often dominate the sports pages and the airwaves. It is why I’ve always admired Cal and often sang his praises during my time as a sports columnist.

More than 35 years in the business taught me that most prominent celebrities don’t get it. Though many of them hail from humble backgrounds, they often forget their roots when they hit the big time. They act as if this is somehow their birthright, to be rich and famous. They treat fans and media with disdain. They delude themselves into believing that what they do is somehow the equivalent of discovering the cure for cancer or a solution for world peace. They believe their profession owes them everything and they owe little or nothing in return.

Cal, though, isn’t that way. He’s been able to keep things in perspective. Despite his extraordinary popularity, he’s remained grounded. He has always given back to the game that has given him so much. His desire to interact with fans – especially young ones – is sincere and genuine.

“I guess I just realized that the game is more special because there were people in the stands watching,’’ says the man who won International League Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 1981 after batting .288 with 23 homers, 31 doubles and 75 runs batted in while playing in 114 consecutive games for the Wings.

Whether it was by signing autographs or posing for pictures, Cal always sought to bridge the gap between the stands and the diamond.

His victory lap around Camden Yards after breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games-played streak of 2,130 on Sept. 6, 1995 remains one of baseball’s shining moments. And it couldn’t have come at a better time because the game was still reeling from the cancellation of the World Series the previous year. Many fans, disgusted by the greedy players and owners, had sworn they would never go to another game.

But Ripken won many of them back. His admirable work ethic and sense of gratitude was a reminder of what was right about baseball.

His return tonight will be a homecoming of sorts for the Red Wings most famous alumnus. This was where he spent the summer of ’69 while his father managed the Wings, and this also was his summer home 12 years later when he played shortstop and third base for our Triple-A club before heading off to the Orioles and embarking on a journey that would land him in Cooperstown.

“I’ll always have fond memories of my time in Rochester,’’ says Ripken, the recipient of this year’s Coca-Cola Sports Personality of the Year Award. “The people there were always kind to me, and they’ve continued to be wonderful every time I return.’’

Ripken has been back on numerous occasions since 1981.

While with the Orioles, he played several exhibition games at old Silver Stadium and the new Frontier Field. At the 1997 exhibition against the Wings, Ripken received a 25-second standing ovation from an overflow crowd of 13,723 – still the most ever to attend a baseball game at Frontier.

On Aug. 29, 2003, he returned again for his induction into the Red Wings Hall of Fame, and a youth baseball clinic he and his brother, Billy, conducted the following day at the ballpark.

And he was back again the following April to conduct another clinic for 40 kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester. During that visit, he donated $100,000 for baseball equipment to the City of Rochester.

“I have not met another person who has such immense demands on their time who has shown so much willingness to give back to the fans,’’ says Wings general manager Dan Mason.

Mason saw that quiet class first-hand during Ripken’s induction into the Wings Hall of Fame.

“He said he’d come back, but he wanted to make sure he did a clinic for kids,’’ Mason says. “That was his stipulation, not mine.’’

Ripken’s kindness, especially toward kids, is as legendary as his streak.

No one knows that better than Carol and Mark Marchase of Honeoye Falls.

Eleven years ago, Ripken went deep into their hearts as gracefully as he once went deep into the hole. The 15 minutes he spent with their dying son, Kyle, before the Orioles-Wings exhibition in 1997 were among the best 15 minutes of the boy’s life.

Thanks to Ripken and the generosity of a friend and Mason, Kyle was able to fulfill a lifelong dream before dying of non-Hodgkins lymphoma at age 16 that November.

Kyle’s best friend, Rob Knebel, was well aware of how much his buddy worshipped Cal, and he figured a meeting with the Orioles great would boost Kyle’s spirits during arduous cancer treatments.

Rob’s mom contacted Mason and the Wings GM arranged for the Marchases to meet Ripken before the game.

“We thought it would just be a short meeting, and that was fine with us because we knew Cal was going to be busy that night and was going to be pulled in a lot of directions,’’ Carol recalls. “We were just honored to get the opportunity to meet him.’’

The Baseball Hall of Famer gave Kyle an autographed book, signed a jersey for him, posed for pictures, then spent 15 minutes talking baseball with the teenager.

When the Marchases read that the Orioles were going to play an exhibition in Rochester two years after Kyle died, they contacted Mason to see if they could meet with Ripken briefly in private. Before the game, Mason brought them down to the clubhouse, and they presented a plaque that included their thanks and the drawing of an angel.

“We included it on there because we wanted Cal to know that he was one of the angels in my son’s life,’’ Carol says.

Ripken was truly touched. His act of kindness was just one of many that endeared him to a place that has become his second baseball home. It was just another example of how he got it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bruce Smith and Michael Phelps are back in the news

So, here I am working on a freelance piece about Bruce Smith going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August and the news comes across that the former Bills sackmeister has been arrested again for DUI. Arghhhhhhh!


I'm not a math genius, but the new Yankee Stadium is on a pace to host 301 home runs this season. Maybe the new nickname should be "The Bandbox the Steinbrenners Built.''


If you are looking for a true hero in the world of sports, go to and click on the story about former Oklahoma University basketball star Wayman Tisdale, who just lost a courageous battle with cancer at age 44. Tisdale was an accomplished basketball player and jazz musician, but he was an even better person. To the end, he retained that effervescent personality. His nickname at OU was WWT - Wonderful Wayman Tisdale.


Still, having problems keeping our cat Sassy's tail off the keyboard while I type. I guess, on the positive side, it gives me a built-in excuse for any typos.


Best developing sports story that nobody knows about? Kansas City Royals pitcher Zack Greinke, who is 7-1 after beating the Baltimore Orioles last night. Zack is so good, he gives up a run and his earn run average goes up from 0.51 to 0.60.


Michael Phelps is so good in the pool that he recorded two record-setting wins yesterday despite an 8-month layoff. Even the drag from his new goatee couldn't slow him down.


My wife claims I'm a pack rat. I beg to differ. I tell her I'm a curator, but she isn't buying my semantical distinction. As long as I keep the door to my office closed, she's fine with my so-called clutter.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tom Golisano leaves home; Greg Paulus returns

Who can blame Buffalo Sabres owner and philanthropist Tom Golisano for finally fleeing his home state because of its dysnfunctional government and ridiculous tax burden?

Unlike the bozos in Albany who have helped turn the Empire State into the nation's laughing stock, Golisano made a concerted effort through his gubernatorial runs and lobbying to bring about reform. But the cronies in the state capital are so entrenched that even a powerful, self-made billionaire like Golisano couldn't bring about change.

My wife, Beth, and I are native Upstate New Yorkers, and we love so much about our community and our state. But we often wonder how much longer we're going to be able to afford to stay in a place that soon will be taxing the air we breath.


The New York State motto is "excelsior,'' which means "ever-higher.'' Perhaps they should change the translation to "ever-higher taxes.''


OK, enough with the politics.

On a positive sports note, Greg Paulus decided he will spend his graduate year of athletic eligibility playing football at Syracuse. As I mentioned in this space before, I think it's a low-risk, high-reward move for both student-athlete and school. (In this case, the term student-athlete is relevant. Paulus truly is one.)

If the Duke point guard quickly recaptures the magic we saw four years ago in high school when he threw for 11,763 yards and 152 touchdowns while leading Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy to a three-year 42-3 record and a state championship, the the moribund Orange program will receive an unexpected shot in the arm and possibly earn a bowl bid.

If he bombs . . . well, at least he will have coaxed several thousand extra fannies into the Carrier Dome and made a 3-8 transition season a lot more interesting than it would have been.

I think Paulus is going to do just fine, despite the difficult odds of making a comeback after a four-year hiatus. He is a bright kid with great leadership skills. And the toughness that comes with having been the Blue Devils floor general under Coach K for three years is sure to help.

Paulus had a very good workout with the Green Bay Packers a few weeks ago. And it should be noted that more than a dozen major Division I programs - including Nebraska and Michigan - also were willing to take a risk that Paulus could be a one-year wonder for them.

Again, it isn't like Paulus is keeping the next Donovn McNabb or Donnie McPherson on the bench. This is a program that hasn't had a winning season in seven years and has lost 57 of its last 83 games, often by huge margins.

Look at it this way. It's similar to the Bills signing of Terrell Owens, only without the VH-1 reality series.


Interestingly, once Paulus' football season ends, he plans to serve as a basketball graduate assistant under Jim Boeheim. Too bad Greg didn't have one more year of eligibility in hoops, too. Jimmy B could have used him now that Jonny Flynn has bolted for the riches of the NBA.


The NFL reportedly is against the state of Delaware legalizing gambling. What a bunch of hypocrites. The league owes a huge amount of its popularity to the millions who bet on games.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Opining on Bills fans, Tim Brown's accusations of racism, etc.

I used to occasionally wonder about the committment of Bills fans. I don't any more. The reports that nearly 50,000 of them have signed up for season tickets is pretty impressive, considering this team hasn't made the playoffs in a decade. Clearly, the fact fans have to pay for seven rather than eight home games is a factor, as is the sense that the team is only years removed from moving its entire schedule to Toronto. Still, Western New York football fans have put their money where their mouths are.


Tim Brown's assertion that Raiders owner Al Davis told him he hated African-Americans from Notre Dame back in 1988 seems a little hard to believe. Al is a lot of things - including strange - but there's nothing in his background to suggest he is a racist. If anything, he was far ahead of his fellow NFL owners when it came to race relations. He hired Art Shell to be the first black head coach of the modern pro football era and also hired the first Latino-American coach in Tom Flores.


I think we would have been better off if Roger Clemens and Dick Cheney had just kept their traps shut.


Silence, though, hasn't been golden with regards to banished slugger Manny Ramirez. It's nice that he is going to apologize to his teammates, but I think he needs to hold a press conference and apologize to the fans, too.


I've long advocated the No-Huddle be a part of the Bills gameplan, so I'm happy to see them work on it this offseason. I'm not saying it has to be the primary offense, the way it was with Jim Kelly and the K-Gunners during the Super Bowl years, but there's nothing wrong with it being used as a change of pace. I think it will utilize Trent Edwards' superior decision-making skills and alleviate some of the pressure from the Bills' totally revamped line.


You have to admire Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals. Despite being mired on a rotten team that nobody cares about, he's hit safely in 30 consecutive games.


Here's wishing Brooks Robinson many years of good health now that he's successfully on the other side of radiation treatments for his prostate cancer. The Baltimore Orioles Hall-of-Fame third baseman is one of sport's best ambassadors. A truly nice guy.


Let the soap opera begin. VH1's cameras will be in Buffalo next week to start filming their reality series involving the life of Terrell Owens. A nation waits with bated breath.


I was happy to see Fred Jackson receive a contract extension with the Bills. The versatile free-agent running back from Coe College (Marv Levy's alma mater) has done everything the team has asked of him - including return punts - and he and Dominic Rhodes will be integral contributors to the Buffalo attack at the start of this season when Marshawn Lynch has to serve his suspension.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SU football coach Doug Marrone is being true to his school

Whether it’s a Rotary luncheon in Elmira or a minor-league baseball game in Rochester, the lament from Syracuse University football fans has been the same.

“I used to have season tickets,’’ is the painful, six-word refrain new Orange coach Doug Marrone hears each time the SU football caravan pulls into a new town.

A 10-37 record over four seasons will create that type of apathy.

But if Marrone is daunted by the demoralizing comments, he isn’t letting on.

See, the former SU offensive lineman has experienced fans jumping off the bandwagon in droves before.

And he has seen them scramble to climb back on.

It happened in Marrone’s most recent job as offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints. Following Hurricane Katrina many long-time season-ticket holders gave up on the team, only to come flocking back once the Saints came marching back into the NFL playoffs.

The former ‘Cuse captain envisions a similar football renaissance in the Carrier Dome.

His response to Orange fans who gave up their season ducats:

“You better buy them now.’’

Or find yourself on the outside looking in.

Bold words, indeed, but they speak to the confidence and the passion Marrone brings to his dream job.

He remembers how people doubted him and his teammates in the early 1980s, and how, under the leadership of Hall-of-Fame coach Dick MacPherson, they eventually resuscitated the program and returned Syracuse football to national prominence.

“I know what that place can be like when it’s filled up,’’ said Marrone, who was on the 1984 team that upset top-ranked Nebraska in the Carrier Dome.

“I know how important it is to our community for our football program to do well. And when I say community, I’m also talking about Rochester, Buffalo and Binghamton and Albany. It’s important to them that we play good football.’’

Of course, the only way to recruit disenfranchised ticketholders is to win a lot of football games. And the only way to do that is to recruit blue-chip talent.

Easier said than done.

Marrone is an eternal optimist. But he’s also a pragmatist. He’s not going to sugar-coat his task.

This program didn’t become mediocre overnight. It won’t become relevant again overnight either.

“I think this is a very tough job – a very, very tough job, and I think anyone that’s on the inside realizes that,’’ he said. “But coaching is about challenges, and I’m looking forward to this one.’’

The Bronx native has been preparing for this moment since leaving SU for a brief NFL playing career in the late 1980s. He certainly has paid his dues – with coaching stints at Cortland State, the Coast Guard Academy, Georgia and Tennessee, before earning a promotion to the New York Jets and the Saints.

The past three years he served as the coordinator of one of the NFL’s most potent offenses. Among his success stories was quarterback Drew Brees, who had been jettisoned by the San Diego Chargers but who wound up reviving his career with the Saints.

At 44, Marrone had become one of the hottest assistants in pro football. It was only a matter of time before he became an NFL head coach.

But the man whose life had been dramatically shaped by his SU experience had his eyes on a different goal.

He wanted to return to his alma mater. He wanted to shape young men the way Coach Mac had shaped him.

Which is why, he started compiling a game plan for reviving Orange football – a game plan that included detailed lists of the top recruits in the tri-state area.

And he did all this in his limited spare time as an NFL assistant.

When athletic director Daryl Gross began making inquiries with people throughout the football world about who should replace Greg Robinson, Marrone’s name kept popping up.

Former Buffalo Bills and current Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian gave Marrone a ringing endorsement, telling Gross: “You better hire this guy before some NFL team does.’’

That emotion was emphatically seconded by SU football legends Floyd Little and Tim Green, who were part of Gross’s search committee.

And so, five months ago, Douglas Charles Marrone’s dream came true. And, now, he’s out to prove that you can go home again.

At 6-feet, 4-inches tall, he is a commanding presence. Unlike the confusing Robinson or the stoic Paul Pasqualoni, Marrone is articulate and extroverted. He loves interacting with people. He exudes confidence. You can definitely see him closing the deal with recruits and fans alike.

“I was recruited by everybody in the country, but I chose Syracuse, and I’ve never regretted it,’’ he said. “I just go around and tell people what a tremendous opportunity you’ll be able to have at Syracuse University. I know it made me a better person.’’

Marrone has assembled an excellent staff – an experienced group of assistants who understand the importance of establishing relationships with high school coaches throughout the Northeast and beyond.

Unfortunately, they got a late start on recruiting for this season, so Marrone will have to begin the rebuilding process mostly with the cards he’s been dealt.

He seeks to establish the discipline and organization that was sorely lacking under Robinson.

In all likelihood, it’s going to take at least a few years to right this ship.

But from what I’ve seen and heard so far, I believe Marrone is the right man at the right time.

His enthusiasm is contagious. His football resume is solid. His love of SU is genuine.

Skeptics will tell you that Marrone is a gamble because he has no head-coaching experience. That’s a legitimate concern, but I would argue that he is ready and able.

The same worries were articulated when a certain, bespectacled assistant took over the SU basketball program in the late 1970s. Now, I’m not foolish enough to believe that Marrone is headed for a run similar to the extraordinary chapter authored by Jim Boeheim. But I sense something good brewing. It may not happen this year. Or even next. But it will.

And when it does, those seats will be filled again. And those former season-ticket holders might wind up ruing the fact they didn’t heed Marrone’s advice.


Doug Marrone was born and raised in the Bronx and his grandfather worked as an usher at Yankee Stadium, so it’s no surprise which baseball team he follows religiously.

But Marrone also is a huge fan of minor-league baseball, and has enjoyed making the rounds to different ballparks in New York state this spring.

“I always loved coming to the ballpark,’’ the new SU football coach said. “It gives me a chance to be a fan again.’’

Marrone is so into it that he arrived early before a recent Binghamton Mets game to take a little batting practice. According to Sue Edson, SU’s Director of Athletic Communications, he didn’t hit any out, but he did park one on the warning track.

Marrone threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Rochester Red Wings game at Frontier Field Monday night. He wore his glove – a black Wilson A1000 – and went into a full windup from the rubber. For the record, his pitch to Wing Tommy Watkins sailed wide of the right-handed batter’s box, prompting one fan to bellow: “Coach Marrone, you better work on your pitching.’’

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A son remembers his mom

I lost my mom 13 years ago. I think about her every day, and thank her every day - particularly this day when we honor the women who gave us life.

In tribute to my mom and all moms on this Mother's Day, I'm reprinting the essay/eulogy I wrote about Edna Pitoniak in my book, Playing Write Field, back in October of 1996.

For those of you who still have your moms, please take a moment to hug them and tell them how much you love them - and make every day, Mother's Day.


When I clasped her frail hands in mine, I couldn't help but notice how cold they had become. It was as if she had been out gloveless on a bitter winter's night. I gently rubbed them in hopes
of warming them, in hopes of comforting her, but the chill would not go away.

By this time, Mom was barely breathing. Her face was ashen. I knew the end was near.

I repeated the things I had told her off and on during the 14 hours I spent by her bedside. How much I loved her. How much everybody loved her. I told her there was nothing to fear. I told her
God was ready to welcome her, ready to free her from the sickening grip of Alzheimer's and cancer.

She gasped for air one final time, and then slipped peacefully away.

I cried for the longest time and, finally, when I couldn't cry any more, I placed her hands by her side, kissed her cheek and walked to the door. I looked one last time and told her, "Until we meet
again, Mom. Until we meet again."

It's strange, but half my life has been spent stringing words together, and yet I don't know if there are any words to convey how much she meant to me, my brothers and so many others.

I owe her so much.

No one ever influenced me more.

She clearly is the reason I chose writing as my life's work.

My earliest memories are of a mother spinning wonderful tales about knights and castles and brave men sailing tall ships on rough seas. She was a masterful storyteller. Her love of the language was obvious.

That she would have a way with words was not surprising, given where she had grown up. Edna Holloway's youth had been spent near the Lake District of Northern England. It was an idyllic
place of green, rolling hills and blue, placid lakes and fields of yellow daffodils for as far as the eye could see. It was a place where poets such as Wordsworth and Byron drew inspiration.

She talked often about the natural beauty of the region they call the Cumbria. Years later, I had the opportunity to behold its grandeur. It was all that she had said it would be.

It was in England that my Mom also learned about the horrors of war. She told stories of heading off to work as a young woman and wondering if she would ever see her parents and brothers
again. She talked about the bone-chilling sounds of air-raid sirens, and about scrambling to shelters while Nazi bombs rained from the skies.

She met and married my dad while he was stationed in England with the U.S. Army, and came to this country along with thousands of other European women who had married American
servicemen. Women who became known as ‘war brides.'

She loved to walk and go dancing and read. It was not uncommon for her to devour three or four books a week. Biographies. Romance novels. Mysteries. The public library had no greater supporter.

She had a wonderful sense of humor. She loved to smile. She loved people. She always looked for the good in them.

At times, she may have been too trusting and may have been taken advantage of. But she wasn't going to change. She wasn't going to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch. She taught me early on to judge people by their character and soul, not by their skin color or gender
or social standing. She always had a soft spot in her heart for those less fortunate.

Her life here was not easy. Her relationship with my dad was often strained. And, for many years, alcohol ruled her life. But Mom eventually found the courage to change.

About six years ago, she was dealt another cruel blow when she showed signs of Alzheimer's, a terrifying disease that, among other things, robbed her of the ability to reason and speak coherently.

One of the most difficult, but best decisions my farnily ever made was to place Mom in Kirkhaven, a Rochester nursing home with a floor devoted solely to the care of residents with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

The workers there, as in most nursing homes, are incredibly dedicated, loving people - their deeds often heroic. It was comforting to know that Mom was in such good hands.

Although Alzheimer's stripped her of so much, it could not strip her of her spirit. She remained a kind and gentle soul till the very end.

During the final hours of my vigil, I couldn't help but notice how many different nurses, aides and administrators stopped by to hug and kiss Mom and tell her how much they loved her. It warmed my heart to know that even during this most difficult time she was able to find contentment and touch others so profoundly.

As I caressed the hands that had stroked me through times good and bad, it finally dawned on me why God had put her through so much. He knew that she would be courageous enough to handle this. He knew how incredibly strong she was. He knew she would inspire others.

When I left the nursing home, about an hour after Mom died, I couldn't help but notice how bright the stars were. Before driving away, I felt a moment of great serenity and joy.

I smiled and gazed once more toward the heavens, and said out loud, "Until we meet again, Mom. Until we meet again."

Friday, May 8, 2009


Ken Burns reportedly is hard at work on a two-hour documentary about what’s transpired in baseball since his critically acclaimed PBS series about our national pastime aired 15 years ago.

My advice to Mr. Burns: Don’t bother.

Those of us who truly love the game and its history would rather not relive the darkness of a regrettable era (make that error) in which some of baseball’s greatest stars became better known for wielding syringes than Louisville Sluggers.

Sadly, another big-name tumbled from his pedestal Thursday, when Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance.

Even sadder is the fall-from-grace lineup he joins, which includes big boppers Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco and Jason Giambi, as well as flame(and bat)thrower Roger Clemens.

Now, there’s a roster where chemistry is not an issue. Never mind a clubhouse for these guys. A laboratory would be more fitting. Forget about a manager. A mad scientist will do.

I started writing about the dangers of steroids at the high school and middle school levels back in 1991. The statistics of usage I came across were scary.

Still, I never imagined that performance-enhancing drugs would become as pervasive in sports as they have.

And though the lion’s share of the focus has been on baseball, only a fool would believe that performance enhancers aren’t also being used extensively in football, basketball, hockey and beyond.

Heck, if you think it’s rampant in baseball, check out track and field – which clearly was ahead of its time when it came to speed and strength and jumping ability from a test tube.

It’s interesting to note that tonight – a day after Manny will be banished for a third of the season – A-Fraud is scheduled to return to the Yankees lineup amid reports that his own roid usage wasn’t restricted to the three years he claims.

And rest assured that Manny won't be the last hero whose reputation is shattered by this scandal. The formidable fall-from-grace lineup will be “enhanced’’ before we’re through. We’re at a point now where we no longer know what’s real and what’s fake.

Of course, baseball has no one to blame but itself. Commissioner Bud Lite Selig and his partner in crime, players’ association head Donald Fehr, both turned into ostriches back in the mid-1990s, allowing the roid era and too many baseballs to take flight.

I want to vomit when I hear people championing Selig for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I propose, instead, that Bud Lite be a charter member of Baseball’s Hall of Shame.

Find a dilapidated barn on the outskirts of Cooperstown. There, you can hang plaques for Bud and Fehr and Bonds and all the other miscreants and frauds who made their pacts with the devil.

Again, my advice to Mr. Burns is: Don’t bother with a 10th inning. I’ll watch the previous nine segments instead.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Opining on Favre, LeBron and the Boston Globe

Brett Favre clearly isn't the retiring type, so, yes, I think he's going to play in 2009, and, yes, I believe the rumors are true that he'll wind up in Minnesota with the Vikings. And that's going to be a killer for Cheeseheads when the most famous Green Bay Packer not named Vince Lombardi pulls into Lambeau Field wearing purple and white. Methinks it's going to be a long while after Favre finally does retire before the Pack welcomes him back for that jersey retirement ceremony. But the team and its devout fans eventually will forgive and forget. Fans always do.


I love newspapers, so I'm breathing a sigh of relief today that The Boston Globe survived the threat of being shut down yesterday. Although I've never been a fan of any of Beantown's sports teams, I've always loved reading the Globe's sports section. It's been a writer's and reader's section, not only greatly informative, but also entertaining and evocative - something, sadly, that most newspapers no longer are.


I thought it was pretty classy of LeBron James to hold his MVP press conference at his old high school in Akron. He clearly has matured considerably from that exhibition game appearance at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester a few years back when he couldn't be bothered to play even a minute or two or sign any autographs for the kids who had flocked to see him.


It seems like LeBron has been around forever. You have to remind yourself that he's only 24 years old, and his best basketball presumably is still ahead of him.


Is there any doubt that when he becomes a free agent a few years hence that LeBron will wind up with the Knicks - especially if he leads Cleveland to an NBA title this year?


My wife, Beth, tells me that "Felines are like women - very complicated and mysterious. And men are like dogs - fairly predictable.'' I can see a book idea percolating here. Instead of "Men are from Mars; women are from Venus,'' we'll title it "Women are like cats; men are like dogs.'' Get Oprah on the line immediately.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday morning musings

The way I see it, a one-year marriage between hometown boy Greg Paulus and Syracuse football is a no-brainer. I mean, it's not like the former Duke University point guard would be keeping the next Donovan McNabb on the bench. Paulus, who was the National Gatorade Player of the Year while playing quarterback for Syracuse CBA five years ago, would create immediate excitement in the moribund SU program and put fannies in the seats. In the best-case scenario, SU goes 6-5 and ekes its way into some insignificant bowl game. In the worst-case scenario, Paulus bombs out and SU goes 3-8 or 2-9, which is what they're predicted to finish anyway. There's a lot to gain and little to lose.


I saw Paulus play football several times in my previous incarnation as a newspaper columnist, and he is, far and away, the best high school quarterback I've witnessed. To me, Canandaigua's Billy Scharr had a stronger arm, but Paulus had incredible vision and was a great decision-maker. He always threw the ball to the right receiver. I wonder if he ever second guesses his decision to play basketball at Duke, where his career didn't live up to the hype. I remember how his father pushed for him to play football (Greg had offers from a boatload of schools, including Notre Dame and nearby SU). But hoops was Greg's first love. And having a degree from the Harvard of the South isn't too shabby.


I'm still wondering where the historical preservationists and politicians were four years ago when the new Yankee Stadium was being ram-rodded through. The bottom line is that there was no need to leave the original stadium, other than to line the Steinbrenners' pockets with more gold. There weren't any engineering studies proclaiming the old joint unsound. Plus, the Yankees were selling 4 million tickets a season for a major league record four straight years. It's not like people had stopped coming, the way they are now, thanks to the Yankees price-gouging.


Don't get me wrong, I love Coach Mac. He was the man who made Syracuse University football relevant again. I just wonder if his overall accomplishments merited election into the College Football Hall of Fame. As my good friend and longtime newspaper colleague Frank Bilovsky points out - Dick MacPherson never won a major bowl game and it wasn't until a few years ago that Penn State's Joe Paterno, winner of three times as many games as Mac, was inducted. Again, I love Coach Mac, I just don't know if he did enough at UMass and SU to warrant induction. What do you think?


I highly recommend a visit to to read a letter that late Bills quarterback and longtime Western New York Congressman Jack Kemp wrote to his 17 grandchildren the day after Barack Obama was elected president. It is an eloquent and upbeat concession essay from a man who had strongly supported John McCain, but who still understood the historical significance of Obama's election. It's a must-read for conservatives and liberals alike, and speaks volumes about what a gracious man Kemp was, even in defeat.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A tribute to late Bills QB Jack Kemp

I interviewed Jack Kemp about a dozen times through the years, and always found him to be gracious and enlightening. The former Bills quarterback and Republican vice-presidential candidate provided one of my all-time favorite quotes when I asked him to compare football and politics.

"Pro football gave me a good perspective when I entered the political arena,'' he quipped, "because I had already been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded and hung in effigy.''

Kemp died yesterday after a long bout with cancer. Although his career stats were pretty lame (77 touchdown passes, 132 interceptions in 88 games), he was a vital cog in the Bills to back-to-back American Football League championships during the mid-1960s. I believe his leadership skills more than made up for his paltry individual numbers, which is why I rank him as the No. 2 quarterback in Bills history, well behind Jim Kelly but a sliver ahead of Joe Ferguson.

In tribute to Kemp, I'm reprinting what I wrote about the Bills Wall-of-Famer in my 2007 book, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping and Gut-Wrenching Moments in Buffalo Bills History. It's my hope it will give you an appreciation for what he meant to those great Bills teams of the 1960s.


Jack Kemp went from running for daylight to running for political office. He graduated from old War Memorial Stadium, to the U.S. House of Representatives, to President Reagan’s cabinet. Kemp’s post-football career path didn’t surprise his former Bills teammates in the least. They just can’t believe the quarterback’s journey didn’t take him all the way to the White House.

“I think,’’ said Bills owner Ralph Wilson, “he would have made a hell of a quarterback for the country.’’

Billy Shaw, an All AFL guard who once protected Kemp from would-be tacklers, vividly remembers the quarterback campaigning locker-to-locker for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater (who was running against Lyndon Johnson) in 1964.

“Jack stopped by my stall for about half an hour extolling the virtues of Goldwater,’’ recalled Shaw, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Now, I don’t remember the particulars of his spiel, but I do remember him being quite convincing. He got me to vote for Barry.’’

While many of his teammates restricted their reading to the playbook and Playboy, Kemp was devouring books such as Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

“I used to kid Jack that carrying those big books on the plane was part of his weight-lifting routine,’’ said Eddie Abramoski, the Bills long-time trainer. “Jack often would give me one of the books and say, ‘Abe, you should read this. This is what’s wrong with our country.’’ Or, ‘This is the direction we should be going.’ Eventually, the conversations always got around to politics. Jack was passionate about it.’’

Kemp was equally passionate about football. His arrival during the 1962 season marked a turning point in Bills history. Lou Saban had taken over as head coach that fall, and had begun assembling the defensive players who would form the backbone of the Bills’ championship teams of the mid-1960s.

“The missing piece was quarterback,’’ said Bills owner Ralph Wilson. “That’s why, when Jack became available, we spent about two seconds deliberating before claiming him off the waiver wires (from the San Diego Chargers for $100). Our defense was good enough to make us contenders, but you’ve got to have a quarterback, a leader, if you want to win a championship.’’

Kemp paid immediate dividends, helping the Bills overcome an 0-5 start to finish 7-6-1. The following season, they made the playoffs but were beaten by the Boston Patriots. In 1964, the Bills went 12-2 and won their first AFL title. They repeated in 1965, and Kemp earned league MVP honors.

Although he finished as the AFL’s all-time passing yardage leader and competed in five title games in 10 years, Kemp’s time in Buffalo was not without its difficult moments. Saban occasionally played musical quarterbacks, yanking Kemp and putting in the popular Daryle Lamonica. The relationship between Kemp and Saban was mostly a good one, but there were times when the strong wills of quarterback and coach clashed.

“Jack wasn’t afraid to stand tall for what he believed in, and sometimes when he didn’t agree with a play Lou sent in, he would run his own,’’ Shaw said. “If the play worked, Lou was fine. If the play didn’t work, Lou would send in Lamonica.’’
The occasional benching were tough for Kemp to stomach, but he never complained.
“I roomed with him, and if he were upset about it, I’m sure he would have said something to me,’’ Shaw said. “I know if it were me in that situation, I’d have a tough time keeping my feelings to myself. But that was Jack. He was a true team player.’’

Kemp was often the target of fan criticism. He has joked that his job as quarterback of the Bills prepared him for a career in politics because he had already been booed, spit on and hung in effigy.

“I guess it did thicken his skin,’’ Shaw said. “But I know it bothered him, and a lot of it was unfair. Jack would get blamed for the missed blocks and the wrong routes and dropped passes. But just like with any quarterback controversy, he kept it to himself. That’s part of being a leader, putting the team above yourself.’’

Kemp, who helped co-found the AFL’s players’ union in 1965, was the go-to guy when his teammates had gripes with the coaching staff. In his most famous mediation, Kemp convinced Saban to allow star running back Cookie Gilchrist back on the team after the coach had released him for insubordination in November 1964.

“Jack was a master at solving problems without confrontation,’’ said former Bills cornerback Booker Edgerson. “He told Lou that the entire team wanted Cookie back because it was best for the team, and since it was a team decision, Lou agreed. It happened because Jack helped make it happen. I believe Lou had great respect for him.’’

The voters of Western New York also had great respect for him, sending him to Congress for nine consecutive terms. Kemp spent time in the Reagan administration as the director of the department of Housing and Urban Development, and was Republican Bob Dole’s running mate in the 1996 presidential election. They wound up losing decisively to Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Some Jack Kemp trivia
Despite finished with 18 interceptions and a 54.8 pass efficiency rating, he earned AFL most valuable player honors after leading the Bills to the championship.

He established the team standard for most touchdowns by a quarterback when he rushed for eight in 1963.

He was named to the AFL All-Star team five times.

In 88 games, he threw 77 touchdown passes and 132 interceptions and passed for 15,138 yards, most in AFL history.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Hello everybody. Just wanted to thank all of you for helping me launch this blog. Please keep spreading the news. You know the routine with these blogs. It's all about traffic, traffic, traffic.

Many of you were kind enough to respond to previous blogs either via e-mail or Facebook, and I'm going to post a few of those today. We've worked out the kinks so you can now comment every time I post a new blog. All, you have to do is click on the blue word "comment'' at the bottom of the blog, and you should be able to post a response.

I'd love to hear from you and get a dialogue going. Feel free to disagree - just try to keep it clean or we'll have to hit the delete key. And feel free to suggest topics you'd like to see me write about.

Also, please sign up for e-mail updates. It's really easy to do. Just go to the area on the right hand side and punch in your e-mail. You'll receive an inquiry asking if you indeed want to subscribe and hit "yes'' and you'll be notified with each update.

Again, my heartfelt thanks, and please keep spreading the word. The more, the merrier.

Scott P.

My column about the old and new Yankee Stadium resulted in some passionate responses:

"Hey Scott! I think it's kind of like the difference between TGI Fridays and a local watering hole. Friday's has all the right stuff in the right places. It's put there on purpose to make it feel like a local watering hole only as hard as they try it never feels right.
It's bad enough that they have all those empty seats at field level, but they really lost me when they pimped the luxury butcher shop."
- John Spaulding

Well said, John. Of course, the Yankee fielders occasionally remind me of butchers. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

"Great blog, Scott. You've confirmed the very mixed feelings I have about the new stadium. I imagine I'll get there eventually, but I'm not in any rush."
- Les Kernan

Les, it's still worth a visit. I just advise you start saving for it now.

"Great article. You have me wondering if I really want to go there. I miss reading you in the paper.''
- Fred Giovinazzo

Thanks Fred. I miss writing for the paper, but they deemed me expendable.

"I pray every day they never tear down Fenway.''
- John Overlan

Me, too. It's strange, but the Red Sox considered a sacriligeous move out of the Fens a few years ago, but, unlike Yankee management, cooler and more intelligent heads prevailed, and the Green Monster endures. It still irks me that the politicians and historical preservationists allowed The House That Ruth Built to be targetted for dismantling.