Friday, August 13, 2010
Ken Burns, Batavia's baseball future and the Bills exhibition opener
I've always been in awe of Ken Burns' work because the famed documentarian has a way of putting a human face on history.
I was reminded of his brilliance the other night when Beth and I heard him speak at the Chautauqua Institution, an idyllic setting in the Southern Tier. Burns showed excerpts from his documentaries on the Civil War and World War II, then spoke passionately about battlefields as sacred places.
Those who will see him and writer Geoffrey Ward tonight at the George Eastman House in Rochester are in for a real treat.
And I can't wait to see Burns' addendum to his critically acclaimed documentary series about baseball next month. I'm particularly interested to see how he will treat the impact of performance-enhancing drugs on the game.
I was saddenned to hear that the Red Wings are severing ties with the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League. But I understand the reasons. Rochester's minor-league ballclub had given its all in attempting to revive and save professional baseball in that tired Genesee County city, but the community and corporate support just wasn't there.
Sadly, this is probably the death knell for professional baseball in Batavia. And, on a personal level, that pains me because I always loved the fact that pro ball was still being played in small communities like Batavia.
I began my journalism career covering NY-P baseball in Little Falls way back in 1977, riding the Mets team bus across the state to places such as Newark, Oneonta, Niagara Falls and Jamestown. There is something more intimate - not to mention much more affordable - about the game at that low rung of the pro ladder. But things change. Little Falls, Utica, Oneonta, Newark, Niagara Falls no longer have teams. And, I'm afraid, Batavia will soon be joining that list of the dearly departed.
It's sure going to be strange tonight seeing Donovan McNabb wearing that Washington Redskins uniform after more than a decade in Philadelphia Eagles' garb.
I don't know how much we'll really learn about the Bills from tonight's preseason opener because three of their projected starters along the offensive line won't be playing. I'll still be keeping an eye on Trent Edwards to see if he's more decisive than the QB who completely lost his confidence last season. I'm also interested to see how new coach Chan Gailey utilizes Roscoe Parrish and rookie running back C.J. Spiller. Defensively, keep an eye on Aaron Maybin. He needs to show that he can put some pressure on the quarterback.
SHAMELESS PLUG DEPARTMENT: I'll be giving a talk and signing copies of my new book, Buffalo Bills Football Vault: The First 50 Seasons, at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble, Saturday night from 7-9. So please stop by. And remember, it's never too soon to stock up on those holiday gifts. ;-)