Thursday, March 29, 2012

Do you believe in Magic? Plus my take on Parcells, SU's NBA prospects and the Valentine soap opera in Beantown

• I was happy to see Magic Johnson’s group win the bidding war for the Los Angeles Dodgers because I believe he’s the type of good-will ambassador this once-proud baseball franchise needs in wake of the Frank McCourt mess. Magic is one of the most beloved people in LA and his connections to the community will help mend a lot of fences that have been bulldozed by the previous ownership.
• The $2 billion payout for the Dodgers was surprising until you dig deeper into the deal and realize Magic and Co. were buying a potential media empire in addition to a ballclub. Whether they launch a YES-style regional sports network or decide to offer their broadcasts independently to cable distributors they could realize more than $300 million annually. So, from that perspective, it makes perfect sense, not to mention perfect dollars and cents.
• The latest mock drafts have former Syracuse star guard Dion Waiters going in the late teens, early 20s in the first round of the 2012 draft. Orange center Fab Melo projects as either a late first-round, early second-round pick. And forward Kris Joseph will be either a late second-round pick or be forced to go the undrafted, free-agent route. I believe Waiters has the body and talent to be a solid NBA player for 10 years IF - I repeat - IF he commits himself to working at it. If he doesn’t, then he’ll join a long list of college standouts who flopped once they were shown the money. Melo, an athletic 7-footer, has potential to be an outstanding NBA player, but given his immaturity and poor judgment, you have to wonder if he will realize his tremendous upside. Joseph is a great young man, but I think his future lies in playing overseas.
• Speaking of mock drafts, some NFL draftniks have the Buffalo Bills taking Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff in the first round, while others have them tapping Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. I would rather bolster my O-line. Build with your bigs. That's my philosophy.
• Reports have it that prized SU basketball recruit Nerlens Noel will choose Kentucky over the Orange and Georgetown.
• I think Bill Parcells would be a great interim solution for the New Orleans Saints, who despite the stain of Bounty-gate have enough talent to win a Super Bowl. And should they achieve that goal that would give Parcells a third Lombardi Trophy and perhaps finally convince those knuckleheads who have kept him out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to change their minds.
• Is anyone really surprised that the Boston Red Sox might be facing a soap opera of a season with the caustic Bobby Valentine at the helm?
• The Knicks are 8-1 since Mike Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni. So maybe Carmelo Anthony knew something we didn't.
* Speaking of hot sports teams, it's great to see the Buffalo Sabres finally playing as advertised. I just worry though about the toll of having to play playoff games during the regular season in a last-ditch attempt to make the post-season.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Syracuse will go as far as Neon Dion takes them

Some slices of Orange as SU prepares for its Elite Eight matchup against Ohio State Saturday night:

• Top seed Syracuse is going to need a huge game from Dion Waiters if it is going to knock off the second-seeded-but-favored Buckeyes and advance to the Final Four in New Orleans. And that’s not an impossible expectation because Waiters has been magnificent under the bright lights of post-season. The 6-foot-4 Philly Phenom is averaging 17.8 points in five tournament games (two Big East; three NCAA). He is shooting a blistering 53.6 percent from the field and has converted all 12 of his free throws in the NCAAs. Waiters can beat you with his high-arcing 3s or his spin-move drives. And he can be one dogged defender. At one point this season he led the nation in steals. The job he did shutting down Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor on the Badgers final possession was a game-saver Thursday and the reason SU was able to advance to the Elite Eight. The Orange will go as far as Waiters takes them. For Syracuse to win it all – still a long-shot – Waiters is going to have to play the way Carmelo Anthony played during the 2003 title run.

• Enjoy Waiters while you can because he’s definitely declaring early for the NBA draft after this season ends. The most optimistic projections have him as a mid-first-rounder. At worst, he goes somewhere in the mid-20s overall. It’s too bad he won't return because he could play himself into a position where he would become a lottery pick.

• Syracuse is going to have a very difficult time matching up with Ohio State center Jared Sullinger, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds in the Buckeyes Sweet 16 victory against Cincinnati. When Sullinger’s on – as he was Thursday night – he’s as dominating as any college player in America, but he has also been prone to bouts of inconsistency at times. This clearly will be an enormous challenge for Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita. We might have reached that point where Fab Melo’s absence is really felt.

• Interestingly, this is only the fifth time in Jim Boeheim’s illustrious coaching career that he had reached the Elite Eight. If you are looking for an encouraging historical note, the Orange are 3-1 in those games.

• Boeheim after SU’s one-point win vs. Wisconsin: “I think that’s the best game anybody has ever played against us and didn’t beat us.”

• The Badgers were on fire from beyond the arc, nailing 14 3’s. But give Boeheim credit for making adjustments. He extended the 2-3 zone and Wisconsin made only 1-of-8 3-point shots down the stretch.

• C.J. Fair picked a great time to become C.J. Fair again, with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. They’re going to need him to play big again vs. Ohio State.

• Senior forward Kris Joseph also is going to have to snap out of it if SU wants to advance to the Final Four. He played passively against Wisconsin and it resulted in just seven points and two rebounds in 39 minutes. Not exactly the type of performance one would expect from a guy who was just named second-team All-American.

* For more of my take on SU hoops, please check out my column on Channel 8's website:

• One final shameless, plug: Syracuse basketball fans who want to relive the program’s shining moments should consider purchasing the DVD Orange Glory: The 20 Greatest Moments in Syracuse University Basketball History. The 90-minute documentary features compelling footage of the 2003 NCAA title run, the great games with Georgetown, Pearl Washington’s half-court shot and vintage black-and-white clips of the great Dave Bing in action. There also are numerous interviews with Syracuse hoops legends, fans and members of the media, including yours truly, who covered many of the great performances and performers through the years. The DVD retails for $19.95 and can be purchased at or at And if you want to earn even more points with that SU hoops fan in your life, why not twin the DVD with a copy of the book, Color Him Orange: The Jim Boeheim? (Sorry again for being a huckster, but when you are a starving author you have to hustle product every chance you get.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bills continue making big moves; Goodell drops the hammer

Slow sports news day, huh?

Ah, hardly.

Let’s start in Buffalo, where the Bills took another Giant step toward respectability by signing free agent defensive end Mark Anderson. Anderson, who had 10 sacks for the New England Patriots last season, showed up in Buffalo Tuesday and decided not to leave.

Credit, in part, the recruiting efforts of Mario Williams, who showed up in Buffalo last week and decided not to leave after the Bills made him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. Williams, a former teammate of Anderson’s in Houston talked up the Bills big-time. And that, along with a four-year, $27.5 million contract was enough to convince him to become part of Buffalo’s resurgence.

I used the word “Giant” in that third paragraph because the Bills clearly are following the New York Giants defensive model, which emphasizes fielding a defensive line capable of getting enough pressure on the quarterback that you don't have to blitz a lot. That frees up eight guys for pass coverage. That results in sacks and turnovers and incompletions and wins.

Williams is one of the league’s premier pass rushers. Anderson obviously is coming off a very productive year for a Super Bowl participant. Add them to a line that includes promising sophomore-to-be Marcell Dareus and Pro Bowler Kyle Williams, who’s healthy after missing all of last season with a foot injury, and you have, on paper, one of the best defensive lines in football.

And don’t forget that they’ll be able to throw Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman into the rotation.

I’m not surprised that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came down so hard on former Bills coach Gregg Williams. His involvement in “Bountygate” cost him an indefinite suspension, which will last at least a year. I think Williams, who oversaw these shenanigans while serving as the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, won’t ever coach in the NFL again.

I was a little surprised that Goodell slapped a one-season suspension on Saints coach Sean Payton. I thought he'd get half a season. It’s obvious Goodell wants to send a powerful message to other coaches who consider doling out cash bonuses for injuring opposing players, particularly quarterbacks.

Early in the afternoon, I received a text from the New York Times that Tim Tebow had been traded to the Jets. But it appears the Times may have jumped the gun. The deal hit a snag and the Jacksonville Jaguars are back in the Tebow Sweepstakes with an offer the Denver Broncos might not be able to refuse. Tebow to the Jets makes no sense to me. Can you imagine the quarterback circus in New York his arrival will cause? After two incompletions, the fans will be calling for him to replace Mark Sanchez, whose psyche already is about as fragile as an egg shell.

I think Syracuse will eke out a close win in a low-scoring NCAA Sweet 16 game tomorrow night against Wisconsin. Call it: Orange 65, Badgers 59, setting up an Elite Eight meeting with Ohio State. You’ll be able to read my take on the game on WROC-TV’s website: not long after the game.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Super Mario's arrival in Buffalo could be a turning point in franchise history

Ralph Wilson apparently was in a jovial mood after spending $100 million to land free agent defensive end Super Mario Williams yesterday.

“I didn’t give a damn about the money,’’ the Bills owner told talented Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan over the phone from his suburban Detroit home. “I can’t take the money with me.”

Bully for Ralph.

This was just the type of bold move the Bills needed to make to show their fans and the NFL that they truly are committed to ending their 12-year playoff drought.

The addition of this freakishly talented, 6-foot-6, 290-pound defensive end to a line that includes impressive sophomore Marcell Dareus and Pro Bowler Kyle Williams will give Patriots quarterback Tom Brady a reason, in addition to so-called poor hotels, for not wanting to visit Buffalo on Sunday afternoons in the fall.

Williams, 27, is an elite pass-rusher in the prime of his career and the first true defensive game-changer this team has had since Takeo Spikes arrived from Cincinnati nearly a decade ago. It would be great if Williams has the kind of immediate impact Bryce Paup had when he came over from Green Bay in 1995 and recorded 17.5 sacks en route to NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. But a more likely scenario will see teams having to pay so much extra attention to Super Mario that other Bills will be piling up the sacks.

As far as personnel arrivals in Billsland, none will ever top the coronation accorded to quarterback Jim Kelly following the folding of the USFL in 1986. And the blockbuster trade for Cornelius Bennett midway through the following season remains the most impactful defensive acquisition.

But this landing of Super Mario could wind up being nearly as huge as the Bennett trade if the big guy builds on what he’s accomplished so far.

Kudos to the Bills for recruiting him the way they did and kudos for Wilson for not worrying about signing that huge check, which includes $50 million guaranteed.


After watching Syracuse struggle against UNC-Ashville yesterday, I’m thinking there’s a good chance the Orange could be won-and-done in the tournament following tomorrow’s game against a superior rebounding Kansas State team. They’re going to need to start well and really crash the boards if they are to advance to the Sweet 16 next week in Boston.

I try to be apolitical in this blog, so you can draw your own conclusions depending on your party affiliations, but President Obama was 14-2 with his NCAA predictions after Thursday’s games.


Good luck to all my St. Bonaventure alumni friends this afternoon as your alma mater takes on heavily favored Florida State. Your Bonnies clearly have been one of the feel-good stories of this post-season. With an enrollment of just 2,000 students, Bonaventure is the second smallest school to make the 68-team field. But David-slaying-Goliath stories have happened numerous times in the NCAAs and is a huge part why the tournament has become immensely popular.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another not so Fabulous day for Boeheim and the SU hoops program

If you’ve filled out your brackets and you had Syracuse going to the Final Four or even the Final Eight or 16 for that matter, you might want to retrieve your sheets, feed them to the shredder and start over.

Because for the second time this season center Fab Melo has been declared ineligible, meaning he won’t play a single second in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Meaning SU’s hopes for a trip to New Orleans and a possible national title are over.




As we learned during Melo’s mid-season three-game hiatus – allegedly because of academic problems – the Orangemen are a good but not great team without the 7-foot Brazilian in the middle. Fab is the shot-blocker and shot-alterer who anchors the tenacious 2-3 zone that has propelled SU to a 31-2 record.

His ineligibility clearly is a crushing blow for second-ranked Syracuse and another black eye against the program in a season full of black eyes.

It all started, of course, with the sexual child molestation scandal involving Bernie Fine back in November.

Then there was the defamation suit brought against Jim Boeheim for the insensitive comments he made initially against Fine’s accusers.

That was followed by Melo’s first suspension.

Then came allegations that SU allowed players who failed drug tests during the past decade to continue practicing and playing games.

And now this.

Enough already.

The cumulative impact of these events clearly has tarnished the reputation of the program and of Boeheim. They have given the impression there is a lack of institutional control.

I’ve grown weary of it.

And I wonder when the powers-that-be at SU grow weary of it, too.

The Hall of Fame coach needs to rein in things in a hurry.

He needs to take a more hands-on approach.

Either that, or step aside and allow someone else to take charge because this is absurd.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Opining on Bills signings, the Manning brothers & Syracuse hoops

The re-signing of tight end Scott Chandler on the heels of the re-signing of wide receiver Stevie Johnson is a positive trend for the Bills. It’s an indication that general manager Buddy Nix is putting his money where his mouth is and really does believe in keeping the talent Buffalo drafts and develops instead of serving as a free agent feeder system for other NFL teams.


I know it would make the Bills road to the playoffs more difficult, but I would love to see a healthy Peyton Manning wind up with the Miami Dolphins. One of the great things about having an NFL team in western New York is the opportunity to see some of the greatest players in football history come to town. And if you truly aspire to be great then at some point you are going to need to defeat opponents who are great.


Speaking of quarterbacks named Manning, I’m thrilled that we were able to land two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning as the headliner for the Rochester Press-Radio Club’s Day of Champions Children’s Charities Dinner on Wednesday, May 23 at the Riverside Convention Center. This is a great get and I’m not surprised that the 30 meet and greet packages sold out immediately, given Eli’s achievements and the popularity of the Giants in this area.


Dion Waiters’ 18 points off the bench obviously were crucial to SU’s 58-55 win yesterday at the Big East Tournament, but I was equally impressed with the contributions of reserves James Southerland (10 points in the final eight minutes), Michael Carter-Williams (four assists in eight minutes) and Rakeem Christmas (five rebounds, two blocks and an assist in eight minutes). Give Jim Boeheim some credit for going with the hot hands and digging deeper into his bench. He’s going to need to continue to do that if the Orange are going to fulfill their potential in the NCAAs.