BACK IN THE BOX! Returned last season as the host of "the Penalty Box", the post game call in show for Rochester Americans broadcasts on Sports 1280 WHTK, as well as studio host for game broadcasts and intermission updates. Looking forward to starting a second straight season this upcoming year.
Weekend morning newscaster on WHAM.
Sometime fill in host for Bob Matthews or John DiTullio, as well as hosting call-in shows during Yankees and Red Wings rain delays.
Graduated from West Irondequoit high school (in 1984) where I was the sports director at the student run radio station, WIRQ, as well as the "voice of the Indians" football and basketball radio broadcasts.
Graduated with a B.A. degree from Florida Southern College (in1988). Announced FSC basketball games on local cable TV. Also announced local high school football games on local cable TV.
Have worked for WBBF-AM, WPXY-AM, Sportsradio 990, and then moved on to Clear Channel in 1997, where I have worked for WHAM and WHTK since as a board operator, producer, newscaster, traffic reporter, weatherman and sports host, as well as all-around good guy.
I am also psyched to be back on the air hosting "the Penalty Box", the post game call in show for the Rochester Americans radio broadcasts on 107--3 FM and 1280 AM.
I recently also started reading newscasts on Newsradio 1180, WHAM. It is a good opportunity for me, although I never saw myself as a "news guy". I am still enjoying the opportunity.
I did something pretty stupid yesterday. I had procured tickets for the Motley Crue concert at Tags in Big Flats on Wednesday, switched a work shift to open availability, getting off doing newscasts on Saturday morning, and off my wife and I went for the concert.
After listening to "Best of..." and "Live" Crue CD's all the way there to properly get in the mood, we find Tags, and pull in the parking lot. Having never been to this venue, I was a little surprised that there were actually spaces in their parking lot, but I told myself that we were more than a half hour early. Maybe it's a late arriving crowd down here in Hicksville, errr, Big Flats.
We walk up to the door of this place--it's really just a bar--and there is a taped up sign on the door that reads:
"Attention concert goers! The Motley Creu concert scheduled for tonight has been rescheduled for July 23rd due to weather. Tickets for tonights show will be accepted on that night. Thank you for your understanding."
Our hearts sank. "What a waste", I thought. Nearly a two hour drive each way to get to this place, and all for nothing. We hopped in the car and drove back home, grumbling under my breath the whole way.
We never even THOUGHT to check before we left if it was still on. I thought, "who cancels a concert due to weather when it's not even supposed to rain?" "I mean, sure it was going to be chilly, but wear a freakin jacket" I complained to my wife about the decision.
Anyways, the four hour drive gave me plenty of time to think about my favorite concerts I have ever been to. I know it's not a sports topic, but I thought I would share them with you in my usual top ten format. Feel free to comment and let me know what some of yours are or if you agree with any of mine.
10b, Asia & Chris DeBurgh. May 1983. Rochester Community War Memorial.
You always remember your first. Not that this was that great a concert, but since it was the first one I have ever gone to in my life, it holds special meaning. Asia was the "supergroup of the 80's" and had recently released their 2nd album, Alpha. "Don't Cry" was a huge hit the previous winter, and "The Smile had left your eyes" was currently on the charts. Chris DeBurgh had two big hits--Don't Pay the Ferryman and "Lady in red". You probably know the 2nd, and may remember the first as soon as you just saw the title.
10a. Journey/Foreighner/Night Ranger. September 2011. Fiddlers Green in Denver, Colorado.
This would have been in my top three if it was 1985 instead of 2011, but the fact that it was those three bands, and I liked all of them, and I was with my wife, sister in law and future brother in law, it was a great time. Makes my list more for the pleasentness of the memory than for the concert itself.
9. Billy Squier & RATT. October 1984. Lakeland Civic Center in Lakeland, Florida.
Squier was nearing the end of his popular career, but was still in the midst of huge success with his "Signs of Life" album and the hit song, "Rock Me Tonight". RATT had a huge hit at the time with "Round and Round". Squier in particular put on an amazing, energetic show. I will never gorget the image of him coming out for the encore and ripping his wife beater T-shirt off as he ran to the middle of the stage, making all the teenage girls go wild. Was just a very good show.
8. Jimmy Buffett. July 1991. C-MAC.
I went to college for four years in Florida. Whether you want to or not, you just become a Parrotthead, or Jimmy Buffett fan. It just happens, like sunburn and mosquito bites. Buffett rarely plays up north, so when he came to C-Mac a few years after I graduated, I was stoked. Plus I was going with my then girlfriend Heidi and her cute friend Susan. After the concert, the three of us were going down East Lake rd to my summer cottege on Canandaigua Lake for the weekend. I think I was more excited for that than I was for the concert. Alas, there would be no "Margara-three-taville" for me after the concert. The show though, was awesome.
7. Starship and Night Ranger. March 1987. Lakeland Civic Center in Lakeland, Florida.
Starship was in the midst of a career resurgence with their monster hit "We Built This City", which you couldn't leave the house without hearing in your car stereo. They were headlining because of that, but Night Ranger was the main reason I was going to this one. Loved so many Night Ranger songs, and I honestly feel they are one of the most underappreciated rock bands of the 80's right now. Both bands were great and put on an excellent show. Still liked Night Ranger better though.
6. AeroSmith & Night Ranger. November 1987. Lakeland Civic Center in Lakeland, Florida.
This was a great combination for a concert. Both bands were on fire. Aerosmith was enjoying a career resurgence with their "Permanent Vacation" album, and Whitesnake had just made one of the hottest music videos in history with Tawny Kitaen and "Here I Go Again" as well as a bunch of other hits. They were both at the top of their game, with a clean and sober Steven Tyler rocking it out and running all over the stage and David Coverdale waving his long mane of hair all over the place while belting out his hits. Awesome show!
5. Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. August 2006. Darien Lake Performing Arts center.
McGraw and Chesney were both at the zenith of their popularity. It was really two headlining acts, as Chesney opens for McGraw but both play about as long as the other and Chesney comes out and duets with McGraw during Tim's set. 2nd best country show I have ever seen.
4. Boston. May 1987. Rochester Community War Memorial.
The uniqueness of this concert was the best part of this show. Boston had been on a hiatus from recording and touring from 1979 to 1987, and had recently released their comeback album, "Third Stage", with hits like "Amanda", "We're Ready" and "Catcha' Say". They opened their comeback tour right here in Rochester and I was there, hearing Brad Delp's amazing soaring vocals and Tom Scholz's distinguishing guitar riffs before anyone else. And I was on a date I was very excited about. Good memories.
3. Van Halen and Bachman Turner Overdrive. March 1986. Lakeland Civic Center in Lakeland, Florida.
Like Boston, the uniqueness of this concert made it special for me. It was the third concert on their "5150" tour, which meant I got to be the third froup of people to see Sammy Hagar lead my favorite rock band from my childhood. I will never forget Sammy Hagar climbing into the rafters for "Ain't talking bout love" and hanging over the crowd for the "I've been to the edge...then I stood and looked down..." part. The crowd went wild. Sammy was and the rest of the guys were at the top of their game.
2. Bon Jovi, Winger, Warrent and Skid Row. July 1988. Silver Stadium.
If Van Halen was my favorite rock band of my childhood, Bon Jovi was my favorite rock band of my late teens and 20's. This show on the "monsters of rock" rour in 1988 was nirvana. I worskiped Bon Jovi. I loved Winger and Warrent and I liked Skid Row a lot. Bon Jovi was in the middle of their "New Jersey" tour, and their "Slippery When Wet" hits were still pretty fresh. You could say each of the three bands were at the helix of their popularity, and all put on a truly memorable show on a sultry summer night in 1988.
1. George Strait Chevy truck tour. June 2000. Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, NY.
I know most of the names on this list are from the rock genre, but I also have an affinity for country and it doesn't get any bette than this show. George Strait is the reason I got into country music in the 80's. Joining him at this show were Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Jodee Messina, Mark Chestnutt and Leanne Womack. A virtual who's who of country greatness at that point in time. Womack opened and had just released "I hope you dance". She would headline shows a half a year later. All the other artists were at their popularity peak. Strait played for two hours and everyone in the crowd knew every song he played. It was an amazing day and night, and the best value for money of any concert I have ever seen.
Well, there's my list. What about yours? Now lets just hope the Motley Crue concert on July 23rd doesn't get rescheduled again!
donate to research for clinical trials of my blinding eye disease at www.curechm.org
I have been a lifelong Buffalo Sabres fan. Right now, they SHOULD BE in an ideal situation. As a small market city in a major league, the going hasn't always been easy. Still, the Sabres gave fans a very good team for much of the life of the franchise. A Stanley cup run in 1975, another one in 1999 and playoff teams most years in between.
In the 2000's, financial troubles with the Rigas family nearly lost the team, but a bailout by Rochester businessman Tom Golisano kept the Sabres in Western NY. Golisano ran the team like a business though, and the team suffered, and in many ways, is still suffering. Then Terry Pegula came to the rescue. Or at least most of us fans thought so.
Pegula said all the right things. Said he was a "fan" first and an owner second. Said he wasn't afraid to spend money and bring the best team to Buffalo that money could buy. Said he would not treat the Sabres like a "small market" team. All of it was music to Sabres fans ears. He then started putting his money where his mouth is, signing Ville Leino and Christian Erhoff to blockbuster deals, and then retaining young stud Tyler Myers to a long term mega deal. Sabres fans rejoiced, and said, "Woo hoo! This is great! This guys means business!"
The problem for Pegula is that despite his willingness to spend money on players, he is apparently fiercely loyal to "his people" and Darcy Regier must be one of those people. How else do you explain what has happened in the last six months?
The Sabres underperformed, had no chemistry or identity, and suffered through an awful year, missing the playoffs again. A number of the Sabres better players were traded away for young players and draft picks. Their longtime head coach, Lindy Ruff, became the fall guy and got sent packing for the unemployment line. Meanwhile, everything that a General Manager is paid for--compiling a team that gives them the best chance to win--Darcy Regier has failed at.
Regier and Ruff helped build the nucleus that succeeded with the cup run in 1999 and the team that won the Presidents Cup for best regular season record and made a trip to the conference finals eight years later. Since then though, Regier was also the reason for the demolition of that team.
Now with all the money in the world that Pegula has, and a willingness to spend it, Pegula is handing over the reigns of rebuilding to a guy who failed to do it the first two times, AND single-handedly destroyed the fabric of the last successful Sabres team.
It just doesn't make any sense to me. Nothing the Sabres have done or continue to do makes any sense to me. Not only are the Sabres in a full scale rebuilding process, but then they begin that process by re-signing John Scott. No, not Thomas Vanek. Not Ryan Miller. Not even Cody Hodgson. No, they begin their off-season of perhaps the biggest and most important rebuilding job in franchise history by resigning John freaking Scott?!?!?!
Has there ever been a bigger waste of a roster spot on a team in NHL history than John Scott? Literally. Scott is six foot eight and 270 pounds, so not only does he take up a roster spot, he takes up a lot of space on the bench.
After signing Scott to a free agent deal last year to add size and grit to the team, Scott rewarded them by going out and accumulating ZERO points in 34 games, along with 69 penalty minutes. Yeah, I said zero points. None. Nada. A big fat goose egg. Scott scored as many points for the Sabres as you or I did!
OK, so I know scoring isn't Scott's game, but you would think he could've gotten an assist ACCIDENTALLY! Or a puck might have accidentally bounced off his skate and in the net once or SOMETHING! Scott scored nothing. If you are going to score nothing, at least he could contribute by being a goon, winning a key fight in a game to turn the momentum around. With 69 PIM in 34 games, Scott didn't even do that! Yet this must have been good enough and impressed Regier enough that he said, "Oh yeah, we have GOT to bring this guy back!"
There is so much to do for Regier and the Sabres, I'm hoping maybe they got the easiest thing out of the way first. Maybe that's the mindset. Hopefully, Regier just thought to himself, "This guy has to just be happy to have a job, let's sign him first", and is now ready to get on with the important stuff.
As long as Darcy Regier is still in charge though, nothing will surprise me.
It was with great sadness that I read of the apparent suicide death of a NASCAR legend. A driver with one of the most colorful names on the circuit, who also happened to be one of the most colorful guys as well, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in North Carolina on Thursday, May 16th. Dick Trickle was 71 years old.
I have admittedly never really been a serious NASCAR fan. That being said, I knew of Dick Trickle. How could you not, with a name like that? It is a walking, talking, made for a joke on the bathroom wall kind of name.
I remember when I was in college in the mid 80's in Florida, which was NASCAR territory. I remember watching Sportscenter and the anchors kind of adopted Dick Trickle, like a household pet. Every time he raced, they would say how he did. I remember them talking about the race, "...and on the final lap, Darrell Waltrip passed Cale Yarborough for the win. It was the 7th win of the year for Waltrip, and Dick Trickle finished 31st".
When you have a name like Dick Trickle, you can grow up two ways. Either you can grow up bitter and pissed off and ready to fight every time you hear someone make fun of your name, OR you can grow up with a great sense of humor, laughing with people about your name and letting things roll off your back like water off a duck's back. Dick Trickle chose the latter road.
He was one of the most popular drivers on the circuit among his fellow drivers and fans alike. Current drivers can regale you with all the many stories Trickle told them over the years. He had a big personality and was one of the most vibrant and charismatic drivers in the history of the sport, even though he never really had great success.
Trickle certainly did have success early in his career on the short tracks in the midwest. He was from Wisconsin and drove in all the races around the area. It's estimated that Trickle won in the neighborhood of 1200 career races on those tracks before he joined NASCAR in the 80's. Instead of being a big fish in a small track pond, Trickle wanted to try his luck in the suddenly popular NASCAR circuit.
Trickle became the oldest rookie of the year driver in 1989 at age 48 (and a grandpappy) in the Winston Cup (now the Sprint Cup). After that however, Trickle never won a points race on the Nascar circuit in nearly 250 tries. You had to admire his persistence. You had to admire how he was able to laugh at Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman making fun of his name and lack of success on ESPN's Sportscenter broadcasts every Sunday night. You had to admire a lot of things about Dick Trickle.
Trickle's habits were well known on tour. His main vice was smoking, which fit right in when the cup was named the "Winston Cup", but not seen as fondly nowadays. Trickle was a pack a day smoker, who loved the habit so much that he actually got NASCAR to approve his crew installing a cigarette lighter in his car. Trickle used it to actually smoke in his car during races. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal was quoted as saying Trickle "would often have a cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other, or a beer, depending on the time of day."
You have to wonder if smoking contributed to his suicide. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that Trickle had been experiencing pain under his left breast. Doctors reportedly could not figure out the source of that pain, and Trickle's brother Chuck told the paper his brother "could not take the pain anymore."
While the mysterious pain may have had a lot to do with the result, Trickle may have also been despondent over personal losses.
Trickle's nephew Chris, was an up and coming driver who Kyle Busch said could have made it to the Cup circuit one day, was shot an killed in a drive-by shooting in 1997. In addition to that, Trickle's granddaughter was killed in a car accident in 2001, according to the Charlotte Observer. That paper quoted a friend of Trickle's who said Trickle never really got over that tragedy.
Whatever the reason, the end of Dick Trickle's days was very sad. Trickle reportedly called 9-1-1 to report that "there will soon be a dead body (at the Forest Lawn Cemetary) and it would be mine". Operators tried to call his phone back, but there was no answer. He was found dead beside his pickup truck in the parking lot of the cemetary that his granddaughter is buried in.
It is a sad end to a life well lived. Rest in peace, Mr Trickle. Win one in heaven.
I want to preface this blog by saying that what I am about to say can change in the next few weeks, and I reserve the right to not be called a complete moron if what I am about to say looks...well...moronic a few weeks from now.
I feel like I need this disclaimer because the last time I said anything about Lebron James in this blog, I was saying how something was missing from his game--a killer attitude. An ability to put away teams. An ability to be really truly great in the clutch. I was saying how I didn't think he would ever get these qualities.
This was after Boston beat his Heat to take a 3-2 series lead last year in the postseason, heading back to Boston for game six. Well, you know what happened. Lebron went out and did all the things I had just said he wouldn't, and led Miami to a series win over the Celtics and then dominated Kevin Durant and the Thunder on the way to his first NBA championship.
Well Boo-boo, Ray-ray, Pookie & Mookie and everyone else who laughed at me Iast posteason, I learned my lesson. So much so that I am about to do a 180 from last year. Ready? Here it is:
Lebron James is the greatest basketball player who has ever played the game that James Naismith invented--basketball.
I have come a long way in a year haven't I? Thing is, I honestly have come to believe it, and as a serious Bulls fan who absolutely IDOLIZED Michael Jordan, and never ever thought I would be saying this, it pains me to do so.
The one thing that MJ still has over Lebron is titles, and it's not even close...yet. SIX to one! Problem is, after watching Lebron and his Heat dismantle the Bulls for three straight games, and sweep a completely overmatched Bucks team, I can almost guarantee that it will be six to two in a few weeks.
After that, as long as the Miami Heat keep "the big three" together, James will keep winning titles. The "titles" advantage, which was once a chasm, will be nearly even by 2016 or 17.
Michael Jordan is the greatest SCORER to ever play the game. Wilt Chamberlain is a close 2nd, but Wilt did it at a time when his height was the biggest contributing factor to that. Lebron James is the best PLAYER to ever play the game right now, titles aside.
First of all, Lebron James isn't even 30 yet. He's not even 29. He is averaging over 26 points a game in his career, and is on pace to shatter Jordan's point scoring and may pass Kareem's all time scoring record if he plays at anywhere near the same level for another eight years or so.
Another simple fact is that James is a more complete player than Jordan ever was. He is a better rebounder. He is a better passer. He is a much better three point shooter. Jordan was a better ball handler and quicker off the dribble, but not by a large margin. Another thing is, partly due to size and body type, James can do more than Jordan on the floor, both offensively and defensively.
Jordan could play both point and shooting guard, hold up well at small forward, and help defensively on power forwards. James can honestly play all five starting positions in the sport. He has the size and bulk to defend any big man a team could put out there.
Defensively, Jordan won one defensive player of the year award. Lebron hasn't won one...YET. He should have probably won at least one by now, and I will be shocked if he never wins one. Two years ago, he changed the series against Chicago when Eric Spoelstra put him on Derrick Rose in the 4th quarter. This year, he totally shut down speedy point guard Nate Robinson after the game one loss. All season long, whenever he is sent out to match up with any opponents best player, he shuts them down too, regardless of position.
Lebron James is also getting better every single year. His overall shooting percentage has improved every single year from a decent 47.6% in 2006-07 to an eye popping 56.5 this past year. And that is from a guy who shot 254 three pointers! His ability to lead has gotten better as well, and now with other players like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen around, he doesn't have to take over like he did in Cleveland.
When Miami wins this years NBA championship...and they will, the argument for Jordan gets thinner and thinner with each subsequent ring Lebron earns.
I would bet a majority of basketball fans will still say Jordan is the greatest ever, but that number is dwindling more and more every game King James plays. I hate to say it, but I'm already there.
Now watch him go out and stink up the joint the rest of the postseason and prove me wrong again.
A friend of mine asked me, "How's it feel to be a Tebow fan now?"
"Simply frunstrating", I said. "I just don't think there is anything he can do".
That is what it has come down to for Tim Tebow. As a fan, I feel frustrated. I can't even IMAGINE how he is feeling.
Really, the whole thing about Tim Tebow is unprecedented. Here is a football player who has besically been blackballed from playing the sport he loves BECAUSE TOO MANY FANS LOVE HIM OR HATE HIM.
I have never seen anything like this in sports. Dennis Rodman was once hated or loved similarly, but no one ever denied him from the game. He was still sought after.
"Well, Rodman at least was the best rebounder in the game at the time," you say "Tebow doesn't do anything well on the football field like Rodman did on the basketball court!"
Except win. Much like Rodman did, Tebow just wins. That is what he does. In his collegiate career, Tebow was 35-6 as a starter, including 26-2 his final two seasons. He wasn't a stiff either on the field. Tebow held 5 NCAA, 14 SEC and 28 University of Florida statistical records when he left Florida. He passed for over 9200 yards, threw 88 TD passes (compared to only 15 interceptions, and added 57 rushing TD's in his collegiate career. He completed 67% of his passes.
Yet somehow, despite all that on field success at the highest college level, when it came time to turn pro, every expert, GM, and talent evaluator suddenly told everyone who would listen that Tebow was a mess. His footwork was awful, his arm strength wasn't great, he took way too long to get rid of the ball, and so on. They said he had the mechanics of a 10 year old. They said he would never make it in the NFL.
Tebow listened to all the critics and bided his time. Finally, out of desparation, the Denver Broncos turned to Tebow with a 1-4 record. After Tebow took over the starting job, the Broncos won seven of their next eight games. Tebow had a record as a starting quarterback of 8-5 which should have proved all those "experts" wrong. Despite that success and a stunning upset of double digit favorite Pittsburgh in the playoffs, instead it got him kicked to the curb when Denver signed Peyton Manning. All the "experts" rejoiced.
The Jets traded for him, even though it was obvious they didn't want him, and froze him onto the bench like the kid in the movie "the Christmas Story" who licked the frozen metal pole. All the "experts" rejoiced. Now, after amazing success for a season in Denver, then not getting one chance to prove it wasn't a fluke in New York, Tebow is looking for a job--one he most likely won't get.
This is the first time I have ever seen in sports when a player lost his starting job without doing ANYTHING wrong. Not one thing to deserve that. Then, not only that, but is now so blackballed that he will most likely never get that chance again to prove that his first chance at being successful starting QB was not a fluke.
Why is this? How can it be that a player who has a track record of success in the NFL, at least on a limited basis, and was perhaps the best collegiate quarterback in history can't get a job in a league where Curtis Painter and John Skelton have one? It doesn't make sense.
I read a sports columnist this week who said that us Tebow fans can blame ourselves....that we "loved Tim Tebow out of the league". I don't think that's fair. Being a Tebow fan doesn't affect anything that happens in the league. The media, not the fans, are to blame the way I see it.
The media has made Tebow a media circus. Because of his collegiate success. Because he has so many fans AND detractors. Because he such a polarizing figure, the media is there for Tebow's every move. That's not our fault! That's not Tim's fault! Because of this, teams don't want to bother with the media horde.
There is also another factor. It's the "I don't want to risk embarrassment" factor. NFL general managers are a funny bunch. If every teams GM's, player personnel directors and scouts all say that Tebow is a waste of a roster spot, and you are the one team that thinks otherwise, well there just aren't any suits in any front office that are willing to take that chance, and put THEIR jobs on the line. Even Josh McDaniels, who saw something in Tebow...enough to draft him in the first round, even seems mum on suggesting his boss Bill Belichick give him a chance.
So, through no fault of his own, Tim Tebow stands at a crossroads in his career. Does he listen to all the "experts" and announce to the world that he would play tight end, or linebacker or learn to punt? Or, does he say he is a quarterback and "darnit, I will prove everyone wrong if I ever get another chance!"?
As a Tebow fan, I would say he should stay a quarterback and "pull a Flutie". The Canadian Football League is a decent league, and the larger fields would probably help his game. As a media attraction (and the CFL LOVES media attractions, unlike the NFL), any CFL team would love to have Tebow be their starting quarterback. Tebow should sign a two or three year contract, go up there and do well, lead his team to a couple of Grey Cup wins (which I have no doubt he would), and then things are different.
Doug Flutie used this plan very successfully. So did Warren Moon. Tebow is still young enough to do it and have plenty of time for NFL success.
If I could say one thing to Tim Tebow that he would hear, it would be:
"Tim, the NFL has closed it's doors to you. Even if you find one team that would take you on as a 3rd string quarterback, at this point, it's not worth it. No one is left who believes in you, other than us fans who know something that all the NFL experts don't know. As Geddy Lee once sang, "Take off....to the Great White North...Take off...it's a beauty way to go...", be the monumental success you and the rest of us know you will be, and then watch NFL teams clamor for you in three years or so. It will be worth it."
Until then, Tebow will go down as the biggest pariah in sports history. So sad.
donate to clinical trials research for my blinding eye disease at www.curechm.org
A couple of years ago, when the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in the NBA finals, I said here in this blog how that matchup was a perfect example of good triumphing over evil. Or at least perceived good vs perceived evil.
Now, I have another comparison for you in this years NBA postseason, and it's quite biblical. Once again, the Miami Heat are involved. The Heat, led by perhaps the best player the NBA has ever seen, Lebron James, are playing the role of Goliath. The Chicago Bulls, and more specifically their point guard, Nate Robinson, are playing the role of David. Robinson, all 5 foot 8 inches of him fit the role perfectly. The rest of the Bulls, a collection of misfits and cast offs, fall in line right behind Robinson. To add in an additional biblical twist, the Bulls other best player right now has a very Old Testament kind of name: Noah.
Joaquim Noah is a near 7 footer who helped lead the Florida Gators to back to back NCAA championships. Now he is doing his best work ever, leading his Bulls, 2 points by 2 points, to not only a surprising series win over the Brooklyn Nets, but now a SHOCKING game one upset of mighty Goliath, the Miami Heat.
What is happening in this years postseason with this Chicago Bulls team is something amazing, something magical...something of biblical proportions.
Consider what the Bulls are up against. The Miami Heat have not only the "big three", but they have perhaps the "biggest three" ever, in Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James, perhaps the best player of all time. They also have legendary sharpshooter Ray Allen, who has made more three point shots than anyone who has ever played the game. That's FOUR multi-time all-stars on one team!
Chicago has two All-stars this year, but with Luol Deng out with a serious flu for the past three games, Joaquim Noah is their only active one. Carlos Boozer is also playing and he has played in two All-star games in his career. In addition to Deng, starting point guard Kirk Hinrich has also been out with injury and missed the last three games. Another former All-star, Rip Hamilton is just a shadow of himself and barely plays anymore. Finally, their former NBA MVP Derrick Rose has missed the entire season after tearing up his knee a year ago, and has watched the postseason in street clothes.
What's left for the Bulls is Noah, Boozer, retreads Marco Bellinelli, Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed, as well as a young player who never leaves the floor. Jimmy Butler has played every minute of the last three games, and guarded the best player on the opposition each time.
Joaquim Noah has been the emotional leader of this team for sure. His game seven performance against the Nets was legend-wait for it-dary. 24 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks, but the true amazing story for Chicago is pint sized Nate Robinson.
Robinson single handedly led the Bulls to a win in game four against Brooklyn, bringing Chicago back from a 14 point deficit with under 3 minutes left in regulation to win in triple overtime. His 34 points in 29 minutes off the bench was the stuff of legend. Now, with Hinrich out since that game, he has been the key to the last two Bulls wins, playing with flu the whole time.
In Chicago's stunning game one upset win, Robinson had 27 points and nine assists and outscored Lebron by three. His big shots down the stretch, key free throws and great ball handling gave the Bulls the clutch play in the waning minutes most experts would have expected the Heat to have.
This is why we watch sports. The unpredictability of a prohibitive favorite being punked by a decided underdog that NO ONE gave a chance to. These Bulls ARE that underdog, and it doesn't get any better than tonight.
As a Bulls fan, I even realize that there is a very good possibility that Miami could win the next four games. They are just too good. However, as game one proved, strong defense, and a team playing with an amazing collective will to win means nothing is impossible, in sports and in life.
I have a feeling tonight's win will add quite a few fans to our Chicago Bulls bandwagon.
Well, another hockey season has come and gone, and for the most part, it was another year to forget in western New York.
The Buffalo Sabres had high hopes heading into the season, and many experts predicted a playoff team, and even a Sabres team that could compete for the Eastern Conference title. Didn't happen. The Sabres finished under .500 (when you count overtime and shootout losses) at 21-21-6. The Sabres got outscored for the year, and only three teams in the conference finished with worse records than the Sabres (Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida).
For Buffalo, it was a continuation of the previous season, only it seemed worse. The Sabres were awful over the first few months, which prompted them to fire longtime coach Lindy Ruff. It didn't seem to matter. Well, it worked better with Ron Rolston, but the Sabres were still far from being a juggernaut. Ruff was 6-10-1 when he was relieved of duties, meaning under Rolston, Buffalo was 15-10-5.
Rolston is a good coach, but I still am in doubt if he is the man for the job next season. Rolston seems to be a better fit for young players, and I doubt his ability to stand up to millionaire's and their potential attitudes. He's about as exciting a guy as 10th grade physics teacher on Valium.
In retrospect, I think the Sabres did it backwards. I would rather have taken my chance with Ruff and fired Darcy Regier as GM, instead of the other way around. Regier has had plenty of chances to build, tweak and rebuild his Sabres teams and hasn't gotten it done, especially the last few seasons. Now, with a complete rebuilding staring them in the face, I would have liked a new fresh start with a different pair of hands behind the helm.
I know Ted Black gave Regier a vote of confidence early this week, but I am still hoping against hope that it was just a media trick to shut everyone up. I'm still hoping Terry Pegula and Black are still considering their options.
Regier also has never been a huge help to the Rochester Amerks. He has never seemed to believe in signing many top notch AHL veterans to play here, and often bungles in season moves like the Adam Pardy emergency recall this year. With Regier still in the picture, next year doesn't seem quite as rosy for the Amerks.
As for where both organizations are heading, it's rebuilding time in Buffalo, which could possibly mean good things for Rochester. An abundance of draft picks in the next few years due to some of the recent trades should mean an influx of good young talent in the Roc.
Cody Hodgson is a restricted free agent for Buffalo. He's not going anywhere. After being the key piece in the Zack Cassian deal, Buffalo will do everything they can to re-sign him. I expect the Sabres to try very hard to sign Brian Flynn and Mike Weber, two other restricted free agents. Adam Pardy is an unrestricted free agent, and it would be nice if the Sabres tried to resign him. He is exactly the type of borderline NHL player who could help the Amerks out a great deal. Jonas Enroth is also an UFA, and I am not sure if they will try to resign him, especially after trading for Matt Hackett.
As for the Amerks, Luke Adam has likely played his last game in the organization. His contract is up and I would expect the Sabres to write him off. Goaltender Matt Hackett's deal expires as well, but after being a key part of the Pominville trade, I would expect he remains a Sabre.
As for some of the other Amerks, leading scorer Mark Mancari led the team in points and the league in shots, but only scored 22 goals--good for a pitiful 7.9 shooting percentage. I would be surprised if he is back next year. I would love to see Brayden McNabb, Phil Verone, Evan Rankin, Alex Biega, Rick Schfield and Maxime Legault back. Nick Tarnasky had a great year for him, but the Amerks have an abundance of grinding wingers like him.
Young former first rounders Zemgus Girgensons and Mikail Grigorenko showed promise and I hope to see plenty of them in the Amerks lineup next year. Girgensons in particular was Rochester's best player in the three game series against the Marlies as well as down the stretch and brings a lot to the table. I also hope that speedy centerman Dan Catanacci plays all of next year with Rochester. In his brief two game sneak preview, he seems to be ready for AHL level of competition. The other youngster acquired in the Pominville deal, Johan Larsson, looks to be a very good two way centerman, who might also be ticketed for another year of seasoning in the AHL.
Goaltending will be a question mark, depending on what the Sabres do with Enroth. It would seem that Buffalo may think higher of Matt Hackett's potential in the NHL than journeyman David Leggio. Will they bring back Leggio again? I hope so, but I hope they also sign a decent backup because Connor Knapp and Nathan Liewen obviously were not quite ready.
Leggio was awesome again this year in the second half of the season, but once again, just like last year, didn't continue his great play in the postseason.
It's a shame how this season ended for Rochester. The "Curse of the Marlies" struck again. The one team that the Amerks didn't want to see in the first round was their opponent again, and again the result was predictable. Back to back 3-0 series sweeps does leave a bitter taste in many loyal fans mouths. Add in the fact that Rochester lost the final three games of the previous series against Abbotsford and you have nine straight losses in the postseason for the Amerks.
This Amerks team deserved better. The "what ifs" include the Sabres using Adam Pardy as their final emergency recall, meaning he couldn't return to Rochester, and Brayden McNabb's injury. With those two blueliners in the lineup down the stretch and in the playoffs and things may have been different. Even without them, I really think the Amerks could have upset Grand Rapids or Charlotte if given the chance.
Oh well, it's all water under the Broad street bridge now. Enjoy the off-season Amerks fans. I am going to stay optimistic that next year will be better...as long as we don't face Toronto in the playoffs again.
The 2013 draft has come and gone and now it's time to look at the repurcussions when it comes to the Buffalo Bills.
New Bills coach Doug Marrone got to put his stamp on this team quickly. This wasn't a Bills team that he came into knowing exactly what he had. This was a Bills team that had no track record, no quarterback...and no identity.
This was not a new coach coming into Indianapolis a couple years ago when Jim Caldwell did. This was not Mike Shanahan taking over for Wade Phillips in Denver in '96, or Tom Flores taking over for John Madden in '79 or George Seifert taking the reins from Bill Walsh ten years later. No, Marrone is stepping into his own situation, with a quick chance to make this HIS team.
In the first few months, Marrone let go Ryan Fitzpatrick, brought in Kevin Kolb for insurance, and now had his first draft. Fans will now get a quick chance to see if Marrone's choices will pay off. Will they? I honestly have no idea. I don't have a crystal ball, but I have to hope that Marrone and his staff of talent evaluators know what they are doing.
Trading down in the first round to get a 2nd round pick was brilliant and needed to be done. Props to the Bills for pulling it off. Taking EJ Manuel after doing so is a questionable move though.
Manuel has a very high upside. He has a perfect NFL body for a quarterback and far better than average athleticism. In today's new NFL, with more and more athletic quarterbacks who can run, and make decisions on the run, providing an ability to "make things happen" on the field, Manuel fits right in. The hope here is that Manuel can be a cloned version of Cam Newton. Perhaps a Newton with less hype. That is the hope. Problem is, Manuel could also be another Akili Smith or Andre Ware.
As it turned out, quarterbacks falling down the 2013 draft board like a mountain goat in an avalanche gives us an easy second guess. In this case, hindsight is more like 20/10 instead of 20/20. The Bills could have drafted someone like Tyler Eifert, the all-world tight end from Notre Dame, or Alec Ogletree, the prototypical inside linebacker from Georgia. Then they could have still more than likely taken Manuel with their 41st pick.
Fact is though, the Bills felt strongly that they needed a quarterback, obvioulsy liked Manuel the best, and didn't want to wait with bated breath and fingers crossed until they picked again. I am going to give them the benefit of that doubt, and not rip them for doing what they did. Manuel's performance alone will let us know in time if that was the right decision. It will likely be a decision that either makes Marrone the most successful coach in Bills history since Marv Levy, or will cost him his job.
After Manuel, I like what the Bills did though. Marrone and company are offensive guys, and realize that the Bills roster they were saddled with was sorely lacking in playmakers, other than CJ Spiller of course. Taking the best wideout on the board at the time, Robert Woods, made a lot of sense. Woods is a very polished route runner with above average speed, and could step right in as a starter to complement Stevie Johnson.
With the Bills 2nd round pick they acquired for trading down, they took linebacker Kiko Alonso from Oregon. Alonso has ideal size, great pursuit angles and is a solid tackler. He also plays with a mean streak, and should be able to step in and start immediately and shore up the Bills middle linebacker need.
The Bills third round pick, Marquise Goodwin, is a blazing track athlete, but I get the feeling might have been a bit of a reach. Still, when you can run a 4.27 40, it's hard to argue against it. The pick could also be a bit of a concession that last years pick, TJ Graham, didn't impress the new coaching staff too much when they looked at game tapes.
In the fourth round, the Bills took Duke Williams from Nevada, who at the very least has a great name for a big hitting safety. Williams has above average speed, is a solid tackler and could also step right in and start in the Bills secondary, after George Wilson's departure for Tennessee.
The fifth round pick, Jonathan Meeks from Clemson, is another reach. He is a little slow for a sefety, but has a nose for the ball, with seven interceptions in his collegiate career. Could provide depth or step into nickel or dime coverage sets.
The Bills sixth round pick could spell the end of the line for Rian Lindell. Problem is, Dustin Hopkins could give the Bills the same issues they had with Lindell--a very accurate kicker whose leg stregth is a little questionable. Accuracy counts for sure, but in the swirling winds of the Ralph, you also need a booming leg to get balls near the endzone on kickoffs.
With their final pick, the Bills may have gotten a steal in tight end Chris Gragg from Arkansas. He has great speed for the position, running a 4.5 forty and had an impressive 37 1/2 vertical leap at the combine. He only has average size and doesn't block well though, but could provide a nice option as an H-back type player.
All in all, only time will tell on this draft, but Marrone and his staff definitely put a number of building blocks in place. I still think this team needs help at the offensive line positions after losing Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart, but the offense should be a lot more fun to watch and hopefully the defense can stop teams better now than last year. Color me cautiously optimistic heading into May mini-camps.
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The Buffalo Bills are on the clock with the 8th pick in the draft. They have a chance to stay where they are and take Tavon Austin, the speedy, game breaking wide receiver from West Virginia.
Then, the announcers say "the Bills have traded their pick to the Rams for their 1st round pick, number 16, The Bills also get the Rams 2nd round pick, swap 3rd round pick locations with the Rams and get the Rams 7th round pick".
The Rams then take Austin with that 8th pick. When it comes time for the Bills to pick with the 16th pick, the Bills take their quarterback of the future. It was not Geno Smith. It was not even Ryan Nassib. It turned out to be....E.J. Manuel.
EJ Maunuel was the first quarterback taken in the 2013 draft. In fact, he was the only quarterback taken in the fist round altogether.
After I pulled my head out of my hands, I heard the announcers talking about the pick. As they played the Manuel highlight package, shockingly, the announcers were not ripping the Bills pick. In fact, John Gruden, Chris Berman and company were actually saying positive, encouraging things!
They talked about Manuel's size, at 6'5" and 237 pounds. How he is the prototypical size of an NFL QB. They talked about how he can make things happen with his legs when plays break down. With today's NFL, of read-option offenses and mobile quarterbacks who can throw...well, maybe Manuel isn't a terrible pick.
Obviously coach Doug Marone and his staff must know something about Manuel that the rest of us don't. It made me really second guess what I had thought coming into the draft.
Here's the thing. With Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib and the rest of the QB draft class, you pretty much know what you are going to get. With Manuel, you really don't. He could be Cam Newton, or maybe even better, if he's got a head for the game. He could also be a total swing and a miss. Only time will tell.
What I like is that if you are taking a quarterback from a very poor draft class, you might as well take a chance on the one with the highest upside. The biggest question will be, could the Bills have been able to take Manuel with their 2nd pick or made a trade up to get him late in the first round or early in the second? They might have, but at least now, they won't have to find out.
Personally, I would have rather seen the Bills take Alex Ogletree with that 16th pick and taken their chances after that, seeing if Manuel was still there, or taking Barkley or Nassib with their 2nd round pick, but they must have really liked Manuel enough to not want to take that chance.
For the time being, the Bills signing of Kevin Kolb provides insurance against the Manuel pick. If Kolb could finally live up to his press clippings, the Bills would not have to depend on Manuel being a great pick right away. If Kolb can stay healthy and provide a consistent accurate answer at the position for Buffalo for a year, maybe two, than Manuel could have plenty of time to learn the position.
If he can't, then it was nice to hear Jon Gruden echo what I had said in a previous blog....that the Bills should consider doing what the Redskins did last year, and pick a 2nd quarterback in the 4th or 5th round. That way, they could release Tarvaris Jackson, and let the two rookies fight it out in training camp. If Manuel proves that he was indeed a major reach, maybe the other quarterback would surprise. At the very least, the Bills would have three very capable young quarterbacks, and hopefully there will be strength in numbers for Buffalo.
In day two, the Bills better draft a wide receiver and inside linebacker. After that, finding a nail eating, metal spitting offensive guard to replace Andy Levitre, another cornerback and some more linebacker depth.
My next blog will comment on all of their picks in the 2013 draft. Go Bills!