Archive for October, 2011

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The Month of October

October 24, 2011

The  month of October is great for so many reasons: the crisp fall air, the return of pumpkin spice lattes, apples, my birthday, the start of hockey season, the baseball playoffs, Halloween and so much more. However, the month of October downright stinks for many other reasons.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a racing fan. The month of October has just been a brutal month for the racing community. Last weekend, reigning Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon perished in a spectacularly violent crash during a race in Las Vegas. (I’m not going to link the crash footage here because it’s been all over the mainstream media. If you’re so inclined to watch the wreck, it’s easily available on YouTube.) This weekend also saw the passing of a MotoGP (motorcycle) racer during a race in Malaysia. In addition, the 6-year old son of a IndyCar team staffer lost his fight with leukemia. It’s impressive that some of these racers haven’t gone completely cuckoo for coco puffs after this past week.

And that just scratches the surface of the brutality of the month of October. Seven years ago today, 10 members of the Hendrick racing family were killed in a plane crash in Virginia. Twelve years ago, racer Greg Moore was killed in a wreck at California Speedway. As a race fan, you start to dread seeing the month of October show up on your calendar just because there have been so many horrible, terrible, no good, very bad events that happened during this month.

The loss of Wheldon was particularly brutal because it was such a violent wreck that happened on live network television. For the drivers, he was everyone’s younger brother that they never asked for. For the fans, he was that nice, charming British guy with the adorable children who always stopped and made time for everyone. He was also a talented, experienced driver, not this naive, inexperienced racer that some postmortem articles tried to portray him as.

For many of the drivers on the track with Wheldon last Sunday, this was the second time they’ve lost a friend on the track, as they were competing the same day Greg Moore passed in 1999. (Unlike this past Sunday, when Moore passed, the race continued on. The drivers were not told of the death until they exited the cars at the end of the race. The fans at home and at the track were made aware of his death. The team owners wanted the drivers to finish the race.) I feel like this death hit many of these guys harder than Moore’s in 1999. With age comes wisdom, families, kids and whatever else that makes these drivers turn inward and wonder if the need for speed is really what it’s all about.

It was also tough watching the broadcasters cover the waiting period between the wreck and the official announcement of Wheldon’s passing. Just listening to their voices, you could tell that they knew the worst was coming and were trying to manage their own emotions while keeping a stoic face for the public. This is one time where media detachment and impartiality went right out the window and it was completely warranted.

During yesterday’s NASCAR pre-race show, ESPN paid tribute to Wheldon. The tribute was led by ESPN anchor Nicole Briscoe, whose husband Ryan was one of the drivers on track with Wheldon last week. While Mrs.Briscoe was clearly emotional during the segment, her professionalism compelled her to finish paying tribute to her friend. No one would have blamed her for handing off that segment to one of the other people in the booth, but she chose to continue on and carried herself with class & dignity.

Speaking of class and dignity…One thing that happened in the immediate aftermath of Wheldon’s passing was the tremendous outpouring of support for Wheldon’s two young sons, Sebastian and Oliver. Fellow driver Graham Rahal announced he was going to auction off his race worn shoes, helmet and gloves. That snowballed into the rest of the Indycar community throwing items into the auction pot. Then the NASCAR drivers started contributing memorabilia. Then the NFL teams showed up to the party. Then Hollywood came a’calling with their donations. As of Saturday, quite the list of memorabilia had been accumulated with more coming in every day. (I’m totes in love with the Paul Newman signed “Winning” movie poster.) I’m really impressed that Rahal has continued to manage this whole fundraiser even as it takes on a life of it’s own. His parents did a quality job raising him into a fine young man.

Thank you for bearing with my rambling tonight. I promise there will be some hockey talk around here again. I have tickets for Thursday’s game, so there will be some thoughts on that at some point.

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That New Season Smell

October 9, 2011

1. Yay! Hockey’s back! The Sabres are safely back home in Buffalo, tuckered out & jet lagged, but victorious over the Kings & Ducks. I was pleasantly surprised by Luke Adam’s play while in Europe. He seemed to click well with Vanek and Pominville. I know Lindy likes to muck with his lines the same way someone mucks with a Rubix cube, but I hope he leaves this line alone for the time being. 

2. I was pleasantly surprised that Pominville was named the Sabres new, permanent captain. I know most people were hoping for Vanek or Gaustad; but when you think about it, Pominville has that steady, dependable quality that is needed in someone that carries the leadership mantle. It’s also a big deal that the new captain (and the assorted assistants) are the guys that came up through the organization together. The last time the Sabres named a captain, they picked the new guy to the organization, just because he seemed to be the most grown-up  guy in the room. Now, Pominville and the assistants are the grown-ups. It’s their job to keep the team on an even keel. It begins and ends with them, there’s no one else to pull their butts out of the fire. It’s going to be fun to watch how this group develops, that’s for sure.  

And thus ends the cliche festival regarding leadership. 

3. If you haven’t looked at the Sabres.com photo galleries from the Griswolds’ European Adventure, then I suggest you do. Highlights of the many galleries include: 

  • Tyler Myers reading a newspaper. Granted, it’s a copy of USA Today, but it’s still an actual hard copy newspaper. (Gallery: Tuesday Morning Practice)
  • Lindy Ruff’s BAMF-y expression while wearing a pair of sunglasses. This photo feels like it has future internet meme written all over it. (Gallery: Off the Plane & On The Way)
  • A Disney movie (of all things) on the in-flight movie. Someone help a girl out with what the movie is. (Gallery: Leaving Heidelburg)
  • Sabres working out with weights. I know every player has their own specialized workout regimen, but it’s kind of comical to see Pominville and Myers working out with the hardcore weightlifter weights while Miller & Leino are using the “lady-sized” dumbbells. (Gallery: Monday Practice at SAP Arena)

Thank you to the Sabres staffers who took these photos and worked hard on the team’s media coverage while on this trip. Your hard work is really appreciated by those of us here in the cheap seats at home. 

4. The October issue of Buffalo Spree magazine focuses on the Buffalo sports scene, with articles on Ryan Miller, Pat Kaleta, Buffalo mascots, the WNY Flash, Buffalo Soccer Club and more. There is a lot of quality writing in this issue, so I do recommend that you pick up a copy. However, what was most intriguing was the article on Ryan Miller. One paragraph had two bits of info that jumped out at me. First…

Several members of the local sports media told me off the record that they admire Miller’s charity work, and that this makes it harder, at least on a subconscious level, to criticize the guy for letting in the occasional bad goal.

Oh really? The (supposedly) impartial media admits (off-the-record) that they’re soft on Miller because he’s such a good guy off the ice? If this is the case, by making this sort of statement, these media members are admitting that they would have no problem calling out Miller if he was a complete and total bastard off the ice. (On the other hand, that might explain a lot of the Timmy hate. But that’s another story for another time.) 

Secondly, Miller claims that the media by trade are designed to be pot-stirrers and focus too much on one point that they know nothing about. He might have a tiny, bitterness-coated point here. And I’m not saying that just because 5 for 25 is still a local joke. How many times have some media members gone to the same well for commentary topics? However, that doesn’t mean that players have to be hostile to the media in the locker room. All the players have to do is smile & nod, answer the questions, wish the media a nice evening and then go about their business. If players are getting this out of sorts about media coverage, perhaps they should stop reading/listening/watch said coverage. It is entirely possible to watch the news and read a newspaper without hearing/seeing/reading sports stories. I work with people who prove this fact true every single day.

5. Finally, I cannot stop watching this clip of bear cubs in a hammock. Enjoy and catch you back here later in the week for the “official” home opener. 

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I’m Back!

October 1, 2011

You may have noticed that it got a little quiet here in blog land recently. I was suffering from a lack of a laptop and the lack of patience to complete a blog post on an iPod touch. But I’m back. I now have a shiny new computer and am ready to take on a full season of Sabres hockey.

- We all saw the Fu Man Drew video that the Sabres posted a week or two ago. They were also kind enough to post the outtakes from said video.

The biggest revelation for me (just edging out Stafford’s awesome laugh) was that someone at the Sabres thought it was a good idea to let $5 million in talent roll away in a Range Rover piloted by a driver in rollerblades. Yes, I realize that the car moved a grand total of three feet and wasn’t moving fast, but it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

- Speaking of losing an eye (how’s that for a segue), I’m so glad that Paul Gaustad is wearing a visor. Poor little Goose has had too many near misses with eye injuries & cuts in his career. I’m sad that it had to take Manny Malhotra getting hurt for him to realize that eyesight is forever, but whatever works, I guess. And doesn’t that just prove how stubborn hockey players are about their equipment?

- Because I’m a nerd, I took next Friday off from work. I want to be able to watch the first Sabres game and not have to worry about an online radio stream dying out or annoying my co-workers with score updates or quiet swearing.

- The new fall TV season has started. I’ve enjoyed “New Girl” so far, but object to one small thing. A hipster character like Zooey Deschanel’s would not carry Vera Bradley luggage. Vera is too mainstream for hipster tastes.

I know this post has kind of been a mishmash of topics, but until there’s actual games to write about, this is what you get.

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