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What’s Next?

February 24, 2011

– If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I am a fan of The West Wing. One of Josiah Bartlet’s favorite things to ask on the show is “what’s next?” Terry Pegula answered that question for us on Tuesday: what’s next is winning a Stanley Cup. Before that (or to aid in that), the immediate “what’s next?” is to attract players to Buffalo. We all know that players fall in love with Buffalo once they get here, it’s the getting them here that’s been the hard part. Gossip about how previous management treated the players ran rampant throughout the league, and no matter how much current players talked up the organization, players were reluctant to come here. I have a feeling that Pegula’s true enthusiasm for the team, the sport and the city is going to shine through and that we may be seeing free agents start wanting to come here during free agent season.

– I said on Twitter last night that Pegula must be feeling like a kid in a candy store. He’s met his hero Perreault, was surprised at center ice by the French Connection, and had an entire arena full of fans chanting his name. Where else can you go from there?

– According to Thomas Vanek’s official blog, Pegula is throwing a party at the arena for not only the Sabres players & staffers, but also their families. I really do think that is a nice touch, as the families are just as important as the players themselves. And if you continue reading Vanek’s blog, it seems that his mini backyard rink is the site of quite the ruckus when Leopold & Lalime bring their kids over. I really like hearing warm and fuzzy anecdotes like this one, as it stresses how close some of them are off the ice. We rarely hear stories like this from the media because warm and fuzzy generally doesn’t sell papers or gross ratings points. I’m not saying I want an entire sports report or sports section full of warm and fuzzy, but the occasional bit would be nice. And can someone tell me how the Sabres can have a no-Twitter policy, but yet Vanek can still blog? A blog is still social media. Just saying…

– The decision to waive Rivet was shocking on one hand because he’s the team captain, but yet not shocking because the guy has had his rear permanently glued to a seat in the press box for a good chunk of this season. It’s going to be fascinating to see whether another team picks him up on the re-entry wire, or whether he just fades back into the press box for the remainder of the season if Darcy can’t pull a trade out of his hat.

– I’m decidedly not a fan of Pegula calling out local sportswriters for being tough on players. By their play – or lack thereof – players help sportswriters make the case that they are soft, fragile, clumsy, lazy and whatever other adjective has been used to describe some players lately. Writers write what they see. They aren’t paid to be the team’s spin doctors (that’s what PR guys are for*). Sports writers are meant to be objective news reporters, or in the case of commentary, present their arguments in a logical and hopefully fair manner. It’s not the owner’s job to plead the case for his players. The players should be able to handle a little criticism from the media. They’re professional athletes and grown ups. They shouldn’t be running to PR/management every time the media has a negative thing to say about them.

*I know PR isn’t spin. Put your rotten tomatoes down.

That’s not to say that the media is blameless in its somewhat contentious relationship with the team. There are times that issues have been hashed and rehashed until they’ve just turned into a talking point that seems to be included because it’s expected. I think that both sides need to move on and just start with a fresh slate now that there’s a new man in town. What’s in the past is in the past. Move on.

– Finally, and this is completely not hockey related, I watched the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery before I left the office today. There’s always something exciting and awesome about a space shuttle launch. I mean, it’s 6 very brave men and women sitting on top of a rocket getting hurtled into the great unknown. There’s a lot that can go wrong (and has).  The fact that the shuttle program is winding down and there is no viable replacement in sight makes me kind of sad for what this current generation of kids is going to miss. My parents, as most baby boomers, grew up in the midst of the Cold War and the space race. As kids, they lived through JFK promising a moon landing and the growth of the Apollo program. They encouraged their kids – my peers – to study math and science so that they could be astronauts some day. Game shows targeted to kids regularly gave away trips to space camp. The way things are going, my generation is going to be the last one to grow up with space travel as a “regular” thing. What’s next after there’s no shuttle to hurtle people into outer space? Do we not strive for the moon or further exploration because there’s budget difficulties and cuts have to be made somewhere? Who knows. I feel like this scene from the West Wing encapsulates why space is still so important:

What’s next, indeed.

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