Thank You and Welcome Back
October 21, 2008
There be Light
what a couple of loose balloons can do. It’s also ironic a major power
outage hit the Ralph on the same day the San Diego ‘Chargers’ were
scheduled to visit One Bills Drive. Good ironic for the Bills-23, bad
ironic for the Chargers-14. It’s also ironical that it took major power
outage for yours truly to see the ‘Light’.
an embarrassing loss in Phoenix, two weeks ago, Buffalo came out of their
Bye week like a finely tuned machine. QB Trent Edwards displayed no ill
effects from the concussion he sustained and again proved why he’s the
leader of this team and its most integral player.
completed 19 of his first 21 passes, 25 of 30 overall, and broke Jim
Kelly’s single game percentage record in only his 15th game
as a starter, 10-5 overall. Edwards is the real deal, like a great chief.
Give him the right recipe, a little time, and not only will he find the
open man, he’ll serve him ‘pigskin a la mode’. Bon apatite.
this very space, after their devastating loss to the Cardinals, I skewered
the Buffalo coaching staff. I felt their inability to make any changes
cost the Bills any shot at winning that particular game. Having your
starting QB, and team leader, carted off under the impression he was
‘Batman’, made for a long, sobering afternoon.
that particular column, I wondered aloud if the coaching staff was up to
the rigors of coaching in the NFL. After all, the best coaches in the game
know what’s going to happen before it happens and can change on the fly.
If one thing doesn’t work, bam, on to the next and so on until they find
an answer. Bill Belichick can do it, so can Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren,
Tom Coughlin, Tony Dungy, and so on.
I began to wonder, what do these men have in common? What can they do that
so many others can’t? What separates them from all the rest?
thought about it for a long while, but couldn’t quite grasp it. Then I
looked up at the proverbial light bulb, pulled the switch and ‘Voila’,
the ‘Light’ came to me. Yes, these men are all proven coaches, but the
thing that separates them from the pack is not what they bring to the
table, it’s who’s sitting at the table with them.
you look back at all the great coaches, almost every one of them had an
elite QB to run the show. Belichick had Brady, Shanahan had Elway,
Holmgren had Favre, Coughlin had Manning and Dungy the other Manning. Yes,
most coaches can draw the X’s and O’s but they need someone who can
execute the plan.
prove my point, think back to the San Francisco 49’ers in their glory
years. Bill Walsh was designated a coaching genius for inventing the West
Coast Offense, the short passing game. He had Joe Montana. Do you think we
would be calling Bill Walsh a genius if he had someone like J.P. Losman at
the helm? See my point?
think of the above mentioned coaches, Belichick, Shanahan, Holmgren,
Coughlin and Dungy and try to remember what they’ve done without those
star QB’s. An example a little closer to home would be Marv Levy without
Jim Kelly. The results are respectable, but without the right QB to run
the show, those resumes are fairly close to average. In fact, several were
fired from their first Head Coaching job before they went on to their
bottom line here is, a coach can draw up the greatest plan in the world,
but without the right players to implement the plan, it is doomed to
I apologize to the Bills coaching staff for my incorrect assessment of
their abilities after a single loss. Especially, after their most integral
player, Trent Edwards, was sent to the ‘Bat Cave’ 3 plays into the
game. I have seen the ‘Light’. Stay healthy Trent.
Check out www.benspicks.com,
on Saturday, for my FREE! NFL selections, 4-0 Last Week. Thanks, Ben
October 14, 2008
thought I would be able to enjoy the Bills Bye week by concentrating my
efforts on the rest of the NFL schedule. With no Bills game to get in my
way, I was sure I would extend my lucky streak. Boy was I wrong. I took a
beating on Houston winning, but not covering the 3-point spread against
Miami. Dallas couldn’t put Arizona away and then got kicked in the can.
Lastly, New England took a pounding in San Diego. Those selections sure
look pretty dumb in retrospect. Isn’t it funny how all losing wagers
look so stupid after the fact? I’m glad there’s only one Bye week per
season, my bankroll can’t handle any more.
filled my Buffalo football fix last weekend by attending my first ever UB
Bulls football game. That’s amazing considering I am a graduate of the
University. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I was looking
forward to watching the resurgent Bulls. Coach Turner Gill and the team
were having a great game. Western Michigan made it a little dicey in the 4th
quarter, but the Bulls caught a break on a fumble deep in Bronco
territory. Buffalo punched it in for the decisive score and went ahead
28-14. There were only about five minutes left to play and my host, 10
O’clock Mike, had to leave to attend a party. We made for the parking
lot with smiles plastered on our chubby little faces, content that the
game was in the bag. By the time we got to the car, it was 28-21. As Mike
left me off, the Broncos tied it up with 5 seconds left. The rest, as they
say, is history. The Bulls turned it over in OT and Western Michigan
punched it in for the win, 34-28. Later on that evening, I caught up with
Mike and thanked him for leaving early. I’d rather remember the best
part of the day. It just goes to show you, nothing’s a sure thing. Like
Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
Buffalo Sabres roared into their new season with a couple of decisive
wins. On opening night, Buffalo went toe-to-toe with the mighty Canadians.
Goalie Ryan Miller exercised his shootout demons and stoned the Habs in
the showdown, 2-1. Then in a rare weekday afternoon affair, the Blue and
Gold exacted revenge from an Islander squad that beat them back-to-back to
open last season, 7-1. Next up is our old buddy, Chris Drury and the New
York Rangers. Hopefully, by the time you read this we’ll be 3-0.
Sabres defenseman, and captain, Chris Rivet, has already proved worthy of
carrying the C. Rivet backed up his teammates in a second period scrum and
made a statement at the same time. The Sabres won’t be pushed around any
more. Lindy Ruff has this team playing close to the vest and the new
defensive strategy will pay dividends. After all, Lord Stanley wouldn’t
have it any other way.
was good to see QB Trent Edwards and WR Roscoe Parrish back on the
practice field this week. Injuries devastated the Bills last year and the
key to Buffalo’s success this season will be to stay as healthy as
possible. Next up are the San Diego Chargers and we’ll need all hands on
deck in what should turn out to be a high scoring affair at the Ralph.
it me, or are the baseball playoffs an afterthought. Say what you will
about the Yankees, but the postseason is definitely more interesting when
they’re involved. The only way these playoffs peak my interests is, if
Manny returns to Boston with the Dodgers. Now that’s drama.
sitting amongst the crowd at the U B game, I scanned the audience and was
a little surprised by my surroundings. There were plenty of alumni and
their families, but very few students. The University is behind the 8-ball
when it comes to student support. About half of the underclassmen are from
out of town and commuters are treated as a necessary evil. It would be
nice if the University actually cultivated some student unity. However,
what do you expect from a State school? It’s was so bad when I went
there, they didn’t even have a football team. No wonder why it took me
30 years to catch a game.
Sabre fans would be content to see their team return to the playoffs. Not
me, I think this team is primed to make a statement. I have a feeling,
‘in my gut’; Buffalo can compete for first place. Wait a second,
scratch that, I had tacos for lunch.
Check out www.benspicks.com,
on Saturday, for my FREE! NFL selections. Thanks, Ben
October 7, 2008
of the Phoenix
defines the Phoenix as a sacred firebird from ancient mythology. At the
end of the mythical bird’s lifecycle, the Phoenix sets itself aflame and
it turns into ashes. The new, young, Phoenix arises from the ashes to live
this vane, there’s a classic old movie starring Jimmy Stewart called
‘Flight of the Phoenix’. You’ve probably seen it several times.
It’s your typical Hollywood fare. In it, Stewart plays a pilot whose
plane goes down in the desert with about a dozen passengers on board. They
end up way off course with no chance of rescue. These men, stranded in the
desert, are doomed. The men try to make do, but begin to panic when they
realize their plight. Instead of pulling together to solve their problem,
they begin to nitpick and fight amongst themselves to make matters worse.
Jimmy Stewart needs a way to rally the men and gets them to focus on a
singular goal. They work together to painstakingly dismantle, and rebuild,
‘The Phoenix’. The whole time our hero, Stewart, is privately praying
help will come so he won’t have to fly the bucket of bolts they are
building. As we all know, help doesn’t arrive. Stewart and the boys
strap themselves to the rebuilt wing and fly back to civilization. The
fast forward to the Buffalo Bills humiliating, 41-17, loss to the Arizona
Cardinals last week. Let’s compare what happened to the men of the
Phoenix to what happened to our men ‘IN’ Phoenix.
like the movie, the game starts out innocently enough with Buffalo
receiving the opening kick. QB Trent Edwards begins to do what he does
best, hit the open man and then disaster strikes. Edwards gets blindsided
by Adrian ‘No Relation to Ralph’ Wilson several plays into the game
and suddenly turmoil ensues. Even though we were 3,000 miles away, you
could feel the air escaping from our 4-0 bubble while our leader was,
literally, down and out.
Losman replaces Trent and I assure my fellow fans all is not lost. I was
sure J.P. and the defense would sack up and make this a competitive game.
J.P. promptly helps botch a handoff and the Cards recover. The defense,
still in shock, gets caught flatfooted by the wily veteran, Kurt Warner.
The Cards score a TD.
problem, we’ll get it back. J.P. and the offense proceed to go 3 and out
and punt. The Cards take the ball at their 20 and the grey bearded Warner
dinks and dunks them down the field for a 14-play 80-yard drive. 14-0
the aging Warner is like a human piñata, 6 TO’s the week before, I’m
a little miffed our defense laid back and took it. I assure everyone its
O.K., J.P. and defense will settle down and come with the heat.
the next possession J.P. fills his end of the bargain, he rears back and
flings one 50 yards in the air, running underneath the perfectly thrown
ball is WR Lee Evans. Evans catches it, full stride and makes a beeline
for the end zone. That was the spark I was waiting for, 14-7 Arizona and
Buffalo is back in the game.
was the time for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to bring the heat and
force Warner, ‘The Human Piñata’, into the mistake that would turn
the game around. I sat dumbfounded as the Cards again dinked and dunked
down the field for a 12 play, 78-yard drive. Arizona 21-7.
make a long story short, the Cards scored on 7 of their first 8 drives.
The Bills never brought the heat even after their halftime adjustments. It
was hard to watch, a slow death. The Bills would not rise from the ashes.
you may ask, “What does the movie, ‘Flight of the Phoenix’, have to
do with the Bills ‘Plight’ in Phoenix? One team of men emerges
victorious; the other is destined for bitter defeat.”
good question. The answer, my friend, comes down to leadership. In the
movie, our hero, Jimmy Stewart, leads his men to victory. In the football
game, our leader, Trent Edwards, is knocked out and no one else is there
to lead. I’m not talking about J.P. here, after all, he’s no Frank
Reich, or any one particular player, I’m talking about coaching.
see, this loss, despite Trent’s absence, is directly related to
coaching. Defensive Coordinator Fewell did not make the proper adjustments
to change the flow of the game. He never put our defense in a position to
succeed. Ultimately, that mistake falls on Head Coach Dick Jauron. Jauron
is excellent at preparing his men to do battle, he’s lacking as a field
thought the problem was solved, this year, by the several come from behind
victories we have been witness to. Obviously not, and that worries me.
Ultimately, this is only one loss and the Bills are still 4-1. The bye
week will help heal the wounds, but will it help solve the Bills coaching
Check out www.benspicks.com,
on Saturday, for my FREE! NFL selections. Thanks, Ben
September 30, 2008
it’s the middle of August and I’ve hit a brick wall over that week’s
column. Bills training camp and preseason are boring, nothing is happening
with the Sabres yet and I can’t rag on Brett the Jett again. What’s a
guy to do?
its Tuesday and my favorite bartender, Suzie Kaboozie, is working, I make
a beeline for Downtown Blackrock and my regular watering hole. If Suzie
can’t lube the wheels, no one can.
I get there, it’s Happy Hour and Suzie spots me coming in. As my butt
hits the stool, Suzie serves me a stiff one (drink that is).
you look perplexed?”
am, I need a topic for this week’s column or The Rocket will have to
print another lame political ad and I can’t let that happen.”
right Ben, Democrats, Republicans, it’s all the same. But, don’t
worry, by the time the night is over I’m sure the juices will be
flowing. Creative juices that is.”
funny Suzie, I hope you’re right, so keep’em coming.”
problem there Ben, I’ll keep that Dewars bottle handy.”
the scotch flows and the evening wanes, people come and go but still no
spark. After a while, I begin to get even more frustrated and decide to
take a walk by the creek, Scajaquada that is, to clear my brain. Before
you know it, I start to feel a little woozy, so I decide to take a seat
under a big tree and contemplate my predicament. The last thing I remember
was watching the sunset between the twin towers of Our Lady of Black Rock
Church and wondering if the Old Girl was next on the Bishop’s hit list.
next thing I know, I’m waking up with my head pounding and the sun
shinning. “That Suzie” I said to myself, “She got me good. I spent
the whole night under this damn tree and still no bright ideas”.
slowly make it to my feet and take a leisurely walk back to the bar to
find my car. When I get there, I notice the bar door is open and I begin
to wonder what’s going on this early in the morning. I shrug it off and
decide to go in and find an aspirin before I drive my sorry butt home.
enter and to my amazement, Suzie is behind the bar and the place is
packed. I’m still a little groggy and before I could gather my senses,
Suzie has a drink in front of me.
where ya been and what’s up with that beard?”
what beard?” I say as I look in the mirror to see myself staring back
with a scraggly beard and a dumb look on my face. What the ....? I begin
to think. Then I hear, “I got that one Suzie.”
look up and making his way toward me is my old buddy Rip. “Ben where ya
been? Whoa, did you lose your razor?”
still a little confused and, before I can muster an answer, I look down on
the bar and see a copy of the Buffalo Snooze. On the front page is a
picture of Trent Edwards. “What’s up with this? We didn’t play the
Rams last week.”
funny Ben, where’s your column been? I’ve been checking the Rocket and
your website every week looking for your take on the Bills run and all I
get are these stupid Political ads. So, what do you think, 4-0, not
Rip says this, I look at the masthead of the Snooze and read, Monday,
September 29, 2008. Holy ....!
what’s up with this? It’s supposed to be August, what’s going on?”
are you all right, or is that beard sapping your brain?”
all I know is, it was August, I was here tipping a few and the next thing
I know, I waking up under a tree by the creek.”
Suzie bartending Ben?” I nod my head.
there you go then.”
both look at Suzie and she gives us the crook-eye and walks away.
it or not Ben; the same thing happened to me years ago except I was out
for 20 years. You wanna talk about a beard?”
years! That’s crazy.”
than your story Ben?”
got a point there Rip. Wait a second; did you say the Bills are 4-0?”
4-0 and going to Arizona.”
do you mean? We beat Seattle?”
34-10 in the rain, I was there. I think my shirt is still drying out”
from behind in the 4th quarter, 20-16, Trent was on a roll.”
the Raiders too?”
had to come from behind in the 4th quarter in that one, twice.
Lindell kicked a last second field goal, 24-23.”
you’re getting the hang of it Ben. Another second half comeback, then we
put them away for good, 31-14.”
huh, we must be tied with New England for first place then?”
exactly Ben, the Pats lost a game already and Tom Brady is done for the
I put the Sicilian Curse on those guys last year. It must still be
working. I gotta be careful where I point that thing. By the way, who did
they lose to?
1-15 Miami?” Rip nods his head. “That’s it, see ya! I’m outta
Ben where ya going?
going back to find that tree. Make sure you come by and wake me before
Christmas. I don’t wanna miss the playoffs.”
Check out www.benspicks.com,
on Saturday, for my FREE! NFL selections. Thanks, Ben
August 12, 2008
For those of you to young to remember, there’s a line from a song
in “West Side Story” that goes, “When you’re a Jet you’re a Jet
all the way, from your first cigarette ‘til your last dying day.” No
truer words written, sung, or danced to now that ‘Brett the Jet’ has
landed in that septic tank known as New Yorrr, I mean New Jersey. The
perfect match, the Big Apple and a nice ‘fat’ juicy worm.
little harsh? Yes, but every time I give #4 the benefit of the doubt, he
stoops to a new low. If you’ll remember last week, I predicted Favre
would land in Minnesota because he supposedly wanted to win and he wanted
to stick it to the Packers front office. I was W-R-O-N-G, wrong. Contrary
to popular belief, Brett Favre is not all about winning, Brett Favre is
not your good old-fashioned, Wrangler wearing, country boy, and Brett
Favre is not the persona the public perceives. This move to NYC proves it;
Brett Favre is all about the cash, mullah, dead presidents, cha-ching,
sordi, scoots, pesos, coin, euros, yen, bling, and especially money. Maybe
that’s why he’s always wearing green?
of green, ‘Riddle me this Batman?’, if Brett Favre were the
‘Gunslinger’ he’s made out to be, why would he ride into town with
the ‘Hole in the Wall Gang’ known as the NY Jets? The Jets stink and
are more like ‘The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight’. The addition
of Favre will only make them slightly better. The Jets have average
receivers, a TE that’s holding out, a RB that stinks, and their
offensive line is a question mark. Don’t forget Favre-vites, Brett is
38-years-old, fat, out of shape, has started 253 straight games, has to
learn a new offense and must play in the much tougher AFC. That certainly
doesn’t scream Super Bowl to me; it whispers 6-10, maybe 8-8, if Favre
can stay healthy.
ask yourself, why would the ‘Gunslinger’ ride into the Big City when
he already knows there’s an ambush waiting for him? The answer is,
because the ‘Gunslinger’ is not wearing a white hat my friends, he’s
wearing a black hat and sporting a mask. The best part of this crime is,
the victims don’t even know they’re being robbed. P.T. Barnum said,
‘There’s a sucker born every minute’, now P.T. ‘Brett and the
Jets’ have 10 Million of them. The perfect crime, one jersey at a time.
for the kicker, Brett has not committed to the Jets for 2009. Next year
the Jets move into a new stadium, along with the Giants. The Giants have
already announced they will be charging their season ticket holders for a
seat license. What’s a seat license? It’s a fee the team charges for
the right to buy tickets. Are you kidding me? Not only that, but the fee
is thousands of dollars, you have to pay it over time, like a mortgage.
Now how are the lowly Jets going to be able to charge a fee like that? You
got it sports fans; they are going to sell the hope that is ‘Brett the
Jet’. So, next year, we’re going to have to endure the ‘Will He?
Won’t He?’ scenario all over again and if you thought the hype was bad
this year, wait until the Media Capital of the world goes All-Brett, All
The Time. I want to puke just thinking about it. When Brett is done
‘holding up’ the Jets, then the Jets will turn around and ‘holdup’
their fans. Don’t forget about all the endorsement opportunities that
will also come Brett’s way. I’m sure the ‘suckers’ in NY will
gladly ‘step right up’ for the opportunity to buy a pair of Wranglers.
With all the money to be made, you can bet your bottom dollar; Brett will
also be a Jet next year.
this is the part that worries this Bills fan. In order to sell the hope
that is ‘Brett the Jet’ the team has to be moderately successful. To
be successful they will have to finish ahead of the Bills. To finish ahead
of the Bills they are going to have to beat us once, maybe twice. That’s
the part that worries me, what does the NFL have in store for the Bills,
especially when they face the Jets? I don’t know about you, but I’m
going to watch those 2 games like a hawk, I’ve got a bad feeling and I
don’t like it. We already got the double whammy from this Favre deal.
Favre makes the Jets better and Chad Pennington ends up in Miami, right in
Bill Parcells lap. Those four division games just got a lot tougher and
you have it my friends, ‘Brett and the Jets’, the perfect couple, each
using the other, to screw you, the fan. What can we do about it, not much
except wait for the Karma Train? Remember the Karma Train last year; Bill
Belichick got his didn’t he? Maybe this year it’s Brett’s turn.
After all, 38-year-old, fat, out of shape QB’s can’t avoid injury
forever. Sorry Brett, but you’re standing on the tracks. Whooo, Whoooooo!
Check out my website, www.benspicks.com
and read ‘The Truth about Brett
P.S. - Just read an article at newsday.com
that echo's my comments almost exactly. Check it out.
Buffalo Bills training
camp keeps humming along at St. John Fisher College, in suburban
Rochester, and still no sign of OT Jason Peters as of this writing.
Although there has been one major injury, rookie LB Alvin Bowen, Peters
holding out is the worst news of the first two weeks of camp. The longer
he stays out, the more desperate the two sides become. Will the Bills
start their playoff drive without their All Pro OT? Will QB Trent Edwards
develop a nervous neck twitch to his left? Will Peters leave $3.5 Million,
plus fines of $15,000 per day, on the table? Will Dance Star Jason Taylor,
now LB of the Redskins, do a little jig on J.P. Losman’s skull this
Saturday? Will Ralph Wilson ever be able to find those Easter Eggs he hid
last April? Tune in next week for another exciting episode of “As the
The baseball trade
deadline just passed and the rich got richer. Ken Griffey Jr. is giving it
one last shot with the Chicago White Sox. Mark Teixeira made the move from
Atlanta to the L.A. Angels of Rancho Cucamonga. The Yanks bolstered their
depth at catcher with Ivan Rodriguez. Last, but certainly not least, the
Boston Red Sox made an addition by subtraction, sending Manny Ramirez from
Bean Town to the L.A. Dodgers. That’s perfect; it’ll give the
paparazzi something to do during the dog days of summer. Thinking of Manny
being Manny in Tinsel Town reminded me of something my favorite History
teacher, Mr. Herkert, taught us many moons ago, “If you could pick up
the U.S. and shake it, all the nuts would roll to California.” Amen, Mr.
The Summer Olympics start
this weekend. Does anyone care? NBC will be hosting the event and the
coverage will be nonstop. I just have a problem staying home on a nice
summer’s night watching athletes, and sports, I know nothing about
compete in a country I have no respect for. I’m sorry, but watching Kobe
Bryant and Lebron James beating up on a bunch or Euros is not very
compelling. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do? What really gets
me is, here we are less than 20 years after a lone man stood in front of a
line of tanks, after people died in Tiananmen Square and we’re
celebrating a country that will not allow journalists free access to the
internet. China may be an industrial power but that’s not progress as
far as I’m concerned.
It’s as if the Sabres
disappeared now that Bills training camp is in full swing. Funny how that
goes, isn’t it? Don’t worry hock-o-phobes, Sabres training camp will
be here sooner than you think.
I was a little
disappointed to see so few of you go to my website, www.benspicks.com
and read ‘The Truth about Brett Favre’. I urge you all to take the
time and check it out. I assure you my take on the matter is one you will
not see anywhere else. In the meantime, the Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers
circus continues and you can almost hear the calliope music in the
background. Favre has won the latest round by forcing the Packers to
reinstate him so that he doesn’t make a beeline to Minnesota. The two
sides are now making nice and saying all the right things but the bottom
line is Favre has played his last regular season game for the Packers. The
supposed ‘open competition’ is just a smoke screen so the Packers can
sit on Favre until right before the regular season, then cut or trade him.
Why, because they don’t want to face the Vikings, with the ‘Golden
Boy’ wearing a purple #4, on opening day. Talk about embarrassing,
Favre’s picture is printed on the ticket and the Pack was going to
retire his number that Monday Night. Ironic, isn’t it? Meanwhile,
Commissioner Goodell has absolved the Vikings of any tampering in the
incident. Yeah, right. Take my word for it my friends, the script has
already been written. Brett Favre will be wearing a purple #4 before the
middle of September. You can take it to the bank. Thanks, Ben
I know it feels like summer has barley begun, but the pads are
already popping at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. Don’t look now
football fans, but August is here, Labor Day is right around the corner
and we’re already a week into Buffalo Bills training camp.
me, training camp signals summers’ halftime and from what I’ve seen so
far, this game is going be over before it starts. Where are the tan lines,
my yard work has barley begun, the beach is only a distant dream and that
trip I was planning to Saratoga feels like an optical delusion. If
training camp is halftime, it feels like I’m down 17 points, my QB has
been intercepted 3 times and my defense can’t stop the run. Who drew up
this game plan anyway?
for Buffalo Bills fans, the brain trust at One Bills Drive is much better
at planning than I am. Buffalo hit the ground running last weekend locking
up their final draft pick, #1 selection Leodis McKelvin, at the 11th
hour. The Bills seem to be progressing nicely and there are even whispers
of Playoffs. Playoffs?
playoffs. The 2008 Bills are primed to make a postseason run in the tough
AFC. The coaching staff has been in place for 3 years now and it’s time
for Buffalo to make a move. On defense, the Bills have upped the ante with
the addition of DT Marcus Stroud and LB Kawika Mitchell. Promising LB Paul
Posluszny will also be returning from injury and that can only help. The
Bills suffered through an injury plagued 2007 and, believe it or not,
those injuries will help their cause this year because several backup
players have gained some much needed experience. Overall, the defense is
special teams the Bills are the envy of the league with Coach Bobby April
calling the shots. Buffalo has arguably the best kicking tandem in the
game with K Rian Lindell and P Brian Moorman. Their return game is also
top shelf with Terrence McGee and Roscoe Parrish. The just signed Leodis
McKelvin is also a top-notch return man. April will have to find a few
replacements for his coverage unit now that Coy Wire and several others
have moved on. It’ll be interesting to see who steps up to make the
biggest question mark is the offense. Turk Schonert takes over as
coordinator and, although we’ve heard good things, the jury is still
out. The QB position is set with the steady Trent Edwards but he has only
started a handful of games and needs experience. The RB position is a
no-brainer with Marshawn Lynch going into Beast Mode; just make sure you
don’t step in front of his SUV on a rainy night. Lee Evans is the #1
wide out and big Rookie James Hardy will be looking to make some major
inroads in the red zone, as long as he leaves his gun back in Indiana. The
TE position is very thin with Robert Royal the incumbent and that’s not
saying much. The offensive line is where it gets interesting, as LT Jason
Peters is the lone Bills holdout.
has been a Buffalo Bills project since he arrived here as an undrafted
rookie. A TE at first, Peters slowly made the transition to the offensive
line. His promise garnered him a hefty pay raise and now that he has
played his way to the Pro Bowl, he does not like the fact that he’s the
third highest paid lineman on the team. I don’t blame him but he’s
going about it the wrong way. Peters held out of all the voluntary
workouts throughout the off-season and is fined $15,000 for everyday of
training camp he misses. OUCH! His agent is not very bright, especially
after all the confidence the Bills have shown in Peters and the fact that
they have been more than willing to rewrite contracts for deserving
players. I get the feeling it’ll be a cold day in hell before Ralph
Wilson opens up his change purse for someone who doesn’t want to get
with the program. Get to camp Peters, if you know what’s good for you.
it looks like an interesting year ahead. Last year Buffalo was hit hard by
injury bug and still finished 7-9, it’ll be interesting to see how the
improvements they have made translate to their record. The schedule makers
have given us a slight break this year but we still have to face the
Patriots twice. That’s like playing 14 games when everyone else gets 16.
It won’t be easy but that’s why it’s fun.
everyone enjoy the rest of your summer, while you still can and make every
minute count. Don’t forget the opening preseason game is Saturday,
August 9th, against the Washington Redskins and it won’t be long until
summer’s over. I think I’ll take a day off and take a slow ride to
Rochester to see the boy’s first hand. What the Hey, that yard work will
still be there next year. Thanks, Ben
July 21, 2008
want to win games and I want to do it here.” That’s a direct quote
from Buffalo Sabres goalie, Gilligan, Doh! I mean Ryan Miller, after he
accepted a $31.25 Million five-year contract extension last week. After a
year stranded here with no playoffs, that quote was music to my ears.
Coconut Domed Sabres management endured one mutiny after another losing
Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Brian Campbell in less than a year. The
brain trust of Gilligan’s Island, Tom Golisano – Thurston Howell III,
Larry Quinn – The Skipper and Darcy Regier – The Professor, finally
changed their policy and began to negotiate with the natives before the
Volcano erupted and they all left the island. It’s about time.
was happier than Ginger Grant with her own hut, about the deal and it
feels good to know our ‘Little Buddy’ actually wants to be here. There
were rumors out there he was going to repair the hole in the SS Minnow and
sail it to Hockey Town, like his alter ego Dominick Hasek. Lucky for us he
has too much class for that.
appreciates the faith the Millionaire, the Skipper, the Professor and the
rest of the natives have shown in him and he is willing to do whatever it
takes to rescue us all, not just himself. Besides that, rumor has it he
has a big crush on Maryann. However, didn’t we all?
You Handle the Truth?
would like to apologize to those of you who enjoy visiting this space
every week. I appreciate your interest and I’m sorry I did not submit a
column last week. I was more than prepared to give you my take on the
Brett Favre Soap Opera but I decided against it. Why, because in the
famous words of Jack Nicholson from the movie ‘A Few Good Men’, “You
can’t handle the truth.”
see, I am 99% certain of my opinion but it is so far out in left field
most people will not even consider it. The public has been so brain washed
into the Good Ole Boy, Brett Favre, ‘persona’ they can’t come to
grips with what’s real and what’s a Wrangler commercial. That’s why
every time I tell someone; they look at me as if I’m from Mars.
the years, I’ve had a chance to gather a little evidence to help prove
my theory. The people that I have enlightened, and have paid attention,
have come to grips with the fact, what you see is not what you get when it
comes to Ole #4. Yes, Brett Favre has won a Super Bowl and his name is at
the top of almost every QB record in the NFL. That said it’s important
to remember his name is also at the top of the all time interception list.
The thing to remember about interceptions is it’s not how many you throw
that’s important; it’s when you throw them. Brett’s last pass as a
Packer, an interception in OT versus the NY Giants, is proof positive of
those of you who think they can handle the truth, I invite you to go to my
and click on, Brett
Favre-The Truth. There
I have posted my theory and some visual evidence to help support it.
those of you who are still skeptical, just ask yourself one simple
question, why would a successful Coach and GM rather start the unproven
Aaron Rodgers, over a living legend? It doesn’t make any sense does it?
Go to my website, open your mind and it will. Can you handle the truth?
July 10, 2008
I hope you all enjoyed the
extended July 4th weekend because I know I certainly did.
Watched some baseball, are those Yankees ever going to warm up? Went to
the Lafayette Tap Room, hadn’t been downtown for a long time. Attended a
great backyard barbecue on the 4th, paid for eating all of
Kim’s stuffed hot peppers in the morning. Got some yard work done, just
enough to create some more work for myself, it figures. Fired up the
grill, experimented on some ribs, they were the bomb. Took a couple of
great Dagwood Bumstead naps, so that’s what it feels like. Went to my
watering hole, where was everyone? Took a great cruise around town, yeah I
know its $4 a gallon, but what the hey? The weather was great and I
can’t believe how many people were out there, loving it. Does it get any
better? I doubt it. Thanks, Buffalo.
NHL Free Agency struck on
July 1st and the Buffalo Sabres didn’t make much of a splash.
The Swords addressed their need for a backup goalie by acquiring
journeyman, Patrick LaLime. LaLime has played for Pittsburgh, Ottawa, St.
Louis and last year he was in Chicago. LaLime posted a respectable 2.82
goals against average and a 16-12-2 record or the Black Hawks. He will be
a capable backup to Ryan Miller and an immediate upgrade over fellow
French Canadian, Jocelyn ‘Swiss Cheese’ Thibault. Thibault was so bad;
Miller had to play over 30 games in a row during the Sabres playoff push.
Miller was running on fumes, but Lindy Ruff must have been scared to death
of the guy. Oui-oui?
It was obvious the Sabres
were not overpaying for a Free Agent defenseman and I’m beginning to
believe players around the league are looking the other way when the
Sabres call. Darcy Regier was on the hot seat and immediately went looking
for a trade. Regier was trying to drum up some business for the Sabres
overabundance of forwards. Max ‘Which Way Do I Go’ Afinogenov was the
first name on his lips, but its obvious there’s no market for Maxi right
now or he’d be gone already. Instead, Buffalo unloaded underachiever,
Steve Bernier, who the Sabres acquired for Jason Campbell, to the Canucks
for a couple of draft picks. Then, Darcy basically, traded those picks to
San Jose for stay at home defenseman Craig Rivet. Rivet is a big solid
veteran defenseman, signed for 3 years, and the Sabres know exactly what
they’re getting. Typical Darcy deal. The man is a machine; check him for
Rocket Man was hardly
alone in his enjoyment of the Buffalo Sharks basketball victory over the
Italian Select team. It was a great physical game and I’m sure the
Italians learned a lesson or two on how to play physical basketball. This
ain’t Bocce Ball Baby. My good friend, and neighbor, Vinny Lesh is
determined to bring professional basketball back to Buffalo, and I hope
the Buffalo Sharks have a lot of success. Judging from this game, held in
a packed Medaille gym, Buffalo is Jones-ing for some B-ball.
The Marshawn Lynch
hit-and-run debacle finally came to its conclusion almost a month after it
started. Lynch admitted his guilt and said he didn’t know he hit anyone.
Come on Marshawn, you’re kidding right? Your car had damage for God’s
sake. I gotta say, looking back at the whole mess, he, and his lawyers,
certainly limited the damage. As long as your name isn’t Kim Shpeley
that is. At least Ms. Shpeley will be able to sue the pants off Lynch and
I’m sure she will. Hey Marshawn, that image took a big hit, what a fool.
If you see a bag black guy on the side of the road, trying to hitch a
ride, with dreads and no pants, SLOOOW-DOWNNN. You wouldn’t want to hit
him, would you?
Don’t look now, but
training camp starts in less than two weeks. Finally, some real football
news. Thanks, Ben
Buffalo Sabres brain trust gathered in Ottawa last weekend for the annual
NHL draft. Although the players selected are barely 18 years of age, and
several years away from contributing, the draft gave Sabres Management the
opportunity to change the direction of their franchise.
the several years since the lockout, the Sabres have been a very exciting
team. They are fast, can score goals and have made it to the conference
finals in two of the last 3 years. The problem is Buffalo lacks the size
and toughness necessary in crunch time, late in games and in the playoffs.
The Smurf-like Sabres must kowtow to the bigger and stronger opposition.
The bottom line is, the Sabres are an exciting regular season team but, if
the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup, they are ill equipped to
handle the rigors of the playoffs.
weekend Buffalo selected eight prospects in the NHL draft and its obvious
Management had one general goal in mind, BIGGER is BETTER. Nowhere was
that more evident than their first pick, 12thoverall, 6’7”
defenseman, Tyler Myers. Myers towered over the suits on stage in Ottawa
and although he has a skinny build, only 204 pounds, I’m sure he will
eventually play well above 220. Buffalo must have really valued this
prospect because they gave up a 3rd round draft pick just to
trade up one spot in the draft. Because of his height, many comparisons
have been made to Herman Muenster, I mean Zdeno Chara, but the upside here
is, Myers is an excellent skater, rated 4th overall in the
draft. That means with his height, speed and poke check ability he’ll be
able to cover one side of the ice all by himself. That’s certainly a
move in the right direction.
with their second pick in the 1st round, 26th
overall, the Sabres took a slight step back, size wise, and selected
center, Tyler Ennis. Ennis is 5’9”, only weighs 146 pounds, but has
drawn positive comparisons to Daniel Briere. He has a Napoleonic mind set
(No, that doesn’t mean he skates around with his hand tucked in his
sweater), a scorers touch, can skate like the wind and, despite his size,
is not afraid to go into a corner.
the 2nd round, with the 44th overall selection,
Buffalo went big selecting 6’2” power forward Luke Adam. The scouting
report on Luke is his upside is pretty high, he plays big and can score.
Let’s just hope Luke listens to his mentor Obi wan ‘Ruff’ and ‘The
force is with him’.
the 3rd and 4th rounds respectively, the Sabres
traveled to ‘The Land of 1,000 Lakes’ and selected two kids right out
of high school. The 81st overall selection was 6’2”
defenseman, Cory Fienhage. Cory is a tough stay at home defenseman with a
little mean streak. 101st overall was fellow Minnesota native
Justin Jokinen. Jokinen is a center who stands 6’2” tall but only
weighs 165 pounds. Obviously there’s a major upside there when he fills
his frame, but he has a scorers touch and can put the puck in the net.
remaining selections were 6’2” defenseman Jordon Southorn, 104th
overall, 5’11” left wing Jacob LaGace, 134th overall, and
6’1” defenseman Nick Crawford, 164th overall.
you can see, these selections were made with an eye towards size and
toughness, two areas the Sabres are sorely lacking. The problem is none of
these players will be ready to contribute for several years. I for one am
not willing to wait 3 or 4 years for the Sabres to get back to elite
status. That’s why I was pleased to hear Buffalo General Manager Darcy
Regier say this franchise is listening to trade offers and will be a
player in Free Agency. Buffalo has a glut of small forwards and a lack of
tough defensemen. It would be nice to cut the fat A.K.A., Maxim
Afinogenov, and package a deal for a power forward or stud defenseman. If
the Sabres really want to compete for the Cup, it’s the only way to go.
All things being equal, Size Does Matter!....................That’s what
she said. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Thanks, Ben
June 17, 2008
was an emotional week for yours truly leading up to Fathers Day. My Dad
has passed for several years now and earlier this week I attended the wake
of my cousin, Sam, he and my Dad were about the same age and best friends
growing up. Seeing the sadness of his immediate family and the photos of
him and my Father in their youth got the best of me this close to Fathers
later in the week, we got the news of several former members of the
Buffalo Bills family passing. Former Bills Head Coach, John Rauch, former
Defensive Coordinator, Tom Caitlin, and colorful Special Teamer, Mitch
Frerotte, all passed within a few days of each other. Though not family
members, it still affected my emotional state of mind and got me thinking,
why is a black cloud floating above our humble burgh?
Boston Celtics provided a brief respite with a 24-point comeback win
against the L.A. Lakers to take a commanding 3 to 1 lead in the NBA
Finals. I’m not a Celtics fan, but it was fun to root for the underdog
after everyone had written them off in the first half.
morning brought a rare smile to my face after reading about the Chicago
Black Hawks, and South Buffalo native, Patrick Kane reel in the Calder
Trophy for NHL Rookie of the Year. The 19-year-old mighty mite played his
heart out all year and deserved the award. It was good to see him
celebrate with his family by his side. I was beginning to think the black
cloud was about to blow on by but little did I know it was just the
prelude to a major storm.
afternoon the Queen City’s pride quickly turned to sorrow after we
learned of the passing of Buffalo’s favorite son, Tim Russert. I’m not
a political animal and I don’t watch much of ‘Meet the Press’ but
after viewing several days of tributes, all I have to say is, WOW! I’m
sure you’ve heard all the accolades a dozen times already so there is no
reason for me to repeat them here but it’s easy to see why so many
people related to Mr. Russert. Although he was obviously much more
intelligent than most of us he carried himself as a typical Buffalonian.
He had a way of cutting through all the bull and getting to the meat and
potatoes. I guess that’s why he was so good at what he did.
humbles me to think a man as powerful and liked as he was, basically, grew
up in the same way, in the same place and with the same values that I did.
His love of family and fondness of sports intertwines throughout Buffalo
and it feels good to know that he was proud of where he came from and we
should be too.
you imagine the ribbing he had to endure in Washington, and beyond, after
wearing his love for the Bills and Sabres on his sleeve, only to see them
come up short time and again. Yet, there he was time after time drinking
from the trough hoping against hope the next one would be the charm, just
like the rest of us. It’s an unspoken bond we Buffalonians have and it
doesn’t matter where you go or how old you get, you never lose it,
it’s a part of you. That’s why so many people who leave our city come
back; you don’t get that feeling anywhere else.
was especially ironic Mr. Russet passed away only 2 days before Fathers
Day. As I’m sure, you know the two books he wrote were about the bond
between fathers and their sons. It must be especially tough for his dad,
Big Russ, to outlive his famous sibling. I couldn’t imagine. Fathers Day
must have been awful. I, myself, found it tough watching the tributes and
Tiger Woods come back to tie the U.S. Open, between clips of he and his
irony aside, what does it all mean? To me it means, live life to the
fullest, show the people you love, you care and when it’s your turn, you
can look back with no regrets.
Russert only spent 58 short years with us but I’m sure there isn’t
much he would change. Seeing the love he had for everyone, and how
everyone loved him, proves it. In the near future, they will be changing
the name of Route 20 in front of the stadium as a tribute. I’m sure he
would be humbled by the honor. Hopefully, now that Tim can interview the
Big Guy in person, it won’t be long before there’s a Super Bowl parade
down Tim Russert Highway. Go Bills! Thanks, Ben
June 10, 2008
Da’Tara for winning the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes.
Big Brown was a Big Bust, disappointing many fans and their wallets, as
the big colt went off at an amazing 1 to 4 odds. For all you
non-Horseballs that means you had to wager 4 dollars to win 1. Big Brown
was in a perfect stalking position, around the final turn, but failed to
respond to jockey Kent Desormeaux’s request down the stretch. When
Desormeaux realized something was amiss, he wisely let up on the colt.
Good decision Kent, no need to risk the wrath of PETA and the $50 Million
in stud fees the horse will surely earn. No Triple Crown winner again this
year and it was 1978 when Affirmed last completed the elusive Hat Trick.
This also makes the 11th time, since Affirmed, a contender has
come up short in the Belmont. Just goes to show you how good those Triple
Crown winners must have been.
Dominick Hasek announced
his retirement, again, last Monday at the age of 43. In his retirement
address, he stated that demanding a trade from the Sabres, to the Red
Wings, was the best decision he ever made. Yeah Dominick just like that
decision you made about 8 year’s ago to retire and move back to
Czechoslovakia so your children could grow up in their native culture. How
did that work out for you? Except for the formation of Hasek’s Heroes, I
have no respect for that little bag of bones. He quit on the Sabres, and
Coach Teddy Nolan, in the middle of a playoff run causing a major rift in
the Sabres organization. He also bailed out on the Sabres after Buffalo
lost a game 7, in OT, to the Penguins, on a simple slap shot from the blue
line. Instead of manning up and taking the hit for the ‘Hardest Working
Team in Hockey’, he comes out and demands a trade. Not only that but he
insists the Sabres do not get equal value in the trade or he will retire.
Thanks for nothing Dominick, just another selfish athlete as far as I’m
concerned. Hey Dominick, why don’t you go back to Czechoslovakia and
crawl back under that rock. I hope you enjoy that 2nd Stanley
Cup goalie Chris Osgood earned while you sat on the bench. It’s all
about you Dominick.
The Buffalo Bills have
sold more that 52,000 season tickets and seats only remain for 2 of the 7
regular season games that are to be played in Buffalo. This before tickets
are even available to the general public. Need I remind you we’re
selling the place out and our team has not made the playoffs in almost a
decade. Yet, we have to endure Newspaper articles and National talk of our
team, inevitably, moving to Toronto. What more do you want Ralph, blood?
More on this in a future column.
Belated congratulations to
the Lacrosse Champion Buffalo Bandits. I have never been to a professional
lacrosse game but several people have told me it’s very exciting and
competitive. I’m going to make a point to attend a game next year.
Let’s just hope this isn’t the only Championship Buffalo ever gets to
As of this writing the
Boston Celtics have a 2-0 lead over the L.A. Lakers in the NBA
Championship Series. The Celtics have used a suffocating defense to
silence Kobe and company, not to mention a little help from the refs. The
series now shifts to L.A., for 3 games and, if the Lakers don’t sweep
their home games, you can start engraving the Shamrock on the Championship
Trophy. I know one thing for sure, the NBA would love this ‘Dream Match
Up’ to go 7 games, ratings are through the roof.
The N.Y. Yankees have
finally hit .500 and climbed out of the basement of the American League
East. It took a couple of 9th inning comeback wins to do it and
it’s no coincidence, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are back in the
lineup. The Yanks are finally getting healthy but still have a major
problem with pitching. Will the shift of Joba Chamberlain from closer, to
starter, make a big difference? I don’t really know but plugging one
hole by creating another one doesn’t make much sense to me. Look for a
trade, or the Yanks may be on the outside looking in come October.
Last, but not least, Dear
Marshawn Lynch, you may be waiting out the inevitable to get the best deal
possible from the authorities. However, in the court of public opinion
you’re already guilty. Bad move Marshawn. Do the right thing and stand
up like a man, as you should have done over a week ago. I also wonder why
no one is talking about the poor girl who was run over? Remember everyone;
Marshawn is not the victim here. Thanks, Ben
Saturday June 7, 2008
Mark's Belmont Selections
Folks: There have been 10 Belmont's in the past thirty years where attempts to win the Triple Crown have
failed. Today Big Brown will be history's 12th Triple Crown legend.
He has never been beaten, never challenged, never hard ridden. His five wins have been by a combined 39
lengths, on grass, on dirt, on five different tracks, at five different distances-two from seemingly insurmountable outside post positions.
Big Brown's main rival is the Japanese-connected Casino Drive. Casino Drive is also unbeaten and looked pretty spectacular in his lone runaway triumph in the Grade 2 Peter Pan three weeks ago. However something is amiss since Casino Drive has not worked very well since his last race or is simply not up to
snuff. I will fade him and go with Big Brown on top with a straight exacta with Denis of Cork and Icabad
The numbers are: 1 with the 4 and 10 straight exacta.
The Belmont under card is interesting with some possibilities for profitable wagering:
Race #4 - The wager is on the 5 win and place. Play 4 with the 5 in an exacta box.
Race#5 - The wager is on the 2 win and place.
Race#7 - The wager is on the 8 win and place. Play the 8 with the 3-5-10 in exacta boxes.
Race#9 - The wager is on the 9 to win only. Play 2-3-4-5-6 on top with the 9 for second in straight exactas (no boxes).
Race#12 - The wager is on the 9 win and place. Play 9 with the 1-3-5 in exacta boxes.
Thanks for tuning in and let's get ready to win,
Cordially, Mark Clement
June 3, 2008
join me in welcoming back our old friend, Handicapping Guru, Mark Clement.
Mark is going to break down the
for us today. Take it away Mark.
you ready for some horse racing? What I am talking about is the 140th
running of The Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 7th. Big Brown
has already won this race in comments by his trainer, party boy, Ricky
Dutrow Jr. Pumped higher than a blimp, Big Brown is a lock to win the
Belmont Stakes and clinch the Triple Crown. Along with Dutrow, media hype
is pouring on accolades with a trumpet blast heard around the planet: come
one, come all and see Big Brown in the greatest show on the turf.
But not so fast horse ball breath--Ricky, babe, and his media
entourage, take a deep breath; herewith a cautionary tale:
Japanese colt, Casino Drive, has a chance. His trainers sent two horses to
Australia for the biggest race, The Five Million Dollar Melbourne Cup at
two miles on the grass. Nobody thought they had a chance in the big field
of 24 horses. They were held at 18-1 and ran one, two in the race. The
Aussies didn't know what hit them. They are still looking for their
Drive is a novelty in running only two races this year. He won his first
race in Japan, in February, then came to Belmont and won the Grade Two
Peter Pan at nine furlongs last month. He won by nearly six lengths with a
higher speed-rating figure than Big Brown in his last race (The
soap opera has begun. Can Big Brown overcome the hoof injury (quarter
crack) that he suffered after the Preakness three weeks ago? Will the time
off with the injury hinder his training schedule? Will Kent Desormaux who
missed winning the Triple Crown by a nose aboard Real Quiet in 1998 get a
second chance to make history?
Desormaux lost the 1998 Belmont race by a nose to Victory Gallop after
opening a four-length lead in the stretch. Desormaux has said, "I
don't enjoy talking about getting beat (1998 Belmont Stakes). Hopefully,
no one is going to ask me about Real Quiet again". But what about the
other part of the soap opera, the unorthodox training methods by Casino
Drive's Japanese connections. Since his win in the Peter Pan, Casino Drive
has worked so slow in a gallop that it could have been timed on a
calendar. Suddenly the hype lessened on Casino Drive and Ricky Dutrow
especially dismissed him from contention. The Japanese were asked how they
expected to win the grueling mile and a half Belmont off only two lifetime
starts. They said they had trained him for it all year. "In Japan, we
get them to run uphill on a wood-chip track. Casino Drive has a very solid
foundation. In a mile and a half race, you don't know what can
Looking at the betting prospects of The Belmont, it is very
apparent that this is a two horse race: the odds will be low on both
Casino Drive and Big Brown. However the under card is attractive for
finding a value bet. There are three Grade 1 races and a pair of Grade 2
races on the under card.
I will attempt to end my loosing skein with picks on some of these
races and of course, The Belmont Stakes.
The picks will be available at 9AM Saturday, June 7th on
the internet site of
At that time, I will be able to say, "Let’s get ready to rumble".
May 13, 2008
Now that softball season is upon us, spring has finally sprung in
. Yes, the pros have been playing in the Big Leagues, and Triple A, since
the beginning of April but in my eyes, it’s not officially baseball
season until you can enjoy the sunshine, smell the fresh cut grass and
hear the crack, ‘dooh!’, the
‘ping’ of the bat. Ah softball season, where else can a man, or woman,
take refuge from the reality of middle age?
I, myself, am not particularly athletic, so I fuel my competitive
juices by watching my friends compete. The bar I frequent, I’m not
naming names but it’s located in ‘Downtown Blackrock’, sponsors
several teams and I especially enjoy watching the Ladies compete on
Tuesday nights. These women take their softball seriously and are quite
good. Many of these women have been playing for years and fit the profile
of your typical softball player, including several who ‘bat for the same
team’ (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Besides, I
certainly can’t fault anyone for liking the same things that I do.
It’s an awesome sight watching a well-endowed woman rounding the bases,
hooters flapping in all directions, trying to beat a throw home. Where
else can you get that kind of free entertainment on a warm summer’s
The league plays at Houghton Field and the diamonds there are not
very good. Holes and divots are everywhere and there’s a valley beyond
the infield. It’s particularly difficult for the infielders
backpedaling, or fielding grounders. Many of the Ladies are injured but
the City doesn’t care, the field hasn’t changed in years. It would be
nice if the City of
took a little pride in their facilities and literally, ‘leveled the
playing field’. What would it take, a backhoe, a little labor? I know
the City is poor but come on already.
I also enjoy watching the Men’s Over 35 League play at
. Most of them are my age, a lot closer to 50 than 35, but still take
pride in their performance. The problem is most of them are now carrying a
sidecar and, although the wheels are still willing, it’s the brakes that
give them the most trouble. It’s especially amusing watching them
stumble as they round the bases and dive for balls, wondering if they’ll
get up in one piece. You can bet your bottom dollar there will be several
injuries, especially early in the year. My friend Frank is a sideshow un
to himself and if I was smart enough to have my camera rolling, I could
pocket big money on
’s Funniest Home Videos.
This group of guys wins as many games as they lose but they don’t
really care. What better way to spend a couple of hours on a warm
summer’s night, than with your buds, away from your nagging wife. Then,
as nighttime descends, you trek back to the bar, talk about the game and
cap it off with couple of cold brews and a steaming stack of chicken
wings. Ah, the modern athlete, can it get any better than that?
I’m urging all you couch potatoes out there to put down the
remote, go out and enjoy summer. If you can’t play, pick a team to
follow and have a little fun. If you know someone on a softball team, go
watch them play. If your niece or nephew plays Little League, grab a
folding chair and take a hike to the park. It’s entertaining, it’s
live, it’s fun and best of all, it’s F-R-E-E that spells Free!
I’m especially looking forward to this evening because the Ladies
will be playing their first game of the season. This particular group of
Ladies has been together for several years and still has not been able to
win the league championship. The frustration is especially maddening
because it’s always the same team that gets them in the end. Rumor has
it several Ladies from the Championship team have defected to our side.
It’ll be interesting to see which ‘team’ these Ladies literally, and
figuratively, bat for tonight.
BATTER UP! Thanks, Ben
May 7, 2008
Big Brown dominated the
competition in his Kentucky Derby victory, pulling away from the field
down the stretch. Jockey Kent Desormeaux was the reason why. The wily
veteran made it look easy, guiding the big colt from the 20th
postposition to within 5 lengths of the lead in the first quarter mile. In
a race with 20 horses, the best horse does not always win. Big Brown is
lucky he had ‘Little Kent’ on his back.
The ‘Thrill of
Victory’ and the ‘Agony of Defeat’ were both on display at the Derby
finish line. Philly Eight Belles showed the boys how it’s done,
finishing second, only 4 lengths behind Big Brown. That triumph quickly
turned to tragedy as Eight Belles broke both her ankles, after the finish.
She was euthanized right on the track. PETA, People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals, predictably, was all over the widely viewed incident
pushing their own agenda. Yes, it was a tragic situation but one that has
been repeated many times. Hey PETA, are you just figuring out now a horse
with broken legs is put to death, or is this just a free publicity grab?
I’ll start listening to PETA after they solve the problems of PET-H,
‘People’s Ethical Treatment of Humans’.
Our good friend, Mark
Clement, didn’t come through with the Derby winner. His selections,
Colonel John and Pyro, finished 7th and 9th. I know
we didn’t cash, but Big Brown was a 2 to 1 favorite. It doesn’t make
sense to beat 19 horses and only get $2 in return. The early line for the
Preakness has Big Brown a phenomenal 2 to 5 favorite. He’s good, but
that’s crazy. Like Mark says, ‘If you have the $5, why do you need the
The Buffalo Bills rookie
class got together for a little bonding last week at One Bills Drive.
Coaches began to indoctrinate the newbie’s on the ways of the NFL. This
year’s class looks especially strong with speedy CB, Leodis McKelvin,
and big WR, James Hardy, looking to contribute early. The Bills are primed
for a breakout year, with an easy schedule and many starters returning
from injury. The defense looks particularly good with the addition of DT
Marcus Stroud and LB Kawika Mitchell. Now, if we can get some consistency
on offense, we may be able to reach 10 wins and the playoffs. Just don’t
get too excited, you’ll know the Bills are really good when they can
beat the Pats. This year may be a little early for that, but the closer we
get, the better. Besides, Tom Brady has to retire eventually.
I have to admit, I’m not
totally tuned in to the NHL playoffs. It’s nice to see Danny Briere
score the clutch goal and Marty Biron make the key save, but every time I
catch myself cheering for the Flyers, I want to gouge my eyes out.
The Penguins eliminated
Chris Drury and the Rangers in overtime. Predictably, Drury was hobbled
and bleeding afterward. Would he have it any other way?
San Jose and Brian
Campbell made a valiant comeback after going down 3-0 to Dallas. The
Sharks took the Stars to the fourth OT, of game 6, before bowing out.
‘Soupy’ was in the penalty box at the time. Ouch!
I reported to you on April
10, 2008 that a Canadian with deep pockets was kicking the tires on the
Sabres franchise. A month later CBC Sports has reported that Canadian
Billionaire, and Blackberry ‘Typhoon’, Jim Balsillie contacted Sabres
owner, Tom Golisano, around Christmas time about purchasing the NHL
franchise. Balsillie had previously attempted to purchase the Pittsburgh
Penguins and Nashville Predators with the sole purpose of moving them to
Hamilton. Golisano indicated he would be open to selling the club, but not
if Balsillie was planning to relocate it. The good news is, Golisano has
our backs. The bad news is, it’s obvious he’s just in this for the
money. What does this all mean? Lord Stanley’s Cup will not find a home
in Buffalo until Tom Golisano sells out to a local owner.
It feels like spring
outside. I think I’ll take a jaunt around Delaware Park, see you there.
Saturday May 3, 2008
Mark's Derby Selections
The holiest day of the year for the horseballs is here and I'll get right to it: my pick for the Derby is 9 Pyro and the other at shorter odds is 10 Colonel John.
Sorry, no block busters since this year's Derby field looks weak compared to previous Kentucky Derby Races.
20 Big Brown is the horse to beat and will be short odds. Conditioning plays a big part in the Derby and 20 Big Brown lacks enough races and coupled with an extended layoff since his last race adds more burden to his chances of winning besides poor post position draw; and I reiterate he is the favorite.
With great trepidation I'll select 9 Pyro who will be a strong closer against all that early speed and hope 20 Big Brown will have to extend himself at the beginning of the race and is softened up vying against the other speedsters.
However my gut feeling is that 9 Pyro will become the darling of the wise-guys and thus a sure bet to join the previous grave yard of losers who are bet down before post time.
10 Colonel John could be overlooked with all his races on a synthetic track. Not only is he an excellent closer but his sensational workout on the dirt track at Churchill at 5 furlongs shows also a liking for the local surface. Last year the two fastest workouts at Churchill ran one-two.
What to do?? Let the odds determine your bet; and don't worry the afternoon odds do not change all that much until posttime.
Bet both 10 Colonel John and 9 Pyro if either one or both are at least 5-1. Bet win and place.
Play straight exactas(no boxes) 9 on top with 6,10,16,19.
Play again straight exactas(no boxes) 10 on top with 6,9,16,19.
With 20 entrants you will need great luck to cash in this mother of all chaotic sport events.
If you lasted this far I'm including a strong play for the Derby Day wagering:
Race 8 at Churchill; wager win and place on 6 Windyindy. Also wager on an exacta box of nos. 6-7-9.
All the best with your selections,
Cordially, Mark Clement
April 30, 2008
Derby Q & A
May 3rd, is the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby
and I have a real treat for all you Horseballs out there. We have an
interview with my good friend, Mark Clement, winner of the 2006 Horse
Player World Series in Las Vegas. Mark is going to help us break down this
year’s race. Hopefully, he’ll do better than last year.
After blowing last year's Kentucky Derby, what makes you think you’re
able to win this year?
First of all, I do not necessarily look for the winner of the Derby but
for contenders who can pay a large price when they win.
How can you throw out the obvious standout horse for one that does not
have much of a chance?
Although, there are contenders who do have a chance to win, the race is so
chaotic that many times the best horse does not win. Sometimes the
favorite simply gets beat because of a bad ride by the jockey, or by
circumstances such as racing wide on the turn, or being cut off by another
horse when making a move in the race. This happens more often in the Derby
because there is a large field of entrants. Also, none of the horses have
run this elongated distance of one and a quarter mile. We're wagering on a
horse to do something that it hasn't done before. It's usually best to go
for a price to compensate for the unknown.
That makes sense Mark. Now, what makes a contender?
I prefer horses who have a foundation--which is the conditioning (races
and workouts) leading to Derby Day. Paramount is the number of races this
year must be three or more. Very few have won without three current (2008)
preps. Also, the last race should be within 28 days of Derby Day. Stats
show that starters racing off a 28 plus day layoff have a combined 32
starts but only 1 win and 1 place in the last 22 Derbys. The old adage
that "Pace makes the Race" takes on extra meaning in the Derby.
Hold it right there--what do you mean by pace?
Pace is running style, and the proper winning Derby pace is broken down to
winning races by 23% stalkers (1-3 lengths behind the front runner), by
23% rally (6 lengths or more behind the pace setter) and by 36% deep rally
(more than 10 lengths behind the pace setter). Also if the pace
prognosticator can reasonably map out the internal fractions, history will
point out the running style most likely to win. I use a computer for the
pace match-ups and I feel this is my edge compared to the average
Mark, this is just a lot of mumbo jumbo to me; all I want is the winner.
I recommend, because of the large number of entrants in the race, that
wagers should be made not only on the win position, but also on the place
position. I would make only small exacta and triactor bets since horses
finishing in the minor money positions sometimes do not figure, and it
becomes a crapshoot rather than handicapping.
Mark, you’re starting to make me dizzy.
That’s not very hard to do Ben. However, there is a lot more to consider
such as workouts, trainers and jockeys, breeding for the distance, the
bounce factor, the wise guy factor.
Wise Guy factor? You mean like the Sopranos?
No, all these horses still have their heads attached.
Very funny, but enough is enough. I need to post your selections on my
website, www.benspicks.com, by 9AM Saturday, May 3rd; and don't
stink up my site, and column, with any more of your losers.
Benny, now I know why you never got married.
We all can’t be as lucky as you Mark, Lynnie is a Saint.
Thanks Mark, if you pick a winner, maybe we’ll see you at the Preakness.
Don’t forget to go to www.benspicks.com
on Saturday morning to access Mark’s selections. Click Mark’s Derby
Selections. Thanks, Ben
April 23, 2008
release of the upcoming Buffalo Bills schedule is usually a day I look
forward to with great anticipation and optimism. It’s fun to look over
Buffalo’s opponents and wonder how many games they can actually win.
This year, when I examined it, I got a queasy feeling in the pit of my
stomach. Those of you who’ve seen the ‘Buddha’ know it’s not
something easily ignored.
on December 7, 2008, Pearl Harbor Day, in HOME GAME capital letters it
says, ‘MIAMI DOLPHINS (TORONTO)’. The reality hit me right then and
there, the Bills are actually playing a regular season home game in the
land of hosers and donuts and it isn’t just any home game, it’s the
hated Dolphins. My stomach did a summersault. The queasy sensation
simmered and then boiled over until it finally settled into a feeling of
dread. It felt like the beginning of the end.
could that be? We’ve backed this team for 47 years, sometimes 80,000
strong, win or lose, through thick and thin, in blizzards and sub-zero
temperatures, paid for stadiums and scoreboards, made Ralph Wilson a
Billionaire and what has it gotten us? Nothing, no Super Bowl
Championship, no thank you’s, just a big fat punch in the gut. Where’s
can still vividly remember the first game I ever attended at the old
‘Rock Pile’ on Best Street. It was the late 60’s, the Bills were
past their AFL glory days and in a nosedive, on their way to drafting O.J.
Simpson. I was only about 11 at the time and up until then football was
black and white and limited to a 20-inch screen. My dad loved football and
decided to take the family to a rare night game against the Kansas City
Chiefs and Coach Hank Stram.
was quite an experience for an 11 year old because television wasn’t the
only thing that was black and white in those days. In the 60’s, when you
crossed Main Street, into the East Side, it was the difference between
night and day. Black people lived on one side of Main and white on the
other. There was very little in between, especially for an 11 year old.
can still remember the traffic, parking on someone’s lawn, all the
people, the buzz, going through the turnstiles, the toilets overflowing,
and the drunks. But, the thing I remember the most was walking through the
isle, to our seats, and nighttime turning into day, like a black and white
television turning into color. There in front of me, like Dorthy arriving
in the ‘Land of Oz’, the bright lights illuminated a standing red
bison painted on a bright green grass field. Wow, I was awestruck and
hooked for life.
game itself left much to be desired, the Chiefs were contenders and the
Bills were pretty bad. Buffalo was down a couple of scores with about a
minute to play and K.C. had the ball inside the Bills 10-yard line. All
that was left was for K.C. to run out the clock. Instead, the Chiefs
called a timeout before the clock ran out and scored a seemingly
meaningless TD. I turned to may Dad and asked why. He said, he didn’t
know why either. Years later, I learned Hank Stram was a notorious gambler
and needed the TD so the Chiefs could cover a huge double-digit spread.
It’s funny, I was only a kid and didn’t know anything about gambling
but I still knew something was not kosher.
point to the story is this, that day I turned into a lifelong Bills fan.
Yeah, I criticize and call them out when they mess up but it’s like the
relationship you have with your brother or sister. You argue and complain
about them but it’s because you care. Now, what does it all mean? We
treat the Bills like family and the Bills treat us like dollar $igns.
easy to figure out, just do the math. Our stadium holds about 72,000 at an
average ticket price of approximately $70. That comes out to about $5
Million a game. The Rogers Centre in Toronto holds about 53,000 but
they’ll be charging upwards of $150 a ticket. At that price, the total
gate comes out to about $8 Million a game. That’s an extra $3 Million a
game and that’s a conservative estimate, it’s probably more.
obvious Ralph has this franchise pointed due north and there’s nothing
much we can do about it. The Bills are presently on pace to sell more
season tickets than they ever have before. That doesn’t matter. The
Bills have sold out almost every game this century despite the fact they
have yet to make the playoffs. What do we get for this loyalty? Our
favorite game versus the Dolphins is hijacked and escorted over the border
and that’s just the beginning. There’ll be more of the same in the
next 5 years. Then the stadium lease will be up. What if Ralph kicks the
bucket in the meantime? It’s going to get ugly my friends and we’re
the ones who’ll get the short end of the stick.
Bills say that’s not what’s going to happen but I don’t believe a
word of it. I hope I’m wrong but this feeling in the pit of my stomach
says otherwise. I know you can’t really compare something like this to
war, but the U.S. got stabbed in the back in 1941 and I get the feeling
the same thing is going to happen to us Bills fans. If it does, you can
bet your bottom dollar the Bills and the NFL will never get another dollar
from me. In contrast to that great day 40 years ago that I will never
forget, let’s hope December 7, 2008 is not a date that will live in
Buffalo Bills ‘Infamy’. Thanks, Ben
April 9, 2008
Sabres on the Golf Course
that the Sabres are officially resigned to the golf course for the year,
let’s take the time to ‘address’ the 18 Holes that led them there.
In the famous words of Ralph Kramden’s favorite punching bag, Ed Norton,
Yes, it was inspiring to
see him skate in the final game versus the Bruins but Teppo Numminen’s
heart condition forced him to miss the entire competitive season. Make no
mistake about it; the Sabres missed the smooth skating veteran and could
have used his steady hand with all the youngsters on this squad. The
Sabres organization showed no class by suspending him for his medical
condition and don’t think the rest of the NHL is not watching.
As in 2 defensemen, Henrik
Tallinder and Toni Lydman. These two aging veterans showed very little
inspiration and lacked competitive spirit throughout the year. Talk about
showing up and collecting a pay check, where’s the passion?
Defenseman Dmitri Kalinin,
time to pull the plug on this Petri dish. I don’t know what this guy’s
problem is, but he definitely doesn’t want to play hockey. I hope he
likes picking ice cubes out of his butt back in Siberia. See-Ya.
Jason Peters, I’m sorry,
the guy tries, but this is a wasted roster spot. Peters has no hockey
skills and is an average pugilist at best.
Ales Kotalik, yes Al you
have a great slap shot and you can score in the shootout, but is that all
there is? You’re a big guy and we don’t need another Miro Satan.
Tim Connolly was supposed
to replace Daniel Briere. Connolly tried hard to stay in the lineup, but
only played 48 games and many of those were under duress. His absence
neutered the power play, especially down the stretch. Management, you
should’ve known better, he is obviously injury prone.
Speaking of Daniel Briere,
he and the Philadelphia Flyers finished with the sixth seed, 5 points
ahead of Buffalo. Do you think those positions would’ve been reversed
with his 40 goals and shootout skills back in our locker room?
Maxim Afinogenov only
potted 10 goals in an injury prone 56 games. Mad Max reminds me of the
Scarecrow in the ‘Wizard of Oz’. How long are we supposed to wait
until his brain catches up with his skill? Enough is enough already, Max
is not a kid anymore.
Thomas Vanek had 36 goals
for the season but was very inconsistent. The 10 Million Dollar Man needs
to step up every night, not just when things are going well. It can’t be
a Hat Trick, then 10 games without a goal. Now, take a breather we’re at
The monthly roving
captain, it’s time to end this experiment. If you pick a new Captain
every month, that means you don’t have any Captain. Lindy, pick the
leader and stick with him. My choice is Thomas Vanek. Vanek is the highest
paid player; put the pressure on him to perform every game.
What a joke, Ryan Miller
had to play 35 games in a row. Lindy, if you can’t trust your backup
goalie, Jocelyn Thibault, you don’t have a backup goalie. The Sabres
rode Miller like a rented mule. He was mentally and physically fried by
the end of the season.
Going 5-7-3 down the
stretch at home, including losses to Montreal and Ottawa, after leading
3-1 deep in the 3rd period. This is unacceptable. There were
also several stretches during the season where we couldn’t buy a point.
One of those stretches was
towards the end of February, right around the trading deadline. That was
when our old friend, Brian ‘Soupy’ Campbell was left to twist in the
wind. Campbell didn’t know if he was coming or going and it had to
affect the entire team. San Jose went 20 games without losing when the
Soupster came aboard. Talk about Jumping the ‘Shark’, you’re welcome
San Jose. I miss the Spin-O-Rama. I hope the Sharks win it all.
Lindy Ruff made several
mistakes. He didn’t manage the psyche of this young team very well. The
Sabres were very erratic and Lindy didn’t have any answers. Lindy
could’ve used some veteran leadership and there was none. Ruff also
botched the goalie rotation and couldn’t get the team turned around,
going 4-9 in shootouts.
GM Darcy Regier needed to
pull a rabbit out of his butt at the trading deadline and all he came up
with was Steve Bernier. Don’t get me wrong, Bernier is a young tough
guy, but he’s not going to push you over the top during a playoff run.
The biggest hole of all
was no Chris Drury. I know we’ve beaten it to a pulp but his absence had
a huge domino affect on this franchise. Without a true Captain, there was
no leadership. Without leadership, there was no accountability. Without
accountability, there is no discipline. Without discipline, there is no
team. When things started heading south, there was no one who could lead
them from the abyss. His absence is the main reason the Sabres went from
the Penthouse to the Outhouse in one short year.
Managing Partner Larry
‘Brass Pro’ Quinn. Talk about a guy having his head up his butt. I
believe he is one of the main reasons why we are now missing our 3 best
players, Drury, Briere and Campbell. Management’s unwillingness to ink
them to long-term deals, when they had the chance, has put the Sabres in
this predicament. Now, without any playoff revenue, the preverbal chickens
have come home to roost. Penny wise and pound foolish. In an AP interview,
earlier this week, Quinn said the Sabres would be pro-active this year and
try to sign Ryan Miller and Jason Pominville to long-term deals. Ya think
Larry? I guess after getting hit in the head enough times with a
sledgehammer you might finally start to get it. What a jackass.
Rumor has it some Canadian
with deep pockets was kicking the tires on the Sabres franchise. He backed
off after finding out the NHL had a rule against moving until you’ve
owned the team for 7 years. Is that how it is Tom Golisano? What’s going
on here? Is the invisible owner trying to win the Stanley Cup or is he
trying to squeeze every last penny out of his investment. Tom, if you’re
not in this for the long haul, do us all a favor and sell the team to a
local businessman. If you are in this to win the Cup, then do the right
thing. You’re a Billionaire for God’s sake, spend a little money, have
a little fun. You can’t take it with you know, you’re not Ralph
Wilson. Thanks, Ben
April 2, 2008
“PLAY BALL!” It may
not feel like it when you stick your head out the door, but baseball
season is upon us my friends. That can only mean one thing sports fans
spring is in the air. Yes, baseball can be drawn out and boring, but what
else is there to watch and talk about during the dog days of summer. Of
course, we’ll have to listen to the incessant preening of entitled
Yankee fans and the obnoxious whining of Red Sox fans. I don’t take
sides, I argue with both of them. The best part of baseball season is
starting an argument, then stepping back and watching two diehards go at
it. Most times the arguments are better than the games.
FINAL FOUR x 1. The Final
4 of the NCAA Basketball Tournament square off this weekend. In a rare
happenstance, all 4 regional #1 seeds made it to the final weekend. No
Cinderella’s welcome at this dance. In a who’s who of basketball,
it’s the UCLA Bruins v the Memphis Tigers and the North Carolina Tar
Heels v the Kansas Jayhawks. UCLA will be looking to close the deal after
making its third straight Final 4 and Memphis, despite only losing one
game all year, will be looking for respect. It’ll be a grudge match in
the other game, as the Kansas faithful will be looking for revenge after
getting dumped by Tar Heel Coach Roy Williams. These are all great teams
worthy of winning it all. It’s going to be a fun weekend.
In breaking news, ‘Ralph
Wilson is not senile’. Two years ago the Buffalo Bills owner, along with
Cincinnati Bengal head man, Mike Brown, were the only owners to vote NO on
the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement with the Players
Association. The vote was 30-2. Both Brown and Wilson, vilified for being
cheapskates (which they are), were portrayed as being out of touch with
the rest of the league. Ralph looked especially bad after a couple of
sound bites made it to the national media. Babbling will do that when
you’re in your 80’s. Now on the front page of the April 1, 2008
Buffalo News, ‘NFL owners now agree Wilson was right’. No, it wasn’t
an April Fools joke. Other owners are now beginning to agree with Wilson
that they were wrong to increase the player’s share of annual revenues
from 54% to 59.5%. Now it is almost a given the owners will vote to opt
out of the agreement by November, then they will have until March of 2009
to come to a new agreement. That won’t be easy considering what happened
last time and the fact union chief, Gene Upshaw, has already dug in his
heels. What does it all mean to you and me the average fan? If there is no
agreement by next March, 2009 will be the last year with a salary cap,
2010 will have no salary cap and 2011 will probably result in a lockout by
owners. Ah the business of sports, millionaires arguing with billionaires.
Keep that zipper closed tight on your change purse Ralph.
Lock the doors and hide
the women and children, it’s the 3rd period and the Sabres
are ahead 3-1. With their playoff lives on the line, the Sabres snatched
defeat from the jaws of victory versus the Ottawa Senators and Montreal
Canadians last week. Did you ever see a more pathetic display of choking
in your life? Where’s Chris Drury when you need him? Oh yea, ‘Captain
Clutch’ is scoring the overtime goal to beat the Penguins and clinch the
New York Rangers spot in the playoffs. What a difference a year makes.
More on this next week. Thanks, Ben
March 19, 2008
Don’t look now but the ‘Madness’ is upon us my friends. I
know most of you out there are not basketball fans but if you’re any
kind of a sports fan, you have to love this time of the year.
After all the NCAA tournament is the purest form of the game. No 5
Star hotel rooms, no private jets, no fat cat NBA millionaires, just raw,
emotional, 19 and 20 year olds playing for the name on the front of the
jersey not the one on the back.
Last year the first and second round games took place at HSBC Arena
and they were two of my favorite days of the year. Downtown Buffalo was
vibrant and alive with young people and basketball fans. There was an air
of anticipation; everyone knew they were going to see something new and
original and they did.
There were upsets, comebacks, triumphs and disappointments. Reality
TV my butt, nothing beats the reality of a senior shooting a free throw,
the whole world watching, with the game and his career on the line. Now
that’s real, win or lose, you can see the sweat on his brow and feel the
raw emotion. Those guys are my ‘Idols’, not some powdered up jackass
looking for the approval of a twerpy Englishman, an overweight wanna be
and a drugged up has been. Who’s the real American Idol my friends?
One of the best parts of the 3 weeks of festivities does not even
involve a game. It’s the Sunday prior, when the brackets are revealed.
Once the brackets are announced, the whining begins. Every year several
teams feel they are deserving of a bid but are left out of the
competition. Sorry, but if it wasn’t the 66th team, it would
be the 129th team. The committee has to make the cut somewhere
so, if you want to make it to the ‘Big Dance’, you’d better be sure
your ticket is punched early, and often.
Then the talking heads take over. Expert after expert break down
the Brackets like a car mechanic takes apart an engine. Dickie V, Bobby
Knight, by the time they’re done, I don’t know if I’m coming or
going. I know more about these teams then I ever thought I would but I’m
so dizzy, I still can’t decide who to pick. North Carolina, Kansas,
Memphis, UCLA, no matter, by Wednesday, it’ll be dartboard time and my
Bracket will be submitted one way or the other. Win, lose or draw, where
else can you get 3 weeks of entertainment for only $20, or free online?
By the time Thursday afternoon rolls around, the Soap Operas are
put on hold and there’s no way any work’s going to get done. I guess
those taxes will have to wait until tomorrow, wait, Friday’s more of the
same. I guess Uncle Sam’s going to have to wait until next week. I
wonder how much work time is lost filling out Brackets and tracking games
online. I’m glad I’m not paying the bill.
The anticipation is fun but nothing beats the actual games. Last
second shots, 3-point bombs, and new heroes are on the horizon. Who will
be this year’s also ran? Who will wear Cinderella’s slipper? I don’t
know but I can’t wait to find out. You want Reality TV stay tuned, the
‘Madness’ has just begun. Now, somebody get me a straight jacket.
March 14, 2008
Rung at a Time
The Buffalo Bills began their ascent from the playoff abyss with
the start of the NFL Free Agency period. Bills management hit the ground
running with a plan and purpose, the results will be clearly visible come
opening day in September.
The plan: make the Bills bigger and stronger, especially on
defense. The purpose: getting to the NFL postseason and eventually
competing for a championship.
On February 29th, Buffalo wasted no time locking up
former NY Giant linebacker Kawika Mitchell to a 5-year, $17.5 million
deal. Mitchell is big; 6-foot-1 and 253 pounds, versatile; he plays all 3
downs, and a Super Bowl Champ. Mitchell is physical player; can run and
cover and finished the year with 87 tackles and 3.5 sacks. With middle
linebacker Paul Posluszny, coming back from injury, and strong side
linebacker Angelo Crowell, the Bills now have 3 starters that can run and
play all 3 downs.
On March 1st the Bills beefed up their run defense by
trading for former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Marcus Stroud.
Buffalo gave up third and fifth round draft picks for the gargantuan, run
stuffing, Stroud. A small price to pay for a 3 time Pro Bowler and someone
who will raise the level of play of everyone around him. At 6-foot-6 and
310 pounds, Stroud is a beast. He pushes the pocket and cannot be easily
moved by one man. He will clog up the middle, allowing linebackers
Crowell, Posluszny, and Mitchell, more room to run to the ball and make
open field tackles.
The added bonus to the Stroud addition is, his presence will make
speed rushing defensive ends Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel more
effective. Kelsay and Schobel had a sub par year in 2007. In fact, the
Bills sack total dropped to 26 last year, compared to 40 in 2006. Without
a force at defensive tackle, the opposition could focus their attention on
the defensive ends, nullifying their speed. Now, with the opposing offense
having to use two players to neutralize Stroud, this will free up the ends
to attack the QB. This quote from Schobel after he learned of Stroud’s
acquisition, “Yeah, I’m happy. He can change the whole way we play
defense. He’s a difference maker.” Amen brother.
Buffalo signed Free Agent defensive tackle Spencer Johnson,
formerly of the Vikings, to a 5-year deal worth $17.5 million. Johnson
backed up former Bill, Pat Williams, in Minnesota, can play several
positions and is a welcome addition to the defensive line rotation. That
rotation includes an improving John McCargo and Kyle Williams. As you all
know, you can never have enough good defensive lineman, as evidenced by
the New York Giants run through the playoffs last year. It was the Giant
defensive line that got them to the top and the pressure they put on New
England QB Tom Brady won them a Super Bowl. Being that they have to play
the Patriots twice a year, the Bills are obviously taking a cue from the
The Bills are looking for some size and speed on offense,
especially at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Buffalo signed
journeyman tight end Courtney Anderson. Anderson is big, 6-foot-6, 270
pounds, and will compete with incumbent Robert Royal for playing time.
Buffalo also interviewed several Free Agents, including tight end Ben
Troupe, from Tennessee, full back Corey McIntyre, from Atlanta and WR
Bryant Johnson of Arizona. WR Johnson is the big prize here, he’s
averaged over 40 catches a year playing behind Pro Bowlers Larry
Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Johnson is big at 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds,
but he’s also fast, doing the 40 yard dash in 4.38 seconds. The problem
is, Johnson is visiting several other teams and there may be a bidding war
for his services. If there is, it is almost certain the Bills will not
participate. In any bidding war, you can bet your bottom dollar Bills
owner, Ralph Wilson, will be a conscientious objector. Maybe Ralph can
seek asylum in Canada. Oops, sore subject.
The draft will be here in mid April and whatever the Bills miss in
Free Agency, I’m sure they will be hunting for on draft day. Although
Buffalo gave up a 3rd and 5th round pick for Stroud,
the good news is they were additional picks they had in those rounds.
There is also the possibility QB J.P. Losman might be traded by then,
adding additional picks. Personally, I would prefer J.P. stay here as
Trent Edwards backup, but you can’t blame the guy for wanting a shot
elsewhere. After all, he’s had a bum deal here and hasn’t made much of
a stink about it. He deserves to get his wish.
It’s been a long 10-year drought since the Buffalo last qualified
for the playoffs but, Step-By-Step, the Bills are slowly beginning to
improve. Let’s just hope the ladder is strong enough to hold all of us.
Check out my NCAA Tournament picks,
next Wednesday, at www.benspicks.com
March 5, 2008
You Know the Way to
In a strange twist of fate, singer Dionne Warwick was in town last
Monday night, to perform the Burt Bacharach standard at the Seneca Niagara
Casino. Sadly, defenseman Brian ‘Soupy’ Campbell, and the rest of the
Sabre Nation already know the answer to the question, ‘Do you know the
way to San Jose?’
The way to San Jose is paved in gross mismanagement and pure
Its come down to this, a player the Sabres developed and
desperately need, someone reduced to tears at the mere thought of leaving,
a teammate that’s respected and inspires and a player the fans love, is
traded because the Sabres front office can’t get its head out of its own
derriere. Are you listening, Darcy ‘My Hands Are Tied’ Regier, Larry
‘Bass Pro’ Quinn and especially you, Tom ‘Alligator Arms’
Sabres management is just plain stupid because they refuse to learn
from their mistakes. Soupy should have been ‘canned’, at the beginning
of the season, for $25 Million over 5 years. Yes, that’s an exorbitant
amount of money but after offering the two time All Star a contract worth
$18 Million over 3 years last week, and it getting torn up in their face,
that first figure looks mighty tasty.
The sad part is management refuses to learn their lesson. Didn’t
we just go through this with the Chris Drury and Daniel Briere debacle?
What did they learn, Nothing! What about the mishandling of Thomas
Vanek’s contract? They let the Edmonton Oilers set Vanek’s price
instead of taking care of their own business.
Why are the Sabres being reactive, letting the marketplace set the
price for these players, instead of being proactive and locking these guys
up before things get out of hand? It doesn’t make any sense.
Who is ultimately to blame? The puck stops at the top my friends.
Tom Golisano signs the ‘Paychexs’ and makes the final decisions. Mr.
Golisano is a successful businessman and a Billionaire, but you can’t
run a hockey club like you run Paychex. At Paychex, if an employee demands
too much money, you can tell him to take a hike because there is someone
just as qualified waiting in the wings. In sports, an above average employee
is a commodity that needs to be protected because they can’t easily be
In the last two years alone, the Sabres have lost Jay McKee, Mike
Grier, J.P. Dumont, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, and Brian Campbell.
That’s the nucleus of a pretty good hockey team, a Stanley Cup contender
if you ask me. Isn’t it funny how, with those guys, the Sabres make a
couple of nice playoff runs. Now, without them, we’ll be lucky just to
make the playoffs.
Maybe that’s when it’s all going to make sense to old Alligator
Arms Golisano. If the Sabres miss the playoffs, those added millions
don’t come rolling in this April. Reality can be a cold, hard, slap in
the face to someone who only thinks about the bottom line.
You can already see the consequences of Campbell’s absence. Shots
allowed are up 7, from 28 to 35. Save percentage is down to .867 from
.909. Penalty kill is an embarrassing 57% down from 85%. The most telling
sign, goals against are up to 4.67 from 2.78. That’s almost a solid 2
goals a game. This is only a 3 game sample, but watch out, there’s only
16 games left and time is running out.
The Sabres, currently mired in 9th place, are on a 1-3-1
losing trend, all home games. Two of those loses were to the Rangers and
Flyers, teams they’re chasing. Also, goalie Ryan Miller, next on the new
contract list, is starting his 20th game in a row and in need
of a break. Things don’t look good.
The bottom line here is, the boys in the Blue and Gold better get
it turned around soon or, by Saint Patrick’s Day, they too will know
‘The Way to San Jose’ and they better bring their golf clubs. Thanks,
February 19, 2008
the Turnip Truck
Were we born yesterday? Did God pass us by when it was time to hand
out the brains? Are we dumber than we look? Are we all blonde, okay that
last one was a low blow.
The answer to those questions is obvious. However, to be a sports
fan nowadays, you must check your intelligence at the door and file your
logic where the sun doesn’t shine.
Roger ‘The Truth Dodger’ Clemens, testifying before Congress,
would have us believe everyone around him was doing HGH, Human Growth
Hormone, yet he was oblivious to the fact and his butt is pristine. Brian
McNamee testified, under threat of prison, he injected Roger, his wife and
his ‘former’ best friend, Any Pettitte, with HGH. McNamee was
Clemens’ own personal trainer. He followed him from the Blue Jays to New
York, at Roger’s request. McNamee has a syringe and bloody gauze he says
he used to inject Roger. Rogers’ wife admits to it. Andy Pettitte admits
to it and admits knowledge that Roger did it. But, somehow Roger was above
Were we born yesterday, Roger?
Bill Beli-Cheat, a.k.a. ‘The Hoodie’, would have us believe all
this Spygate stuff was simply a misinterpretation of the rules. Matt
Walsh, a former video technician for the Patriots, claims to have evidence
he videotaped the St. Louis Rams walkthrough practice prior to Super Bowl
XLII. Walsh refuses to ‘fess up’ what he knows without complete
indemnification, this will protect him from being sued. The NFL says they
will offer indemnification as long as Walsh is truthful. The problem is,
as soon as Walsh opens his mouth, the Pats and the NFL will say he’s
lying and sue him. Talk about a Catch-22?
You can already see The Hoodie working it in the Feb. 18th
Boston Globe, “In my entire coaching career, I’ve never seen another
team’s practice film prior to playing that team. I have never
authorized, or heard of, or even seen in any way, shape, or form any other
team’s walkthrough.” This from a man who has already been fined for
cheating and admitted doing so since 2000.
Scott Pioli, the Pats vice president of player personnel, said
Walsh was terminated in January 2003 after he discovered Walsh was
“secretly tape-recording conversations between him and me.” Obviously,
he’s already trying to discredit Mr. Walsh.
Beli-Cheat, a man with a 170 I.Q., also says he “couldn’t pick
Matt Walsh out of a lineup”.
Hey Bill, did God pass us by when it was time to hand out the
To top it all off, ESPN and all the other outlets are burying this
story on the back pages. Do you think that has something to do with the
fact these news outlets are in bed with the NFL? Isn’t it obvious, if
the NFL loses credibility, ESPN, NBC, CBS, Fox and the NFL all lose money?
Stay down Mr. Walsh; don’t say a word until you get total
indemnification from Senator Arlen Specter and Congress.
Ralph Wilson would have us believe, the Buffalo Bills playing 5
regular season games and 3 preseason games in Toronto will help keep the
Bills in Buffalo. Ralph, flanked by 5 time Billionaire Ted “The
Vulture” Rogers, said with a straight face, “Hey, I can’t speculate,
But don’t worry. Don’t worry right now.”
Are we dumber than we look, Ralph?
Toronto, a city of some 4 Million, has nothing but cash and can’t
wait to get its hands on an NFL franchise. The NFL will never grant them
one as long as the Bills are close by they are in Buffalo territory. The
only way they are going to get one, is to steal ours in the middle of the
I’m worried, very worried.
Hold on tight Buffalo, it’s getting awful deep out there and you
wouldn’t want to fall off the turnip truck now. Thanks, Ben
The sight of Florida
Panther, Richard Zednik, skating to the bench, clutching his throat and
trailing a pool of blood, will be one Sabre fans never forget, myself
included. Zednik was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, when teammate
Olli Jokinen’s flying skate caught him. However, he was in the right
place, at the right time, to receive the immediate medical attention that
saved his life. Kudos to Dr. Leslie Bisson and everyone involved. The
thing that gets me thinking is, what if this happened at a high school or
peewee game? It should be mandatory that children wear all the protection
available for obvious reasons.
The irony of the Zednik
situation is the similar nature of Clint Malarchuck’s horrific injury
some 19 years ago. The double irony is Dr. Bisson was also the first
responder for Kevin Everett’s spinal injury 5 months ago. It’s good to
know we have topnotch medical care in this area. Let’s hope we don’t
have to see them in action again for a long, long, time.
Don’t look now but the
Sabres are on a mini run, 4-0-2, and on the cusp of a playoff berth with
the Senators on deck, (this was written prior to the Ottawa game). High
priced winger, Thomas Vanek has contributed with 4 goals in the last 6
games. It’s about time. That’s 10 Million dollars, divided by 16
goals, a mere $625,000 per goal. What a deal, I’ll bet Owner, Tom
Golisano, wishes he would’ve signed Vanek before Free Agency now. It’s
better to be proactive, than reactive. Nuff said.
Speaking of high priced
Free Agents. The Sabres are making a last ditch effort to sign All Star
defenseman, Brian ‘Soupy’ Campbell, while they’re in Ottawa.
Campbell’s agent is based in Ottawa and this may be their last chance to
lock him up before the trading deadline. If he doesn’t sign by then,
he’s as good as gone. The Sabres can’t afford to lose another All Star
and get nothing in return. Do the right thing Mr. Golisano, we love Soupy,
he’s MMM,MMM, GOOD!
Last week Mr. Golisano did
the right thing and reiterated his interest in purchasing the Bills.
Let’s hope Ralph does the right thing. Ralph, why do you want to take
your ownership of the Bills to the grave? What is that going to prove,
what a pigheaded old geezer you are? The vultures from Toronto are
circling overhead, waiting to pick apart your bones. You make the call
Ralph, save the team for the area and become a hero, or be vilified upon
your demise. You can’t take it with you.
Speaking of the vultures
from Toronto, Ted Rogers is worth 4.9 Billion and he can’t wait to get
his beak on the Bills’ carcass. Did you see that look on his face when
they were announcing the upcoming Bills games in Toronto? I couldn’t
stand it. I wanted to reach right into the TV and put my hands around his
neck. I don’t like people from Toronto; they have this smug sense about
them, as if they’re entitled, just because they’re from Toronto.
Rogers took great pleasure in announcing they would be charging $250 per
ticket for the Toronto games. Nice guy to hang around with Ralph, maybe
you can start kissing Jerry Jones’ butt too.
Speaking of Jerry Jones,
Ralph compared Toronto to Dallas because of all the construction cranes he
witnessed on his way in. Then he started bad mouthing Buffalo, using the
same old lines we’ve been hearing from him since the 60’s. Hey Ralph,
ain’t it funny how even though people are leaving the area, you still
sell out almost every game despite the fact the Bills haven’t been to
the playoffs in a decade. Why don’t you look at yourself in the mirror
and give us something worth watching for our money. How long do you think
that’s going to fly in Toronto, at $250 per ticket? Why don’t you lob
us a thank you once in a while, for making you a multi-millionaire,
instead of punching us in the gut.
You’re welcome Ralph.
Now show a little gratitude and do the right thing.
Information Purposes Only - Not Intended For
Anyone Under 21 Years of Age
– Against Spread
- Ben’s Power Rating
– Back To Back
– Opp. result
– Double Digit Dog
- Double Digit Favorite
DIV - Division
F – Favorite
SAND - Sandwich game
H – Home
HD – Home Dog
HF – Home Favorite
HOME TEAM – In Capitals
LW – Last Week
– Last Year
- Non Division
– Over /Under
– Straight Up