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Transcript of Page 2 SPORTS & LEISURE MAGAZINE July 2009

S&L-July-2009Page 2 SPORTS & LEISURE MAGAZINE July 2009
If the Buffalo Bills haven’t opened training camp for 2009 by the time you read this, their bags will be packed, and one of the most anticipat- ed seasons in recent memory will be just around the corner.
The signing of Terrell Owens has stirred interest in the team and given fans hope that the revamped offense will help carry them to a playoff berth.
However, any thoughts of the playoffs, or even any attempt to measure the team’s improvement, hinges on the rest of the teams in the divi- sion. We take a look at what the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots did in the offseason, and how it stacks up to the changes at One Bills Drive.
While the Bills were mak-
ing some large changes in Orchard Park, the Sabres, by contrast, didn’t make any huge waves pre or post draft. After serving as the paradigm for the post-lockout league, the Sabres are looking to read- just to the new realities of a bigger, more physical style of play. Our draft coverage looks at what the Sabres have done in years past and what is needed for a promising 2009- 2010. The Amerks will also look to change their fortunes with former Sabres coach Ten Nolan stepping in as Vice President of Hockey Operations.
With the Home-Run Derby and All-Star game a recent memory, summer still means baseball, even in Alaska. Bob Plezia shares his experience of
taking part in the Summer Solstice Game and we have not one but two local players whose names were called in the MLB entry draft. Our baseball trivia will test your knowledge and fantasy base- ball tips should help move your clubhouse to the top of the league.
Summertime is also syn- onymous with golf. WNY has lots of great courses. We review The Links at Ivy Ridge and Hickory Ridge and Rick Zurak dishes on the best places to play golf in Canada.
••••••••• Our thoughts go out to our
chief photographer, Jeff Barnes, on the recent loss of his dad.
From the Publisher
Sports & Leisure Magazine 469 Virginia Street, Buffalo, New York 14202 Tel.: (716) 876-2738, Fax: (716) 874-8289
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Publisher & Editor Marian Giallombardo Associate Editor Jeffrey Levine Feature Writers Robert Caico, Rick Davenport, Peter Farrell, Mike Fox, Shirley Giallombardo, Ivan the Impaler, Ed Kilgore, Shawn Krest (Buffalo Managing Editor), George Kuhn, Andrew Kulyk, Jeffrey Levine, Brian Mazurek, AdamMcGill, Brian Michalek, Ron Montesano, Len Mytko, Gary Reeves, Charles Roberts, Dave Sully, John Williams, Rick Zurak (golf editor) Chief Photographer Jeff Barnes Staff Photographers Ryan Bartholomew, Bob Conlon, Nick LoVerde, Joe Valenti, Mike Majewski Cover photos Trent Edwards by Joe Valenti, Guillermo Sanchez by Bob Caico Advisory Board: Phil Haberstro, Adam Lingner, Denny Lynch, Shauna Stisser Contributing Writers Cheryl Bartholomew, Josh Colligan, Sarah Delmonte, Casey Fenton, Glen Jackson, Joe Kirchmyer, Greg Kowalczyk, Paul McCarthy, Matthew Miranda, John Perrelli, Bob Plezia, Ben Raby, Dave Ricci, Angela Stephano, Ken Shoemaker, Phil Taylor Layout & Cover Scott Appleby, Graphic artist Liz Seivert Assignment Editor Shawn Krest Copy Editors and Office Assistants Jeffrey Levine, Len Mytko, Justin Vernold, John Williams Interns Daniel Bates, Josh Colligan, Sarah Kubiniec Please send your letters, questions, and comments to: Sports & Leisure Magazine, 469 Virginia Street, Buffalo, NY 14202 or e-mail [email protected]. Please include your name, address and phone number or your letter can’t be published. All letters and responses become the property of Sports & Leisure Magazine, they may be printed, and are subject to editing. Sports & Leisure Magazine is circulated throughout Western New York and Southern Ontario. All rights and trademarks reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the express written consent of the publisher is strictly prohibited. ©1997 - 2009 Sports & Leisure Inc.
By Shawn Krest The Buffalo Bills will open
training camp looking signifi- cantly different from the group that ended the 2008 season. The addition of Terrell Owens, a revamped offensive line, and the possible resurrec- tion of the no-huddle offense will create a new look when the Bills have the ball. And with several defensive players added during the draft, the team will also feature new wrinkles on that side of the ball.
Keep in mind, however, that the changes were made to a team that went winless in the AFC East - the first time that’s happened in Buffalo in more than 30 years. Any dis- cussion of the team’s prospects for the upcoming season needs to start with a look at the teams in the division. Minor improvements may be magnified if the teams Buffalo plays twice take a step back. On the other hand, if the other AFC East teams make progress, then even a signifi- cantly improved Bills team may not pay dividends on the scoreboard.
So here’s a look at how the changes since the end of 2008 will shape the Bills and their divisional opponents in 2009: Buffalo
The Bills biggest change was the addition of T.O. The move adds a scoring threat to the offense and the attention Owens will attract from defenses will make his team- mates bigger threats as well. The team is going with a younger, smaller offensive
line, which could spell prob- lems with quarterback Trent Edwards, who has struggled with injury in his short career. Or the smaller line could make it easier to run a no- huddle offense and put addi- tional pressure on defenders.
On the other side of the ball, Buffalo’s pass rush should be improved by the addition of first-round draft pick Aaron Maybin. The Bills also added depth at defensive back and linebacker, but lost corner Jabari Greer to free agency. If the kids make an immediate impact, the defense should be
as good as or slightly better than last year’s edition. Regardless, it will likely be the team’s weaker half. Miami
The Dolphins were the surprise team in the East, going from Detroit Lions level of futility to a division title in one season. Was year one of the Bill Parcells/Tony Sparano regime a flash in the pan, or does the division have a new dynasty on the horizon?
While we’re not doubting Parcells ability to build a pow- erhouse, expect the Fish to take a step back in 2008. The team clearly had an eye on the rest of the division, adding two cornerbacks on Day One of the draft to compete with top- flight wide receivers
like T.O. and Randy Moss. The team also brought back defensive end Jason Taylor after a one-year absence.
While the Dolphins’ defense should be strong, the offense could be the team’s downfall. Quarterback Chad Pennington was the comeback story of 2008, but he has never played more than 25 games in back-to-back years (which would mean slightly over half a season in 2009), nor has he ever posted back-to-back win- ning records as a starter. Furthermore, the league
showed signs of catching up with the team’s offensive inno- vation - the Wildcat formation - near the end of last season. With an offseason of tape- watching, expect opposing coaches to make their count- er-move. New England
The Patriots have been the class of the division for most of the decade, but the Pats just missed the playoffs last year.
The 2009 season basically boils down to a referendum on Tom Brady’s recovery. The All Pro quarterback went down early last year, and while back- up Matt Cassel performed bet- ter than anyone could have expected, there’s only one Tom Brady. While there have been persistent rumors that Brady has struggled in his recovery, the team put all their eggs in the Brady basket, allowing Cassel to move on to Kansas City, along with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Most teams would give any- thing to have 80 percent of Tom Brady, but given Cassel’s 2008 performance, it would
be a step backward for New England. Brady will still have Randy Moss and Wes Welker as targets, and the Pats added veteran talent in Fred Taylor, Joey Galloway, and tight end Alex Smith.
The defense lost Mike Vrabel and Ellis Hobbs, but Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden might be a net gain. While New England - and Brady - may struggle with rust early on, the transition from Cassel to Brady can’t possibly be as rocky as the sudden switch from Brady to Cassel was last season. New York Jets
No single word brings a big- ger smile to the face of divi- sional foes than “houseclean- ing.” No two words bring more joy to opponents than “rookie quarterback.”
USC standout quarterback Mark Sanchez will replace Hall of Famer Brett Favre at the helm for the Jets. He may be the quarterback of the future for the team, but like everyone from Troy Aikman to Peyton Manning, he’ll like-
ly take his lumps as a rookie. Making his debut tougher, the Jets dropped wide receiver Lavernius Coles, leaving Jerricho Cotchery as the main focus for opposing defenses.
New head coach Rex Ryan is known for his big-play defenses as a coordinator in Baltimore, and he brought linebacker Bart Scott with him to help install the playbook. Still, it might take awhile for the Rex system to be fully in effect in New York. Overall
On the surface, it appears that two teams will be worse, and one - New England - looks to be improved. That should help the Bills go from winless to at least three divi- sional wins, possibly more. Of course, at this time last year, everyone was penciling Miami in for two easy divisional wins, and the Dolphins were the only AFC East team to make the playoffs.
That’s why they don’t give out the big trophy in July.
AFC East preview: What the other guys have been up to
Photo by Joe Valenti Trent Edwards will be throwing to an exciting new target this year. But what have the other teams in the division done to counter him?
By Charles Roberts
With speculation swirling that former Buffalo Bills quar- terback J.P. Losman may be headed to the newly-formed UFL, one can’t help but con- sider the lengthy list of first- round quarterbacks his name now joins as having essential- ly played their way right out of the league.
Not including this year’s draft class, there have been 35 quarterbacks taken in the first round in the last 15 sea- sons. Of those 35, only 12 have their current team’s undivided attention as the starter. Trent Dilfer legiti- mately retired after a suc- cessful career and Steve McNair was tragically killed, while seven of them were basically forced out of the league due to lack of options - Losman being the seventh to join that club.
The 2008 class produced two immediate difference- makers, as both Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons) and Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens) led their teams to the play- offs. But then look at the 2007 class: Jamarcus Russell (Oakland Raiders) and Brady Quinn (Cleveland Browns). The Raiders claim Russell’s their guy, but for anyone that knows the game of football, with veteran Jeff Garcia sit- ting behind him, it’s highly unlikely there won’t be a competitive situation brew- ing come August. As for Cleveland, it’s a two-man show between Quinn and Derek Anderson.
Of those 35 quarterbacks, only five out of the last 15 Super Bowl-winning clubs can boast that their first- round quarterback led them there. Take Ben Roethlesberger out of the mix and suddenly that number falls to only three out 15.
For all the bad, there cer- tainly has been some good though, too. Roethlesberger has hoisted two Vince Lombardi trophies since coming out of the 2004 draft, while fellow classmate Eli Manning etched his name in one. Furthermore, out of that same pool, Philip Rivers has proved himself as a legitimate franchise quarterback in San Diego. Three out of four is
not too shabby. But that’s just it - for every
Roethlesberger, there’s a Losman. Almost every class can make that claim. In 1994, Heath Shuler and Dilfer came out. Shuler flopped, went into politics, while Dilfer won a Super Bowl. The 1998 draft produced arguably one of the best to ever play - Peyton Manning - but conversely one of the biggest busts of all- time - Ryan Leaf.
The 1999 draft was stocked full of quarterbacks, all of whom had very success- ful collegiate careers, leading several NFL scouts to believe
they’d translate into big things at the next level. Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown all went in the first- round that year. Couch, Smith, McNown? All three could be selling used cars for all we know. McNabb has obviously made a name for himself, having played in four NFC Championship
games and one Super Bowl, while Culpepper’s career has seen its ups and downs.
When the going’s good, the cameras follow you around like you have a star on Hollywood Boulevard. When the going’s not so good, well, lets just say it’s less than a desirable way to make a living (aside from the millions of dollars).
Just ask Shuler, Drunkenmiller, Leaf, Couch, Smith, McNoun, Carr, Harrington, Ramsey, Boller, Grossman, Leinart, Young and now Losman - they can all tell you something about proba- bly being booed in pub- lic, fighting for their job
and a few of them - changing careers altogether.
The list goes on and will continue to. Three quarter- backs were taken in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Mathew Stafford went first overall to the Detroit Lions, Marc Sanchez fifth overall to the New York Jets and Josh Freeman at No. 17. Is there a Roethlesberger or Manning in this year’s class? Or is this a 2002 situation, where all three guys are career back- ups?
As the old adage goes; time will tell.
Attention first-round quarterbacks: The odds are stacked against you
Photo by Joe Valenti Could J.P. Losman be heading closer to his native California as a member of the UFL’s new Las Vegas franchise?
By Charles Roberts If ever there was a
moment this season when Bisons manager Ken Oberkfell reached his boiling point, it may have been June 30 during the post-game meeting with the press.
Sweat beaded up on his forehead, Oberkfell stood there, laughing, but certainly not in a way that gave off signs of joy. More like the kind of laughter you can’t help but engage in when you are so frustrated that words simply cannot make their way out of your mouth.
“I don’t like laughing, but my God,” Oberkfell said, shaking his head in utter dis- gust following a very bizarre loss. “Wow!”
The play that pushed him over the edge was third base- man Javier Castillo picking up a slow-roller up the third base line, then, rather than making the simple flip to first for the force-out, he
erratically turned and threw the ball in the vicinity of third without having a real chance at making any sort of play there, especially since they would have needed to tag the Charlotte base-run- ner. The result was what turned out to be the game- winning run, as the runner trotted in at his own pace to break the 3-3 tie in the top of the ninth.
“I’ve been in this game for 37 years and I’ve never, ever seen that,” Oberkfell said, all the while laughing, some- what astonishingly. “I don’t know what he was thinking! I can’t explain it. These are Triple-A baseball players. I can think of a lot of ways to lose games, but this is absolutely befuddling to me.”
Plays like the aforemen- tioned have ultimately been a staple in the Bisons some- times up, but mostly down season. What’s most unfortu-
nate for the Herd though is that games such as the June 30 loss truly spoil an other- wise masterful performance by the Mets’ top pitching prospect, Jonathon Niese, who could very well be on the hill in Citi Field any time now.
For Niese, who started the season 0-6, the month of June has been like night and day for the lefty, who at one point won five straight.
Niese insisted that despite his game drastically improv- ing, he hasn’t changed any- thing mechanically and that if the parent-club Mets call, he’ll be ready.
•••••••• For as much negative
press as this Bisons team has received this season, June was actually a month for them to hang their hats on, so to speak.
Despite losing very winnable games on more than a few occasions, the
Herd managed a near .500 record at 12-15 and improved their team’s batting average to .268 from .251 in May and a ghastly .197 in April.
Some of that could be players hitting their stride and various ros- ter moves, but you cer- tainly can’t overlook the significance of new hitting coach Bill Masse.
“Sometimes in base- ball, it’s just a change is needed,” Masse said. “Me personally, my way of doing hitting is I just try to be very positive. Triple-A is not necessarily all mechanics. Guys get in that mentality of ‘Oh, here we go again.’ I’m just like, ‘don’t get down, don’t get down, stay positive.’”
Say what you want, but a fresh breath of air goes a long way, espe- cially in a struggling baseball clubhouse.
“I’d like to think that even if we’re struggling, I’m going to do the same thing,” Masse said.
•••••••• The Bisons honored for-
mer Buffalo mayor James D. Griffin when they renamed the plaza outside the Coca- Cola field “James D. Griffin Plaza” on Tuesday, June 30.
A long-time supporter of baseball in Western New York, Griffin was a vital com- ponent of getting then named Pilot Field built.
“It is very fitting that we
rename this plaza for Mayor Griffin,” current Buffalo
mayor Byron Brown said. “His relentless efforts to get this stadi- um built are why we have this and why we are here today.”
The 30-minute cere- mony was highlighted with speeches by Bisons vice president and gen- eral manager Mike Buczkowski and Tommy Griffin, the late mayor’s son. A plaque in Griffin’s name will be hung near the Swan Street gate.
“I can’t think of a more fitting place to honor my father than Pilot Field,” Tommy Griffin said.
In addition to the plaque and renaming of the plaza, an announce- ment was made that donations are being accepted in an effort to have an approximately 12-15 foot statue built outside the ballpark. Early renderings of the statue portray the south-pawed Griffin in a shirt and tie with his sleeves rolled-up, throwing out the first pitch.
Initial reports are that they will need to raise between $80-100,000
for the plans to come to fruition. For more informa- tion on how and when to donate, visit
Bisons’ woes continue; Oberkfell lost for words
Photo courtesy Buffalo Bisons Bisons fan will now see Buffalo’s for- mer Mayor, Jimmy Griffin, as they pass through the gates of Coca-Cola Park.Community Sports Report
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame announced its 10-member class of 2009 at a recent press conference. The group will be officially enshrined at the annual induction dinner in late October at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel. This event will mark the 19th class to be inducted into the Hall of Fame since its inception in 1991 and brings total membership to 215.
A former NFL stand- out and College Football Hall of Famer and an NBA All-Star lead the group plus a host of local legends, highlight the class of 10 new inductees.
Former New Orleans Saints offensive lineman, Williamsville native and University of Virginia All- American Jim Dombrowski and former NBA All-Star and Riverside HS star Cliff Robinson lead the group which also includes Dan Bazzani (Coach and Player, Basketball), Jackie Brummer (Gymnastics), Willie Evans (Football), George Killian (Coach, Athletic Administrator), Joe Merlo (Multi-Sport Athlete/Coach) and Lou Rosselli (Wrestling).
In addition, two other athletes – former Buffalo Sabre goalie Roger Crozier and professional football quarterback Al Dekdebrun – will join the Pride of Western New York – which honors Buffalo-area sports immortals posthumously.
This group will join a rich heritage of native Western New Yorkers, or those who starred in and around the Queen City
during their playing days, who are enshrined in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. The 2009 class will be officially enshrined
in late October (date to be announced) at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel.
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame honors those who have enhanced our lives with their per- formances and commit- ment to Western New York sports, an effort surpassed only by the positive impressions they have left on our athletes of tomor- row. For additional infor- mation on the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, please go to
Tickets for the induction dinner and cocktail party (exact date TBA) will go on sale in late July. Individual tickets will cost $85 with tables of 10 on sale for $750. For ticket information please call Melissa Gearhart at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (855- 4863).
Class of 2009 Dan Bazzani Outstanding HS/College
Basketball Coach and Player. Jackie Brummer Three - time NCAA Gymnastics Champion at Arizona State.
Jim Dombrowski S i x t h NFL Draft Pick in 1986; Highest in WNY history. Willie Evans Averaged 7.1 yards per carry for 1958 and 1959 UB Bulls. George Killian One of the most influential indi- viduals in amateur sports. Joe Merlo Proficient Basketball scorer at Buffalo State and Lafayette HS. Cliff Robinson 18-year Veteran of the NBA and Former UConn Star. Lou Rosselli M u l t i - Stages Wrestling Champion and National Teams Coach.
“Pride of WNY” Awardees Roger Crozier S a b re s
First Goaltender and First HOF player.
Al Dekdebrun Cornell passing star who played in the AAFC, NFL & CFL.
Ten inductees to Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame to be honored in October
Photo courtesy Buffalo Sports HOF Jim Debrowski (left) and Clifford Robinson make up part of the Great Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s newest class.
Photos by Jeff Barnes After playing side by side at Niagara Falls and later Syracuse, there’s a good chance that sixth overall pick Jonny Flynn (left) and undrafted free agent Paul Harris could be reunited in Minnesota next season. Joking that he would win in a one-on-one against Harris, Flynn com- pares his game to Chris Paul: “He’s small like I am, he has the heart of a lion and he’s not backing down from anybody.”
By Jeffrey Levine
Albert Pujols may be known as “The Machine” but Royce Consigli has the determination of one. A humble young man with tenacity to match his power hitting, Consigli works tire- lessly on his game without ever seeming to show signs of wear or slowing down.
“I always told him to be successful you need to do the things that other people don’t want to do,” Royce’s father Tom explained. “The sacrifices the kid made are unbelievable: he has a tournament this weekend, then Thursday and Friday he goes to Art’s [Sandlot Baseball and Softball Academies] to hit. That’s the type of work ethic you need.”
For a young kid who once hit a plastic golf ball so hard that he ripped the tee off its base or knocked a wiffle ball clear over the house, Royce has always taken what comes naturally and worked hard to ampli- fy those skills. For the Welland, Ontario native, that grit has translated into
a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh – among a staggering 75 other Division I offers –
and hearing his name called by the Oakland A’s in the 30th round of the MLB draft.
Citing his hitting as his greatest strength without hesitation, and adding that he moves pretty well for a big guy, the six-foot-two, 205-pound short stop and pitcher turned outfielder certainly has his best years in front of him, not even turning 18 until September.
“When Royce first stated
coming in we recognized that here’s a kid that has a lot of potential,” Art Lauer, owner of Sandlot Baseball,
explained. “He makes the effort to come in from Canada and we decided to sponsor him for a little over a year. Just the other day we threw about an hours worth of batting practice to him. I’m not a spring chicken so my shoulders were a bit sore, but when you see some- thing like that you go, well, I want to be a part of something that can help someone else achieve their higher goals.”
A multisport athlete who has done everything from winning silver medals at the karate national championships
to playing against up-and- coming pros in the Dominican as a member of U.S. Baseball Stars, all that’s left for Royce to do is con- tinue working hard and one day live out his dream of playing in the majors.
Sandlot Academy of WNY providing the foundation to success. Gain the competitive edge pre-Season, in-Season, post-Season. Call the Sandlot at 716-689-0012 or visit on- line at
Hitting for the Fences: Royce Consigli
Photo Consigli family Power hitter Royce Consigli has some important choices to make next season: college or the big leagues.
By Mike Fox As we round second base
in the 2009 season, fantasy owners should be concen- trating on finalizing their rosters for the stretch run. One of the more difficult aspects of this process is trying to determine which underachieving “star” play- ers should be targeted, and which should be jettisoned.
Jimmy Rollins has had a rough year, even by his tra- ditional slow-starting stan- dards. His season-long slump eventually forced manager Charlie Manuel to drop him in the batting order in late June, but Rollins should be a safe bet to reclaim his rightful role as leadoff man for the high- scoring Phillies. His current fantasy owners might be ready to hit the panic but- ton, making this an ideal buy-low opportunity.
David Ortiz’s overall 2009 stat line (.222-12-47) is still atrocious enough that his owners may be willing to part ways, but attentive owners know that his June numbers were more in line with what we expect from him (.313-7-17, 1.068 OPS). The Sox lineup is already stacked, and Jed Lowrie will provide an added boost upon his return from the IR. If Big Papi can stay healthy (a big if these days), that horrific April- May slump should be well behind him.
Alex Rodriguez, Vlad Guerrero and Magglio Ordonez have seemingly been fantasy stalwarts forev- er, but this keeps looking more like a good year to cut bait on all. It’s hard to fath- om a worse place to be embroiled in an “A-Roid” scandal than under the
media microscope of the Big Apple, and that .256 batting average suggests Rodriguez still might be feeling the effects of his jerry-rigged torn labrum, which will almost certainly require fur- ther surgery this off-season. If he’s on your squad, don’t just give him away, but you should certainly be recep- tive to offers.
Don’t be so hesitant if you are still waiting for Vlad to return to form. While he’s probably better than what you can find on your league waiver wire, the fact is he’s managed only four homers and two stolen bases in his first 176 at-bats. Those warning signs we saw devel- oping over the past few sea- sons are about to start flash- ing bright red.
Joining Vlad on top of the has-been list is Ordonez, who has given no indication whatsoever that this year’s struggles (.260-4-28) are coming to an end. He’s still
owned in 67 percent of all Yahoo leagues, so there may be a few owners in your league willing to take a chance. If you own him, seek out these owners now before they come to their senses.
The always-trou- blesome catcher posi- tion has been even tougher than usual, with virtually all high-ranked back- stops except Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez struggling at the plate, most notably Russell Martin and Geovany Soto. It took Martin almost three months to hit his first home
run of the season, and his eight stolen bases are not enough to compensate for his sub-par .258 batting average. Soto has been equally dismal, with a .230- 8-27 line. It’s impossible to suggest trying to acquire them in a trade, and if you already own them in your league, their bottomed out market value almost forces you to ride out the storm. The good news is they have nowhere to go but up.
Lastly, we offer a ringing endorsement for Manny Ramirez as he returns from his suspension. We saw last year what a fired-up Manny is capable of after he was traded to the Dodgers, and his sizeable ego will surely enable him to shrug off all those nasty things folks are saying about him. Yes, he just might be a cheater, but fantasy is best played with your head, not your heart. If MLB will let him play, so should you.
Fantasy baseball
Photo by Jeff Barnes Is it fantasy blasphemy to say “avoid A-Rod?”
By George Kuhn
The Sabres emphasized size and grit with their recent choices in the 2009 entry draft. While no team was better prepared following the 2004-05 lock- out for the speed and skill of the much anticipated “New NHL,” the Sabres were nonetheless cri- tiqued by some as lacking the neces- sary elements of size and physicality, which traditionally impart balance for teams in a sport known for the rough stuff. Those concerns proved of little consequence as the Sabres reached game seven in the conference finals in 2006 and started the 2006-07 season with 10 con- secutive victories and remained at the top of the league standings. Many non partisan observers saw the Sabres at the head of the class in the league at that point and felt they were favorites for the Stanley Cup, which injuries had deprived them of the year before. But changes were already under- way at the league level that would undermine the Sabres best efforts.
Addressing the issue of removing fisticuffs from the NHL, League President Gary Bettman announced during the 2006-07 season that fighting was a part of the game. It seems that state- ment was seen by some as a tacit endorsement of on-ice violence because within a few weeks three unprovoked assaults occurred in a league that had been rather placid since the lockout. These incidents included Chris Neil’s unpunished head shot to Chris Drury on Feb. 22 in Buffalo as well as the Chris Simon cross check to the face of Ryan Hollweg on March 8, which earned Simon a 25-game suspen- sion.
Perhaps Bettman was responding to critics who felt that hockey, and its fan base, needed more physical
play. Let’s face it, the NFL has usurped baseball as America’s favorite sport because its violent collisions add to its entertainment value. As the only major sport that allows players to fight without being ejected, the NHL isn’t blind to the allure that fighting has to its fans and perhaps it’s only good marketing to articulate a policy supporting that. Perhaps the Sabres were ill prepared for the changes that followed. But perhaps the league has betrayed the com- mitment they made coming out of the lockout to remove obstruction fouls from the game, and indirectly hung the Sabres out to dry.
In this new post-lockout NHL, the league has clearly directed its referees to inter- pret the rules differently depending on which zone the play is. Almost limitless physical play has been green lighted in front of the net while penalized elsewhere. Penalties in the neutral zone are not penalties in the defensive zone. Players are allowed to skate unimpeded through center ice, a penalty
is called if a defensive player even elevates his stick and brushes it against the puck carrier, but defensive players
are rarely penalized for cross checks in front of the net that send a non-puck possessing oppo- nent to the ice. Wasn’t this sup- posed to be an inter- ference penalty in the new NHL?
The post lockout Sabres were built for speed and skill, a lit- tle on the smallish side, and were not the NHL team best prepared for this escalation of physi- cal play. A few more Patrick Kaleta types are needed but it will take a few years to develop this year’s draftees Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno into NHL regulars. When asked if the league
engineered a playing style that left his team at a com- petitive disadvantage, Sabres GM Darcy Regier showed his diplomacy skills by angling the inquiry away from the league. “Thank goodness I’m not the commissioner after that observation so I don’t have to answer.” He then redirected the analysis inter- nally. “ It’s a changing game and we have to try and adjust to it. We can voice our opinions at the general man- agers meetings but other than that it’s our job to figure out what’s going on in the league.”
“The game has certainly gotten more physical, it’s moved back to the bigger players, not completely back but it’s drifted in that direc- tion,” Regier continued. “I think it will probably contin- ue to move in that direction. It’s something that you have to monitor on a yearly basis. We talk when we’re drafting players in terms of what will the league look like three of four years down the road, and that’s an impossible thing to judge. So you take a middle ground with players.
Certainly we looked at the prospects we have coming in this year’s draft and we made a conscious effort to make sure we had NHL caliber players with some size back to complement the smaller skilled players we already have in the organization.”
So maybe within two years
the Sabres will have devel- oped the right mix of size and skill to thrive in this new NHL, just in time to coincide with the prime years of their core of star players; Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Ryan Miller. A new NHL engi- neered by the league office that turned back the tide,
somewhat, of post lockout reform. A new NHL that as it shook itself out, took the team that best exemplified the optimism and revitaliza- tion of the post lockout NHL and left them to play catch- up.
2009 Draft: Sabres retool lineup because the “New NHL” failed to stay the course
Photo by Joe Valenti The Sabres could use more Gaustad types.
By Bob Plezia
There are over 30 summer collegiate baseball leagues around the 50 states today. One of the top summer col- legiate leagues is the Alaskan League. Many former and present major leaguers have played in this league.
This is my third year of coaching hitting in the colle- giate summer leagues, and I was fortunate to be a coach this year with the Lake Erie Monarchs (LEM) of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League (GLSCL).
LEM started their preseason with a trip to Alaska in mid-June to play 12 exhibi- tion games in 12 days against five of the six Alaskan League teams.
This was sort of a triple thrill for me being with LEM, going to Alaska where I’ve never been, play- ing against the noted Alaskan level players and coaching a team with as many .300-.400 college hit- ters.
We were honored to be invited to play in the famous Midnight Sun game on June 21, the Summer Solstice, where it is light about 20 hours in Fairbanks. The game started at 10:30 p.m. without lights. (ESPN wrote up this game as one of the Top Baseball Events, along with watching a game at Wrigley, a visit to the Hall at Cooperstown, etc.) Our game ended at 12:35 a.m. without the use of lights.
On top of all this, at about 11:29 a.m. on the 22, the room and beds rocked a bit for about five to 10 seconds. After checking the Internet, we found an earthquake occurred about 300 miles south of Fairbanks, where we were currently playing, 58 miles north of Anchorage, 32 miles down, with a 5.7 magnitude.
This trip reminded me of a typical minor league baseball trip, busing from town to town every few days, living out of the suitcase, forgetting what day it was because they all seemed the same, dining in fast food places like Cars Jr.’s, Subway, Burger Bus, Wendy’s, staying in modest settings, etc.
We started our first game with a lot of energy and we beat the Anchorage Bucs in Anchorage, 6-5. Doug Schumacher (U. Ill.) hitting a solo HR.
The next day we lost to the Mat-Su Miners, 7-4. Mat- Su is about 45 minutes from
Anchorage. The next game we faced
the Bucs again only to see them score two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat us, 4-3.
We came back strong with a 10-1 win over the Glacier Pilots the next day.
LEM then traveled about three hours to Kenai where we lost the first two games, 3-2 and 5-3. LEM then beat Kenai in the final game, 8-5. We sent 11 players to the plate in the top of the eight after two outs to score six runs to take a 7-5 lead. Zach Dygert (Ball St.) hit a solo HR in the ninth to put away the win.
In the next game, while the LEM beat the Pilots the last two times, the Pilots now beat the LEM, 7-2. Lake Erie looked like a tired team with all the travel to the dif- ferent cities.
LEM then faced the Bucs again whom they lost to twice. LEM held an 8-6 lead going into the bottom of the ninth only to lose, 9-8.
We then drove to Fairbanks, some seven hours away, to give the Anchorage Goldpanners their first win of the season, 9-3. The seven-hour bus ride, although very spectacular sight seeing, was also tiring.
Then came the jewel of the trip, the Midnight Sun
Classic on June 21, the Summer Solstice, in front of 4,400. This was the 104th annual game. As we arrived at the park two hours before the game, we found the parking lot already full, tail- gate parties going on, most of the stands full, music, etc.
The game is part of days of cele- bration of the beginning of summer.
We took a two run lead, then some good hit- ting by the “Panners,” some doubtful calls by the umps, which we were warned about, and we soon found our- selves down 3-2, and eventually lost, 6-3. But the hometown folk were happy. A number came down to our dugout area to take pictures with some of our play- ers.
The final game of the trip, the next day, was against the Goldpanners again. We led as we have often only to let the other team catch up and win. But this time it was different. After nine it was tied at six. In the top of the tenth Ryan Clark (Penn St.) hit a three- run HR and Kobrine Vitek (Ball St.) closed the game with 1 1/3 shut out innings for the victory. We started the trip with a win and ended with a win.
The details behind the 4-8 record was that although we were in every one but one game, we had a lower ERA, our hitting average was just about even, and we had more hits with men in scor- ing position, however, we struck out 30 percent more than our opponents, we averaged over three errors a game leading to a .922 field- ing average vs. opponents .969, and we gave up 15 per- cent more walks and had some mental base running and throwing errors which were too costly to overcome.
For the LEM and the Alaskan teams, these were exhibition games getting ready for the season.
Hopefully with this expe- rience the LEM will make a run at the GLSCL title after the sore shoulders and elbows heal up.
Lake Erie Monarchs and Alaskan Collegiate Baseball – 2009
Photo courtesy Lake Erie Monarchs Pictured L to R: General Manager, Jim DeSana; Robert Plezia; Manager, Mike Montgomery.
By Rick Zurak, Golf Editor It started out as old farm
back in 1997 and has turned into one of the finest golf courses in New York State. The Links at Ivy Ridge, locat- ed on Main Street in Akron, 10 miles east of Buffalo has a goal: to get better in every way possible.
“We were perfectionists when we started this project,” founder and co-owner Don Nicholas said. “We spent a lot of time and money for the bet- ter part of seven years to build this course. We probably moved more dirt than any course outside New York City. We’re in our fifth year and it has been received better than we could have expected. I have never been one to look for any pats on the back. Right now we’re just trying to refine the course and make it better in every way.”
If there were ever “hands on” owners, Nicholas and fel- low co-owner Jim Fiske are just that. You will not find a time when at least one of them is not somewhere around the clubhouse. They combine for over 200 hours a week over- seeing the operation of the course and its improvement.
“I’ve never been one to sit here and listen to how nice I built the course,” Nicholas said. “You just keep going. Everything here was built on aesthetics and playability. Right now we’re working on the rough and the aesthetics of
the fescue.” “The Links” at Ivy Ridge
comes from the majority of the golf course being a Scottish links-style course. There are a number of park- land-style holes, but the majority of the course fea- tures well-placed mounds and fescue to frame the fair- ways. You can get into trou- ble, but it takes some doing. The framing of the holes is such that the severe fescue is off the beaten trail. If you hit it there, you deserve to be in trouble. The mounds that shape the holes will force you into some inter- esting stances, but for the most part, they are there to show you where “not” to hit the ball. In other words, the course offers trouble, but is very fair as well.
“We had enough room when we built the course which was big,” Nicholas said. “We have 200 acres. If some- thing doesn’t fit we can adjust it. It’s like art. You have to understand how golf courses flow. The secret was taking one thing at a time. One tree at a time. How does it all fit in? You have to understand drainage and how much eleva- tion you have.”
There is plenty of elevation change at Ivy Ridge, which makes for great drainage. With the Summer of 2009 off to a wet start, play has not slowed at all at Ivy. Add to that a very slow economy and
most golf courses in Western New York are going through a significant drop in business, but not Ivy Ridge.
“We feel we are the Crag Burn of public courses,” Nicholas said referring to what is considered to be the best golf course in the Buffalo area although it is private. “We have felt no drop off in busi- ness despite the economical downfall. We get a lot of peo- ple from Clarence and Amherst because they are close by, but we also get a lot of people from places like Grand Island and West Seneca.”
Those people that are fre- quenting Ivy Ridge are doing so, not just because they get a great golf course at a great rate (the best being $35 seven days
a week at 3 p.m.), but Ivy has received rave reviews for its friendliness and hospitality since day one.
“It doesn’t take much to be friendly,” Jim Fiske said. “We emphasize that in all our employees and they just do a great job from the moment you pull up in your car to the time you leave. I’m talking about the guys at the bag drop to the girls on the beverage cart, to our servers and really everyone.”
“We’re fussy about who works here,” Nicholas said. “Most of the rangers, starters and others we have known for 20, 30, 40 years. They’re friends and family who have a stake in our success. They want us to do well. They’re always collecting information
and pointing out how we can get better. We’ve got a product and we only want to push it to a higher level.”
One way Ivy Ridge has improved this year is with the addition of a full-sized driving range. The clubhouse features a tremendous patio and the Famous Dukes Bar and Grill for your drinking and dining pleasure. They have also made the course look more appeal- ing by changing the color of its appearance and thickness of its rough.
“Going green isn’t always the way to go,” Nicholas said. “All green is boring. Look at a desert course sometime. The contrast in colors really stands out. We have put more depth in the color of our course by making the (tan colored) fes- cue stand out more. It makes the fairways and the rough look so much more rich. As for the rough, new courses suffer from thin rough. It has taken fertilizer, time and care, but we have made our rough much thicker this year and that was our goal.”
Nicholas has his favorite holes in the 180-yard down- hill par three fifth hole and the uphill par four 16th with water in front of the tee box and tall mounds on the right and tall trees on the left. I pointed out that the par three 15th hole was much more challenging not to mention the par five seventh hole with water on both sides of the fair-
way. It goes to show that there are many holes that stand out at Ivy Ridge and if you ask 10 people about their most mem- orable hole you could just get 10 different answers. It’s that good.
So how does one of the pre- mier courses in the area get better? Get out and play Ivy Ridge and afterwards you can let either Nicholas or Fiske know what you think. I guar- antee you one of them will be there working and will be completely open to you sug- gestions.
“We plan to continue to refine the course and put out the best product we can,” Nicholas said. “Originally we said we would leave no stone unturned and that hasn’t changed. We just grind away and work on this thing to get it to where we want it to be.”
And the end result is a great place to play that just keeps getting better.
For more information go to or call 716-542-6342.
Rick Zurak is the Producer/Host of the Western New York Golf Report TV Show, Tuesdays at 6:30 on Time Warner Channel 20 in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area. He is also the Director of the New York State Junior Golf Tour. For more information go to half- To contact Rick email him at [email protected]
Ivy Ridge continues to make a great golf course better
Photo courtesy The Links at Ivy Ridge The 16th hole at The Links at Ivy Ridge is an uphill par 4 with trees to the left and the largest mounds on the course to the right.
By Cheryl Bartholomew
The weather was a force to be reckoned with this year at Locust Hill. Rain delays presented challenges for the players at the Wegmans LPGA tournament, which ran June 25-28. Friday had two such delays, and the steady rain for the final round left fans wondering if the event would be pushed to Monday. But the players trudged through, although none could match the deter- mination of Jiyai Shin. She captured her second win of this year on the rainy Sunday, as fans watched her competitor’s scores suffer in the tough conditions. Her Thursday and Friday totals of 133 set a new 36-hole tournament record, giving
her confidence and putting her in the lead by one stroke going into Saturday. On Sunday, Shin maintained a comfortable lead despite the
less-than-ideal weather. She kicked off her final round with a birdie on the first hole, which set the tone for the day. She continued to be undaunted, finishing up at 17 under par (71). Her seven stroke lead over second place finishers Kristy McPherson and Yani Tseng is the largest victory of the year thus far.
Whether or not the LPGA will return to Locust Hill remains unclear. The organi- zation is facing tough times and lost sponsorships. Much to the dismay of players and fans, another local spot has already been eliminated from next year’s schedule: the Corning Classic, after 31 years of being held at the Corning Country Club.
Wild weather at Wegmans tournament doesn’t deter hin
Photo Ryan Bartholomew LPGA winner, Jiyai Shin.
By Rick Zurak, Golf Editor
Niagara Canada is known for a lot of things. Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls is a monster tourist attraction with thrill rides, a new year-round water park, arcades, wax museums, the WWE store and more. Within two miles you can see the Horseshoe Falls, the Skylon Tower, Casino Niagara, Fallsview Casino, Hard Rock Cafe, and then some. Even better, within twenty minutes of the Falls are more great golf course than you can shake an old wooden stick club at.
Along with the great golf comes a little history of the region as well. Beechwood Golf & Country Club features some of the best greens you will ever find anywhere in North America. Located just five minutes from the Rainbow Bridge on Thorold Stone Townline Road in Niagara Falls, Beechwood was once the scene of musket fire and fighting. The date was June 24, 1813 to be exact, when British forces surprised the invading American troops in the Battle of Beaverdams. The fierce engagement that lasted three hours is recorded in American history as the “Battle at the Beech Woods.” The battle was fought in an area that covers from today’s golf course west to the pres- ent Welland Canal. Canadian heroine Laura Secord is remembered for her famous walk from St. Davids to DeCou House to warn the British of the impending attack.
Previous to becoming a golf course in 1960, Beechwood was worked as farmland for over 100 years. The “Old Barn,” which pro- vides the unique focal point to its clubhouse, was built in 1883. Beechwood will be celelbrating it’s 50th anniver- sary in 2010 with plenty of special events planned.
“The course itself contin-
ues to get better,” Beechwood owner Brian Antonsen said. “We added three more cham- pionship tees this year and we have a sand trap program set for next year.”
Beechwood gets plenty of acclaim for its great layout. From the dog-leg right first hole, to the very challenging 400 yard part four uphill fifth hole, to a great part three in the 180 yard 11th hole, to the 90 degree dog-leg right par four16th, to the over the water par three 17th and the hangman’s noose 18th hole where if you don’t hit it right, you are in the water and dead. All in all, a very fun golf course where you will use every club in your bag.
When you go there, tell Whitey (Head CPGA Professional John White) and Bear (Asst. Pro Bernie MacAdam) that Rick Zurak said hello. You can tell by their nicknames that they are friendly guys who are more than willing to make your round and total experience at Beechwood a good one. For more info go to beechwood-
If it’s variety you are look- ing for, check out Lochness Links in Welland. About 20 minutes from either the Peace Bridge or Rainbow Bridge, Lochness is the only true links-style course in the area, and that includes Western New York. Formerly known as Hunter’s Pointe, Lochness offers plenty of personality.
“Our course is an upscale modern links course,” Gerneral Manager Stephen Billyard said. “It was built on 225 acres once owned by the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority. It’s a layout with very few trees and lots of undulating greens, widely acclaimed as a great replica of classic links as they are played in Scotland, the birthplace of the game.”
Lochness Links was built in 2000 and is a rolling land-
scape of testy mounds, 110 bunkers, water, fescue and bentgrass with the occasional tree. Besides the pot bunkers, there are seven ponds to con- tend with and strong par- threes, including the 245-yard eighth hole. Accuracy is vital in playing LochNess Links. Keep your ball in the fairway to stay clear of the rough, the bunkers and the mounding.
“Our 12th hole, a par-three measuring 185 yards from the back and 101 from the for- ward tee, has the most undu- lating green on the course” Billyard said. “If you miss the green long or miss it left, it’s impossible to pitch onto the green. And on the right side is the Welland River as well as some 15 foot deep pot bunkers protecting the green as well.”
The LochNess Links Rewards Club is a program to say “Thank You” for choosing LochNess Links and Swing Restaurant by issuing points back to you for every dollar you spend at the club. The program is simple $1 = 1 point and is FREE to join by going to There are plenty of special rates too. Everyday after 2 p.m. receive twilight booking discounts and after 4 p.m. receive super twilight book- ing discounts. Up to 40 per- cent off regular green fees. Every Sunday and Monday after 2 p.m. LochNess Links is offering $40.00 golf and ride all afternoon.
If you have never played a true links-style course, here’s a great opportunity. Take advantage of one of the spe- cials and make it a really spe- cial day on the “links” of Lochenss.
Other top shelf courses in the Niagara Canada area include the Legends on the Niagara with 36 tremendous holes. Their sister course, Whirlpool just north of the Falls, has been a classic for
Niagara Canada continues as a hot bed of golf
(Top photo): Beechwood’s hole No. 5. (Bottom photo) Emerald Pines offers a fun place to golf and dine.
continued on page 15
Photos Bob Knab/ There was no shortage of high flying action as local riders Steve Pelc (lt.) and Frank Knab took to the summer slopes in the 2009 Red Bull Buttercup.
By Ronald S. Montesano
Where can you find fine dining in Holly, New York as well as delightful lunch offerings, golf, RV locale and a party house/gazebo for weddings and private parties? The answer to all these questions is Hickory Ridge Golf Country Club and RV Resort. Simply put, Hickory Ridge has it all.
Located in picturesque Orleans County, roughly
halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Hickory Ridge offers 18 challenging golf holes as the centerpiece of its property. The young course dates to 1995, when it was sketched and created by local designer Peter Craig. Stretching to nearly 6,400 yards, even the aver- age hacker will immediately realize that length alone does not delineate the course’s difficulty. Upon fur- ther examination, the myri- ad lakes and streams indige- nous to the region provide the initial hazards for a fine golf score. Despite the rela- tive flatness of the opening holes, Hickory Ridge opens an intriguing series of holes across Lynch Road that meander up and down a hillside. With the added narrowness of the holes that move through the forested portion of the complex, Hickory Ridge bares more teeth than anticipated.
The course moves to a
climax with one of the most challenging par four holes in Western New York, the arduous 17th. After a chal- lenging drive to the corner of a leftward dogleg, the approach to the green is played quite uphill to a green sighted on a plateau. Demanding a shot easily two clubs more than usual, the hole elicits more than its share of big numbers. After the ascending challenge of
the penultimate hole, the downhill par three 18th might seem a bit of a let- down. Far from it, old friend. The blind tee shot demands that each player select the proper club. If the green is missed to either side, a staunch recovery is required to have a chance at par.
Regardless of any golfing challenge, a day at all cours- es is not complete without a suitable apres-golf experi- ence. Hickory Ridge pro- vides lunch facilities seven days a week, with fare rang- ing from salads and wraps to cold and hot sandwiches and pizza. On Friday evenings, the bloom appears on the rose as fine dining returns to the club. Entrees include four unique seafood dishes, including a succulent Cajun-seared salmon filet, two pasta dish- es and three other delightful main courses. Starters include soups, shrimp and
clams and mixed vegetables. From beginning to end, each dinner experience sug- gests great promise and delightful taste.
In 2007, Hickory Ridge opened its RV park to the many customers who appre- ciate a weekend or week- days away from home, with all the comforts of home at hand. In addition to the available golf and dining, Hickory Ridge offers fish-
ing, Wi-Fi connectivity and campfire rings to all resi- dents.
For the golfer who demands greater access to Hickory Ridge, tourna- ments and other outings may be schedule and partic- ipation in leagues may be arranged. Memberships are available for singles, cou- ples and families, for both entire week and weekday setups.
In this time of economic awareness, the length to which a dollar is stretched is the operative element for most golfers. At Hickory Ridge, from golf and dining to RV docking and club membership, the dollar stretches farthest.
For more information go to www.hickoryridgegol-
Ronald Montesano directs BuffaloGolfer.Com, the online guide to golf in Western New York.
Hickory Ridge
Photo courtesy Hickory Ridge One of the picturesque holes at Hickory Ridge with big ponds and great scenery.
Community Sports Report
It may have seemed like a summer oasis but on July 9 there was snow on the ground in Niagara Falls.
Gathering 50 of the country’s top snowboarders from the East, the RedBull Butter Cup pitted riders in head-to-head competition to see who could be the
most original, the most dar- ing, the smoothest on a course that defied the sea- son.
“I think we set a standard for events on the East coast and really blew the doors off with this one,” event organizer Pat Morgan said. “There will be many more to come.”
With the top prize of $2500 going to Tim Humphreys, local favorite and Colden resident Ricky Beuler held his own by plac- ing fifth, good enough for $250 and some bragging rights. Shaun Murphy, Forest Bailey and Hans Mindich placed second, third, and fourth respectively.
RedBull Butter Cup comes to Buffalo
By Brian J. Mazurek
With a new six-year con- tract signed between Batavia Downs and the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association, it’s full steam ahead for the season opener on Monday, July 27 at the Genesee County track.
The new deal, agreed upon in mid-June, has Batavia Downs presenting 72 days of live racing, adding one more race per night and solves the winter stable issue that occurred in year’s past when there is no racing from the end of the meet in early December and Buffalo Raceway’s reopening in early January.
“It’s a good deal for both sides,” Mike Kane, Director of Racing and Operations at Batavia Downs, said of the new pact. “The new contract allows us to plan on the future with budgets and other things.”
“The horsemen will be allowed to stay here until Buffalo opens their barns but they are going to pay us to do so,” Kane added regarding the winter stabling at Batavia Downs during the down time.
With the expanded race dates, Batavia Downs had to add days to its calendar. The track will race Tuesday nights this season, beginning on Sept. 15 and the last Tuesday
live racing date will be Nov. 10. Post times for all evening cards will be at 7:05 p.m. while matinees will begin at 1:15 p.m.
“To put in bluntly, it’s the only day we haven’t tried,” Kane said of added Tuesday nights to the race schedule. “We did Thursdays before and it failed miserably plus people don’t want to come to the track four straight nights. At least with Tuesday, we race two nights, take a night off, then have two more nights which is a lot better than four straight.”
Kane went on to say, “Monday nights were a possi- bility but with Monday night football, it’s hard to compete, even though I don’t think Monday night football is what it used to be. So we
decided on Tuesdays. There’s not much competition so there might be a window of opportunity for us at OTB and simulcasting...there’s less
c o m p e t i - tion.”
The two matinees are S u n d a y , Aug. 30 and M o n d a y, Sept. 7 ( L a b o r Day). The last day of racing is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 5.
L e a d i n g trainer and driver Ron
Bebeck Jr. will return to defend both titles. He is expected to be challenged by the powerful Holliday stable with Ken looking at the driv- ing title and Sherri the train- ing crown. Other top drivers expected to compete are Ray Fisher Jr., Tom Agosti and Kevin Cummings while trainer D.J. Milner is also expected to ship in with a strong barn.
There are plenty of promo- tions on tap at Batavia Downs. Some of the high- lights include the New York State Sires Stakes/Batavia Downs Baseball Cap
Batavia Downs opens 72-day harness racing schedule on July 27
Photo courtesy Batavia Downs Kenny J winning 2008 Robert J. Kane Memorial in track record of 1:52 with Jim Morrill Jr. in the bike. This year’s Kane Memorial is October 10.
By Brian J. Mazurek
After a three-year hia- tus as driver of harness horses, Jimmy Whisman got the urge to return to the sulky and resume his racing career.
Instead of starting his comeback at Indiana or Ohio tracks, his home base, Whisman packed his gear and headed to Western New York and the move thus far has more than paid off.
“Greg Luther had a few horses here at Buffalo earlier this year and asked if I was interested in driving them,” Whisman said. “I jumped at it. I was hoping to get back driving and he gave me the opportunity to do so and thus far, it’s been better than I expected.”
During the three-year lay- off, Whisman dabbled in the real estate business but got the itch to return to the harness racing world.
“It took me like three or four weeks to get back into the rhythm of racing,” the 38- year-old from Lebanon, Ohio said. “It started out slow, get- ting like eight or nine races a week. My first 30 drives in my return were my most difficult but I feel I am back in the swing of things now.” Over the Fourth of July holiday, Whisman averaged eight races per night.
Whisman arrived at Buffalo Raceway in late April and was able to hook up drives with large stables trained by D.J. Milner and Brenda Ohol.
Milner and Whisman have combined to become a power- ful team. “Things are going well for us,” Whisman said of hooking up with Milner. “We didn’t even know each other before I arrived here but when I met him, we just clicked. He was been giving me some quality horses to race along with Brenda Ohol and it’s allowing other trainers and
owners see what I can do. It’s definitely helped.”
The veteran reinsman also has a small stable of seven horses he trains, ironically for Luther who returned to Ohio. He left his horses under Whisman’s guidance.
And when Milner took a brief four-day vacation recent- ly, Whiman took over the large stable while overseeing his own. It’s a bond that is grow- ing more and more each day as they become familiar with each other.
Thus far, Whisman has notched 13 wins, 14 places and 19 thirds for $65,733 in earnings in 129 starts in his comeback year. For his career, however, he has 751 wins and over $3 million in purse money. He also has 169 career training victories.
Whisman said besides the offer from Luther to drive his horses, purse money on the Western New York circuit was also a lure for him. “In Ohio, it’s risk versus reward. The purses are so low, it’s not real- ly worth the risk driving there.”
As far as his driving style, don’t look for Whisman to drive a horse as hard as he can for as long as he can...a style adopted by many drivers this day and age. “I am more patient. I want my horse to be pacing or trotting strong at the
wire...owners like that. My theory is if you drive for a check (finishing in the top five) the wins will come.”
Being a catch driver like Whisman doesn’t mean a steady paycheck, however. “You are only as good as your last drive. You’ve got to show your stuff and driving ability and hope owners take notice. You then start getting quality horses to drive. I’ve paid my dues and am ready to do my best here.”
Whisman has captured some Sire Stakes races at Indiana Downs and Hoosier (Indiana) Park in years past. He hopes to catch a few New York Sires Stakes rides in the future but nothing is currently on the horizon.
And for the rest of the year? “I am definitely staying here in Western New York and I am moving onto Batavia Downs when they open,” Whisman said. “I like the people I am driving for, I like the other drivers...we are all in it to get a paycheck...but everyone has been great to me. I am very comfortable here.”
But is the Western New York circuit the only stop in Whisman’s comeback? “I’d like to keep moving east...Yonkers, the Meadowlands. But for now, I am very happy here and I think I’ll be here for a while.”
Jimmy Whisman’s return to the sulky paying off at Buffalo Raceway
Photo by Paul White Jimmy Whisman continues his comeback as he guides home another winner at Buffalo Raceway.
continued on page 15
Local boxers put the
opponents By Bob Caico
Nick Garone and his X-Cel Worldwide promotional com- pany staged another profes- sional boxing show at the Convention Center in Buffalo on June 19. The five-bout card featured four Western New York fighters who all came away with wins.
The card was billed as Buffalo Beatdown and that lived up to its name for the local boxers on the card. Nick “Hands of Gold” Casal of Niagara Falls, fighting near his hometown for the first time, overwhelmed game Shad Howard (13-15-3) of Jefferson City, Miss. Casal dropped Howard near the end of round two with some well placed body shots and rights to the head. Howard, to his credit, came out slugging in the third but Casal was determined to impress in front of his fans and landed the more powerful punches that hurt Howard and backed him into the cor- ner. Casal jumped at that chance and landed 14 unan- swered shots that forced refer- ee Charlie Fitch to halt the action at 1:30 of the third
round. Casal who looked good at 141 lbs. up from a career low 130 lbs. in his pre- vious fight raised his record to 19-4-1. “The weight was where I should be,” Casal said. “I feel very strong at 140 and will try to make my run for a world title fight there, that’s my dream.” His trainer and father Ray added, “What team Casal is looking forward to next is to run our record to 22 or so wins then step up to a major fight to make our move to a title fight in the near future. Remember Nick is only 23 years old but he has been a pro for five years now, like I always said Nick’s a young veteran.”
Fast rising super feather- weight Guillermo Sanchez of Buffalo improved to 9-0 with a first round TKO over Ron
Boyd (6-8) of Washington DC. Sanchez had Boyd down twice in the round, the last one after a flurry of com- b i n a t i o n s . Time of the stoppage was 2:59.
E x c e l l Holmes made a triumphant debut in his h o m e t o w n with a second round TKO over Damien Clement (0-2) of Dayton, Ohio. The
local heavyweight looked sharp and bloodied the nose of Clement in the second round. Between rounds, Clement complained that he couldn’t breathe from a possible bro- ken nose, and the fight was stopped before the third round bell.
Kenny Abril of Rochester and Sebastian Hamel of Montreal put on a competitive six round super lightweight battle. Abril scored a flash knockdown with the first punch of the fight but the ref- eree ruled it a slip, from there on it was a close battle. Abril did enough over the next five rounds to score a 59-55, 58-56 and 59-55 unanimous deci- sion to improve to 9-3-1. Hamel slides to 10-19-1.
The NABA lightweight championship title fight main
event between Meacher Major and Michael Clark ended sud- denly and controversially. The bout that began as if it would be an exciting 10-round con- test turned when Major land- ed a blow to the back of the neck of Clark that dropped him to his knees. The referee gave Clark a few minutes to
recuperate and resumed the action. Clark still seemed stunned by the blow but fought on. Seconds later as the fighters tied up, referee Hubert Earle called a break. Major landed a right hand to the jaw that knocked Clark on his back and he seemed to be in some discomfort. Earle called
the bout off and emergency personnel entered the ring. Clark seemed to be ok but was carried out on a stretcher as a precaution. The bout was ruled a no-contest at 2:14 of round one from an “accidental foul.”
Photo by Jeff Barnes Excell Holmes of Buffalo lands a right hand on way to a successful professional debut at the Buffalo Beatdown on June 19th.
By Bob Caico The Buffalo Veteran
Boxers Association Ring 44 has announced the newest members to the Buffalo Boxing Hall of Fame. The following will be enshrined at their annual dinner on Friday, Aug. 14, 6 p.m. -11 p.m. at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens, 6461 Transit Road, Depew, NY. Bernie Blacher
Served as manager, train- er, promoter and in other capacities for many of the fighters in Buffalo, includ- ing Joey Giambra, Vic Brown and the Quinny brothers. He was known as a man who treated boxers as his kids and did whatev- er it took to help them out. Bernie also managed Singer’s gym. Jimmy Gilligan
Gilligan compiled a record of 53-37-1 from 1934-1942 while fighting all the top featherweights in his era including Willie Pep, Joey Archibald and Sal Bartolo. Benny Ross
From 1921-1930 Ross bat- tled the great middle and light heavyweights. Benny fought Maxie Rosenbloom, Jock Malone, Lou Scozza, Tommy Laughran and Jimmy Slattery, to name only a few. Tony Sciolino
Sciolino chalked up a record of 23-8-4 during his career. Tony fought against Tommy Paul, Frankie Garcia and Wesley Ramey, all top fighters at their weight dur- ing the 30s and 40s. Frankie Best
Best was a Fredonia, N.Y. native who fought from 1942-1949 and compiled a 21-5-1 record. Jimmy Watkins
A Buffalo native, Watkins had a 22-10-1 record as a pro- fessional after a very success- ful amateur career that ended in 1962.
For ticket information, contact me at [email protected].
•••••••• You may have heard that
Ross “The Boss” Thompson was wounded when a gang stabbed and shot him outside a local bar. Well except for a small cast Ross looked good and promises to continue his
career. He hopes to be in the ring by September.
•••••••• Jimmy Ralston will hold
an amateur boxing card on Aug. 15. Ralston’s shows are always exciting and draw big crowds. See AD on back cover for more information.
•••••••• Light welterweight James
Ventry of Niagara Falls dropped his fourth straight decision in Pittsburgh on June 24. Ventry’s record now stands at 7-9-1 after losing a six-round decision to Rod Salka (8-0). Rochester heavy- weight Jermell Barnes (18- 21-2) dropped a six-round decision to John Poore in Atlantic City on June 6.
•••••••• Nick Garone and X-Cel
Worldwide hopes to bring regular boxing shows to Buffalo because of the contin- uing and expanded support for each show. Garone plans to bring his next card back to the Queen City in late September or early October with an exciting local main event. That would mark his fourth show in the area in less than a year.
•••••••• The sixth annual “Fight
Night at Frontier” will be on Thursday, Aug. 13 in Rochester. A co-promotion between Resnick Productions and DiBella Entertainment will bring the Broadway Boxing series to the outdoor baseball park with Ronald Hearns (21-1) as the headlin- er. Also scheduled on the card are Rochester’s Willie Monroe Jr. (5-0), Buffalo’s Vincent Arroyo (9-0) and the pro debut of Aleem “Hammer” Whitfield of Geneva, NY.
Local boxing happenings
Featherweight Jimmy Gilligan is one of six former Buffalo boxing stars that will be inducted posthu- mously in the Ring 44 Buffalo Boxing Hall of Fame.
Community Sports Report
On Aug. 1, history will be made in the Lock City with WNY’s largest outdoor pro- fessional kickboxing card, at the Ulrich City Centre.
Lockport’s Amer Abdallah’s (7-0) last fight at the Kenan Arena sold out, with over 2,500 fans packing the arena. Fresh off his April 25, fifth round TKO of Jesse Colon (13-3), he’ll take one step closer to recapturing his New York State Light Heavyweight crown as he takes on kick- boxing veteran, Ron Penndleton (26-5) of Baltimore.
Penndelton’s camp has been less than humble in their approach to this fight as veteran trainer Stan Johnson sent some very clear mes-
sages to WNY fans. “We are coming to Lockport to knock this ** out. It’s just business.” Johnson stated last night. “We’re not worried about no crowd, no fans, or nobody else. It’s just him and Ronnie in there, and he’s got nowhere to run.” During a live TV interview with Abdallah ear- lier this month, the Penndelton camp called in and interrupted the show. “We’re just calling to let you know we’re coming to win” Stan Johnson said. “We’ve never had this long to prepare for a fight. You’re in trouble, man.”
“Penndelton is writing checks with his mouth that his jaw can’t cash. I suggest he saves his breath, he’ll need it for the ambulance ride
home,” Abdallah replied. “Forget his record, he’ll have to kill me to beat me.”
Training Abdallah for this fight is longtime friend and former IBO Lightweight world champion, Angel Manfredy, along with former Team Mesi head trainer, Juan Deleon.
The official weigh-ins for the Abdallah / Penndelton fight will be at the Molson Summer Concert Series, on stage, Friday July 31, right before the Queensryche per- formance.
The event is expected to sell out, and tickets are avail- able now at or by call- ing 800 745 3000. Any tick- ets left, will be available at the door.
Kickboxing in the Queen City
By Ivan the Impaler
1) NWA Upstate and Big Guy Productions proudly announce that NO LIMITS TV is on the air! The best wrestling TV show in WNY features the finest competi- tors from Buffalo, Rochester, Southern Ontario and beyond!
You can witness the action in Rochester at 3 p.m. Sundays on My18 (WBGT-TV). In Suburban Erie County, it’s on Time- Warner Cable Channel 20 every Saturday at 4 p.m., with replays Mondays at 11:30 p.m. Folks in the Rochester area can attend a TV taping at the Monroe County Fair on Friday, June 17. There are shows sched- uled at noon, 2:30 and 7 p.m.
2) TNA Wrestling will be making its first appearance in WNY. They’ll be at the Erie County Fairgrounds for a house show on Saturday, July 11. Scheduled to appear are Kurt Angle, A. J. Styles, Team 3D and their up-until-recent Knockouts Champion, Angelina Love. In addition, TNA will be in Jamestown on July 9, Hamilton on July 10, and Syracuse on July 12.
3) A pair of local indy wrestlers have said ‘good- bye’ after many years in the business.
J.P. Black recently had his last match against Brodie Lee. Although Brodie won the bout, J.P. won the respect and admiration of the fans. J.P., also known as “The Dark Pony,” was a for- mer NWA Texas Heavyweight Champ.
Eric Everlast also decided that it was time to move on. He lost his last match against Ron Falco, but like J.P., Eric has nothing to be ashamed of. He was listed in the PWI 500 several times, and has held numerous
regional titles (ironically, he once held tag team gold with Falco as his partner).
In a further coincidence, Black and Everlast tagged together on WWF Sunday Night Heat a few years ago when they took on the team of Bradshaw and Farooq (a/ka/a The Acolytes). Not so ironically, their friend- ship evaporated a bit later, leading to a bloody feud which produced many memorable matches in Rochester.
Like many wrestling “retirements,” will the boots remain stored away, or will they be dried off and worn again in the near future? Whatever these two decide, we congratulate them on their careers, and for being true professionals both inside and out of the ring.
4) In a few sad notes, we’d like to acknowledge the passing of Billy “Red” Lyons from cancer at age 77. Billy was a fixture on the WNY/Southern Ontario scene; many fans remember him from his days in Maple Leaf Wrestling. He also served as a ring announcer and TV interviewer for WWF when the fed moved into this area in the late 1970s.
The wrestling world was also shocked by the death of Japanese superstar Mitsuharu Misawa from what was reportedly an in- ring spinal cord injury at age 46. Between All-Japan Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH, Misawa had won a combined eight Heavyweight titles. Many say Misawa was the best pro wrestler in the WORLD in the 1990s. Upcoming events
Friday, Jul 17 - NWA Upstate - Monroe County Fairgrounds - 2695 East Henrietta Road, Henrietta, N.Y. - noon, 2:30 p.m. and 7
p.m. - Some of the matches will be taped for No Limits TV! - See. www.nwaup- for more info.
Saturday, July 18 - PWA Niagara - FREE OUTDOOR SHOW! – Lion’s Field, 500 Elm St. - Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada - 6:30 p.m.
Friday, July 24 and Saturday, July 25 - ROH - Ted Reeves Arena, 175 Main St. - Toronto, Ontario, Canada -8 p.m.
Wednesday, July 29 - NWA Upstate - Livingston County Fairgrounds - 310 Leicester St. (Rt. 36) - Caledonia, N.Y. - 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 8 - NWA Capital - Crosstown Plaza, 2332 Watt St. - Schenectady, N.Y. - 7 p.m.
Saturday Sept. 5 - NWA NY - Upstate 8 Tournament -The German House, 315 Gregory Street - Rochester, NY - 6 p.m.
Saturday Oct. 10 - NWA NY - Immortal Fest ‘09 - Minnet Hall @ The Dome Arena -2695 E. Henrietta Rd - Henrietta, NY - Bell time at 6 p.m..
Monday, Oct. 26 - WWE Monday Night RAW - HSBC Arena - Buffalo, N.Y. - 7:30 p.m. TELEVISION
As noted above, watch NO LIMITS TV in Rochester at 3 p.m. Sundays on My18. See it in Suburban Erie County on Time- Warner Cable Channel 20 every Saturday at 4 p.m. (Replays in Mondays at11:30 p.m.).WrestleVision airs in Niagara County at 4 p.m. on Saturdays on Time- Warner Channel 20. RADIO
Don’t miss the Pain Clinic, Saturdays at 10 a.m. on WHTK (Hot Talk 1280) in Rochester. They’ve got all your wrestling news and commentary, along with special guests!
News and notes from pro wrestling, both local and afarBy Ivan the
Impaler Raging Wolf IV
was another suc- cess in the series of MMA events held on Seneca Nation Land in Irving on June 13. The night fea- tured TWELVE bouts, but sur- prisingly, the evening went smoothly and rel- atively quickly, as only one of the 12 fights went the three-round distance. The fans were totally juiced throughout the evening, and definitely got their money’s worth.
In the two main events, Marc Stevens stopped Sterling Ford in a welterweight contest by unanimous decision. In the lone heavyweight bout, Shawn Jordon KO’d Mahnseah Boley in the 2nd Round. In other action:
Brian Kelleher beat Jordan Litz by submission
Cliff Golembieski forced Josh Bitner to tap
Mark Carrow KO’d Stephen Bettcher in 18 seconds
Anthony Richter submitted William Torres
Eric Johnson TKO’d Jason Breinlinger
Alex Carrion forced Anthony Giacchina to tap
Pat Gorman Jr. submitted Ben Gallagher
Noah Faunce beat Vince Carli by tapout
Jeff Denz forced Billy Garret to submit
TJ Sumler TKO’d Jamie Fryer
The next card is tentatively scheduled for October. Go to for more information.
•••••••• On the worldwide scene,
just prior to this edition going to press, Frank Mir will have again faced Brock Lesnar, but this time, the UFC Undisputed Heavyweight Title will be on the line at UFC 100. Lesnar holds the Heavyweight Title through his win over Randy Couture, while Mir won the Interim Title (which originated when Couture had
left UFC) from Antonio Noguiera last Dec. 27.
On Feb. 2, 2008, Lesnar made his UFC debut against Mir. Lesnar and total- ly dominated the first 90 seconds, but Mir caught Brock in a knee bar and forced him to tap. Obviously, Lesnar is looking for revenge.
Also on the card, George St. Pierre will defend his welter- weight title against Thiago Alves. This event could be the
most-purchased PPV of the year, with the possible excep- tion of Wrestlemania.
Sorry to report that Niagara Falls, N.Y. native Rashad Evans lost the light-heavy- weight title in the second round on May 23 to Lyoto Machida in a battle of unbeat- en fighters. Evans will certain- ly get another shot at the title in the near future, although not immediately. The Light- Heavyweight division has been thrown into a bit of dis- array with the decision of cur- rent middleweight champ Anderson Silva to move up a classification. Between Rampage Jackson, Thiago Silva, Forrest Griffin and Rashad, there are numerous contenders laying claim for a title shot.
Mixed martial arts update
Photo by Bob Caico Crowd favorite Clifford Golembieski, from Silver Creek, (left), scored a third round armbar submis- sion over Josh Bittner, from Ontario, at Raging Wolf IV in Irving, NY.
By Adam McGill
Buffalo State College The Bengals had an up and
down 2008 season. The team finished 11-21 with a confer- ence record of 2-8, but started playing stronger as the season came to a conclusion. The team will be returning five upperclassmen, including four seniors, and will be one of the more experienced teams in the conference.
Buffalo State will be relying heavily on senior libero Maria Schaffstall this season. The Elma native led the team in digs the last two seasons with 372 in 2008, a sizeable drop from her 2007 total of 531. Schaffstall is one of the most confident players on the team and will once again be a strong point of the Bengals defense.
Also middle hitter Katie Sember (Buffalo, N.Y.) will be returning as well. Sember amassed an impressive 245 kills last year and will be the team’s strongest player by the net. The duo has great chem- istry on the court and will solidify the middle this season for Buffalo State.
The Bengals open their sea- son on Sept. 1 by hosting Penn State Behrend College. The team then travels to Cortland for the Cortland Red Dragon Classic Tournament the week- end of Sept. 4 and 5. Canisius College
The Golden Griffs finished 2008 at 17-11, with an amaz- ing 12-6 record in the Metro
Atlantic Athletic Conference. Canisius lost in the conference cham- pionship last season and was only a couple of points away from win- ning the title. Head coach Cathy Hummel was named 2008 Anaconda Sports MAAC Coach of the Year and will be look- ing to translate last sea- son success into more wins.
Senior Michelle Godfrey (North Tonawanda, N.Y.), who was named to the All- MAAC second team last season, totaled 199 kills last season. She played in almost every game and will be a focal point of the team moving forward. Also setter Janelle Davis will be coming back for a second season. The soph- omore had an amazing freshmen season for the blue and gold posting an astonishing 979 sets in the middle for the Golden Griffs.
The team opens the season in Philadelphia at the La Salle Tournament on Friday, Aug. 28. Niagara University
After finishing 6-23 in 2008, Niagara has some off-season adjustments to make. The team needs more height in the front row and to play more consistent in back-to-back games if they want to win
more matches. On a positive note NU did have four of their wins come against conference foes and they did hold their own against some of the bigger non-conference schools they played.
Michelle James had a team best 1,109 sets last season in her first season for Niagara. James showed her tenacity and aggressiveness on the court by risking her body for loose
balls. The setter came onto the colle- giate volleyball
scene in a big way in 2008 and has a promising young career ahead of her for the Purple Eagles. Fellow sophomore, Hannah Hendrick also had a strong freshmen campaign herself. She played in every game and even more surpris- ing led the team with 342 kills.
The Purple Eagles open their season on Aug. 29 host- ing Coppin State University at 10 a.m. University at Buffalo
The Bulls will play the two- time defending national cham- pion Penn State team this sea- son. Also on the bill for the team will be four teams that made the 2008 NCAA tourna- ment. This will prove to be quite the uphill journey for Buffalo, but then again adversi- ty has always been the city’s strong point.
For the seventh consecutive season every team in the MAC will make the conference tour- nament. With the Bulls also playing 16 conference games this season, every game will be
important when it comes to deciding seeding in the tour- nament at the end of the year. Unfortunately for Buffalo, the MAC is quickly become a vol- leyball powerhouse and is one of the upcoming conferences around the nation.
The team will be returning strong setter Lindsey Schlegel (Lancaster, N.Y.) who had a team high 907 sets in 2008. Entering her junior season, she is primed to take the next step forward and become the true leader that the team needs. Also the team has a spe- cial talent in middle blocker Kristin Bignell. The junior has shown great athletic ability and her tall frame (6-foot-3) helps her defend the net against the opposition.
The Bulls will start the sea- son at home by hosting the University at Buffalo Invitational on Aug. 28. Buffalo then travels to Penn State the next weekend of Sept. 4. The Nittany Lions will prove to be the hardest foe on the schedule but it will be a good learning experience as well.
College women’s volleyball is set for 2009 season
Photo courtesy Buffalo State Libero Maria Schaffstall (rt.) and middle hitter Katie Sember look to once again be the Bengals dynamic duo at Buff State.
By John Perrelli
Orchard Park senior Kyle Hoppy had a difficult deci- sion to make. He knew that he wanted to play both foot- ball and baseball, but wasn’t sure where he wanted to play both sports. Having been recruited by the University at Buffalo, Mercyhurst, Saint John Fisher and Colorado State, he was in a comfortable place for such a decision. Ultimately, he chose DI- AA school Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pa.
“Basically, it came down to wanting to play both, and Bucknell told me that as long as I can handle both, I can play both,” Hoppy said. “I hope I can handle it. We’ll find out.”
Hoppy will be on a near-full scholarship in the fall, and hopes to make immediate contribu- tions to both teams, despite his freshman sta- tus. He is excited about other incoming freshmen also headed to Bucknell this fall. “I know we’re bringing in a great running back…I think he was the all-time rushing leader in the history of the state of Pennsylvania. There are a few other [fresh- men] who I think will really have an impact on the team.”
Where to attend college, and which sports to play, was the first difficult deci- sion.
But then an even more difficult decision reared its head. Ho