Thursday, April 9, 2009

Harrington: The Final Act

So I'm sorry I kind of fell off the face of the Earth here in what is most likely the Sabres' last week of the season. The last few days before break are sometimes tough for the kids where I work and it was indeed a pretty busy week. All I wanted to do after getting home was curl up and call it a day. But now I'm on vaaaacaaaaation! Wooooooooooooooo!

I don't really have much to say about the last couple of games that hasn't been said already so for now, enjoy the shocking conclusion of my interview with Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News. This part is much less organized than the other two because I just threw out random questions, pretty much as they popped into my head. We'll return to Sabres talk Thursday. I know, I can't wait either. Oh, actually I do have a good story about how I'm a total celebrity now but you'll have to come back later to hear it.

If you were appointed NHL Commissioner for a day, what's the first thing you would do?

Get rid of Phoenix, Florida and either Atlanta or Nashville. Move one to Winnipeg. Maybe try another in Kansas City or Seattle where they just lost the NBA. I'd love to go back to Quebec City but the arena is sub-standard. I think they should put a second team in Toronto but they would have to indemnify the Leafs for sure and maybe even the Sabres so that could be an issue. But the area could support it. I'm kind of against Las Vegas until they figure out the gambling issue. Too dicey for my tastes although I love going.

If you were appointed MLB Commissioner for a day, what's the first thing you would do?

Tell Fox they're getting some rebates cuz they're moving the World Series games back to 7:30 and playing at least one in the afternoon!!

I think the late starts for World Series games are a huge problem and that would've been my answer too. I'm struggling to stay awake for whole games and I'm not a 9-year-old who has to go to school the next morning. I'd push them back even further to 7. I'm completely fascinated when I read about World Series that all took place during the day. I can't even imagine.

Where are your 3 favorite cities to watch a baseball game?

Kind of a different approach....

Three favorite cities:

Boston - Cathedral I. If you've never been there, it's as good as you'd imagine
Chicago (Wrigley) - Cathedral II. But needs a lot of infrastructure work to catch up to Fenway's recent improvements. The neighborhood is just awesome.
St. Louis - Great fans. About the nicest people you'd meet.

Three favorite ballparks:

San Francisco - Beautiful for fans in every way, bad for the media (lousy press box and no service level for clubhouses - you have to wade through box seat fans)
Seattle - Safeco is just amazing. Great concourses, food, views.
Philadelphia - The Bank was a huge revelation for all of us during the World Series. Walked around and around the place over 5 days. What a 600 percent improvement over the Vet.

I've never been to any of the baseball stadiums you listed but I simply cannot fathom a park more beautiful than PNC (in Pittsburgh).

PNC has easily the best view/vista in MLB but I'm not sold on its functionality as a park. Concourses are tight, concession stands are tight, seats are tight in the upper deck and the press box is an open disgrace. Service level is relatively mediocre too. All strikes in my book, many of course not in the normal fan's.

But best view bar none. That we certainly agree on.

PNC i.e. Mike Harrington doesn't know what he's talking about. (Click to enlarge. Totally worth it.)

As long as you don't look too closely at the field, I guess. In your expert opinion, will the Pirates win a World Series in my lifetime? I'm 31 so let's say that gives them 55 years, give or take a few years.

History says they will at least be in it. Sooner rather than later. There's been 10 different NL teams in the series the last 11 years (only the Cardinals have gone twice since 1998). People who say teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City have no chance are wrong. Who won the AL East and went to the World Series last year? Not the Red Sox or Yankees. The [Don't-Call-Us-Devil] Rays. The Bucs haven't drafted or developed talent well enough. Hopefully, Neal Huntington can change that. I trust him from his days with the Indians in building the Bisons. We'll see.

I know there could be upwards of two other Pirates fans reading this. Any special prospects we should be looking for when Indianapolis is in town?

When Indy comes to town, look for OF Andrew McCutcheon. He’s a flashy type with great power. Saw him put one over the LF foul pole at Yankee Stadium during last year’s Futures Game. Jose Tabata, if he can get his lying 43-year-old wife under wraps, is another good one. And what to make of Tom Gorzelanny back in Triple-A? Tough division as always for Indy with Louisville and Toledo in it.

Where are your 3 favorite cities to watch a hockey game?

(NOTE: I have not been to any Western Conference places except Detroit and Dallas)
Montreal - It's almost a religious experience, like going to Yankee Stadium, Fenway or Wrigley.
New York - Anything at MSG is just amazing. Hockey, NBA, Big East hoops, NIT hoops. You spend a third of the night staring at the banners in the rafters and at the famous roof. Great press room too in the middle level of the arena.
Ottawa/Pittsburgh - Boston would be on this list if they were in the old Garden, not the soulless corporate place they have now. A game in Ottawa is almost the event it is in Montreal. And the Igloo is one of those neat old barns that's just plain fun even though the hallways are small, the locker rooms are small, the concession stands are small. Only place left in the league that reminds you of the Aud.

Three hockey cities you haven't been to yet that you most want to visit?

Calgary - Classic Canadian with that fan base.
Vancouver - I'm told one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it must be humming with the Olympics coming.
Minnesota - XCel Center is a great rink. Great hockey heritage.

Who are some of your favorite interviews?

How about three groups?

Sabres/NHL: Ryan Miller, Lindy Ruff, Martin Brodeur, Marty Biron

MLB: Tom Glavine, Johnny Damon, CC Sabathia, Ryan Garko, Lou Piniella, Terry Francona, Carl Willis (Indians pitching coach, former ex-Bisons pitching coach and noted Carolina Hurricanes fan)

Colleges: Michigan's John Beilein, former Canisius coach Mike MacDonald, former and current Niagara coaches Jack Armstrong and Joe Mihalich, UB's Reggie Witherspoon (we have had some really GREAT coaches with the media in this town in recent years). Nationally I love Pitt's Jamie Dixon and Michigan State's Tom Izzo.

And the worst interviews?

Tony LaRussa - Holier than thou

Jim Leyland - Too many f-bombs, too much cigarette smoke (Heather here. One of my favorite Andy Van Slyke quotes is on life with Jim Leyland. "Never dull and always smoky.")

Jim Baron - A wonderful guy who did so much for St. Bonaventure but said so little of note because he had the same catch phrases in every interview (e.g. "It's all part of the process", "we're just working hard to get better"). Reporters would often give each other his quotes for the night before he entered the interview room by predicting his answers. We were usually right.

(Feel bad for putting Baron anywhere near the two sanctimonious guys above him. Just gimme a good quote once in a while Jimmy!)

If you could sit down 1-on-1 with any athlete, dead or alive, who would it be and why? Mine would be Roberto Clemente, I think. I've heard stories about him pretty much from birth and he seems like a really interesting and complicated person.

Clemente would be a great one. I think talking hitting with Ted Williams or hockey with Bobby Orr would be awesome. I'd love to chat up Bob Feller about pitching and he's always in the press box in Cleveland with friends during games but I continue to be a coward. It's Bob Feller for God's sake!!!

Where are your 3 favorite places to eat in Buffalo?

Santasiero's on Niagara Street - Awesome chicken parmesan. Be sure to get some meatballs and/or sausage on the side.
Chef's - A tad overrated of late but still the best pasta fagioli in the free world
Ted's/Anderson's - Local, local, local. I'd miss 'em beyond belief if I ever moved. (Heather again. It's no coincidence that Casa Top Shelf is within easy walking distance of both Ted's and Anderson's. Yum.)
Also: A tip of the hat to Founding Fathers Pub for bar food, great burgers and chicken, free nachos & popcorn and Mike Driscoll's ever-present presidential trivia.

Favorite Buffalo pizza? Wings?

Tough-tough. La Nova, Casa Di Pizza on Elmwod, Just Pizza, Francos in the burbs. I’m flexible. I don’t have to settle on just one. Favorite wings? OK. Just one here – La Nova Bar-b-que

What's one of your favorite things about living in Buffalo?

A lot would say 4 a.m. closing time but I’m not a big bar or beer guy so that doesn’t count. To me it’s traffic. A jam in Buffalo is moving 35 mph. I don’t know how people live in places like Boston, DC, Atlanta, LA, Houston. The traffic is UNBELIEVABLE.

When you're 80-years-old and you're looking back at your career, what are the moments you'll remember the most? Hit me with a few of them.

Wow, I have been lucky. I know I'm forgetting something that should absolutely be here but these are the first things that hit me

1. 2001 World Series - Raw emotion in NYC
2. 2004 ALCS - Changed baseball history forever
3. George Mason's run to 2006 Final Four - Changed college hoops forever. A little guy CAN do it.
4. 2008 MLB All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium and hotel interview session with Hall of Famers earlier in the day
5. 2003 St. Bonaventure scandal - Two weeks of chaotic stories that went national.
6. Any champagne celebration after an ALCS or World Series. It's chaos. You can get soaked. You're under miserable deadline pressure. But, seriously, how cool is it to be in the middle of that? Only millions of other people would trade places with you at that moment.
7. Bisons' first championship in Iowa in 1997
8. Bisons 2nd title and trip to Triple-A World Series in Las Vegas in 1998
9 Canisius-Niagara trips to NCAA Tournament in '96, '05, '07
10 St. Bona 2-OT loss to Kentucky in 2000 NCAAs
11. Richard Zednik injury in 2008. A routine Sunday Sabres game turns into life and death. You hope it never happens but you're always ready if it does.
12 Syracuse win over Kansas in 2003 NCAA final, capping five days of debauchery in New Orleans
13. Canisius victory at No. 13 Cincinnati in 1994 (down by 20 in the 2nd half)
14 Canisius win over Washington State and subsequent trip to 1995 NIT Final Four
15 LaSalle High going 27-0 in 1987-88. Covered the last 10 games through two state tournaments as a first-year reporter. Amazing experience and stood as most wins for an unbeaten team in WNY history methinks until Niagara Falls got there a couple years ago (I could be wrong on that)

One final question. You're stranded at sea on a small wooden raft with Jerry Sullivan, John Vogl and Bucky Gleason. Who do you eat first?

No cannibalism. We go down on the raft as a team.

Hmm. If I email the other three that question, are they going to answer the same way?

They better! We have each other's backs.

Okay, this question was obviously geared toward the demise of Bucky but I think you know my dirty little secret. I can't imagine living and blogging in a world without Bucky Gleason. Don't tell him I said so.

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