Thursday, May 28, 2009


This has nothing to do with hockey but Marlowe broke her leg. I'm so sad.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Thank god I never have to hear "Cam Ward has never lost a playoff series before!" ever again. I mean, yes, he won the Stanley Cup and yes, that is very impressive and yes, I'm super jealous. But that's the only season he played in the playoffs until this season. When a large part of what's preserving that shiny perfect record is not making the playoffs at all, maybe we could tone down the hyperbole a bit. Maybe we should hold off on throwing around IN HIS ENTIRE CAREER! stats until we have a larger sample size. Just a thought.

One of my least favorite superstitions is not touching the Conference championship trophy so I was glad to see Sidney Crosby try to shake things up by touching it. I'm disappointed they didn't go all the way and carry around over their heads while wooooooing and celebrating.

I think I'm cheering for the Penguins. Go figure. More on that later.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Top Shelf Does Darryl Strawberry Day

Last year I went to a Bisons game right at the end of the season. It was a beautiful sunny day, I had some good conversation with the people around me, and I basked in the sounds and sights of baseball, my first favorite sport and the sport of my childhood. I decided that day that I would attend more games this year. When the new Bisons season opened I anxiously pored over the schedule and list of promotions and knew immediately that I would have to go to Daryl Strawberry Bobble Head Day. My little brother Lee, usually known around these parts as Lee Andrew, is a huge fan of both the Mets and Darryl Strawberry AND he has a ton of McFarlanes and bobble heads. I had a feeling a Darryl Strawberry bobble head would make for a great birthday present for him. Oh, there was also that email he sent me that said, "Buffalo's having a Darryl Strawberry Day! Please get me a bobble head!" The signs were subtle but after years of being Lee's sister, I can pick up on those things pretty well.

So I wrote DARRYL STRAWBERRY in large blue letters on my calendar for May 23rd, circled it, read all the information on the Bisons website about how the promotion was going down and did what what any Bisons fan should do when they want even MORE information: I harassed TBN's Mike Harrington. My primary question was, "What time should I get there?" In all my years as a sports fan I've never really gone to a game specifically for a promotion so I'm not versed in these things. I also remembered reading about really long lines at the stadium replica giveaway last season. Mike suggested that I be at the Swan Street gate by 10:30, 11 at the latest. That is awfully early on a Saturday morning for me - yes, I absolutely am pathetic - but I'm pretty fond of my little brother so for him, I was willing to sacrifice a couple hours of sleep.

I admit, despite his years of experience, I kind of thought Mike was crazy. I've been to a few games this year. I think the largest crowd has been 43. I've had entire sections to myself. When I first arrived at Coca-Cola Field, I was pretty sure I was right. I was, I don't know, maybe 30th or so in line.

Oh, yeah, I'm golden.

Turns out Mike did know what he was talking about though because by 11, the line did indeed wrap around the corner enough that I could no longer see the end. I really wanted to walk to the corner and take a picture of the rest of the line but I was by myself so I didn't want to risk leaving the line and having the people around me getting pissy about me coming back. They probably wouldn't have cared but hey, you never know. (Mark didn't want to come with me since I was going to be standing around for so long. He evidently doesn't love Lee as much as I do.)

I heard later that the line wrapped all the way around the entire stadium and down past the parking deck behind the stadium. So yeah, I guess people do like their bobble heads.

Since the gates didn't open until 12, I had an hour and a half to kill so I pulled out the book I was reading at the time (The Iowa Baseball Confederacy) and passed a lot of time that way. I also had a nice little conversation with a couple of Pirates fans behind me in line. Yes, Pirates fans! More than one! That makes at least FIVE Pirates fans I know in the Buffalo area! We chatted about some of the young talent and like all Pirates fans, hoped better days were around the corner.

Around this time, activity started behind the gate.

Suspicious looking boxes!

Buster took his post and everyone in line started putting away books, iPods and chairs and assumed the ready position. Security came around and looked at everyone's bags before letting us in which I thought was a really smart move. It definitely kept the line moving once we started.

Finally the moment arrived! I tried to take a picture of the hand-off but the Bisons were moving people through the line pretty quickly and I didn't really have a chance. I got my bobble head from Buster which I think probably makes it even more valuable than just a plain ol' bobble head.

As soon as I entered the stadium I saw the autograph line. I knew Darryl was going to be signing but I hadn't really decided if I was going to go for an autograph or not. Lee didn't mention it - I wasn't sure if he even knew Darryl was actually going to be in the building - and I wasn't sure how much time I wanted to commit to the whole thing. If I jumped in the line right then, I'd be pretty close to the front - probably 20th or less - but I didn't know when exactly the session started. If Strawberry wasn't going to be signing until say the 5th inning there was no way I was going to do that. It appears there are limits to my love. Fortunately, as I was debating, I overheard a Bisons employee tell someone else that Strawberry would be signing by 1:15, immediately after the first pitch. So I thought what the heck? That's only another hour in line and I did buy a baseball just for the occasion. Timing was once again working in my favor because within what seemed like seconds the line was all the way around the concourse.

Darryl Strawberry was never on my list of favorite players but he is definitely one of the more prominent baseball players of my prime childhood years. I can close my eyes and clearly see that high elbow, the bent knee, the big step, and the swing so graceful and loping that I was never quite sure how he managed to catch up with anything. A lot of Darryl Strawberry's story is pretty sad but I'm glad to see that he seems to have come out the other side. Anyone looking for a good read about him and where he came from should check out Michael Sokolove's The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw.

Oh, Darryl Strawberry also makes me think of this.

Daaaaar-ryl! Daaaaar-ryl

While in line I realized that I'd actually forgotten the ball I'd purchased. The bobble head itself, while very nice, didn't really have a good spot to autograph. I was pretty bummed but ended up just having Strawberry sign the box. Better than nothing, I guess.

I'd give my 30 second interaction with Strawberry two thumbs up. He was very pleasant, looked up and smiled, asked how I was doing and responded to my thank you with, "You're welcome, sweetie." (I know some people hate "sweetie" but I don't mind it. I kind of love it. I grew up in the south. Everyone's sweetie. This was definitely not a condescending sweetie.) He was also extra attentive to the little kids who handed him something to sign which always wins an athlete extra points in my book.

Now that I had a bobble head and an autograph, I made a quick run to the bathroom and the concession stand - I'd been standing in a line for a little more than two and a half hours at that point - and watched some baseball. A quick complaint: The sinks in the bathrooms at Coca Cola Field are stupid. They have real faucets instead of those faucets that run for three seconds and then shut off which I appreciate. But the faucets baaaaarely hang over the back of the sink. How, pray tell, am I supposed to wash my hands if I can't fit my hands under the water?

Seriously now. What the heck?

The Bisons, sadly, are really, really bad this season. I've gone to four or five games at this point and most of them have been pretty messy. Despite their struggles, however, there are definitely worse ways to pass a sunny spring afternoon than soaking up rays at a beautiful ballpark. All in all, it was a very pleasant Saturday in Buffalo. The Bisons even got into the spirit of the day and pulled out a ninth inning victory.

Happy birthday, Lee!

I'm pretty sure this now makes me the World's Great Big Sister. At the very least, I'm the best big sister Lee's ever had.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Heather B. Compliments TBN. No, Seriously.

I've been taking a little bit of a break from the Buffalo News. That last Bucky Gleason column - I'm not linking to it but I think most of you know the one I'm talking about - really pissed me off. I've given Bucky a hard time pretty much since I started Top Shelf but most of it was in goodish fun. I admit, I enjoy getting that worked up about a column or article. Those arguments and debates are all part of the fun of being a sports fans. But while I may be overreacting, I found that last column to be insulting and it really made me question how much Bucky understands the local sports scene from our point-of-view and what our relationship to our teams are and really, I'd apply that to a few people in the sports department. Obviously, Bucky and co. aren't fans and they're not obligated to think like we do, but I do think they should probably understand who they're writing for. Even if you disagree with your audience, I think you need to know and maybe even respect where they're coming from. And the whole "Well, I don't mean to tell fans what to do or be condescending" thing bugs me. Either Bucky's a poor writer who couldn't get across the tone he was going for or he said exactly what he meant but isn't big enough to admit that. Either way, I'm over it. So anyway I've been on a bit of a TBN black-out with exceptions for a couple of people and things.

One of those exceptions has been Inside Pitch. It's hardly a newsflash that I'm a pretty big fan of Mike Harrington and he's been pimping the story in today's paper about Yankee Stadium and Citi Field for a while now. It is, as is to be expected, a really good read and I'd encourage any baseball fan to take a look. Lots of good stuff there comparing and contrasting the two new parks.

But the really cool thing about it, I think, is how TBN enhanced the print version for the website. I think it's been pretty interesting to see how print journalism has worked to keep up with the web and there are times I think TBN has done a good job with that and there have been times I think they've struggled. But this is awesome. In addition to the story just being laid out on the screen really well it's absolutely filled with links. Anything in the story that could possibly be linked is which means the story is loaded with extras: Google maps, Mapquest directions, subway and train routes, seating and pricing charts, concession and restaurant prices. You could come pretty close to planning an entire baseball outing to NYC with what's there. I think it's worth following the link above to the story and just clicking around in it. Very, very cool to see a newspaper figure out how to use the tools and strengths of the Internet. Rather than just make the web story a carbon copy of the print story, they made it better and they really made it fit the format. Well played, TBN.

Stay tuned for the exciting tale of Heather B. and Darryl Strawberry Day!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hey, Versus, try showing a replay once in a while why don'tcha?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Conference Final Thoughts.

I slept almost all afternoon so I missed all of the hockey game (I think I'm fighting something off due to all the little kids sneezing and coughing ALL OVER ME ALL WEEK). I heard it was a good game until the third though and that's kind of how I expect the series to be on a whole. Chicago hanging in there for a while before Detroit's age and experience and talent really kicks in and they pull away. I would be very happy if the Blackhawks pulled it off but I'm okay with Detroit too. I find something very comforting in their almost unerring execution. My official pick is Wings in 6 but I won't be shocked if it's Wings in 5.

As for the Eastern Conference ugh, I don't care. It's probably a pretty good match-up but I'm not super high on either team. I was pulling for Pittsburgh to beat Washington because I hate the Caps and I think it's ridiculous the way the popular opinion has swung so hard toward Ovechkin and against Crosby, but I don't particularly LOVE the Penguins. I hate the Hurricanes. If I have to cheer for someone I guess it's Pittsburgh. I think they'll win it in seven. I'm hoping that some time before the series is over Versus will let us know if the Staal on Pittsburgh and the Staal on Carolina are related in some way.

I can't decide if it would be really interesting or really boring to see a rematch of last year's finals.

Hopefully I manage to not get sick this week and get some thoughts up about Phoenix, Souther Ontario and relocation.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Life of Heather B.

You know how sometimes you just really dislike an athlete for no apparent reason? I feel that way about Mike Green. I was taking evil levels of delight in his complete no-show in the playoffs, defensively AND offensively. I don't even care if he was hurt. If he wins the Norris Trophy I'm just going to laaaaugh and laaaaaaaugh.

Brief summary of what's been going on with me:

I'm really, really, REALLY ready for the school year to end. It's taking far too long for my taste.

I'm currently reading John Lennon: A Life by Philip Norman. It's pretty good, I guess. John is complex enough that he certain makes for a good book but on a personal level, he's actually probably my least favorite Beatle so sometimes I find myself disappointed when the book doesn't pursue things about the other Beatles further. Norman also seems a little dismissive of George which bugs me big time. Also reading A False Spring by Pat Jordan and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W.P. Kinsella.

Top ten most played songs in iTunes: Surrender by Cheap Trick (on a huge Cheap Trick kick right now), Wonderwall by Ryan Adams (love the original but also really love this cover), The Rainbow Connection by the Muppets, Thirteen by Big Star, Love Story by Taylor Swift (I do like the song fine but this is up so high because I sometimes let the kids use my iPod during free time and the two girls listen to this non-stop), Hey, Jude by the Beatles, Mmmbop by Hanson, So What by Pink, I Do Not Hook Up by Kelly Clarkson (I find this song to be refreshing), and Across the Stars (Love Theme from Attack of the Clones (the love story in AotC is brutall unconvincing but I love the song).

Don't want to spoil anything on Lost but if Jack effs everything up and Desmond gets stuck on the damn island, I'm kicking his ass. Friday Night Lights was much more up to par this season, 30 Rock is still the funniest thing on TV, and while I have nothing against Adam Lambert, put me firmly on the side of Kris Allen in the American Idol finale.

And finally, an exciting medical update! Long-time readers will recall that about a year and a half ago I had a violent run-in with some black ice and blew up my ankle. One of the screws that was installed during the initial surgery started coming loose (yeah, yeah... I have a screw loose). It was actually sticking out of the side of my ankle so even I realized there was a problem. I went to see the surgeon last Friday, resigned to the fact that I was probably looking at another surgery to get it taken out. The doctor looked at x-rays, said all the other hardware looked fine and announced they could take the screw out right there. And they did. I laid down, they rubbed in a numbing agent, made a tiny incision, pulled out a screwdriver, loosened the screw, stitched it back up, and sent me on my way. It took maybe five or six minutes. It was wicked awesome. I'm telling you, modern medicene is amazing. Very odd to see a doctor bust out a screwdriver and even odder to see a screw pop out of your body. Here's a photo of the screw in question. The finger offers some scale. For those of you who love watching medical things (weirdos :P) here's a YouTube video of the procedure. This is not my personal video but it's exactly the same thing.

The Goose's Roost recently linked to a conversation between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is a writer and sociologist who's written some pretty interesting books, my favorite being Outliers which is all about the various factors that contribute to huge success. The conversation is as long and all-over the place as all things Bill Simmons but they have a really, really interesting discussion about reverse-order drafts and how, because they reward failure and incompetence, they pretty much go against all the rules of human nature. They throw out the idea that all teams should have equal odds at the highest pick and that occasionally perhaps even success should be rewarded. Gladwell also talks about how neat it might be for players to interview with teams just like the rest of us interview with employers although he does admit he's only half-serious about that one. If you're looking to kill some time, you should check it out. There's some other good stuff in there too.

Monday, May 11, 2009

True Confessions

I'm sitting here watching the Blackhawks-Canucks game (crazy fun) and I'm going to admit something I've been thinking for a while but have been hesitant to write: I miss Brian Campbell. I do. Last year everything was way too fresh for me to even fathom cheering for him in the playoffs - I was actively rooting AGAINST him actually - but this year I've realized he's okay in my book. I would not want to throw up if I saw him toting the Stanley Cup around. I might even be a little happy for him. Like I said after he was traded, he was here pretty much the entire time I've been a Sabres fan and it does seem a little weird still to see that very familiar skating style in another jersey.

I will also admit that the Sabres miss Brian Campbell. He was such a whiny mess at the end that it was very easy to dismiss him and I'm on record as saying he was not worth 5 million dollars but... maybe he was. I'd have to think about that part of the equation (I think ultimately the length of contract would've been more of a sticking point since I don't think teams can carry too many long contracts) but we do miss having a guy who can skate the puck into the zone. Jeez, some of our forwards weren't very good at that this year. I do think ol' Soup has the luxury of playing on a good defensive corp in Chicago whereas our d-men have been pretty underachieving for the last couple of years but the guy is very good at what he does. Still should not be mentioned in the same sentence as "Norris Trophy," still should be carefully hidden away from the opposing team's top line, still a bit of a mess in the defensive zone but you know, good for him. I'm happy for him.

Aw. It's taken me a while to warm-up to anyone this year but I might able to get behind the Blackhawks. I'm watching the postgame celebration and I'm feeling pretty warm and fuzzy for both the team and the crowd. They also have the best goal song in the playoffs. Part of the reason I've been refusing them I think is because of the inevitable "Local boy and former Sabre have to play elsewhere to win a Cup" column from Bucky Gleason if they win it all but I've been on Bucky blackout since 4/22 so that's not as much of an issue now. We'll see.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some thoughts on the second round:

- The Vancouver Canucks are very talented but suuuuper boring. I hope they don't win. I'm not super attached to Chicago - they're fine, whatever - but I'd much rather them move on than the Canucks.

- I'm not a huge fan of the Caps OR the Pens. I'd like to see both of them eliminated immediately. But I gotta tell you, if you told me that one of these teams had a reputation for whining, based on this series, I'd tell you it was the Caps. They've complained about the officiating, the ice, the scheduling, the CBC. And it's EVERYBODY. The players, the coach, the GM, the owner. Even when they were winning they were complaining about something. Get a grip. Poor ice and back-to-backs affect both teams. The CBC hardly revealed any big secrets - be better on special teams and don't give Crosby and Malkin space are hardly new methods. And bad officiating happens. Bad officiating hasn't made Mike Green and Alexander Semin practically invisible (who's overrated now, Alex?). That's not the result of bad officiating, that's the result of sucking. Sorry, Caps it really is as simple as the Penguins playing better than you for the majority of the series.

- I don't really understand people saying Ovechkin's hit on Sergei Gonchar was "reckless" but not "dirty." What exactly is the difference between the two? I suppose I understand people arguing that he wasn't intentionally going for Gonchar's knee but he did absolutely stick his leg out into the path of a guy who was otherwise going to evade him. I don't think "unintentional" and "dirty" are mutually exclusive. I mean... I'm glad he felt bad and all but hey, maybe you should stay on your feet and keep your legs out of other people's way, you know? I'm not the least bit surprised Ovechkin didn't get more than two minutes or fined or suspended but Versus sucks for refusing to even discuss whether it was a dirty shot. Man up, Versus. And also, show a friggin' replay once in a while.

- No really good commercials this postseason. I was a big fan of the wrestling Abraham Lincoln spot that popped up during the regular season but it doesn't seem to have carried over. There are a few I hate though. If I ever meet the annoying lady in the Progressive spots, I might punch her in the nose. Psychic this, girlie! I hate the add where the little boy with the pine box car manages to both do his best AND win first prize. Come on, that's a cop out. And I refuse to believe that an entire family wouldn't realize they were in their own house much less in an Italian restaurant even if they are blindfolded. Come on. You'd recognize some little noise - the sound your door makes, the hum of your refrigerator, your AC, SOMETHING. And a restaurant?! There are NO OTHER PEOPLE THERE! How in the WORLD does it sound like a restaurant? Also, bull riders of the world, I am not impressed that you don't wear helmets. I think that's pretty stupid actually.

- I haven't really watched a ton of hockey outside of the Pens-Caps series. I've been sitting on the couch with hockey on a lot - even all the late games - but I'm still having a hard time getting involved. It's not the lack of Sabres at least not completely. I was totally hooked into the playoffs last season. But I don't know, it's been mostly background this year. I've been reading through a lot of it. More on that later, I think.

- You know what, I can't pretend to not be disappointed and bothered by the whole steroids thing. I know many, if not most, fans have long moved into just not caring but I do. And Manny Ramirez being involved in it well, that one really gets me for some reason. (Also, I'm pretty sure I took that same drug as an injection during my infertility travails. I'd have to double-check. Manny, I didn't get pregnant either.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I Like Sidney Crosby

I like Sidney Crosby. I just want to put that out there because it seems like almost everything I've read today has been "Ovechkin rules, Crosby drools." That drives me crazy to begin with - hey, everybody, it IS possible to have TWO great players in the NHL at the very same time and they're BOTH overhyped - but look, I need something to blog about and Sid works as well as anything.

I'll admit that I could not care less about the diving. He's totally a diver. Whatever. Lots of people are. I missed the second game of THE GREATEST SERIES EVER but I've heard from more than one person that Ovechkin took a couple of pretty nice dives himself. Pretty much every team has a diver and some of them are good players. I'm all for discouraging it but I'm not going to get jacked up about it either.

As for the whining and the boring interviews, I think a lot of that can be chalked up to him being 21. He's 21. Do you remember what you were like when you were 21? I do. I was much more mature at 21 than a lot of people, I think, and there's no way I could do what Crosby is being asked to do at 21. He's been the savior of the league since before he was even in the league. It's not his fault that he's been answering the same questions for 3 years or more. For all the complaining that Ovechkin fans do about Ovechkin not getting that pedestal, not playing that role completely works in his favor. He doesn't have to be conscious of everything he says and does, he doesn't have to carefully parse all his remarks, he doesn't have any of the pressure. He can just be the zany sidekick and people can chuckle and say, "Oh, that crazy Ovie!" And honestly now, Ovechkin has been giving some variant of the same interview for three years too: "Hockey's fun! Where women? :::nearly kills himself or someone else with some sort of moving vehicle:::" Yawn.

I think as Crosby gets older he'll move past some of the pat answers. I think there are already signs of that happening. Rookie year Crosby never would've criticized Ovechkin's goal celebrations. Crosby of Today seems to realize he's in a bit of a no-win with some people (take the high road and say nothing that can be construed as critical? boooo-riiiiing - dare to criticize someone else? whiiiiiiiiiiny). Hopefully that will lead to him saying what's on his mind a little more often.

Other than that, it's just a matter of preference. I think it's amazing that Ovechkin can score from everywhere on the ice but I'm not impressed that he shoots all the time, sometimes when it's not really the best play. I think it's nice that he's so physical but I've seen him pull himself out of position doing that a number of times. In the game I went to in DC, he nailed Paul Gaustad pretty hard but then stood around while Goose got up and calmly recollected the puck. To my admittedly untrained eyes, Crosby's game without the puck is much stronger than Ovechkin's. Yeah, Ovechkin is showier and flashier. I hate that stuff. I like that there's a little bit of rink rat grinder in Crosby's game. Whatever else you wanna say about him, he absolutely burns with a clear desire to win.

When I'm GM of the Sabres and the NHL decides to just throw all the players in a pot and have a huge draft, I certainly would not turn up my nose at Ovechkin. He's very, very good at hockey. I'm perfectly fine with being annoyed by a guy while watching him play for my team. But I'd take Crosby first in a heartbeat.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Can I Be Honest?

I am not feeling the playoffs this year. At all. I thought maybe it was just the first round - too many teams, too many sweeps - but it's definitely carried over into the second round at least so far. Usually by this point I've latched onto either a team or a player but this year I have the blahs big time. I think I'd like Boston to win it all but so far that hasn't really translated into watching them that frequently or that closely. I haven't made it through many games in entirety and even when I have, I've spent a lot of that time not looking at the TV. Heck, I even went upstairs to take a nap during an OT game today! (Though in fairness to me, I feel very strongly that marathon OT games should be played at night. It's just not the same when the sun is still out.) I was hoping to make it through the postseason before I started blogging about completely random stuff in between hockey news but I'm not sure I'm going to make it. Just so you're forewarned.

What about you guys? How are the playoffs treating you? Who ya cheering for? Anyone new caught your attention?