Thoughts about Buffalo, April and a few other things

Over the past several nights, I’ve been going back in time in my mind. It was the fall of 1994 and the winter of 1995. I was barely out of college, didn’t really know what I was doing as a journalist and I was living in an upstairs apartment in an old house in Buffalo, New York.

Blame it on hockey.

Since the NHL playoffs began, I have found myself interested in this series between the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers. I’ve caught some of it on the NHL Network (because Versus and NBC seem to have far more interest in other series) and thought kind of longingly of my six months or so in Buffalo.

I was working a temporary gig for the Associated Press. I helped cover the Bills at times, on several occasions I drove down to Olean to cover St. Bonaventure basketball (including once when the opponent was a John Calipari-led UMass team) and I covered a bunch of Sabres games.

While I have a very soft spot in my heart for some of the other places I’ve lived including Phoenix, Cincinnati and Raleigh, I rarely even think about my time in Buffalo. That’s kind of too bad. It was a good experience. Because of a NHL labor issue, I covered some interesting things. I once waited outside of the NHL offices in Toronto with a bunch of media from Canada. I covered a 4-on-4 hockey thing with NHL stars in Hamilton. I went to a OHL game in Niagara Falls to write a story about the younger brother of Eric Lindros.

The AP offices were located in the Buffalo News, so I got to know a number of people on their staff. I became friends with Jerry Sullivan and Mike Harrington. I learned a bunch about hockey from Jim Kelley and it was a sad day this winter when he died because he couldn’t have been nicer. I remember seeing Christian Laettner’s father, who worked at the News, I think in the press room or something.

But after seeing playoff hockey back in Buffalo, I think about the Aud. It was such a wonderful old building for hockey. It was loud, the fans cared, it was pretty cool. I remember how there was no elevator from the press box to the arena floor. I remember how tiny the locker rooms. I remember the first time I covered a postgame in which the coach (in this case Marc Crawford of the then-Quebec Nordiques) answered questions in French and then talked to the rest of us in English afterwards. I think it is cool that because of Buffalo’s proximity to the border — and that a good chunk of its fan base is on the other side of the border — that they play both the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada before every game, regardless of opponent.

I actually covered the groundbreaking of the building the Sabres currently play in, the HSBC Arena. It was initially called Marine Midland Arena. It is just down the street from the Aud and basically across the street from the News.

There are other memories as well. There was the convenience store down the street where I would buy papers. There was the Elmwood Taco and Sub that seemed like the greatest place for late night food ever. There was the time the Vikings were in town and we went for dinner and a certain columnist told the waitress at the infamous Anchor Bar to bring us “a hundred wings.” I remember day trips to Toronto if for no other reason than because I could.

I’ve only been back to Buffalo once since I left in March 1995. When I covered North Carolina, the Tar Heels played at game at the U at Buffalo because Ed Cota had ties to the Bulls staff. It was a quick in-and-out trip, but the day of the game, I went up to Niagara Falls and crossed the border with my guy from the Durham paper in part because he had never been to Canada.

I would love to go back to visit. It would probably be preferable if it happened in the summer since I’ve pretty much only been there when there has been snow on the ground. Because of that, I’ve been following this Sabres-Flyers series pretty closely. The past two games, I’ve listened to a little of it on the XM feed of WGR in Buffalo. I’ve gone to the Buffalo News site and read stories. And I find myself pulling for the team from the Western New York city that has had more downs than ups in recent years.

On the topic of Buffalo, here is a cool video that the Hockey Night in Canada crew did on the Aud a few years ago before it was torn down.

Other items on my mind:

Is April the best sports month? I know people love March, but I’m now of the belief that April is better. In most years, you get the NCAA basketball title game, you get the Masters, you get baseball’s opening day and you get the beginning of the NBA and NHL playoffs. And how good have the playoffs been? There have been great games in both sports on nearly a nightly basis. And I don’t even want to hear people say how the NCAA tournament is better than the NBA playoffs.

How about those Twins? I have been accused of being negative and being a cynic, but I didn’t think they’d be this bad. I had more concerns about the bullpen than most (which has shown to be at least somewhat of a legit concern). I told people that Pavano needed to again be good and eat innings for this team to be good (he has been average). But I didn’t think the bats would be this cold. While the season is long, the Twins are 10 percent into the season. At some point in the next few weeks things will go from this being a slow start to being a legit concern.

If you miss my golf posts: I’ve been trying to spare you from my golf-obsessed ramblings. Want them? Click over to onlygolfmatters.com and read away.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

Newspapers on my Nook Color

 

Here is how I've been reading the newspaper of late -- on my Nook Color

 

I have pretty much always loved newspapers. When I was very young, I would lie on our living room floor and read the sports page in front of me. I read about the Twins more than anything. And I’m talking about the mid-70s Bombo Rivera, Lyman Bostock, Craig Cubbage Twins.

My first “job” was delivering the West Central Tribune. I started on the first day of school in fourth grade. Obviously it became what I did for a living for a long time. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t get a newspaper delivered to where I was living. When I was traveling, I was the guy who would buy multiple newspapers at every stop just to see how different papers were doing things.

But now a couple of months into an experiment of not reading an actual hard-copy version of the newspaper. This past fall, I purchased a Nook Color, the nifty e-reader from Barnes & Noble. It’s really an e-reader plus, but I will get to that in a later post.

I initially started getting just the New York Times delivered daily to my Nook Color. It was, and is, great. One of the best things about my previous job in higher education was that I could pick up the NYT on campus for free. I find it to be a joy to read as there are always interesting stories. I would bring it to lunch, find a table by myself and read while eating lunch.

With the Nook Color, I get the benefit of getting a much later edition of the newspaper than the national edition — yes, there are actual sports scores in there — while also not being overwhelmed with unread sections of the paper piling up each day.

Starting around Christmas, I added the Star Tribune to my Nook subscription list. I wasn’t sure if I would be comfortable getting my primary newspaper electronically. But I figured that since it is available for reading at work as well that I would give it a chance.

The bottom line is that I really like it. I usually get through the main things I want to see in the Star Tribune before I leave the house or right when I get to the office. I mix in some of the NYT in the morning and look at more of it at lunch. There are some days when I don’t get to as much of that as I would like.

Here’s a quick look at pros and cons (and some photos) of my move toward a paper-free life.

Continue reading

I’m a bit too excited for this video game

I arrived at the office on Tuesday morning, logged into Twitter and one of the first things I saw was ESPN.com golf writer Jason Sobel tweeting how Augusta National Golf Club was going to be in the new Tiger Woods 12 video game.

I was stunned. And amazed. And thrilled.

It was a few hours later, when my friend Ryan tweeted:

“How many nights will @jeffshelman be camping out at Best Buy to get this copy of Tiger Woods 2012 w/Augusta National?”

I’m not sure that I’m going to camp out (though I won’t completely rule it out), but I will be getting the game.

I realize that I’m closing in on 40. But I am awfully excited about this development. Probably too excited.

I am not a huge gamer. I had a ColecoVision when I was a kid (to you youngsters, Google it and then laugh at the primitive video game culture of the 80s), but after that I didn’t play for a long time.

It was only about four or five years ago when I took some fantasy football winnings (thanks to all those NFL writers who let a non-expert win) and bought an Xbox 360.

I pretty much play sports games. Tiger Woods 07 or 08 was the first game I bought and I’ve purchased every version since then. I’ve several NBA games (both EA and 2K), I had one NHL game, a couple of MLB games, two NCAA Football games and the last two FIFA games. I’m not big on shoot-em-up games, but I do love playing a game or two and seeing what I can do.

That said, the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise was getting a little boring. There were small tweaks each year and some new courses, but the year-to-year changes were pretty small. Putting has improved greatly since the first game I purchased and the distances that the ball goes isn’t nearly as unrealistic as before (back when every par 4 became driver-wedge and every par 5 was reachable in two). Even though I like the Ryder Cup format on the newest game, I haven’t played it all that much.

But the Augusta feature is very exciting. I thought Hazeltine National Golf Club being added to the game for TW10 was very cool as I worked there in college for a while and have probably played the course 75 times. It was so cool that I wrote a freelance piece for the Star Tribune about Hazeltine being in the game. But this is a whole different level.

In April 2009, I attended a Masters practice round and it is one of the coolest things I’ve done. I walked every hole and wanted to get a great sense of the elevation change, the crazy movement in the greens, how little rough there is out there and the like.

I get that people might not like that ANGC is totally a good-old-boys kind of place or don’t like the stuffiness of the Masters, but the golf course is super cool.

Just like when Hazeltine joined the game, when Target Field was available on MLB2K10 and TCF Bank Stadium being part of NCAA Football 11, there is no question that I will buy Tiger Woods 12 on March 29, the day it is released. The only real question is whether I get it on a midnight store opening at GameStop, whether I buy it at lunch or whether I get it on my way home from work.

Assuming that we don’t get to play real golf here in the Twin Cities again in March (doubtful considering the amount of snowcover we have now), this game will certainly help get me through the end of winter.

If you can’t get enough, here is Bubba Watson playing a demo of the game. And here is Sobel talking about the game and touching on why ANGC is finally participating.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. There was much Twitter buzz on the topic yesterday and there was a pretty good-sized thread on Golf Club Atlas about the game.

I guess this means that I need to dust off my copy of TW11 and get practicing. March 29, after all, isn’t that far off.

UPDATE: Golfweek checks in with an interesting story featuring a little more background on how the game was made, etc.  Worth a click.