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Every Team Ever

Every Team Ever

So a few years ago, on a review website called, I started a little reviewing project. The goal was to write about every professional major league sports team in the United States and Canada. It took awhile, but I pulled it off, and it was read and liked by thousands of people.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t very long before the moderators on Lunch stopped doing their jobs. Going to Lunch now reveals a message that says they’ll have thing up and running again before you can say “Who doesn’t love Lunch?” Well, apparently saying those four words is a process which is now pushing two years.

All that hard work I did is now gone, but earlier this year, I came up with another good idea: I would do the same project all over again, but this time, I would do it as a wordpress blog so it wouldn’t be exposed to the shortcomings of lazy moderators.

So far, I’ve got about 15 teams down. This is going to take a little bit of time, so you’ll just have to check back in regularly and know that I’m going to get to your own favorite team eventually.

Here’s the link:


51 Things You’ll Never Hear a Buffalo Resident Say

51 Things You’ll Never Hear a Buffalo Resident Say

In March of last year, Time Out Chicago published a list of particular sentences and thoughts which people who had lived in Chicago for awhile could use to identify you as not being from Chicago. People loved the damn thing, and I dropped into a few other city blogs to check if other places followed suit. New Orleans did, and Portland tried, although no one ever published a full list for that city. Now, its been about a year and a half since Time Out Chicago published it, and after giving it some thought, I’ve decided its time for a Buffalo booster to punch up a list of 51. True to Buffalo’s form, though, no one here seems to have found out about Time Out Chicago’s idea. Buffalo is, of course, always three decades behind the times and current trends, so although it took me a years and a half to create my own list in response, I’m actually well ahead of the curve in Buffalo time. Note that if you’re stupid enough to say some of these things in public here – like number six – the people in this city are legally obligated to kill you.

1 – “Buffalo wings.”

2 – “Let’s be honest: The Bills never stood a chance against the Giants in that Super Bowl anyway.”

3 – “Main Place Mall is obviously the best hangout spot. There’s always a lot to see there.”

4 – “Don’t worry about having beer if you get snowed in. Tea is a fine substitute.”

5 – “Why go all the way to Mighty Taco? Taco Bell is closer. It’s just as good.”

6 – “I’m glad Buffalo Wild Wings is in the area. They know how it’s done!”

7 – “Why go to Canada to drink underage? You can buy a perfectly good fake ID here.”

8 – “The NFTA is working exactly like it’s supposed to. It’s doing a great job.”

9 – “I got caught in a traffic jam on the skyway during rush hour.”

10 – “Dolphins are mammals, not fish!”

11 – “Buffalo ’66 needs a sequel.”

12 – “Call the ballpark by its proper name: Coca-Cola Field.”

13 – “Nobody gives a crap about Irish lineage!”

14 – “I’m sensing an impending boom in heavy industry.”

15 – “I just don’t understand the logic of carving a chunk of butter into a lamb shape.”

16 – “Look, I don’t know my neighbors, so I don’t see why I should dig them out of five feet of snow just because.”

17 – “The Convention Center really adds to the aesthetic of the city.”

18 – “UB’s North Campus is easy to get to. You just can’t miss it.”

19 – “Tim Horton may be a hockey legend, but his donuts suck.”

20 – “I would prefer the pleasant natural smells of a typical city downtown area to the Cheerio smell infesting our downtown.”

21 – “All those one-way streets make navigation downtown a snap!”

22 – “Albany really sticks its neck out for us. We’re lucky to have them.”

23 – “Why does everyone like Rob Ray so much? He was a thug who never did anything for the community!”

24 – “Not having salt potatoes for the Fourth of July barbeque isn’t the end of the world.”

25 – “Ani DiFranco? That name doesn’t ring any bells.”

26 – “Who could possibly go running in this snow?”

27 – “The people in University Heights are so quiet and well-mannered.”

28 – “Summer here is gross. An average high of 80 degrees? Way too high.”

29 – “The view from the American side is just as good.”

30 – “I wish we had more New York City-style pizza joints. They do the best pizza downstate.”

31 – “The Albright-Knox doesn’t have anything interesting.”

32 – “All those Wrights and Sullivans need to be razed for more modern steel buildings.”

33 – “The Skylon is perfect for a first date.”

34 – “The Taste of Buffalo is just a low-budget version of the Taste of Chicago.”

35 – “Coffee? Starbucks, of course!”

36 – “I’m glad Niagara Falls axed the Festival of Lights.”

37 – “The city’s 4 AM Closing Time is absurd and needs to be cut back a couple of hours.”

38 – “What’s a weck?”

39 – “No, I don’t think my relatives would be interested in seeing The Falls.”

40 – “You know, it wouldn’t kill anyone to hold the annual pond hockey tournament at an indoor rink for once.”

41 – “William McKinley had it coming.”

42 – “$700 for a single-bedroom apartment is a steal. If you get that price, jump on it.”

43 – “Tim Russert and Wolf Blitzer? Overrated. Now The Buffalo News – there’s a shining beacon of great journalism!”

44 – “Three words when it comes to grocery shopping: Anywhere but Wegman’s.”

45 – “I wish Buffalo was more like New York City.”

46 – “The 1999 Stanley Cup Final was a long time ago and Brett Hull scored a good goal. Get over it!”

47 – “Another parking lot downtown would really improve the view.”

48 – “Don’t worry about potholes. They don’t exist here.”

49 – “Why would you move to North Carolina?”

50 – “I don’t see why this city thinks it’s so tough.”

51 – “I’m still waiting for Brian Higgins to run for President.”

Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Tim Horton’s: The Ultimate Donut Shop!

Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Tim Horton’s: The Ultimate Donut Shop!

Ah, donuts. Quite possibly the world’s most perfect pastry treat. It says something that whenever people begin their attacks on large, corporate fast food chains, the big donut shops always seem to escape relatively unscathed. I’m not quite sure what, exactly, it’s saying, but I’m sure it’s something. In any case, donuts are delicious. I love them, you love them, and there’s nothing better than going into a neighborhood donut shop on a freezing winter day to order our favored center-hole (or cream-filled) pastry with a nice cup of hot coffee and reading for an hour.

The big question, of course, is figuring out where you want to go to do that. Well, of course there’s always your local joint, but as much as I promote as much locality as possible in matters like this, there are those local places that just aren’t suited to the quiet atmosphere you’re looking for to get out of the cold and lose yourself inside a book for awhile. So as much as I don’t like going to the big places, they’re good at serving that purpose, and I frequently like to take advantage. If you live in the United States or Canada, your choices for such a joint are set in stone: Americans can take advantage of Dunkin’ Donuts, while Canadians have access to Tim Horton’s. But what if you’re living along the border and have ready access to both? Which one do you go to? Well, I’m one of those rare border people who is as likely to visit Dunkin’ as much as he is Timmy’s, and I say it’s time to mine a definitive answer to which one of these places is better. So let’s do this! Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Tim Horton’s. One day, I’ll learn.

Well, these places are both donut shops, so we might as well start with the obvious. Both Dunkin’ and Timmy’s are known and, well, at least tolerated for their abilities to whip up batches of creative donuts. Both bakeries have a habit of expanding their selections on a seasonal basis – Dunkin’ even offers a selection of donuts for Valentine’s Day, featuring donuts filled with cookie dough or brownie batter. Timmy’s goes for a more localized basis, and when football and hockey seasons roll around, they have pastries dedicated to the local teams – even the Bulls if you happen to be on the University of Buffalo campus. In the fall, Timmy’s has pumpkin donuts, and Dunkin’ has a seasonal selection more based around apples. When it comes down to the actual structure of the donuts, though, well, those tend to be pretty different too. The donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts are bigger and more dense while the ones at Tim Horton’s are fluffier, airier, and easier to chew on.
I know this is blasphemy in this area, but I’m giving this edge to Dunkin’ Donuts. Although I think Tim Horton’s probably has the better selection, I tend to think of donuts as dense treats that need to be washed down with a nice batch of brewed coffee, so the variety at Timmy’s just isn’t going to be an acceptable substitute if I decide I want a regular, classic Boston Creme or peanut donut. Dunkin’ does the classics pretty well, and that’s what this whole section comes down to.

There’s nothing like a cup of bold, robust coffee to wash down your pastries, so both places offer combinations that include it, along with a wide variety of ways to spice it up. Both places offer iced coffee and dark roasts, as well as a set of cappuccino drinks. There’s not much else to say about coffee – it’s pleasantly bitter and hot, can go with any food, and is a nice way to warm up.
Tim Horton’s wins this one by a mile. Not only is their dark roast better, but if you go to Dunkin’ Donuts, you have to order the dark roast in order to have a drink that tastes even remotely like coffee. And even then, the Dunkin’ Donuts dark roast is more like one of those vending machine coffees; something that’s there, quick, painless, and convenient that you can drink when you’re in dire need of a pick-me-up. The regular Dunkin’ Donuts coffee has been likened to dishwater, although I personally prefer to compare it to hot water which has been flavored with ink. There’s not much difference, though, and the message remains the same: Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is something that can be thrown out without regret.

The redheaded stepchild of the regular donut, bagels aren’t as soft or sweet, but you get to fill them up with butter and cream cheese. And Dunkin’ Donuts makes its bagels considerably bigger than Tim Horton’s, so there’s more for the price and more room for cream cheese. Unfortunately, Dunkin’ bagels also tend to be rather chewy, and also very difficult to bite off. They’re more like the bagels a lot of us get from grocery store bakeries. The bagels at Timmy’s are smaller, and they don’t offer quite as much variety when it comes to toppings, but if you want the bagel sliced and toasted, first of all, it really tastes like its been sliced and toasted and not merely heated in a saucepan for ten seconds. They are hard but just soft enough for you to be able to eat without chipping your teeth, but Timmy’s isn’t quite as generous with the cream cheese. Both places offer a great variety of bagels, from your regular flavors to temporary seasonal offerings.
Tim Horton’s. Not only are the bagels more like real bagels, they go a lot better with butter if you’re not up for cream cheese. Also, their bagels are a lot more flavorful and taste like exactly what they’re supposed to taste like. The way they’re baked is excellent – you don’t wear yourself out trying to chew one of them.

The larger, tastier, more filling, and less healthy alternative to the donut is an incredible treat at Dunkin’ Donuts. Moist, gooey, and packed with whatever flavor you ordered, there’s really not much of a contest to be had in this department… Until you get to know the various branches of Dunkin’ Donuts are realize they all seem to use very different muffin recipes. And that’s a real key here – Dunkin’ muffins COULD be the best you find anywhere, IF you happen to find a branch that does them well. Unfortunately, just as often, you’re also likely to find Dunkin’ muffins that are stale or dry. Tim Horton’s muffins are significantly smaller, and their best don’t hold a candle to the best at Dunkin’. However, there’s a more interesting selection at Timmy’s, and some of their muffins have small pockets filled with an appropriate cream or jelly. Although Dunkin’ ultimately has the higher quality muffins, Timmy’s makes up for its lesser quality with better consistency – a muffin cooked is going to be done in a particular way whether it’s done at Harborcenter or the University of Buffalo campus. The quality remains the same no matter where you are.
Tim Horton’s. And my god, what a place for Dunkin’ Donuts to squander its potential. Dunkin’ seemed to find the perfect way to make muffins, and yet, it can’t get that method of baking to every store. Hell, in my experience, it can’t get its baking methods to half its stores, and so you have a scattershot chance of finding the best of any particular kind of muffin that gets served at Dunkin’ Donuts. This kind of roulette has never happened at Tim Horton’s. I’ll grant that Dunkin’s blueberry muffins are consistent, but sometimes, I just want a damn chocolate chip muffin that isn’t fucking stale! Or a pumpkin muffin that doesn’t completely crumble after I take my first bite!

There’s a decent selection of sandwiches at both donut joints. At Dunkin’ Donuts, you get the feeling that everything that’s not one of their breakfast sandwiches was whipped up in a hurry using leftover breakfast materials with lunch meat. Not that I’m docking them for that in itself, because some of those selections are pretty tasty – their turkey sandwiches make a good, fast lunch sandwich in a pinch. Tim Horton’s does subs – or, really, half-subs, bigger than the sandwiches you’re likely to find at Burger King. There aren’t a whole lot of varieties of them, and it feels more like Timmy’s is banking more on its own selection of infallible breakfast sandwiches, which include biscuit sandwiches. Their selection of breakfast sandwiches is pretty standard, and has the usual ingredients, like eggs, sausage, cheese, and bacon.
Tim Horton’s. Dunkin’ Donuts seems to have whipped up half its menu as a compliment to its putrid coffee. That’s a bad enough crime as it is, but Dunkin’ compounds it by demanding you pay lunch sandwich prices for most of them. At Tim Horton’s, you can actually get a sizable lunch sandwich for an appropriate price.

And the winner of this contest is Tim Horton’s, and a four-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer destroys one of the silliest, most unsophisticated uses of the word “dunk.” Although, let’s be honest: The real winner in this contest would be Ipsento. Or Spot. Or Coffee Culture, or Sweetness 7, or whatever other local cafe serves coffee and pastries for the local intellectuals. The small places seem to get it right every time.

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Four: What? How? and Huh?!

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Four: What? How? and Huh?!

The better way to think of this tier is as a list of naming gambles that didn’t pay off. None of them are outrageously bad or offensive, and most of them made a real try at originality. Unfortunately, the originality was done without a whole lot of regard to the region or the people living in the region, or much respect for the idea of trying to form a connection to the area’s fans; the area fans are the ones you need to click with first and foremost, because they’re the ones who are going to be the original ticket and merchandise buyers. There’s usually effort apparent, but in most of these cases, it resulted in a team name that seems weird or misplaced, to the detriment of the very people the team is trying to appeal to.

70: Anaheim Ducks, NHL
Any readers who don’t know anything about hockey right now are probably thinking of a certain Disney movie called The Mighty Ducks, which came out in 1992 and became a sports movie classic loved by children and adults alike. Disney took the movie’s popularity as license to not only acquire an expansion NHL team, but name it the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, after the movie. Then they used the two sequels to the movie to let the public know their NHL team existed. (The second movie used the NHL team’s jerseys, and was far more subtle about the promotion. The third movie is just pathetic about it: The climactic scene revolves largely around the Big Game announcer’s efforts to keep his lips suctioned to the ass of real Ducks star Paul Kariya.) In about 2005, Disney finally sold the team, and the new owners finally did away with the embarrassing Disney imagery just in time for the Ducks to win the Stanley Cup in 2007. The connection, however, is still very fresh in everyone’s minds, and since the team was named after the movie, it loses virtually everything on its branding alone. That’s a shame, because in the movies, what the Ducks come to symbolically represent – even though they were named after main character Gordon Bombay’s boss, Ducksworth – is ducks in a flying V, coasting gracefully off the air current produced by flapping their wings and quacking to encourage each other.

69: Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
The Lakers are so successful, popular, ubiquitous, and associated with exciting basketball, and their name has such a cool sound – three rolling L sounds, all almost evenly spaced out – that we forget how little sense this name makes. They make their home in Los Angeles, where the only existing lakes were made by men, and no, I’m not going to try to count the Pacific Ocean. The Lakers began their existence as the Minneapolis Lakers and won 16 championships, more than any other NBA team except the Boston Celtics (and the Celtics have just one more title than the Lakers). The first five titles the Lakers won all happened in Minneapolis, so, you know, you probably wouldn’t give up a name after that kind of success either, no matter how nonsensical it sounds. It certainly makes the branding unique, and when the name is so pleasant to say, you can’t really complain that it’s a bad thing in this case.

68: Montreal Canadiens, NHL
I don’t know whether this name was created to appeal to all of Canada or merely the Francophone side of Quebec, given that “Canadiens” in this case is spelled with an E in the final syllable instead of the English version A. I know the team itself was created for the Francophones, but by naming it the Canadiens, the team successfully applied the very definition of having its cake and eating it too: Try and make it national and regional at the same time. There’s a generic element in play here as well, since this is akin to naming a team the Americans. Still, not many other teams use it, and it does manage to be unique enough to emboss the brand into memory – although those 24 Stanley Cups probably have something to do with that too.

67: Orlando Magic, NBA
Another amorphous concept getting a far higher ranking than it deserves, the Orlando Magic would at first look like a perfect name. They’re based in the city of Orlando, Florida, after all, the city in which Walt Disney World takes up its best-known residence. And Disney World is popularly known as the Magic Kingdom, so it’s really not such a bad way to regionalize the team. Unfortunately, after that, what I said about branding in the 70 spot starts coming into play, and you really can’t afford to try branding a team after a corporation that already owns it, even if Magic is more of a stealth branding instead of a blatant advertisement. And trying to name an entire team the Magic is especially disastrous in basketball, in which one of the most famous players of all time, one of the greatest players of all time, and one so popular and beloved that he’s given a ton of credit for rescuing the league when it was on the ropes in the 80’s and transforming it into the juggernaut it is today, happens to be best known by his stage name: Magic Johnson. And Magic Johnson never had anything to do with the Orlando Magic, unless you count the fact that he played the same sport. Not a good idea.

66: Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA
The team of LeBron James tries branding itself using imagery that evokes 17th-Century swordfighters and swordsman who are always ready to draw and duel on the spot. Unfortunately, it won’t change the fact that Cavalier is another amorphous concept which, in a nutshell, is synonymous for offhand and a lack of proper concern. In a historical context, a Cavalier was a supporter of King Charles I back when England was fighting the English Civil War. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s difficult to argue that it would be a brand someone would want.

65: Buffalo Sabres, NHL
This name was created as an attempt to stifle the tide of professional teams in Buffalo that were called the Bisons. Face it, when your city is called Buffalo, damn the redundancy, the name of a sports team is pretty much ready made. The original owners of the Sabres were looking to buck that trend, and they did that by thinking up a name associated with a sword that is, according to them, fast on both offense and defense, and the weapon carried by a battle leader. Fast on offense and defense are nice to associate with a team, even if they don’t have anything to do with the city. As for the part about being a leader, it goes without saying that Buffalo has no right to say it leads much of anything these days, not with the way it decided to turn its back on a changing world and shut itself in. Buffalo once led the entire planet in grain shipment, thus feeding the entire world, and it was in the top five on steel production too. It was also a visionary city in the advancement of electrical technology – Nikola Tesla’s lab was just in Niagara Falls, the original home of alternating current, and between all that, it was one of the richest cities in the world. Those days are gone, and today Buffalo’s leader roles aren’t quite as important: CVD mortality (first); poverty (third or fourth); segregation (seventh); and violent crime (tenth). Uh, we’re number one? The B in the middle of Sabres, though, creates a nice offset to the hard B and O in Buffalo.

64: Washington Nationals, MLB
Nationals? Really? In Patriot Central, the District of Columbia, that wretched hive of scum and villainy, with all those politicians and monuments, you pop up the most useless way of saying “Americans” ever concocted? I’m shocked Fox News didn’t pick up on an angle using this: “We’re using Nationals because not everyone in this country is a rich white guy, and not being a rich white guy is un-American, and we’re too politically correct to call them the Americans!” The Nats are the third baseball team in Washington. The first was officially called the Nationals, in spite of the press prominently calling them the Senators. The second was officially called the Senators. I understand wanting to keep the history of the original team and give it a catch-all term for the countrymen they’re supposed to represent, but we can do much better than Nationals.

63: New York Jets, NFL
Jets may not be the most immediate image associated with New York City, but they work quite well as a colloquial. Jets are, after all, a very modern way of getting from place to place, and avionics technology is always on the move, much like the largest city in the United States. The name Jets also works as a parallel to New York City’s other junior, rebel alternative sports teams – the New York Mets and Brooklyn Nets, the younger alternatives to the Giants and Knicks. But the problem, uh, well…. See, the Jets don’t actually exist anywhere within the entire state of New York…. They play in New Jersey, where they also get their taxpayer extortions and have most of their fans….

62: Seattle Seahawks, NFL
If you’re even a tenth awake in any matters regarding the NFL, you already know from the coverage of the most recent Super Bowl that a seahawk is basically an osprey. Ospreys are more birds of prey, rendering this a pretty generic name, which you would think would be even more so since they decided to use a term with the word “hawk” in it. There’s one very important thing that I love about the Seahawks name, though: the “sea” in seahawks is a really cool allusion to the city’s name, which begins with the same three letters. That gives it an awesome form of regionalization which it really has no right to have. It sticks out and brands the team in a way you would be hard-pressed to forget.

61: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
A buccaneer is a particular kind of pirate, giving this name a lower originality rating than it deserves. But it has a really cool, jumpy sound, and you at least have to give it credit for using a nickname no one ever used before, making it fairly memorable. I think the nicknames Buccaneers is better suited to New Orleans, but it actually does have a grounding in Tampa Bay Area lore: Tampa hosts an annual event called the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, which celebrates a popular legend revolving around a Spanish pirate captain named Jose Gaspar. He’s a popular figure in Florida folklore, but there’s no evidence of his existence before people started writing about him in the 20th Century.

60: San Diego Chargers, NFL
The Chargers have lightning bolts on their helmets. It’s a good allusion, but it doesn’t have anything to do with anything else in San Diego. It has to do with the original owner wanting to present a certain kind of image – an amorphous concept, as it were! If given the old application, a charger is a very old way of referring to a horse – horses charged back in the medieval era as knights tried to knock each other off. Unfortunately, between the name and the imagery, the only association people will ever make with chargers in this day and age is something that powers up your cell phone or computer battery. Technological evolution has given a comical meaning and image to a name which might not have been so bad a decade ago, and there’s a new generation of children being born wondering why a football team would ever call itself the Chargers, no matter how important actual chargers can be. The future, you can’t escape it. And in thinking forward, the San Diego Chargers brand evolved into an image which now makes the name completely comical. I guess you can’t really blame the original owner for that.

59: Dallas Stars, NHL
This is actually a better name than most people give it credit for. Keeping the Stars nickname after the move to Dallas is a very obvious but still a cool way to evoke the state’s pride in trying to get them to appeal to everyone in Texas. In this case, it works because the Dallas Stars are the only NHL team in Texas, and Texas is famously known as The Lone Star State. The state flag of Texas is easily the most famous in the United States, out of the sheer simplicity and symbolism of it: Red and white horizontal stripes, with a vertical blue stripe that has a single white star on its foreground; held to a special reverence in Texas. Unfortunately for the Stars, the negative end of the branding cancels out the positive. Texas is quite famously a football state. The Cowboys, Dallas’s NFL team, are one of the league’s glamor teams, and their official logo is a large, bold star of navy blue. So by calling themselves the Stars, Dallas’s NHL team looks like it’s trying to leech off the popularity of its far more famous NFL cousin. It doesn’t exactly help matters that, before becoming the Dallas Stars, this team already had one of the coolest names in history: They started out as the Minnesota North Stars.

58: New Orleans Pelicans, NBA
The name change of the New Orleans Hornets sparked a ton of outcry when the name New Orleans Pelicans was announced. But you know what? Fuck that, pelicans are awesome! I think the outcry was sparked out of ignorance: Ignorance of the fact that the brown pelican is the official state bird of Louisiana; ignorance of the fact that pelicans are the most carnivorous birds on the planet; ignorance of the fact that they are capable of not only swooping in, but diving a good 40 feet underwater to catch prey. New Orleans has also fielded more than one minor league team in other sports called the Pelicans, so it’s a nod to the city’s sports history as well. The only real problems with this name are the branding, which is difficult because people are dummies who got way too many impressions of pelicans from Warner Brothers cartoons; and the fact that New Orleans Pelicans is a very jumpy, clunky name which has an unpleasant sound to it. Still, major props to the team for avoiding a generic name change and using a wildlife-related name which honors the city and state.

57: New York Rangers, NHL
This name is such an institution that we tend to forget how dumb it really is. When we think of rangers, we think of bold people on wild frontiers. You could make a case that New York City is a wild frontier, but as for bold people there? Rich white collar thieves and rich, white, useless coffeehouse intellectuals are hardly bold. Ranger also evokes images of an open range with wide skies, and that is not New York City. The Rangers got their name because the man who first brought them to the city was nicknamed Tex, and the team was frequently referred to as Tex’s Rangers. The name does have a nice roll to it, though, and lord knows the branding certainly stands out because of the misplacement.

56: Dallas Mavericks, NBA
Honestly, we hear the work “maverick” so often these days that I just want to clock people who use it to describe themselves. The term is used to describe people who are stand out as lone dissenters among their associates or pursue rebellious policies or ideas. In other words, “maverick” is a good way to describe Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but the term itself is like the whole San Diego Chargers thing: It’s slowly starting to devolve. Most of the politicians who call themselves mavericks these days are unquestioning slaves to blind prejudices, and more and more frequently, they’re also getting caught in monetary scandals. In other words, they’re trying to fit in with an enormous swath of people that still sees it their way. If we want to think of Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, well, he was a dangerous and self-destructive pilot who realistically would have been booted from the Navy about ten times over for all the shit he pulled.

55: Philadelphia Flyers, NHL
Is this another concept or an actual noun that a real image can be attached to? It’s difficult to decide, because flyer is such a general term. It’s also downright silly when you try to think of anything in Philadelphia the term could possibly be applied to. Philadelphia is known for a lot of things, but aviation prowess isn’t one of them. Honestly, I have no clue how this name ended up ranked in the 50’s. It ignores virtually everything about the city and its people, it’s weak, it has a bad balance, there’s no regionalization, history, and the branding gets a passing grade only because the Flyers have been one of the NHL’s premier teams for decades now.

54: Detroit Red Wings, NHL
This is not a generic name, that much can be given to the Red Wings. That automatically gives it a higher standing than Lions or Tigers. But it also brings up the question of just what the hell a red wing is supposed to be, anyway. What’s a red wing, where did it come from, and how does it work itself into the local mythos of Detroit? Detroit Red Wings is another name with good balance and heft, and the Red offers it more intensity and ferocity than a name like the Blue Wings or Green Wings would have ever provided, while the wing is a good abstract reference to the speed of hockey. That at least give it a very unique and abstract way of branding itself and offering some heft to the name, but I’m afraid it loses points for, you know, not making any damn sense.

Quantified Sports Suffering in Buffalo vs. Cleveland: The Ultimate Battle!

Quantified Sports Suffering in Buffalo vs. Cleveland: The Ultimate Battle!

Buffalo and Cleveland could be twins. Their locations are similar, their histories are similar, their lifestyles, vital statistics, and living costs are all similar. Hell, the two even share their sports pain with each other, at least to such a point that fans in the two cities frequently root for each other’s teams unless their own teams are compromised in doing so. The sports fans in Buffalo and Cleveland have both suffered more than any fans in proximity to the Boston Red Sox or Chicago Cubs ever have. And yet, it’s Cleveland that seems to be getting all the publicity for how bad their fans have it, even though Buffalo arguably had it worse over the years. They’ve built such a brand name on hard losses that you wonder if any of the teams there really are interested in winning, just because a feel-good story would ruin the bad voodoo. Perhaps they think all the non-Clevelanders who follow Cleveland’s teams – and there are a ton of them, far more so than for any of the teams in Buffalo – would pat themselves on the back, compliment themselves for sticking it out, and bounce off to different teams.

A little movie called Draft Day was released this week. It’s about the GM of the Cleveland Browns and his fight for the year’s coveted draft pick, a guy who will uplift the city and its fans and relieve everyone of all their suffering. Buffalo has a small stake in this because Draft Day was dangerously close to revolving around the Buffalo Bills. After Cleveland stepped in and offered better incentives to Hollywood to make Draft Day about their football team, it was an instance of Buffalo getting nationally lowballed in accounts of its sports suffering yet again, and I asked myself: Which one of these cities really has it worse when it comes to professional sports? So let’s do this! Quantified sports suffering in Buffalo vs. Cleveland. One day, I’ll learn.

Past Glories
The thing about record books is that they’re there to preserve things. The histories of your sports teams are something you want to hold onto, because sports are part of popular culture, historical culture, and the entertainment industry. And once something happened to your sports team, it can’t be erased, and when a moment of real significance happens – whether it’s good or bad – it becomes something that helps define the team. This applies double to both championships and last-place finishes. When it comes to the defining moments of the past, Cleveland shines: Although the Browns never made the Super Bowl, they did win four NFL Championships which are their forever. If we extend the history back through the AAFC – which we should – that number is ramped up to eight, with the four titles Cleveland won in the four years the AAFC existed. (In the 1948 AAFC Championship, the Browns whomped the original Buffalo Bills 49-7.) Although the Browns stopped winning titles after the 60’s, they had plenty of huge moments after that, and they were also coached by one of football’s greatest innovators (Paul Brown) and fielded the greatest football player in history (Jim Brown). Of course, the original Browns are now the Baltimore Ravens, but for the sake of consistency, I’m going to play the same game with them the NFL does and pretend the team just “suspended operations” for two years and consider the brand new team the same team. In baseball, the Cleveland Indians won five Pennants and two World Series titles. Even a 1954 World Series loss became iconic to baseball lore when the Tribe became arguably the best team to ever lose the Series – they won 111 games that year; they were also one of Bill Veeck’s teams, and were the first AL team to integrate. The terminally bad Cavs even made a significant impact on the NBA when they drafted LeBron James, who became the league’s best player and took the Cavs to their only NBA Finals, an unwinnable series against an invincible San Antonio Spurs team. As for Buffalo, glory came in fleeting moments at its best. The AAFC Bills made the aforementioned title game in an otherwise resoundingly average existence before the AAFC/NFL merger stomped them out. The current Bills were one of the original AFL teams in 1959, and they reeled in dominant repeat championships in 1964 and 1965 and played in the game in 1966. The 1966 game is a big question mark among Bills fans regarding what could have been because winning it would have catapulted them into the first-ever Super Bowl (where they would have gotten trashed by Vince Lombardi’s Packers). After that, they experienced decency for a brief stretch in the 70’s with OJ Simpson, but were mostly terrible with an occasional average year thrown in to tease the fans. Even in the 80’s, when the Bills finally became legitimately good, they lost four straight Super Bowls. The Sabres have won three Conference Championships and one Presidents’ Trophy, but before today’s record losing became a problem with them, the Sabres made a habit of having a great season and watching it go to waste when the Boston Bruins would inevitably steal the division title and the Sabres would get knocked out of the first round of the playoffs. Buffalo’s strongest point right now is its lacrosse team, and while the city was once one of the richest and most important cities in the world, it somehow never had a professional major league baseball team – in fact it lost several bids for one.
There are those who might argue that Cleveland should get this, since it fell so much further. But my thoughts about that argument were explained when I mentioned records. I’m not doing this by ignoring any parts of a team’s past just because it didn’t happen in my lifetime, and past glories beat no glories any day of the week. Therefore, Buffalo is the so-called winner here.

National Embarrassment
This isn’t an on-field embarrassment I’m trying to cover now – every team has those, even the Yankees. For this category, I’m covering something that transcended what happened on the field and worked its way into national consciousness. And both cities provide very easy choices: For Cleveland, it was The Decision. In case your memory is geared toward the short term, here’s what happened: Cleveland had LeBron James, the NBA’s most transcendent and gifted player since Michael Jordan. However, he became a free agent, and some media prick decided his decision about where he was going to play was a big enough deal to warrant an hour-long TV special on ESPN. There was speculation about James everywhere, and the show was little more than waffling for an hour until decision time came and James publicly humiliated his devoted Cleveland fanbase by saying he was off to the Miami Heat. It wasn’t the actual decision that sparked outrage in Cleveland so much as it was airing it on national TV. Rust Belt people are a prideful group who believe in their cities, no matter how poorly reputed, and are always willing to do their part in trying to bring them back from the dead. James failed to understand that he was putting a viable face on Cleveland, and The Decision flew right in the face of a city trying to pull itself back together and positively promote itself. So when the Cavaliers owner told James off in a public note and Clevelanders started burning James in effigy, it was an effort to spare their own pride. Another group of people who failed to understand Cleveland’s mentality were critical theorists – who, notably, in my experiences, all say with great pride that they don’t care about professional sports (unless they’re griping about someone’s insane contract, an issue which I think unites everyone) – who couldn’t resist the urge to apply their favorite label to Cleveland by calling fans racists. Buffalo’s greatest embarrassment was so terrible and so wrong that calling it an embarrassment is being way too soft. In the 70’s, Buffalo had a star running back named OJ Simpson, who was comparable to LeBron James for everything. Simpson didn’t bounce from Buffalo, either – although he lived in California, he was always very proud to represent Buffalo, never said anything bad about the city, and was a regular at Bills games after retiring. And then in 1994, he was accused of murdering his wife, and while the law said he wasn’t guilty, the evidence was more than strong enough for the people to be very convinced otherwise. Simpson turned out to be a public projection presented in the place of a private scumbag. In 2007, Simpson robbed a Las Vegas hotel, and received a disproportionately long sentence of 33 years which many people believe was the law making up for what it didn’t do in 1994.
Buffalo. Although people in Cleveland will certainly try to use a metaphorical argument, no one was killed in regard to The Decision. In fact, after the initial anger period, Cleveland’s basketball fans are starting to act like they would welcome him back if he ever returned to the Cavaliers. While James himself had image problems in the immediate aftermath of The Decision, he’s also conducted himself in a way which laid them to rest, and even he now admits he sees why The Decision was a bad idea. By all accounts, James is a good man and a class act. Buffalo sports fans are actively trying to remove themselves of any connections to OJ Simpson, and have passed around several petitions asking for his name to be pulled from Ralph Wilson Stadium’s Wall of Fame.

Lost Team
Unfortunately, while the record books say the Cleveland Browns “suspended operations” for two years, records and ownership are very different things, and so the shared history won’t nullify the fact that one of the proudest NFL cities in the country was robbed of its team. Yes, they got them “back,” but the Browns being taken at all was no small thing. The owner who committed the robbery, Art Modell, is more hated in Cleveland than LeBron James ever was. We’re talking about a rabidly nutty fanbase here, and a very extensive one – Browns Backers Worldwide is the most extensive fan organization in the United States, and branches can be found in every major US city. (The largest is in Phoenix.) They also have an enormous foreign presence on US military bases, as well as proper foreign countries including Egypt, Australia, Japan, Sri Lanka…. And even the McMurdo Station in freaking Antarctica! Their two largest international chapters are in Alon Shvut, Israel, and Niagara Falls, Canada. The latter chapter is saying something because Niagara Falls is a clear encroachment in Bills territory. Bills Backers International is no slouch either, but how does a group as huge and devoted as Cleveland lose its team in the first place? Buffalo also has a serious lost team in its past: In 1970, the NBA oversaw the foundation of the Buffalo Braves, an exciting, run and gun team which featured coaching legend Jack Ramsey and MVP center Bob McAdoo. The Braves did manage to catch a base of hardcore fans, including current Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, a New York City native who chose the Braves as his team over both the Knicks and Nets and attended college in Buffalo because of his respect for them. The NBA is one of the most visible and ubiquitous sports leagues in the country. Its stars tend to be the most popular, because they’re the most versatile in regards to the way the sport is played (unlike baseball or football) and the ones who spend the most time in the game (unlike hockey, where stars get shifts of a few minutes and play maybe 20 minutes, a great basketball player can spend 35-40 minutes of a 48-minute game on the floor).
Cleveland by a distance of at least three states. They lost a team in the country’s most popular sport, the one whose championship game is seen as almost a national holiday. While no one could ever argue the popularity of the NBA, first of all, the NBA is the youngest pro sports league in the country, and the Braves existed before it morphed into the juggernaut it is today. The Braves left in 1978; the league was seriously cash-strapped right through the early 80’s, and moving teams was still fairly common when the Braves were on the outs. Hell, even the NBA Finals were usually shown on tape delay, if they were shown on TV at all. There’s also the impact of what the teams became after leaving. The Browns became the Baltimore Ravens, two-time Super Bowl champions. The Braves became the San Diego Clippers, then became the Los Angeles Clippers six years later, and they still haven’t won anything. Hell, they’ve been the poster boys of losing basketball, and it’s not until just now that the Clippers are giving their fans the kinds of successes they enjoyed as the Braves (who were consistently good for several years). Also, this can’t be understated: Cleveland got a team back, and that team was given the right to say it was the old team! While the loss of the Braves undoubtedly hurt, that’s nothing on losing a world class NFL franchise.

The Title that Got Away
Buffalo and Cleveland both have moments of pain quantified by the fact that they were a hair away from winning the league title when karma snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. In both cases, the events happened in the 90’s, long enough for the title draughts to have really sunk in by then. The Cleveland Indians had been in the dumps since the trade of Rocky Colavito, but in the 90’s, they were finally dominant again. They brought home two Pennants during the decade, and as for what happened during the World Series, I’m fairly sure the 1995 loss to the Atlanta Braves team no one was expected to beat is forgivable. In 1997, though, it was different: The Tribe played against the Florida Marlins to a seventh game, and they were one run up in the ninth inning with two outs left when close Jose Mesa – one of baseball’s best – spaced out. Long story short, the Marlins made up the run, the game went to extra innings, and the Marlins pulled it out. The Indians haven’t gotten that close since. The Bills played the closest Super Bowl in history against the New York Giants. Behind 20-19 with eight seconds left, their kicker shanked a 47-yard field goal try to the right.
I’m calling this a draw. It’s disgusting the Bills lost to the Giants in such a way – while revisionist NFL commentators like to say now the Bills couldn’t have won, they ignore the fact that the Bills weren’t playing like themselves. They were making mistakes and errors all game against a Giants team playing at its absolute, peak best. Had the Bills been doing the same, the closer score of that game would have been about 38-10, Buffalo. As for Cleveland, yes, they were fielding what was pretty much an all-star team too. However, what everyone conveniently forgets is that they were also playing against an all-star team. Florida won by spending big on guys like Al Leiter, Gary Sheffield, Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Kevin Brown, Robb Nen, and Luis Castillo. That’s not what you would call light makeup. Jose Mesa was an outstanding closer, just as Buffalo’s Scott Norwood was an excellent kicker, and both blew it when they couldn’t afford to.

Signature Losing Streaks
This is a tougher and more significant contest than you might expect. A nice long streak can say a lot about a team. I guess the logical place to start with Cleveland would be in the NBA, where the Cavaliers have managed to reel in 26 losses in a row on more than one occasion. Everyone knows that. The more significant streak, though, is the brief run of appearances the Browns made in the AFC Conference Championship back in the 80’s. How much of a streak this really is depends on interpretation, but the Browns appeared in three AFC Championships in the 80’s, all against the Denver Broncos. They lost all three. Then, of course, there’s the Buffalo Bills and their two very famous losing streaks. They made it to the Super Bowl an unprecedented four years in a row, and are still the only team to ever do that. They also lost all four, as if anyone in Buffalo needs reminding. Known as well in Buffalo, however, is that back in the terrible 70’s, the Bills also managed to drop 20 games straight to the Miami Dolphins. You think they have it bad with their recent losing streaks against the Belichick/Brady Patriots? That was nothing compared to what Schula’s ‘Phins did to them every year for ten straight years.
Buffalo. I take nothing away from Cleveland here, but both of Buffalo’s major streaks were in the country’s major sport, and one of them involved, you know, losing the damned Super Bowl every year! Also, the Bills have a streak of playoff-free years that dates all the way back to 1999. The Browns have a similar streak, but it “only” goes back to 2002.

Ownership Problems
You don’t get a bad team without a bad owner, and the owners of the Browns and Cavaliers have proved that many times over throughout the years. Bad as the new Browns are, though, they all still take a backseat in Cleveland to Art Modell, who sinned against Cleveland when he moved the Browns to Baltimore. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Cavaliers fans have had to deal with Ted Stepien. While Stepien was only there for a few years, he left a mark. He was Jerry Jones before Jerry Jones was, interfering with the running of the team’s operations to such an extent that the NBA had to instate a rule specifically to prevent him from drafting first-round picks in consecutive years. Buffalo’s ownership problems have also been apparent, but the Bills were owned by Ralph Wilson for 54 years before Wilson died last week. The Sabres have had a more eclectic ownership history which involved the Knox family, the NHL, and Tom Golisano before Terry Pegula took them over and wimped out when it came to making the necessary changes of guard.
Cleveland. Ted Stepien was just too vile of a human being, and Art Modell screwed the city out of a champion football team. Whatever can be said about Wilson or Pegula, they were truly committed to their area and were class acts and fans of the teams they owned, for better and worse. 

Bad Draft Picks
In Cleveland, Tim Couch, Luke Jackson, and Brady Quinn aren’t lacking for haters, but I don’t even have to do any research to know their worst draft pick, ever, across any sport: If your starting quarterback is a rookie who is already 29 years old, you fucked up. With competent coaching, poor Brandon Weeden could have been a nice placeholder for a year or two until their guy finally came to town, but we can’t allow ourselves to go very far beyond that. There are a few Buffalo players in history who could qualify as the worst – John McCargo, anyone? Say what you will about the Bills’ bad picks, though, but they all at least signed contracts. Barrett Heisten, the 1999 first round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, never did that. Although that might have been a blessing in disguise, because Heisten played ten NHL games in his entire career, all with the New York Rangers, and his points column has a big fat goose egg in it. Six picks later, the Ottawa Senators got Martin Havlat.
Cleveland. Brandon Weeden was in the more popular sport, with the more visible team, and the media never let anyone forget the Browns were staking their future on a first round quarterback who was about to hit the wrong side of 30. Either the team was trying to outsmart itself or it stopped giving a shit years ago. How the hell does a general manager mess up like that?

Signature Losses
Both cities are steeped in the lore of bad losses. Cleveland has incidents like The Fumble, The Drive, The Shot, and Red Right 88 to live down. All of those were playoff losses, and two of them involved the Browns in the AFC Championship. The Shot, we can say, wasn’t too bad because the Cavaliers were in a lower playoff round playing against the Jordan Bulls, and it was Jordan who made The Shot. The Drive is sort of the same – John Elway was being John Elway, and the incident didn’t win the game for Denver, but took it into overtime. The other two, however, are inexcusable. Buffalo is still living down The Drop, No Goal, the Music City Miracle, and The Bounce. Buffalo likes to blame bad refereeing, and makes the claim about No Goal and the Music City Miracle. The Bounce was a wild act of physics that happened to defy Dominick Hasek’s spine. The Drop, like The Fumble (running back Ernest Byner fumbling at the two yard line) and Red Right 88 (the Browns making a desperation pass that failed when a field goal would have worked), just inexplicably happened when it shouldn’t have. The Music City Miracle, though, was entirely legit. It was a great play made against bad kickoff coverage, and no amount of griping about the refs being under someone’s belt will change the fact that science and math have both proven that amazing play was either backward or straight to side side, at the very least. 
This one is a tie. Even though No Goal happened in the Stanley Cup Finals and gave the Cup to the Stars, the Sabres could well have lost anyway even if it had gone in their direction. Cleveland’s gaffes cost them more than one trip to the Finals, so those are just as evil. The Drop and The Fumble are very similar – almost comical robberies of surefire game-winning touchdowns. So how about Buffalo and Cleveland meet in a nice sports bar over this and cry into our Great Lakes and Brooklyn Brewery microbrews together?

Signature Athlete Who Gave the City the Finger on the Way Out
Poor Cleveland. LeBron James came, and we all believed he would be a Cavalier forever. For seven years, all basketball aficionados were Cavs fans to at least some extent. When they made the Finals for the first time in 2007, I think nearly everyone was rooting for him to defy the odds and lead Cleveland to a stunning upset over the Spurs. Then in 2010, James briefly became the enemy of NBA followers everywhere with The Decision. Although there was more subtlety to it, Buffalo got a whiff of what this might be like when the Bills used their first 2002 draft pick on Willis McGahee. McGahee sat behind Travis Henry for a year, and when the Bills turned the corner in 2004 – their only winning season of the millennium – it was largely because McGahee was given the keys. McGahee played brilliantly for the next couple of seasons, but he also took his complaints about Buffalo to the media. Buffalo had loved McGahee, and he decided to turn around and spit right in the city’s face. Buffalo is one of those places where insiders can trash the place as much as they please – when we do it, it has a lot to do with frustration over how the city isn’t using its full potential. When outsiders do it, it’s because they never made the effort to get to know the place. McGahee was shipped to Baltimore. When he found that out, he apparently ran screaming around his house.
Cleveland. A fiasco like The Decision will get a tortured sports city pretty far when it comes to athletes sticking up their fingers.

The so-called winner in the tortured sports pantheon truly is Cleveland. You have to admit, though, Buffalo made it a hell of a fight.

An Everyday New Year

An Everyday New Year

Okay, I’m a real oddball. I make those ridiculous things known as New Year’s Resolutions, and more and more, I keep them even as they grow more outlandish and grandiose. They help me keep track of the things I’ve wanted to do and have accomplished in what timeframe, and what I have left to do. This year, I want to re-sculpt my boy, get my grades up, find a new focus as a writer and continue sending out more work, and visit another place I haven’t been before. I had some high goals last year, but I managed to reach every one of them.

However, this whole New Year’s-is-magic thing is something I’m never going to understand. The whole process only has relevance because it’s so close to Christmas and, by proximity, it gets the shit advertised out of it. Yes, folks, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are more corporatized holidays, but unlike every other corporatized holiday, there’s no real sound basis for it. Valentine’s Day – which I outright rebel against – at least celebrates love. What’s New Year’s? A new beginning? If people were actually serious about the whole new beginning thing, they wouldn’t be saving their self-improvements until then anyway. Even though I make resolutions, I know full well in advance what they’re going to be and how they’re going to help me reach a higher plateau. I don’t create them on some wistful December 31 whim, yanking them from the air because that’s what people are apparently supposed to do. Doing that is probably why so many people keep their resolutions for about two weeks.

So if you pull your resolutions out of the equation, just what the hell is this? Sometimes you get invited to a party. It’s nice – hang out with your buddies, have a few drinks, stay up late, kiss someone at midnight. An all-around good evening, really…. And nothing you don’t do at any point earlier in the year. Hell, for people in their 20’s, that’s basically the after-work schedule. The only difference I can spot is that you’re a lot more uncomfortable on New Year’s, because you’ve decided to trap yourself in some tight-ass tuxedo for no other reason than because, hey, that’s what it is to be an adult, right? Also, you’re boozing on overpriced champagne instead of beer, wine, or whatever cheap spirit is your signature.

It’s a pricier night out is what it is.

I found myself at the Buffalo ball drop a few times, which was nice because the fireworks display at the Electric Tower is very beautiful and choreographed to the classic rock music that is the city’s signature musical sound. The best New Year’s Eve I’ve experienced in my life was on December 31, 1997. My family went to see the Buffalo Sabres that night, and we ended up watching Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek tie the all-time record for number of shutouts in a single month when the Sabres beat the Ottawa Senators.

Besides all the hype, the calendar starts all over again, whoop dee do. The Earth starts another revolution around the sun, which is a meaningless statistic considering how much we bend and maul the calendar to fit our own personal convenience. Even the most accurate measurement of time on Earth, the atomic clock, is so accurate that it actually manages to overshoot the mark.

I prefer literally any other holiday. Martin Luther King Day, Presidents’ Day, Independence Day, Easter, May Day if this country ever grows enough of a fucking brain to start observing it…. New Year’s is, to me, nothing more than another day in the life. I’ll still happily accept party invitations, but don’t expect me to get too worked up about how awesome the magic of New Year’s is.

Recapping the Regier Era

Recapping the Regier Era

It’s says a lot of bad things about how far the Buffalo Sabres have fallen that the firing of Darcy Regier, the (now-former) general manager of the last 16 years, came as a surprise. It’s true no one expected the Sabres to do well this year, but they’ve been playing at a level that is historically bad by any and all NHL standards. Management finally found its brain and let him go after a 16-year tenure. He was so ingrained in Sabre lore in a bad way that yesterday, when the team said it would be making a big announcement at 10:30 AM, speculation flew about what it might be: Was the team raising ticket prices? Announcing vegetarian concession options? Adding a back escalator to the Effin’ Center? No, wait, I know: They just saved a bunch of money on car insurance by switching to Geico!

No, no, and no. The Sabres, mired in a mess that saw them play their first 20 games to a 4-15-1 record, 30th place in the NHL, display a league-worst offense, hire a head coach who won all of nine game in regulation out of over 50, field a team of badly underdeveloped kids and goons, and get their asses handed to them by some of the worst teams in the league, finally fired the mercy bullet. Regier is out. Coach Ron Rolston went with him. Ted Black is still hanging around, but seeing as how he’s the guy who talked Terry into keeping Darcy and and Rollie long after they should have been canned, one senses he received a quick demotion to the smile/nod token. The team has yet to hire a new GM, but they created a new position – Head of Hockey Operations – which went to Pat LaFontaine. Ted Nolan returned to finish the job he began back in the 90’s, when Regier unceremoniously dumped him. The Buffalo Sabres, once admired across the league for being a prime example of a team that beat the NHL economic structure to be a competitive small market year after year, finally decided to reintroduce competitiveness and class to the organization.

I can’t help but reflect a little. If Regier was fired a few years ago like he should have been, he would have been given a better-wished sendoff. The Presidents’ Trophy and 1999 Prince of Wales Trophy both happened on his watch, after all, and he did manage to nab Ryan Miller, Brian Campbell, and Daniel Briere, the most electrifying Sabres of the past decade for my money. Yet, there’s no accounting for all his mistakes: How the hell did Maxim Afinogenov get to stay with the team for so long? Why was Regier’s only big pickup in the aftermath of the 2005 lockout Teppo Numinnen in a newly-capped NHL with Peter Forsberg available? How the hell do you just let both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere walk out the door like that? There was his ill-thought attempt to toughen up the team after Milan Lucic snowplowed Ryan Miller…. The refusal to make a trade during the 2006 run because of chemistry concerns….

Darcy Regier is widely considered one of the NHL’s true good guys, but being a good guy doesn’t make a team good. For much of his tenure, being a Sabres fan meant never getting too attached to any players you liked, and embracing the most useless guys on the team. Despite some incredible highs, Darcy’s techniques for improvement gradually backfired on the team, and over the last year, the fans began jumping ship. It looked like a 3-7 Bills team would be back in the playoffs before the Sabres. Through all these ridiculous fiascos, Regier still managed to charm his way into keeping the job like some kind of ultra-hypnotoad, asking for more time and patience. How he managed to stay employed after his now-famous “suffering” remark makes the head explode. If you’ve spent 16 years on duty and are asking for more time and patience to get it done right, you blew it.

Save for a handful of token glory years, the Sabres have spent most of the millennium playing the worst hockey of their existence. Regier’s GM record tends to be deceptively bloated, at least a little bit, because he flew in riding the coattails of Ted Nolan, first edition and General Manager John Muckler. In part, we can write off his early successes with the 1998 and 1999 teams as picking up the work those two started. And while he takes a lot of shit for the Pat LaFontaine trade – his first – selective memory kinda blocks out the fact that Patty Lala had taken shots to the head like a reliable prizefighter and was concussed enough to believe he needed to keep playing after the doctor said the next blast could kill him. The fallout after The Hardest Working Team in Hockey days was terrible, but post-lockout, Regier rebounded by assembling the 2006 and 2007 teams, probably the best two teams in Sabres history. After 2007 left team Captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere hanging out to dry, the Sabres were never a threatening team again. Yes, the original Winter Classic was a good game, and the 2010 division title was nice, but that thing just sort of happened. The division wasn’t wonderful and the Sabres were the kind of team that was very good at playing off mistakes, and teams like that don’t have long playoff lives, no matter how many division banners are in the rafters.

Early in the 2012 season, Milan Lucic took Ryan Miller’s head off, and that exposed the Sabres to the league as a bunch of pretenders. Regier spent the next offseason in tough guy mode, adding muscle to a talent-depleted roster. Nutshell story, the plan backfired, the Sabres became known as a classless and dirty unit, and Regier – not satisfied with letting just the actual hockey talent go – started letting go of the basic elements of talent scattered on the team, claiming it was all in the name of a grand design rebuilding project. In 2013, he made an enormous tactical error by suggesting he was starting a new rebuilding project which had begun, unbeknownst to fans, with the prior trade of Paul Gaustad and telling us that the wait for winning hockey was going to require some more suffering. That was no coy implicative remark either. That was the exact term he used. Unfortunately for Regier, he had already been on the job for 13 years by then and the fans were pretty much out of rope. When a team of underdeveloped kids and dirty-shooting goons hit the ice this season and played at historically bad levels, the pissed-off fanbase jumped ship and Terry Pegula was finally forced to make a business decision: Keep trusting Darcy and let the fans keep jettisoning themselves to the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, or whoever else would have them, or rid himself of the man who had taken the Sabres down about 43 notches in class and respect. Pegula made his first truly smart decision of his ownership tenure and did the latter.

Darcy Regier the man is still one of the best-liked people in the NHL, and on that level, I sincerely hope he lands on his feet. I would prefer it, though, if he lands on his feet somewhere that doesn’t involve my team’s player management.