Roller Derby: Assault City vs Roc City

Are you on the roller derby bandwagon yet? If not, climb aboard. It's fun, it's family-friendly, it's woman-positive (well, women's derby is), and it's good for the community.

Assault City Roller Derby had their first home bout of the season (thanks Crazy Diamond for getting us some seats, and thanks Black Mamba Skate Park for connecting us to them) on May 15. The defense was a little sloppy; Roc City wound up with a 182-58 win.

The Baldwinsville Ice Arena was packed for the bout. Half an hour before it started, the bleachers were packed. Here are the things I love.

Woman-positive. And better yet, girl-positive. Ever since Brandy Chastain scored a game-winning goal, there's been so much shit out there about women and sports. The only reason anybody even remembers that moment is because she ripped her shirt off, exposing a not-at-all revealing sports bra and a truck-load of emotion. Now, everything women do in sports is scrutinized with an eye toward scandal.

Not in derby. What you can see from the stands is community. Yes, these women are playing against each other; heck, they're beating the snot out of each other much of the time. But they definitely shake hands before and after the bouts, and no hard feelings all around. And you know who else sees that? Nine-year-old girls in the audience, who have been looking up to Hillary fucking Duff or whomever.

Bumps and bruises are going to be part of the game, but if I had daughters, I'd want them to be part of this community.

Family-friendly. No, your kids can't sit on the floor and watch a bout – they're a little too likely to get a derby girl in their lap, at full speed (I think I just sold Mitch a ticket) – but the bleachers are plenty safe. Beer is only served in a designated area, and not in the stands. And while you're likely to run into some foul-mouthed fans (like me), you're equally as likely to run into foul-mouthed people in a diner, so, whatever.

Community-engaged. Last year, I saw Assault City hand over a check to the Carol M. Baldwin Foundation for some $900 and change to help fight cancer. On Saturday, the Shriners were out in full force, some of them in clown regalia. A dollar of every ticket sold goes to some charity or other. That is awesome. They even kicked me $15 for my beard on a whim. They are involved in charity work, and that's just awesome.

The next bout is June 19 in Baldwinsville. Hope to see you there!

The case for reform


Don't worry about the fact that the audio stinks here. But if you're prone to audible gasps, you may want to check your surroundings.

You're forgiven if you missed this video of New Mexico University's Elizabeth Lambert being perhaps a bit too rough in a 1-0 loss to Brigham Young. Her play earned her an indefinite suspension, as you might have imagined.

You can take her "OMG I can't believe that was me!" for what it's worth, but did she deserve the

[You] should be taken to a state prison, raped and left for dead in a ditch

Email that she says she got? Emm, no.

She's doing what she needs to do to get back in the good graces of the NMU powers, including seeing a psychiatrist and talking to youth soccer players about sportsmanship (it occurs to me that might be a little like Jayson Blair giving a journalism ethics talk or Eliot Spitzer talking on ethics, but at least she's still a college student and learning her way through life).

At least NMU is giving her a shot. One thing that's coming up a lot these days in minimum sentencing laws – particularly as regards sentencing juveniles to life in prison (this is often the result of three-strike laws and that sort of thing).

Tell a 16-year-old he's going to prison for the rest of his life, not only have you removed just about all hope of him bothering to be a decent human being ever (he's not likely to see a need for reform if he's not getting out of jail), but you've also told him you're not interested in helping him out.

The Atlantic Monthly has a good roundup of news and commentary about the topic, and they got a good response on Facebook to the piece.

THe way I figure it, you've got two strong arguments you can make. One, this kid has either done something so bad he should be in prison for life, or he's shown after two prior crimes he's not going to shape up Or, two, you might say that the line between a juvenile and not a juvenile is arbitrary.

Let's look at the second one first. Yes, that line is arbitrary, but it's already been drawn. And we draw other arbitrary lines all the time. In most states you can start driving legally sometime around 16 years and six months. You can begin voting at 18. Drinking alcoholic beverages at 21. Run for president at 35.

The reason for these otherwise arbitrary lines is somewhere along the line, someone decided these were the ages we were mature enough to take on the responsibility. To understand the consequences of our actions. So if we're old enough to understand something is wrong at 18, why, if you do it when you're 16, are you treated as if you were 18? The idea of juvenile sentencing laws is we don't think you're mature enough to recognize the consequences of your actions – and then if you carry out an action, we decide that particular action, well, you really should have known better? Weird. If a 16-year-old tried to vote, would we count it, because she displays the initiative to want to vote? Of course not. Also weird.

And, as for three-strike laws, give me a break. You get caught shoplifting three times, you should be in prison for life? You can't be serious.

Thoughts on Michael Vick

Michael Vick, the quarterback you want on your team if you can't figure out how to get rid of your coach, has finished serving his 23-month federal sentence for running a dog-fighting ring. And now he gets his NFL sentence.

It's not as though he's been out on the field these past two years, but commissioner Roger Goodell has decided that, if he turns out to be the fine, upstanding young man rehabilitated criminals are supposed to turn into, he can start playing long about Week 6 this year.

To put that in perspective, Donte' Stallworth got in a car drunk at 7:00 one morning and hit a construction worker who darted out in the middle of the street, killing him. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and served 24 days of a 30-day sentence. Technically, he's suspended from football, but he's expected to play most of the year.

The thinking goes, Vick was running an interstate gambling ring, while Stallworth wasn't really to blame, he probably would have hit the worker even if he was sober. Stallworth is only a few years younger than I am; I'm guessing he had pretty much the same driving instruction I did, which means he spent a lot of time with people yelling, "don't drink and drive!" at him.

Drinking and then getting behind the wheel is pretty close to the worst thing you can do as a human, we were more or less told in driver's ed, high school, youth groups, college, you name it.

I'm not saying Vick's a good guy for fighting pitbulls and killing the weak and the old ones. That's despicable, too. But he's paid a debt to society and to his career. This additional suspension is going to damn this season for him, too.

Anybody willing to spend Michael Vick money probably needs a quarterback now, not in Week 6. Sure, he can practice now, which means a team could sign him and start working with him, but he'd miss the first few games. Enough games to put a team out of it, if they have to go with their second- or third-choice quarterback.

Now that Brett Favre has actually retired (we think), maybe the Vikings would be willing to live with Tarvaris Jackson for a few weeks and then look at Vick to bail them out the rest of the way. I can't see him going anywhere else.

Any team willing to take him would, of course, have to deal with the protests from animal rights groups, who always turn out in force when they're angry. Personally, that's a headache I'm willing to deal with as an owner—sure they're loud, but it's not like they're football fans. Ticket sales aren't going to suffer.

Fighting pitbulls? Bad. Spending 18 months at Leavenworth and another 5 under house arrest? Adequate punishment. Further keeping him out of the career he has made for himself? Really, you're just giving him a month and a half to get back into trouble.

What would baseball fans do without newspapers?

When The Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased their print editions, something happened that wasn't evident to either the save-the-newspaper or the dude-the-Web's-great crowd: fans of the Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners both lost local places to study box scores.

When I moved to Syracuse, I not only arrived in a town which places much more emphasis on college than professional sports, I discovered I was in a place where people by and large aren't baseball fans.

People here definitely have allegiances – I've met lots of Yankees and Red Sox fans, and a smattering of Mets fans – but by and large, these are team people, not baseball people.

There are some of us die-hards, who live for the smell of grass, the season's first hot dog, who keep score at games, and who study statistics.

Baseball fans? We're numbers people. There's something old-fashioned about that, for sure.

And while the Web is certainly a great place for box scores and statistics (it's bottomless, it's got great archiving ability, great sharing ability), there's something that seems right about having that stuff in a newspaper, isn't there?

Seattle and Denver still have print newspapers, but across the country, that could continue to change.

And ESPN.com's Jim Caple is worried about it.

Could bloggers and Web writers cover teams, get access to players, managers, coaching staffs, etc.? Cover both the news and analysis? Absolutely, admits Caple. But, he asks, could bloggers afford the travel and lodging expenses required to go on the road to cover a team?

Not likely, he says.

News flash: Newspapers can't afford to do it either. That's why they're cutting down on news hole and in some cases, stopping printing altogether.

Some former Colorado Rockies beat writers for The Rocky Mountain News have started InsideTheRockies.com, which is part of a project done by former RMN reporters called In Denver Times (which is in beta now and launches May 4).

There isn't up-front advertising evident, and it looks like In Denver Times is going to try out a subscription model. Is it sustainable? I guess we'll find out (and good luck; I'm always rooting for new Web sites, especially if they're doing original reporting).

Caple's right in one aspect: most people can't afford to travel with a team and cover them without the backing of Big Media.

But to successfully cover a team, I don't think that's necessary.

Follow me here. You do a league-wide network with localized editions for each team. You need two bloggers for each ballpark: one covers the home team every game, and the other covers the visiting team – senior partner and junior partner, if you will.

The person who covers the home team is going to be the primary expert on that team. The person who covers the away team is going to act essentially as a stringer for that team's hometown edition. Newspapers already do this for minor league baseball and hockey – they pay somebody on the other end to cover a game and get into the locker room for post-game quotes.

If a team is truly giving a hometown beat writer access, they'll accept a phone call if clarification or more information is requested.

The funding model for this is the same it is for any other online-only publication: you sell advertising, and maybe you can do some exclusive content (extended video interviews with players, perhaps?) for subscribers.

Why couldn't that work?

Bad hockey

I've seen some rather bad hockey lately.

I try to get to a couple of games a month, and the last two games, well, they've been pretty miserable.

On Nov. 29, I went to see the Springfield Falcons host the Providence Bruins.

Some background, first, on Springfield.

When the Hartford Whalers left Connecticut to become the Colorado Avalanche, they took the Springfield Indians with them. Several years later, the Falcons started playing in town. They weren't so good.

The city built a new convention center called The MassMutual Center on the site of the old civic center, and it's a good place to see hockey.

Unfortunately, no one's doing that.

Rumor around the league is that the Falcons might not stick around, thanks to poor attendance.

The game on the 29th had an announced attendance of 4,906, which filled about half of the arena, which isn't great, but it's not awful, especially since it was a holiday weekend.

The guy we sat next to said he usually has the entire row for three sections. Other fans also said it seemed like a lot more people than usually came.

Providence won the game 2-0, and despite the fact that the Falcons managed 27 shots on net to the Bruins' 28, they were never in it. Tuukka Rask did make a couple of very nice stops in between the pipes for Providence, but other than that, both teams played a rather sloppy game.

Fran Sypek writes that the Falcons were road-weary, but sometimes you have to play like professionals anyway.

Springfield's offense did a great job finding each other's skates with the puck, rather than their sticks – it seems like they didn't have a solid connection on three passes all game.

The Providence power play – which did manage to score two goals, both in the first – featured the lefties on the wrong side of the ice, with shooters receiving the puck and then having to turn a full 180 degrees to be in position.

At the very least, my sister got to see the fairly physical game she was hoping to see.

Then last night, it was a Syracuse Crunch game. They lost 4-2 to Toronto, and as you can see from the box score, well, the Crunch managed to put more shots on net in the frantic third period than they did in the first two combined.

Toronto got a couple of lucky bounces – the sort that never go you're way when your in the middle of the sort of losing streak the Crunch have been in.

Lindsay Kramer hits the nail on the head when he writes that it was a painful game to watch.

But more telling is this piece from his post-game blog report:

I remember lots of Crunch teams that were bad. Too many, actually. I can't remember a stretch where so many good players are playing so bad. There have been times the past two games were Syracuse looked like a bantam team on its first day of practice.

This is a good Crunch team. It really is. It's just that you'd never know it from watching them play.

Hopefully I'll get one more game in this year, and hopefully it will be a decent game.

Reminder: College athletes are still kids

Syracuse University women's field hockey team
The 2008 Syracuse University field hockey team, courtesy of SUAthletics.com.

College sports are big business. Really big business. Athletics – football and basketball, really – can bring tens of millions of dollars to a college.

Athletes are supposed to behave like they're representing companies worth tens of millions of dollars.

Remember, those athletes are college students. Generally somewhere between 18 and 22.

There has been a lot of complaining going on about Daryl Gross, the athletic director at Syracuse University. His biggest profile hiring was football coach Greg Robinson, who has taken a storied program and won eight games in four years.

But lower-profile sports have thrived under Gross, and the field hockey team is ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time ever.

Waiting for Funk 'n' Waffles to open this morning, I popped into Bruegger's for a cup of coffee to shake the chill out of my bones, and the field hockey team walked in to start their day, ahead of a game against UConn this afternoon.

That photo above may make them look grown up, mean, competitive, but the group of young women in bright orange skirts at the bagel shop was nothing like big and mean. It was a bunch of kids having coffee, wondering how many cars they had among them to get where they needed to go, and in general talking about things like Friday night.

You wouldn't think, sitting there, there was an aggressive bone among them. But we know there is.

It just reminds me how much weight we put on such young people, still working on finding their way in the world.

I hope you remember that as you watch the football team play South Florida this afternoon. We might be looking at a 40-point loss for Syracuse, or they might surprise us, like they did against Louisville last year. But either way, they're a bunch of young kids, and it almost seems unfair that the hopes of an entire upstate region are riding on their shoulders.

Crunch open the 2008-09 season against Amerks


The Syracuse Crunch paid tribute to the late Paul Newman before their home opener against Rochester Saturday night.

Paul Newman played an aging brawler in the 1977 film Slapshot. Part of the film was shot at the Onondaga County War Memorial, where the Syracuse Crunch beat the Rochester Americans 6-1 Saturday in their home opener, a night after opening the 2008-09 season with a 4-3 win in Rochester's building.

There was a really good crowd on hand, both large and loud.

This year's Crunch team needs more time together on the ice – they looked pretty sloppy, despite having netted 10 goals in their first two games &dnash; but I think it's going to be a good year.

The goaltending is looking pretty good, and they're going to rack up plenty of penalty minutes, I'm sure. Jon Mirasty took down Rochester's Neil Clark, who's at least a head taller than the Crunch enforcer, and both Mirasty and Tom Sestito (who scored a goal and added two assists) were sent to the locker room early for their parts in a bench fight.

See you at the War Memorial.

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Friday at the Turning Stone Resort Championship

I have shot nine holes of golf in my life.

This is enough to give me an appreciation of golf as a skill.

I am not a fan of golf.

That said, I think golf courses are a work of landscaping beauty, and any excuse to spend some time outside during October, not to mention during a workday, is good enough for me.

I took the trip out to see some of the Turning Stone Resort Championship Friday, the second day of tournament play, the last round before they make the cut.

About the time we got there, play had to be suspended for hail.

Some of my co-workers decided to leave, but I had a good feeling about the weather. I walked them to the gate, and by the time I made it back to the 12th hole, the sun was out and players were back on the course.

I spend some five hours out there, all told; I followed some threesomes for a couple of holes, and I spend some time at various tees or cups watching several groupings drive or putt.

I saw local pro Jeff Reader, top amateur Danny Lee, and famous pros like Davis Love III, Bo Van Pelt and Jesper Parnevik.

Last year, I sent my grandfather – a die-hard golf fan who has since passed away – my groupings sheet, my press pass, and other various items from the tournament. He called it a "packet from heaven."

The course is very long, and quite beautiful. Here's an interactive tour the newspaper put together that garnered quite a bit of acclaim last year, including from the Golf Channel.

Despite the weather, people appear to be handling the course well, including 30-year D.J. Gregory, who has a severe form of cerebral palsy but is walking every hole on the PGA tour this year.

All in all, it's a very calming space: lots of green, lots of quiet, and plenty of space to walk around.

Chiefs, Nationals sign development contract

Here are some thoughts on the new two-year development agreement the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs signed with the Washington Nationals, but to tell you the truth, I think I said most of it when I predicted last Tuesday it would happen.

Someone, though, did ask me last night why he should be excited about such a mediocre parent club coming in. My feeling is two-fold: (a) do you go with someone who has a history of bringing mediocre teams here, or with someone who might surprise us? and (b) someone showed some real interest in the community; that's never a bad thing.

So, good luck to the new wave...