Dome, Saturday


It almost seemed orchestrated when this dude started climbing over the seat in front of him, and his buddy yanked his shirt. Dude slid back into his chair without spilling a drop of beer.

Two things you should know about me before I continue:

(a) I'm not a college sports fan; I'm not going to justify that to you, just know that I grew up very much attached to the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots, and never really had a reason to follow sports at the college level.

(b) I'm a Syracuse transplant, as of five years ago. The only real reason I have to root for Syracuse University athletics is that this town in general, and my work environment in particular, is absolutely miserable when the Orange are losing.

When a friend asked me why no one was going to football games, I told her that if you want butts in seats, you have to put a good product on the field, and, failing that, you have to play in an arena that is enough of an attraction to bring people in.

I asserted the SU football team had neither going for it. I also had to admit I had never been to a football game at the Carrier Dome, although I have been there for basketball games and other, non-sporting events.

Also, I'm firmly of the opinion that football's an outdoor sport. Just saying.

So, that friend and her SO joined Mitch and me for the homecoming game on Saturday.

Syracuse beat Northeastern 30-21.

This was the Orange's first win of the season. And a little sad, considering that Northeastern also came into the game winless, but is in an entirely different division than Syracuse. That is, Syracuse beat a team that isn't expected to compete with any team at the Orange's level.

And only by nine points.

Also, take into account that this was homecoming weekend (always want to do your best to guarantee a win there), and that while the announced crowd was something like 36,000, there were actually more like 14,000 people there (the 36,000 is the "paid attendance" figure, so you're talking season ticket holders who don't come to every game, and since it's homecoming weekend, there were probably thousands of tickets comped to celebrity alums, class presidents, and others from the past 60 years who didn't show up).

Axe has a much better analysis than I'd ever draw up.

So, yeah, this team is not the sort of product that draws people, and now having been to a football game at the Dome, I don't think the venue alone is drawing many people: the seats aren't comfortable unless you bring pads (if you haven't been there – they're actually bleachers, so you're very much bumping up against the people next to you), the concessions are even more expensive than at the local Triple-A ballpark, and you kind of feel like you're missing out on something that's going on in a different place if you walk the concourse during the game.

The thing I did really like? Good hecklers.

This is why I don’t do live interviews

Got this in the e-mail at work. Ouch.

IT’S A FACT! SNAPPLE OFFERS NBA REPORTER NEW CAREER FOR THE OFF-SEASON

PLANO, Texas (Sept, 16 2008) – In a continued effort to educate Americans one bottle cap at a time, Snapple offers New York Knicks reporter Jill Martin a side job for the off-season: Snapple Cap Fact Writer. In a recent interview, Martin failed to answer basic trivia questions about her own team - including a question about the years in which the Knicks have won the NBA Championship.

To ensure that New York fans have a more informed reporting staff, Snapple invites Ms. Martin to write five Knicks-focused Snapple cap facts. In addition to gaining crucial knowledge for her career, Martin will receive $1,000 for each cap fact. Snapple will provide any and all resources needed to research these facts, including: Internet access, direct contact with devout followers of NY sports fans and the email address of the president of the Patrick Ewing Fan Club.

The job offer expires on the NBA's opening night October 29, 2008. “Snapple, in no way, wants to interfere with Martin's full-time job,” said Bryan Mazur, vice president of marketing for Snapple. “However, this is a wonderful opportunity to engage a talented young reporter - and Snapple is more than happy to help!”

To respond, Martin can contact the Snapple consumer line at 1-800-762-7753.

Hey, someone interviewed me!

I always forget what it's like to be on the getting-asked-the-questions side of the interview.

For those of you who don't know, one of the things I do in my job is to run a blog about pro athletes with CNY connections. It's generally fairly dormant in the summer, since the locals playing pro baseball aren't really key players, though they have their moments.

But Orange Chuck, a former Syracuse guy in North Carolina, doesn't hold the summers against me, and interviewed me for his 12 questions series this morning.

Interviews are difficult enough for me – it's hard to be on for whatever question is coming – but also being able to answer honestly and completely, without violating any trade secrets, is doubly difficult.

Anyway, thanks, Chuck, for the opportunity, and I'm glad you're enjoying the interviewing.

Why I’m watching the men’s 1500m track event – and why you should too

Joseph Lopepe "Lopez" Lomong will carry the U.S. flag at the 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing Friday.

This is my favorite Olympics story. Ever. And I'm not alone.

Lomong is alive today because as a forced child soldier in Sudan, he put down his gun, and pretty much ran across the country until he found a priest.

After the long process that is finding foster parents in a safer country, Lomong was adopted by the Robert and Barbara Rogers, who live in the small town of Tully, N.Y., about 20 miles south of Syracuse.

He ran track and cross country for Tully High School, becoming as big a celebrity as an athlete in those sports becomes.

I hope there's some sort of journalism award out there for Maureen Sieh, who holds the title of Urban Affairs Editor at our local paper, The Post-Standard. She's been writing about Lomong for a while now, and she recently told the Rogers' story.

He was one of the "lost boys" featured in a documentary that first aired on PBS' "Point of View".

In July of 2007, he was granted U.S. citizenship, and he qualified for the men's 1500 meter in this year's Olympics.

About 500 people showed up for a fundraiser last night, during which participants ran a 3-mile relay, carrying a cardboard cutout of Lomong. The relay was anchored by his high school coach, Jim Paccia.

Paccia and his wife, along with the Rogerses, are going to Beijing to cheer on Lomong, and the fundraiser was to help the two couples offset their costs a bit.

The men's 1500m takes place August 15 in the morning. I know Central New York will be holding its collective breath.

Trade Manny? Ride out the season? Re-sign him?

There is nothing I hate more than working with a team in which someone is not pulling his or her weight.

But there's a corollary to this, and it's an ethical question that I don't have a good answer to: If someone's potential output is greater, by far, than the potential output of most team members, and the person's actual output is quite a bit greater than the output of other team members, is the person not pulling his or her weight if s/he does not appear to be doing as much as s/he is capable of?

Enter Manny Ramirez.

Every year right around this time, the Red Sox slugger does something fans say is "just Manny being Manny," and the team declines to comment.

This year, it's being taken up a notch.

The brief background, in case you missed it: Ramirez pulled himself out of Friday night's game against the rival Yankees (a game the Red Sox lost 1-0). He claimed to have sore knees, and rather than just sit him out, the Sox sent him to the hospital for an MRI.

His knees looked fine. And if, more than halfway through the year, your knees are sore but not damaged, and you're collecting a $20 million paycheck, you play a big game against a big opponent.

Usually, everyone is very quiet about this. Ramirez does a little whining, the Red Sox management says they'll take care of it in-house, and everybody goes back to playing baseball.

But Ramirez is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, and he has what in baseball is called 5/10 – five years with the same team, and 10 years in the majors. His 5/10 gives him the ability to veto any trade (think: "The Nationals are the worst team in baseball and are out of the playoff race. I won't accept a trade that sends me there.).

But written into his contract are team options for the next two seasons. That means at the end of 2008, the Red Sox can say, "you're coming back to play for us in 2009, and we'll pay you $20 million." And at the end of 2009, they can do that again for 2010.

So Ramirez isn't really sure what his job is going to look like for the next couple of years, and he really doesn't have any control over it.

Add to that, the fact that the trade deadline is fast approaching, so Ramirez' veto power aside, if the Red Sox are going to deal him, it has to be soon.

What's the big deal? Well, since joining the Red Sox in 2001, Ramirez has been named to the all-star team every year. He has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting five times. He hits around or above .300, every year, and tops 20 home runs, and sometimes 40. Check out his career stats: you can't just let that walk out the door, can you?

And this is where we come back to the ethical dilemma. Ramirez' potential is huge, and he's near the top of the team in every major offensive statistic (tied for first in home runs, fourth in doubles, third in batting average, second in RBI). But he appears to not be doing as much as he could. What do you do with him?

First off, the Sox need his numbers. No doubt.

That's going to make trading him, as Dan Shaughnessy suggests, really difficult. Ramirez says he won't veto any trade, but let's face it – unless someone like Albert Pujols is involved, the Sox aren't going to trade him – they need to get the output they're getting rid of back in return.

Shaughnessy reminds us that this happened back in 2004 with Nomar Garciaparra doing all the whining, and management did manage to make a trade – and the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years.

So it could happen.

What's not going to happen is just telling him to get out.

Whether or not the Sox trade him, Dan Lamothe knows what he's talking about: Manny Ramirez will most likely not be in a Red Sox uniform come 2009.

While this is a little sad, look at the bright side. Yes, there's a learning curve playing left field in Fenway Park, and Ramirez plays the wall fairly well, Pawtucket left fielder Chris Carter is hitting .299 with 22 home runs and 74 RBI. Compare that with Ramirez' .302/19/65, and it's a toss-up.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Carter can do for Boston next season.