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"The true meaning of ""Happy Birthday"""

(04/20/10 4:00am)

Lay down the red carpet and hold the doors open for me. Bow down to the ground I walk upon and treat me like a king because today is my day. Today is my birthday. Clear you schedules and meet me at the bar. Line up the food platters, buy me drinks and feed me cake. I expect to be treated like President Simpson and be loved like Dennis Black. While most 22 year olds automatically tune into this egotistical mindset when the clock strikes midnight on their birthday, I have a different frame of mind. To be honest, I could care less that it's my birthday. Today symbolizes nothing more than that I've successfully made it through the last 365 days, thus leaving me with one less year to live. The only thing that makes today special for me is that I share it with my dad – who ironically was born on the same day 30 years prior to my existence. Happy Birthday, Dad. Birthdays give your most despised enemies a reason to wish you an insincere wish. They give old friends a reason to say hello and strangers a reason to post on your Facebook wall. They give ex-girlfriends a reason to remember why she hates you so much and new girlfriends a reason to shower you in gifts and get you in bed. Damn, it's too bad I'm single. So what does a birthday really mean? From the hospital to the cemetery, I introduce to you the true meaning of the birthday. The Past Day of birth: Congratulations, you've made it to life's starting line. It's the happiest day in your family's life as you exit your mother's womb and receive your very own birth certificate. For the next few months, your annoyance of crying, puking and pooping will make mom and dad regret that fateful day they failed to use protection. Age 1: You made it through your first 12 months and are no longer considered an infant. You're on your way to taking your first steps and speaking a few small words, but you continue to puke and poop freely. The best part of it all is that you have absolutely no recollection of your first few years on Earth. Age 4: Say goodbye to life inside the confines of your home because it's time to go to school. Shove your face full of cake and have fun with your latest toy, but at the end of the day, kindergarten is calling your name. Get use to the feeling of imprisonment because for the next 12-plus years, the classroom is your holding cell. Enjoy. Ages 5-12: For the next eight years you don't have a worry in the world. Make some friends and learn life's basics. Be a kid. It's that easy. Age 13: Here we go, let the rebellion begin – you're a teenager. Time to ignore the rules, disobey your parents and cause some ruckus. Let the hormones run wild because you're about to discover the opposite sex. Pitch your first tent and if you just so happen to wake up in the middle of the night to a wet, sticky mess – don't fret. It's natural. Age 16: You've made it to the life's first true milestone. Make your way to the DMV, get your permit and be rewarded with a license shortly thereafter. It's time to take control of the wheel and hit the open road. It's not all fun and games, however. Grab a dictionary and look up the meaning of "responsibility." For the first time in your life, it's time you take it into your own hands. Age 17: Hit the snooze button. There's not much to be excited for. Age 18: You're a legal American and it's time to experience the beginnings of adulthood. Remember when you turned 13 and immature was your middle name? Not anymore. It's time to grow up. Age 19: Oh Canada, your new best friend. For those living along the border of our friends to the north, it's time to cross the border and get crazy. Order your first legal beer and take a stroll into your first strip club. For those without access to Canada, hit snooze. The Present

"Caps, Sharks lead pack as NHL playoffs begin"

(04/13/10 4:00am)

As Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins prepare to begin their Stanley Cup defense tonight against the Ottawa Senators, we take a look at the field of 16 vying to claim Lord Stanley as their own. From team previews to finals predictions, The Spectrum will get you set for the run at the cup. Eastern Conference 1. Washington Capitals (54-15-13, 121 pts.) It has been four years since the league has seen a team as dominant as the Capitals were this season. They are the first team since the 2005-2006 season to score more than 300 goals and clinched the Presidents' Trophy with more than a week remaining in the regular season. Led by Alex Ovechkin, the Caps boast the league's most dangerous offense that includes seven players with 20 or more goals. Ovechkin topped the 50-goal mark for the fourth time in his five-year career and Nicklas Backstrom quietly amassed 101 points. 2. New Jersey Devils (48-27-7, 103 pts.) The Devils edged Pittsburgh for the Atlantic crown in the final home stretch of the season thanks to a stingy defense and perpetually strong goaltending. Jacques Lemaire's offense finished 19th in the league with just 216 goals for after he failed to find cohesive line combinations. The team has star forwards Ilya Kovalchuck, Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner to carry the load, but all eyes will be on 17-year veteran Martin Brouder to backstop the team in between the pipes. Brouder led all goalies in wins this season with 45 as the Devils allowed league-low 186 goals. 3. Buffalo Sabres (45-27-10, 100 pts.) After a two-year hiatus, Buffalo is back in the postseason after winning the Northeast division thanks to arguably the best goalie in the world, Ryan Miller. The 29-year-old posted a 41-18-8 record with a 2.22 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 69 games this year. Lindy Ruff's plan for the future has finally panned out as Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville stepped into the vacant skates left by Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to provide leadership and consistent production. Roy led the team in scoring for the third-straight season with 26 goals and 69 points while Vanek led the club in goals with 28. Pominville also netted 24 while veteran Jochen Hecht added 21. Defenseman Tyler Myers amassed 11 goals and 37 assists in his rookie year. The Calder Trophy candidate has quickly become the team's top blue-liner and has provided a physical force alongside veterans Henrik Tallinder, Steve Montador and Tony Lydman. 4. Pittsburgh Penguins (47 -28-7, 101 pts.) The defending champions enter the postseason as the fourth seed for the second straight year. After upsetting Detroit in game seven of last year's finals, the Penguins failed to produce the consistent play that they had hoped for entering the season. But last year's cup run has given the team plenty of playoff experience to emerge as contenders once again. Sidney Crosby hit the 50-goal plateau for the first time in his career after finishing with 51 scores. The Rocket Richard Trophy co-winner is accompanied by centers Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Stall, as well as Alex Ponikarovsky, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko as the Penguins' leader's up-front. Marc-Andre Fleury will need to play consistent in net if Pittsburgh plans to repeat. 5. Ottawa Senators (44-32-6, 94 pts.) The Senators exceeded expectations this season after the emergence of strong goaltending from youngster Brian Elliot gave life to the team midway through the season. Cory Clouston took over the bench at the beginning of February and led the club to a 19-11-4 finish, including nine-straight home wins, in the last two months. Elliot will be making his NHL playoff debut after posting a 2.57 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and 29 wins in 55 appearances. The young netminder will have plenty of help from his defensive unit, which accumulated 721 blocked shots between five blue-liners. 6. Boston Bruins (39-30-13, 91 pts.) It was a letdown in "Beantown" this year as the Bruins failed to replicate their success from last season. After trading away star forward Phil Kessel, the team struggled to muster much offense and finished last in the league with just 196 goals. Marco Sturm was the team's only 20-goal scorer while Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci tied for the team lead in scoring with 52 points. Boston's hopes lye on the shoulders of rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask, who won the job over Olympian Tim Thomas halfway through the season. Appearing in 45 games, Rask posted a dazzling 1.97 goals-against average and .931 save percentage – both league bests. With a defensive unit decimated by injury, it'll be up to Rask to keep Boston off the golf course. 7. Philadelphia Flyers (41-35-6, 88 pts.) Philadelphia snuck into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season with a shootout win over the Rangers. Despite finishing just 4-5-1 in their last five games, the Flyers cemented a matchup with division rival New Jersey, who they were 5-1 against this season. The Flyers were a bit of a disappointment after many had pegged them as Stanley Cup favorites prior to the season. Mike Richards led the team in scoring with 62 points, while Jeff Carter led the orange and black with 33 goals. Goaltending was miserable for the Flyers as starter Brian Boucher posted a 9-18-3 record with a 2.76 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. Boucher's strong play at the end of the season will need to continue if the Flyers have any chance of advancing 8. Montreal Canadians (39-33-10, 88 pts.) The Habs finished 33 points behind first-round opponent Washington and have an uphill battle to climb if they want to hoist Lord Stanley. The club had an inconsistent season and finished the year winning just three of their final 11 games. Montreal will rely heavily on Jaroslav Halak to provide strong goaltending, but will be on a thin wire with Carey Price waiting in the wings. The Canadians enter the postseason as heavy underdogs and will likely be cleaning out their lockers in quick fashion. Western Conference 1. San Jose Sharks (51-20-11, 113 pts.) Spring has been unkind to the Sharks. San Jose made to the Western Conference semifinals three of the last four years but failed to win more than two games. At the top of the west for the second-straight season, the Sharks are looking to end their playoff futility behind the top offensive line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. The Sharks' offense is sure to generate goals as San Jose boasts a lineup with five 20-goal scorers. San Jose will need goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to improve on his 32-31 lifetime postseason record if the team has aspirations for a Stanley Cup birth. 2. Chicago Blackhawks (52-22-8, 112 pts.) The Original Six squad has Chicago excited about hockey again. Behind young stars Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks have a core of exciting players who can score (eight players scored 17 or more goals in the regular season) and wear down opposing defenses. Like San Jose, the question remains on goaltending. Both Cristobal Huet and rookie Antti Niemi, who replaced Huet as the starter, are inconsistent. They have a solid defense protecting them, but who knows what'll happen when Chicago runs into an offensive powerhouse. 3. Vancouver Canucks (49-28-5, 103 pts.) Vancouver has a questionable defense behind a deep and talented offensive front. Art Ross Trophy winner Henrik Sedin will lead the strong offense, but defender Willie Mitchell sustained a concussion and Sami Salo suffered an injury before the Canucks' last game. Goaltender Roberto Luongo is one of the best in the league, but needs the blue-liners in front of him to prevent an all-out assault on his net. 4. Phoenix Coyotes (50-25-7, 107 pts.) Last summer, the question was where the Coyotes would end up. The least possible answer was the playoffs. Now, they have home-ice advantage in the first round. Phoenix will ride breakout goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, but the team drew Detroit, the hottest team in the NHL. In front of Bryzgalov is a defense that ranked third in goals against per game. But will Phoenix be able to score? The team ranked 24th in goals per game. Phoenix's Cinderella tale will continue if the Coyotes can find some offensive answers. 5. Detroit Red Wings (44-24-14, 102 pts.) Since the Olympic break, Detroit has been an NHL-best 16-3-2. Traditionally one of the best NHL teams is entering the playoffs as the hottest team. Rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard has played well this season and gave up only 2.26 goals a game. Coach Mike Babcock has his team winning games on special teams as the Red Wings placed in the top 10 in penalty killing and ranked ninth in power play. 6. Los Angeles Kings (46-27-9, 101 pts.) The Kings make their first playoff appearance since 2002. Despite the reputation of being a young inexperienced team, L.A. has a nucleus of experienced players who have playoff success. Ryan Smyth is a warrior who played in the 2006 Stanley Cup, Justin Williams won the '06 Cup with Carolina, Fredrick Modin helped Tampa Bay capture the '04 Stanley Cup, and Rob Scuderi was a key defender in Pittsburgh's run to the title last season. The Kings are prime for an upset if goaltender Jonathan Quick can step up: the 24-year-old goalie was winless in his last eight appearances. 7. Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 pts.) Nashville is far from being a hockey-driven town, but the Predators have its fan base excited. Led by a solid group of blue-liners and goaltender Pekka Rinne, the Predators will face a Chicago team expected to run to the Stanley Cup. Nashville doesn't hold many advantages against the Blackhawks, but has a young and energetic team with no pressure on its collective shoulders. Nashville will need to improve on special teams: the Predators finished the regular season 24th in power play and 28th in penalty kill. 8. Colorado Avalanche (43-30-9, 95 pts.) Like every other Western Conference underdog, Colorado was not expected to qualify for the postseason. Colorado was on a roll earlier in the season, but enters the playoffs with just three wins in its last 13 games. The Aves possess a core of young stars that is experiencing the playoffs for the first time. This is good news for the future, but Colorado goes up against a more-talented San Jose team in the first round. STANLEY CUP PREDICTIONS Paterno: Pittsburgh over San Jose (seven games) Sanchirico: Chicago over Pittsburgh (six games)

Calling Mr. Clausen

(04/11/10 4:00am)

The Bills and I have a lot in common. As I prepare to turn 22 years old at the end of the month, it's time to start planning my future. I've called Buffalo my home for two decades and it's time for a fresh start – a change of scenery. Much like myself, the Bills are in need of a fresh start. As the old saying goes, it's out with the old and in with the new at One Bills Drive in Orchard Park. It's time to start planning for the future at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Management has already made moves by naming Buddy Nix its first general manager in three years and lured in the relatively unknown Chan Gailey to succeed the malnourished Dick Jauron. Ok, good. It's a foundation to build upon. But we've been through this before. Since Marv Levy retired from the sidelines in 1997 and John Butler left for San Diego in 2000, the franchise has cycled through five head coaches and three general managers. During that time period, the Bills have qualified for the postseason just once. They haven't won an AFC East divisional crown since 1995 and have beaten the New England Patriots only once since 2001. No matter who is calling the shots in the front office or on the sideline, you can't win football games without the right personnel on the field. Buffalo has failed to recognize that. Enough is enough. Buffalo is in need of a savior – someone to put the Bills back on the map and restore football tradition in the Queen City. Clouds have loomed over the Ralph far too long and it's time for the sun to shine down over 80,000-plus crowds on Sunday afternoons again. Buffalo is in need of Jimmy Clausen. The team has lacked the presence of a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly was under center. Todd Collins, Rob Johnson, Doug Flutie, Alex Van Pelt – (deep breath) – Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm have all had their shot to become the next Kelly in Western New York. All have failed. When I look at Jimmy Clausen, I see a young man with the attitude off the field and ability on the field to turn the franchise around. At just 22 years old, the former Notre Dame quarterback has lived in the spotlight as a highly recruited quarterback since his high school days. In his junior year, he was dubbed by Sports Illustrated as "The Kid with the Golden Arm." After his senior year he was awarded the Hall Trophy award as the U.S. Army National Player of the Year and was named by USA Today as the Offensive Player of the Year. Clausen had an up and down three-year career as the face of Notre Dame football in South Bend, but has come out as NFL-ready as any other quarterback in the upcoming draft. Working under former Fighting Irish head coach Charlie Weis, Clausen has played out of a pro-style offense his entire career. He has experience working from under center and out of the shotgun – something rare nowadays with college quarterbacks. He is a highly competitive and outspoken signal caller that has a keen sense of commanding the huddle and line of scrimmage. For a young player, Clausen knows how to effectively read defensive coverages, make adjustments at the line when he sees fit and manages the offense with precision. The 6-foot 3-inch, 222-pounder is an athletic specimen. He possesses a live arm with a quick release, and displays impressive accuracy in the short passing game. He has the ability to escape the pocket and can make plays on the ground with his feet. What I love most about Clausen, however, is his swagger. He has been in the eye of the media his entire career and has carried himself with his head held high. Like a young Philip Rivers, he has that love me/hate me kind of persona about him and I think it's exactly what Buffalo needs in its locker room. Many are concerned that Clausen doesn't have elite arm strength and a nagging toe raises questions about his durability and drop-back technique. But if St. Louis is willing to spend the top overall pick on a quarterback with a surgically repaired shoulder, I think Clausen's toe is the least of our worries. The Edwards, Fitzpatrick and Brohm experiments have expired. Times are changing in Buffalo and it's time for a fresh face to take over the team. Clausen has the skill set, confidence and arrogance to become the leader of the franchise for years to come. To Mr. Nix and Mr. Gailey: I know you need offensive linemen, but the franchise needs an identity. Do Bills fans and me a favor and draft Jimmy Clausen with the ninth overall pick. You've given us nothing so far this offseason to look forward to regarding the Bills' future. Make Clausen your quarterback and give me a reason to be excited for Buffalo football once again. I've given up my season tickets already. Do me a favor and make me regret my decision on April 22. E-mail:

Bills open quarterback position to public

(04/01/10 4:00am)

Jack Kemp, Joe Ferguson, Jim Kelly and Drew Bledsoe – all great quarterbacks in Buffalo Bills history. You could be next. New head coach Chan Gailey announced late Tuesday afternoon that the Bills will hold open quarterback tryouts to the public over a two-week period leading up to the NFL Draft. "This is a unique opportunity to add some raw talent to our depth chart for training camp," Gailey said during a press conference at One Bills Drive. "Mr. Wilson, Buddy [Nix] and myself debated back and forth over the idea of an open tryout. But ultimately, we decided it would be in the best interest of the franchise to open our doors to some quarterbacks out there who haven't been given a shot under center in the NFL." The Bills have had a glaring hole at the quarterback position since Bledsoe left via free agency after the 2004 season. Since then, the franchise has experimented with five different signal callers: Kelly Holcomb, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and former first round pick J.P. Losman. During that time, Buffalo has gone 32-48 and has failed to qualify for the postseason for 10-straight seasons. Last season, both Edwards and Fitzpatrick struggled to take the reins under center while Brohm fluttered in his only outing of the year. "It's no surprise that this team is in need of a franchise quarterback," said first-year general manager Buddy Nix. "A team will go as far as your quarterback takes it. Look at the greats of today's game, like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Brett Favre. What do they all have in common? Playoffs and championships. That's where we want to be." Beginning April 3 at 8 a.m., Gailey will open the field house doors to anyone interested in landing a professional football contract. The nationwide quarterback search is open to anyone ages 18-28. While no previous football experience is necessary, Gailey did admit that those without experience could struggle to adapt to an NFL tryout. This isn't the first time an NFL team has held open tryouts. First-year head coach Dick Vermeil held an open tryout for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978. With the no first-round draft pick, Vermeil opted to find players who may not have been talented, but knew the meaning of work ethic and sacrifice. The Eagles were rewarded with wide receiver and special teams ace Vince Papale. The 30-year-old played two seasons with the team in which he was voted Special Teams Captain by his teammates and earned "Man of the Year" for his charitable contributions. "I've had extensive talks with Dick about this process. He's been through it before and knows how successful it can be," Gailey said. "Knowing that Dick found a leader in Vince gives me some encouragement that we can do the same. There's somebody out there for us and it's just the matter of finding him." With the NFL Draft just three weeks away, many around the league are questioning the peculiar move by Bills management to hold an open quarterback tryout. With the 9th overall pick, Buffalo is in line to potentially land former Notre Dame star Jimmy Clausen in the first round. Should Clausen be off the board, other potential prospects will be available for the taking in the second round, including Colt McCoy, Dan LeFevour and Tim Tebow. The Bills have already been linked to Clausen and Tebow as draft day approaches. Buffalo held a private workout with Clausen while Hall of Famer Jim Kelly recently treated Tebow to a steak dinner at the Buffalo Chophouse. As Kelly praised the young quarterback, he stated that an open tryout could do nothing but hurt the organization. "Tim [Tebow] is a proven leader and a natural born winner. He has everything you'd want in a franchise quarterback," Kelly told The Spectrum. "There's no reason Buffalo should pass on him. The fact that Coach Gailey has decided to hold an open tryout leads me to believe they aren't looking to add a quarterback in the draft. It's an embarrassment, if you ask me." Opening tryout days will include rigorous strength and conditioning drills. Following first cuts on day three, contenders will hit the field for a technique and mechanics test in throwing and pocket presence. The field will be narrowed down to ten finalists on day eight, who will then be required to learn a standard NFL playbook and be thrown into live 7-on-7 action in full pads with the rest of the team. By the end of week two, Buffalo's coaching staff and management will offer a two-year entry-level contract to the most impressive quarterback. "By the end of this thing, we're going to have our man," Nix said. "Whether he is a former high school star, college dropout, CFL bust or Thanksgiving Day legend, we'll be heading into the season confident in our quarterbacks." With just 400 available spots, stadium organizers recommend arriving at the field house four days prior to the tryout to ensure your opportunity. "This is an exciting time in Buffalo Bills football," Gailey said. "I feel we've made significant strides since Buddy [Nix] and I have come on board. We've addressed holes on the defensive unit and offensive line and we are confident we'll have our quarterback of the future in the coming weeks. This is going to be fun, I'll tell you that." E-mail:

Silenced voice

(03/28/10 4:00am)

I had nightmares all weekend. I woke up sweating in the middle of the night screaming, "Leave me alone!" before I snapped out of it and realized it was just a dream. Except it wasn't. All last week I battled my way through the frenzy of Student Association elections in the Student Union. Between the Student Alliance and the ONE Party, if I had one more campaigner shove a flyer in my face urging me to vote, I would've taken regrettable actions. I don't have a problem casting my vote. After all, it is part of my student obligation to let my voice be heard. I do, however, have a problem with both parties' campaign slogans stating that they're "for the student population." Really? Because I beg to differ. After months of speculation, SA proudly announced that Three Days Grace will headline Spring Fest 2010 with opening acts N.E.R.D. and Lady Danville, in addition to two unnamed acts. Are. You. Kidding. Me? That's the best you could do? A '90s alternative rock band that took nearly 11 years to hit it big with a platinum album that only reached 69 on the US charts? They've had their fair share of gold hits with "I Hate Everything About You," "Animal I Have Become," "Pain" and "Never Too Late," but is it really enough to sign the band on to headline our spring concert series? Hardly. Spring Fest has always been a highly anticipated event on campus. It's the end of the year celebration – one last hoorah on campus before exams and senior commencement. You could even say it's a reward for students who've spent endless hours spent at Capen stressing over finals. Sorry to say, but this year students may end up opting to spend their Saturday night at Capen instead of Alumni Arena. This isn't the first time in the past four years that SA has dropped a goose egg on Spring Fest. Last year, the annual April concert featured punk rockers Rise Against, and The Roots headlined in 2007 – not too memorable. SA did reel in Akon and T-Pain in 2008 for a night to remember. T-Pain wasn't on stage long enough to make a lasting impression, but his over the top mascot opened eyes. Akon started off a bit rocky before his oddball DJ fell off the turntable, nearly breaking his neck and every piece of equipment on stage. The night was a success in my book. If you claim to be the voice of the students, then give the students the chance to be heard. There's no reason why we shouldn't have a say in who we want to headline our concert. Survey the student population on an ideal music genre or compile a list of possible headlining candidates. Take those results and hire an act that you know the students will be excited for. If that idea doesn't satisfy your minds, then do us all a favor and broaden your horizons. My patience has run out on the customary rotation of hip-hop to punk rock bands between the fall and spring concerts. I'm sick of having to watch rap and hip-hop artists run around stage while waving a towel in the air as they hold a firm grasp on their man-meat. I'm sick of hearing poor acoustics make a national rock band sound like underground rockers performing in Billy's basement for a kegger party. Didn't Lupe Fiasco's performance make you want to find a new playlist after he told UB students they suck? Here's an idea: play something country. Country music has taken the music business by storm in recent years. Its popularity is expanding vastly with country rockers Keith Urban, Brad Paisley and Toby Keith. If electric guitarists aren't your style, try Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood. How about mega-groups including Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum and The Zac Brown Band? Smaller acts from Darius Rucker to Jason Aldean and Gloriana can pack just as big a punch as the mainstream stars. Do you honestly believe outsiders will spend $35 on a ticket for this year's lineup? Country acts sell out venues around Buffalo and Western New York year-round (including UB's own country acoustics show at The Center for the Arts). A country act is going to draw a bigger crowd outside UB students, and we all know what that means – revenue. I'm not suggesting to specifically target a country music act. But I am suggesting that you give us something fresh and new to look to forward to. Stop choosing one of the recently played artists off your iPod to headline Spring Fest and give UB students a voice. Maybe then your crowd will exceed the attendance of a high school musical. E-mail:

Buffalo boys

(03/23/10 4:00am)

Buffalo is a sports town. In between the chicken wing grease and slices of beef on weck, Buffalonians live for the pigskin and die for the puck. Nowhere else can you find a sold out stadium of 80,000-plus in the dead of winter cheer on a perennial last place team. But who knew that our city has become a production factory for up and coming professional athletes? Buffalo has already spit out NHLers including Patrick Kane, Pat Kaleta, Tim Kennedy, Brooks Orpik and Todd Marchant. NBA Rookie of the Year candidate, Jonny Flynn, joined the list of NBA stars including Christian Laettner, Greg Oden and Bob Lanier that once called Buffalo home. With this year's NFL Draft looming, the time has come for Buffalo to add more aspiring stars to the list. The 2010 draft class will feature six athletes born and raised in Buffalo, and every guy in the group is likely to get a phone call from the National Football League come April 22. Headlining the group is UB's own James Starks. Despite missing his senior season, the Niagara Falls native left UB as the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,140 yards and 34 touchdowns in three seasons. Starks is currently projected to go off the board anywhere between the third and sixth rounds. The 6-foot 2-inch running back is on NFL teams' radars after boasting a time of 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 9-foot 11-inch broad jump and 36-inch vertical jump. Since joining Buffalo, he has evolved into a unique mold for a professional running back and I love what he brings to the table. St. Josephs graduate Naaman Roosevelt is another Bull looking to make his mark. At 6-feet tall, UB's all-time leading receiver is projected to find a new home in the later rounds of the draft. The agile receiver possesses soft hands, sharp route running, quickness and the intelligence needed to become an ideal slot receiver. Roosevelt lacks ideal size and struggles in blocking. Injuries have also hurt him in the past, but his versatility as a kick returner will help him draw interest. If he can stay healthy, the Buffalo native could add good depth to a receiving corp. as a rookie. Former Syracuse Orange wide receiver Mike Williams joins Starks and Roosevelt with hopes of making an impact on offense come 2010. The Riverside High finished with 60 receptions for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns his sophomore season at Cuse. Williams has the frame and the tools to grow into a starting NFL wideout, but has already drawn comparisons to Pacman Jones and Charles Rogers. He was suspended by the Orange for the 2008 season for academic reasons and quit the team halfway through last season. Despite these problems, one team will take a chance on Williams. Tight end Rob Gronkowski of Williamsville and St. Francis graduate Doug Worthington will both be heading to NFL training camps as well. Gronkowski is one of the top tight ends in the draft and could become a valuable starter if he can stay healthy. Worthington figures to be a late round pick, but the 6-foot 5-inch defensive lineman has the versatility to add good depth to a defensive line. Rounding out the Buffalo boys is James Mallory. Wait, who? From Central Connecticut State, Mallory runs with a chip on his shoulder despite his 5-foot 10-inch stature. The two-year starter with the Blue Devils caught scouts' eyes after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons that combined for 31 touchdowns. The Kenmore native is a burner with the ball in his hands. He has the vision to find the hole, quickness and power to hit it and breakaway speed to get into the open field. What stands out, however, is his special teams play. Mallory blocked three punts as a senior and excelled in punt and kickoff coverage. There's no single player I'm pulling for more to get a phone call in April. Having shared the hallways of Kenmore West High School, I watched Mallory grow into the player he is today. He has the heart of a lion and the attitude every coach would love to have on his roster. I'm crossing my fingers that he'll be dawning the red, white and blue next season at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Goodluck, gentleman. Here's to one day hoping each of you will bring the Lombardi trophy back to Buffalo – no matter what team you play for. E-mail:

An emotional MAC Championship

(03/17/10 4:00am)

Emotions ran high at the Mid-American Conference Championships after one of the Bulls' own was seriously injured. Senior Dan Bishop suffered a spinal cord injury in his 125-pound bout due to an illegal throw by Ohio's Gabe Ramos. The match was immediately called off due to a disqualification and Bishop was awarded the win. The Bulls (9-7-1, 2-3 MAC), however, continued to compete despite being visibly shaken by their fallen teammate. "I think under the circumstances, they reacted well," said Bulls head coach Jim Beichner. "They obviously were very concerned for their teammate and I thought they were able to focus throughout the process." Central Michigan won its ninth consecutive MAC team championship with a 94-point performance. The Bulls finished in fourth place with a score of 60.5 behind Kent State (73) and Ohio (62). Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan rounded out the tournament with fifth and sixth place finishes, respectively. Sophomore Kevin Smith had to immediately rebound from the sight of his teammate's injury as he went head-to-head with Ohio's Quentin Keyes in the 133-pound bout. Smith secured the win after pinning Keyes just seconds into overtime. In the following match, Smith fell to Kent State's Danny Mitcheff in a 5-2 bout, but bounced back in the wrestlebacks with a 9-5 victory over Northern Illinois' Tristen DeShazer. Smith followed up the comeback with a second place finish in the tournament. Central Michigan's Scotti Sentes forfeited his spot in the finals and was replaced by Eastern Michigan's Sean Clair. Smith upended Clair by takedown with a final score of 4-2. Returning from injury, sophomore Desi Green didn't miss a beat as he defeated Dan Ruettiger of Northern Illinois, 3-2, to earn a spot in the 149-pound championship match. Green went on to win the championship bout in another 3-2 decision over Ohio's Seth Morton to win the Bulls' first individual MAC wrestling title since 2007. The win automatically qualifies Green for the NCAA championships. "Not many athletes come back from the [designated] list to win the MAC title," Beichner said. "I'd say he did an awesome job." Sophomore John-Martin Cannon entered as the second seed in the 165-pound tournament and started off strong with a 9-4 decision victory against Alex Ortman of Eastern Michigan. However, his good fortune did not carry over into day two. The sophomore lost in the championship bout against Central Michigan's Tyler Grayson and defaulted due to injury against Kent State's Ross Rice to finish in third place. Despite the disappointing showing, Cannon earned a wild card spot in the NCAA Division I National Championships at 165 pounds for the first time in his career. Junior Jimmy Hamel reached the 197-pound championship bout for the second year in a row after upsetting Central Michigan's Eric Simaz with a 3-1 overtime decision in the semifinals. In the championship bout, however, Hamel lost in a 2-0 decision to Ohio's Erik Schuth. "It was an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend for our guys," Beicher said. "To me, it was one of the most emotional, difficult weekends of my career." Along with Cannon, Smith will make his first appearance at the National Championships, while Green and Hamel will make their second straight showing. The four qualifiers match the most wrestlers the Bulls have sent to a Division I National Championship under Beichner and is the second most in school history. The championships begin March 18 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., and run through March 20. E-mail:

Basketball teams off the mark on Wednesday

(02/26/10 5:00am)

Men's Basketball The men's basketball team got open shots throughout Wednesday night's game. Unfortunately for the Bulls, they just weren't able to knock them down. Buffalo (16-10, 8-6 Mid-American Conference) was soundly defeated by Akron (21-8, 11-3 MAC), 77-67, at the James A. Rhodes Arena during the Zips' senior night. With the loss, the Bulls snapped a five-game winning streak. Even with the loss, the Bulls remain in fourth place in the MAC and are in position to clinch a bye into the MAC Quarterfinals. Buffalo was doomed from the start as the Zips led by double digits for the majority of the game. They jumped out to an 18-2 lead during the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the game as the Bulls hit just two of their first 17 shots. Head coach Reggie Witherspoon believes that Buffalo's inconsistent shooting truly hurt. 'I don't know when was the last time we had that many open jump shots,' Witherspoon said. 'We've had games where we missed shots, but I don't know if we had games where we missed more open shots.' Akron, on the other hand, was knocking down jump shots left and right, hitting 52 percent of their tries from the field, 33.3 percent from beyond the arc, and 69 percent from the free throw line. The team was led by junior guard Steve McNees, who finished with 15 points. Unfortunately, Buffalo couldn't keep up with Akron's strong shooting. The Bulls were inaccurate from the field, and at one point missed four-consecutive open shots. They finished the game shooting 34.4 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Bulls shot even worse in the first half, hitting just 28 percent of their shots from the field, allowing the Zips to increase their lead to as much as 20 points on strong shooting and sound defense. The two teams headed into the locker room with the score 39-23 in favor of Akron. The Bulls outscored the Zips by six points in a lively second half, but their effort wasn't enough. 'Obviously, we didn't start the game very well,' Witherspoon said. 'We had guys playing the entire second half, but we dug ourselves into too big of a hole and we have no one to blame for that but ourselves.' That hole, according to Witherspoon, began with the mishaps in the first few minutes of the game. He observed many opportunities to score easy baskets. 'We had guys open for layups,' Witherspoon said. 'And [the team] tries to do something different than shooting open shots, then we ended up shooting jarred shots.' The Bulls were led by senior guard Rodney Pierce, who scored 19 points, all of which came in the last 20 minutes of play after an abysmal first half. Senior forward Calvin Betts got his seventh double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Senior guard Sean Smiley finished with 12 points, and senior forward Max Bordeaux rounded out Buffalo's double digit scorers with 10 points. Despite these contributions, the Bulls seemed hesitant all game long. 'Even in the first half, we had guys that were so wide open,' Witherspoon said. 'They were just wide open and missed shots. After a while, we started aiming and missing layups.' Akron's win tied it with Kent State at the top of the MAC East and helped it clinch a first round-bye in the MAC tournament. The Bulls' defense seems to be a concern as they approach the playoffs. 'Akron [ended] up shooting 52 percent,' Witherspoon said. 'So I'm really unhappy with the defense. We didn't play physical enough and that's a problem. If [the team] doesn't stand up for themselves, we got problems.' The Bulls play their final home game of the season against Ohio. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Women's Basketball Junior forward Kourtney Brown became the nation's top offensive rebounder with 157 offensive boards on the year after recording five on Wednesday night, but the Bulls suffered their 20th loss of the year against Bowling Green. For the fourth-straight game, Buffalo (7-20, 3-11 Mid-American Conference) fell in an 81-64 defeat to the Falcons (22-6, 12-2 MAC), who clinched a first-round bye in the MAC tournament with the win. The Bulls have now dropped eight of their last 10 contests and sit in the cellar of the MAC East standings. It didn't take long for the meager 309 fans in attendance at Alumni Arena to recognize that Bowling Green was the far superior team of the evening. The MAC East-leading Falcons went on an 8-0 run in the first 1:40 behind the shooting of Tamika Nurse and Jen Uhl. Early on, the Bulls would not let Bowling Green run away with the contest. Sophomore guard Brittany Hedderson hit a 3-pointer to pull the Bulls to within four at the mid-way mark. But following a timeout by Falcons head coach Curt Miller, Bowling Green scored 16 of the next 21 points – including an 8-0 run – to take a 29-16 advantage. Nurse extended the Falcons' lead to 15 after knocking down a shot from behind the arc, but the Bulls scored eight of the next 10 points to cut the lead to 34-25. Four Brown free-throws cut the margin to seven with three seconds to go, but Tracy Pontius hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the visitors a 45-35 lead at the half. Both teams struggled from the floor in the half. Buffalo shot just 46.4 percent while the Falcons went 16-for-37. Though Buffalo hit 3-of-5 from behind the arc, they could not contain Bowling Green from the perimeter as the Falcons shot 7-of-13 from 3-point territory. The visitors also converted 11 points off both turnovers and second-chance opportunities. Coming out of the intermission, the Falcons did not waste any time putting the Bulls away. Bowling Green took a 60-41 lead with 13:26 to go after jumping out to a 15-6 run. Buffalo staged one last attempt at a comeback against the brown and orange. The Bulls went on a 10-point run to close the gap to nine behind back-to-back 3-pointers by junior forward Jessica Fortman and Hedderson. But as they had done all game, the Falcons responded with an 8-0 run of their own to take a 17-point advantage. Two 3-pointers from Falcon senior Sarah Clapper took the wind out of the Bulls' sails as Bowling Green never trailed by less than 15 in the final eight minutes of the game. Nineteen Buffalo turnovers turned into 23 Bowling Green points on the night. Though the Bulls outscored their opposition 34-20 in the paint, Bowling Green received 24 points off the bench compared to Buffalo's 15. Brown recorded her 16th double-double and 10th 20-point game of the season as she led Buffalo with 20 points on 70 percent shooting from the floor in 34 minutes of action. She led the team with a game-high 11 rebounds and currently sits third in school history for most rebounds in a season with 306. Her 712 career boards are now ninth in school history. Fortman added 12 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Hedderson added 11 points of her own. In her first career start, sophomore forward Beth Christensen finished with nine points, five rebounds and a career-high four blocks. Buffalo will travel to Ohio on Saturday for its final road game of the regular season. Matinee tipoff with the Bobcats is slated for 2 p.m. E-mail:


(02/22/10 5:00am)

Time froze for 15 minutes on Friday. For a quarter of an hour, the world was locked in on Tiger Woods's first public appearance in nearly four months. With a prepared speech in hand, Woods came out of hiatus and addressed the country in the first of many stages to clear his name of his wrongdoings.

Scorsese scores again

(02/19/10 5:00am)

Grade: A- Many wondered if esteemed director Martin Scorsese (Shine A Light) could conjure up another masterpiece, but he certainly did. The Academy Award winner once again displays his filmmaking brilliance and lives up to lofty expectations with the film adaptation of Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel, Shutter Island. Set in 1954, two U.S. federal marshals are summoned to a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the sudden disappearance of a patient from a hospital for the criminally insane. After a hurricane devastates the island, the marshals find themselves in a nightmarish game of cat and mouse, thanks to the deception of the only sane people around them. Scorsese reunites with best bud Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road), who plays U.S federal marshal Teddy Daniels. Daniels arrives on the island intent on solving the mystery behind Rachel Solando's (Patricia Clarkson, Beyond All Boundaries, & Emily Mortimer, Harry Brown) disappearance, but also has a secret agenda for one of the asylum's inmates. Haunted by flashbacks of his deceased wife, Daniels wants nothing more than to get his hands on the man that set ablaze the house his wife died in. Daniels's obsession with his wife's death quickly takes precedent over the investigation, but it, in turn, takes its toll on him. Plagued by migraine headaches, frequent hallucinations and intense nightmares, Daniels finds himself becoming one of the mental hospital's own. Daniels's mental deterioration is remarkable. DiCaprio puts on a brilliant performance as a man that literally losses his mind. Yes, he was confined to an island with the criminally insane; any normal human being in this situation is susceptible to losing his or her psyche. But the incorporation of Daniels's past into his mental collapse is intriguing. DiCaprio's ability to sell the character – as if he himself were losing his mind during production – helps lift the movie to new heights. DiCaprio's performance isn't the sole impressive performance; a remarkable supporting cast accompanies him. The many mystifying characters keep the audience baffled throughout the movie. While it may seem as if his only dialogue in the film is, 'You OK, boss?', Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are Alright) plays a convincing role as DiCaprio's sidekick, U.S marshal Chuck Aule. Sir Ben Kingsley (Fifty Dead Men Walking) joins the cast as Dr. John Cawley, the hospital's eccentric chief physician, who gives off the feeling of a generic creepy butler turned mad scientist. While only in the film for a short time, Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) makes a lasting impression as the mutilated pyro-patient, George Noyce. But a former Dawson's Creeker's performance leaves moviegoers with a lasting impression. As Dolores Chanal, Daniels's dead wife, Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) delivers one of the most moving roles of her career as the supernatural damsel from the dead. Her scenes as an evaporating figment of Daniel's imagination to a shocking flashback at the film's climax are the movie's best. Visually, Shutter Island is in a league of its own. The film doesn't require viewers to wear 3-D glasses to become completely and utterly immersed in its look and feel. Its old-fashioned appearance gives the movie an eerie feeling that keeps the audience's attention for more than two hours. From scenes of light snowfall at a Nazi death camp to flashbacks of blood-soaked murders – in addition to the intricacy of the island itself – it's clear that Scorsese put his years of moviemaking experience into compiling the most visually stunning picture in recent memory. Scorsese and screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis (Avatar) stick closely to Lehane's story – almost too closely. The twists and turns that Daniels encounters as a rat trapped in a maze are jaw-dropping. For those who have read the novel, however, the elements of surprise are virtually ruined. Still, DiCaprio's portrayal of Daniels is convincing enough that viewers can still feel the effects of the shock factor. Unfortunately, Shutter Island does fall into the corny clichés of 'inescapable island,' 'man fighting for his life' and 'don't trust anybody.' These themes have been seen time and time again, and it would've been nice for Scorsese and Kalogridis to make the movie their own. Sticking to the pages of the novel is fine, but adding elements of their own would've given the movie its own identity. Regardless, Shutter Island is sure to be another blockbuster on Scorsese's resume. Submerged in a plot of horrifying mayhem and visual brilliance, the film will take the viewers minds' on a wild ride that could make anyone contemplate enrolling in the nearest insane asylum by the time the credits roll. E-mail: