Archive for May, 2010


After a lifetime of indifference to basketball, I’ve spent the last 24 hours rather obsessed with the curious case of the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James.  As a result of that drama, I’ve been either over-empathizing with Cleveland, or shamefully reveling in the opportunity to witness something so grim from a relatively safe distance.

I’ll probably write more about this topic in the future, but some days you just have to brush yourself off and try not to dwell on things that you don’t quite understand.  That’s how I feel about Buffalo/Cleveland and their tortured sports histories- I don’t quite understand it, I can’t claim it as my own history, and the whole thing is both alluring and horrifying.  I’m tempted to dig in and root around in these stories in an effort to find the beautiful, chewy center (I do believe that at the core of Buffalo sports fandom is something beautiful, and faith in that beauty is what attracts me to being a fan), but to get the heart of the matter will take many decades of research.  It can’t be rushed, and I’ve only just begun.

So, for today I’ll take a break from my hyper-conscious examination of “The History of Sports in the Rust Belt,” and carry-on as usual.  Trudging merrily along, willfully ignorant, a Buffalo sports fan in the making.

A Few Thoughts On the East

Remember a few days ago when I bitched that, “I hate the playoffs this year,” all pout-y like?

I was out gallivanting last night, so I didn’t watch either of the games, but when I saw the scores I got sucked right back in.  I think that’s one thing I should try to remember about the playoffs.   They take a million years to unfold, so there’s plenty of time to lose and then regain interest as the rounds progress.  I was so grossed out by the Sabres that it took me a few weeks to get back into “casual observer” mode, which is necessary if you are going to attempt to watch games played by teams that you largely hate.  Now that I’ve had a little period of time to recover from the Sabres, I’m pretty amused by the goings-on with the rest of the Eastern Conference.

What the heck is going on here?

Habs: I’m a Sabres fan, and a decent person, so I don’t really like the Habs, but dang it, those little guys are scrappy!   Unless you hate the Habs with a burning passion (I don’t), I think you have to be at least a little intrigued at this point.  I’m incredibly jealous of Canadiens fans.  Cheering for a team that is massively overachieving seems like one of the most appealing things in all of sports fandom.  What could be more fun than that?

(I feel compelled to make a small but totally embarrassing confession here.  This is DEFINITELY might just my playoff goggles talking, but I loooove me some Hal Gill.  He’s gigantic and handsome, and I know his nickname is “No Skill-Gill,” but I don’t care.  I like it when Hal Gill is happy and doing lots of interviews.  I also have a soft spot for Brian Gionta, which I’m not even TRYING to curb because I think a crush on Brian Gionta compliments a crush on Hal Gill very nicely.  It’s as if my playoff goggles are practicing Feng-shui.)

Flyers: Look, I know you guys hate the Flyers, and I’m certainly not in love with them or anything, but COME ON, you HAVE to be rooting for them at this point.  I know it burns to see the Flyers succeed, but try not to focus on that.  Just focus on how uncomfortable, freaked-out, and nervous the Bruins must be right now- poised at the precipice of complete collapse.  Don’t think of it as “cheering for the Flyers” think of it as “cheering for the humiliation of the Bruins, specifically Chara.”


The great thing about the situation in the East is that no matter who emerges victorious, it’s safe to assume they’ll be completely demolished in the Finals.  So, while it feels dirty and wrong to cheer for any of the remaining teams, I think there’s very little risk of permanent psychological damage here.

So, fuck it.  Go Flyers!


Recently my friend Dinesh made a joke about how I’m a silly little innocent who doesn’t understand true sports pain because I grew up rooting for the Twins.

He’s right.

My only other true, with-all-my-heart sports rooting interest before I came to Buffalo was the Minnesota Twins.  As a small child, I cheered like all kids do, without really worrying too much about wins and losses.  I loved the Twins either way.  Then, in 1987 when I became old enough to crave wins (I was twelve), the Twins won the World Series, and then they did it again in 1991.  During my formative years, I saw the Twins lose plenty, but I never saw them lose a playoff series, and I saw them win the World Series twice.  So, my friend Dinesh is right.  I was spoiled as a child, and I don’t intrinsically understand how it feels experience a lifetime of sports fandom without ever seeing a championship.

Dinesh is from Cleveland, so he DOES understand true sports pain.  As he says about cheering for Cleveland sports and the expectation that eventually his team will lose, “It’s always something.”

For one reason or another, I’ve become temporarily transfixed by the drama occurring around LeBron James today.  I know almost nothing about basketball, so my interest in this is coming for a position of complete ignorance.   Last night I became intrigued when the tone of the LeBron discussion in my Twitter feed became dramatic and scathing.   As the game wound down, Bruce Arthur wrote, “This isn’t just a capitulation by LeBron. It’s not just a surrender. This is a betrayal.” Whoa.  That’s some hardcore losing.

So, I’ve spent the morning reading about LeBron James and the history of Cleveland sports, and my final conclusion is, “Holy crap, poor Cleveland fans….they’re like Buffalonians.”

I don’t feel comfortable closely identifying with the history of losing in Buffalo.  That history is not my true experience and to over-identify with it seems a little disengenuous, but I have gotten increasingly aware of “it” in recent years (heh) and I deeply empathize.  My empathy is in part selfish, because it’s for my future self.  After all, if things stay the course, eventually I will have a genuine history with Buffalo’s losing ways.

I’m curious about how born-and-bred Buffalonians feel about Clevelanders.  I feel a combination of deep deep sympathy, and also a little bit of petty, “Ha ha!  You guys never win either.  LOSERS.”  I’ll admit, the idea of the Cavaliers delivering a championship to Cleveland made me jealous, and sort of cranky.  But now that it’s looking so grim for the Cavs, and LeBron is about to become a free agent on top of everything else….boy.  Poor, poor Cleveland.  They don’t deserve that.

So, Buffalo.  How does Cleveland make you feel?  Sad?  Petty?  Happy?  Would it make you happy to see them win, or would it make you feel lonelier here in Buffalo?

Are Cleveland fans our brothers in pain, or are they the competition?

This Restaurant is Terrible, and the Portions are Small.

The playoffs just aren’t doing it for me this year.  In past seasons I have ravenously consumed the playoffs, but this year I’m only keeping one eye on the second round games.

I am, however, peeved that there is less hockey now.  I always hate to watch the number of games dwindle as the playoffs progress.

There is no late game tonight!  This is a travesty.

No One Paid Me To Write This, Although, If You’re Reading This, NHL, I WILL Accept Bribes For Future Reviews of Your Products

I found myself downtown with a few minutes to kill this morning, so I decided to poke my head into the Sabres store to see it they are having a, “Sorry we only won two playoff games” sale.  FYI, there are a few nicely discounted items.  (In fact, if you want a Derek Roy “as is” adult medium 3rd jersey that has small mended tears on the back for $65 [I actually think the tears and how they are fixed is kind of sassy], get your butt down there, asap.)

Anyhooch, I finally had the chance to try on one of those women’s cut jerseys, which have come highly recommended to me by Jessica.  I don’t own any jerseys, because every time I put one on I feel like a shapeless blob.  (To be clear, I think YOU look super fabulous in your jersey.)  I’m not willing to spend $250 on a garment that makes me feel like an unhappy, shapeless blob, so, no jersey for me.

I was surprised by how much I like the women’s version.  It really is a different fit, and I did NOT feel like a shapeless blob.  While wearing it I felt like a normal Katebits-shaped blob, but one who happened to be extra Sabre-y.

The only downside is that cut kind of screams, “I’M WEARING A WOMEN’S JERSEY!” which I don’t exactly mind, but isn’t the point of a jersey that you’re wearing what the team wears?  On the other hand I also tried on an outrageously shapeless-blob-creating Goose jersey that had fight straps inside, and that just seemed silly.  Unless I’m also wearing little hockey pants and I intend to get real feisty with my section usher, I really don’t need fight straps on my jersey, do I?  Also, I wonder how/if the women’s cut would effect customization.  If I were ever to buy a jersey I would want “HONK” “Gaustad” sewn on there right away, and maybe that would be trickier on a women’s cut jersey.  I dunno.

I didn’t buy it, but it was the closest I’ve ever come to buying a jersey.  If you’re a woman who has never bought a jersey because they make you feel like a shapeless blob, I highly recommend you try one of those babies on.

And that’s my story.

Go Bengals

One of the things that has changed in my life this year is that I’m teaching at Buff State.  Once a week I trot over to the Buff State campus, I search for parking like every other poor soul in town, and I teach some viola lessons.  It’s a pretty low-key position, but doing this job has put me back into regular contact with college students, and it’s been a really rewarding experience.

I’m 34-years-old, and I graduated from college in 1997, which, if my math is correct, was ten million years ago.  Being back on a college campus after almost a decade and a half away is interesting, particularly around the end of the semester.

I’m not so old that I don’t remember how insanely stressful college finals can be.  In fact, stepping on to campus, I have to say, the stress is palpable.  It’s in the air.  Being in that collegiate atmosphere, even as a visitor, and even 13-years-later, creates in me an interesting combination of nostalgia and retroactive panic.

At the risk of sounding like I think I’m some sort of wise old sage (WARNING: I assure you, I am NOT a wise old sage), I guess I feel compelled to say this today: If you are a student like I was, and you feel like you might explode from the stress, and being in school makes you feel like you might have a nervous breakdown…..just try not to worry, and just try to survive it.  It won’t always be like this.

When I wander around Buff State, the memory of that “end of the year stress” is so strong that I literally feel it in my body, but honestly, I don’t remember ANY of the events from college that caused that stress.  After a few years away from school, the memories of specific tests and recitals and exams just kind of faded, and they definitely lost their death grip on my psyche.

Being around college kids reminds me that whatever I’m freaking out about today probably isn’t going to mean diddly-poo in a few years.  In a few years we’ll all have entirely new diddly-poo to fret about; which, if you think about it, is oddly comforting.

6 Things

1. Of all the things that went wrong in the Bruins series, Vanek getting Boychuked is the one that still haunts me.  Watching Vanek limp to the bench was like a dagger to the heart.  I’m not over it.  At all.

2. Cheesy popcorn and fizzy water is the best snack in the world.

3. This story is awfully cute.  (I found this link via Bruce Arthur’s twitter feed.  Incidentally, Bruce Arthur is my new Twitter crush.  He tweets a lot about basketball, and I still like him, that’s how cute his twitter feed is.)

4. We’re recording a CD at work this week, and while I really like a lot of things about recording, one thing I hate is how QUIET you have to be.  I always wind up all squirrelly and exhausted from the effort it takes to be still and quiet.  I wouldn’t say that I’m ordinarily a loud person, but I like to be able to fidget around without a sound engineer being all, “YOUR SHUFFLING FOOT IS RUINING THE CD!”  (The sound engineer did not actually say that.  He’s very polite.)

5. Lord knows I’m as happy to pile onto Darcy as the next violist, but you know what I think we need to take a little more time to appreciate?  Paille, MacArthur, and Paestcheasch are no longer Sabres.  In the last week I’ve heard a LOT of people accuse Darcy of falling in love with his players, and for the most part I think he deserves that criticism, but man, Darcy tossed those guys aside, no problem.  Doesn’t it seem insane that the Sabres started the season with MacArthur AND Paille?

6. I love watching the Sharks choke, but I find myself QUITE taken with Joe Pavelski.  I said this on Twitter a few nights ago, but, how unfair is it that the Sharks can have their entire first line of All-Stars choke and they’ve STILL got someone like Pavelski to score their goals?  It’s completely unfair.  If Vanek, Roy, and Connolly don’t score all we’ve got left is Jason Pominville, who granted is very cute, but he’s no Joe Pavelski.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think Joe Pavelski should be a Sabre next year.

…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

Observations 2
I can be reached at: willfulcaboose [at] gmail [dot] com

For All Your Facebook “Needs”


puck goggles
In accordance with the Fair Use Copyright Law, The Willful Caboose uses logos and registered trademarks of the National Hockey League to convey my criticism and inform the public of the Sabres' suckitude/badassitude (whatever the case may be). Photos on The Willful Caboose are used without permission, but do not interfere with said owner's profit. If you own a specific image on this site and want it removed, please e-mail me (willfulcaboose [at] gmail [dot] com) and I will be more than happy willing to oblige. (Special thanks to The Pensblog for their help with this disclaimer.)