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Mario Party

Over the last few months I’ve grown increasingly disillusioned with the tone and quality of sports coverage. I don’t really feel like getting into it in-depth right now (and let’s be honest, you don’t really feel like reading about it in-depth right now), but I’ve been plagued by an increasing awareness that the entire sports media industry (teams, journalists, radio) is just part of a big giant machine designed to extract money from fans.

WGR sells “BIG STORY! IT’S A BIG STORY! LET’S TALK ABOUT IT! YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS IT! BIIIIIG STORY!” and The Buffalo News sells, “objectivity,” but it’s allllll just a big sell and it’s all designed to take advantage of our love of sports for profit.

In my opinion, sports coverage isn’t news. It’s entertainment on every level. Which is fine… but lately I keep find myself wondering “Why am I blindly consuming so much of this coverage?” I think I might enjoy the Sabres better on a media island. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d almost rather just get my news directly from the Sabres because at least they’re completely upfront about their motivations. The Sabres are all “We produce hockey, and in exchange, please give us your money.” I find that approach refreshing by comparison.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, because this week along came Mario Williams. It would be impossible to overstate the NON-STOP HOOPLA we’ve witnessed via twitter and the radio waves. And I loved it.

Hey, Mario. I'd never heard of you until this week and now I'm desperate for you to be a Bill.

UPDATE: He IS a Bill! While I was writing this post someone reported to someone else who reported to Twitter that there’s a 1:30 press conference scheduled and YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

I’ve enjoyed this saga from beginning to end. I think the reason I’ve found the Mario Party so charming is that there really hasn’t been any counterpoint. For the two days (before he signed) the conversation was nothing more than unmasked, vulnerable hope. That’s it. There really wasn’t anyone saying, “No. Don’t do it. Mario Williams is a waste of money.” I encountered a few people on twitter yesterday who seemed to take some perverse pleasure in predicting that Mario would crawl out of town under cover of darkness, but for the most part, every single Buffalonian who was talking about Mario Williams was simply saying, “I hope this happens. I would be so happy if this happens.” It was nice.

AND HE SIGNED, which feels like the Football Gods way of rewarding Bills fans for their vulnerable hope.

I have no doubt that the sports media machine will begin churning out the commentary within the hour, but I’m grateful for the few days of relative agreement. When the sports news got really intense, it was the voice of the fan which dictated the conversation. The newspaper, the radio, the Bills, the bloggers, the fans, everyone was on the same page. Basically, everyone in Buffalo made the same silly wish, and then the silly wish came true.

Good job, team.

A Moment of Clarity

In the stupidest turn of Sabres-related-events ever, all anyone ever talks about anymore is whether FNC is loud enough.

So, let’s just solve this once and for all: Is the crowd at FNC loud enough?

Short answer: No.

Slightest expanded answer: No, because the crowd is a reflection of last five years of Sabres hockey.

Now that we have that settled….

I’m as guilty as the next viola player of indulging in this conversation. I’ve spent the last three days taking the bait and rigorously defending the FNC crowd as though my very life were on the line.  For reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, I’ve taken every single criticism of the FNC crowd personally this season. Every time someone tweeted that season ticket holders are all rich middle-aged assholes who only have season tickets as some sort of status symbol, I was all, “Hey… that’s not nice. My feelings are hurt!”

I’ve been all over the place with this one. I spent a gruesome morning collecting tweets critical of the FNC crowd from local media and bloggers with the intention of blasting everyone to the moon. (Seriously though, the uniformity of thought on this issue from the people sitting in the press box should be setting off warning bells in the minds of free thinkers.)  I also have at least three half written posts about how all of this neurotic hand wringing and mean-spirited finger-pointing is a reflection of Buffalo’s deep-seated need to hate ourselves. (While ignoring our real problems, let’s all hate ourselves about something of exactly zero consequence to our community!) I also had a theory about how Buffalo ex-pats are the root of all sports-related evil. (Basic theory: Ex-pats try to use their Sabres experience to re-live their youth. They get irate and foot-stompy when the reality doesn’t match up with their rose-colored nostalgia: “Back in MY day we knew how to cheer for the Sabres! The streets of Buffalo were paved with gold and Grampa gave me Werthers and Blue Light at the Bills game. I lost my virginity in the Mighty Taco parking lot after prom and I had the BEST CHILDHOOD EVER! Then I moved to NYC/Raleigh/wherever. Now Buffalo sucks … probably because I’m gone.”)

I can admit that all these theories are juuuuust a tad over-wrought and defensive. Like 99.99999% of all conversations about sports, there’s probably is no greater meaning to any of this. It’s just a storyline. That’s cool, I guess. Obviously this is not my favorite storyline ever, but neither was, “Sabres likely to end in 10th place, AGAIN.” We need stuff to fill up the newspapers and blogs and radio waves. This will do.


I went to a cello recital this afternoon and while listening to the beautiful music I had a moment of awesome clarity: “Wait a second,” I thought to myself, “I have Sabres season tickets.”

Having the opportunity to go to many Sabres games is exactly as awesome and wonderful as it sounds. I think the arena will perk up when the Sabres perk up, but either way, I’m grateful for my personal Sabres experience. If you’re a regular attendee of Sabres games, you’re my people, and I love you. If you’re not a regular attendee of Sabres games, but you still love the Sabres, and you at the very least have the decency to be funny while you’re being a jerk on Twitter, I love you too.

The end.

After my moment of clarity I did this dance, and I decided never to care about what Twitter thinks about my worth as a season ticket holder ever again:

Let’s go Buff-a-lo!


It’s been a very long time since I felt an irrepressible urge to put up a nothing post on this blog immediately after the final buzzer just so that there is blog evidence that I watched the game. Tonight, I sat alone in my living room and breathlessly clung to my twitter friends as Ryan Miller reminded us for the millionth time that hockey is the freaking best.

1-0, Sabres. Some games are a privilege to watch and this was one of them.

Sabres Fan Documentary

Sabres fans, let me ask you four simple questions:

1. Are you a Sabres fan? (Yes, you are. If you’re reading this blog you’re either a Sabres fan, or my mother.)
2. Are you super awesome? (Yes! You are!)
3. Are you incredibly attractive and/or hilarious? (Duh. Of course you are.)
4. Do you want to be a STAR OF STAGE AND SCREEN? (Of COURSE you do! You were BORN to be a star!)

Well, get this: There is a woman making a documentary about Sabres fans.

I KNOW. A movie, about us.


A few weeks ago I was contacted by a woman named Mary Wall. Mary is a native of Buffalo, but now she lives out in California and she works on the television show “The Office”. Mary is making a documentary about Sabres fans, and she’s looking for cast members. From what I’ve gathered from our email correspondences, it sounds to me like Mary is actually making a movie about Buffalo, and she is using Sabres fandom as an illustrator of our basic character as a region.

Longtime readers of this blog will understand why this caught my attention. I believe strongly that there is a connection between the character of the people of Buffalo and our relationship to our often woebegone sports franchises.  I became a Sabres fan out of a desire to become closer to this city, and it worked like a charm. I became a Sabres fan, and almost like magic, I became a Buffalonian. If I wanted to tell the story of this region, one of the first places I’d start is HSBC Arena. The connection between the Sabres and the city is what this blog is all about. The Willful Caboose is me, talking about my life here in Buffalo, and using my Sabres fandom as the stage.

Basically, I think Mary is onto something with her movie. She’s speaking my language here.

Now, to be clear, I’ve never met Mary Wall. In our emails she seems nice and intelligent, and I love the basic premise of her project, but having never met her, I can’t exactly vouch for her on a personal level. What I can say is that she does not seem insane or crazy in any way (other than the whole “move to Buffalo from LA and spend the winter following hockey fans around in the snow.” I think you can argue that’s a little wonky. But other than that, she seems totally normal and cool). All I’m saying right now is that I think this is a neat idea, and I’d love to see Mary succeed with this documentary.

And that’s where you guys come in.

Mary needs people to be IN the movie. Some of the questions that I asked at the beginning of this post may have been a little misleading. Mary is looking for all types of people. Young, old, cool, nerdy, hot, less-hot, life long fans, and newbies. Basically, if you love the Sabres, then Mary wants to hear your story. From what I gather, a key element of the casting process is getting a variety of different people, so please, spread the word. The Sabres touch our lives in a million different ways. If you know someone with a unique Sabres story, encourage them to get in touch with Mary.

Here is how Mary describes who she is looking for:

We are currently casting for Sabres fans. It doesn’t matter if you were born a fan or became one later in life; whether you were born in Buffalo or adopted the city as your home. If the Sabres’ ups and downs are your ups and downs, we want to hear your story. We want to hear from season ticket holders and people who listen to the radio while dreaming of seeing a game live. We want people who have woven the Sabres into their lives: when your child was born during the playoffs, when you served in Iraq, when you got over your first heartbreak (you know you fantasized about Ray beating him), when you beat cancer – whatever your Sabres story is, we want to hear it.

Mary will be in Buffalo this week holding open casting calls at the following locations. All the casting calls are 5-8pm.

Wednesday 8/17/11 – Spot Coffee
765 Elmwood Ave
Buffalo, NY 14222

Thursday 8/18/11 – Audubon Library
(Community Meeting Room)
350 John James Audubon Pkwy
Amherst, NY 14228

Friday 8/19/11 –    The Comfort Zone Cafe
17 Main St
Hamburg, NY 14075

Walk-ins are welcome, but you can also e-mail to set up an appointment, ask questions, or share stories.

If you want to read a little more about the project and who Mary’s looking for, here’s a link to the Facebook page.

So, go to a casting call. Talk to Mary, ask her questions, and tell her your story. The casting interviews will be low-key and not filmed. There’s really nothing to lose here, and to me this seems like something worth checking out.  I think this sounds like a wonderful project, and I hope you do too.

Summer Vacation

I’m going to do something different with this blog this offseason.  I’m going to close up shop for the summer. I can honestly tell you I’ve spent roughly three minutes thinking about the Sabres in the last three weeks.

I spent one minute thinking about them after it became clear that the Lightning were about to sweep the Caps. (“DAMN I wish the Sabres could’ve gotten a piece of those sadsack Caps,” I thought.)

I spent a minute thinking about the Sabres when I watched a period of the US/Norway Worlds game. (“Hey look,” I said to myself, “there’s Goose! … and there he is again! Hi Goose! HEY GOOSE! Goose, look over here!  It’s me, Kate!  From Buffalo! HONK! HONK! HONK!”)

And I spent a minute thinking about the Sabres after I finally got bored enough to sit down and watch Darcy and the Gang’s post-season exit press conference. (FYI, Darcy seems to be pissed off about Crunchy’s goalie mask, and during the press conference he basically accused Crunchy of wearing a sub-standard mask. To me that’s interesting and dishy. I’m pretty sure at the beginning of last season, Darcy was all, “Hey Crunchy, you need to wear this helmet so you don’t get a concussion,” and Crunchy was all, “No way, Darcy! That helmet makes my head look fat. I want to wear this helmet! The kitten can whisper in my ear to warn me when the puck is coming so I’ll never get hit in the head.” Either way, Darcy seemed incredibly irked about Crunchy’s concussion. I look forward to the continuation of Mask-Gate.)

But other than those three things, I really haven’t given the Sabres much thought recently.

One of the things that I really took away from this season is the realization that I’m happiest when I accept the Sabres at face value, and then move on with my life. I can’t bear the thought of spending the summer trying to scrap together posts about whether or not the Sabres should re-sign Drew Stafford, Steve Montador and Tim Connolly. (Answer: yes, maybe, and no. See? It took, like, 10 keystrokes to answer that question. How the hell could I possibly blog about that for five months?)

So, in lieu of one half-hearted post per week, I’m going to take an indefinite break. I’ll probably make a reappearance around July 1st depending on how interesting and/or lame free agency winds up being for the Sabres.

I’ll leave with the following Prayer for the Offseason,

Oh, Mighty Hockey Gods. Thank you for a blessed and wonderful 2010/11 Sabres season. Seriously, that was rad. It would’ve been fun if they had gone farther in the playoffs, but whatever. That’s life. All in all it was a great season, and my love for the franchise has grown. Thank you almighty Hockey Gods for bringing us Terry Pegula and Ted Black, and thank you for making the previously lame-looking Sabres suddenly and inexplicably, awesome-looking.

Please hear my prayer for the 2011 Sabres offseason.

Please guide Darcy Regier’s hand so that he may keep the awesomest Sabres and trade the lame ones.

Please confuse the other GMs in the league so that they happily trade their best players to the Sabres in exchange for the bargaining rights to Tim Connolly and Patrick Lalime. (And since he came up, PLEASE Almighty Hockey Gods, do NOT let the Sabres re-sign Patrick Lalime. This request seems almost silly, because NO ONE with half a brain cell would re-sign Lalime at this point, but Almighty Hockey Gods, WE’VE BEEN BURNED BEFORE. We can never be too careful when it comes to the back-up goalie position and the Buffalo Sabres. It’s best to pray first, and ask questions later.)

Please heal the injured Sabres. 

And along those lines, please provide Ryan Miller with enough minor daily annoyances that he comes back to Buffalo next season cranky enough to do his job well.

Please help Darcy to draft some tasty prospects.

Please let all the best free agents want to come to Buffalo.

Please let Drew Stafford either be awesome or be lame, once and for all. If he’s going to be awesome, please let him sign a reasonable, long-term contract with the Sabres, and if he’s going to be lame, please let him sign an UNreasonable and hilariously long contract with one of our enemies.

I don’t even know how to pray for Jochen Hecht. Just… fix him, please.

Please let Zach Parise and Joe Pavelski become Sabres somehow.

Please infuse Lindy Ruff with energy, and new, exciting ideas for how to coach. If he’s going to be the coach for life, he’s got to mix it up every few years. Last year he seemed really invigorated by the Olympics, maybe this summer he should climb Mt. Everest, or spend a month in a monastery praying to the Hockey Gods.  I dunno.  Just please keep Lindy feisty and in love with hockey.

Please make sure that Terry Pegula has tons and tons of fun owning the Sabres. A happy Terry Pegula is good for everyone.

Please make sure that Ted Black is showered with the adoration and monetary rewards that he deserves. Maybe he should get his own radio show or something. I could be his adorable co-host, you know, if you wanted. And Hockey Gods, if you made a Ted Black Trapper Keeper, I would TOTALLY buy it. Just saying.

And finally, please Almighty Hockey Gods, make my flower gardens grow big and strong.  This has nothing to do with the Sabres, but it would make me very happy.


Have a good summer, Sabres fans!

Let’s go Buff-a-lo!


(ed. note- About halfway through writing this Game Diary I realize that a lot of the stuff I wrote at the beginning of the diary was all wrong-headed.  So, I went back and made some notes.)

-Holy crap do I wish Vincent Lecavalier was a Sabre.

-Holy crap do I wish Jochen Hecht was not a Sabre.

-Remember that time Lecavalier and Hecht fought?  That was awesome.  If they fought again right now I might be rooting for Vinny. 

– I love it when a guy scores a goal and then immediately points to the guy who gave him the pass.  Vanek does that all the time.  Because he’s awesome.  Vanek has good manners, even in the heat of the moment.

(ed. note- At some point in here the score got to be 3-1, Lightning.  I really wasn’t paying super close attention to be honest.)

– The Lightning are an incredibly exciting and awesome team.  They’re just plan better than the Sabres. (ed. note- *cue hilarious foreshadowing music*) The Lightning are a good example of how quickly things can change when the right man takes over a franchise.  Have hope, Sabres fans!  Things can change.  Two years ago the Barry Melrose was coaching the Lightning and Stamkos was a bust, and now look at them!  They rock. (ed. note- They do not rock.)

– You know, even though the Sabres are currently losing 3-1, I still like this game.  Is anyone else just totally calm about the Sabres?  It’s Pegula.  I believe again, because now I’ve got some patience.   (ed. note- I REALLY BELIEVE AGAIN!  THANK YOU HOCKEY GODS!)

-Is there a guy in a Sabres Steve Bernier jersey sitting right behind Brian Engblom?  That is WEIRD.  If you’re the guy who ran out and bought that jersey the day after Bernier’s impressive debut against Nashville two years ago, aren’t you also the guy who has a closet full of jerseys?  And if you own other, non-Bernier jerseys, shouldn’t you be wearing one of those to the game?  Is it possible that this guy only owns one Sabres jersey, and that jersey is a…Bernier? (ed. note- The guy in the Bernier jersey is OBVIOUSLY LUCKY, and if Pegula is smart he’ll pay the Bernier-guy to travel around with the team, and wear his Bernier jersey in the first row behind the benches at every game. MAKE IT HAPPEN, PEGASAURUS!)

(ed. note: NOT weird!  HE’S A LUCKY CHARM AND I LOVE HIM!)

-Jason Pominville needs to score some goals.  Or at least be remotely visible on the ice. (ed. noteThis actually still stands.)

– Huh.  The Sabres just tied it!  I did not see that coming.  It’s definitely easier to score when the opposing goalie is flat on his back.  The Sabres should send old Staffy out to trip up the goalie more often.  This game is now hilarious because the home fans are MEGA cranky and booing all over the place.  Can’t say I exactly blame them, although Staffy was just falling.  He didn’t mean nothin’ by it. (ed. note- The crowd should’ve saved their booing and just stood up and gone home.  The ax…it was hovering.  To say the least.  WOO!)

– WHY did Lindy put Niedermayer out on the 3-on-3?  WHAT POSSIBLE JUSTIFICATION COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE FOR NIEDERMAYER ON A 3-ON-3?!  WHY LINDY, WHY? (ed. note- WHY?!)

– Wow!  Tim Connolly just scored.  I repeat.  Tim Connolly just score the go ahead goal. That goal was nice work by Stafford, Ennis and Connolly. 4-3, Sabres.

– I am definitely losing my, “TRADE STAFFY NOW!” resolve.  Now I’m kind of like, “WE’RE WINNING THE CUP, AND STAFFY IS GOING TO BE THE MVP!”

– Okay, the Sabres just scored AGAIN.  This is the best game EVER!  (Except for possibly this game, which was also against the Lightning.) 5-3, Sabres.

– Why haven’t they pulled Roloson? (ed. note- I should be the coach of the Lightning.)

– HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Tampa Bay Lightning, WHY did you leave Vanek all alone right in front of the net?  Are you guys retarded? (ed. note- Yes!  THEY ARE!)  6-3, Sabres.

– Okay, Staffy.  You can stay.  It’s decided.  Tell us how much money you want, and we’ll have Pegula’s lawyers write up the contract.  IT’S A “MOOOORE BRAAAAAAINS” HAT TRICK! 7-3, Sabres.

– Aw, Vinny scored.  I love that guy.  I wish he was a Sabre.  Have I mentioned that recently? 7-4, Sabres.

Well.  I think I speak for all Sabres fans when I say, “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” (ed. note- EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!)

-If you’re not jazzed after that one, we can’t be friends.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! THE SABRES ARE NEVER LOSING AGAIN! (ed. note- It’s been far, far too long since I’ve said, “The Sabres are never losing again.”  Welcome back, Sabres.)

Sometimes Things Change

As Sabres fans over the last few years we’ve been repeatedly told that the for the good of the franchise, and to ensure the future of the franchise, the organization has to move cautiously and prudently.  I’ve always believed that the Sabres have intelligent businessmen running the show, and so I’ve never questioned their conservative philosophy from a business perspective.  I believe it when the Sabres tell us that their profit margin is narrow, and I think Golisano has every right to demand that his business balances their books.

Every Sabres fan owes Golisano a “Thanks, man,” for way he stepped in and restored the Sabres as viable Buffalo institution.  So yes, we’re grateful to Tom Golisano.


What if it were different?

What if we had an owner who cared about winning above all else? What if the next owner is comfortable losing a few million dollars here and there?  What if the new guy wants to treat the Sabres like his own personal fantasy hockey team?  What if when the Sabres suck, people lose their jobs?  What if someone tells Darcy Reiger, “Shut up about draft picks and stop calling 18-year-old boys, ‘assets’.  Build me a winner right now.”   What if Larry Quinn doesn’t work for the Sabres anymore?  What if Terry Pegula cares as much as us?  What if he’s annoyed when the games are boring?  What if  he wants to own a team in Buffalo, not because of tax breaks and profit margins and sound investments, but so that he can win a Cup?

In Buffalo we’ve been systematically taught that, above all else, stability is the number one goal.  But what if Terry Pegula comes in and says, “The Sabres are stable because I own them.  End of story.”

What if Terry Pegula is just doing this for fun?


I find these questions electrifying.  I understand that there are perfectly good reasons to temper my enthusiasm about this random stranger, but I don’t care.  The most frustrating thing about being a Sabres fan over the last few years has been the sense that nothing will ever change.  New ownership challenges that notion, and I am incredibly excited about the possibilities.  I don’t want to be prudent, and I don’t want to be cautious.  Hell, I don’t even want to be reasonable.  I’m savoring this chance to dream big, and I think you should too.

Sometimes things do change, and this could change everything.

Let’s go Buff-a-lo!


…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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

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