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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Fort Knox no longer

   Jan. 25, 1983 -- By the time the 1982 season ended, it was more or less an open secret that Chuck Knox's days of coaching the Buffalo Bills were about over. He made it official on this date.

   Knox was a rare hire by the Bills in their history … a big-name coach. He had been with the Rams from 1973 to 1977, where he won five straight division championship. However, Knox never could get the Rams into the Super Bowl, so he jumped to the Bills.

   There he took the Bills up from more or less dead to respectability. Buffalo reached the playoffs in both 1980 and 1981, and the team beat the Jets in a first-round playoff game in 1981. However, the team went 4-5 in 1982 and had some internal problems caused by the strike of that season.

   Knox also supposedly had trouble reaching an agreement with owner Ralph Wilson about a contract. So, he left the Bills at that point and immediately jumped to the Seattle Seahawks as the head coach.

   In Seattle, Knox reached an AFC championship game in his first season, but lost to the Raiders. Knox later went back to the Rams for three seasons through 1994 and then retired.

   Knox never did get to a Super Bowl in his career as a head coach, but he won a lot of games in trying to reach that goal.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The "other" goalie

   January 24, 1981 - When the Buffalo Stallions first entered the Major Indoor Soccer League, their "most famous" player probably was goalie Jim May. He was the first player signed by the franchise.

   But the Stallions had another goalie on their roster who was pretty good too. Scott Manning turned into something more than a backup during the course of his career.

   Manning was born in Rochester and played college soccer in Cortland. He even was picked for the U.S. Olympic team of 1980, which stayed home instead of traveling to Moscow because of the boycott.

   Manning took to the indoor game quite nicely. On this day, he recorded the first shutout in Stallions' history, a 5-0 win over Philadelphia.

   After spending two years with the Stallions, he moved on to other teams. Manning played for Phoenix, Baltimore, Wichita and Dallas. Eventually he landed a job as a high school soccer coach for a Baltimore-area high school.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Kings of the road

   January 23, 1984 -- Talk about road warriors.

   Travel seemed to agree with the Buffalo Sabres at this point in their history. They took their 10th straight road game, beating the Bruins, 5-3, in Boston Garden.

   It's never easy to win in Boston, and this was a close game throughout. Ric Seiling, Dave Andreychuk and Brent Peterson had scored for the Sabres to set up a 3-3 game in the final minutes. Then Dave Andreychuk beat Pete Peeters with 2:09 left to put Buffalo ahead, 4-3. Paul Cyr scored an empty-netter 10 seconds later, and that was that.

   Tom Barrasso had the win in the nets for the Sabres. He and Peeters both finished with 27 saves. It was the end of a five-game road trip for Buffalo; remarkably, the Sabres won all five.

   The streak had started in Boston on December 10, 1983. So the Sabres went more than a month without a road loss. It finally ended on February 2 in, you guessed it, Boston.

   You can make your own comparisons to what's happening in hockey around town now.

--- Budd Bailey

Olympic Marathon trials: What was it like?

Serena Kessler, a 1990 graduate of Clarence High School, took part in the U.S. Olympic marathon trial in Houston on Jan. 14. It's quite impressive for the chance to line up with America's best runners with three trips to London at stake.

She wrote down some of her observations about the experience, and generously offered to have them published here. We thank her for that and wish her well:

The Starting Line:  Humility and Pride

I swelled with pride and humility as I stood on the starting line of the 2012 Olympic marathon trials, listening to Joan Benoit Samuelson, winner of the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984, offer words of encouragement to the 191 women, ages 22-50, about to embark on the next 26.2 miles of a journey to discover what we are capable of as runners and as women. I was proud of the work I had done to land myself a spot among such an elite group of marathoners, and incredibly humble thinking about what the top tier athletes standing at the front of the pack – who would be running close to a minute faster per mile than I was – had done to make themselves contenders in the strongest field of American women marathoners ever assembled.

Mile 8:  Cooperation and Competition

At mile eight, I found myself comfortably ensconced in a pack of about 30 women running 6:15-6:20 pace – the pace we had needed to run to qualify for the event. We were a happy, solid pack, secure in the knowledge that we had no chance to qualify for London, but nevertheless pushing ourselves to do what we knew we were capable of and to enjoy the positive energy of the day. At one point a spectator yelled out for us “break up the pack” and “compete,” to which one of our pack responded, “we love our pack.” What the spectator didn’t understand – but what the athletes who will represent us in London do, as we found out when they discussed their race at the awards lunch – is that cooperation and competition can co-exist. Sure, each one of us wanted to finish ahead of all the others, but we also knew that running as a group would make us all run better and that running our best would require both cooperation and competition.

Mile 18:  Suffering and Elation

Just before mile 18, the race started to get hard. Glycogen stores were breaking down and I was beginning to suffer. Then, as our pack approached the final 8 mile-loop of our course, the lead motorcycle whizzed by us, with Meb Keflezighi who had just taken a convincing lead over Ryan Hall close behind. At mile 26 for him (the men started 15 minutes ahead of us and ran the same looped course) and mile 18 for us, we cheered along with the crowds as Meb cruised by us and headed into his final 400 meters. The crowds were wild and the energy propelled us forward, with the joy of being in that moment making the physical pain barely noticeable. 

Mile 20:  Alone and Together

By mile 20, our group started to break up. We were all suffering to varying degrees, and though we were still together in small clusters, each was alone in her pain. At this point, we were each relying on the grit that got us to the starting line in the first place to get us to the finish. I got passed by a few people in those final miles, and passed an equal number myself, and I felt a comforting solidarity, despite knowing that the only way to get to the finish line was through my own power.

The Final Paradox:  There is no finish line

While I had been on pace at 20 miles to run 2:44, my final 10K was not blistering. I fell off pace considerably, but did not completely fall apart. I finished in 2:47:44, my second fastest of the 10 marathons I’ve run in the last 15 years. I’m looking forward to a nice long rest, celebrating my 40th birthday, and then competing once again. The final paradox is that while I’m satisfied with my performance on Saturday and thrilled that I was part of such an amazing event, I know that I have a faster marathon in me. 40-year-old Sheri Piers ran 2:37:09 on Saturday, and 50-year-old Linda Somers Smith ran 2:37:36. They are proof that age is not our enemy, and inspiration to continue this fantastic journey.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A Bills' first

     January 22, 1985 -- Buffalo Bills fans had been waiting a long time for this news bulletin: A Bill has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

     While the Bills had plenty of great players back in the 1960's, Simpson was an easy choice for the voters who determined who would be doing to Canton. He was the first runner to go past 2,000 yards in a single season, running for 2,003 in 1973. What's more, he did it in a mere 14 games.

     Simpson finished his career with 11,236 yards rushing, and led the league four different times. He also was one of the few running backs in history who seemed like he was capable of running for a touchdown on every single play.

     Simpson was part of a rather impressive class at the Hall. He was joined by Joe Namath, Pete Rozelle, Roger Staubach, and Frank Gatski.

     His election then raises an interesting question now. In the light of Simpson's "troubles" after his retirement from football, would he still gain admission to Canton if the voting were held today. Some opinions might have changed since 1985.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits live blog from Rochester

7:10 p.m. -- Hello from Rochester. The drive on the Thruway was uneventful, my computer is up and running, and we are almost ready for lacrosse.

The Bandits are coming off a nice win against Toronto last week, and Rochester beat Philadelphia in a wild one in its first game. So ... this game is for first place in the NLL East. I know, Buffalo's fans aren't used to seeing one of their own in first place. We'll see how it goes tonight.

We have one lineup change from last week. Buffalo will sit Brandon Francis this week and dress Roger Vyse. Jeremy Thompson ought to take most of the draws. Frank Resetarits and Tom Montour also are sitting.

Mike Thompson is the starter in goal. He was the league's defensive player last week for his outstanding play.

8:04 p.m. -- I almost shot my computer in the past half hour, thanks to connection problems. But we seem to be back up and runnning. It's 1-1 early in the second quarter. Luke Wiles has the Buffalo goal. Mike Thompson has played very well.

I can't wait to see what Rochester looks like. The Knighthawks tied for first in the East last season, but blew up the roster. They got much younger in the process. Johnny Powless was a heralded rookie coming into the league, and Rochester traded up to get him in the draft. He had three goals and two assists last week against Philadelphia.

8:07 p.m. -- The Bandits are on a five-minute power play. After John Tavares took a hit, a funny thought hit me -- just read an article on Gordie Howe's last year, at age 52, in the NHL. No one wanted to hit him then, and not just because of age. Wonder if John would like that sort of status in his 40's?

8:15 p.m. -- The Knighthawks killed off the penalty. Plenty of action here, just not much scoring.

8:21 p.m. -- Somebody heard me. The teams have traded goals to make it 2-2, with Mark Steenhuis scoring for Buffalo and Alex Hill for Rochester. I've been trying to figure out how Steenhuis is being used, but it's not like the old days when he was out for every major offensive situation. And as I type, both teams add another goal. Four goals in 57 seconds.

8:29 p.m. -- We made it to halftime, and the Bandits have a 4-3 lead. Steenhuis has two goals to lead the way  -- one on a drive to the net, the other on a breakaway.

8:54 p.m. -- The pattern continues -- Bandits take a lead, the Knighthawks come right back. We're at 5-5 midway through the third quarter.

9:03 p.m. -- I'm starting to think these teams are well-matched. Neither side has had more than a two-goal lead. Just as Rochester picked up its first goal of the game, Tavares responded with a good shot frm the right side. So ... it's 6-6. I've seen some close games in this building over the last four years; I guess the tradition continues.

9:14 p.m. -- Chad Culp and Tavares have put Buffalo back up in front, 8-6. Johnny T. looks particularly sharp tonight. And again, while typing this, the Knighthawks score to cut it to one.

9:31 p.m. -- Bandits have a 12-9 lead with 3:27 left. Tavares is up to four goals, and it took two late scores by the Knighthawks to make it this close. Still, this one isn't quite in the books.

Postgame -- Oh yes it is, as the Bandits held off the Knighthawks the rest of the way to win their second straight.

Tavares took plenty of bows after the game for his fine work, as you'll see in my story. Just when the game was up for grabs, John grabbed it. Just amazing.

More computer problems around the end of the game, as the machine and wifi network stopped talking again. It's nice to be home.

--- Budd Bailey

Namath wades in shallow water in HBO documentary

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The HBO documentary "Namath," which premieres Saturday night at 9, is definitely an authorized biography. The 68-year-old quarterback spent a lot of time with HBO producers, talking to the camera about his shooting-star career as a Super Bowl champion with the New York Jets.

Namath, sitting in his South Florida home, his famously rebuilt knees making it look like a chore for him to cross his legs, reminisces about many phases of his life, on the field and off. The camera also follows him back to his hometown of Beaver Falls, Pa., where he is honored as a returning hero.

The documentary doesn't shy away from asking Namath about some low points in his life: His bouts of heavy drinking, for example; his divorce, and the squeeze put on him by the NFL in 1970 to sell his interest in his Bachelors III night spot because gamblers and organized crime figures were known to gather there.

For all the access, however, it's hard to feel that you come away knowing the man behind Broadway Joe.

Namath, of course, was football's first major media star and millionaire product pitchman. Because he played in New York, he became more famous for being famous than he was for throwing a football. In the HBO program, one of his agents recalls asking him back in the day, "What do you think about Joe Namath?"

"What do you mean? I'm Joe Namath," he said.

"No," the agent said. "I'm talking about the character, the guy whose name is on the clothing labels and who appears in all the commercials."

Some 40 years after that conversation, it's not clear that Namath has given much more thought to his answer. No matter what the topic Ñ whether it's the Jets' shocking upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, how he was resented by teammates when he first arrived as a member of the Jets or Bear Bryant's Alabama Crimson Tide, or how humiliating it was when a drunk Namath in 2007 told ESPN's Suzy Kolber on national television that he wanted to kiss her Ñ Namath's thoughts just barely skim the surface.

Perhaps this is not Namath's fault. The late writer David Foster Wallace, in an essay titled "How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart," described his disappointment at Austin's inability to write anything interesting about her career as a tennis phenom. Wallace concluded that perhaps the seemingly effortless physical superiority of many athletes makes them particularly unsuited to introspection. Perhaps, Wallace said, what is going through their minds during those moments of physical transcendence is "nothing at all."

It would be nice if he had more to say about what it was like being the king of New York nightlife; what it meant to end up living his boyhood dream as a Super Bowl quarterback, a star in feature films, and the most famous man to come out of Beaver Falls. He doesn't duck  any questions, but his answers don't add much to the record. When his father walked out on the family when Joe was a boy, "that was tough." When Namath filmed the movie "C.C. & Company" with the sex symbol Ann-Marget, "she was really hot." And when they did a love scene together it was awkward because there were a lot of people on the set. "Still, it wasn't THAT awkward," Namath says, grinning.

One of the great debates for NFL fans and pundits is whether Namath's career was truly worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This documentary might not settle the argument, but it goes a long way toward explaining how Namath got his bust in Canton. Namath's career statistics do not by themselves place him in the pantheon of the all-time elite. But his impact on the game back in 1969, when the Jets represented all the AFL teams vying for respect from their NFL brethren, is almost impossible to measure in 2012.

Namath's fame in those days was something akin to that of Muhammad Ali. Former Rams defensive star Fred Dryer explains in the program that defensive players used to pull up when tackling Namath, whose knees made him so vulnerable to getting injured on any given hit. Dryer said only an idiot would want to knock Namath out of a game because he was so good for football, for selling the product to the public.

Ann-Margret said Namath had a special twinkle in his eye that helped define his charisma. Maybe it was his unique accent, the way he rolled his L's. ("I'd been strugg-a-ling that year.") It's hard to think of another quarterback since who has single-handedly commanded so much attention.

Whether you remember seeing Broadway Joe on TV or on the football field, or you just want to see what his legend is all about, HBO's documentary is a good place to start. If you want to go a little deeper, I'd highly recommend the book "Namath: A Biography," by the former New York sports columnist Mark Kriegel. It's a great companion piece to HBO's colorful sampling of the football legend.

---Greg Connors

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Sharing the spotlight

     January 21, 1981 -- It's not easy to upstage Gil Perreault when he is having one of the best nights of his career. Ric Seiling did that in some ways.

     Seiling had the game-winning goal as the Sabres defeated the Nordiques, 6-5, in a classic shoot-out in Quebec. Seiling's goal came with only 45 seconds left to play.

     However, Perreault was the story of the first 59 minutes and 15 seconds of the contest. He had a goal in the first period, and then added an assist in the second.

     It turned out he was just warming up for the third period. The flashy center had two goals as the Sabres came back from a 5-3 deficit. Then when Buffalo needed one more goal, Perreault had the first assist to cap a five-point performance. It wasn't a personal best Ñ that was seven points in a game Ñ but it was pretty good.

     Bob Sauve faced 30 shots in the Buffalo goal. Quebec was by a couple of Hall of Famers in Michel Goulet (two goals) and Peter Stastny (one goal and one assist). The win started an 8-0-4 stretch by the Sabres.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Eclipse postmortem and weekend notes

By Gene Kershner

The 2011 thoroughbred racing season is now officially in the books with the conclusion of the annual Eclipse Awards, held Monday night in Beverly Hills. For the third consecutive year a female race horse took home Horse of the Year honors as Havre de Grace was awarded the biggest piece of hardware Monday night.

Some random thoughts on the evening’s telecast, representing horse racing’s Oscars….

* ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards was terrific as host, although I could do without her opening “Tebowing” act. She aptly called thoroughbred racing the “Sport of Queens” based on the recent successes of Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta and foreshadowing the Havre de Grace victory in this year’s top category.

* The event was televised on HRTV or via live stream at DRF.com, which is where I watched the telecast. After an audio glitch in the first five minutes of the live stream, the broadcast came off without a hitch, other than an occasional buffering issue for a second or two. It was the first Eclipse ceremony in recent memory not broadcast on TVG.

* Caleb’s Posse lost the 3-year old colt Eclipse to Derby winner Animal Kingdom in the closest vote of the evening. Three votes separated the two, and in my humble opinion, I think the Posse got hosed. A finalist in two categories, male sprinter and 3-year old, he came up short in both. Animal Kingdom might have won the most important race of the year, but only could add a Grade 3 victory in the Vinery Spiral Stakes.

* I totally underestimated the voters affection for Acclamation in the older male horse category, where he defeated my choice, Game On Dude (by 25 first place votes), without traveling outside of California. While this wasn’t a surprise to many, it caught me off guard on Monday.

 * It seems the voters put a lot of credence into the Breeders’ Cup races as horses such as Amazombie (male sprinter) and Musical Romance (female sprinter) won their respective categories coming off BC wins. Musical Romance won a key race at nearby Presque Isle Downs this summer during their biggest weekend.

 * It was the fourth straight year that the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner did not take home Horse of the Year. Not since Curlin’s 2007 victory in the slop at Monmouth Park did the top award go to the Classic winner.

 Notes from the press box

 * Churchill Downs released its Kentucky Derby Futures wagering schedule on Wednesday. The three pools will be held during the weekends for Feb. 10-12, March 2-4, and March 30-April 1. 

 * I Want Revenge, the scratched morning line favorite on the morning of Kentucky Derby 135, returns to the scene of where his last win took place, Aqueduct Race Track. Winner of both the Gotham and Wood Memorial in 2009 at Aqueduct, he attempts a comeback in the $75K Evening Attire Stakes on Saturday.

 * The Louisiana route to the Kentucky Derby commences on Saturday with the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes. Great move by Fair Grounds management to move the Louisiana Derby from its usual Saturday slot to Sunday this year so it fits in between the NCAA Basketball Final Four Saturday and Championship Monday at the Super Dome.

Good luck this weekend and let’s go cash some tickets!

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Gate attraction

     January 20, 1948 -- It's almost difficult to picture a major arena in Buffalo packed to the absolute rafters for a boxing card. There have been good crowds over the years, but these days the sports has suffered a decline in popularity.

     Thus we have to go back to the "good old days" to find such a night. In this case, it was Memorial Auditorium which didn't have any, or at least many, empty seats for boxing. A crowd of 11,432 set a attendance record for the sport.

     They saw what supposedly is one of the greatest bouts in Buffalo's heavyweight boxing history. Local product Phil Muscato took a 10-round decision from Joe Matisi of Endicott. Muscato knocked down Matisi twice, but the decision wasn't overly one-sided.

     Muscato was born in Dunkirk and later moved to Buffalo. The Aud was practically his home away from home for boxing over the years, as he fought there 11 times in 1947 alone.

     Muscato finished 56-23 for his career, but that included a seven-fight losing streak at the end. In 1949, he fought two of the all-time greats: Rocky Marciano and Archie Moore.

--- Budd Bailey

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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