Life in the Slow Lane

March 31, 2009

WNY’s ‘Prison Break’ star shows the love for hometown teams

Filed under: Entertainment,Sports,Television — pauljlane @ 2:36 pm

I did an interview this afternoon with William Fichtner, the Cheektowaga native who plays Alex Mahone on413_dealornodeal_00592 Fox’s “Prison Break.” I don’t want to reveal too much about the interview, which will appear in Night & Day on April 16 and will detail the final episodes of the four-year series, but I wanted to share the passion Fichtner still has for his hometown teams.

When I asked him about the Sabres’ playoff chances, Fichtner – speaking from Los Angeles – let out a disgusted sigh and his voice raised a couple decibles in describing Buffalo’s playoff chances.

“There was that monumental collapse against the Islanders, an afternoon game,” he said. “You can not lose those games and have a shot at the playoffs.”

While attributing some of the team’s erratic play to goaltending – “We missed Miller tremendously,” he said of Buffalo’s starting netminder Ryan – he said continuing the team’s current hot streak will right all wrongs.

“The bottom line is if we win the rest of our games, we get in the playoffs,” he said.

As for his other hometown team, Fichtner had mostly good things to say about the Bills’ signing of wide receiver Terrell Owens.

“T.O. is one of the only people that, for bad behavior, was literally asked to leave the Philadelphia Eagles,” he said. “But I think he’s got a year or two of great football left in him. To have him on the Bills with Edwards, Evans and some of our other impact players, that’s exciting … he oculd mean a couple more wins, and two or three more wins from last year gets us in the playoffs.”

Check with Night & Day to read about Mahone’s thoughts on the series’ conclusion, his character’s development and what he’s doing next with his career.

March 30, 2009

Long-shot Michigan State enjoys home advantage in NCAAs

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 1:08 pm

Michigan State, a long shot to be in the Final Four, will enjoy essentially a home-court advantage in this weekend’s matchup against Connecticut.

The Spartans entered the basketball tournament with 25-to-1 odds to win, according to R.J. Bell of pregame.com. They’re not the most unlikely team to be left standing, though, as Villanova began play with 40-to-1 odds, he said.

Michigan State, which has updated 6-to-1 odds to win it all, will enjoy a lot of support since the Final Four will take place in Detroit, not far from the school’s Lansing home base. Should they make the championship game, look for locals to snap up the tickets being sold by the two losing schools, making for an even larger advantage. But don’t blame Michigan State – the title sites are determined years in advance, and they just advanced in the right year.

As for the other teams left, North Carolina has updated 3-to-1 odds to win while Connecticut has 3.5-to-1 odds and Villanova has 5-to-1 odds (note that they’re now given better odds than Michigan State even though the Spartans had better odds before the tournament began).

March 26, 2009

Jonny Flynn gets all kinds of love

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 1:21 pm

Wasn’t it supposed to be Paul Harris would was going to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated and be a first-round NBA

Jonny Flynn on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Jonny Flynn on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

draft pick?

While Harris’ hoop dreams are by no means dead, it’s his once-and-again running mate from Niagara Falls who’s attracted the attention this spring from hoopheads nationwide.

Flynn was already held in fairly high regard throughout this season, but his ironman performance in the Big East tournament a few weeks turned a lot more heads across the country. He’s done nothing to tarnish his suddenly golden image of late, with many draftniks projecting Flynn as a mid-first round pick if he were to leave college after this season.

Published reports have Flynn quoted as saying he’s returning to Syracuse next year for his junior season. I hope to God, Buddah, Allah and everyone else holy that he does, because they could be the preseason No. 1 team next season. You’d have Flynn and Harris (who’ll be a senior next year) as well as Eric Devendor, Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson all returning – their entire starting lineup. Add in a couple promising rookies and transfers, and the way they’re playing late this season indicated that 2009-10 could be even more special.

But first, we should step back and enjoy this year’s Sweet Sixteen run, which is more special because of the Orange’s two-year absence from the NCAA tournament. They definitely could beat Oklahoma to make the Elite Eight, but even if not this year has exceeded expectations.

And Flynn’s largely to thank for that. Harris still might work his way onto an NBA roster some day, but Flynn has surpassed him as the class of Niagara Falls and the city’s best hope to see one of its native sons hit the big-time (imagine the fun that would be had on an excursion from the Falls to Toronto, whether he played for the Raptors or against them on his team’s trip there).

For a city desparately in need of something positive, Flynn (and Harris to a lesser extent) could provide just that. And Jonny, if you’re reading, you got me covered for Final Four tickets?

March 25, 2009

Jabbawockeez, in living color

Filed under: Entertainment,Music,Television — pauljlane @ 2:19 pm

As promised in Night & Day, here are some clips of Jabbawockeez in action. The crew opens up for New Kids on the Block on Saturday night in Niagara Falls. Check out the full story here.

March 24, 2009

Big-name music acts are Buffalo-bound

Filed under: Music — pauljlane @ 6:55 pm

Big news from HSBC Arena officials today, as they announced that the Billy Joel/Elton John and Metallica tours will visit Western New York in 2009.

Big shows such as this rarely have visited Buffalo of late, with The Police among the few exceptions with their visit last year. This is a huge victory for local music fans, who usually have to travel to Toronto, Pittsburgh or Cleveland to see the biggest acts.

Look for more on this in an upcoming Night & Day. In the meantime, here are the official announcements.

•••

Billy Joel and Elton John, the most successful and longest-running concert pairing in pop history, will reunite for their FACE TO FACE TOURFace 2 Face tour at HSBC Arena on Friday, July 24, 2009. Billy and Elton open the concert with a series of duets, playing twin pianos and trading vocals. Each artist then performs a set with his own band. A grand finale brings the two superstars and their supporting musicians back together for a closing encore. This includes some of both Billy and Elton’s greatest hits along with an unpredictable selection of rock and roll classics.

Tickets for the July 24th HSBC Arena performance will go on sale Saturday, March 28 at 9:00 a.m. Tickets will be available at Tickets.com, HSBC Arena Box Office, all Tickets.com Outlets, or Charge By Phone at 888-223-6000. Handbill policy in effect. Handbills currently available. There will be a limit of 6 (six) tickets per customer.

“HSBC Arena is thrilled to host this mega-event featuring two of the most gifted and recognized musical superstars of our time” said Jennifer Van Rysdam, Director of Event Booking at HSBC Arena. “It is an incredible opportunity for Buffalo fans to see two such prestigious artists in one show.”

This will be Billy Joel and Elton John’s second performance together at HSBC Arena. Previously they had performed to a sold out crowd on March 9, 2003.

“The great thing about performing with Elton is that he is such a good piano player and that makes me have to dig deep to keep up with him, not to mention I’ve got the best seat in the house-only one piano away from Elton John!” said Billy Joel.

“I love touring with Billy. I have the greatest respect for him and we’re such good friends,” Elton John said.

Concert dates announced this year for the Face 2 Face tour immediately sold-out and include two concerts at Toronto’s Air Canada Center, and multiple nights at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Philadelphia’s Citizen Bank Ballpark, in addition to concerts in Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, and Tampa.

Billy and Elton last toured together in 2003 with 24 sellouts. According to Billboard Magazine the Face 2 Face tour starring Elton John and Billy Joel was “the most successful touring package of all time.”

Reserved Seat Tickets: $179.50, $99.50, $49.50 plus applicable service charges
Tickets will be available at Tickets.com, HSBC Arena Box Office, all Tickets.com Outlets, or Charge By Phone at 888-223-6000.

Ticket limit 6 (six) per customer.

Random Handbill Policy: HANDBILLS ARE NOW AVAILABLE.

—————

Metallicametallica1

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 – HSBC Arena at 7:00 PM
Tickets on Sale Saturday, April 4th at 9:00 AM

Tickets are $72 (General Admission Floor and Reserved) and $52 (Reserved). All prices include $2.50 faciity fee and a 50 cent donation to local charity.

There will be a random handbill policy in effect. HANDBILLS ARE NOW AVAILABLE. There is a four ticket limit per person. Tickets can be purchased at the HSBC Arena Box Office and all tickets.com outlets, including participating Tops Markets. Tickets are also available on line at http://www.tickets.com. All dates, acts, and ticket prices are subject to change without notice. For more information, or to charge by phone, call toll free at (888) 223-6000. Tickets are subject to applicable service charges (no service charge applies at HSBC Arena Box Office).

Random Handbill Policy: HANDBILLS ARE NOW AVAILABLE.

March 23, 2009

Everyone would watch the ‘Law & Order Channel’

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 3:22 pm
"Law & Order"

"Law & Order"

"Law & Order: Criminal Intent"

"Law & Order: Criminal Intent"

My wife has a frequent lament when we can’t find anything to watch on television, something that makes way too much sense not to see come to fruition in an age when channels are devoted to golf, cooking, gardens and fishing.

“Law & Order” in any of its forms is one of those shows that is always enjoyable, even if you’ve seen it a hundred times and if you come in on the middle of the show; I’ve watched reruns of the show since college, and our fallback program at home is a “Special Victims Unit” box set we’re working through.

So, my wife said, why isn’t there a channel devoted solely to “Law & Order?”

"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"

"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"

I can’t think of a good reason why not.

Who wouldn’t stop on this channel when surfing by? Who wouldn’t add this channel to their favorites, keeping it in mind as something to bail them out during a viewing emergency when nothing else good is on?

You could rotate series, run blocks, have “season marathons” – the options are plentiful. And since all three series are still in production, there’s no shortage of material.

Have you seen the garbage on Nick at Nite these days? They’re running “Family Matters,” for goodness sake! If people watch Urkel, surely they’ll watch Brisco and Green bust some bad guys!

I don’t know how to make this happen. But I know it needs to happen.

Daughter + vaccum = newest infatuation

Filed under: Life,Parenting — pauljlane @ 12:18 pm

So there I was Sunday, vaccuming our living room, when Penny decided to come over.

She usually will laugh when I pretend to “get her” with the vaccum, but this time her curiosity oozed over. She wanted the vaccum – and she wanted it now.

First she helped me with some of the vaccuming, learning which was “push” and which was “pull.” Then she put her face over the hole that air was blowing out of, causing her to giggle with delight as the air forced her hair to scatter about. Then, for reasons I can’t explain, she tried to sit on the vaccum over … and over … and over again, as though she were taking over in Mario’s quest to stomp Koopas.

She spent the rest of the time trying to get in front of the vaccum and either grab it or plunk her bum on it. All the while, she was amazed by the device, even trying to take it apart when it came time to empty the contraption that collects all the dust and hair.

Seeing her enjoy the vaccum so much was strange, but it was pretty amusing as well. Now if I could just get her to be as enthusastic about the laundry …

March 17, 2009

Ranking the careers of the ‘Saved by the Bell’ cast

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 12:07 pm

Growing up, my brother and I had a pretty weird game: He’d time me at the start of each “Saved by the Bell” rerun we’d watch to see in how many ht_sbtb_080407_sshseconds I could tell what that episode was about, and I’d try to beat that mark the next day (I always got it in less than 10 seconds).

So, yeah, I was a fan of the show. I still catch episodes on occasion when they air early mornings on TBS.

And when I watch them, I’m left wondering: What the heck happened to Lark Voorhies (Lisa)? Wasn’t she destined for better things? I mean, Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) was never going anywhere, but surely Lark was.

But no.

So that got me thinking: Which “Bell” cast member has done the best for himself after leaving Bayside? I couldn’t resist the opportunity to rank major cast members’ careers, so here they are, from bottom to top.

8. Leanna Creel (Tori): She was only one for part of one season, but I figured I’d throw her in here. her acting career is basically non-xistent since leaving “Bell” in 1993, having appeared in guest spots in “One West Waikiki” and “Ned and Stacey” – she has no acting credits since 2000. She does, however, have a writer credit for “Offside” in 2001 and several producer credits, including this year’s “Boutonniere,” but she’s pretty much vanished from people’s consciousness.

7. Haskins: After doing 70 “Bell” episodes, he stuck around until 2000 as principal of Bayside in “Saved by the Bell: The New Class.” After that, it was pretty much appearances in low-budget films such as “The Treasure of the Painted Forest” and a couple National Lampoon titles that are due out this year. Haskins has a cool connection to Western New York, as he’s good friends with Jim Kelly and other members of the Bills’ Super Bowl teams and used to spend a lot of time here, but that’s about all he has going for him.

6. Dustin Diamond (Screech): Diamond also went the “New Class” route before doing a handful of guest appearances and making a chess how-to video. He then went the reality circuit, making several “Celebrity Boxing” appearances, working out on “Celebrity Fit Club” and doing fairly well on the first season of “Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling.” In further efforts to stay on Hollywood’s D-list, he’s made the stand-up comedy rounds and has a tell-all book in the works about the “Bell” years. And, yes, we’re intentionally ignoring the porno tape.

5. Voorhies: Since “Bell” left the air, she’s appeared on “Days of Our Lives” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” as well as guest spots on series such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Ai.” She’s also dabbled in music and reportedly has a single coming out this year, and she runs a management company. Not horrible, but not what we expected from Lisa Turtle.

4. Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie Spano): The first “Bell” alum to make a name for herself after the series, Berkley assured her eternal spot in the Worst Acting Pantheon with her starring role in “Showgirls” (yes, I mean the pool scene). From there, she’s actually pieced together a solid career with roles in “Any Given Sunday,” “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” and a recurring ongoing role on “CSI: Miami.”

3. Mario Lopez (A.C. Slater): From here on up is where some debate could really rage. Lopez disappeared for a few years after “Bell” before reappearing on the USA series “Pacific Blue.” From there, he did a series of guest shots before landing a recurring role on “The Bold and the Beautiful” before eschewing acting. He’s appeared on “Dancing with the Stars,” been a co-host of the tak show “The Other Half,” hosted the Miss America pageant and currently doubles as host of “America’s Best Dance Crew” and the gossip show “Extra.” He also appeared on Broadway in “A Chorus Line.”

2. Tiffany Amber-Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski): She exploded upon the world after leaving “Bell,” landing a key role on “Beverly Hills 90210” and staying on that show for about seven seasons. She did a few guest spots after that show ended in 2000 before landing a lead role on the short-lived “Fastland” and even shorter-lived “Good Morning, Miami.” She’s since dropped “Amber” and appeared on the doomed series “What About Brian,” and she’s set to appear on the new USA series “White Collar.”

1. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zach Morris): Yep, Preppie made it to the top of this list. He stuck to TV for a while, doing “College Years” and a couple TV movies before landing a lead role in “Dead Man on Campus” in 1998. He then landed a role on “Hyperion Bay” and did more TV movies for a while until being resurrected on “NYPD Blue,” on which he worked for four seasons. He then worked on “Commander in Chief” and “John from Cincinnati” before landing his current role as a lead attorney on the TNT series “Raising the Bar.” Again, an argument could be made for any of the top three, but Gosselaar has had the longest-lasting success and the most acclaimed run of the “Bell” alums.

No matter what, though, the cast members have a great sense of humor about the series; “Robot Chicken” did a parody of “Bell” that put the cast members into the movie “Saw” and most of the cast offered their voices to the claymation sketch. Top-notch. There’s no video on the Internet right now of the sketch, so take my word for it.

For your viewing pleasure, though, here’s Jessie on drugs.

March 13, 2009

March Madness is fun from any angle

Filed under: Life,Sports — pauljlane @ 4:16 pm

Here, as promised on the Tonawanda News Web site, is my column about the many sides of March Madness. If you came across this column first, click here to see my story.

•••

Since I started filling out NCAA tournament brackets in college in the late 1990s, the first thing I would do was pencil Syracuse in for six victories and the national championship.
They made the finals in 1996, the year before I enrolled at SU, and were traditionally among the nation’s top teams. They’d sometimes win a couple games, but by the second weekend of the tournament my bracket’s sole purpose generally was to keep the recycling bucket from floating away.
Then came 2003 and a phenom freshman by the name of Carmelo Anthony. The one-and-done superstar led my beloved Orangemen (now just Orange, as if the nickname couldn’t get any weirder) to the promised land — and me to the office pool co-championship.
I finally stopped this practice a couple years later, not letting my fanhood get in the way of a potential three-figure prize payout. But college basketball’s March Madness remains one of my favorite times of year, both because of the usual dominance of Goliath schools such as my alma mater and the David institutions who slay many a giant just to enter the tournament.
I got a first-hand look at the latter perspective two years ago while I was the education beat reporter for the Niagara Gazette. I followed the Niagara University men’s basketball team for a fantastic week and a half, from after they’d clinched the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title to gain a tourney slot until Selection Sunday — when they were “sentenced” to the play-in game — and to Dayton, Ohio, to cover their victory in said play-in game.
I’d always taken a tournament slot for granted (although after the Orange’s hard luck the previous two seasons, I won’t anymore) so seeing a smaller school such as NU revel in their team’s success was one of my career highlights. Students who couldn’t even define a full-court press waved purple pom-poms and wore permanent smiles, and for about 10 days everyone in the Niagara region was a Purple Eagles fan. The Eagles were crushed by top-ranked Kansas in their subsequent matchup, but by that point it hardly mattered.
NU also gained a tournament slot two years before that, losing to Oklahoma in the first round. My brother-in-law was a senior at the school at that time, and even experiencing his enthusiasm from a peripheral level was a bit thrilling (although I still carried some of my big-school smugness with me). Dozens of Eagles supporters traveled with that team to Arizona (my brother-in-law included) and were not all that saddened by the defeat.
This section went to press before this year’s MAAC tournament finished, so I can’t write whether NU (the No. 2 seed in their conference) will be in the NCAA tourney; coach Joe Mihalich declined my interview request to discuss past Selection Sunday experiences because he didn’t want to jinx anything, and I can’t blame him in the least for that.
Then, as always, coaches — especially at small schools — have to think in the moment. Because as fun as championships are, the honor sometimes truly does lie in being nominated.
Or in getting to see someone else’s pride in being nominated.

Syracuse-UConn 6 OT thriller an instant classic

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 12:03 pm

So there I was, sitting on the floor of the living next to Penny (who was thinking aobut waking up) with 1.1 seconds left in the Syracuse-Connecticut Big East quarterfinal game. As Eric Devendorf hit a despearation three-pointer to seemingly win the game, I exclaimed “Oh my God” in such a manner that my wife – who was on the computer – instantly knew what happened.

“They hit it?” she said.

“Yep” was my reply.

But no.

Replay revealed that Devendorf still held the ball as time expired, sending the game into overtime. My wife and I decided to watch, figuring an extra five minutes of basketball would be fun.

Those five minutes, though, turned out to be 30, and Syracuse’s eventual win might be one of the greatest college basketball games ever played.

UConn pulled ahead in the first OT – and Syracuse tied it. UConn gained an early lead in the second OT – and the Orange tied it. So it went until the sixth overtime, when Syracuse – playing a never-used center and walk-on guard because four of its regulars had fouled out – finally pulled ahead on the backs of Niagara Falls natives Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn.

Cuse figured to be in trouble because of the trouble it had penetrating UConn’s defense. But the Huskies’ big men eventually fouled out, allowing Flynn to drive and score at will as the game progressed … and progressed … and progressed.

Among other things, this game showed that Flynn – who played about 67 minutes – could probably make the jump to the NBA after this season if he wanted to (I hope to God he stays four years, though). About an hour after most mortals wold have lose use of his legs, he strapped his team’s makeshift lineup on his back and told UConn to get out of the way.

This game should also put to rest the haters out there who said for part of the season that Syracuse was a bubble team, then once their spot in the NCAA tournament was secured figured the Orange to be one-and-done. To do this against the nation’s fourth-ranked team shows that, for at least one day, Syracuse can beat anyone, anytime.

Should they beat West Virginia in the semifinals – about 19 hours after the 70-minute marathon concluded – they’ll solidify their status as that 4-seed a lot of people think will pull the upset and go to the Final Four.

But before all that, take a minute and reflect on the glory that was last night’s game. If you have anyone in your life who questions your love of sports, make them watch a replay of this game. The drive, determination, teamwork and inner toughness exhibited last night are all shining examples of what’s right with sports.

At one point – maybe the fifth overtime – my wife asked me if I would have stayed up to watch the game if I knew it was goig to last so long. I replied of course, because you’re very rarely going to see such a great game, where one team refuses to submit. Taking it in was an absolute thrill (the fact my team won made things a bit better, but ultimately both sides should look back fondly upon this night).

I wasn’t there, but just watching it was an honor – and an exhausting endeavor.

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