Monday, August 31, 2009

Pitarresi: Yes, Paulus can sell tickets

There are people who still think Syracuse University football coach Doug Marrone is starting Greg Paulus at quarterback to sell tickets.


As I’ve written before, that’s just nuts. Marrone wants to win football games, and that is why Paulus is his starter.


However, that doesn’t mean that Paulus’ startus as a starter hasn't sold tickets for SU. Associate athletics director Scott Sidwell said there definitely was a spike in season ticket and single game sales when it was announced two weeks ago that Paulus, a former Syracuse CBA star who hasn’t played football since 2004, would be the starter.


As of noon, today SU had sold 36,317 tickets for Saturday’s opener at against Minnesota. Sidwell still is hoping for a sellout – the nominal capacity is 49,262 – but whether or not there is one, it appears that a very nice crowd of 40,000 is likely and a 45,000—plus is a possibility. SU topped 45,000 in attendance just once in the last five seasons, against Penn State (45,795) last year.


Part of the surge is a new beginning under Marrone, and part of it, yes, is because of Greg Paulus. That’s a good thing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pitarresi: Floyd Little should be in Hall of Fame

Floyd Little has been named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Great stuff and about time, I’d say.

Little was a great college player at Syracuse and nearly as good a pro with the Denver Broncos. His stats say so in both cases, and his style says so, too. Little was an exciting player, capable of suddenly exploding into the open and going all the way. It didn’t hurt that for at least part of his career, SU wore those tear-away jersies that really did tear away, sometimes leaving defenders with a handful of thin cloth while Floyd sped his bowlegged way down the field.

Little was, well, not big – 5-feet-10, 196 pounds during his NFL days – but he played very large. He could run and catch – I’m not sure how well he blocked; I don’t really remember and I don’t know how much he was asked to – and he made plays. He was the NFL’s seventh all-time leading rusher when he retired, which says something, and he did that on a team that was a perennial also-ran or worse.

I was in high school and then my first year of college when Little was at SU, and he was a great favorite of mine. I finally got to meet him at agame maybe 10 years ago, and found him easily approachable and more than willing to share his opinions on the school, football, sports or anything at all. He still usually comes to at least one game a year, he’s still affable, and still looks like he could play, with a broad chest and a back as wide as a barn door.

So, I like Floyd anyway, but he certainly deserves to be in that Hall of Fame without any endorsement from me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pitarresi: Boots Day has been everywhere

I was talking to Boots Day today in preparation for a story on the Ilion High School legend and former major league outfielder that will appear in the Observer-Dispatch Sunday … we hope!


I know Boots a little bit, although I’ve never met him in person. He was in the early days of his career when I started at the paper as a stringer in 1972, and I interviewed him from time to time over the phone. I’ve also spoken to him a few times in the years since as he pursued his coaching and managerial career across North America. Boots is coaching right now in Calgary, Alberta, which is, as you might have guessed, in Canada. Canada, as everyone knows, is the birthplace of Hank Snow, the much-loved country singer who had a signature hit back in the 1950s with “I’ve Been Everywhere.”


Boots has been everywhere, too, since signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965, and he’s been in baseball for 44 years.


“And I’ve had 44 one-year contracts,” he told me.


I had to a great time talking to Boots. You can read all about it Sunday ... if I get it done in time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pitarresi: Hail, Hideki, a favorite Yankee

My second favorite New York Yankee is Hideki Matsui.

Of course, my favorite Yankee is Derek Jeter, and then, after Matsui, probably Mariano Rivera and then Jorge Posada.

I’ve said before, my favorite major league player is Jim Thome of the White Sox, but Matsui is right up there. A very, very good, sometimes great lefthanded hitter.

Matsui was 28 when he made his way from the Yomiuri Giants to the Yankees in 2003, and he’s had four 100-rbi seasons and three 100-run seasons in the last six years. He won’t get to 100 in either category this year, but only because he won’t have enough at bats. He’s a very reliable, tough hitter.

Matsui cracked two home runs against the Red Sox in Fenway Park Sunday night. Pretty impressive. And I just love his all-business attitude. Really, I wish he’d crack a smile now and then, but I think he keeps a big check on his emotions because he’s in a foreign country and doesn’t want to violate any customs he might not be aware of, and because the traditions of Japanese baseball work against the celebration of individual accomplishments.

Anyway, the guy is a gem. I hope Yankee fans and baseball fans in general appreciate him.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pitarresi: Burress sentence an injustice

Plaxico Burress gets two years for accidentally shooting himself with an unregistered handgun?




Okay, New York City has tough hand gun laws, and Burress violated them by carrying an unregistered gun. And the accident could have been worse. Others could have been injured. All understood.


But two years in jail? The guy wasn’t trying to commit a crime, and he hurt no one but himself. From what I understand, Burress had no prior convictions, had a license from another state for the gun, and was allowed to enter the nightclub with the gun. The gun went off when security at the club had second thoughts and asked Burress to check it.


There was no intent here. It was an accident, and the same thing would have happened if Burress did indeed have a New York City permit. And I have to wonder how many people with nonexistent or minor criminal records ever have been sentenced to two years for carry an unlicensed handgun in New York City. My guess is zero. About 22 percent of defendants charged with second degree gun possession are convicted in Manhattan, and about 11 percent in the city as a whole. It's a good bet most of those are repeat offenders who also were charged with another crime in conjunction with the possession charge.


 If you think private citizens should not have the right to carry guns, fine, but I vehemently  disagree. Plaxico Burress is being made an example by people who believe private citizens should not carry guns. Did he break the law? Yes. Does he deserve two years in jail? Heck no. A substantial fine,  maybe, but no jail.



Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pitarresi: Naming of Paulus is the right move

I wrote the other day that I expected Greg Paulus to be Syracuse University’s starting quarterback by the third game of the season, and maybe even by the first game.


For once, I was right. SU coach Doug Marrone named the former Syracuse CBA star and Duke University point guard the starter Monday, fully 18 days before the season opener against Minnesota Sept. 5 at the Carrier Dome. That’s probably because Marrone was sick to death of answering questions about the situation and wanted to get the issue out of the way.


I think Paulus will be a huge plus for the Orange, even if he hasn’t played football since 2004. I’ve enumerated his strengths earlier. His only weakness is not having played in that time, and I think he has the physical ability and mental capacity to make up for that.


I find it laughable that some people think Marrone wants to start Paulus in order to sell tickets, It’s funnier still, or strange, really, that some anonymous Big East coaches say they can’t wait to get their hands on him because he won’t be able to read coverages or withstand blitzes. Marrone might want to sell tickets, sure, but what he REALLY wants is to win football games, which will sell more tickets in the long run. You win football games by putting the best possible players on the field. Marrone might be wrong, but he feels Paulus is his best quarterback. And it’s not about building for the future, the argument some people use against Paulus because he has just one season to play football. It’s about doing your best to win every game right now. It’s that simple. As to the anonymous coaches who think this is a joke and that Paulus will not be able to play, hey, they could be right, but probably not. I don’t know why any coach would be so stupid to comment negatively in any case. What is to be gained from that? I’m sure most of the coaches in the league would want him on their team, as a starter or a backup. There is no downside to having as much competition at every position as you can.


I have so special attachment to Greg Paulus. I’ve only spoken to him as a member of a herd of reporters. I watched him play basketball several times at the Knights of Columbus when he was a little kid, and watched him on tape several times when he was playing high school basketball and football. I’d like to see him do well, yes, but I think any coach should – has to - put his best players on the field or court. I think Paulus is the best at his position at SU, and I think he’ll make a positive difference for Orange football.



Also, my respects to Mac Bristol, the old Hamilton College football captain who passed away early today.


Mac was a direct descendant of one of the original settlers of Clinton and founders of the Hamilton-Oneida Academy and Hamilton College. His grandfather helped form Bristol-Myers, and the family has been one of the college’s key benefactors for 200 years. Mac played for future Hall of Fame coach Forest Evashevski at Hamilton, and was a teammate and classmate of Milt Jannone, the college’s first football All-American. He was a longtime booster of the football team, and donated the rocking chair that goes to the winner of the Hamilton-Middlebury team each season.  


 I knew Mr. Bristol only slightly – he didn’t like you calling him Mr. Bristol, and wasn’t being falsely self-effacing when insisted on being called “Mac” - talked football with him a few times, and was invited to his luxury suite at Giants Stadium for Jets-Bills game a couple of years ago, which was just terrific. Our Bills won, his Jets lost, but we didn’t even think about gloating!


Mac’s death is a big loss for Hamilton College, for the football team, and for anyone who knew him, but he had a long, good life. We’ll miss him.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pitarresi: A good day at Unadilla

I am not a motor sports guy.


I admire the courage, daring, endurance, and incredible sheer skills the drivers have, but it really never has been my thing. Too noisy, maybe, or too many fumes. I don’t know.


However, I thoroughly enjoyed myself covering the AMA/Unadilla Retro Motocross National today at Unadilla Valley Sports Center. It was a great spectacle, with that challenging, winding, up-and-down 1.5-mile track and 20,000 or more people spread over the scene, and the riders are just tremendous in terms of athletic ability and strategy.


Unadilla’s signature element is Gravity Cavity, where the riders launch their bikes high into the air and far down the track, but there are plenty of other jumps, hairpin turns, and climbs that challenge skills. It was great stuff.


It was a long day, and I might have left New Berlin a little more deaf than I already was, but it was a good time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pitarresi: Rick Pitino, what were you thinking


Geez, Rick Pitino, what the heck were you thinking?


Pitino’s one-night stand with Karen Sypher six years ago, her subsequent attempts at extortion, and now his lame explanations of his behavior, especially about giving her $3,000 not for an abortion but for health insurance, just makes me itch all over.


I understand that we all have moments of weakness, that we all have feet of clay at one time or another, that we all are very capable of hypocrisy. Fine. But we all aren’t Rick Pitino, who, through his great success as a college coach, has made himself into a very highly respected – I hate this trendy word but it is useful here – brand. Pitino is smooth, cool, urbane, charming, street smart and book smart, able to make chicken salad out of chicken something or other. He has created a very positive image of himself as a coach and personality while maintaining his status as a devoted Catholic family man.


That’s shattered now. He’s still can be a great coach, but all the rest of the stuff will be looked upon as just so much baloney, and he will be viewed as a hypocrite for a long time. All because he forgot that the higher you go on the ladder the more you must be purer than Caesar’s wife –  scrupulous in your avoidance of scandal – because, boy, it’s a long trip back to earth and it ends abruptly with a lot of pain.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pitarresi: SU's Paulus looks good

I was going to tell everyone how, after battling through a spectacular series of electrical storms and hydroplaning down the Thruway from Buffalo to Westmoreland last night, and then doing something similar if not quite so challenging or exciting this afternoon coming back from Syracuse University’s football media day, I planned to build an ark. I was going to include a list of which pairs of animals that I would take along with me as the 21st Century version of the Great Flood progressed, with whitetail deer, cottontail rabbits, ruffed grouse, smallmouth bass, and several species of trout heading things up.


Instead, I will tell you that Greg Paulus looks good in a football uniform. That is, he looks like a quarterback, which new SU coach Doug Marrone hopes he is.


Paulus, as every Central New York sports fan knows and a lot of people already are sick of hearing, is now, after four years of a mostly up and sometimes down career as a point guard for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, a graduate student at SU. That he might end being the starting quarterback is very interesting, if not all that surprising. The choices are Cameron Dantley, a rocket-armed and inconsistent former walk-on who had some great moments as a starter last season; Ryan Nassib, a sophomore who was named the starter during spring practice but has never taken a snap in a college game, and Paulus, who hasn’t played football since 2004 but was regarded as one of the top quarterback prospect in the nation when he was a senior at Syracuse CBA.


Can Paulus still play football? He said he is going to start finding out this week, after working out all summer with his teammates. I think he’ll find out he can. Much has been made of his being away from the game for so long, and of his size – he’s listed at 6-feet-1, 195 pounds, which seems okay on the height and highly unlikely on the weight – but I don’t think either is going to be a factor. I guess I’ve written this before, but I’m writing it again – I’ve seen a lot of quarterbacks in 40 years of watching high school football in Central New York, and Paulus is, with no doubt whatsoever, the best in my memory. Someone asked me recently who the other great quarterbacks might have been, and I’ll confess there hasn’t been an overabundance of them, but still, he was good enough to be pursued by some of the top programs in the country. Good arm, great feet, an uncommon sense of the game, with an ability to keep plays alive better than anyone I’ve ever seen at that level.


Paulus might have some rust on him, but I think he’ll be SU’s starting QB by the third game, if not at the start of the season, and I think he’ll do a great job.