A smoke-screen of progress, or the real deal? You decide.

Progress is great, Especially when economic progress takes hold right here in the heart of Chenango County. If you were to take a look back at a snapshot of our beloved Route 12 corridor say 20 or even 10 years ago, it’s easy to see that things have dramatically changed in our ever-evolving bit of small town USA.
Back when Burger King was Carrol’s, and the Great American was in the South Plaza there was only one shopping center south of the city, an area which now hosts several big-box retailers and three or four shopping plazas for your consumption pleasure.
In the next month or so, the Town of Norwich will become home to two more brick and mortar businesses that are new to our area, both of which are in the process of developing and building those locations from the ground-up.
As I sat at the traffic light in between two shopping plazas with – empty storefronts in each, I couldn’t help but wonder why those locations were overlooked by developers scouting-out prime retail space.
I was confronted by the fact that for some time now, both of those plaza’s, emblazoned with “AVAILABLE” banners have historically served our community – but have nonetheless been dealt the short shrift in favor of new construction.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not one for conserving just any old building, but one site in particular – which I can only assume will be razed shortly after this publication – once housed several residential apartments.
It already possessed a potential profit return in an economy so unwilling to offer mortgages to home buyers. To put it bluntly, there aren’t enough rental properties in Chenango County, and that’s especially the in the case of the City of Norwich. So why would tear down an apartment building to toss up what I’m told will be another auto parts store… in front of an auto parts store—one-half mile down the street from yet another auto parts store?
I am in no way trying to get in the way of business, nor am I condemning economical development to our largely sagging local market – but I am questioning the common sense that was put to task in making these types of decisions. Not just the market analysis, or need for such retail additions in our community, but the rationale behind brushing existing retail space aside.
It’s my feeling that businesses should be both interested and concerned with the long-term effects that their developments and plans have on the local livelihood, and that these concerns should be taken into consideration when the plans are drawn up and laid out.
Likewise, local officials involved with green-lighting PILOT programs and tax write-offs to potential businesses looking for a new opportunity in our hometown should put the screws to developers when they come to town, because—lets face it—who wants to see another new-old empty storefront in Chenango?
Honestly, wouldn’t it have made more sense to utilize one of the several existing structures for a mattress outlet or chain auto parts store and preserve the much-needed affordable housing?
How would that not have been a win-win?
Developers would undoubtedly balk that it would be too costly to update those older locations to meet their specifications, but as a former tradesman I beg to differ.
Even if building new cost “them” less, I’ve got a feeling that it will be us taxpayers footing the bill if or when the new site goes belly-up.
I could be wrong, but what if I’m right?
Food for thought.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Nov. 4, 2014

I have a column running in the Wednesday, Nov. 5 edition, and below is a portion of the piece. Check out the full version in tomorrow’s online and print editions:


Although Oxford fans may not fully agree, the Blackhawks’ 40-39 loss to Deposit-Hancock Thursday, Oct. 30, is a perfect example of why I love sports.
You never know what is going to happen.
CBS television staple, “Survivor,” has spawned dozens upon dozens of so-called reality shows where real people are placed in real-life situations. Alas, nearly every one of those real-life situations is contrived or manufactured, and ultimately hours and hours of footage is edited into a drama-inducing one-hour weekly show.
The protagonists, real men and women like you and me, are complicit in these farces.
With sports, what you see is what you get. You may not see a cliffhanger where you curse the program because you have to wait until next week’s show to find out how Jimmy or Susie resolved their conflict.
But you will often see a nail-biter that has you screaming at the top of your lungs…and there will be a resolution.
Back to Oxford’s football game.
I often wonder why teams with nothing to play for, other than pride, schedule a meaningless week nine game. Deposit-Hancock lost the previous week in the Class D playoffs – badly to Tioga – and had about five starters out of the lineup.
Oxford, meanwhile, was coming off its first victory in four games. With a .500 record, it could have packed up the jerseys and pads, and called the first season under head coach Jeff Newton a success.
The Blackhawks won just a single game in nine offerings in 2013, and in most of those games, it wasn’t close to competitive. The 2014 Oxford version was much improved, that despite a number of young players seeing starting minutes, and rampant injuries on the offensive and defensive lines.
The game was scheduled for a Thursday evening, instead of Friday, and the only explanation I heard for that was a potential conflict with Halloween trick-or-treaters on the ensuing night.
Two other local teams, Bainbridge-Guilford and Unadilla Valley, had games scheduled on Thursday as well, but the game times and sites of those football games conflicted with my schedule. (My stepson had his final Norwich modified football game of the season, and I couldn’t miss that!).
I knew I would be cutting it close with the modified game ending around 6:30 p.m. I rushed (within the speed limit, of course) down Route 12 to Tony Abbott Field (née Blackhawks Stadium), and made it just as the teams were lining up for the opening kickoff.
Oxford scored on its opening drive, but there was nothing good about the rest of the half for the hometown Blackhawks. The first two quarters reminded me of my most recent viewing of Oxford two weeks earlier – the bad parts.

The past three seasons, I’ve had an able fill-in photographer, Missy Hayes, who regularly attends home and away Norwich football games. She had a vested interest in previous years with her son Ryan, who was a member of the Tornado until graduating last year. She has continued to take pictures (quite well) this season, and her photos are available for viewing and free to download at http://s1158.photobucket.com/user/purpletornadofootball/library/2014-2015%20Football%20Season. It’s a site started by Cindy Ashton, who also supplied our paper with many good photos. Missy has kept the site alive and full of great Norwich photos.


Norwich football coach, Mike Chrystie, gave me a great idea for a future column. He suggested a column about the superstitions of coaches. One look at Mike, and I surmised his superstition was growing out his beard (like hockey players), until his team lost. After six-plus weeks, Mike is about one-quarter of the way to James Harden’s beard.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

Numbers do tell the occasional white lie

ESPN has a daily show titled, “Numbers Don’t Lie.” I’m a numbers guy, and I noticed a bit of anomaly to that truism when it comes to football statistics. Of late, Norwich football has lied smack in the face of stat geeks.
The percentages may vary from season to season, but it is a fair bet in high school football that the team that gains the most yards will win the majority of games. Without any empirical data, I guessed that the winning team won the total yardage battle at least 80 percent of the time.
I decided to put that estimate to the test with the 45 games involving local clubs this season. Of those contests, the winning team outgained the losing team 38 out of 45 times, or 84.4 percent.
Oxford and Bainbridge-Guilford won games with less yards, but also lost games with more yards. Actually Bainbridge-Guilford won a second game with less yards – one yard, in fact – earlier this season against Unadilla Valley.
In all cases involving those two ballclubs, the total yardage difference was less than 75 yards, either way.
Then there is Norwich.
Two weeks ago, Norwich stunned Susquehanna Valley in overtime, 20-17. The Sabers outgained Norwich by 119 yards, although the margin was much wider at halftime.
Sometimes you have to look deeper to find insights, but still, nothing stood out. Turnovers were even, and the field position battle, often dictated by punts, was about equal. Sus Valley did have more penalty yards, but over four quarters and overtime, that proved insignificant.
Really, the only conclusion to draw is that Sus Valley moved the ball well and didn’t finish drives, while Norwich took advantage of its fewer opportunities to score.
If you happened to catch a glimpse of Norwich’s victory at Oneonta last week, there was a good chance you saw Oneonta in possession of the ball – and moving it well.
Norwich won the game comfortably, 38-12, but was outgained by 159 yards. Unlike the Sus Valley game, the final score is easily explained.
The Yellowjackets turned it over five times, often leaving Norwich with a short path to the endzone. Oneonta also committed 11 penalties for 100 yards, again shortening the Norwich field on multiple occasions.
Norwich was outgained by an average of 139 yards over the last two games, and came away winners each time.
Yes, numbers usually give you the truth, but they also tell a few white lies.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

I don’t mind getting it wrong

More so than any of my previous 19 seasons covering local football, unpredictability has reared its head. By the second or third week, the games typically play out according to script. This season, the scripts have seen a number of re-writes.
Every local team has surprised me at some point this season beating a team I thought – on paper – had the upper hand. Yeah, yeah, games aren’t won on paper, they’re won on the football field. Still, after two or three weeks of football, you know where each team stands. This isn’t the NFL or high-level college football where upsets are commonplace on an week-by-week basis
To my chagrin, I’ve been called out by players and supporters of teams that I picked against after said team pulled out the victory. Truthfully, I couldn’t be any happier getting it wrong.
Creditability in this business comes from objectivity, so you make your honest analysis, and declare a prediction based on that analysis. We get it wrong – I get it wrong – a lot.
The games that have stood out the most were Sherburne-Earlville’s victory over Section III’s defending Class C champion, General Brown. I’m not sure many people outside of Sherburne-Earlville predicted that one. My second most significant prognosticating faux pas was Norwich’s 20-17 upset win over Susquehanna Valley last Friday. Again, outside of the die-hard Norwich faithful, players, and coaches, who had the confidence the Purple Tornado would pull out the win?
Not many.
In terms of upset victories for Norwich, it’s among my top three in two decades covering local football. The other two standouts came in 2000 when Norwich knocked off state-ranked Corning East, then in 2011 when Norwich beat Johnson City in the Class B playoffs, 35-0.
I’ve covered about 180 Norwich football games, and I remember those three upset victories the most.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

I don’t have a dog in this fight

I recently wrote a story concerning the fate of the Town Hall in Columbus and the efforts of a grassroots community group to spare the building from having a “for sale” sign on the front lawn. The argument among Columbus residents is that Town Hall, which is currently owned by the township, bears too much historical significance and potential to go to sale to the highest bidder. Opponents, however, insist that the building simply isn’t worth the worth the burden at the taxpayer’s dollar.

If nothing else, I consider myself an objective person. I try to see both sides of the argument and do what I can to understand every angle. That said, when it comes to the Columbus Hall debacle, I don’t have a dog in that fight. But I can’t help but weigh in a little.

I’m a sucker for old buildings. I love ‘em, and I love to see them restored at the hand of private developers. The hard truth is that the people of Columbus have a choice to make; either keep the building and pay to maintain it (keeping in mind that even if grants are available to bring the building up to par, that money only goes so far), or don’t.

The debate brings to my mind the discussion among town folk regarding the town’s 2014 proposed budget last December, which I also covered for the newspaper. At the time, some residents were reluctant to pay for a police service contract with the neighboring Town of New Berlin, saying that any increase in the local tax levy was too much.

It seems to me that if police protection isn’t enough of a driving force to get taxpayers to fork over a little extra, then keeping a building to use for community events would be pretty low on a list of priorities. But like I said, I’m glad the decision isn’t mine to make. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out after November’s vote.

The Columbus Town Hall issue aside, what’s a good blog without something a little less controversial and slightly irrelevant? I recently came across an article about a nationwide grant program that offers grants to people who come up with innovative solutions, particularly in the field of health care. This week, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced a $5 million contest that solicits protective suit designs for medical workers battling the Ebola epidemic. The contest – which is open to anyone – is an effort to replace current suits which workers say are suffocating and… well, they’re just hot.

Of course I can’t give details, but know that my design involves a lot of ice, sheet plastic, and duct tape – as innovative as the sneeze guard.

A rant, bad drivers and a tip

I love to drive; It probably should be my profession. Behind the wheel is the one place I can go and have some adequate level of peace; but every so often it’s also the very place where I exhibit the most rage.
I’m not alone, either.
Now, I’m not the “road rage” type, but no matter where you live, I think it’s safe to say you have encountered another driver and thought “what the bleep is wrong with this bleeper.” (immediate apologies if you’ve thought that about my driving).
In my many years on the road, I’ve discovered that good music, a nice sounding horn, a sunroof, and two fingers help keep my rage in check.
An any rate, getting cut off make me especially testy. I don’t understand it at all, and more than likely never will.
We’ve all been there, but for whatever reason I seem to be a magnet for drivers how would like nothing more than to be tee-boned.
Lately I’ve been cut A-LOT. After the initial usual expletives, I find myself asking “why would you do that, what’s wrong with you?” Of course my mind wants to surmise that that the perpetrator is just a jerk – but that can’t always be the case, right? Maybe that minivan with the M.A.D.D. Bumper sticker is a mother late picking up her three kids from soccer practice. Perhaps that guy in the orange Mustang is a surgeon delivering a donated heart to a baby somewhere.
Then again, maybe those folks are just inconsiderate cogs in the rat-race machine trying to get “theirs” before everyone else.
I’ll be driving along observing the posted speed limit, no one behind me and a fellow narrow-minded motorist will dart out ahead of me two seconds before I’m about to pass them.
As a result, I am forced to abruptly slam on my brakes and weave my car in the opposite direction in an effort to avoid colliding with them.
My mind wanders once in a while to a conclusion where the hands of fate and laws of physics are allowed to run rampant – like if I didn’t brake hard and swerve right to avoid a collision.
But car accidents are never good for anyone; there’ll never be a plus side or silver lining to a fender-bender, only headaches and hassle with the police, gawkers and insurances adjusters, if we’re very lucky.
If roads were wide open and nobody else used them, driving would be just as brilliant as the car ads on TV portray. Can you imagine?
What if we all had the Nuremberg ring at our disposal like the chaps across the pond on Top Gear?
What if we could had the freedom to try and get our cars up to their top speed with no recourse?
How much less stress would we endure if we could own the road and travel at our own pace. Now I’m just talking nonsense.
Unfortunately, reality is nothing like television. I live in a village…in a 15 m.p.h. School Zone.
For now I’ll have to share public roads, covered with potholes and packed with thousands of bad drivers, just like you… so we might as well make the best of it.
Let’s try and show some care and respect out there; and take the high road when you can.

Time for some ‘happy’

I feel as though a little bit of happy is in order.
Nearly the past month of my life has been consumed by the murder trial of Ganesh R. Ramsaran who was found guilty Tuesday (Perhaps, if time permits, I’ll write an opinion piece regarding it). This morning, on my way to work, I passed Chenango County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles heading north on Route 12. I found out ten minutes later, a deceased woman was located in Sherburne. Folks I went to high school with appear in the police blotter or in other areas of the paper on drug charges rather often.
So, like I said, I feel as though a little bit of happy is in order.
My crazy stubborn cat — who had snuck outside and was missing for approximately 27 days — has finally returned home. Six-year-old Jack is back to his usual self, even more-so than he was before bolting out the door.
Jack’s second favorite past-time? Napping on the sports section of the paper. After my husband reads it, it’s known that it now belongs to Jack. He’ll examine it, walk all over it, then take a snooze. He’ll wake up, scratch it to shreds (sorry, Pat), and then lay back down.
Daily routine. It makes me happy.
One of my closest friends has moved back to New York after spending some years out in Seattle. Her son is six now, which is hard to believe. Having them home brings a little spunk into my life, and spunk is always welcomed.
I have a best friend who is five, and she just started kindergarten. She gave me a bracelet yesterday that she had made, and after handing it to me she said, “I know those are your favorite colors, so it’s for you.” I wore it all night, and it’s next to me now as I type this.
My husband is supportive, hilarious, and just my absolute favorite. When I wake up each morning, the coffee is already made. If you know me as a person at all, coffee is essential in order for me to be a human that has any business being in public.
I have a home in the middle of nowhere filled with five males: four pets and the fella. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The support system I have in general is fantastic. Family, friends, strangers … you name it.
When my cat was missing, I had total strangers that follow me on Twitter asking if he had returned home yet. Emails came to my work account with queries as to whether or not certain located cats were my Jack-A-Roo. Those sentiments were absolutely appreciated.
A complete stranger came up to me this morning to tell me how happy he was because the sun was shining. I agreed, and we spoke for a few minutes about how we’re happier with our coffee black … without a shred of that fake pumpkin stuff.
I have four types of ice cream in my freezer. That makes me ridiculously happy.
Often times I’m told I don’t smile enough — sometimes my face just doesn’t smile. I can’t think of the last time I wasn’t happy.
Regardless, I figured with everything that’s transpired — even today alone — I would share some of my happy.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Sept. 25, 2014

So I guess my plug of an athlete is not the kiss of death for an athlete’s upcoming game. Sherburne-Earlville’s Matt Hull, touted in last week’s blog, rushed for over 100 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 56-6 victory over Sauquoit Valley. The Marauders were the 13th-ranked Class C team in the state in a poll released by the New York Sports Writers Association last week. In the Sept. 24 release, the Marauders moved up a spot to number 12, while this week’s opponent, Utica Notre Dame, is ranked number eight.

Unadilla Valley’s football team is 0-3 overall, but two of its three losses have come to unbeaten Class D state-ranked teams. The Storm lost on the last play of the game to number 15 Moravia, 24-18, and last week, UV gave up a late touchdown to number eight-ranked Walton in a 36-32 defeat. Both results came as a result of big-play passing, and a nonexistent running game. UV looks to break into the win column this week against fellow winless club, Sidney.

High school tennis is not known as one of the marquee sports, but in terms of sheer consistency and contending for division and sectional championships each year, Norwich is among the best. For about as long as I’ve worked at the newspaper, NHS head coach John Stewart has produced teams with winning records, and nearly every year he has a doubles team in the mix for a bid at the state qualifier. Wednesday, Norwich won its eighth straight match to improve to 9-1, and is just about assured of another division title. Hat’s off to the Tornado girls, who will gain entry into the STAC team tournament next month.

Shifting away from sports for a moment and to the recently-completed murder trial of Ganesh Remy Ramsaran. I knew the defendant for many years prior to his arrest and eventual conviction of second-degree murder. The following link is a summary of my recollections from those interactions: http://patricklnewell.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/remy-ramsaran-recollections-my-3-12-year-former-friendship-with-a-convicted-murderer/

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Sept. 15, 2014

At the Sherburne-Earlville home football game last Friday, I asked assistant coach Ed Holmquist, “Did Matt Hull play last year?”
“Yeah. He was a skinny kid last year who worked really hard in the weight room in the offseason,” Holmquist said.
Hull’s name was not mentioned in my preseason interview with head coach Mike Jasper, and not a word was mentioned about Hull in the Fall Sports Preview feature article on the Marauders.
Assuming Hull stays healthy, I’ll have some space reserved for the sophomore in next year’s article.
“Matt Hull was amazing,” Jasper said after a 40-21 victory over General Brown.
Hull did a little bit of everything running for the team’s first first down, catching a TD pass, and he returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown. His running style is ideal for kickoffs as he launches himself forward with no lateral movement. He may make a simple cut left or right, but he’s north and south all the way. Holmquist, who calls the offensive plays said Hull has excellent running form that complements his speed. “He squares his pads up and he runs low,” the S-E coach said.
We already knew the Marauders had offensive weapons in quarterback Cody Marango, running backs Brodie Roebuck and Brady Sopchak, and receivers Ben Khoury along with tight end Gavin Giroux. Hull gives the opposing teams one more headache to consider when defending the Marauders’ offense.
Through two games, Hull has two rushing TDs, a receiving TD, a special teams return TD, and he drew a key defensive pass interference penalty in the second half against General Brown that led to another touchdown.

I don’t think I’ve ever covered a football game where one player accounted for a higher percentage of his team’s offense (assuming the team gained at least 150 total yards) than Mike Oralls did last week. The Norwich senior ran for 172 yards and Norwich finished with 186 total yards (all rushing).That figures to 92.4 percent of NHS’s total yards. Unfortunately, Oralls’ big day came in a 20-12 loss.

I had to go back to the Fall Sports Preview to verify what Bainbridge-Guilford boys’ soccer coach Pete Feltham said about his team’s prospects this season. I’ve worked with Pete for over a decade, and at his brashest, he is cautiously optimistic, and effusively complimentary of his opponents. Feltham always gives his opponent due respect, but I did elicit some information from our preseason interview that made me believe he was playing possum. Off a .500 team from last year he had eight returning starters. The Bobcats were also successful in putting goals on the board, and have taken it to another level this season. Entering Monday night’s home game against Norwich, B-G’s record was 4-0, the first time that has occurred in my nearly two decades covering Bobcats soccer. Said Feltham in the preseason interview: “It would be nice to give the top teams in the league a challenge.”
Pete, you are.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

Ashley, age 12

I have been writing murder trial stories in each paper since Sept. 2, I believe. I’ve also been doing my regular duties of building the pages for the following day’s paper, trying to update “30 seconds” as much as possible, and respond to emails as efficiently as time permits. Also, my cat has been MIA for more than two weeks now.
Regardless of all that, I decided today would be an appropriate day to blog.
What follows is what I remember from this day, at age 12.
I’m in the second to last seat in the second row closer to the door near the exit of Mrs. Meek’s math class. It’s business as usual. She’s writing notes on the projector, and I’m writing them down. With math, I was rather good at memorizing for the test and then letting it leave my mind. One look over my notes the morning before a test and I was golden. Did I learn anything in that class that day? Probably not.
Next up was Mr. Emerson’s English class. We were watching a movie that was based on a book we had just finished reading. Can’t recall what it was. Of Mice and Men pops into my head, but I can’t be sure. Just before that class was over — which was my class right before lunch — the teacher’s phone rang. After hanging up and just as the bell was ringing, he had told us all that the Twin Towers had fallen down. I remember someone asking, “The Tri Towers?!” and he clarified the location was New York City. We left class and went to lunch.
A boy in the lunch line was yelling that we were going to be bombed next. Some folks in line cried.
I remember wanting to know what was going on. I overheard employees of the school talking about making sure no TVs were on. I was 12, the last thing I wanted was to be shielded from “reality.”
Then after lunch I finally made it to Mr. Telesky’s social studies class. You know what he did? He turned on the TV, and said, “Watch. And ask away.”
He explained some things and people asked questions. He told us that what happened that morning —while I was taking notes in a math class that I’ll never remember — would never be forgotten. That it’d be in history books when we became adults.
I remember going home from school and watching it on TV with my sister. Then my mother came home from work and we watched together. I remember asking if the smoke would make it all the way to Norwich.
I don’t recall if it was that same day or perhaps in the days following, but I remember expressing that I didn’t think any people who haven’t done anything wrong should die. I still believe that.
So many people have lost their lives as a result of the events of that day. It makes my heart heavy.
Today I realize that a five-year-old boy on Sept. 11, 2001 is now old enough to fight and die in wars that began as a result of what took place that morning.
I wonder if that boy remembers where he was. I have memories of going to Disney World at the age of five, so I really wonder what a small child thinks of the events from 9/11/01, if s/he remembers.
Anyway, back to Ashley, age 25.
To anyone who lost a family member or friend on Sept. 11, 2001, I am sorry. To anyone who has lost a loved one in combat in a war the United States is involved in, I am sorry. To anyone innocent who has been killed, I am sorry. To the family members of veterans who have taken their own lives after returning from combat, my thoughts are with you.
My heart is just all-around heavy today.

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