Archive for September, 2008

You win some, you lose some

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008
Patrick Newell

In all, it was just a non-division game – a matchup to fill the regular season schedule, and ideally, an opportunity to build confidence with a victory. For Greene, it was an opportunity to put another notch in its belt. The underdog – the much smaller school – was stepping up against a skilled, powerful Windsor club predicted to compete for a Class B playoff spot in Section IV this season.
What a thrill ride it was as the score vacillated, and the game’s outcome was decided on a last-second TD pass to the back corner of the endzone with less than 10 seconds remaining
And I missed it – all of it save some post-game highlights on a local television channel last Friday evening.
Cut to Sidney where Bainbridge-Guilford was bidding to extend its record to 4-0 against a local rival in another non-division game. It had the same type of drama and suspense as the Greene and Windsor contest. The host Warriors rallied from a 26-8 deficit midway through the third quarter, and scored the winning touchdown with under 20 seconds remaining.
Guess what? I missed it, every last bit of it.
Where was I? If you were in Norwich last Friday night for homecoming night, you saw me prowling the host club’s sidelines – or huddling up in the pressbox when rain threatened. My decision to attend Norwich versus Holland Patent was a case of not just mathematics, but an obligation to cover the football team with the longest – and closest – association with this newspaper.
The mathematics part is simple: One person can only cover one game at a time, so by deduction, I was missing two local football games. The obligation part is also easy to explain: There was a time during the fall season when Norwich football was the centerpiece of the sports section. Look back at our paper in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s and peruse the archived articles at Guernsey Memorial Library. I have, and the legendary sports editors Perry Browne and Bob Van Tine covered Norwich football as if the team was comprised of professionals. Times have changed, but the passion for Norwich football in this area has not.
As it turned out, Norwich’s victory was not an action-packed delight of highlight-reel plays and excruciating moments. It was a typical Tornado win under head coach John Pluta. Norwich imposed its physical will – defensively and offensively – and outmuscled Holland Patent. No doubt, it was a gratifying victory for Norwich’s lineup and the coaching staff led by Pluta. It put Norwich at 4-0 and in a great spot to return to the postseason.
I’ll take that sort of ho-hum game any day if it gives me the opportunity to cover a Norwich playoff team five weeks down the road. As for missing out on two great games, you win some, you lose some.

Dealing with an economic crisis, a how-to

Monday, September 29th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

The carnage continues to pile up on Wall Street and bailout plans seem guaranteed to increase the anxiety levels long before they stabilize financial markets. To make sure Americans are ready to handle further economic  crisis, I suggest creating a financial disaster preparedness kit.

While similar to the supplies that residents of natural disaster prone areas gather each year, this kit is less about bottled water and canned goods and more about medicine cabinets and stashes of cash-equivalents.

First and foremost, stock up on your antacids. With stress levels and stomach acid rising, don’t risk runs on your local pharmacies. Make sure your medicine cabinets are fully loaded with a supply of the chewables, liquids and gelcaps you’ll need to fight frequent bouts of heartburn and indigestion. I know I will.

Financial guru Suze Ormand assures that deposit & demand accounts (a.k.a. savings and checking accounts) with local banks and credit unions are safe as long as they are insured through the FDIC or NCUA. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hedge your bets by hoarding precious metals, gemstones, old fillings and the items I call “barter-ables” like cords of firewood, bottles of sour-mash whiskey and cigarettes.

You should also invest in fresh batteries for your remote control. You’ll want to make sure this device is in good working order when the stress of watching 24-hour news networks gets to be too much. I find re-runs of Walker Texas Ranger, Living Single and How Its Made particularly helpful when I need to unwind after 14 hours straight of hearing about chaos on the world financial markets.

Forego stock-piling bottled water in favor of mini-bottles of gin, vodka and rye. These “cheap and cheerfuls,” as I like to call them, are readily transportable and are just right for a quick pick-me-up when you’ve learned that the blue chips that was the core of your investment portfolio are now considered “penny stock”.

And don’t forget to invest in a new bucket. Fill with sand and insert head as needed to avoid facing reality at any point where it gets to be too much.

Winning through losing

Thursday, September 25th, 2008
Patrick Newell

Every team likes to win games. The best teams, however, will forgo record-padding matchups and seek out the best opposition. That is why Greene’s field hockey team scheduled a midseason game against perennial Section IV champion Marathon – a team that has regularly beaten the Trojans in recent years.
Sue Carlin, longtime coach of Greene, had no real problem with her team’s 3-2 setback to the Olympians this past Thursday. Even though it was her team’s first loss in nine contests, she saw the light at the end of the tunnel. “Marathon is a quality team, and we need games like this if we want to be successful in the postseason,” she said. “Our team isn’t learning anything beating clubs 7-0.”
Perhaps it is that sort of attitude that has regularly situated the Trojans in the postseason mix the past 25 years, and has led to five New York state field hockey championships.

Ways to cut government spending

Thursday, September 25th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

I’m no economics expert, and I will admit that I have a hard time even balancing my checkbook, but I think I’ve come up with at least one wonderful way to cut government spending.

My brilliant idea just came to me as I watched a senator pass a giant cardboard check to a village mayor this week. How much money could we save if we stopped presenting giant, cardboard checks to people?

I know my idea isn’t going to balance the budget or save the country from bankruptcy, but I have to wonder how much money is wasted every year on the creation and printing of large cardboard checks that can never actually be cashed and really serve no purpose.

Most people know that when a person, group or municipality is presented with an oversized check, the only purpose really served is that of creating a photo opportunity. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. When someone volunteers a sizable amount of money to a worthy cause, they deserve recognition, but I think the act has become so overused, that it doesn’t carry much meaning anymore. Especially when you consider the fact that the actual money being given isn’t usually presented at that time, and in some cases it can take months or even a year to obtain.

Passing a giant check has become so common place that every time any individual or group gives even the smallest amount of money to an organization, they’ll pop up in a photo with a giant check. With so many photos that look so similar, a lot of people overlook the picture, without stopping to see the details, and the one purpose it serves, creating publicity for the gift giver, is lost.

Maybe it won’t save the taxpayers any money, and maybe it won’t have any significant effect on government spending, but maybe the simple act of doing something different would be a more effective way of drawing attention to what is being done.

Driving 101

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

A co-worker admitted to me this morning that she didn’t consider herself a good driver. There was no sugar coating. I believe what she said was “I tend to crash a lot,” but maybe I shouldn’t quote her on that.

We were discussing driving, not in light of any recent mishaps, but because her 17-year old cousin is working on getting her driver’s license.

This co-worker (who shall remain nameless for the time being) is worried that she may not be the best person to instruct a new driver in how to make a three point turn or parallel park, skills she admits she has not used since passing her own driving test. A test which she strongly believes her parents only allowed her to take because they believed she would fail.

I was, of course, reminded of my own experiences learning how to drive. (Yes, there were cars back then.) My father was my primary instructor, or shall I say tormentor, in the process which shaved years off both of our lives.

Oh, it started simply enough, driving in endless circles around the Oxford Primary school parking lot. And then driving in reverse along that same path. From there we progressed to back roads, where I invariably hit every pothole and rock I tried to avoid. Then we tackled actual paved thoroughfares where there were other cars and my father expected me to drive at or at least close to the posted speed limit. I was so not ready. The day he made me drive on Route 12 for the first time, I cried.

I would like to tell you that it was the first and last time I cried in that car, a white Buick Lesabre, during my quest to obtain my drivers license. But I won’t lie.

I didn’t think that my father would ever deem me ready to take the test. Our “lessons” became more and more infrequent and finally, in an effort to force the issue, I decided to sign up for the driving test at DMV.

I had been told that it was typical to wait for several weeks for an open appointment, but thanks to good old Murphy’s Law mine was less than a week away. I was so screwed.

Needless to say, I was unsuccessful in my first attempt. My downfall? Not the difficult stuff like parallel parking and K-turns. Hand signals. My examiner? The same woman who had failed my sister 15 years before. I was convinced it was personal.

I was devastated, of course. And so traumatized that I refused to drive for more than a month. My father was persona non grata around the house.

I signed up for driver’s ed before taking the test again. Our driving instructor was Mr. Todaro, who I believe is still training Oxford’s youth to obey the rules of the road. The class gave me the confidence I needed to retake (and finally pass) the driving test. And having to arrange my transportation to and from the school during the summer months was suitable punishment for my father.

My father successfully taught many non-family members how to drive and he’s an amazingly patient and thorough flight instructor. The two of us in the car together was stressful to say the least, but I love him dearly. I wouldn’t trade him in for anything.

I made it through okay in the end and I consider myself a safe driver. Especially compared to my co-worker.

In memory of John Lobdell

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

Some friends and I debated religion a few weeks ago. It was more of a philosophical discussion, really, rather than faith-based. We talked about the development of different belief structures, the purpose of organized religion and the varying roles that religious faith plays in society.

I realized yesterday, while attending a memorial service at St. Bart’s, that we had failed to mention one very import role of religion. Comfort.

It was comfort I was seeking as I sat in that pew struggling to make sense of the death of a young man who had fought a fierce battle against cancer.

And it was comfort that I found (at least to some extent), not from solemn readings and hymns, but from the stories told by those who knew this man best.

We were gathered to morn the loss of a husband, father, brother, son, classmate and dear, dear friend. But with those stories, we were able to celebrate his life. And what a life it was. Filled with love, laughter and light.

As evidenced by the crowded church, John Lobdell touched many lives. He was, quite simply, a legend in Oxford. Whether or not you traveled in the same circles, you knew John. He was larger than life. And to contemplate his death at the age of 35, is almost unfathomable.

I can’t claim to have known John as well as many of those that attended the mass, but he still helped create some of my best high school memories. And as those who knew and loved him best shared their stories (leaving out the ones deemed inappropriate for the surroundings), I could almost feel John’s presence and hear his laugh.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his loving wife and two beautiful sons, his mother and sisters, close friends and all the rest of that he has left behind. May you all find some comfort in the fact that memories of John live on in the hearts of many.

You will be missed by many, John. And you will always be remembered with love and laughter.

Some Friendly Competition

Friday, September 19th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

I used to love playing sports in high school, and I made sure I was involved in some type or sporting activity year round. I was never the star of the team, and in some sports, I was awful, but I always enjoyed running around, getting some friendly competition and hearing the positive cheers from the crowd.

It’s been years since my high school days, but this week I got to enjoy it all from the sidelines. My niece is in eighth grade and started playing soccer this year, and despite the fact that she didn’t have enough legal practices to participate in this week’s games, I still allowed myself to get carried away as I cheered on my alma mater, yelled to the players on the field and jumped out of my seat every time they scored a goal, much to the amusement of my more reserved husband. Even more amusing perhaps was the fact that my two year old son mocks my every movement, and was also jumping up and cheering every time I did.

I may have been animated and excited, but I never forgot that I was watching a junior high sporting event. I’m sure many would agree, nothing ruins the fun of a game faster than some over zealous spectator who feels they have the right to berate the players, and scream at the referees.

So far this season, I’ve seen little of that behavior, and I hope the positive trend continues. We may not all have two-year-olds mocking our movements, but we are setting an example for the children we set out to support.

Fall

Thursday, September 18th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I love the fall. The new found crispness in the air, the first few brightly colored leaves peeking out behind their green neighbors, flocks of honking geese flying overhead…What’s not to love? Especially if the sky is that clear robins-egg blue. It makes me want to pull out the turtlenecks and long pants I tucked away last spring and go for a long walk, after which I’ll curl up in front of a fire with a hot cup of mulled cider.

I relish the fall, with all of the memories I have of cutting wood with my father and baking apple pies with my mother. I’ll be doing both this weekend and I’ll enjoy it more than I ever did when I was young.

Oh, I’ll miss summer when it’s gone. But there is something about this time of year that just IS upstate New York. Autumn in these rolling hills is one of the things I missed most during my years away.

No matter where I was or what I was doing, there was always a part of me that felt something was missing. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I came to the realization that what I was missing was “home.”

After far, far too long I have finally found my way back to this place where I will always belong.

High school football notes

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008
Patrick Newell

AIR PLUTA? – Not quite, but the Tornado have shown extra efficiency in the passing game this season. A year ago, Norwich had a mere 190 yards passing in nine games, and that included three games where it did not complete a pass, and two others where it completed just one pass attempt. Head coach John Pluta has joked about the derth of passing attempts in his base offense; however, with the running game showing some occasional inconsistency through two games, Norwich has turned to senior quarterback Tim Clark to gobble up larger chunks of yards, while moving the chains down the field a tad quicker. Clark was 6-for-9 last week for 132 yards and two touchdowns. That may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but it was the first 100-yard passing game for a Norwich quarterback in five years. Through two games, Clark is 9-for-15 for 175 yards and three scores. Andrew Austin leads the club with 112 receiving yards.

SIZE DOESN’T MATTER – Saying Bainbridge-Guilford’s offensive line is undersized, is, quite honestly, an understatement. As a prime example, starting guards Ethan Mazzarella and Russell Darling, are each under 180 pounds. “We haven’t matched up with defensive lines (size-wise) at all,” said B-G head coach Tim Mattingly. “It’s all about leverage and tenacity, and these guys are tenacious.” Mazzarella and Darling are part of an offensive line that has opened holes for speedy senior Dustin Ross. Ross has 370 yards and three TD rushes in two games this season, and B-G is averaging 231 rushing yards per game.

Pop Warner fodder

Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Patrick Newell

I am enjoying the recent influx of “30 Seconds” call-ins that are giving me some sports fodder to discuss. Here are two callers’ recent entries:

“Pop Warner coaches should treat players equal, not just by name. Give all of them a chance. Government says no child left behind. Come on, let’s give all of them a chance.”

“I’d like to wonder why the Norwich Cyclones aren’t put on the back of the paper like the Norwich Tornados are. They play on Sunday. They’re a good team. Both of them. Would you please put it in?”

The first comment is all at once humorous. The No Child Left Behind Act was put into effect to increase the nation’s standard of education, and each state is held accountable in order to receive federal funding. It is focused on the elementary and secondary education levels, not sports, and certainly not a recreational football league. That aside, Pop Warner rules require that every player on the team must participate a minimum number of plays during the game. Just like any competitive sport, the more talented players get more playing time. Guaranteed playing time, even if it is just a few plays, is not a bad deal. As competition and overall skills increase at higher levels of sports, playing time is designated for the athletes who give a team the best chance to win. Lesser players see lesser time or may not play at all. I know that reality quite well from my high school experience.
The second comment is easy explainable, and clearly the words of a parent unfamiliar with the reporting process.
Again, Pop Warner is a private organization unaffiliated with any local schools, and is youth-based with an age range of approximately 8 to 14. There are no standards of reporting those results, nor is it required by the coaches and organizers of the league to do so – unlike high school scholastic sports.
The reporting of weekly Cyclones results is done through the hard work and dedication of Norwich Pop Warner founder and organizer, Jim Edwards. He continues to put forth countless volunteer hours each year to maintain the program, and dutifully gathers information for each game, and submits the results to The Evening Sun. Typically, Mr. Edwards drops off or e-mails the results by Tuesday, and we print those results Wednesday or Thursday.
There would be zero Norwich Pop Warner coverage in our paper without Jim Edwards.

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