Archive for August, 2011

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Patrick Newell

From the middle of June until the middle of August, the amount of sports news that crosses my desk dips significantly. I usually take my last vacation of the summer the second week of August – right before the first day of high school sports practices. When I return to work after vacation, I know the high school sports season is right around the corner, and I have about two weeks to gather information on the area’s high school sports teams for our annual Fall Sports Preview.As is the norm, I traveled to every corner of Chenango County, took countless pictures, called and re-called coaches, and finally spent countless hours writing approximately 13,000 words for the preview on 34 different sports teams. Thursday, the fruits of my labor will appear in a special supplement to our regular edition. I know some sports have already started their regular season, but to quote an old saying, “let the games begin!”

–––

One of the truest axioms is that time relentlessly moves forward, and eventually leaves us all behind. In the sports sense, one by one, the contacts with whom I have associated for over a decade and a half are slowly fading away. Not dying, but retiring from teaching and coaching.
I never looked at myself as a veteran reporter until one of my favorite coaches of all time retired. Bill Case was one of the first coaches I met during my initial days of my job. We became close professional associates, and ultimately good friends. Four years ago, Bill stepped aside as the longtime basketball coach of the Greene Trojans – my 12th year on the job. I had well over a decade of experience, yet it all seemed to move so fast.
One by one, my originals (those who have coached since my opening day) have stepped aside to move into the next phase of their lives. Most recently, I phoned Otselic Valley’s longtime teacher and coach, Dave Loomis. Loomis has coached three varsity sports since my opening day. He has remained consistently professional and accommodating from the first day I spoke to him. Dave told me earlier this week that he had retired from the school district, and was giving up coaching the soccer and baseball programs. He will remain, at least for this year, the varsity basketball coach. I thought Dave Loomis was the “coach for life” at OV, and it will be a bit strange not fielding his game reports.
Along the lines of time pressing forward. The hair on my head is much longer, the hair on my chin is much grayer, and two of my three kids are now in high school. My oldest is a member of the Norwich varsity soccer team, and I can legitimately place his name in the paper in complete absence of nepotism. My oldest daughter, who just celebrated her 14th birthday, was recruited by three different NHS extracurricular organizations. Unfortunately, she is so busy taking about 25 dance classes (slight exaggeration), she had to pass on the invitations.

–––

One of my oldest sports section contributors, Bob McNitt, gave me a call earlier today. He began his outdoors column in 1977, but had to go on hiatus the past few months for reasons that were not disclosed. Tomorrow, we disclose those reasons in a letter from Bob to the readers. Suffice to say, it was a relief to hear from Bob, and I hope to have his weekly column back on the sports pages fairly soon.

Editor’s Notebook: 8/31/11

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Jeff Genung

• I refuse to believe that August is over.

• Earthquake and a hurricane in less than a week? Never thought either of those would be on the front page of The Evening Sun in a local story, but the times they are a changin’. When I was a kid, the weather was a segment on the news. Nowadays, it is the news.

• Using words like “nowadays” makes me seem wise beyond my years, no?

• As you might have surmised from Brian’s column-long whine today, our little Lackawanna Ave. newsroom did indeed spring a nasty leak thanks to Hurricane Irene. What began as an annoying drip during the last spring thaw multiplied into a deluge over Mr. Golden’s cubicle on Sunday, temporarily making him a newsroom refugee. Not to worry, I saw guys with ladders outside the building this afternoon. That must be a good sign.

• Had a fantastic time under the big top last night as the Norwich BID and Friends of the Park finally cut the ribbon on the downtown parks renovation project. Talk about a long time in coming … in Evening Sun measurements, that story was four reporters long! Congrats to everyone involved who donated time, labor, money and inspiration along the way, and especially to Pegi LoPresti and Eric Larsen, without whose tireless work we’d still be looking at the same-old, same-old. Naysayers be damned, I think parks East and West look quite spiffy. Lush green lawns, elegantly-curved walkways, period lighting and a brand new, permanent stage … the heart of Norwich has never looked better.

• Oh, and they had scallops wrapped in bacon, which always guarantees good press, FYI.

• Are you a local sports fan? If so, you’ll want to get your hands on a copy of Thursday’s paper … Pat Newell’s coming out with his yearly Fall Sports Preview, highlighting the upcoming action in football, soccer, and … whatever other sports they play in the fall! Seriously, though … it’s an exhaustive and comprehensive effort on Pat’s part to make sure every team in every sport gets covered, and I know parents and fans look forward to it each September. Check it out on newsstands tomorrow!

Back in business

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
Brian Golden

Well, it looks like I’m back in business following tropical storm Irene’s brief visit to Norwich (and The Evening Sun) this past Sunday. I’m not going to go into details at this point on exactly what happened, but needless to say, it’s good to be blogging once again. And if you’d like to know more, make sure and check out my column tomorrow, in which I’ll elaborate.

As for the past couple of days, let’s just say life has been a little hectic, what with my personal “office situation” (more on that tomorrow, as I said) and the fact that the Green Machine – my on-again, off-again method of transportation – is (sigh) out of commission … again. I can’t say I’m too pleased with that, considering I just got the (insert inappropriate language here) thing fixed. With that said, I have a sinking suspicion I’ll soon be in search of a new vehicle … and a way to pay for it.

On a brighter note, tonight I’ll be attending the BID’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in East Park, in celebration of its official unveiling. Patience is a virtue, they say, and the various people involved with the Park Project must be the most virtuous people on the planet. It’s been a long, strange trip, I’m sure, but the finished product was well worth the wait, in my opinion.

This past Saturday was certainly an interesting one (and that’s putting it mildly). I not only had a chance to visit my favorite recording studio of all time – Subcat Music Studios, in Syracuse – but I also got to perform live (with Master Thieves) while being broadcast onto the big-screen televisions located in the adjacent deli, coffee shop and bar. Definitely a first for me (and the rest of the band), but I must say it went off without a hitch. And after that? A trip to the New York State Fair, which I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting in over a decade or so. I even managed to win myself one of those gigantic, Jamaican bananas in a game of chance. Believe it or not, I only spent $5 doing so. The problem now? What to do with the damn thing.

Prior to Friday’s northern adventure, I had an opportunity (thanks for the tip, Jan) to visit with Bill Middleton, who lives just over the Chenango County border, east of DeRuyter. Speaking with Bill, a Vietnam veteran and the caretaker of his own, personal military memorial, was a real treat and – if you can find the time – make sure and visit this impressive site. The first thing to catch your eye – and I can practically guarantee this – will be the authentic Hughes UH-1 helicopter on display. Oh, and if you get a chance, pick up a copy of retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore’s book, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young.” Not a big reader? Not to worry, just find the Mel Gibson movie based on the book, “We Were Soldiers.” Why, you ask? Because Mr. Middleton was there in 1965 when the first major battle between the United States and the North Vietnamese Army took place. Both the book and movie detail this incredible event, and to meet someone who was actually there was – to say the least – absolutely inspiring.

Editor’s Notebook: 8/24/11

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• Oh look! I remembered how to blog!

• (Insert not-so-clever and far-overused earthquake joke here).

• OK, I’ll give people a pass on all those “I felt the earth move under my feet” references, since it’s certainly not every day we feel something like that in these parts (hasn’t happened on that scale since the 40s, they say). I was home for lunch when it struck, momentarily blaming it on my always-underfoot new puppy. As soon as I figured out the phenomena wasn’t Beagle-induced, I called Melissa Stagnaro to verify that the earth did indeed quake. She confirmed it, of course, in mid-text to emergency management guru A. Jones, who almost seems to know about these things before they happen. Anyway, much to our news-sense disappointment, there were no rivers of molten lava reported to have erupted in Chenango County. Still, though, I doubt there’ll be many times I get to put “Earthquake!” as my top headline. Hopefully.

• More good news on the job front from our friends at Frontier! Jim Currie told us yesterday that they’re adding 70-some new jobs in Sherburne, in addition to the 50 they just hired. These are good-paying, skilled jobs, too (not that I scoff at retail jobs, but still). Definitely good news for Chenango County, and for this growing, successful company.

• So I’m the one who alerted Brian Golden about that sign at Kurt Beyer pool. Brand new, with Andrew Cuomo’s name on it, it sure looked to me (and anyone who’d seen it since it went up recently, I’d wager) like the city got a new grant to fix the pool. Umm, no. Turns out the sign was a “requirement” of a previous grant – seven years ago – the city got to fix the pool, then. Why it took over half a decade to put up a sign, I don’t know. Confusion aside, Mayor Joe Maiurano says the pool will be open next summer, grants or no. Good. That’s a precious city asset that would be a shame to see go by the wayside.

• On a sad note, sorry to hear of the death of Mary Paino. Mary could always be counted on for a friendly smile (and a readily proffered opinion) both in her role at NHS and at my old favorite Hale Street haunt, John’s Hot Dog Stand. Rest in peace, Mary.

The end of summer? Already?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Brian Golden

Oh boy, it’s really starting to feel like autumn out there, an occurrence I could certainly do without for another month or two. You’d think I’d be used to our not-so-heavenly weather here in upstate New York, but – even after 30-plus years – I’m not. And I’ll tell you one thing, I’m definitely not looking forward to turning up the thermostat quite yet. That, in fact, could wait more like three to four months, and it’d be just fine with me.

It’s Tuesday, and that means one thing and one thing only … must … write … column. These days, I refuse to procrastinate when it comes to my weekly offering for page four of The Evening Sun. That’s not to say I’m unable to throw together a quick 20 or 25 inches first thing in the morning on Wednesdays, I simply don’t like to put myself through that sort of stress if I can help it. My column, I must say, is one of my favorite pieces to write every week and – believe it or not – I take it fairly seriously (even when I’m writing about alien invasions, the upcoming zombie apocalypse and the like).

In a totally unrelated topic (hey, it’s a blog, right?), I’ve managed to hold onto the sunglasses I purchased at the 19th annual Chenango Blues Fest for a whole three days, which is – sadly – pretty good for me. I don’t know what it is about me and shades, but I’ll be damned if I can ever hold onto the things for more than a week without a) losing them or b) breaking them. My all-time record? Twelve days. And yes, I also think that’s both sad and pathetic.

I must say I’m looking forward to this weekend’s trip up to Syracuse to hang with my fellow Master Thieves (band members, not professional pickpockets), not to mention my first trip to the New York State Fair in I don’t know how long. What can I say? It’s always nice to get out of town for a bit every once in awhile and my significant other and I always seem to have a great time up there. And just when I thought I was “faired-out,” it looks like I’ll have one more chance to stuff myself with fair fare (as in fried dough, french fries, pizza, wings, hot dogs, cotton candy, ice cream and all that other stuff that’s so good for you).

Okay, okay, I admit it … I haven’t been to the movies once this year, which is really starting to bug me. It seems like every couple of years or so I kind of forget the theater even exists. Which is sad because, once I realize that it is, in fact, still standing, I have a dozen or more movies – films that I was really looking forward to seeing – to track down on DVD. This time around? Well, let’s just say the list goes on and on – “Tron: Legacy,” “Captain America: First Avenger,” “The Deathly Hallows Pt.2,” “Green Lantern,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Thor,” “Super 8,” “Cowboys and Aliens” and probably more that I simply can’t think of right this minute. In fact, there’s probably another list – similar in length – of 2010 movies I have yet to see.

My only excuse? So much to do, so little time.

Caffeine overload

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
Melissa Stagnaro

There is, I believe, a fine line between not enough coffee and too much. And this morning, at the tail end of Commerce Chenango’s “Good Morning, Chenango” breakfast, I discovered just how fine. The hard way.

My day got off to a rather sluggish start. I’ll chalk it up to too much fun over the weekend, coupled with the dampening affect the gray skies always have on my psyche. But whatever the reason, I went through the first few hours of my day in a sort of caffeine-deprived fog.

I’m not really a morning person, so this wasn’t exactly a first. But normally, the typical stress of our morning deadline is enough to snap me out of it. Today, however, my routine was interrupted by the aforementioned breakfast presentation. So, instead of the frantic scramble at the keyboard, I found myself cozied up…with some scrambled eggs. And bacon.

Delicious perfectly cooked bacon. Which, while tummy-pleasing, regrettably does not have the same mind-sharpening effect as the fear of incurring Jeff’s wrath by missing deadline. In fact, it seemed to lull me into a food coma, thus making it difficult even more difficult to concentrate on the albeit very informative presentation.

Thankfully, I used to work for a company which employed the principals of Six Sigma, so I already had a general working knowledge of the concept or else I would have really been in trouble. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, however, I did what any self-respecting journalist would do in the situation – I started mainlining caffeine.

I struggled to give the subject matter my full attention while waiting for the restorative properties of this miracle elixir to kick in. But it never happened. At least not how I’d planned.

Instead of that gentle spark of energy I usually get from my morning coffee, I suddenly had the zing of a thousand espressos coursing through my veins.

There I was. Trapped. At the inside edge of a table, with no escape in sight.

I’d like to think that I kept my hyper-caffeinated state under wraps, but I can’t really be sure. There may have been some foot tapping.

Thankfully, though, it was near the end of the presentation, so I didn’t have too long to wait. But that few minutes felt like a century. I couldn’t wait to get up and start moving around.

My job wasn’t finished, of course. I still had the obligatory group photo – featuring a representative sampling of organizers and speakers – to take. I assure you that as soon as I snapped the requisite shot, I was out the door.

I could have really used a long walk back to the newsroom to work off some of that caffeine. But as luck would have it, the event was at Park Place. Moving at hyper-caffeine speed, I covered that half a block in record time.

It was only after I settled back in the office (or as settled as one can be when hopped up on that much coffee) that I realized I had someplace else to be. Namely, Norwich City Court. For which I was running late. Only a few minutes, to be sure. But that was enough to miss the one case on the calendar I was really interested in.

I knew I could get the information I was looking for, but doing so required sitting through all the other cases on the docket. Which, as entertaining as City Court always is, was something akin to torture to one as antsy as I.

But I got through it. Without any tapping incidents, I might add.

In fact, as I made my way back to the newsroom (at a much slower pace), I realized the caffeine buzzing through my veins had finally started to subside.

I decided to celebrate by indulging in what can only be described as manna from heaven: Hedonist Artisan Chocolates’ milk chocolate bark with sesame. My bestie Liz bought it for me this weekend while we were on a wine tour for her friend Emese’s bachelorette bash. (It was a fabulous trip, which requires a blog all of its own.)

The fact that I love chocolate goes without saying. But this is like nothing I’ve ever tasted before – the flavor of the sesame and an accompanying hint of salt is such an amazing savory compliment to the smooth sweetness of the milk chocolate. It is nothing short of delightful.

Before I knew it, I’d polished off a healthy portion.

And suddenly, an all-too familiar sensation was spreading through me. Only this time, it wasn’t caffeine induced.

Hello, sugar rush…

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Editor’s Notebook: 8/16/11

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• All Faired out? As much as we love the annual Chenango County festival, we’re equally as glad when it’s over. All-fair, all-the-time can be taxing on our news sensibilities, not to mention our stomachs. As per tradition, I took the entire Evening Sun news team down to the Fair on Friday afternoon for lunch and … libation. Let’s just say we worked up a thirst watching Brian kick Julian’s $#% in the “Boot Camp” challenge.

• By all accounts, we’re not the only ones who had a great time at the fair. New additions like pro wrestling and an alpaca show drew in crowds, and event organizers were pleased with the week’s success. In case you missed any of the action, I’m pretty sure Frank Speziale captured every nanosecond of it in one of his 1,000 photos taken last week. Evening Sun subscribers get to see them all – just click on the Photo Galleries link on the front page.

• Looks like it was too late in the game for Norwich City Schools to reverse course and go back to semestering. While disappointing for the music students who will be hardest hit by the upcoming change, I have to say I understand the administration’s decision. That Hail Mary move by Mayor Bloomberg in reinstating the January Regents (for what may only be one more time) threw a wrench in things at the last minute … and at this point in the game, it really is the last minute. I don’t think people realize the amount of work that goes on at the schools during the summer. Just because your kids are on vacation, doesn’t mean your school is. And yes, I mean teachers, too. I know more than a few who spend days, if not weeks, preparing their classrooms and lesson plans for the upcoming school year. I love armchair quarterbacking as much as the next guy, but let’s give these guys the benefit of the doubt once in a while.

• In case you couldn’t tell by the plethora of sports analogies in that last paragraph, Pat Newell was on vacation again last week. Now, he’s back in the saddle preparing (along with Frank) for our annual Fall Sports Preview. Stay tuned for details.

• Up next? Blues Fest, this weekend. Brian Golden’s working on a pair of preview stories for later in the week – looks like an impressive lineup!

Editor’s Notebook: 8/10/11

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• I came, I saw, I ate a dog food bowl full of French fries. With sour cream, bacon bits and freeze dried chives. My Chenango County Fair 2011 experience has finally begun.

• It’s long been an Evening Sun tradition to “embed” my editorial staff  down on East Main Street during Fair Week, and I try to make it down to the fairgrounds a few times myself, if only to escape the Ivory Tower for an hour or two and mix it up among the little people. Seriously, I relish the chance to immerse myself in Chenango County-ness during this time of year. The fair is a spectacle to behold – and you can take that any way you’d like it.

• I prefer to take it covered in sour cream and bacon, apparently. And then deep fried.

• Tonight, it’s country star Andy Griggs (no, I’ve never heard of him, but I’d be hard-pressed to name five country “stars” anyway) at the fair for the annual “Guitars Under the Stars” concert. Read Brian’s preview here.

• Both Brian and Frank Speziale have uploaded tons of fair pictures into our Photo Galleries for Evening Sun subscribers already, with more to come throughout the week. I’ve put a sampling up on our Facebook page (and a few in print, naturally), but to see them all – well, it pays to be a subscriber!

• Want to experience the fair in video? Check out ES summer intern Jayne Jaramillo’s videos on our Facebook page too!

It’s Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
Brian Golden

The fair, the fair and – you guessed it – more of the fair. With the 164th annual Chenango County Fair in town, it seems I’ve written about nothing but the family-friendly event over the last week or so. Not that I’m complaining, considering next week will bring with it a much-anticipated Norwich City School District Board of Education Meeting, Tuesday night’s regular session of the Common Council and (this I’m looking forward to) the Chenango Blues Fest. Regardless, today was more of the same as I penned the 4th annual Guitars Under the Stars preview, featuring country singer Andy Griggs, as well as my weekly column.

Unbelievably, the ‘30 Seconds’ phone line has been dead for the past day or two. A part of me hopes this is due to a few callers’ decision to “hang it up,” so to speak, but I’m guessing it probably has something to do with … the fair. That hasn’t – of course – stopped the online commentators from chiming-in with the usual Obama-bashing, Norwich Board of Education-bashing, welfare-bashing, Republican-Independant-Democrat-bashing, pro-driller-bashing, anti-driller-bashing, Bush-isn’t-president-anymore-bashing, Bush-is-still-to-blame bashing and so on and so forth. Hardly ever any positive commentary on there (or in the print edition) but hey, people obviously need something to do in their spare time.

I had a chance yesterday – much to my delight – to speak with legendary blues harmonica player Mr. James Cotton for fifteen minutes or so. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime treat, considering it’s not every day you get to chat with a guy who’s played with a veritable who’s-who when it comes to the genre. Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters and countless others have tagged Mr. Cotton for his amazing talent with the blues harp and – lucky us – the man will be on hand next Saturday for the 19th annual Chenango Blues Fest (bet you can’t tell I have Blues Fest on the brain).

Speaking of Blues Fest … just kidding. Speaking of blogs (this will be my second this week as I attempt to do the “blog thing” on a more regular basis), I’m finally not the proverbial low-man-on-the-totem-pole anymore. The current tally has me in 6th place behind Ms. Stagnaro (215), our esteemed editor Jeff Genung (181), sports editor Pat Newell (119) and former Evening Sun staff writers Jessica Lewis (112) and Tyler Murphy (108). I’m holding strong at 75 blogs to date (this will be 76) and, on Monday, surpassed former Evening Sun employee Mike McGuire (74). Believe it or not, the new guy (sorry, Julian, I just had to) doesn’t fall into last place with six blogs to his name. That would be The Web Guy, with one. That blog, however, simply informs readers that The Evening Sun Blog became self aware on June 29, 2006 at 5:07 p.m. Creepy.

Off to a bad start

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
Melissa Stagnaro

Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed in the morning. Today is shaping out to be one of those days.

In retrospect, it’s clear that I failed to recognize the early signs which, if I’d been paying more attention, were a clear indication of the day’s southerly inclinations. Beginning with the cruel twist of fate which lead me to turn off my alarm entirely rather than hit snooze as I intended.

This would be considered an inauspicious start to any day, but since I still had ample time to get ready for work, I didn’t see it for what it was: a portent of the universe’s alignment against me.

I was further lulled into a false sense of security when all the pieces of my early morning routine went off without a hitch. That included three stops on my way to work – starting at BlueOx in Oxford to get the papers, and then swinging by both the Norwich State Police barracks and the Norwich City Police station to pick up the respective blotters. Some mornings, depending on the timing, these pit stops can eat up an extra 25 minutes or more, but today, it was smooth sailing and I was still at work before 7.

It really wasn’t until 7:30 that the day really started going off the rails. That was when I took the first sip of my coffee. And nearly spit it out on my keyboard.

Now, most mornings, brewing the daily pot of coffee is a responsibility which falls on my shoulders. But it’s a duty which I’ve been trying to pass on – or at least share – with the newest addition to the ES staff, Julian Kappel.

This morning, like most, I was one of the first in the newsroom. And, as is my norm, I flipped the coffee pot on upon my arrival and turned my attention to work-related tasks while I waited for the ‘brew’ light to illuminate. This little light indicates the machine’s readiness to brew the live-giving, caffeinated elixir I find it difficult to commence my day without. I have found the time it takes for the light to come on is directly proportional to how badly I need that first cup of coffee.

For example, when I am most desperate for caffeine, it takes about an hour. Already had a cup on my way in? The little bugger is on in less than 30 seconds.

This morning, I was able to not only check my email and make my daily to-do list, but also type up the entire blotter before the ‘brew’ light lit up. By that time full-on caffeine deprivation had set in and I made my way back to the kitchen in a stupor.

As I pulled out the little basket where the filter goes, I was thrilled to find it all ready to go. Naively believing Julian had done the grunt work of placing a new filter and filling it with coffee grounds, I simply added the requisite amount of water and waited, ahem, patiently for the pot to brew.

Little did I know, he actually prepped it the day before, planning to brew a double strength pot to get him through the doldrums of late afternoon.

In my desperation for caffeine, I hadn’t even bothered to turn the light on in the newsroom’s kitchen and was therefore blissfully unaware that the substance which I had inadvertently poured into my favorite mug was the color and consistency of a peat bog. Until, of course, I brought the cup to my lips and took a long draught.

On a normal day, the coffee here is pretty horrifying. But at double strength? It’s toxic.

The incident was more than a little traumatic. After all, it’s not every day one of your co-worker’s tries to poison you.

But I pulled myself together and turned my attention back to the task at hand, which was trying to get some details for a story I was working on.

Unfortunately, my initial attempt to gather information was not what I’d call successful. See, the person I was trying to get said information from apparently thought our conversation was over. Despite the fact that I was still talking.

Okay, fine. They hung up on me. But I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt here. (Mind you, it wasn’t even 8 a.m. at this point.)

I resisted the urge to both (a) curl up in a whimpering ball under my desk and/or (b) call the person back and give them a verbal bitch-slap.

Barely.

Instead, I took the responsible approach. Which involved popping a Midol, which I washed it down with a swig of the vile swill from the once-favorite mug and got on with my day.

Because that’s what you do when your day gets off to a bad start. You don’t crawl back into bed and pull the covers over your head. You get on with it.

Happy Wednesday!

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.