Archive for December, 2011

Progress, the GOP and “Aliens in the Attic”

Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Brian Golden

Well, it’s certainly looking (and feeling) a lot more like winter out there, isn’t it? And here I was, just last week, bemoaning the unlikelihood of a white Christmas. I guess I should’ve kept my mouth shut, because this is not my idea of fun.

What can I say? For someone born and raised here in good-old Chenango County I have very little in the way of tolerance when it comes to freezing cold temperatures. And – if you hadn’t noticed – it’s freezing (and cold) out there.

Moving on … as is typically the case between the dates of December 26 and January 2, the newsroom is a bit … mellower … than normal. Thank goodness we have Progress 2012 to keep us busy, right? Regardless, I’m feeling confident at this point (deadline is only a hop, skip and jump away) and I’m looking forward to putting another Progress Chenango behind me.

Oh, and turning 35, as well. I’m looking forward to that, too. Unfortunately, Progress + birthday falling on day before Progress deadline + Progress deadline falling on Friday the 13th = scary and not a whole lot of fun.

Being the liberal-minded, Obama fan that I am, I must admit I’m thoroughly enjoying the scrambling, name-calling and all-in-all ridiculousness of the GOP presidential front-runners as the Iowa caucuses approach. Sorry, but one would think the Republican party could come up with at least one halfway decent candidate for the presidency. No offense, but this current group of GOP-ers – no joke – scare me half to death. In fact, they seem so out-of-whack in regards to the real problems facing most Americans that I truly wonder if they really even care. These days, it’s more about power, greed and money than it is about serving the general public … and that’s where things have gone wrong, wrong, wrong.

Watching the 2009 family science fiction adventure “Aliens In the Attic” with Renee and the kids the other night, I just had to laugh when both 12-year-old Jade and 8-year-old Blaine asked what that weird looking thing with the rotary dial and the handset was (a old-school, 1980’s type rotary phone). In fact, the entire conversation concerning communication in the days before the cell phone (let alone digital, cordless phone) was my inspiration for this week’s Evening Sun column. Kids are awesome.

And now, back to Progress. Must … focus …

Ready for 2012, the final year

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011
Shawn Magrath

Another holiday season gone by and another year of regret and shame in just how many Christmas cookies I ate. Only ten more months until the start of the next Christmas season.

I hope everyone’s Christmas was as good as mine – even if you didn’t really get your “Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle…” yeah, I didn’t get one either. Actually, gifts aren’t really my thing. Something about having people watch me open a gift just turns me off. I’m incredibly thankful for whatever I get but anyone like me knows to wait until other people are opening their gift, then tear off the wrapping paper as quickly as possible so no one is watching.

I guess the next big focus is on the new year, which I don’t usually think should qualify as a holiday but this year’s different because by now, we all know that 2012 is the year the world ends so if there are any other “holidays” you want to celebrate/create, this is the year to do it. In fact – if you really believe in the Mayan calendar and their day of ultimate doom – I say do whatever you want. Go sky diving, take your dream vacation when you feel like it, steal a car, tell your boss how you feel about them. Why not? Just have a plan B… you know… just in case December 22 (the day after “doomsday”) is just another morning to get up and go to work (unless you told your boss how you felt). Personally, I’m going to stay low and I don’t plan to max out my credit card between now and then.

Anyone following Syracuse basketball knows that tonight’s a big night. Syracuse hosts Seton Hall at the Carrier Dome – arguably their biggest match up of the season. I usually don’t care about watching televised sports but during the college basketball season, it’s a different story. Foam finger… Check. Jersey… Check. Beer helmet (filled with yoo-hoo, of course)… Check. Back up remote for when my wife inevitably changes the channel… Still a work in progress. Maybe I won’t be watching the game.

“thanks?”

Friday, December 23rd, 2011
Shawn Magrath

So this is my last blog before Christmas.

I have to give kudos to The Place and the Norwich City School District and all volunteers and donors in this year’s annual clothing drive. I had the chance to go see clothes distributed Wednesday afternoon – after two long (but pretty interesting) “Progress Chenango” interviews.

I know that most people are eternally grateful for all the efforts of coordinators, volunteers and patrons who took part in the this year’s school / The Place clothing drive but I was taken back by a select few who, with little regard to what had been given them, barely uttered an audible “thanks” as they turned around and walked out the doors of the distribution center… of course, holding a bag full of new clothes that they had been handed out of community benevolence and good charity. I know these people make up a very small sliver of the majority but even 3 or 4 ingrates out of the 215 served is far too many. When someone offers a gift, it shouldn’t be taken as if it were expected of them to give it. They deserve a real genuine, unrestrained, from-the-bottom-of-the-heart, “Thank You” delivered in such a polite way that it almost gives them diabetes. Christmas jerks.

On a completely unrelated note, HBO has is airing a film called “Game Change” in March. It’s a film about the 2008 elections with Ed Harris playing the part of John McCain, Woody Harrelson as McCain’s adviser Steve Schmidt, and – lest we forget – Sarah Palin played by Julian Moore… am I the only one who thinks that this film wasn’t really necessary? Does anyone really want to watch that election in movie format? Besides, I already have an idea of how the movie’s going to end and even if I didn’t, I’m sure the ending of the movie would be pretty predictable (just like the real 2008 election). As dumb of an idea that I think the movie sounds, I’m sure I have more than enough people to back me up; and lately for a movie to be successful, it has to be animated or have muppets in it… “The Great 2008 Muppet Campaign” – I would watch that.

Merry Christmas Chenango County!

Friday, December 23rd, 2011
Brian Golden

A preliminary warning to all you Scrooges out there … don’t read this blog. And before I continue, I feel truly sorry for all those who can’t take a moment to be thankful for what they have this holiday season. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there who have it a helluva lot worse and you should be grateful. Me? I have my health, a wonderful family and – more than anything else this year – I’m looking forward to a spectacular Christmas with my lady and the kids.

Well, it’s two days to Christmas and I’m proud to say my shopping is 99.9 percent done. Which is, in fact, a record of sorts for me. Simply put, this will be the first year I can ever remember that I won’t be shopping last-minute on Christmas Eve. Just a few more items to pick up this afternoon and then it’s all about family, relaxation and … eggnog! Unbelievably, I haven’t had a single glass of eggnog yet this year, which is both depressing and just wrong, to say the least.

And now … exciting new releases I was able to experience for the first time this week. Namely Ridley Scott’s “Alien” prequel-of-sorts, “Prometheus,” and Peter Jackson’s first installment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” Both directors offered up trailers for their respective films this week and – even better – both are spaced out nicely. Scott’s sci-fi thriller will be in theaters this June (can’t wait), while Jackson’s furry-footed adventure will come to the big screen in December of 2012 (also can’t wait). Now if they’d only put together a film adaptation of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” novels, my life would be complete. Then again, I can’t see many actors wanting to sign-on for what would be – at the minimum – a series of ten or twelve, four hour-plus movies … but I can hope, right?

Anyway, back to Christmas. I must admit I’m a little boo-hoo about the lack of fluffy white stuff on the ground this year, but I’m holding out for a last minute miracle. It just doesn’t seem like the holiday proper without snow and that’s why I could never live down south year long. What can I say? I like my white Christmas. Once the New Year has come and gone, however, it can go straight to spring. I may be a tad sentimental when it comes to the holidays but I’m no glutton for punishment, okay?

And with that, a very Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holiday to all our Evening Sun readers. Next week we’ll be wrapping up 2011 (and I’ll be hip-deep in Progress Chenango) and then it’s on to bigger and better things in 2012. Here’s hoping that Santa Claus is good to everybody and don’t forget the milk and cookies!

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
Patrick Newell

Note: The complete playbook article will appear in the Friday, Dec. 23 edition of The Evening Sun.

* Most of Norwich’s varsity sports teams are enjoying a nice streak: The girls’ basketball team has won six straight and is 6-1 overall; the boys’ basketball team, coming off a win over Owego Wednesday, is 4-1; the varsity boys swimming team is sporting a nifty 5-1 record; and the wrestling team won its seventh straight dual meet beating Susquehanna Valley Wednesday evening . Speaking of the swimmers, they are led this season by NHS graduate Kevin Diefenbacher. Diefenbacher swam for Norwich during his high school days for legendary NHS coach and teacher, George Echentile. As recently as two years ago, Diefenbacher was heading up the B-G/Afton swimming team before the school dropped its swimming programs. It’s nice to see a familiar face with longtime Norwich ties at the helm.

* More from Otselic Valley senior forward, Gideon Schena: We noted the recent hot streak of Schena in our previous entry in which he was averaging 18 points and nearly 16 rebounds over his previous four games. Earlier this week against George Junior Republic, Schena one-upped those numbers, and nearly had a triple-double. Schena scored 26 points, pulled down 18 rebounds, and he pocketed nine steals. Schena’s five-game stretch over the past three weeks has produced the best combined scoring and rebounding numbers in my 16 years of covering local basketball.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat

Progress, E.T., healthcare and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
Brian Golden

Ah, yes … Progress Chenango. Oh, how I’ve missed thee, let me count the waves. Indeed, yes, it’s Progress time once again here at The Evening Sun and I am knee-deep in the process of setting up interviews, typing madly as our January deadline approaches and – all-in-all – stressing. One would think, considering this is my third go-round with Progress, that I’d be numb to all the pain and suffering. Alas, I am not. It doesn’t matter, however. Progress never has (and never will) get the best of this intrepid journalist.

Who am I kidding … Progress will chew me up and spit me out before it’s all said and done. Such is life.

Chenango County Court has been a fairly busy place lately, what with Michael Victor’s sentencing (not to mention Pierce and Sabines day of reckoning). Hopefully, this type of thing sends a message to criminals and drug dealers across the county that … a) you will get caught and b) you will go to prison. A life of crime doesn’t pay, as they say, and unless you want to spend the next six, nine or even thirty-nine years in state prison, harken back to the wise words of E.T. (the extra-terrestrial) and “BE GOOD.”

And now, I take this moment to offer the dedicated reader out there this link to today’s column – “What’s up, Doc?” – in which I lament the quality (and cost) of healthcare in our fair nation.

Well, the Christmas shopping is almost done and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. And I must admit I did a much better job than in previous years in regards to that whole “waiting until the last minute” nonsense. Needless to say, I’m quite excited for this year’s holiday festivities and (most of all) I can’t wait to see the kids’ expressions when they open their gifts. Merry Christmas all!

Me? I’m hoping I’ll finally get that authentic Red Ryder B.B. Gun with a compass in the stock and “this thing which tells time.”

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

Done any Christmas shopping yet?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
Shawn Magrath

I now have less fingers on my hand than I do days left to do my Christmas shopping. It’s not unexpected; it just happened quicker than I anticipated. Time’s really dwindling for me and all my brothers and sisters of the procrastination coalition (good thing we have a support group that will meet at a later date at a time that hasn’t really been determined yet).

With Christmas right around the corner, I’m proud to admit that I have tried to get my gifts from local businesses. It would be great to get all of my gifts locally but unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid some traveling to the most joyous and magical place on earth… the Oakdale Mall. After successfully avoiding two separate car collisions and dodging all parking lot pedestrians (I think and hope), I count it a Christmas miracle to have made it back without a dent on my hood or a death threat over my head. But I have nothing but sorrow for anyone traveling south to the Greater Binghamton area this Friday and Saturday. Truer words have never been spoken: “Speak softly and carry a big stick” (I know Teddy Roosevelt didn’t have last minute Christmas shopping in mind when he said this but I say use this wherever applicable… even if it’s in the literal sense).

A pair of youth,11 years old, were recently arrested for vandalism in a Mt. Upton Park. I’m glad to see kids caught doing something wrong before their behavior escalates into something more serious (even if it gives future reporters less to write about). Mine might not be the most favored opinion in the matter but I say punish and punish hard. Don’t let the “boys will be boys” routine slide on this. The sooner there’s intervention, the more likely these kids see that there are serious consequences to dumb decisions and the better off they’ll be in the long run. I hope to see more than a slap on the hand (but preferably a little less than the electric chair).

Of course, I don’t feel like I would be fulfilling my obligations as a reporter without mentioning the Evening Sun “Progress Chenango” edition. I’m grateful for the insight given by fellow reporters Brian and Melissa – who are the only other reporters at the paper to have experience with “Progress.” Even with two new reporters and two new sales staff, I’m optimistic about how this year’s edition will turn out.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
Patrick Newell

Note: The complete playbook appears in today’s Evening Sun

* Norwich coach Tom Collier had nothing but kind words for Johnson City and its current head coach, Colin Lasher. Lasher stepped in this season for Mark Woitach, who suffered a stroke this past summer, and is recovering from the effects of that near tragedy. Woitach has coached in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference for more than two decades, and he guided the Wildcats to three wins in four meetings last season against Norwich. Collier was not only impressed with Johnson City’s overall talent saying that the Wildcats possess the most athletic team in the division, but with the way Lasher is honoring Woitach. “He is the ultimate class act,” Collier said. “He lists himself only as the ‘interim coach,’ and is saving the job for coach Woitach if ever returns to coaching again. When we were at the STAC coaches meeting, Colin made sure to tell everyone that he was just the interim coach. I really respected that.”

* B-G/Afton wrestling coach, Brandon MacNaught, has never shied away from tough competition. He typically enters his team in the toughest possible tournaments all season long, and the wins and losses do not matter as much as developing his wrestlers for the postseason. At Burnt Hills last weekend, among the teams the Bears faced were Longwood, a Section XI power from Suffolk County that includes potential state title contenders Malik Rasheed and Corey Rasheed. Also on the slate was Northern Adirondack of Section VII, and Beekmantown from the Plattsburgh area. The Bears won two out of five matches, and also had the opportunity to see some great wrestling squads from all over the state. “This was very good for us,” MacNaught said. “It was not a bad performance, but definitely something to build upon. We just have to be a team, stick together, and the coaching staff believes we can be successful.”

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011

Thursday, December 15th, 2011
Patrick Newell

– After nine days to stew on its first loss of the season, Norwich (2-1) entertains Johnson City Friday night at Jack Jones Gymnasium. The Wildcats beat Norwich three out of four times last season, and were more impressive with each ensuing victory. The Wildcats show 6-foot-6 senior Ryan Clark, lanky forward Grant Vicks, and sharp-shooting guard, Cody Arvanitakis as holdovers from last year’s club. “Clark can score inside and out, and he had over 20 against us two years ago,” said Norwich coach Tom Collier. “He shoots the ball well for a 6-foot-6 guy.” Vicks scored 14 in JC’s sectional playoff win over Norwich, and has a nice inside-outside game, Collier said. Arvanitakis, while not the focus of last year’s team, was good in transition, and hit some key buckets. He is now one of the club’s prime scoring threats. Add to the mix a pretty good group of JV newcomers, and Norwich has its hands full with the Wildcats. “Once again, we are undersized in this one,” Collier said. “I have scouted all of the teams in our division, and any team can beat anyone on any given night. We look for all of our division games to be close, and hopefully having the home court advantage in this one will give us the edge. It should be another nail-biter.”

– The past two years, UV’s boys’ basketball team has not performed close to the level that brought it back-to-back MAC titles in the late part of the previous decade. The past two years, I have only witnessed one UV game, and that was Tuesday night against Walton. Let’s be frank: The Storm were a less-than-exceptional team the past two years, but early-season results have led me to believe that fortunes over at UV are changing. Tuesday was also a chance to take a look at junior guard Justin Hofer, our area’s second leading scorer last season and a second team all-Evening Sun selection. Hofer did not disappoint this observer in any way. In fact, his 36-point night was the best scoring performance I have personally witnessed in over a decade. Jon Foulds scored 35 for Norwich last season in a blowout win over Greene. Hofer’s points – every last one – were needed. In the first half, Hofer scored 23 points, 21 of those coming on 7-for-9 shooting behind the three-point arc. In the second half, he found the basket with his ability to penetrate and finish at the rim. A tremendous leaper, Hofer had several easy lay-ins for deuces, and his steal and layup with eight seconds left in regulation sealed UV’s first win over Walton in several seasons.

– Speaking of UV basketball, the girls’ team has a modest two-game winning streak after beating Walton Wednesday evening. A two-game winning streak doesn’t seem like much, but it has been quite a while since the Storm actually won back-to-back games. Head coach Brandi Backus said as much in her phone interview Wednesday, so I back-tracked through my statistics the past few years to locate the last two-game winning streak for UV. It occurred at the end of the 2007-2008 season when UV wound up with a 10-11 record. This year’s Storm group has a nice mix of offensive talent with three players – Amanda Off, Jordan Anderson, and Taylor Davis – that I expect to average 10 or more points per game. With that type of scoring, UV should be in position to win a lot of ballgames.

– For the first time in my tenure, The Evening Sun and The Stadium will sponsor a College Bowl Game Football Contest. Sports contests are pretty popular around here with the Evening Sun Football Contest in the fall, the Super Bowl Contest during the winter, and our March Madness Contest in the spring. Now we are adding one more contest to the list, and I hope it’s a keeper. It’s an opportunity to win $100, so why not give it a shot?

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Patrick Newell

One has to envision continued success for Norwich basketball – the boys and girls – for at least the next two to three years if not well beyond that. While Norwich’s varsity team was sewing up its third straight Pennysaver girls title this past Saturday night, the junior varsity improved to 4-0 on the season. All four wins have come by double digits, and the JV club does not have a sophomore on its roster. In fact, two eighth-graders start, and two seventh-graders see plenty of minutes as well. As for the varsity team, it starts one sophomore, and has two other sophomores in the playing rotation. Over on the boys’ side, head coach Tom Collier kept three sophomores on his varsity club, and all three are in the prime playing rotation. Meanwhile, the boys’ JV team, coached by Phil Curley, counts two freshmen among its top three scorers. Just like the girls, the Tornado’s junior club is unbeaten and has four straight victories by double-digit points.

Unless you have missed your lunch or dinner, making a visit to the concession stand before the game or halftime is an impulse purchase. It’s akin to that must-have item while waiting in the grocery store line. Ever had a sudden need for Carmex? Hey, It’s winter, the season of dry lips. Anyway, my point is that we all have succumbed to that urgent need to purchase something we really don’t need. Now that we’re in my busiest season of games, I consequently attend more games than the fall and spring seasons. I also make far more trips to the concession line to feed my face with Skittles and Tootsie Pops. My itinerary has me in every corner of Chenango County, but my most frequent stop is at Norwich High School. Of the 15 to 20 varsity basketball games played at Norwich each year, I may miss one or two games, and most of the time, I make my concession purchases before the start of the varsity game. After dispensing with some loose change and a couple of dollar bills this season, I have decided I prefer the girls’ stand. Why would I prefer one over the other when each concession stand offers nearly the exact same items? Lower prices. Yes, the profits of the concession stand benefit the basketball program. And yes, I understand there must be some sort of mark-up on the actual price. Still, I am a consumer, and who wouldn’t want the same item for less money? Too, I am bit perplexed by the three-for-a-dollar Tootsie Pop price at the boys’ concession station. I don’t know about you, but I do not purchase my lollipops in bulk – unless my kids are in tow. One or two will suffice, so when I bought “just” one the other night, I chuckled to myself when the volunteer accepting my money said, “33 cents.” I dug through my pockets searching for extra pennies to get the right change. Fortunately, I was the only one in line, and expediency in completing the transaction was not a problem. I plopped my quarter, nickel, and three pennies down on the counter, and headed to my seat. In this case, the transaction time was fairly quick. I do consider it my rite of passage at a store to make the correct change for any type of purchase. I almost always have multiple pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in my pocket. Still, not everyone carries a weighty jingle in their jeans due to excessive change hording. Most people head to the concession stand – especially kids – with their dollar bills and perhaps a quarter or two. Get in, get out, that is the objective in any concession stand purchase. I do get satisfaction making the right change, but I take umbrage when finding the correct change cuts into my Skittles consumption time.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat