First PBL Game of the Season – Buffalo v. Quebec

Saturday morning.  Loaded up the Pontiac 6000 with my camera equipment, my laptop computer, and myself.  Destination – Quebec City, home of the Quebec Kebs of the Premier Basketball League, who with the demise of the Continental Basketball Association are now one of the only independent minor league hoops circuits.  It’s the PBL and the D-League, everybody else is just playing for practice.

It’s a straight shot up from Albany to Quebec City, up the Adirondack Northway to several connecting highways in Quebec.  A good two or three hours on the Jean Lesage Highway, a refueling at a gas depot called “Big Stop,” and several episodes of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and “Car Talk” on my car stereo-connected iPod, and seven hours later I’m in Quebec City.

Last year, the Kebs played their home games at a hockey arena called Pavillion de la Jeunesse.  It was big – maybe too big, because 2,000 fans in that facility looked like 500.  This year, the team has their home games at PEPS, a multi-purpose sports facility on the campus of Laval University.  In Albany-speak, it’s like going from the Times Union Center to the SEFCU Arena – same number of fans, but now they’re closer to the action.

Last year, the Kebs finished the year with a 6-14 record, as injuries to some of their top stars slowed the team down, although center Jonas Pierre made All-League First Team.  Saturday, the Kebs hosted the Buffalo Stampede, also entering their second season in the PBL.  The Stampede had an even rougher year than the Kebs – Buffalo won their first game of the season, then proceeded to lose the next nineteen contests.

It’s the irresistable force meeting the immovable object.  Or in other words, somebody’s going to start the season 1-0.

And last night, it was the Kebs.  In front of a good solid crowd at PEPS, the team defeated Buffalo 100-85.  The PEPS building was rocking with several different promotions, the fans brought signs to cheer on the hometown team, and Buffalo went down to its twentieth consecutive loss, spanning back to last year.

Here’s a slideshow of some of the action.

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

This morning, I gotta load up the Pontiac 6000, pack all the camera equipment and my laptop, and make another six-hour drive – this time to Manchester, New Hampshire, where the Manchester Millrats have their home opener against their New England border rivals, the Vermont Frost Heaves.

Kebs.  Millrats.  Frost Heaves.  Normally I would be scratching my head when it comes to such team names.  That is, until last night, when someone at PEPS saw the varsity jacket I bought a few years ago, emblazoned with a dutch shoe logo on the front, and asks me, “Albany Patroons… what’s a Patroon?”

My Realistic New Year’s Resolutions

Around this time of year, everybody makes grandiose New Year’s Resolutions that they hope to keep throughout the year, but most likely will completely forget about by January 8.

I’ve been guilty of this as well.  Don’t get me wrong.  Last year I had a resolution to win the Elbo Room Trivia Tournament, Trivia Bowl 5 and the Saratoga Trivia Touranment – so far I’ve had two fails and an incomplete.  I can almost hear Dean Wormer lecturing me about how that is no way to get through my semesters at Faber.

I could go the smart-aleck way and suggest that I promise to eat more junk food and buy more useless stuff, and then if I don’t follow through with those resolutions, then hey it’s not a big deal.  Yeah… somehow that seems counter-productive.

So with that in mind, and with a new decade upon us, here are some of my resolutions that I hope to keep this year.

  • I resolve to enter more photography competitions this year, with the goal of actually winning at least one of them.
  • I resolve to take care of my 1991 Pontiac 6000 for another year.
  • I resolve to write the best articles for my writing clients.
  • I resolve to compete as hard as possible in competitive bar trivia, rather than just blithely saying I’m going to win.  However, that also means I resolve to do my best to win at more trivia games than last year, whether other teams like it or not.
  • I resolve to get back into the gym this year – if not starting with 5 days a week, at least starting with two days a week and working forward, if for no other reason than to turn that Michelin around my stomach into a Schwinn.
  • I resolve to finally get another book published – maybe not on record / music collecting, as was the subject of my first two books, but on a different topic, to the point that my first book signing will be at the Stuyvesant Plaza Book House.
  • I resolve to pare down my personal collections so that all my world can fit into my home office – so that my wife can have all the rest of the space in the house for her stuff.
  • I resolve to learn anything I can about a new topic, and then write a published article on it.
  • I resolve to continue writing my Times-Union blog on its steady schedule of at least one post per day, uninterrupted.
  • I resolve to comment on other peoples’ Times-Union blogs as well.
  • I resolve to read the entire published works of William Kennedy; barring that, I resolve to at least download audiobooks of his greatest works, so that I can hear them on long road trips.
  • I resolve to watch the final three episodes of Dollhouse, even if I’m the last person watching them.
  • I resolve to honor the memory of a tragedy that happened 40 years ago on February 20, 1970.
  • I resolve to enjoy my 25th anniversary reunion this summer at Hamilton College.

And most of all, I resolve to make it to the year 2011, when I can write another column of resolutions like this one… and most likely repeat some of those resolutions then as well!

My Best Photos of 2009

I’ve had some great experiences with my camera this year, both in working with the Premier Basketball League, and in personal shots. In July, I ditched my 5-year-old Nikon D70 for a more powerful Nikon D700, and have added more camera lenses and glass for my photographic arsenal.

So just for a lark, I looked over the thousands of photographs I took last year, and chose what I thought were my ten personal favorites. Here they are. I hope you enjoy them.

BASKETBALL BACKBOARD BLAM!!

April 18, 2009, shot with Nikon D70

Sammy Monroe of the Rochester Razorsharks went up for the dunk, and I thought I would just get a classic reverse two-hand jam photo.  What I didn’t expect was Monroe pulling down the backboard, showering Kenny Langhorne of the Battle Creek Knights with shards of tempered glass.  Shots like these are so rare to capture – I just got very lucky I was in the right place at the right time for this one.

Sammy Monroe destroys backboard.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Sammy Monroe destroys backboard. Photo by Chuck Miller.

THE ORBITER

August 16, 2009, shot with Nikon D700

On the last day of the Altamont Fair, I walked around the entire complex and took as many fun and candid photos as I could.  But as night fell on the final day of the Fair, I set up some lengthy exposure shots, and got this beautiful piece from the Orbiter thrill ride.

The Orbiter.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
The Orbiter. Photo by Chuck Miller.

BENSON CALLIER SLAMS ONE HOME

March 1, 2009, Nikon D70

The Burlington Memorial Auditorium in Burlington, Vt. has a balcony that rings the entire basketball court.  I set up just above the corner of one basket and caught the Vermont Frost Heaves’ Benson Callier slamming this two-hand jam down, as the rest of the players can only watch.  I was testing out a manual f/1.8 lens at the time, so I spent the entire second quarter focused on that backboard – just to get a shot like that.  By the way, this photo later ran the next day in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus, one of two times that my photos ran in that publication.

Benson Callier slams one home.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Benson Callier slams one home. Photo by Chuck Miller.

RAINBOW ABOVE HOLY FAMILY PARISH

October 5, 2009, Nikon D700

I had just finished a photo shoot with a couple of friends at Washington Park and was on my way home.  There had been a strong but short rain shower, and as I drove up South Lake Avenue, I saw a big rainbow.  Took the camera and got this shot.  Very lucky I was in the right place at the right time.

A few days ago, I gave a printed copy of this picture to one of the friars at St. Patrick’s Church, the house of worship that operates Holy Family Parish.  I thought it would be appropriate to share a treasured shot like this with the church.

Rainbow above Holy Family Parish.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Rainbow above Holy Family Parish. Photo by Chuck Miller.

ACTION UNDER THE BASKET

April 5, 2009, shot with Nikon D70

This overhead shot from the roof of Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. is one of my personal favorites.  During a playoff game between the Rochester Razorsharks and the Manchester Millrats, James “Mook” Reaves (lower right) is putting the ball in the hoop, while Manchester’s Sam Carey (left) and Marlowe Currie (right) can only watch.  Sammy Monroe (upper left) of the Rochester Razorsharks is there to back up Mook.  The photo won a ribbon at the 2009 New York State Fair, my first photographic competitive prize.

Action Under the Basket.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Action Under the Basket. Photo by Chuck Miller.

EMPIRE STATE PLAZA FIREWORKS

July 4, 2009, shot with Nikon D700

This was my first photo shoot with my new Nikon D700.  I set up my gear at the roof of the parking garage at the corner of Eagle and Madison, and as the sun set, I got some great shots.  I’m sure that not only was I enjoying the fireworks display, but I wager those guys who built the “man cave” in the parking garage were enjoying the fireworks from their secret sanctum sanctorum.  As long as they didn’t get in the way of my shot…

Empire State Plaza Fireworks.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Empire State Plaza Fireworks. Photo by Chuck Miller.

FOUR-PART DUNK IN TRAINING CAMP

October 5, 2009, shot with Nikon D700

Testing out the “rapid-fire” feature on my D700, I got this player at a Manchester Millrats training camp executing a slam dunk.  I stitched the four pictures of him before – during – and after the dunk, and combined them into one image.  Sweet.

Four-Part Dunk in Training Camp.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Four-Part Dunk in Training Camp. Photo by Chuck Miller.

MICHAEL ANDERSON SLAMS FOR TWO

February 28, 2009.  Shot with Nikon D70.

The Quebec Kebs didn’t have many highlights last season, but one of the highlights they DID have was Michael Anderson.  He was one of their leading scorers, and he punctuated a lot of his dunks with this fierce face.  I caught this one at a Kebs-Halifax Rainmen game in February, and you can see that not only did Michael Anderson score, he also wanted to make sure everyone in the building knew he scored.

Michael Anderson slams for two.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Michael Anderson slams for two. Photo by Chuck Miller.

SCREAM UNTIL MOM STOPS THE CAR

May 31, 2009.  Shot with Nikon D70.

It was Sunday morning and I was driving up Route 5, when I saw Bumpy’s Polar Freeze ice cream place.  The advertising tag on the bottom of the Bumpy’s sign was just so funny, I had to get a picture of it.  A few days later, I discovered – by checking my flickr account – that my Bumpy’s picture had been picked up by someone on their Twitter account.  Hey, whatever works works, right?

Scream Until Mom Stops the Car. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Scream Until Mom Stops the Car. Photo by Chuck Miller.

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA, HAZEL!

September 5, 2009, shot with Nikon D700 and Kenko 180 fisheye lens

I tested out my D700 with a Kenko 180-degree screw-on fisheye lens.  Hazel and her owner were walking around Washington Park, I asked if they would pose for a picture.  What you don’t see in this shot is that one millisecond after I took this photo, Hazel decided to take a big slobby lick of my camera lens.

Smile for the camera, Hazel! Photo by Chuck Miller.
Smile for the camera, Hazel! Photo by Chuck Miller.

These are some of the photos I’ve enjoyed shooting during calendar year 2009.  Of course, one of my new year’s resolutions is to improve on my skills, so that when January 1, 2011 rolls around, I can put up ten photos from 2010 that are superior to the ones I’ve got up in this blog post.

Trivia Bowl 6 is coming…

February 6, 2010. The day before the Super Bowl. The day before the big game, there will be the “big game” for the best trivia teams in the Capital District.

Yes indeedy doo, it’s the sixth edition of the legendary Trivia Bowl, and this year it will be at the new Wolf 1-11 restaurant and bar on Wolf Road.

I’ve competed in four of the first five Trivia Bowls, winning the title in 2007, and just missing out in 2008 and 2009.  The team of “Lynch’s Mob” won the Trivia Bowl in 2005 and 2006 when the game was hosted at the Hooters in Crossgates Mall; the championship moved to Broadway Joe’s in 2008, where “Stern Fans” took the title, and in 2009, a capacity competition at Broadway Joes saw “Sh@tload” win the chalice.

The “chalice” is actually an old Hooters wing bowl mounted on a wooden base.  The base contains the names of the winning team and all the teammates.  It’s sorta like the Stanley Cup of the trivia cognoscenti.

Trivia Rich Mahady with the Trivia Bowl
"Trivia Rich" Mahady with the Trivia Bowl

Yeah, I could post a picture of myself holding the Trivia Bowl, but I thought people would appreciate this photo instead.  “Trivia Rich” Mahady was part of Lynch’s Mob when that team won the championship in 2005 and 2006, and I got this picture of him with the Trivia Bowl at Christmas 2007.

The questions for Trivia Bowl are much more difficult than the standard bar trivia questions any other time of the year.  A two-point easy question in Trivia Bowl might be, “In what year did the American flag first have 50 stars?” (1960, the flag is changed on the July 4th after a state is annexed).  The quadruple bonus question might be, “Name the four athletes that appeared as ‘Future Stars’ on the first issue of ESPN the Magazine.” (Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez, Eric Lindros and Kordell Stewart).

The final questions will often be “murder” questions, in which if you don’t know the answer, guessing won’t help.  They often will be questions like, “What TV show was the first show to end Frasier’s 6-year-run of winning an Emmy for best comedy of the year?” (Ally McBeal).  Or, “Who played Buddy Holly in the film La Bamba?”  (Marshall Crenshaw).  Or, “In what year did Terry Bradshaw play his last professional football game?” (1984).

And the competition will be fierce.  You’re not going up against the two or three teams in the bar.  You’re going up against the top teams from EVERY bar and tavern and restaurant.  And in this game, the hosts are hypervigilant on the use of cell phones – turn them off, leave them in your car, don’t use them under any circumstances.  True story – at Trivia Bowl 4, one person actually went up to Baker during a break and asked if he could at least call his wife, who was about to go into labor, just to check on how she was doing.  He even promised to make the call next to Baker, so there would be no impropriety of him using this “baby about to be born” as a code for “What theater first hosted ‘Star Wars’ in Albany?”  (It was Cine 1-2-3-4-5-6 in Northway Mall).

More details about Trivia Bowl 6 can be found at the Trivia Nights Live website.

Donating to the Albany Museum of History and Art

I couldn’t believe that I had accumulated all this stuff over the years.

Every time I went to a local sports contest, I would buy a game program.  That’s a lot of programs, especially when I went to almost every Patroons game, River Rats contest, Albany-Colonie Yankees and Diamond Dogs matchup, etc., etc.  I saved these programs, treasured them, looked over them once in a while.

But now is the time to pare down my collection of stuff.  And instead of resigning this material to the garbage can, or trying to sell everything piecemeal on eBay, I made a conscious decision that the collection of Albany-based game programs had to find a home.

That home, as of today, is the Albany Institute of History and Art.

See, the Institute has a special collection on the history of the Capital Region, with boxes and books and photographs filled with the width and breadth and depth of Albany’s existence.  And better that the Institute have these old game programs, so that down the road someone can study the history of sports in the area, than they just sit in some personal collection, on a shelf, gathering dust.

And it’s not like I haven’t given collections like this to charitable organizations in the past.  My collection of Continental Basketball Association programs, jerseys, pennants and trading cards are now in the holdings of the Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Springfield, Mass.  I’ve sent boxes of group harmony 45’s and LP’s to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Museum in Sharon, Pa., for them to use in future exhibits.  And five years ago, as part of my 20th college reunion, I donated a rare Edison Diamond Disc phonograph and nearly 200 Edison Diamond Discs to the Hamilton College jazz and music library.

So yesterday, I made arrangements with the curators of the collection to drop off this box of sports history, which I will do later this afternoon.

For me, donating these items is part of a personal commitment.  I want to make sure that the history of these teams survives into the future, and that the sporting life of the Capital Region is recognized in its long history.

That, and it will clear some much-needed space off my shelves.

Milton Horne and the Basketball Streakers

Milton Horne was a part of youth sports in the Capital Region for many decades.  A four-year basketball starter at Philip Schuyler and a graduate in 1969, he later attended New Mexico and played in the NCAA Division I Final Four.  He returned to Albany, and worked as a little league coach for the next two decades; one of the baseball fields at Krank Park is named in his memory.  He also operated a construction company that renovated houses in Arbor Hill and built day care centers and public safety buildings.  He passed away in 2001, and the community mourned the loss of “Old Man Coach.”

And when my high school, the Street Academy of Albany, actually had enough players to field a basketball team, Milton Horne was their coach.

A while back, I went through some of the old yearbooks for the Street Academy of Albany, and found several photographs of a school basketball team in action.  Their games were often played at the Arbor Hill Community Center, and the opponents were an eclectic mix of junior varsity squads and community teams.

Folks, let me introduce you to the Street Academy Streakers basketball team.  That was the team name, and any snickering about an alternative meaning of “Streaker” can go by the wayside (although by the time I was a student there, the team’s nickname was quietly tweaked to be the “Blue Streakers”).

In 1977, Milton Horne noted in the yearbook that the Streakers “were small in size but big in heart. They gave their all for a winning cause. The team played hard-nose man-to-man defense from baseline to baseline. The team was led by Harry Cain, Ray McGill and Skip Donley. Also starting were Twist Welcome and Brian Trotter. Other players on the team were John Jones, an outstanding jump-shooter with good moves; Lester Royal, a good rebounder with a nice, soft shot around the basket, and Jerry DeWitt. Our leading scorer was Harry Cain with 20 points a game. The top rebounder was “Big Brian” Trotter. The defensive ace all over the court was Edward ‘Twist’ Welcome.”

Okay, we’re not talking the second coming of Luther “Ticky” Burden or Sam Perkins, but then again the Streakers weren’t participating in Section II, either.  Very few records have survived to this day, but according to school yearbooks, the Streakers put together a respectable 9-3 record in 1974, taking victories over Hackett Jr. High, Philip Livingston Jr. High, Carver Community Center, the Albany High Annex, and a 71-37 trouncing of the Street Academy faculty.  In 1977, the school completed a 4-4 record, taking wins over the Albany Youth Corps, Camp Cass, and two different Albany Boys’ Club teams.

Street Academys Harvey Biggers (33) with a layup.
Street Academy's Harvey Biggers (33) with a layup.

By the time I was a senior at Street Academy, we still fielded a basketball team, although the schedule was essentially written in pencil.  That year, we were supposed to play six games against the other “alternative” school in the Albany area, School 21, with a final game against the Albany High junior varsity team.  We played two games against School 21, winning the first and losing the second on some very bad officiating and ticky-tack fouls.  By the time we were scheduled to play our third game, School 21’s basketball team had been disbanded for disciplinary reasons, and we never got to play another game that season.

Horne continued to offer physical education courses to Street Academy, even after the school was rebranded as Harriet Gibbons High School, named after one of the school’s former principals.  He stayed with the school until his passing in 2001.  The 2002 Gibbons High School yearbook honors the man and his legacy, as the words of student Kimberly Chestnut attest: “He made people laugh and smile.  He was a great guy to be around.  Milton gave you good grades and good comments on your report card.  But if you gave him a hard time, he would give you a hard time back.  But there was no reason to give him a hard time.  Milton had many people who cared about him and loved being around him.  He helped anyone who needed help.  This is what i Think about my dear friend Milton Horne.  God bless him.”

My 10 Favorite “Relax” TV Shows

There are TV shows where I will sit comfortably in my chair and watch all the excitement and action and suspense.  There are TV shows where I will throw stuffed animals at the TV screen because of the horrible acting or stupid plotlines or the like.

And then there are a special brand of TV shows – the ones where I will sit and watch – and watch – and watch all day and night.  Not because of any compelling or exciting plotlines, not because of any thrilling sports action – no, these shows are essentially the equivalent of televised comfort food.  These aren’t dramas or sports shows or comedies – these are the kinds of shows where I know what’s going to happen next, I know how the information will be presented, and yet I just sit and enjoy the program anyways.

Feel free to discuss and debate.

  1. How It’s Made (Science Channel HD) – This show describes how everything from fire hydrants to Swiss cheese is made.  You watch as the various items go through annealing furnaces and elevated conveyor belts and cutters and packaging, all synchronized to a funky dance beat.  A stentorian narrator, often played by Brooks Moore, describes how each item is created, whether the finished product is hand-tooled by skilled artisans, or popped out of a mass production line.
  2. Dogs 101 (Animal Planet) and…
  3. Cats 101 (Animal Planet).  Both these shows describe all the various histories  of dogs and cats – the breeds’ pecific needs for health and grooming, as well as how these breeds interact with their owners and masters.  Besides, it’s the only way I can vicariously own a cat any more, since my wife Vicki is allergic to cats and had me get rid of my King Orange tabby Vincent.
  4. Forensic Files (TruTV).  This show comes on anywhere from about 11:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., and it describes, in grisly detail, a murder – the police work and forensic work that uncovered the murderer – and the murderer brought to justice.  Think “CSI” without all the glitz.  In these episodes of Forensic Files, you actually see that it takes more than 22 minutes to get a DNA test completed.  And sometimes on the show, the DNA results actually set a previously convicted man free.
  5. I Love Toy Trains (RFD-TV).  These episodes show the advanced hobbyist how to build a model railroad layout, as well as tricks and techniques on the model train hobby itself.  I watch this for a while – then I want to build a model railroad.  Then I realize that if I really wanted to build a model railroad, I should have started when I was five years old and maybe, by today, I would have a spectacular railroad that would have filled my basement from water meter to dehumidifer.
  6. Manswers (Spike TV)  Hoo boy.  This is the kind of program where you get information on topics you never thought anyone had an answer for.  Things like what to do if you take a bullet in the arm.  Or the common myths associated with trying to beat a drug test.  There’s some other “manswers” here, but I’m not listing them in a family newspaper.  Why else do you think the show airs on Spike TV in the wee wee hours?
  7. Modern Marvels (History Channel).  Like “How It’s Made,” Modern Marvels will spend an hour talking about everything from suspension bridges to butchery, from comic books to logging.  It’s fascinating to watch, and before each commercial break, the show gives you a small nugget of trivia.  Just in case some trivia host asks about the density of a fruitcake (it’s as dense as a piece of mahogany wood).
  8. New Yankee Workshop (PBS).  I don’t know how Norm Abram keeps coming up with these great woodworking projects.  He’ll find an old piece of furniture somewhere in an antique shop, and then he’ll replicate how to build it – along with the diagrams and the proper tools needed – and then build it in 30 minutes.   The show almost makes you want to drive out to wherever the New Yankee Workshop is, and have him build you something right then and there.
  9. Powerblock (Spike TV).  Ah, a Sunday morning where I get to watch all the gearheads and wrench-heads restore a car or a truck from a rusty hulk into a gleaming piece of super-hot machinery.  Granted, I wonder if half the stuff they put on those cars is street legal, but even so, it’s fun to watch them just take apart a car, right down to its nuts and bolts,and then put in new parts and new restorations – and next thing you know, it’s ready for the drag strip or the late night cruise.
  10. Hoarders (A&E).  I DVR this show on Monday nights and watch it Tuesday morning.  And then I want to go clean something up in my house.  This is the slobby-clean-your-house version of Scared Straight!.  Watch this and say to yourself, if you don’t get your stuff out of the house, a bunch of blue trucks will park in front of your lawn and the stuff will get cleared out whether you want it to or not.

There were a lot of shows I could have included on this list, including shows like Intervention, Pawn Stars, Ax Men, Ice Road Truckers, TCM’s The Essentials, the E! True Hollywood Story, and the like.  But then it would have been a Top 15 and this ain’t college football, where you can have eleven teams in the Big 10.