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Bob Matthews' Column

BUFFALO GIVES ROCHESTER ATTENDANCE BOOST

 
BUFFALO GIVES ROCHESTER ATTENDANCE BOOST
Posted February 10th, 2014 @ 10:31am

BUFFALO GIVES ROCHESTER  ATTENDANCE BOOST

SMART WAS WRONG BUT ORR WAS DUMB

PLUS DURANT MVP, TWO VOTES FOR TROUT, AND OTHER STUFF

Buffalo has always been a great pro sports city. That was proved again Saturday night, when Buffalo fans gave two Rochester teams a healthy boost at the box office.

The Rochester Americans had a “home game” against the Grand Rapids Griffins at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center.  The paid attendance to watch the NHL Buffalo Sabres top affiliate was 17,968 (about half of whom were real people).  The announced crowd boosted Rochester ‘s average home attendance to 5,545 (12th in the 30-team AHL). It offset a few of those killer Wednesday night home dates.

Meanwhile, at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial, the National Lacrosse League Knighthawks drew a season-high home crowd of 9,280 to a 9-6 win over the Buffalo Bandits. A large segment of the crowd – thousands, not hundreds – were from Buffalo. And they were loud. When Rochester fans began to chant DEFENSE, the Buffalo fans countered with OFFENSE, and held their own.

The NLL is a fun atmosphere when the arenas are filled or close to it. Buffalo fans helped make Saturday’s game a happening.

Buffalo is, of course, most of all a pro football city. When the Bills are good, tickets are scarce and Buffalo is among the NFL attendance leaders (Rochester is a big help). Last season, the 14th straight year without a playoff berth, the Bills still ranked a respectable 19th in average home attendance (66,267; 90 percent capacity) in the 32-team NFL.

The Buffalo Sabres generally sell out through thick and thin -- unless the team is extremely bad (like this season).

The Buffalo Braves had a brief NBA stint (1970 through 1978) and peaked at an average crowd of 11,397 in 1973-74 (featuring Bob McAdoo and Randy Smith). Poor management was a major factor in the team’s demise. The Braves averaged a paltry 4,977 in their final season (1977-78) and weren’t much better than the current Premier Basketball League Buffalo 716ers.

The Buffalo Bisons always are among the leaders in International League baseball attendance.

Some people say Buffalo is a great pro sports town in part because it doesn’t have a big-time college football (the University of Buffalo is trying) or basketball program to cheer for. And Buffalo, for some reason, has never taken to pro soccer.  And Rochester has more pro teams (thanks mainly to owners who love their sports and don’t mind losing money to feed their habits).

But when the subject is the better sports city, it would be silly to favorably compare Rochester to Buffalo. We’re a very good minor-league sports town, but Buffalo is hanging on as a solid major-league sports town despite challenging circumstances (the Bills continue to break hearts and the Sabres are by far the NHL’s worst team).

 

 

SMART WAS WRONG BUT THE FAN WAS WORSE

Jeff Orr acted like a jerk as a spectator at Texas Tech’s home basketball victory Saturday over Oklahoma State and I don’t blame Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart for shoving him after Orr supposedly called the visiting player a “piece of crap.”

Smart refuted Orr’s version. He claimed Orr called him the n-word when the player lost his balance while trying to block a shot at full speed and plunged into the crowd.

I don’t really care what Orr called Smart, though I would cut Smart much more slack if Orr indeed did use the n-word. Witnesses agreed with Orr’s version. But no matter what Orr said, he was out of line and the traffic controller from Waco embarrassed himself, his family and Texas Tech.

Smart should not have shoved Orr. That’s easy to say. But I wonder how many of us would’ve responded in some physical manner to a foul-mouthed fan under the circumstances.

I thought the modest three-game suspension to Smart was appropriate. Compared to what punishment he might have received, it amounted to a slap on the wrist. That measured response from officials sent a strong message that a player physically confronting a fan cannot be tolerated. It also strongly suggested that Orr was at least as out of line as Smart.

I don’t believe Smart’s reaction will hurt his NBA draft status even a little bit. He’s going to be a top-10 pick. Orr will have a much tougher time living down his brief touch with fame.

--Kevin Durant probably wrapped up this season’s NBA Most Valuable Player award with Sunday’s Oklahoma City 112-100 home victory over the New York Knicks. He was ridiculously good – 41 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists – and thoroughly outplayed Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. They guarded each other for parts of the game, and it was no contest. Anthony is an excellent offensive player but – at least this season – Durant is in a class of his own.

--The Major League Baseball Network will have countdowns on two series – Baseball Top 200 Players and Who is the Face of Baseball. I believe Mike Trout should finish on top in both categories. One thing could hurt him. He doesn’t enjoy maximum exposure because he plays on the West Coast for the Los Angeles Angels.  If he were a New York Yankee or New York Met or Boston Red Sox, he’d likely win in landslides.

--Rochester RazorSharks 152, Erie Express 63. Fans attending Saturday afternoon’s game at Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial saw history made. It was the widest margin of victory (89 points) in RazorSharks history. Thank goodness. You can’t knock the RazorSharks for being so good. But the expansion Hurricane are a joke. Somehow they lost only 108-102 to Rochester in the rematch Sunday afternoon at East High School in Erie.

--For the record, here are the Buffalo Bills elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and their prsenters in Canton, Ohio: 1985 O.J. Simpson (Lou Saban)...1999 Billy Shaw (Ed Abramoski)...2001 Marv Levy (Bill Polian)...2002 Jim Kelly (Marv Levy)...2003 James Lofton (David Lofton)...2003 Joe DeLamielleure (Larry Felser)...2007 Thurman Thomas (Marv Levy)...2009 Ralph Wilson (Chris Berman)...2009 Bruce Smith (Ted Cottrell)...2014 Andre Reed (will be Marv Levy).

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