Niagara Gazette —
It's been a while since I've cleared off the desk or simply said 'hello,' but now is a good time to do so. Here are a few thoughts and tidbits coming off the desk this week...
• As fun as it would have been to follow and present the story of a Niagara County Community College basketball team that went undefeated, the recent two-game skid that handed the women's team its first tastes of defeat this school year is actually the best thing that could happen to them.
They are without a doubt a very talented squad. It's not unrealistic to believe they may still go far in the Western New York Athletic Conference postseason. Losing, however, just made them a lot more honest. And that's what I think will make them even better heading into the home stretch.
It's very easy for complacency to set in when you've not lost. Lessons that could and should be learned about how to be more than good, to be a champion, often get missed in the glow of success that doesn't seem to stop.
Women's coach Nate Beutel agreed when we asked him about that point of view while chatting on the phone Thursday night following his team's big win over Genesee Community College.
So, too, did men's coach Bill Beilein when asked about his own Thunderwolves squad, which has also rarely come up on the losing end of games this year.
Both NCCC squads have plenty of examples they can look to of other rising powers who had to know how to lose first before they could win.
Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky both lost a Stanley Cup Final series before their respective teams won the following year. Michael Jordan toiled on Chicago Bulls teams that fell short for years before they climbed to the top. The Boston Red Sox lost a playoff series on a home run in 2003 and, the following year, was three games into what appeared to be a humiliating sweep by their Bronx archrivals before they learned, thrived, and made history.
The NCCC players don't need to read or hear this from me. Based on their own performances following recent losses, they're apparently fast learners. It bodes well for them as the regular season winds down.
• I received an interesting letter from a gentleman who offered me some Niagara Falls High School hockey history. We recently featured the current varsity squad celebrating its sixth win which, according to folks tied to the team, represented a new high for the varsity program.
However, what wasn't necessarily made clear — and for this I assume responsibility — was that it represents varsity hockey in the history of the newer amalgamated Niagara Falls High School.
That letter comes from Chuck Sirianni, who offers a detailed story of varsity hockey's birth in the original Niagara Falls High School in the mid 1970s, until budget cuts put the PowerCats team out of existence in the 1980s.
I'm still looking through that letter and am curious to learn more about hockey in the Falls in the 1970s. Alas, I can already share from experience that it will take some time to hopefully find records which may or may not exist. I learned this firsthand a while back while, working on a project for the Buffalo Junior Sabres, tried to find old records of the former Mang's Niagara Falls Sharks junior hockey club. I've not had much luck lately.
If anyone else has records or artifacts from that era, I'd love to have a peek. In the meantime, my thanks to Mr. Sirianni for that letter.
• Count me among those who are glad the Super Bowl hype is finally nearing an end. I'm sick of the media's Richard Sherman this, Richard Sherman that. It's actually making me miss Ray Lewis.
I'm also feeling a little jaded and cynical upon reading the news of the big federal crackdown on unlicensed Super Bowl related merchandise. Heaven forbid we leave the National Football League in a position to lose a few bucks. The only difference between the bootlegs and the "real" licensed merchandise is in the price markups for products that, chances are, were both made in very similar foreign sweatshop environments at cents on the dollar.
With that off my chest, I promise I won't be a Super Bowl party pooper. I, too, will enjoy the game and am personally hoping for a Denver win. I admire how far Peyton Manning has come since dealing with a neck problem that many thought would bring the end of his career. I'd like to see him rewarded with a win tomorrow.
My gut feeling tells me, though, that Seattle pulls this one off, 28-24.
Respond to Niagara Gazette sports editor Michael Mroziak via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.