Opinion: Watson’s column ignores the positives

By Josh Svetz

It’s been over 17 years since the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs and most people, whether they root for the Bills or not, are happy.

Well, most people.

Just three days after the Bills clinched their first playoff birth since 1999, Rod Watson, a political columnist for the Buffalo News, wrote a controversial column essentially telling fans to “get a life,” specifically to focus on the real issues and stop obsessing about a football team’s accomplishments.

While we can all understand the importance of real issues and taking the time to pay attention to them, that doesn’t need to bleed into simple enjoyment of entertainment.

Carole McNall, an assistant professor at Saint Bonaventure University, said the article fell into the trap of the “either/or mentality.”

“Increasingly today, we set things up as either/or: either you like this thing or that, either you care about this thing or you care about that one,” McNall said. “The excitement I feel over the success of a team I’ve cheered for most of my life doesn’t erase the concern I feel about the issues Watson cites.”

McNall, a diehard Bills fan, brings up an interesting point.

Just because a fan base is excited about an athletic achievement doesn’t mean they’re ignoring the issues 24/7.

In fact, some philanthropic good came from the Bills making the playoffs.

After the Bills beat the Miami Dolphins, they still needed the Baltimore Ravens to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals.

That’s exactly what happened when the Bengals won off a miracle touchdown pass from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd.

Hours after the win, Bills fans thanked Dalton by flooding donations to his and his wife’s foundation, which provides support to seriously-ill and physically challenged children and their families in Cincinnati, Ohio and Fort Worth, Texas.

The output was enough for Dalton and his wife, J.J., to personally thank the fans for the over $315,000 in donations, ironically being published in the Buffalo News.

Yet, Watson failed to mention such in his column, something that bothered St. Bonaventure senior and Bills fanatic, Emmy Kolbe.

I’m not sure what Watson defines as ‘a little perspective,’ but I’d say that’s a huge, beautiful success.” Kolbe said. “It’s a great snapshot of the good Bills Mafia can do for surrounding communities.”

Good deeds aside, another conversation arises from the idea of escapism.

In our world, where media dominates our lives and we can access news within seconds, sometimes it’s nice to just shut off for awhile and enjoy a beloved sports team achieving a great feat, especially when it ties into the culture of the city itself.

Nate Discavage, a graduate of Saint Bonaventure University, isn’t a Bills fan, but spending part of his life in Western New York has made him aware of the Bills’ cultural significance.

“I understand that not everybody is a sports fan,” Discavage said. “But, the Bills are so ingrained in the local culture that Watson has to be aware of the impact of everything around him.”

For Buffalo native Reid Okoniewski, he thought the column misrepresented the fans.

“The fans of the Bills know what the city [of Buffalo] has to offer, especially what we pride ourselves in,” Okoniewski said. “When he talks about taking pride in the history of Buffalo, he shoves aside a cornerstone of Buffalo pride, the sports.”

But maybe the largest blind spot Watson failed to address was family impact.

Mike Hogan, a freshman at Saint Bonaventure University, wasn’t even alive the last time the Bills made the playoffs.

He doesn’t remember Jim Kelly or Thurman Thomas, he remembers Drew Bledsoe, Trent Edwards and Kyle Orton.

His family are Bills fanatics, especially his dad.

His dad got to live in the time where the Bills went to four Super Bowls, but Mike didn’t.

He watched losing. So much losing that he wondered if he’d ever see winning.

“I can remember most of the drought and asking my dad, ‘are we ever going to get to watch a playoff game together?’ Hogan said. “I’ll finally get to have that experience with my father that I’ve waited to have all of my life, watching a Buffalo Bills playoff game with the man who taught me the ups and downs of being a Bills fan.”

Watson’s column asks the reader to have “a little perspective.”

As a Pittsburgh Steelers fan from Northwest Pennsylvania, who’s in the past been annoyed by Bills’ fans over-hopefulness and over-emphasis on the team, similarly to Watson, here’s my perspective.

It’s brought a city together, raised money for charity, fostered community, made people happy and bonded families.

At the end of the day, there’s no harm in that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reaction: Stockard-led Bonnies embrace adversity, stun undefeated Maryland

By Josh Svetz

The Bonnies have provided enough highs and lows for a season’s worth of basketball and it’s only been four games.

Tonight was a high, but coming into the contest, most wouldn’t think so.

In fact, the Bonnies would have to overcome hard knocks to achieve any sort of high.

Hours before the game, star guard Jaylen Adams, who has yet to play or practice due to an ankle injury, was ruled out. Junior forward Courtney Stockard was probable, but limited in practice over the week.

Then, as tip-off neared, Bonas fans were left confounded when the official men’s basketball account tweeted that senior Matt Mobley, the Bonnies’ leading scorer, would not start due to being late for a team meeting.

On top of this, Bonas had to contend with the undefeated Maryland Terrapins, a top-20 defensive team featuring several bigs 6-foot-10 and taller alongside two NBA hopefuls, sophomores Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan.

The only way Bonas could hope to sneak out of this game victorious was to take advantage of the Terps’ bottom-200-ranked turnover rate, translating to a turnover every four possessions, and make this game ugly.

That’s exactly what the Bonnies did. They brought the grind to the grinders.

To start, they didn’t let the size difference affect the scoring in the first half.

Bonas deployed a 1-3-1 zone to neutralize talented freshman forward Bruno Fernando and it worked.

Fernando became agitated and frustrated early, taking his head out of the game and mounting up just two points and three rebounds in the first half. While 7-foot-1 senior Michal Cekovsky filled in nicely with nine points, two blocks and two rebounds in the first half, he just didn’t provide the same upside and athleticism of Fernando.

Bonas also capitalized on turnovers, turning eleven first half miscues into twelve points.

The scrappy effort contributed heavily, as Bonas didn’t let the Terps lead by more than four at any time in the first half.

But maybe the number one reason the Bonnies handled their business was their defense.

Forcing turnovers aside, Bonas switched beautifully on screens and closed out on the Terps’ guards. This frustrated the shooters, holding them to 1 of 10 from behind the arc and just 43 percent from the field.

Despite Mobley being held to four points in the first half, everyone else stepped up offensively, with Josh Ayeni, Izaiah Brockington, LaDarien Griffin and Courtney Stockard scoring 24 of the Bonnies’ 30 first-half points.

The Bonnies headed into the locker room down one, but with momentum on their side.

Still, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon may have summed up the situation best in his sideline interview.

“We haven’t made a jump shot, we have eleven turnovers and we’re up one,” Turgeon said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

With obvious adjustments coming for the second half, the Bonnies would need to continue the defensive tenacity and get something out of Mobley to have a chance.

The Terps came out re-energized, opening the second half with a 8-2 run in the first five minutes.

Bonas needed to answer, and with Mobley’s shot not falling, he turned to the free throw line to make a contribution.

Mobley went 10 of 10 from the free throw line, six of those coming in the second half.

But with 11 minutes left, the wheels started to come off.

Down by one, Bonas gave up two three-pointers and an and-one layup in the span of three minutes, trailing 44-52 with eight minutes remaining.

But the Bonnies wouldn’t quit.

Layups by Ayeni, Mobley and Brockington cut the deficit to two, and two free throws from Stockard tied the game at 53.

However, Bonas’ three-point defensive woes reared its ugly head, as Terps’ junior Dion Wiley drained a three.

Both teams traded free throws and Mobley made a layup to make the score 59-57 with two minutes to play.

Mobley then tied the game with two free throws.

The free throw line saved the Bonnies, as 21 of their 63 total points came from the stripe.

Then, the Bonnies caught a break when the Terps’ Jackson missed an open three.

Even with the break, Mobley missed a layup but Ayeni grabbed the offensive board and drew the foul.

Ayeni handled the pressure, draining both free throws, giving the Bonnies a 61-59 lead.

An ill-advised foul by Mobley not only gave the Terps’ Cowan free throws, but also gave him his fifth foul, taking him out of the game.

With no timeouts, Stockard-the highest scorer left in the game-was forced into the spotlight, facing adversity from the tenacious Terps’ defense.

But Stockard is no stranger to adversity.

For two years he’s battled back from foot injuries that ended his season twice. Even before the game, that same type of injury limited him all week in practice. But now, with the game in his hands, this was his moment.

He handled the ball inches in front of the half-court line, cutting to the basket and going up strong to put in the game-winning layup with 3.4 seconds left.

Stockard finished the game with fourteen points.

The Terps turned the ball over and that was it. The Bonnies won, despite everyone counting them out, despite all the adversity.

Stockard scored the game-winner, despite the adversity.

The excitement of this win will be short-lived, though, as they turn around and face TCU for the Emerald Coast Classic championship tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.

But as the glow remains fresh, the Bonnies carry a scrappy nature and underdog mentality, just like their leader tonight.

Bonnies face biggest test with Adams’ availability uncertain

By Josh Svetz 

Editor’s Note: News about Jaylen Adams being ruled out and Courtney Stockard playing came out after the initial posting of this article.

The show must go on.

Today the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team will get its first big TV exposure of the season against the undefeated Maryland Terrapins (5-0) at 9:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

While the exposure invites excitement, one question remains unanswered as game-time looms.

Star senior guard Jaylen Adams has yet to play this season due to an ankle injury he suffered in an exhibition game against Alfred.

While originally expected to be ready for the Emerald Coast Classic, Adams’ lack of practice time over the week has his status tonight in question.

Its no secret that not having Adams changes the game plan for both teams.

But, the show must go on.

If Adams sits, the Bonnies will look to deploy a three-guard lineup with junior Nelson Kaputo sliding into the point guard spot aside seniors Matt Mobley and Idris Taqqee.

Projected next to the three is junior forward LaDarien Griffin and sophomore big Josh Ayeni, who didn’t start last game due to disciplinary reasons.

If Adams is out, the Bonnies will be relying heavily on Mobley’s slashing and three point shooting ability to carry them.

The Preseason All-Conference First Team selection hasn’t missed a beat, averaging 25.0 points per game (ppg), tied for 10th in the NCAA.

Along with Mobley, the Bonnies will need scoring from a combination Kaputo, Griffin and Ayeni.

Kaputo has stepped in for Adams and seems to be getting into a rhythm, improving his stats and efficiency each game.

Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, Kaputo made the most of his 21 minutes scoring 15 points off 50% from the field, notching 5 steals and finishing with no turnovers in a blowout.

Griffin’s been one of the most consistent Bonnies sliding into the Dion Wright role nicely, averaging 8.7 ppg, 7 rebounds and averaging an assist,block and steal per game.

Ayeni’s had an up-and-down campaign so far, scoring 16 points against Jackson State, only to follow that up with no points, and four fouls in nine minutes against Maryland Eastern-Shore. In fact, there’s a chance the Bonnies start fellow sophomore Amadi Ikpeze instead.

In three games, Ikpeze is averaging 4 points and 3 rebounds with a block a game. Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, Ikpeze made the most of his first start of the season scoring 4 points on 2-4 shooting with 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist.

With questions about who’s going to start in the Bonnies lineup, the bench depth could also take a hit as reports say junior forward Courtney Stockard has been limited in practice all week.

On the plus side, the Bonnies may have found a new contributor in freshman forward Tshiefu Ngalakulondi. “Chef” put himself on the radar in style. Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, the Chef scored 21 points off 73% shooting including four threes and three steals and a block.

Of course, that was against Maryland Eastern-Shore, this is against Maryland, the level of competition couldn’t be more different.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see if Head Coach Mark Schmidt decides to give the freshman some added minutes.

While the Bonnies have many question marks, the Terrapins look like a sure thing.

Through five games, the Terrapins have proved to possibly be better than last season with wins over both Bonnies opponents Jackson State and Maryland Eastern-Shore, along with a convincing victory over previously undefeated Butler.

The lead man for the Terrapins is sophomore Anthony Cowan, averaging 14.0 ppg, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

NBA draft hopeful and fellow sophomore Justin Jackson has improved on every number from last season except for scoring at 8.0 ppg.

Along with Cowan, the Terrapins have two players scoring in double-figures, including 6-10 freshman forward Bruno Fernando.

The Terrapins bring pressure and use both their bigs to create turnovers on defense, while also sporting a top-20 scoring defense, holding opponents to 58.4 ppg.

With Adams, the Bonnies will have a better three point scoring team, but rust could affect the star.

Without Adams, the Bonnies will need Kaputo to pick up the slack.

Regardless of who plays, the Bonnies will need to force the Terrapins to shoot from behind the arc, as they shoot just over 37% from the triple, compared to their 52% from the field.

Turnovers could also dictate the game.

In the Terrapins closest win, the Bucknell Bison punished their bigs and set the tempo, limiting the turnovers in the first half, getting out to a 15-point lead. But in the second half, the Terrapins switched to handle the bigs and sped up the Bison’s guards, resulting in a 80-78 win over the Bison.

For Bonas, early in the year they struggled with turnovers against Niagara. To combat the Terrapins’ pressure, they’ll need to slow down the tempo and establish an inside game early to open three pointers for the guards, especially Mobley.

Opening as a nine-point underdog, its hard to tell which Bonnies team will show up tonight.

But one thing is for sure; with or without Adams, the Bonnies are in for a grind.