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Ranking NFL venues, the Stadium Journey way

From time to time, you can find in your news feed some article trumping out “the best NFL stadium” or “Ranking the best and worst”. If you’re a stadium enthusiast, these will always make for interesting reads.

But in many cases, they’re also nonsense. And downright embarrassing at times, none more so than an article of this type that actually made it to the pages of USA Today this past October. Look closely and you’ll find that the misinformed writer assigned no actual scoring or metrics to his choices of what he deems to be the best, and the worst, stadium in the NFL, and everything in between. For example, NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, came in at 17th. Why, you wonder? The writer states, “My goodness is that a horrible name for a stadium, though I guess coming from a city that once had Enron Field, it could be worse.” That’s it. That’s all. So there you go.

Then there’s Stadium Journey.

If you haven’t heard of this media entity, you’re missing out. With a phalanx of writers scattered throughout North America and even beyond, the site is an aggregate of helpful and interesting information about sports venues everywhere. I have been affiliated with Stadium Journey for a number of years, keeping tabs on our sports palaces close to home, and from time to time, submitting profiles gleaned from our Ultimate Sports Road Trip travels.

stadiumjourney-193x67Stadium Journey has just released its annual rankings of the 31 NFL Stadiums and the experiences they offer. But unlike some of the write ups you stumble across, these rankings come to you thanks to the painstaking evaluation and review of writers from each of the cities that are profiled. Most of them have stellar credentials as accomplished sports travel enthusiasts, possess superior writing skills, and take the business of scoring and presenting their venue very seriously. Additionally, all the stadiums are re visited and re scored at the minimum of once every two years, so that information and data is fresh and relevant.

My contribution to this year’s roster of NFL venues and their scores is our very own Ralph Wilson Stadium. The longtime home of the Buffalo Bills landed at 19th of 31 once the scores were tallied. What places The Ralph at this level, being an aging though still (barely) functional stadium is the incredible tailgating scene, one of the absolute best in the NFL. Secondly, Buffalo’s unofficial anthem, the beloved Shout song, has endured for three decades and is as much a part of Buffalo as the chicken wing. What sunk Buffalo’s score is the location, sitting amidst 200 acres of asphalt in a manicured suburb, and the lack of access by anything other than private transportation.

And this year’s (returning) champ? Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. And why not! With a superb location on the edge of a bustling downtown core, endless pre and post game food, drink and entertainment options, a building with a retractable roof and retractable end zone wall, abundant space for tailgating, and suitable for a myriad of events far beyond 10 days of football. Indianapolis’ gleaming playpen offers exactly the template for Buffalo’s future stadium plans, and they managed to fund and build it at a comparatively reasonable cost.

So there you have it. Click on the rankings, then click through to your favorite stadium and check out everything from the food to the tailgating to the prices to the extras. It’s a fun site to visit again and again.

Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell cover the NHL Buffalo Sabres and AAA Buffalo Bisons for Artvoice

Buffalo Bills… The Most Misbehaved Fans Ever?

BillsgamedayFrom time to time, dramatic stories emerge of some horrific happening surrounding a sporting event. At Dodger Stadium, a fan wearing San Francisco Giants gear is attacked and maimed. In Europe, soccer hooliganism is legendary and infamous, and even today, stadiums are designed to cordon off “away” fans from the home team supporters.

Yet right here, in Buffalo, the community known as “The City of Good Neighbors” is getting yet another black eye, as awful video taken in the parking lot of Ralph Wilson Stadium this past Sunday, has hit several sport media blogs and has gone viral.

The video depicts a fan, dressed in Bills garb, literally setting himself on fire, while nearby people, almost all male, all wearing Bills gear, and almost all holding a cup in their hands, presumably containing alcohol, cheer the nitwit on.

Thing is, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Occurrences of fan misbehavior, with alcohol and even drug use fueling the bad acts, has become all too common on game day Sundays in Orchard Park. And it has even resulted in death.
In 2012, a drunken fan was ejected from Ralph Wilson Stadium at a night game in November. From the parking lot, he texted his brother and friends as to the post game meet up spot. Nobody heard from him again and his body was found the next day, face down in a shallow stream a half mile from the stadium.

Then in 2014, another fan decided to slide down the bannister along the upper deck of the sideline balcony. He slipped and fell more than 30 feet, severely injuring another fan who had the misfortune of being in exactly in the wrong spot when the individual hit the ground.

It gets worse. Throughout the season, the public has been deluged with stories in the sports media, most with accompanying videos, of the mayhem happening around Ralph Wilson Stadium; fans dropping off an RV and smashing a table. A couple having sex. Men binge drinking out of long funnels. A bat spin contest involving another drunk fan gone horribly wrong. And each time a video like this goes internet viral, it casts the entire community of Buffalo and Erie County in a horrible light on the national stage.

Are Buffalo fans the worst fans in the NFL when it comes to proper conduct? More on that in a bit.

But to understand the very DNA of the Bills stadium, one has to go all the way back to 1973, when a shiny new stadium then named Rich Stadium opened its doors for the very first time. From 1960 to 1972, the Bills played in a crumbling and decrepit stadium on the city’s east side. Back then, urban flight to the suburbs was in full gear, the neighborhood surrounding “The Old Rockpile” was not safe, especially with race riots going on during a very unstable societal era in our history. So when fans went out to Orchard Park for the very first time in 1973, it was a little slice of heaven.

There was a bright and new stadium in an upscale suburb, surrounded by hundreds of acres of asphalt, where people could come and bring their grills and coolers and safely tailgate and soak in the game day experience.

Tailgate they did, and then came the alcohol. Hard to believe in the era we live in today, that fans could actually carry coolers into the stadium back then. Beer, flasks, hard liquor. It all became an essential part of a day (or night) at a Bills game.

That first night game occurred in 1974, Buffalo’s debut on ABC’s Monday Night Football. The spectacle soon turned ugly, with one fan attempting to do a high wire act across the cable holding up an end zone net. There were multiple cases of fans running onto the field, and back then TV cameras lapped up such scenes, providing said hooligans their 30 seconds of fame. Dozens of fan fights broke in the stands, with green jacketed security people overwhelmed just trying to keep up. Buffalo’s national TV debut on ABC’s wildly popular Monday night show was an embarrassing one, with commentators “Dandy” Don Meredith and Howard Cosell rebuking the Buffalo fans for their poor conduct. The appalling scenes playing out that night even made it to a story in Sports Illustrated.

The in stadium violence went on an on. For decades. Bills management beefed up security, but did little to actually stem fan violence and stop miscreant fans from entering the stadium until just the past few years. Part of the charm of attending a Bills game was not only watching the action on the field, but the fights in the stands. You could set your watch to the inevitability that several melees would take place, especially in the end zone directly underneath the Bills scoreboard.

So back to the main question – are the Bills fans the worst in the NFL when it comes to fan conduct?

This is a very much subjective analysis, culled from our multiple visits to all 31 stadiums in the league, and additionally, games attended at almost 50 separate FBS division 1 college football venues. But based on those experiences, the answer has to be a definitive “Yes”.

Simply put, this sort of despicable behavior does not occur with regularity at any other NFL venue. Not in Philadelphia or Oakland, two cities most noted for their rabid fans and hostility to fans of visiting teams. At the Linc in Philly, tailgating involving open beverage containers and grills is limited to one section of the parking lots. Patrolling and controlling any bad behavior becomes much easier with a smaller footprint. Over in Oakland, several losing seasons has turned “The Black Hole” into a pretty docile place.

Looking at teams noted for their robust tailgate scene – in Green Bay, it seems like the entire state of Wisconsin descends on the small town on football Sundays. There is spirit and camaraderie in the air, fans and even kids are having fun, visitors are warmly welcomed. The entire streetscape feels more like an American Legion summer picnic. Same in Kansas City, where their newly refurbished stadium sits amidst a sea of parking, and the local folks are having fun in a well behaved manor.

Over at Houston’s NRG Stadium, the team actually has a kids area with bounce houses, other rides and a play area to make the tailgate scene family friendly. Guest relations associates with the Texans front office ride around the lots in golf carts, delivering prizes to the best decorated vehicles. Radio stations broadcast from outside the stadium gates. The entire set up is geared towards family fun.

In urban settings, the tailgating is more muted and subdued, just due to lack of large surface parking infrastructure. In places such as New Orleans, Seattle, Indianapolis and Detroit, people tailgate. But fans can also enjoy pre and post game at one of the many bars and bistros offering game day pub fare and drinks specials, or gather in a public area for live music and entertainment. At the Eastern Market near Detroit’s Ford Field, thousands of tailgaters gather amidst old historic buildings and warehouses. It’s an ocean of fun. Nobody is belly flopping off of roofs, nobody is engaging in a sexual act, nobody is imbibing from a funnel, and certainly, nobody is lighting himself on fire.
Well, it looks like Buffalo citizens have had enough, and are demanding that something be done. Social media threads, and responses to news articles about the situation, have been jam packed with people’s own stories of their experiences with violent and boorish behavior. The refrain is very similar – fans who gave up going to games years ago because a few miscreants ruined the experience for everybody, tales of drunkenness and vomit, many saying they would never expose children to such a spectacle.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has taken notice. Poloncarz was handily re-elected to his job this past November, and the county he runs is the owner of the stadium and landlord to the Bills. An avid writer on social media, Poloncarz yesterday commented, “Everyone has a role in making the ‪#‎Bills‬ game day experience a great one for all. We are better than what we’ve seen recently.” Speaking to the media, Poloncarz promised action, even if to bring the New York State Police in and to possibly step up patrolling of private lots. He minced no words, calling this sort of behavior “the laughing stock of idiocy”.

But will that be enough? Many of those in Buffalo who attend the games and enjoy tailgating in a respectful manor are now expressing fear that the team might take the extreme step of shutting down tailgating altogether. Many private lots surrounding the stadium do offer tailgating venues, however, and closing down tailgates on those private lands would require ordinance changes by the Orchard Park Town Board.

And there is some pushback. One obscure blogger penned “an open letter to Mark Poloncarz” defending the behavior and spectacle Buffalo Bills patrons all been witness to, and suggesting that Poloncarz come join his tailgate and have a beer. Incredibly, this knucklehead said that he doesn’t take his young children to the games, but if he did, and he happened across two people having sex right in front of him and his kids, he would simply turn the other way. Wow. Just wow.

In the end, there are no easy answers or solutions to this problem. Except that law enforcement and team management has to take more stringent matters to crack down on the small number of people who make things miserable for everybody. If it means expelling fans from stadium property, from doing random breathalyzers at the gates to anyone even carrying a container of alcohol, to doubling and even tripling the number of ushers and security at every section, then so be it.

The Buffalo Bills will be entering year four of a ten year lease with Erie County to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and there has already been significant discussion and community debate on the long term home of the Bills – whether it be a new stadium downtown or a complete overhaul of the current home, to another option elsewhere. As a community Buffalo has one generational opportunity to get this right. Poloncarz has taken a wise approach about moving slowly, mindful of the community’s financial situation and lack of political will to publicly fund an expensive new stadium. Bills owner Terry Pegula has indicated that at the appropriate time the organization will make plans for its future home, but there is no immediate rush to do so.

Whatever the outcome of this debate, implementing a place of safety, positive fan spirit, a collegial atmosphere, and a center of community pride, rather than community shame and embarrassment, now becomes part of this discussion. The people of Buffalo deserve better. They are a proud community and Buffalo and Erie County is a great place to call home, and it’s getting better by the day. And the overwhelming sentiment in Buffalo today amongst fans is that enough is enough. Bills Nation and Bills Mafia are ready to take back their game day. Stay tuned.

Artvoice sportswriters Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell have traveled to all 31 NFL stadiums as part of their Ultimate Sports Road Trip project which has taken them to hundreds of different sporting events at venues throughout North America and Europe. Find their web site at

Canalside Summer Concerts… Time To Think Big

This past week the Buffalo Common Council passed a non binding resolution recommending that the highly popular concert series at Canalside be relocated from the Central Wharf to another venue. Cited points surrounding the resolution include increased traffic, noise and complaints from the nearby Marine Drive apartment tenants.

The public backlash to posted news stories from major media outlets, and threads on social media posts, has been shrill, and in some cases very nasty. Common Council members have been derided, name calling towards the tenants at Marine Drive, as if their lower social and economic status somehow diminishes their rights. Most commenters think that the location, configuration and substance of the current concert series is just fine and should remain as is.

It is convoluted thinking.

First of all, Canalside is not a park. Let me repeat this… Canalside IS NOT A PARK. Every blade of grass down there is a development parcel. As is that massive crater in the north Aud block immediately adjacent to the faux historically-aligned canals. This is all codified in the Canalside Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) which was hammered together by many diverse stakeholders and the public and took years to achieve. The MGPP envisions a dense, vibrant setting of mixed use structures reminiscent of the old canal era. There are some projects in the pipeline, including the Explore and More Children’s Museum and Hofbrauhaus USA, although, following the typical ECHDC playbook, these structures’ development timelines are being stretched further into the future again and again.

But the sad consequence of this “lighter, quicker, cheaper” way of thinking, the snake oil which was sold to the public for a hefty six figure consulting fee, has been the evolution of Canalside into a space of flexible lawns, colorful chairs, kanjam and ping pong, and sandy play spaces. The actual “development” of permanent structures by the ECH Development C has consisted of a snack shack and nothing more.

The concerts have become so popular that they are now straining the space. Think about it – the stage brought in is a temporary one; the sound system is temporary. The port a potties are temporary. The food trucks roll in, and then they leave. And when summer turns to fall, everything is put away for the cold weather. This past summer the lawns have been wrecked repeatedly, the infrastructure is suffering damage from the strain of too many people converging on too small a space which was not initially configured as a pure concert venue. The Canalside concert series has become a victim of its own success.

So what do do?

Time to think big.

Rather than gnashing our collective teeth about the mere thought of moving those concerts away from its current stop gap venue, we need to be rethinking about Canalside and laying out its overdue development future. As for the concerts, it’s time to build a permanent concert facility and amphitheater elsewhere on the waterfront. It should be a facility with some fixed seating and standing areas, resplendent views of our water, permanent concession facilities, lighting and sound systems, and permanent washroom facilities.RiverloopAmphitheater_WaterlooCVB

Where to locate it? I am not a planner, so it’s not my call. LaSalle Park seems woefully underutilized and could be reconstituted for just such a concert configuration if laid out right. The Outer Harbor offers a myriad of opportunities, although access is still an issue, and we have yet move as a community to plan, fund and build even one bridge to move people and cars out there. The Broderick Park alternative mentioned in the Common Council resolution seems ill conceived. Simply returning it to Lafayette Square? Hmm.tuscaloosa-amphitheater

Nonetheless, with the success of the Canalside concert series, and more and more people discovering the entertainment and recreation opportunities that access to our waterfront offers, this is exactly the right time to start discussions for a top of the line and permanent outdoor stage and concert facility that will house and present summer concert programming for the long term.

Canalside and the Central Wharf is not the answer for summer concerts. Time to get plans laid out, developers lined up, and shovels in the ground for all the Canalside parcels. That is Buffalo’s future, not to settle for “lighter, quicker, cheaper” along with the voodoo of flexible lawns, triangulation and the Power of 10.

A Bills road trip to London… and much more!

Filed under: Sports

When the NFL announced that the Buffalo Bills would be participating in the league’s International Series in London in 2015, our first reaction was, “let’s go”.

After all, our Ultimate Sports Road Trip odyssey has taken us to Europe on three previous occasions.

Artvoice writers Andrew and Peter join up with our gracious British host and Buffalo super fan Chris Boyes at Molineux Stadium in 2010.

Artvoice writers Andrew and Peter join up with our gracious British host and Buffalo super fan Chris Boyes at Molineux Stadium in 2010.

In 2010 we traveled to the United Kingdom to do our first NFL game at Wembley Stadium, and to see our favorite British soccer football team, the Wolverhampton Wanderers, give a beatdown to the powerhouse Manchester City team in their home stadium, Molineux. It was our first ever taste of big league Euro soccer and it was epic.

In 2011, we traveled with the Buffalo Sabres as they opened their season in Berlin and Helsinki, with a preseason stop in Mannheim, Germany. With stops in the Bundesliga to catch matches in Dortmund and Hannover, another great trip full of adventures and memories.

Two years later, the USRT flew in to Munich, watched Bayern Muenchen at Allianz Arena, a side trip to Basel and Bern, Switzerland, up to Dortmund, Germany, and then the Eurostar through the Chunnel and over to Manchester. Sporting events all along the way.

So here we are, and it seems like #BillsNation and #BillsMafia will be well represented in London in just two weeks. But because we roll in a different way, we have added four soccer matches – two in the English Premier League and two in the second tier Championship League, as well as a match in the British Hockey League featuring the Sheffield Steelers. Add a quick flight over to Dublin, Ireland, for a couple days to soak in the culture, the architecture and the ethnic heritage, and this has the makings of a great trip.

Joining us for a large portion of the trip will be Nate Neuman, well known around the city as a political activist and urban activist, taking time off from his job in the city’s Office of Strategic Planning. Nate’s friend Jen Levanduski will be flying in from San Francisco to join us for the Bills game at Wembley. And of course our long time friend Chris Boyes from Wakefield, England, who bleeds Bills red white and blue from his home 4000 miles away will be accompanying us as well, and was of great help with tickets and logistics for planning this trip.

usrt3 We plan to soak it all in as the countdown to the game on Sunday begins, and hopefully will file reports here on Artvoice Daily as to some of the sights and scenes from the streets of London and the fans who made the trip.

Departure is set for this Thursday, and game one of the six game odyssey begins Saturday at The Etihad in Manchester. As for the Buffalo Sabres and Puck Stop, we will be sidelined for a bit, but plan to keep the seat warm and coverage intact even from the road.

Cheers from across the Pond, and follow along as we will provide updates on Twitter.

Follow Andrew @akulykUSRT

Follow Peter @pfarrellUSRT

Sabres goal song – a big hit

For two periods last night, the Buffalo Sabres’ “Next Chapter” looked a lot like the Last Chapter… a quiet and unmotivated crowd, a team trying to find its footing, and the visiting Ottawa Senators nursing what looked like an insurmountable 2-0 lead.

It all changed in the third period, when Jack Eichel lit the lamp for his first NHL goal. It was beauty when he launched a wrister from the slot, and that gave the team, and the sellout crowd at First Niagara Center, a much needed spark.

And then the Goal Song.

Everyone was waiting to hear the winner of the fan voting for the new Sabres song, done over a two week period, bracketology style on the team’s web site. We reported on the contest in last week’s print edition of Artvoice.

And the winner is? “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool. Our guess at the outset of the voting was that this song would be an early casualty, a beat and vibe more suited to a stage in the NBA than to the game of hockey.

No matter. The song spun. And the game events crew spliced the song up to capture the best parts within the song, and ran it just long enough to keep the crowd, and the players, pumped, all culminating with the cry of “Let me hear some no-i-i-i-ise!” The fans gleefully obliged.

The song was jammed again when Evander Kane scored what looked like the tying goal just a minute later. But a goal challenge was called by the Ottawa bench, and Sabres player Zemgus Girgensons was offsides. No goal. Still 2-1 Ottawa, and an empty netter with about a minute to go would seal a 3-1 win for the Sens.

“This is the loudest I’ve hear this building in over two years,” said Marcus Foligno in the dressing room after the game. “It was good to see the fans so enthusiastic and raising the roof with all the noise”, added Girgensons. Just walking around the dressing room after the game and listening in on many of the player interviews, the feedback from just about everyone was that the crowd was about as jacked and electric as hasn’t happened, well, at least since the last time the Sabres made the playoffs. And that was way back in 2011.

So DJ Kool it is. Looks like the front office, the game night crew, and the fans, have found themselves a winner.

Devo drops in at Coca Cola Field

Filed under: Sports

With interest and excitement in the fortunes of the Toronto Blue Jays off the charts right about now, who better to get takes from than former Jay center fielder Devon White, who dropped by the Buffalo Bisons game at Coca Cola Field last night to do a bit of a good will tour, sign a few baseballs as part of the team’s mystery ball promotion, make an appearance on the radio broadcast and meet with team officials and media.

White was a mainstay of those Blue Jays teams which won World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. He had a post season average of .336 in those two playoff runs and won five Gold Gloves during his tenure with the Jays. Today he works with the Jay Care foundation and travels as an ambassador for the team, and is very connected with the doings up in Toronto.

Right from the get go, White made it clear about this year’s potential postseason up in Toronto. “I’m getting calls asking, ‘can you get me tickets?’ And I am saying NO,” White quipped, referencing the demand for game tickets which is now filling the Rogers Centre game after game. Post season tickets promise to be a hot commodity this October should the Jays reach the postseason.

“I don’t think its fair to compare this year’s team to ours,” said White. “This is a strong offensive team, and they have a real good team. We expect a lot from them in terms of expectations. You don’t play to just get in the playoffs. You play to win your division. I think the Yankees see that we are serious.”

There’s a definite feeling of nostalgia for the 90s glory years all around Toronto. “The fans are definitely getting on the bandwagon, one might say,” said White. “Its been twenty years. It’s good for the players. They understand. And they get that feeling going to the ballpark every day that they need to perform.”

White was asked about the Jays’ affiliation with the Buffalo Bisons, now in its third season. “I look at it and ask, why didn’t that happen sooner? I think its a good relationship and should be a long relationship.

White makes his home in South Florida, and travels for the team assisting in good will capacities and with Jay Care. Be sure that Devo and many of his 90s teammates will be in the stands and in the stadium come October, offering whatever karma and vibe they can toward’s the team’s success.

The Bisons have just six home games remaining this season, with a Fridaynightbash set for tonight, and concluding with fan appreciation day and fireworks next Wednesday. They face Scranton/WilkesBarre five more times, the team they are chasing for the North Division pennant. The team needs to pretty much run the table the rest of the way to have any chance for a post season berth.

Eichel: “Buffalo I’m Coming For Ya”

h_butoday_IMG_2835Jack Eichel had his coming out party to the Buffalo media and public yesterday, just hours after signing an entry level contract and officially becoming a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

It was a packed gallery at the First Niagara Center, with more than a few fans and passersby peering through the windows in the arena pavilion trying to get a glimpse of Buffalo’s future superstar. He said all the right things, saying how great Buffalo is a city, challenging himself by stating that he still needs to earn a spot on the team, and politely referring to Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray as “Mr. Murray”.

So the entire exchange yesterday just begged the question.. what about the video?

We all remember the video clip that went viral on YouTube last winter. It showed Jack Eichel, presumably at a party and having a good time, then exclaiming the words, “Buffalo I’m coming for Ya”, before taking a swig of his Bud Light. Let’s not even raise the issue that Eichel is 18 years old and the legal drinking age is 21.

The video became quite the sensation. At that time, the Sabres were well on their way to the bottom of the standings, and a 20% chance to secure the top pick in the NHL draft. Which would also translate into an 80% chance of getting the second pick. Conventional wisdom had McDavid going first and Eichel going second.

Were the planets aligning, and did Eichel sense at the time that Buffalo would be his ultimate destination?

Eichel grimaced a bit, but then caught his sense of composure and replied, “It was a spur of the moment video.” He then added, “More of the sense that I wanted to be a part of this organization, all the pieces fell the way I wanted to and I couldn’t be more happy with the situation I’m in.”

And that was that. Next question.

Remembering the “Mayor of Coca Cola Field”

Filed under: Sports
Tonight's moment of silence and tribute to "The Mayor"

Tonight’s moment of silence and tribute to “The Mayor”

It seems that everyone connected with the Buffalo Bisons has a story about Frank Mooney, the 93 year old beloved account executive who worked for the team for over a quarter century.

Frank passed away yesterday, and his departure made it a very sad day at the ballpark, as fans, stadium employees and front office coworkers reminisced about the man who many called “The Mayor of Coca Cola Field”.

I have my own story, and it goes back to 1989, the second year of the new downtown ballpark. I was a season ticket holder, sharing the seats in 113-V with two associates with what was a three way split of 24 games each. Like many, we anticipated that the arrival of Major League Baseball expansion to Buffalo was an inevitability, and we wanted to have the rights to those prime locations in the special reserved section once that MLB team came.

So here was the issue…Two season ticket holders who sat to our right at the end of our row were smokers. Heavy smokers. As in, light one cigarette off the previous one. Back then smoking was allowed in the seating bowl, and my mom, who herself was an ex-smoker and throat cancer survivor, was heavily affected by second hand smoke. It got to the point where she would have to stop attending games because of the deluge of nasty cigarette smoke.

So I contacted the Bisons. And at the next game who came to greet us and ascertain the problem but Frank Mooney himself. He actually sat with us for three innings and got the smoke barrage first hand and saw how bothersome it was. “Let’s see what I can do,” said Frank.

The solution came quickly enough… a week later he permanently relocated us to 109-G, and now we were in shouting distance of the batter’s circle. Upgrading these seats was no small feat in those days.. the Bisons had 9000 season ticket holders and all those infield special reserved seats were spoken for.

Frank would come by and visit from time to time… he got to know my mom, and they would talk about the second world war, she, a scared young girl growing up in Berlin, Germany as the bombs and war arrived at her doorstep. He, a soldier in the US Navy serving in the pacific, sharing his own tales of bravery, combat, and the things he experienced.

I became a member of the Bisons media corps in 2004 writing for Artvoice, and got to run into Frank all the time. He was always around, or so it seemed, with a warm greeting and often a good story to tell. The Bisons could not have had a finer ambassador.

At tonight’s doubleheader at Coca Cola Field, I departed the press box after the first game had concluded, to sit in the seats behind home plate, to stand in tribute and a moment of silence with the fans and the stadium employees, and remember Frank. And as I reflected, it hit me that going to Bisons games is far more than just enjoying the games. Being in the media is far more than a primo seat in the press box and getting to hob nob with players and the manager for interviews and such. It is being touched by some truly extraordinary people. Frank Mooney fits into that class.

Farewell Frank. Thanks for your camaraderie. I am a better person to have known you.

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