The Braves are missed, but they saved us more heartbreak



Us younger Buffalo folk have often heard our older counterparts wax nostalgic about this town's NBA days, about the Braves, Bob McAdoo, Randy Smith, Jack Ramsay, and so on and so forth. (Yes, I still consider myself young at 33. All you kids laughing: I know all of your names and your parents will be getting a call from me!)

Young and old, I'm sure we'd all be big Braves supporters if they hadn't danced off into the Southern California sunset back in the seventies.

But we'd be setting ourselves up for the usual heartbreak if they'd stayed, and LeBron James' steel-toed crack into Cleveland's rusted ribs is the proof.

James, an Ohio native, handled the situation as well as NBC dealt with Leno and Conan. But his arrogance and selfish sideshow are indicative of today's NBA player, whose desire to win has long since been supplanted by his insatiable need for bling, clubs, 24-hour media attention, warm weather and bikini chicks.

Western New York has very little of that stuff. Guys like James, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul and Amar'e Stoudemire crave it as if it's a life-sustaining sustenance—need it as badly as trailer trash needs to watch Maury; as badly as young couples need to post images of their pets and newborns on Facebook. Even if the Braves of 2010 drafted, developed and paid them hand over fist, they'd see Buffalo as purgatory, having no stage in which to flaunt their embarassment of riches. Just imagine them trying to fathom the idea of playing second and third fiddle to Bills and, worse yet, Sabres players! Having guys like that deal a classless, unecessary body blow like "The Decision" to my already battered adopted hometown would push me over the edge.

We've had enough of those to last several lifetimes. But that's the reality Cavs fans have been living with for a month now, and we'd be signing up for the same type of petulance and disrespect by inviting today's NBA superstar to town.

So long, Braves. Everytime we wonder what could've been, think of the sorry LeBron saga.

*I'm glad Angola native Pat Kaleta signed a deal with the Sabres, thereby avoiding arbitration, and here's hoping South Buffalo boy Tim Kennedy does the same. Arbitration pits you and your agent, extolling why you should earn more than you're being paid, against the team that owns your rights, which looks you in the eye and tells you coldly why they don't want to pay it. How's that ever going to end well for either side? You can bet Danny Briere's decision to leave the team in July 2007 was made at least a year earlier, when the organization allowed his case to head to arbitration.

*The Bills weren't getting much love from NFL power rankings heading into training camp, and what's worse, they're getting as much buzz as "An Evening With Zamfir" at CBGB in the late 70s would've. One ranking that came out had Buffalo at No. 30, narrowly beating out the St. Louis Rams. Why, though, do we just blindly accept these silly July power rankings as gospel? Do you really think guys like Peter King, John Clayton and the rest of the lot know that much more about the NFL than you do? The NFL is the least predictable of the four major sports, and many seemingly solid August predictions get blown to smithereens by early October. It's important to remember that more than anything else, these rankings give pundits a chance to prejudge the type of jocks whose incessant wedgies and swirlies made their high school years a living hell.

*NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora reported that free agent guard Chester Pitts visited Buffalo this Monday, and also had plans to dish with Pittsburgh, Seattle and Denver in the days ahead. The optimist in me who relishes spending other people's money says to offer him a deal and introduce some competition into a subpar offensive line corps. The realist in me, however, worries he'd just be the next Bennie Anderson or Langston Walker. There must be a compelling reason why the Texans weren't falling over themselves to keep him in Houston.

*Now for some cheap, childish gloating. If you didn't hear, the Western Team emerged as the top team in this year's Empire State Games. Congratulations  to our athletes; we are proud. As for the rest of the state, I point a derisive index finger and offer "You! You! You!"

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