Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chuck the Writer Gets "Respect" at Trivia Night

I've cut my trivia night particpiation down to twice a week - Tuesday night at Pizzeria Uno in Crossgates Mall, and Wednesday night at Brown's Brewing in Troy. Tuesday night I'm a solo lone wolf, Wednesday nights I have my teammates Mark and Jennie, but both nights I'm the "Street Academy" team, named after my old high school.

While I finally took my first win at Uno Tuesday night (and the $50 gift card that goes with it), Street Academy at Brown's is becoming an unstoppable force. With the ability to win bar tabs for 1st and 2nd place, as well as beer and food prizes for winning each round, Street Academy has decimated the opposition, taking three 1st places and three 2nd places in the past six weeks.

And after playing at Brown's for the past six months, I finally got something along the equivalency of "respect."

Here's the thing. When I started playing competitive bar trivia in 2005, the top team was "Lynch's Mob." They had won the first two Albany "Trivia Bowls," and their team won nearly every night. With that, they often earned a chorus of boos and jeers even at the host's mention of their name. They were the New York Yankees of competitive team trivia in Albany.

I show up with my little one-man operation, and in the first week, take a third place prize. Before long, I was able to catch some wins here and there, along with a lot of "How do you know those answers" and "Why don't you come over and join our team, we never win and we would like to win once in a while, give us the answers" and "God damn, Street Academy won again, how the hell does he do it" responses.

In the 2006 Trivia Bowl, I joined up with another team, Tres Hombres, in an attempt to dethrone the vaunted Lynch's Mob. We did quite well in the Trivia Bowl preliminaries, to the point when the captain of Tres Hombres, Dan Smith, went out at halftime for a smoke, some other teams came out and yelled at him for his team hiring a "ringer." A ringer? Moi?

During the Trivia Bowl, the combined Tres Hombres / Street Academy team were booed and jeered almost as loud as what Lynch's Mob received. Dan explained to me that he thought it was great, because booing means respect.

So what would happen at various trivia locations is that I would win (or at least show a solid run) and teams would boo me. They would grumble and snarl and chant "You Suck, Street Academy!" I would simply take the food prize or gift certificate and respond with a "Whoo!!!" that would make Ric Flair proud.

I say that story to background this story.

Last night at Brown's, my three-person Street Academy team of myself, Mark and Jennie, had won gift certificates for the past five weeks (two 1st places and three 2nd places). We didn't win the first round last night, but one of the teams that did had rebranded themselves as "Street Academy, Part Deux."

A-ha... I can dig that. I could use some motivation.

Another team, upon arriving at Brown's that night, saw me and said, "Hey Street, we brought our friends, we're going to beat you tonight!"

I can dig that too. More motivation for me.

Of course we eventually nailed several rounds, and the host announced that "Street Academy - The Originals," had won the night and another $50 bar tab. Yes me likey this place!

And after the game, as I'm heading back to my car, I meet up with the team that said they were going to beat me. "We'll get you next time, Street Academy."

I wished them luck - let them know my name was Chuck (it's like going up to Pink Floyd and asking which one of them was Pink) - and then got ready for another round next week.

Respect earned again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chuck the Writer finally gets THE PHOTO

Originally uploaded by chuckthewriter
In March 2008, I was at the PBL basketball finals between Rochester and Arkansas. At some point in the first quarter of the game, Rochester's Keith Friel went up for a basket, the ball didn't go through the cylinder, but Sammy Monroe and James "Mook" Reaves both went up to the rim for the putback - only to yank down the hoop in shards of glass. Players ran for cover, and some of the glass shards went into Mook Reaves' eye, almost blinding him.

I missed that photo. And I drove home cursing my Nikon D70 for missing the shot.

This year, Rochester was again in the PBL finals, this time facing Battle Creek. In the first quarter, Sammy Monroe made a steal and was ready to execute a two-hand reverse jam. He slammed the ball through the hoop - and the glass cascaded down again, almost drowning Battle Creek's Kenny Langhorne in shards. Langhorne was only slightly damaged, he finished the game.

And this time, I got the photo. And I take back every curse I ever made about my Nikon D70.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another photo from Chuck the Writer

Originally uploaded by chuckthewriter
I didn't get to see much of Battle Creek this season (heck, they only did one East Coast trip), but I did get plenty of shots, including this nice slam dunk.

Chuck the Writer's favorite PBL photo of 2009

Originally uploaded by chuckthewriter
Probably my favorite photo from the 2009 PBL season. I had to get special permission from the security staff at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester to allow me to shoot from the catwalk, directly over the hoop. Really fun stuff.

Chuck the Writer and the Pontiac 6000

So I've got my final PBL road trip of the season, going to Rochester Sunday for the PBL finals between the Rochester Razorsharks and the Battle Creek Knights, one game, winner takes all.

And in order to make sure there weren't any issues with me getting to the finals, I had my Pontiac 6000 over at DePaula Chevrolet for its annual NYS inspection.

Well... during the three-month season, with all my road trips to Montreal and Quebec and New Hampshire and Vermont and Rochester and Buffalo, I subjected my car to two oil changes, a transmission fluid change, headlight replacement and about three "little tree" air fresheners.

But when I took the car to my dealership for its inspection, apparently there were a few other things that needed to be taken care of. Like a coolant leak. And a transmission fluid leak. And a water pump replacement. And a blower fan replacement. Oh hell, I just threw in a pair of windshield wipers to make the day complete.

Bottom line - the car still runs, and I'm not giving it up any time soon. Yeah, it would have been SO nice to trade in the 6000 and walk out of there with may be a canary yellow '04 GTO with black racing stripes. But in this economy, can I really afford to purchase a new car?

Especially when my old car still runs, and just needs minor maintenance here and there?

And like I've said in the past - it's a Pontiac, manufactured in a factory in Oklahoma City by men and women earning a union wage and providing for their families. Better that I keep this car running and operational, than turn around and make car payments on a new vehicle.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chuck the Writer mourns the loss of Harry Kalas

So I'm reading one of my favorite weblogs, Can't Stop the Bleeding, and I came across a post that saddened me. Harry Kalas, the stentorian radio voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, passed away at the age of 73.

I was never a Phillies fan per se, but I appreciated Kalas' clear, slow dictation and concise descriptions of the action on the field. Sometimes I wished that there could have been a trade that sent Kalas to the Yankees in exchange for John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman and a crate of potato chips, but I digress.

It was Kalas, in fact, who inspired me during the 2007-08 CBA basketball season. At the time, the Albany Patroons were about to start their third game of the regular season, and all of a sudden someone noticed that the people who normally staff the scoring table had not shown up (there were some issues regarding who was getting paid or how much or whatnot). Instantly the Pats' GM at the time scrambled to staff the table, or else the Patroons would have to forfeit the contest.

At that moment, I stepped to the plate - er - to the microphone, and became, for a while, the team's public address announcer. Mind you, I had some prior radio and broadcast experience, so there was no problem with me taking the mic in that situation. However, I should let you know that the Patroons' home building, the Washington Avenue Armory, has enough echo throughout the building that if you talk very fast into the microphone, the audience will only hear your voice - and not the words. That's me in the center of the broadcast table, in the photo to the left.

So I did the PA announcing in the style of Harry Kalas - slow and deliberate, making sure every player's name on both teams' rosters were pronounced correctly. I didn't drift into the Ray Clay Chicago Bulls territory, but I did get the crowd revved up for the game - even when Albany's local player, Lucious Jordan, drained a 3-pointer or two - after his third 3-pointer, I said that the shot came "all the way from Lark Street," the cross-street adjacent to the Armory.

I did about 12 games as the substitute PA announcer that season for the Patroons, until they eventually hired another announcer to take over the microphone (I would later act as his replacement when his schedule had conflicts). Honestly, it was fun, it was great, and If I didn't follow the dictation and eloqution style of Harry Kalas, I would have been punted out of the table in a heartbeat.

Anyways... Thanks so much, Harry Kalas, for being a true voice of baseball - and for being a true voice in broadcasting.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chuck the Writer gets some props from a PBL team

The Vermont Frost Heaves of the Premier Basketball League finished their season with a very respectable 15-5 record, and an appearance in the PBL Play-In playoff game. During the PBL season, I photographed seven of the Frost Heaves' games - four at the Barre Municipal Auditorium, one at their other home venue, the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, and two road games (in Montreal and in Manchester). The Frost Heaves are owned by Alexander Wolff, one of the top writers for Sports Illustrated.

So it was a surprise to me when I did my morning google news search and pulled up this article from the Barre Montpelier Times Argus. Actually, let me get the paragraph that really made my day:
"The thing I was most pleased with was the tightness of control on how teams performed as businesses," Wolff said. "We had virtually weekly conference calls in-season that were largely devoted to making sure everybody was operating from the same page. There were some glitches early in the season that got worked out for the most part, and the PBL weekly reports that Chuck Miller would do were terrific. Pro basketball at this level has always had its challenges. Considering this is only the second year of the PBL, there were a lot of encouraging things."
Hokey smokes. A writer from Sports Illustrated likes my work. You can't see it from your screen, but I'm doing the Dance of Joy. Then again, maybe it's a GOOD thing you can't see me doing the Dance of Joy.

Anyways, thanks again to Alexander Wolff and the staff and team of the Vermont Frost Heaves, as well as Anna Grearson of the Barre Montpelier Times Argus, for the kind words. It's really great to be recognized for helping to contribute to the success of the Premier Basketball League.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chuck the Writer Just Heard of a Promotion

My daughter Cassaundra serves in the Army National Guard. Just heard Monday night that she received a promotion from PFC to Specialist. Congrats!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chuck the Writer Published in Manchester NH Magazine

During my thousands of miles driving here there and everywhere for the Premier Basketball League, I was able to snag several photographs of the Manchester (N.H.) Millrats. So when a Manchester-based lifestyle magazine needed photographs of the Millrats for their upcoming magazine...

To make a long story short, they used four of my photographs, including the one above of Al Stewart at the free throw line, with the Millrats' dance team in the background. Nice shot. They used three other photographs, including images of the Millrats' Desmond Ferguson, Scott Hazelton and Marlowe Currie in the three-page article.

The article can be read here; the Millrats piece starts on page 50.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Chuck the Writer Loves Those Overhead Shots

Sunday afternoon I was at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., photographing the PBL playoff game between the Rochester Razorsharks and the Manchester Millrats. Game was a hot affair, with the Rats taking a 116-110 victory over the Sharks to stay alive in the playoffs.

But for me, I wanted a different type of shot. I wanted that classic overhead shot, the one where someone's hovering over the basket and shooting straight down. I've gotten those kind of shots previously, but Blue Cross Arena security wouldn't let me attempt a shot like that previously.

Apparently yesterday they had a change of heart; I was able, with a security member in tow, to take photographs from the catwalks at Blue Cross Arena.

And as you can see from the photo at the upper right... it was worth the wait.

This photo was taken with my Nikon D70 camera and my 80-200 f/2.8 telephoto lens. Post-processing done with Nikon PicturePerfect software. You gotta love that shot!!