2018 was a big year in local sports

January 04, 2019 - 10:27 am
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I know I’m a few days late with this but I was partying too much to mark the end of 2018.  After all it was a pretty big year as far as Buffalo sports were concerned.  Short of someone actually winning a championship 2018 was one of the best years for local sports in a LONG time.

2018 featured the Bills playing their first playoff game in 18 years, more on that in a moment.  It saw the Sabres win the NHL draft lottery for the very first time meaning wunderkind Rasmus Dahlin would be wearing Sabres blue and gold. Last year was the best season for college sports in these parts since Bob Lanier, Calvin Murphy and the Little Three. 

2018 kicked off with one of the best weeks we’ve had at WGR in at least 10 years. New Year’s Eve had seen the Bills end their playoff drought and we had a whole week to soak it all in.  As you know there’s been quite a bit of losing from the Bills since we moved from the 20th century into the 21st so that first week of 2018 was somewhat cathartic. Bills fans across Western New York, the country and the globe were all celebrating and the gathering place was WGR.  I’ll never forget the emotions we were hearing from the callers.  There was relief, excitement and anticipation all wrapped together.

On Friday of that week people were calling our show and tweeting us pictures as they were making their way to Jacksonville.  Bills Mafia was on the move and about to take over the home of the Jaguars.

When I woke up on Saturday I had trouble believing it was wild card weekend and the Bills would actually be one of the teams playing.

On Saturday night every time I checked twitter there were more pictures and video of Bills fans partying in Jacksonville bars and proudly displaying their Bills colors.

On Sunday while hosting Countdown to Kickoff I kept seeing tweets from national media who were covering the game in Jacksonville.  They couldn’t believe how many Bills fans were tailgating around the stadium.

We did our pre game show at 716 downtown and at 11:00 when the doors opened, there were lines of Bills fans waiting to get in and cheer on their beloved football team.  Honestly the game was house money as far as I was concerned.  There’s no doubt our job as sports talk show hosts in Buffalo can be stressful and depressing but that was a week where it was THE job to have so you could experience everything Bills with fans via calls, tweets, emails and texts.

As opposed to the Bills playoff game, I was incredibly stressed and bordering on freaking out a little over three and a half months later.  On the night of April 28th the NHL was holding its draft lottery and the Sabres, having finished last overall once again, had the highest percentage chance of winning the rights to a Swedish defenseman who everyone claimed was destined for greatness. 

As I’m sure you remember, the NHL runs the lottery in two parts.  First they reveal the teams that will draft from 4-15 so we had to sweat out the Sabres falling not only out of the top draft spot but out of the top three.  They survived the initial cut so to speak but then we had to wait for the second intermission of the San Jose-Las Vegas playoff game. 

Once they resumed the countdown, Montreal’s logo was revealed for the third pick so it was down to the Sabres and Carolina.  Not those freaking Hurricanes.  Those guys have our Stanley Cup! The wait for the card on the number one pick to be flipped over was excruciating.  I kept saying Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Sabres as if it would insure their logo would be on the other side of the card.  I yelled out so loudly when the Sabres logo was shown that my wife hurried to the basement door to make sure I was okay.  Once I explained it was just me reacting to something involving sports she just shook her head and went back to whatever she was doing.

As much fun as that moment was, it got even better over the next few weeks as we kept getting guest after guest after guest on our show to talk about Dahlin and everyone raved about how great this kid would be and how lucky Sabres fans were.

What a year 2018 was for WNY college sports.  It was easily the best year for Big 4 basketball with two teams, UB and St. Bonaventure, going to the NCAA tournament.  UB ends up being the talk of the country the night they not only stunned but destroyed fourth seed Arizona for the program’s first ever NCAA tournament victory.  Bona was placed in the first four but they gave their fans a fantastic memory when they knocked out UCLA.  Canisius ended up with a post season berth(CBI) as did Niagara(CIT).  The four programs combined for 103 wins on the season.

The UB women had an historical season along with their mens team.  Coach Felicia Legette-Jack led her Bulls to upset victories over South Florida and Florida state(and they cruised in both games) en route to a spot in the Sweet 16.

The college year also included the best football season at UB since they moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999.  The Bulls won the MAC East, earned just the third bowl bid in their FBS history and completed a four year turnaround that saw them go from 2-10 to 10-2.

We shall see what 2019 brings to us.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the end of another playoff drought, this one from the Sabres.
 

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