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Sports Then and Now

From Deep Throat to Brave Throat and Why the LA Clippers Must Return to Buffalo 8

Posted on April 27, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

This is the first in a Satirical Series

If you’re old enough to remember Deep Throat (the Watergate figure or the movie) you’re old enough to get the allusion, when I identify the mystery man who’s been contacting me about a subject close to my heart. I call him Brave Throat.

It all started with the demolition of Buffalo’s old “Aud” (Memorial Auditorium) and the death of one of its greatest tenants, Randy Smith, coming up on a year ago.

After being away from the area for most of my adult life it happened that I was spending significant blocks of time back in Buffalo on business. I had the opportunity to walk up to the Aud while demolition was in progress, a gaping hole on one end of the building allowing me to look in at the rest of the building, eerily still intact. I felt like Moses at the burning bush. It was holy ground.

Not long after that, when there was little left of the Aud but a pile of bricks, I found myself standing in the same spot, this time on command. I was meeting with a man in a trench coat, big shades, and a Buffalo Braves cap, who refused to identify himself. I had received a mysterious text message an hour earlier to meet him there in 60 minutes sharp. Alone.

“The time has come,” he said. “The Braves must come home.”

“Say, what?”

“Yes, we realize it will be hard enough to keep the Bills from leaving without trying to bring back a franchise that has been gone for thirty years, but we think both are not only possible but necessary to fix the sports karma in Buffalo.” Read the rest of this entry →

The Evolution and Legacy of Randy Smith, Buffalo’s Brave 3

Posted on October 04, 2009 by John Wingspread Howell

Buffalo: Home of the Braves captures the interesting history of professional basketball in Buffalo.

Buffalo: Home of the Braves captures the interesting history of professional basketball in Buffalo.

Note: Randy Smith, perhaps the least known NBA superstar, died unexpectedly recently, at age 60.

I believe nothing happens by accident. There is synergy in our actions and events beyond our understanding occurring all the time.

I believe it is not by accident that Tim and Chris Wendel’s book, Buffalo, Home of The Braves was released less than a week before one of its prime subjects, Randy Smith, saddened us all by leaving this world in the prime of his post-NBA life.

The Wendel brothers’ book is a gold mine of interviews with players and Hall-of-Fame coach Dr. Jack Ramsay. One of the key themes of the work is the unlikely ascent of Smith from local Division II basketball star to world-class All-Star MVP.

The book describes Smith’s unassuming beginnings:

At first glance, it was easy to underestimate Smith. Despite his athletic ability, he was so soft-spoken that his manner often bordered upon the laconic. Even though he was considered the greatest athlete in Buffalo State history, the school wasn’t a stop with many scouts. In fact, Smith won national honors for his soccer ability rather than his basketball play..During his senior year at Buffalo State, Smith didn’t show as well as in his junior year. Most of his scores came on drives to the basket, which most scouts didn’t think would happen with any regularity in either professional league—the NBA or the rival ABA…most scouts felt Smith lacked a dependable jump shot.

Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Earl Morrall: The Perfect Backup
      November 16, 2019 | 10:46 am
      Earl Morrall

      In a career that started in 1956 and ended in 1976, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was never really a leading man, but he seemed to be part of the supporting cast for many huge moments in NFL history.

      The second overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft out of Michigan State, Earl Morrall joined a San Francisco 49ers team that already included the famous “Million Dollar Backfield” of Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.

      Morrall started four games during his rookie season, but just before the start of the 1957 season was traded along with guard Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first-round draft picks.

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