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William C. Altreuter
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Friday, May 12, 2006

Back last winter, when the UB basketball team was looking pretty good there it was, an almost imperceptible buzz, nearly a sort of high-pitched whine, but on a pleasing frequency, like a far-away note on a violin. Of course, when the Bills are riding high you can feel it in the air-- everyone is a little more confident, everyone is a little happier. I am here to tell you, though, that there is nothing like Buffalo when the Sabres are in the playoffs. It really is a hockey town, I think, in a way that New York is a baseball town, and for some of the same reasons.

When playoff time rolls around, the weather here has finally made up its mind, and is almost always fine. We emerge from the long, gray, cold, gray, long winter and recommence communion with our fellow souls. We linger outside, and revel in the re-birth that comes with Spring. Some of us garden a little bit, some of us wring our hands over the state of our lawns, but everyone wants to re-connect, and our hockey team is a good way to do that. It helps this year that the Sabres are something of a surprise-- after playing well for a long part of the long season, they slumped a bit toward the end. This brought on a mild dose of the hangdog in the population-- just a mild enough case to activate the antibodies, but it was there. And then they beat the Flyers, who everybody hates. And now they are dominating the Senators, who everyone was afraid of. Last night's loss actually pleased some of the people I'm hearing. "They coulda won last night," my deli guy said, "But I'm just as glad. The way they're playing, I'm happy to see them play again."

I went to mail an oversize package at the post office down the block, and came upon two postal workers planting some evergreen cuttings. "It's a Sabres tree," one of them said. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean, but it was a glad-hearted moment all the same. "They coulda won last night," I said to the guy, "But I'm just as glad. The way they're playing, I'm happy to see them play again." He agreed.

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