You would think that with Milan Lucic running over our goalie and the Sabres getting crushed on Saturday night, it would be a completely awful evening. However, it was kind of entertaining if you were on Twitter. When things got ugly, Nick Bakay was gracious enough to entertain his Twitter feed with Buffalo products and old Empire Sports clips.
If you are not familiar with Nick, he's been on WGR multiple times and use to have a segment on ESPN called "Tale of the Tape." (Cheap plug: You can buy his book here.) He has also worked with Kevin James, as a producer on King of Queens and wrote the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
More importantly, he's from Buffalo and he's huge Bills and Sabres fan!
I decided to email Nick some questions about the Bills and Sabres, which he was gracious enough to answer. We go over his best Bills/Sabres memories, being a Buffalo fan in LA, Lucic's hit, Pegula's impact on the Sabres, and much more. Hope you all enjoy.
Q1) I'm sure you've been asked this many times, but what are some of your best memories of being a Bills and Sabres fan?
No doubt I’ll leave a ton out, but pure gut response:
- The fog in the Aud against the Flyers.
- “Thank you Sabres!” – I literally have an old commemorative plate.
- O.J. for 2003 yards in a 14 game season – of course, that one now comes with a lovely footnote, doesn't it? But back in the 70’s, it was just pure joy.
- 1990 AFC championship game.
- Watching Marlin Briscoe at the Rockpile.
- Perrault’s rookie season/The French Connection any time they had the puck.
- When Miami’s in town in December, the winds kick up at the Ralph, and the horizontal snow gets a huge cheer from the crowd.
- 2006-2007 Sabres season.
- The feeling of hope you had whenever Jim Kelly was under center.
Q2) I know as a Buffalo transplant living in NYC, I get tons of garbage about being a Bills/Sabres fan. Wide Right and No Goal are things I hear every time I tell someone that I'm a Buffalo fan. What sort of stuff do you get from your friends in Hollywood for being a Buffalo fan?
We all know that condescending look people give you when you tell them you’re a Bills fan, which is ridonculous because I live in L.A. where they don’t even have a team. I get all the lame jokes about how lucky I am to be out west, which I couldn’t disagree with more. The only reason I’m here is because this is where my work is. Period. They will never know what they are missing out on. L.A. is the worst sports town I have ever lived in. Everyone is from somewhere else so there is zero passion about the local teams unless they are winning. Then it’s all front-running all the time. People really do leave games early to beat traffic. As for getting crap for the Sabres, trust me – no one in this town knows hockey exists now that Gretzky’s gone.
Q3) What are your thoughts on the Bills so far this season? They started out strong, but now they seem to be crashing down to earth.
Yeah, the high is fading for sure here. I certainly thought they would suck again this season, so I am grateful to simply have seen some exciting Bills football. It’s been a long wait for that. Now the injuries piling up along with a feeling that we are back to a Jauron-esque 8-8 kind of season. I want to be wrong, and there is a tiny pilot light still lit that we will pull out of the funk. That being said, I do like the way Nix and Gailey are building this team. We are going to be really good one of these days, particularly if we get the right philosophy cooking defensively and draft a couple of bodies that can rush the quarterback. I love Dareus and he will make us better, but there’s a part of me that wishes Von Miller had fallen to the third pick.
Q4) What are your thoughts on Ryan Fitzpatrick? Do you think he can guide the Bills to the playoffs and beyond at some point? How about that beard of his?
Love the beard, if only for the Amish Rifle nickname – best Buffalo sports nickname ever? I absolutely think he is a playoff caliber QB, primarily because of the connection he has with Gailey. I think that really elevates him, and he’s smart enough to capitalize on Gailey’s particular genius. I also love his attitude. Fitz vibes like an NHL guy – humble, grateful, and dedicated.
Q5) We are only in month 9 of the Terry Pegula era in Buffalo. How would assess his ownership so far?
Pretty much a dream come true. For so long, the relative mediocrity of Buffalo’s teams has ultimately been blamed on the fan base, because we don’t have the kind of money needed to build a winner and fill those luxury boxes with huge corporate bucks. We are constantly taught to simply be grateful the teams haven’t moved. Trust me, I am grateful, but there was a recent report that the Bills were in the top ten NFL teams in terms of profit, which many of us have long suspected.
There are two kinds of owners – businessmen and those who just want to win. Ralph had some good years, but most have been greed years – that’s why he has put the team in the hands of business men more often that a true GM over the years.
Then all of a sudden, the Sabres get sold to a guy with big bank, a pure goal of winning and he is an honest to God, passionate, died-in-the-wool Sabre fan? With all due respect to the Knox family, who lit this candle and were a class act, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.
Q6) Do you think Miller/Enroth is going to be the Sabres version of Flutie/Johnson?
No. Ultimately, this will settle into being a classy problem, not a controversy – we have two really good goalies. Remember when the likes of Lalime lost just enough games to cost us a playoff spot? Maybe this year with some rest, Miller won’t look like he weighs less than a runway model come playoff time.
Q7) How badly do you want the Sabres to beat the crap out of Milian Lucic?
I am still wishing I could un-see that moment. They lost my respect in a way that it’s gonna take some time to win it back. And then there’s the reality that we don’t have anyone who CAN pound Lucic (not that Sekera or somebody shouldn't have tried to at least tackle him. This is a real alarm bell because I think this is a terrific team, but once again the Sabres are too soft for playoff hockey.
For so many years we always pulled for the big, skill player move at the trade deadline. This year they made those moves in the off-season, which was exhilarating, but I think we’ll all be praying they make a deadline move for some toughness.
Q8) If you could have dinner or drinks with three Buffalo athletes in history, who would they be?
This is really tough. I've actually spent time with a lot of my Sabres heroes during the corporate challenge/Aces and Blades events, so off the cuff, I think I'd go with some Bills I have yet to have the pleasure: Talley, Kelly and Smerlas because I know that would be a great time.
Q9) I'm sure this has crept into your mind numerous times, but if the Bills or Sabres won the championship, what would you do to celebrate? Personally, I'd probably tip over a cop car.
I am beyond the tip over a car stage. Nothing would have been better than to see a Buffalo team win it all when I was in my prime, but at this point I would probably crack open a nice bottle and celebrate with some good friends by watching the whole game all over again, thanks to the miracle of DVR technology.
Q10) How have you liked interacting with people on Twitter? I noticed your feed on Saturday night, when you were retweeting anything that had Buffalo foods or Empire Sports attached to it. I gotta say, it was pretty amusing.
I’m early in @NickBakay4real, but it’s a blast – I am in and out with time to actually go at it, but the best part is interacting with Buffalonians about all things Buffalo. I love it, even though I’m sure the majority of my Tweets alienate the crap out of all those Sabrina fans who want me to be a talking cat. I’m sure you could relate to the homesickness that fueled that run on all things edible, from the Casa Di Pizza, which I grew up on, to Santasiero’s, where I used to hit hard after a long day driving a forklift down on Niagara street.
Q11) What are some of the projects you are working on currently?
I have a sitcom pilot in the mix over at FOX, and I am currently writing another movie for Kevin James.
Buffalo's version of Tale of the Tape
Best Announcer: Rick Jeanneret or Van Miller?
Advantage: Jeanneret. This is tough because I love Van, but RJ is my favorite announcer in any sport, ever. The saddest thing in the world is when they put a Sabres game on Versus. It is just not the same, and I hope he calls games for another 40 years.
Best food: Ted's Hot Dogs or Mighty Taco?
Advantage: Ted's, in a landslide. Love a nice char-dog, and I grew up near the original Peace Bridge Ted’s, so that was a regular in my rotation. I respect the Mighty Taco for being the go-to pig out after bar hopping, but I have lived in Texas and California, so I know great Mexican food.
Best anthem: Talking Proud or Shout Song?
Advantage: Awkwardness… Both songs, to be honest, douche me to the bone. Talking Proud gets the nod because it is completely insane and unintentionally funny. You cannot find the video of it anywhere on the web, just audio, but I can still see that woman high stepping around town.
Best store: Gold Circle or Hills?
Advantage: Push. I was a Twin Fair guy! Used to buy the old James Brown LPs there, like “Cold Sweat,” with the fake ice-blue beads of sweat dripping down his face!
Best venue: First Niagara Center or Ralph Wilson Stadium?
Advantage: Push! They both are filled with memories – obviously, the Ralph has more because it’s ancient now, but during the HSBC/First Niagara era, the Sabres have been the far more entertaining team.
Worse player: Rob Johnson or JP Losman?
Advantage: Rob Johnson, in a bad way. I know Losman didn’t work out, but I will always have a soft spot for him because not only is he the only Bills QB who got the best out of Lee Evans, he was one of the only high profile Bills players to eschew Orchard Park and live downtown, not very far from where I grew up, and he got involved with the city in ways I admired.
Best show: Sports Extra or Hockey Hotline.
Advantage: Hockey Hotline in a landslide! I was a huge Hockey Hotline fan. Brian Blessing and Robie were a personal addiction, and I loved their old, bickering married couple energy. I have had a chance to talk with both of those guys in years since the demise of Empire, which only made me a bigger fan.