Monday, April 19, 2010
David and Goliath?
Oh, we like to talk a blue streak about the Pan-Am Expo back at the start of the last century, and fondly remember the captains of industry born of strategic placement on the shores of Lake Erie. It is a location that fostered our rapid growth and precipitated our gradual decline when the storied Erie Canal was finally filled- in with construction waste and the big laker ships passed us by through Welland in Southern Ontario. The steel mills and grain elevators closed one by one, and the blue-collar community staggered. Crooked and short-sighted politicians interested only in assuring their own futures led the city to its present state of decay. No one is really saying, but somewhere between 12,000 and 18,000 vacant homes and buildings fill neighborhoods once alive with immigrants and families. It looks like a war zone in some places. In many ways, it is.
We've struggled to find a new identity. The University at Buffalo has valiantly championed medical research downtown, though decades after short-sighted bureaucrats determined that the state's largest university's new campus should be built on swampland in the corner of an agrarian suburb rather than the city itself. A well-recieved "Talkin' Proud" campaign fostering community pride roused up the masses for a while several years ago, but it, like so much else, has been all but forgotten. We tout our moniker, the "City of Good Neighbors" while our streets are littered with the spent casings of bullets that kill and maim our children. Oh, and we were once designated an "All America City", whatever that means.
And so we cheer when Guy Fieri visits our chicken wing joints, fall over ourselves like babbling idiots when entertainers like Keanu Reeves come to town, and give keys to the city to dubious luminaries such as Terrell Owens. Anything to get back in the limelight, to toot our horn to the world. Yes, our smiling mayor in his now-infamous (among locals) "Urkel" suit handed a key to the city to T.O. That just makes me want to take a run at Chara. Head first.
Despite all that, we have our beloved Sabres. We really want them to win. They are a lot like us; they run on the small side, they don't play very physically with the big boys, and they suffer inconsistency and a lack of ambition. They have never been more than number two, and most often not anywhere near that. But sometimes, when everything is clicking, they really show up and knock our socks off. They demonstrate a resolve, a level of play that is beyond themselves, and we are mesmerized. We see a glimpse of greatness; but like our own, it is often all to brief. Then a big goon like Chara knocks us down.
Buffalo as we know it is dying. A quick drive through the "East Side" will prove that true; but with death comes resurrection. We are not a big city any longer, if we ever were, and as we continue to shrink the time has come to prune. We need to trim away the bureacracy that cripples us and replace it with intelligence. We need to finally admit that industry is just not coming back, and find some other way to make a living. We need to ask the unions that hold on to empty victories from a time gone by to step aside and realize that much of what they are is now irrelevant and obstructing real change. We have created our own Goliath, our own Chara that keeps knocking us down. He has to go.
Finally, we need to draw on our strengths. We are a city of families and of faith. We are, down deep, good people, willing to reach out like only those who have suffered can. A city that hopes to live must foster the source of its growth: families. Improve the schools. Build an infrastructure that promotes business, and ultimately, creates jobs. Clean up the streets and the playgrounds. Force the drug lords out. Make it safe again.
As I finish these thoughts the game has ended. Boston 2, Buffalo 1. The Bruins are up in the series 2-1, with the next game on their ice.
Okay, so we could win it in six...
Posted by David Marciniak at 10:26 PM