All posts by Phil Mann

A View from Calico Jack’s – 9/11/2006

It’s good to be back. I thought I would write from a “mature” perspective.

You see, I’m a long-time NYCBBB member, dating back to when a formal club didn’t even exist. This marks my 16th consecutive year of watching games at one of the Bills-Bars-of-the-Day; I’ve been around almost as long as The Simpsons. So, without trying to boast, perhaps some of you younger members will benefit from the wisdom of a seasoned vet.

Let’s start at about 12:59:30, Sunday afternoon. No satellite reception yet. This has happened before. Did I panic? Nope. Again, I’m a seasoned vet and did the only prudent thing I could: plotted my escape from the imminent riot by holding my two-year-old daughter in front of me for protective cover.

At 12:59:45, I say to fellow staff member and master tailgater, Kevin Smith, “If you’re a religious man, this might be time to start praying.” Coincidentally, Kevin had lost complete faith in any higher being only seconds earlier.

And what happens? The picture suddenly pops up in time to see Brady get clobbered and London Fletcher-Baker (huh?) scamper into the end zone. Joy ensures. Shout! plays over the PA. All is forgotten. I put my daughter down.

We know how the game transpired from there, so I won’t dwell on that. Anyone who attended this week knows that Calico Jack’s and McFadden’s were packed. To any law enforcement officials reading this…I estimate we had around 300 people at the two bars combined, which I assume is approximately the legal limit. To the rest of you…the number may have just a tad bit higher. Like maybe 700 crazed fans, including the folks on the street (which included two cops).

To get a little more personal for a moment…ever since I was young, I’ve been susceptible to throat problems. For years in the 1990s, I’d repeat the same cycle: Scream my head off watching Bills games, lose my voice, and then get sick. Recover by the following Sunday, and repeat. Over the years, I learned how to better care for my throat, and not scream quite so much.

So, what did I do during the Pats game? Scream my f-ing head off, because it was so freaking loud and exciting in the place, and the game was a nail biter featuring refs who were clearly on the take or who’d made some “special” arrangements with the Pats organization. Maybe it was that pretty Tom Brady.

An hour after game time, my throat felt like it had been rubbed with broken glass, with every swallow a new venture in pain. My wonderful wife ordered some Chinese food to help me feel better, which promptly fell to the bottom of my stomach and continues to reside there like a lead balloon (did you know that’s the phrase Led Zeppelin named themselves after? Told you I was “experienced.”)

Finally, at 2:25 a.m., lying in bed with all kinds of pain, I got up to do something, anything, to help me feel better. Mind you, I didn’t have a single alcoholic beverage during the game. Tried to, but it never came. Anyway, I flushed a tissue after blowing my nose and, for maybe the first time in the five years I’ve lived in this apartment, the freaking toilet overflowed for no apparent reason. It’s now 2:30, I feel like hell, and the water level is rising faster than the total number of bribes paid by the Pats today. Fortunately, the toilet catastrophe, at least, was stemmed.

So, here I am. It’s 2:56 a.m. I have a 9 a.m. meeting. My throat and belly feel like crap. The Bills lost a close game on the road to a division rival.

And you know what? I still wouldn’t trade today’s day at Calico Jack’s for anything. Watching games with NYCBBB – at either bar – is the coolest thing ever for a local Bills fan. I hope you’ll all stick with this team and keep on joining us through the season, regardless of what it brings.

You see, my experience and relative level of maturity has taught me something. I’ve got my priorities straight.

A View from Calico Jack’s – 10/24/2005

Is Holcombmania dead?

Welcome to the Bills vs. the Raiders! Will this be the end of Holcombmania? Or will Holcomb and the Bills give the Raiders a boot to the face, followed by the Big Leg Drop?

(These 1980s WWF references, courtesy of imaginative posters on our message board, might be lost on some readers with finer sensibilities. But, if you had finer sensibilities, you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?)

Despite adhering religiously to the Four Demandments of Holcombmania – exercising, saying my prayers, taking my vitamins, and expecting no passes beyond 15 yards – I came to this main event as sick as an old dog. But, as the teams assembled on the rectangulared circle, my spirits soared: after all, the Bills ALWAYS score on their first possession.

And sure enough, a half-quarter and well-balanced offensive attack later, the Bills lead, 7-0. Holcombmania rules!

Unfortunately, in wrestling, the guy who starts off like a house of fire and dominates the opening moments of the match doesn’t typically do so for very long. The same was true yesterday.

The main problem for the Bills was that this game progressed like a tag team match, and while the usually squalid Raiders put together an effort reminiscent of a Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy partnership, our entire defense provided Holcomb and company the tag-team equivalent of Leaping Lanny Poffo (aka, The Genius) – satisfactory against lesser competition, but vulnerable to a squashing by any decent talent. What we really needed was Poffo’s real-life brother – Randy Poffo (aka, Randy “Macho Man” Savage). Alas, he was nowhere in sight.

As the drubbing commenced, I found myself yelling out, “Holcombmania is dead”, hoping that this would prove as premature as it inevitability was whenever someone like Bobby Heenan would make a similar claim about Hulk Hogan.

Sure enough, soon after, we all but saw a moribund Holcomb’s right arm arise from the mat…um, field…leading the Bills to a score that brought us within a touchdown.

Calico’s was jumping as it seldom has this year, even despite the bartender’s curious decision (in my mind) to throw on a record during the commercial break by celebrated housewife-rockers Bon Jovi. This, to me, was the equivalent of riling up the crowd by running a video of Kevin Bacon’s solitary-dance sequence from Footloose: 80s imagery not wretched enough to be really funny, and a bit effeminate for a football crowd. My colleague Kevin tells me my disdain just means I’m old. I’ll accept that, but based on the enthusiasm in the bar for Livin’ On A Prayer, I suspect we had some Jets and Eagles fans in our midst. I also hope Kevin’s comment about my likely affinity for The Rat Pack doesn’t reflect a belief that I’m actually THAT old. Maybe he said Brat Pack.

Regardless, all enthusiasm was short-lived, because once again, our Leaping Lanny Poffo of a defense turned around any momentum our offense might have generated. Soon enough, the Raiders basically had the Bills in the middle of the ring, shaving their heads and spray painting black R’s on their chests.

Is Holcombmania dead? Well, I believe the Bills really need to win games against the Raiders of the world if they stand a chance of making the post season. Can they beat the Patriots next Sunday night? Sure. But, they might want to follow the sage advice of wrestler/commentator/philosopher/governor Jesse Ventura: win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.

A View from Calico Jack’s – 10/10/2005

Some times are approximate:

40 minutes prior to game time
Fellow NYCBBB staff members/hangers-on – Anna and Kevin – blow past me and my family without noticing us. And we were the only freaking people in sight! But, I called out and forced them to come over, and to say nice things about my kids, whether they meant them or not.

39 minutes prior to game time
Anna, our photographer, says she can’t really get into taking photos until she gets a bit drunk, because she’s so shy. This, of course, is the same woman who flashed her lower-back Bills tattoo to Marv Levy at the mere suggestion that she do so. I know what Marv will be atoning for this Yom Kippur….

35 minutes prior to game time
Matt Kabel’s wife, Nicole, mentions she enjoys my column. She must be the ONLY person who has ever read it. I’ll have to find a way to feature her prominently this week.

20 minutes prior to game time
Nicole tells us that she’s studying to be a massage therapist. I’m thinking, “OK, I get massages sometimes because of my bad neck and back. I’d like to support her new career, but would it be inappropriate for me to get a massage from Kabel’s wife? How mad would he be? It IS her career, so it’s justifiable. Then again, I wouldn’t want my wife massaging Kabel. Of course, she’s a technology consultant, so that would make no sense.”

Two minutes prior to game time
Hmm…these wings aren’t bad. A little black, though.

One minute prior to game time
God, I hate the Fish

First quarter, 11:23 remaining
This game rocks: Kelly Holcomb drives the Bills down the field. 7-0!

First quarter, 4:15 remaining
How the HELL didn’t they get a TD when it was first and a foot? Still, it’s 10-0. I’ll take it.

Second quarter, 8:08 remaining
Finally, Eric! My father in law, a Fish fan, had referenced this week as an “easy win” for his team. Well, it’s 17-0 now, old man. Should be 21-0, but it won’t matter in the end.

Half Time
Where’d that Fan of the Week from a couple of weeks ago go?

Third quarter, 5:50 remaining
Well, there goes the shutout. But, we’re in decent shape. This game still rocks.

Fourth quarter, 8:18 remaining
A 30-yard f-ing TD pass! What the HELL is going on here? I’m not feeling so good.

Fourth quarter, about 7 minutes remaining
We were doing a lot better when I was eating wings. I’ll eat some more, but I’m really not hungry anymore.

Fourth quarter, 4:35 remaining
Yes! A field goal. At least that forces the Fish to get a touchdown. The Fish fan who Kabel mysteriously allowed to sit at his table mocked us: “It’s only a field goal.” Apparently, he’d rather need a TD to win rather than a FG.

Fourth quarter, few minutes remaining
I think I’m going to be sick. And the excess wings are only a part of it.

Fourth quarter, two minutes remaining
What the HELL goes on in the Bills’ locker room at half-time? Are they making adjustments or playing canasta?

Fourth quarter, inside two minutes remaining
Seriously, I think I’m going to vomit on Nicole at the next table, which would REALLY make Kabel angry. I mean, he might find it amusing at some level, but still…

Fourth quarter, inside one minute remaining
I am definitely going to spew. And I definitely can’t imagine what my father in law would say if we lose this game.

Fourth quarter, about 30 seconds remaining
I wonder if I should write this week’s column in the voice of a Florida “yenta”? Just a thought…. And, no, I don’t expect most people to understand why I just typed that. But no one other than Nicole is reading this, anyway.

Fourth quarter, one second remaining
Oh my f-ing God. Please, no Jacksonville-type ending, like we had week one last year.

Game over
This game rocks! But I still think I’m going to vomit.

A View from Calico Jack’s – 9/26/2005

Now it gets interesting.

You probably think I’m referring to the season. And, in part, I am. Let’s hope that as it pertains to the season, “interesting” means “wild,” “gusty” and “exciting”, rather than “The Buffalo Bills are on the clock.”

But, I’m not really referring to the performance of the Bills as much as I am to the performance of the Bills’ fans. Slobs like you and me. Well, like me, anyway.

Bills fans like to distinguish ourselves from the many fair-weather fans out there. We gut it out. We’ll embrace a 3-13 team, week-in and week-out (although, let’s hope that particular belief isn’t put to the test ever again.)

But, is it true? Will Calico Jack’s and McFadden’s still be packed on Sundays if the Bills trend downward? Will we be able to maintain the Little Buffalo community we’ve built in midtown Manhattan? Can we continue to suck down a half-ton of wings and vats of beer every week or two? I, and every gastroenterologist in the city, eagerly await the answer.

Again, now it gets interesting. In any case, I believe the Bills will beat the Saints next week, evening our record heading into the Fish game. And that game should be PACKED, regardless.

Moving onto Calico’s…

I shared my bias in my last column, but I honestly believe that Calico’s really stepped up its game this week. The big-screen TV and sound were fine. The wings were plentiful and well prepared. Service was great. I saw a boiled hot dog or two, so we’ll have to fix that.

More intriguing to me is that Calico’s, at least for now, has really taken shape as envisioned: a mellower, but still really fun, place to watch the game. The place was pretty crowded, but we have room for more, so I hope some of you check it out if McFadden’s is too crowded for you, or if you haven’t come to either place this year.

I headed to McFadden’s at halftime to check out what was going on over there. I ran into a smug, curly-haired bastard who, for the sake of this column, we’ll refer to as “Kevin Smith.” He asked if the Calico’s folks were playing canasta at halftime, clearly a poke at what he views as our older demographic. I said, “No, shuffleboard,” realizing only later that “mahjong” would have probably been a funnier response, although we’re still not talking belly laughs. Hey, “Kevin Smith,” just because I’m old(er) doesn’t mean the rest of the folks are. Check out last week’s Fan of the Week, for God’s sake. And we hardly had to pay her anything to show up.

A View from Calico Jack’s – 9/19/2005

OK, in the interest of full disclosure: I’m a NYCBBB staffer, so I’ll probably have a bias toward seeing the good rather than the bad, and the potential rather than the problems.

That said…

Our staff was fully prepared (we thought) for a crazy week at Calico Jack’s this week: after all, it was no less than one of our illustrious founders, Matt Kabel, who observed earlier in the week that “something always goes wrong in week two.” Of course, this is the same guy who sipped so much of a fishbowl drink the previous week that he couldn’t work the next day. So, to be honest, his judgment was to be questioned, at best.

By noon, Calico’s was crowded, but certainly not the mob scene I envisioned would already be taking place. Most notable were the lurkers who hadn’t been able to secure one of the coveted table reservations. To their credit, they arrived early to plot their seating-gathering strategies: get on the waiting list? Somehow marry a seat-holder prior to game time, with the hopes of gaining a family exemption? Curry favor with the Matts (Kabel and Soreco) to a degree usually reserved for Popes and Mafioso? Clearly, Kabel could have gotten a man-hummer on the spot, had he chosen to.

Perhaps with a subtle nod and wink to their consigliore Johnny C., the thinking seemed to go, the Matts would produce the elusive seat, along with 72 virgins and a platter of well-done wings (not sure which of these things is less likely to happen at Calico Jack’s, but more on that later.)

Gradually, the tables and the bar area filled up. You could almost smell the anticipation in the air. Or, maybe that was the smell of wings gone bad. Regardless, it was getting exciting. J.P. and crew had thrilled us only seven days earlier. If they could come through on the road in raging heat against the Bucs, then clearly this team was “for real”.

Meanwhile, as game time approached, there seemed to be a slight complication.

Apparently, a combination of United Nations week and an unusually high tide in the East River had inflicted some damage to the satellite system. Out of either a twist of fate or cruel irony, the big screen – aka, the screen with the volume for the entire restaurant and bar – would not pick up the Bills game.

The Curse of Week Two! Damn you, Kabel!

Don’t worry, I assured my friends. This will be taken care of shortly. Let’s kick back, have some fun, and watch J.P. and the boys take on an opponent with whom I thought they were rather evenly matched.

Time passed, and it was hard to determine which degenerated faster: the Bills’ hopes for victory or our hopes for seeing and hearing their abysmal performance on the big screen. Well, at least we could indulge ourselves in wings, just as we would back in Western NY.


Look, let me state my opinion right here, for the record: the folks at Calico Jack’s, led by manager Johnny C., have been great. They’re bending over backwards to accommodate an ever-expanding group whose needs, quite frankly, really aren’t all that similar to the needs of their patrons the other 6½ days a week: we require special food, special drink, a special reservation system, even special music when our team scores – assuming that ever happens again.

Yet…well, perhaps practice will make perfect.

Meanwhile, the game marched on (well, at least, the Buccaneers marched on), all without sound or big-screen video. And, you know what? The crowd was very cool about it. I’m not suggesting we’d want to have this happen every week, but no one actively complained, and it seems very few if any people left – including the ever-increasing number of young ladies whose appearance seems to be causing quite the stir on the NYCBBB message board. As far as the satellite, Johnny C. did the right thing by offering up free drinks, and by promising all will be resolved by the Falcons game next Sunday.

I hope we can say the same for the Bills. In reality, there were only two problems with the Bills this past week: their offense, and their defense. Other than that, they were great, right? So, I look forward to joining everyone at Calico’s next Sunday as we watch – and hear – the Bills take on Atlanta.

Survey for Calico Jack’s

Hello 941 NYC Buffalo Bills fans!

If I can briefly interrupt your off-season, my fellow NYCBBB colleagues and I are hoping a select group of you will participate in a brief survey.

Specifically, we’re talking to anyone out there – especially parents and laid-back types – who would be interested in a mellower alternative to McFadden’s for watching the game. The rest of you can go back to your favorite pastime of wondering whether or not Travis Henry will retire as a Bill.

We are aiming to enhance the game-watching experience at Calico Jack’s next year, and to give the place its own NYCBBB identity (for those of you who either never noticed or forgot, Calico Jack’s is the restaurant next door to McFadden’s.)

The idea is that Calico Jack’s would become the slightly calmer outpost for NYCBBB – a place where those of us who have kids (as I do), or who simply want a mellower environment, would be comfortable. The idea isn’t to make watching the Bills like going to the library or daycare – we’d play Shout! when the Bills see it fit to score, have food and drink specials, and no doubt scream our heads off. It’d still be a place for adults. Picture something mellower than Animal House, but probably less mellow than Cheers.

To increase our chances of making that happen…if you’d in fact be interested in a mellower game-watching experience, would you take a minute or two and respond to the following survey? To help ensure that Calico Jack’s is open and a great place to be every week next season, your input is critical. Thanks!

Questions 1-3 are for parents only; everyone else can start at question 4:

1) How many children would you consider bringing to Calico Jack’s next year?

2) What are their ages?

3) What factors would significantly influence your decision to bring them?
a. Kid-friendly menu selection/specials
b. Non-game diversions (puzzles, games, etc.)
c. Noise level of the restaurant
d. Other factors (PLEASE SPECIFY)

4) What elements of McFadden’s – if any – would you most want to make sure we retained?

5) What elements of McFadden’s – if any – would you most want us to avoid?

6) How many games would you envision attending?
a. 1-4 _____
b. 5-8 _____
c. 9-12_____
d. 13-16____

7) How much would the answer to question 6 be impacted by how well/poorly the Bills are playing?
A lot____ A little____ Not at all____ Don’t know_____

8) Anything else we should know, or consider?

Thanks and GO BILLS!!!

— Phil Mann, NYCBBB Advisor