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OFF MAIN STREET / The offbeat side of the news

Court of mutual respect

Attorney Joseph Makowski has faced some tough opponents in the courtroom.

But not until recently were any of them nicknamed "Vinsanity."

So Makowski can be forgiven for being a bit apprehensive about coming face to face with Vincent Arroyo, 24, the 5-foot-9-inch professional boxer from Amherst being sued by Makowski's clients, two local boxing promoters.

Arroyo recently appeared in State Supreme Court without a lawyer when the promoters sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the welterweight from signing with another promoter.

He needn't have worried.

"We had a nice exchange," Makowski said. "He was nice and very respectful."

Given Arroyo's 12-1 record -- including a knockdown with a left hook and right uppercut combination that left one opponent out cold -- we're guessing Makowski was pretty respectful, too.


First time's the charm

It's not like winning the Buffalo Marathon after one practice run, or hitting a game-winning home run after one session in a batting cage.

But we're still impressed.

Those on the Buffalo Fire Department team that won the top division in last Saturday's Buffalo Niagara Dragon Boat Festival practiced together just once -- the night before.

"And they didn't all practice. Only some of them practiced," said Becky Landy, a board member for Hope Chest Buffalo, the festival sponsor.

Dragon boats are shaped like long canoes and carry 20 rowers, a drummer who provides some rhythm for the paddling and a crew member who steers.

Proceeds from the festival support the fight against breast cancer.

Teams went to great lengths to show off their camaraderie. One team sported kilts; another wore wild wigs.

The firefighters and their wives, led by Liz Lewis, wore specially designed pink T-shirts.

They beat 24 other teams -- winning four races, including the final heat.

To put their victory in perspective, some dragon boat teams boasted months, even years, of experience.


Keeping it centered

U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul this week played in the fourth annual Congressional Women's Softball Game against female members of the Capitol Hill press corps.

And like many ballplayers, she found a deeper meaning in the game.

"I was happy I got to play center field this year since that's where I'm most comfortable -- not too far to the right and not too far to the left," the Amherst Democrat said.

"I'm sure the reporters all noticed my prowess in the center and how well I worked with my bipartisan teammates," she said.

Still, her constituents probably wonder about just one thing: When she came to bat, did she deliver?

Turns out she hit a single in her lone plate appearance, smacking a ground ball down the third-base line.

Someone should tell her that's the left side of the infield.


Baseball politics

It's not only the pols in Washington, D.C., swinging bats.

Closer to home, it's the Erie County Legislature (aka "Bipartisan Bombers") versus the Poloncarz administration (aka the "Polonstars") taking the field July 17 at Erie Community College's North Campus.

Legislator Kevin Hardwick, unofficial team captain for the Bipartisan Bombers, says his legislative colleagues are ready for the big game.

"They've got the whole county executive branch to draw from -- thousands of people," Hardwick said. "But we're not worried. We think we have the advantage because we are wiser. We're good decision makers."

County Executive Mark Poloncarz, team manager of the Polonstars, said: "We are looking forward to a fun, friendly competition in the game with the Legislature. I wish we could have gotten Tommy Lasorda to manage our squad, but with the solid lineup we've got, I'm ready to step into his shoes."

Written by Patrick Lakamp with contributions from Denise Jewell Gee and Stephen T. Watson.