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A SPORTS DINNER'S MENU FOR SUCCESS

"The Sports Hall of Fame dinner is the only major sports dinner in the city, but so few people know about it. Would you try to help by writing a column?"

Those are the words that were sent my way by a friend one day last week. And I didn't bother telling my friend that a few other events would cast doubt on his contention about the dinner being the only major sports dinner in the area.

OK, here are the details. It will be staged at Marine Midland Arena on Sept. 10. The time is not set yet, but it will be printed here.

I attended the dinner in 1996, and will again in September. And though nobody asked my opinion, I will say that the 1996 attendees would not be offended if the inductees' acceptance speeches were shortened a la the Oscar acceptances.

Yes, I realize that this is a singular honor. So, too, was the reception for the inductees into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. And when you put a microphone in front of an announcer, it's Katie-Bar-the-Door Time.

The hope here is that the organizers of the event realize that they can't match the Dapper Dan do in Pittsburgh, the Baseball Writers dinner in New York, Boston and other spots, the Touchdown Club in Washington, D.C., and some other dinners.

They aren't trying.

There is also the hope that the organizers will keep two names in mind on Sept. 10. Those names are "Westminster College" and "Jim Kelly."

In 1948 a bloke named Winston Churchill made history with a speech he delivered at Westminster College in Missouri. He did so by using the phrase "iron curtain" for the first time.

Now I don't know where Westminster College is, but my garbage can mind says it's Fulton, Mo. As I wrote that last sentence, I had to wonder what what kind of fee Churchill, who had had a strong resume, commanded for the talk.

Now a man in the front row is asking, "What does Churchill have to do with Jim Kelly?"

Well, if Kelly were to deliver a talk that would be quoted all over, the dinner would be remembered in the sports world. Maybe he could say that the Bills are definitely leaving the area. Of course, Will McDonough of the Boston Globe predicted that could happen, at a Monday Quarterback Club luncheon about six years ago.

Or maybe Kelly could announce that the Bills are staying. It would not match the "iron curtain" phrase, but it would make the national sports pages. And the name of the dinner at which the statement was made would have to be mentioned.

Kelly is the only inductee who could get that sort of attention. But the Bills' front office will be there in force. You see, among the other inductees is Kent Hull, the unsung star from Mississippi.

Of course, the dinner will have to go some to beat the night Frank Layden of Niagara University held the audience at a Dunlop dinner.

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